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Tag: cyberpunk (page 2 of 3)

“There is an error with my dependencies”

Exolymph reader Set Hallström, AKA Sakrecoer, sent me an original song called “Dependency” — these are the lyrics:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

There is an error with my dependencies
Consultd 1.2 and emplyomentd 1.70
I cannot pay my rent without their libraries
And to install i need to share my salary

Where do i fit in this society?
The more i look and the less i see
They want no robots nor do they want me.
work is a point in the agenda of the party

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

My liver isn’t black market worthy
And my master degree from a street university
My ambitions are low and i am debt free
There is no room in the industry for robots like me

Don’t get me wrong i would also like to be
Installed and running and compatible with society
But i am running a different library
Because my kernel is still libre and free.

All unedited. Another thing — Craig Lea Gordon’s novella Hypercage is available on Amazon for zero dollars. Review coming soon, but I wanted to let you know now!

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Pyongyang Is Totes Awesome, Bro

This is a superlative cyberpunk headline if I ever saw one: “YouTube Stars Are Now Being Used for North Korean Propaganda”. A vlogger named Louis Cole uploaded a series of videos in which he gallivanted around the DPRK, with nary a mention of the country’s atrocious human rights record.

Per the article: “Cole has, so far, not really made mention of any of that, choosing instead to go for a light tone, oohing and ahhing over abundant food in a country ravaged by hunger.” I mean, to be fair, famine is a bummer, right? What brand would want to sponsor a vlogger who talks about that stuff?

Louis Cole on Twitter, @funforlouis. Glad you're enjoying yourself, buddy.

Louis Cole on Twitter, @funforlouis. Glad you’re enjoying yourself, buddy.

The "beautiful military guide at the war museum", praised by Louis Cole on Instagram.

The “beautiful military guide at the war museum”, praised by Louis Cole on Instagram.

In the article, Richard Lawson wrote incisively:

The more you watch Cole’s videos from North Korea, the more you wonder if he’s plainly ignorant to the plight of many people in the country, or if he’s willingly doing an alarmingly thorough job of carrying water for Kim Jong Un’s regime — not really caring what the implications are, because, hey, cool trip.

Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe this is a surreal extreme of the unthinking, vacuous new-niceness that occupies a large amount of YouTube territory, content creators so determined to deliver an upbeat, brand-friendly message that the uncomfortable truths of the world — personal and political — go mind-bogglingly, witlessly ignored.

Louis Cole’s manager insisted that he wasn’t being paid by the DPRK and didn’t intend to “gloss over or dismiss any negative issues that plague the country”. Like Lawson, I believe that.

I don’t think this vlogger was gleefully pressing “upload” and thinking, “Haha, now’s my chance to bolster the image of an oppressive dictator!” On his Twitter account — which he appears to run himself — Cole said, “its a tiny step & gesture of peace. waving a finger & isolating the country even more fuels division” [sic].

Here’s the thing, though — Cole may be goodhearted and he may mean all the best, but it doesn’t make a difference. It doesn’t change the fact that he was shilling for the carefully curated trip that a brutal regime presented to him. And it doesn’t change the incentives that he and his professional brethren are responding to.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the new “influencer economy”, as it’s being called — for instance, Elspeth Reeves’ fascinating article on teen lip-syncing sensations — because I’m a media geek and that’s a substantial portion of the future of media. So I follow a lot of these people on social media.

The “influencers” who are raking in cash are relentlessly positive. Big companies are risk-averse — they don’t want to be associated with anything negative — and big companies are the ones cutting checks to YouTube stars, Instagram stars, etc. Interpersonal drama pops up now and then, but any political questions are avoided.

Who can blame them? Gotta make a buck and late capitalism only offers so many options…

(I still blame them.)

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Reflecting on Dystopian San Francisco Again

One of the reasons I started Exolymph is that I live in the Bay Area. San Francisco is the hottest local metropolis, so I visit occasionally, both for work and pleasure. The city is a parallel mixture of luxe yuppie haven and downtrodden slum:

“He pointed out the animated software ads wrapped around bus shelters and glowing on the sides of buildings. He reminded me that the streets smelled of urine and we were passing homeless people wrapped in rags. Sleeping on the damp sidewalk. Meanwhile, money churned in and out of Silicon Valley’s sister city.”

