Menu Close

Tag: identity (page 1 of 2)

Nootropics, Outrage, and Neuroticism

Two things:

1) I published an essay called “Practical Nootropics; Political Brainhacking” on my personal website. I posted it there instead of sending it to you, dear readers, because the post was sponsored and I didn’t realize until after arranging everything that Exolymph would be a more appropriate venue. (My very first sponsored post! Are you proud of me, or shaking your fist because I’m a sellout?)

If you’re interested in applied transhumanism, the essay is up your alley. Don’t worry, it’s not a long ad disguised as a blog post — I thank the sponsor at the top and bottom, that’s all.

2) I was a little bit manic from too much caffeine last night so I wrote a long tweetstorm about the pervasive bad faith that poisons so much of online discourse. It ties together the prisoner’s dilemma, hyper-scaleable media distribution (AKA cheap virality), and the incentives of tribalism.

And now, a prose poem about the interminability of sentience. Because why not, I can be angsty and avant-garde too. Tumblr-era Sonya would be so proud.

Glass Cacophony

Artwork via (by?) the Twitter bot @youtubeartifact.

Artwork via (by?) the Twitter bot @youtubeartifact.

“The algorithm has been kind, has granted me a strong body and a violent disposition.” — @ctrlcreep

You have been yourself the entire time that you’ve been alive. Layer on layer on layer, like stacked panes of glass. Each scribbled all over with black marker.

The stack becomes murkier as it rises, when viewed from the top. It’s the same stack all the way up and down.

Despite the persistence of yourself, the entire-time-ness of it, you struggle to define your own substance. Observers list the ways of knowing what you are. You must not despise yourself. It is unseemly.

You are bothered by wanting an identity, by wanting to reduce yourself. The nebulousness is an itch. The need for a coherent mind is an itch. Counting breaths is fall asleep is an itch.

Each moment more you-ness accretes. Black marker skids on the glass; fills up the clear space. Pile on a fresh one. The ink dries gummy. It peels instead of smearing.

The very best feeling, you think, is to realize that you’ve driven home on autopilot. You didn’t need to be present. A respite from the consciousness of consciousness of consciousness that fills the mind, that is the mind, that spills into your hands and none of the onlookers can help you hold it.

Still you are yourself and still the complexity assaults you.

Personalities, Bought and Sold

Sara Watson wrote about the contradictory selves that each of us scatters around on the internet:

I catch glimpses of her in side­bars and banners, in the branded ads creeping into my infi­nite scrolls. She surfaces in recom­men­da­tions and person­al­ized results — fleeting encoun­ters unless captured by screen­shot.

She is a pixe­lated, auto­mated portrait of myself. She is frag­ments, an amal­ga­ma­tion I see in the digital mirror. She’s me, now through a glass darkly.

She is a pastiche of my patched-together digital detritus. She is my browsing history, my status updates, my GPS loca­tions, my responses to marketing mail, my credit card trans­ac­tions, and my public records.

Artwork by Matt Lyon.

Artwork by Matt Lyon.

As a pretty public person who makes a living writing (or at least tries to), I struggle with this. I don’t care about the personal effect that ~surveillance capitalism~ has on me (I do care about the political effects, don’t worry!) because let’s be real, the personal effect is nil. I just get advertised to a little more effectively. But it does frustrate me that my public persona is so fractured.

There’s cyberpunk me, which you get exposed to via this newsletter, and which also comes out in the chat group, on Twitter, and on Hacker News. There’s business-y me on Twitter, my website, and occasionally Facebook. But I have a whole separate sphere of interests centered on makeup and other “girly” stuff, expressed via Instagram and Reddit.

I feel really weird when I “cross the streams” by talking about makeup on Twitter or whatever. I’m not presenting something cohesive, from a branding perspective. And since clients come from everywhere, that potentially threatens my livelihood, or at least de-optimizes it.

There are always tradeoffs. The internet and social media have been such a boon to me, especially since I do not function well in normal office environments, but constantly pitching myself to anyone who drops by is exhausting.