I’ve written about this before, as have others, so please forgive me for flogging a dead horse. But it never ceases to astound me: in this place of economic and technological abundance, you walk by people subsisting on garbage. Maybe if I’d worked in the city full-time for more than three months, I would be desensitized.

San Francisco as a floating prison colony. Artwork by Silvio Bertonati.

Artwork by Silvio Bertonati.

It’s bizarre how normal it feels to live in a dystopia. That is one of my central premises — a lot of the frightening themes of classic cyberpunk fiction have come true in one way or another, but daily life is still mundane. You and I are side characters or NPCs, not the protagonists, so all the depraved systems aren’t exciting. They’re just exhausting.

And I do feel exhausted. I feel exhausted by the constant deluge of bad news — certainly not the first to say so — and I feel exhausted by the pressure to react to each new development, to perform outrage or heartsickness for a drive-by audience.

I feel exhausted by pointing out, again and again, that while technology does “change the world” just by virtue of existing, sometimes it allocates power in scary ways. The ever-accelerating ~innovation~ will knock some of us down.

There’s no solution here. This is just how the world works. Bad things happen. New media happens. Tech businesses happen. Maybe I’d feel better about it if I were more personally laissez-faire.

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Imagining a Cyberpunk Social Safety Net

I’m still thinking about how to structure the rewards for readers who financially support Exolymph. But one of the current ones is that people who contribute $10 via Patreon can choose a topic for me to write about. Beau Gunderson posed the question, “What would a cyberpunk social safety net look like?”


A social safety net is a formalized way of catching people when they fall. Traditionally, the government pays for a few survival-level services, like food stamps and homeless shelters in the United States, or healthcare in more civilized countries. (Sure do love our privatized medical system that totally doesn’t punish the poor!)

But a cyberpunk future-present is dominated by corporations rather than the state — would they be inclined to pick up the slack?

In a way, the ideal version of a cyberpunk social safety net would be a bit like how things used to function for the middle class. You had a decades-long career at a big company; in exchange for your labor and loyalty, they provided your family’s healthcare and a pension. The Baby Boomers are the last generation to participate in this scheme.

1950s motivational posters. Image compilation via Kevin Dooley.

Image compilation via Kevin Dooley.

I don’t mean to romanticize the past — a lot of things about the 1950s through ’90s were awful, especially if you were a person of color, a woman, LGBTQIA, or any combination of the above. Even if you were a straight white man, striking out on your own, whether as an entrepreneur or a societal dropout, was pretty risky. (It’s still pretty risky.)

Regardless, the “work for BigCorp until you turn sixty-five and eat cake at your going-away party” paradigm is being dismantled by the twenty-first century. “Precariat” is a hot buzzword; labor is contingent and people hop from gig to gig.

Workers get shafted unless they have particular scarce skills (like programming or deceiving the public). Broadly speaking, the causes are globalization and technological advances. No need to pay for benefits in [rich country] when workers in [poor country] don’t expect them!

At this point I’m just reviewing things you already know.

One vision of ultra-capitalist social services comes from radical libertarian David Friedman (as quoted by Slate Star Codex):

[A]t some future time there are no government police, but instead private protection agencies. These agencies sell the service of protecting their clients against crime. Perhaps they also guarantee performance by insuring their clients against losses resulting from criminal acts.

How might such protection agencies protect? That would be an economic decision, depending on the costs and effectiveness of different alternatives. On the one extreme, they might limit themselves to passive defenses, installing elaborate locks and alarms. Or they might take no preventive action at all, but make great efforts to hunt down criminals guilty of crimes against their clients. They might maintain foot patrols or squad cars, like our present government police, or they might rely on electronic substitutes. In any case, they would be selling a service to their customers and would have a strong incentive to provide as high a quality of service as possible, at the lowest possible cost. It is reasonable to suppose that the quality of service would be higher and the cost lower than with the present governmental system.

If you want a LOT more speculative detail about edge cases and such, read the SSC review (or Friedman’s book itself). To be clear, I don’t think privatized protection agencies are a good idea.

The cyberpunk social safety net that would be easiest to implement is a sort of collectivized insurance, modeled on Latinx tandas — lending circles. You could probably even incorporate a blockchain to make it trendy — or possibly to make it scale better? I am not a software engineer. Anyway, imagine this:

Every month, fifteen friends put money into a pot, which is kept by a mutually trusted member or a trusted third party (e.g. church pastor or bank safe). Whenever one of the friends has a crisis, like losing their job and needing to cover rent, the necessary funds are dispensed to them.

Before you email me, yes, there are a million ways this would be complex and difficult in practice. What if someone tries to claim something that a third of the group thinks is a illegitimate expense? Okay, majority rules. What about vote brigading? How do you vet people who want to join?

Mixing social relationships and money tends to be tricky.

That doesn’t even address the problem that arises when someone undergoes a real catastrophe and needs hundreds of thousands of dollars to start resolving their issue. But hey, it might be better than nothing. It might help the half of the American population who can’t come up with $400 in an emergency.

If that’s not pessimistic enough for you… I asked members of the chat group to weigh in, and @aboniks elaborated at length:

If this is a cyberpunk vision where people can be digitized, social security is basically a programming exercise, right? The safety net is actually a safety network. Contractors design theme parks for our digitized psyches and call it a day. Or people each get X amount of storage space and X number of processing cycles to run their own virtual retirement. AIs sell them experience-design services. People duplicate themselves with falsified credentials to engage in benefit fraud and increase their storage space.

Political arguments over meatspace benefit levels and healthcare could translate into arguments about involuntarily putting people into hibernation mode. Article 12 of the Digital Rights Act ensures equal access to services, but people with certain neurological conditions are being discriminated against when they apply for control of real-world mobile camera platforms; rich meatspace Thiels find the erratic movement of their drones to be unsightly.

Anyway, however you pitch it in the end, keep in mind that social security is fundamentally about having and not having. It’s going to be the believability of the conflict between the service users and the service providers that makes your vision work. Or not work.

More realistically, I expect we’ll see something like the private prison industry being broken up and reforming as a service provider for social security beneficiaries. The idea that we’re all going to have a 1/1 bungalow with a garden and an aging Labrador in front of a crackling fire… no. Looking at how people with only SS income are living these days, even an institutional housing project with razor-thin profit margins would be a quality-of-life improvement for a lot of urbanites. The extended family is largely a thing of the past unless you go out of your way to make it happen, and the nuclear family is headed the same way. Lots of poverty-line “senior singles” in our future.

I’m still looking into incorporating my family though. The future I’m likely to live through is much more friendly to corporations than it is to humans.

(Lightly edited for style consistency.)

So, what do you think?


Easily the best response, from reader Brett:

Maybe in a cyberpunk social safety net, there would be a (computer) program that would calculate and dictate when volunteers should steal a roll of toilet paper from their work. The toilet paper would be hoarded and then sent along to those who need it. The computer program would subtly manage the rate of stealing across its networks of humans so the thievery is distributed across many different corporations and never detected by competing algorithms looking for “leakage” in their expenses.

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Reaching the Present (and Discarding Post-Cyberpunk)

Interpretation of Rachael from Blade Runner by nck-dst-zsk.

Interpretation of Rachael from Blade Runner by nck-dst-zsk.

The reason I get to do this — futurist punditry — is that the world is changing. That’s why you’re paying attention. That’s why 100k+ people subscribe to /r/Cyberpunk and /r/DarkFuturology, and why The Future is Now raised more than five times its goal on Kickstarter.

So why is the world changing? The reason is the internet. Technology analyst Ben Thompson wrote in a 2013 essay called “Friction”:

“Count me with those who believe the Internet is on par with the industrial revolution, the full impact of which stretched over centuries. And it wasn’t all good. Like today, the industrial revolution included a period of time that saw many lose their jobs and a massive surge in inequality. It also lifted millions of others out of sustenance farming. […] Modern democracies sprouted from the industrial revolution, and so did fascism and communism. The quality of life of millions and millions was unimaginably improved, and millions and millions died in two unimaginably terrible wars.”

We turn to fiction to make sense of the ongoing upheaval because authors’ imaginations, freed from the constraints of current reality, can point to landmarks ahead that are otherwise hidden from mundane minds. Fiction serves as a telescope into tomorrow, suggesting the possibilities that will be software plans and manufacturing specs after a few more decades. Fifty years can sound like a long time, but remember how quickly the techno-dystopia crept up on us.

Seminal cyberpunk works like Neuromancer and Blade Runner posited a world of antiheroes struggling against large opaque forces — the power on both sides coming from the manipulability of information in a networked world. And the domain of information was not limited to keyboards and screens: consider Rachael’s identity in Blade Runner, and the Tessier-Ashpool clan’s manipulation of physical space in Neuromancer.

Where do we go from here? Post-cyberpunk is a disappointing genre; it’s not cynical enough. Biopunk / genepunk excites me much more. To be honest, I don’t see recent extensions of the “high tech, low life” theme as refutations of cyberpunk, or even separate genres — rather they are continuations and sub-genres. Maybe I am, ironically, clinging to the past…

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Where’s the credit in it?

This is more of a provocation than a full-fledged story. Feel free to reply with what you think might happen.

Favela wiring. Photo by anthony_goto.

Photo by anthony_goto.

You couldn’t get water in the slum. You had to go to the city proper for it, and wait in a long line, and shell out your credits. All the un-augmented chumps would gleam with sweat, their thirst increasing as the queue inched forward. Augments were pretty rare among slum dwellers, but anyone optimized for heat did better. The hardest part was paying, since naturally the slum residents were broke, but the whole process was a commonly despised hassle.

“Why ain’t they just pipe out here?” was the exasperated, rhetorical refrain.

The answer that usually went unvoiced, assumed to be common knowledge: “Making us walk gets Urbancore more credits.” Slum residents weren’t exactly complacent, but they understood the lack of ROI in serving them.

Jamie Dry responded to the niche market need created by this situation: he started a water truck. Most of his customers were gangbangers or cartel men. They could afford the luxury of water hauled by someone else, and they had other things for their own people to do.

Dry’s surname was a joke, bestowed by the urchins who followed him around when they were bored. He called them “my little friends”, sometimes sarcastically and sometimes sincerely. If Dry was particularly flush, or had a party gig, he would hand out ice cubes. Most adults were busy scavenging and any children attached to adults had to work too, but freewheeling street kids would hang around for the possibility of an ice cube. Sometimes Dry’s customers would send them on errands and pay them with calories.

When Dry founded his business, people were surprised that he was able to hook into the roadnet. Transportation API access was supposed to be restricted, and everyone was incredulous that Dry might have gotten a permit. Besides, his truck was hacked together from the body of a much older vehicle and assorted parts. The slum didn’t pay a lot of attention to IP regulation, but certainly everyone knew about it. The clear illegality of Dry’s setup seemed strange considering that he interfaced with Urbancore every day.

Well, follow the money, right? Who benefits? Jamie Dry, of course. His clientele, but they’d just go back to sending their own lackeys if he folded. Dry coulda paid off a netboy to spoof his movements, but the truck would still show up on aerial scans. Maybe it was plain, traditional police graft.

Almost immediately after Dry started operating, people began trying to hijack the truck and its heavy load of clean water. Dry carried a taser on his belt, but that was no good if someone could get the jump on him with a gun. Guns weren’t cheap since 3D printing access was even tighter than transportation, but plenty of firearms circulated through the slum regardless.

Unfortunately for would-be thieves, Dry caught on quick. He had to buy his truck back from a gang once, but then he obtained a sniper drone. It hovered along with him. No one was exactly sure what triggered its attack patterns, since the street kids never got fried, but Dry’s next assailants didn’t fare well.

Andrea’s engineers were torn on whether Dry was a narc or a legitimate hustler, one of their own. Andrea would sit with her elbows on her knees, propping up her chin with her fists, and listen to them bicker. It got far enough that Lewis spent time at home building a model and tweaking a neural net to assign probabilities to the various outcomes. He tried to show it off and Jasper exclaimed, “There’s no way you can be confident enough about half the assumptions —”

Andrea cut things off there. “Back to work, netboys. No credit in solving this mystery.”


Best response so far, from Eth Morgan: “The water is allowed because it’s laced with various experimentals. The slumdwellers are unwittingly in human trials, because if they die no-one cares, they’re in worse conditions so it sets a good lower bound, and if it’s uncovered it can be trivially spun as secret philanthropism.”

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What Counts as Cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk artwork by mjbauer.

Artwork by Micah Bauer.

There are several definitions and a lot of cultural baggage attached to the word “cyberpunk”, so applying it can be contentious. What counts as cyberpunk, hmm? Who gets to decide? Most people agree that NeuromancerBlade RunnerGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and the Walled City of Kowloon all qualify, but anything else is subject to much debate. Here’s my opinion — if you can answer yes to these two questions, then a given piece of media or real-world phenomenon is cyberpunk:

  1. Does it involve computer technology that was new or didn’t quite exist yet at the time of writing / creating / happening?
  2. Does it feature a shadowy corporate elite exploiting the plebeian masses?

The following sources should establish why that’s my two-part test.

Cyber Model: V3-X (vex.ilo)

Image via Jamie.

Cyberpunk: Aesthetic, Subculture, Futurist Trend, or All of the Above?

Cyberpunk originated as a fiction genre — it started with novels and now extends to anime and beyond. It’s also a political attitude, and increasingly commentators like myself claim that we already live in a tech-fueled digital dystopia. Personally, I take an expansive view of cyberpunk, and I’ll use the label for anything that demonstrates futuristic computer-based technology and scarily inequitable distributions of power.

Wordnik pulled this definition from Wiktionary, and it fits decently well: “A subgenre of science fiction which focuses on computer or information technology and virtual reality.” The relevant Wikipedia article starts with a decent overview:

“Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting that tends to focus on the society of the proverbial ‘high tech low life’; featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as information technology and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order. [¶] Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences and among megacorporations, and tend to be set in a future Earth, rather than in the far-future settings […] Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.”

header of the cyberpunk subreddit

The cyberpunk subreddit is emblazoned with the tagline “High Tech, Low Life” and its sidebar explains, “A genre of science fiction and a lawless subculture in an oppressive society dominated by computer technology and big corporations.”

The CyPunk article that describes the 1980s origins of cyberpunk is worth quoting at length:

“The word ‘cyberpunk’ first appeared as the title of a short story ‘Cyberpunk’ by Bruce Bethke […] Bethke himself tells, that the coining of the word ‘cyberpunk’ was a conscious and deliberate act of creation on his part. The story was titled ‘Cyberpunk’ from the very first draft. In calling it that, Bethke was actively trying to invent a new term that grokked the juxtaposition of punk attitudes and high technology. His reasons for doing so were purely selfish and market-driven: He wanted to give his story a snappy, one-word title that people would remember. And he really did succeed.”

Furthermore:

“The technology of cyberpunk is ultratechnology, which mixes genetic material from animal to animal, from animal to man, or from man to animal. This technology raises human embryos for organ transplants, creates machines that think like humans and humans that think like machines. This is a technology designed to keep people within the ‘system’ that dominates the lives of most ‘ordinary’ people. This is the science of controlling human functions and of electronic, mechanical and biological control systems designed to replace them.”

On the Cyberpunk Forums, Sophia Andren appeases my own preference for a definition that observes rather than dictating:

“In a world saturated with violently accelerating change, the cyberpunk must find herself armed with a sharp awareness of what is going on around her. Most people seem to be apathetic about the philosophical implications of the uncanny technologies of the near future; the issues invoked by artificial intelligence, transhumanism, and the technological singularity continue to evade our collective consciousness. […] While these technologies are not inherently malign, we would rather not see what happens when they are exclusively in the hands of the corporate elite.”

Andren continues:

“Perhaps the most clandestine aspect of cyberpunk is the ethereal subculture of hackers, phreaks, netrunners, ravers, and razor girls. It is androgynous, sophisticated, and futuristic. It is also impossible to restrain as it has slipped through the cracks; it is now lost in the delicate balance between the analogue and digital worlds, avoiding both the attention and oppression of the system. With the rise of a ubiquitous internet, cyberculture has begun to permeate throughout the popular culture of modern society. Meanwhile the cyberpunk subculture remains underground, though where one ends and the other begins is often difficult to discern.”

Cyberpunk artwork by AdrianDadich.

Artwork by Adrian Dadich.

To hammer the point home, popular cyberpunk blog Neon Dystopia proclaims:

“Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that features advanced science and technology in an urban, dystopian future. On one side you have powerful mega-corporations and private security forces, and on the other you have the dark and gritty underworld of illegal trade, gangs, drugs, and vice. In between all of this is politics, corruption, and social upheaval.”

I’m getting a little tired of quoting, so I’ll just say that TV Tropes echoes a lot of the above.

If you’ve read this far, you probably get the sense that there are varying definitions of cyberpunk, although they converge on a few points. Of course, it’s a semantic argument — the word itself only matters insofar as it determines how people allocate cultural power. The truth is that any definition will be based on past usage rather than future manifestations, and I firmly believe that cyberpunk has explanatory power when it comes to the next century. Exolymph is all about looking at our current situation and wondering what it says about where we’re going — this has always been the role of cyberpunk media.

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What To Cover

I wrote a list of cyberpunk topics (assisted by my boyfriend). These are the unsettling innovations that I aim to keep talking about!

Humanity

  • transhumanism / biohacking / cyborgs
  • the quantified self (health and behavioral data)
  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • androids and other personified robots
Sketch of a broken cyborg by Apo Xen.

Sketch by Apo Xen.

Environment

  • virtual and augmented realities
  • immersive digital worlds (video games, forums, etc)
  • the effects of climate change and other slow-motion natural disasters
  • automation of labor and production; non-humanoid robots

Government & Power

  • corporatism
  • surveillance; post-privacy social mores
  • extreme inequality
  • the military-industrial and prison-industrial complexes
  • cryptocurrency

I said “unsettling innovations”, but “invigorating” is also true. Contemplating the future-present gets my blood running! Exolymph hasn’t explored all of these topics yet, which is part of why having a list may prove useful. What else do you think should be included?

Also, perhaps you’ve noticed that other people are welcome to contribute to Exolymph. Way Spurr-Chen and Ken Rodriguez both wrote essays; Pythagorx offered a short story. If you’re excited about any of these topics or have another cyberpunk idea, please hit reply and we can discuss including it in the newsletter. Non-text creations are especially desired!


Additions from Webster Wade:

  • 3D printing
  • open-source software
  • Internet of Things
  • sharing economy
  • possibility of neuroware
  • nanobots

Something else I thought of:

  • food replacements (Soylent, Schmilk, etc)

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Cyberpunk Is Now Q&A, Full Transcript

There’s a Facebook page called Cyberpunk Is Now, followed by 696 people. The nameless creator narrates the ongoing digital revolution via links to Wired, Vice’s Motherboard, and similar websites, captioned with insightful or cutting comments. I was curious about Cyberpunk Is Now’s motivation and background, so we did a Q&A.

I sent an edited version to the newsletter subscribers, but I wanted to make the full transcript available as well. Full disclosure: I also made a few small grammar edits.

Blade Runner promo image.

Blade Runner promo image.

Exolymph: What inspired you to start the Facebook page?

Cyberpunk Is Now: Well, I’ve always loved the notion that the world we’re living in today is the same dystopian world — not exactly, but eerily similar — that numerous cyberpunk authors warned us about. I’d always see things in my news feed that made me come back to that thought, and I’d share them with my personal account to various cyberpunk-based Facebook groups. But once I realized I also had things I wanted to say about these news articles or posts, and messages I wanted to convey alongside my sharing of them, I decided to create this page in order to keep all of my musings concerning the subject in one place. Another benefit I learned soon after creating this page is the fact that I’m able to reach a wider audience this way. It went from merely observing the state of the world to actively working to inform people of it — and encouraging them to stay aware and fight back against corruption and tyranny in the coming post-industrial age.

Exolymph: What’s your personal political position? Do you consider yourself an anarchist, libertarian, or…?

Cyberpunk Is Now: It’s hard for me to define my political views through any exact term because nothing is ever absolute — what works for one country may be the bane of another, and I can only speak for the United States seeing as that is where I’m from. There are bits and pieces of many different political philosophies that I adore, but I prefer to stay away from labeling due to the various implications and misunderstandings that can arise.

In my opinion, the most desirable course of action in the present moment, given the present political and socioeconomic climate here in America, is to elect Bernie Sanders. I am only attempting to work from a short-term view here — I know that there are anarchists and anarcho-communists who’d rather just torch society altogether, and they aren’t wrong, but now just isn’t the time for that. Humanity has a bit of a way to go before we can start initiating huge shifts. We need to get on stable footing and toss out all the corruption at the top before that, and until that happens, that’s as far as my political musings normally go. At this point in human history, nothing too extreme is very feasible — we still have to work out way up to that. We have to be realistic about what we set out to do. We won’t be able to innovate if the top 1% of our society is holding nearly the entire sum of our wealth.

I know that scenario makes people want to throw bricks through windows and anarchy-it-up, but let me quote a favorite artist of mine, Pat The Bunny, to illustrate what I am trying to convey: “There’s no brick we can throw that will end poverty, and we can’t blow up SB1070. Things will never be as simple as when I was twelve years old reading Karl Marx in my bedroom alone.”

Exolymph: How do you think accelerating technology will affect people’s day-to-day jobs? What about the labor market overall?

Cyberpunk Is Now: We’ve been seeing some version of Moore’s Law successfully play out since the turn of the millennium. Since technological advancement is exponential, not linear, it’s very hard to say where our society, or the world as a whole, will be at any amount of time in the future. Hell, I fully expect that even by 2017 I’ll be seeing things that I would have thought impossible today. People have been complaining about how “robots will take our jobs” (they just love to say that to demonize certain groups) like it’s a bad thing. But trying to hold that off would just cause us to stagnate.

Yes, many jobs will be replaced by automated processes and machines, but those machines themselves will create three jobs for every one job they take away! I always try to tell people that, if they fear such a scenario, they should go into the tech field in order to pursue the new positions this automation will create… however, these people would rather not educate themselves in any form or fashion, so my point is always lost to them.

People always fear the unknown. First jazz was “the devil’s music”, then all of a sudden he jumped to rock ’n’ roll and, later, heavy metal. First, radio was corrupting our youth — then television — then video games — then the internet — etc. People are always so quick to demonize new innovations because they’re afraid of the unknown and don’t want to make an effort to keep up with the rest of humanity.

Like I said, in the very near future, many jobs will be replaced with some form of automated technology, and this will open up three job opportunities for every one it closes, but the difference will be that there will, obviously, be certain requirements in order to fill these positions: technological prowess, intellect, problem-solving skills…

I know that my argument, “if you don’t want a robot to steal your job, get a job working on that robot” has an inherent flaw: automation will replace the jobs of people not qualified to work with technology. Hopefully this will finally push the ignorant masses to pursue education, at the very least in their own self-serving interest, in order to keep up. Politicians will certainly play on the fear and hatred of those who choose not to, just like a certain dickhead here in America is playing on people’s hatred of certain minority groups right now. Politics never changes. But, with the boundless sharing of information the internet has allowed, people are finally beginning to wake up and give a shit.

I don’t need to tell you just how fucked the entire higher-education system in America is, but — with the seismic shifts in public awareness we’re seeing now — the corruption will hopefully be mitigated by the time this near-future vision arrives. But, then again, you don’t necessarily NEED a degree to be good with computers. Most people I know in the tech field were already good at what they did — their degrees served more as proof of what they already knew, rather than proof that they learned it all at a college. College degrees are already losing worth in this economy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if — by then — tech companies will be more concerned with natural skill than anything else.

We’re standing right at a major tipping point in human history. Things could either go very bad or very good. Millennials are pissed. Even some Baby Boomers are pissed, and waking up to the shit world we inherited from them. We need to stop murdering our natural environment and focus on innovation. Research. Design.

Where am I going with all of this?

The way I see it, by the time all of this new tech rolls around, a certain type of ignorance will be banished forever from mainstream society. The people who complain that “immigrants are taking our jobs” will likely say the same thing in five years about robots. In ten years, this closed-minded attitude will leave them on the fringes of society. The same thing goes for people who oppose research into gene-editing because they feel “scientists are playing God”, and people who deny science entirely — due to religious belief — and actually think the world is only 6,000 years old. In a world where technology governs everything from our everyday interactions with our peers to the routes we take to work, that just isn’t feasible.

The triumph of knowledge, creativity, and innovation due to the increasing prevalence of (and dependence on) technology is all I’m sure about and can really say about the future. Truth be told, I’m excited.

Exolymph: What can you tell me about your real-world self? Day job? Hobbies?

Cyberpunk Is Now: I very much value individuality and self-expression in the ways I present myself, both through my appearance and the ways I go about communicating with others. I pretty much wear nothing but black and gray clothing (it makes doing the laundry easier) that I’ve found at thrift stores over the years. I don’t think I own a single garment that isn’t from some sort of secondhand store, actually. I also like to repair my clothing with dental floss and sometimes do some DIY stuff with patches or spikes to pass the time when I can’t sleep. I always have to carry around an inhaler and other medical supplies, so I prefer wearing leather jackets or hoodies with an abundance of pockets. I mainly wear combat/work boots because, back when I was in high school, they were the only sort of footwear that extensive longboarding didn’t utterly destroy. This was back before I drove, so I longboarded pretty much everywhere, and ended up loving the feel so much I never went back to regular shoes. (Also I practiced taekwondo for about five or so years — a martial art focused mainly on kicks and keeping distance from one’s opponent — and it’s always a plus to know I’ll have steel toes in case I’m ever in a position where I must defend myself.)

I never really learned how to make eye contact with others, so I’m always wearing a pair of sunglasses (classic mirror-shade aviators or black-lens teashades) and I’ve bullshitted my way into having everybody I know think I have a sensitivity to fluorescent lighting in order to justify the constancy of their presence on myself even when indoors.

People always say that “the eyes are the window to the soul”, and I like to think of my sunglasses as my own personal curtains.

So, pretty much, I’m the sort of person you’d expect somebody’s grandparents to gawk at if they saw them walking down the street. I actually love it. People always shit themselves when I’m polite to them, because they judge based on appearance and expect me to act like a dick. I almost get a high from proving people’s preconceived notions wrong like that.

I’m currently attending college and working part-time as a freelance writer and tech-support guru. People always need an iPhone unlocked or an Android tablet rooted or a virus wiped from their computer or an essay written. My hobbies, just as well, mostly revolve around writing and technology — all things from video-editing to image-manipulation — though I’m also an avid electric bass player. In the past, I’ve even played upright bass for a few bands. But I haven’t had much time for that as of late, unfortunately. Too much obligatory stuff (college, work, etc) getting in the way.

My main passion, however, is definitely writing. It flows so naturally to me — like I sit down at a keyboard and zone out and when I come back I’ve written a ten-page essay. It’s also generally a skill I try to practice and hone as much as possible, considering how universal it is, and it’s saved my ass a bunch of times when my forgetful/anxious mind has gotten in the way of my future. I also try to use technology to my advantage whenever possible, and sometimes the two go hand-in-hand.

Also… I smoke a lot of weed, and my favorite band is Nine Inch Nails, and — yes — those two facts are directly related. I read more often than I watch television, and try to relegate my video-game usage to the weekends because I sorta have an addictive, in some sense of the word, personality. I love existentialist literature, and due to the nature of this page you can probably guess what my favorite fiction genre is.


Cyberpunk Is Now exists on Facebook, which proves some kind of point about the future of media. Go follow the page.

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