Post-Body Identities

Imagine that you can upload your mind into a tiny computer chip. (Or maybe “transport your mind” is a better phrase, since I don’t want to address the gnarliness of a single personality existing in multiple hosts.) Put aside whether this is technically possible — speculating on the topic is useful regardless.

So, your mind is housed in an itsy-bitsy sophisticated machine. That mind-chip can be implanted into anything, right? How about a giraffe’s body? How about a rock? Maybe you want to experience the stillness of a boulder in a mountain stream, like someone on a train whose face isn’t buried in their smartphone.

In this scenario, we have to change our fundamental assumptions about the environment we navigate daily. If every object can be sentient, you must step carefully. You must watch yourself constantly, because you might be watched by someone else. (This is already true to a certain extent, but for the most part other individuals aren’t paying attention to you, especially not without your knowledge.)

I suspect that most people will still want a body. Maybe a more perfect body, with flawless muscles and embedded martial arts knowledge. But they’ll want to represent themselves as humanoid. Look at Second Life — sure, you have furries and aliens and other unhuman creature creations, but they’re outnumbered by hyper-sexed Homo sapiens analogues. (Disclaimer: I’m basing my assumption on Flickr albums of screenshots.) I’ve described this dynamic before:

“What will our avatars look like in a hundred years? Post-gender and post-form, or exactly like the musclebound hunks and bit-titted blondes that titillate today’s Second Life denizens? We mustn’t forget the furries and weaboos, already a significant contingent of any visually oriented social network (which is all of them) (especially 4chan) (maybe they don’t haunt Instagram? idk).”

I still wonder about the world where I can inhabit any container. What will that do to gender? Many of us already acknowledge that a person’s genital configuration does not determine their gender. We have two common phenotypical maps, but people’s brains have claimed many identities beyond “male” and “female”. Bigender, nonbinary, agender, and various other labels. I suspect that most of you reading this accept gender diversity as normal and positive.

I’ve grappled with this personally — I identify very strongly as a woman, but I can’t figure out why. What draws me so strongly to femininity? It must be a tangle of biology, evo-psych, and socialization. In terms of how we treat people, the origin of nonbinary genders is irrelevant, but it’s still an interesting question. I suspect technological advances will help us whittle down the list of potential answers.


This idea was posed by my boyfriend and further inspired by some discussion in the chat group. Also, obligatory tip o’ the hat to Laboria Cuboniks.

Small Internet Ingroups

“Under low uncertainty, you have to find a way to like one of the few default options available. Under high uncertainty, you have to eliminate options and avoid premature commitment.” — Venkatesh Rao

At the end of the dispatch inspired by Mad Max, I asked how genuine communities can protect themselves in the chaotic dystopian milieu. Is it possible to avoid the fallout and continue trusting each other? I got a couple of interesting answers. Uel Aramchek said:

“This is where I think the Mad Max side of the internet is most clear — in the bubbling and sequestering of communities. People band together against trolls and opposing voices through a number of tactics that create a desert between online groups. Through blocking, moderating, filtering, featuring, etc. Communities are tightened, but the space between them is widened. Online fights and factionalizing have grown far more brutal as this has increased.”

Great description of Reddit, tbh. That’s exactly how the upvote function in a sub works. Twitter “tribes” follow the same principles. See also: Scott Alexander’s brilliant essay “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”, which makes the case that politics = identity signalling. I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I don’t want to associate with people who hold a bunch of beliefs that I judge to be bigoted. On the other hand, how much intellectual enrichment am I sacrificing for the sake of social cohesion?

From a different angle, Reddit user inpu weighed in:

“I think most [communities] won’t [be able to shield themselves]; they’ll just hope that they’re not interesting enough to get into trouble with the surveillance state or the companies.

I see only two ways to protect yourself:

  1. Live a low-tech, off-the-grid life.
  2. Become a hacker yourself. This will require a lot of knowledge and skills. Understanding all the necessary details about IT and encryption is already complicated, and it will only get more so.

I could see some cooperation and overlap between groups 1 and 2, with people using little technology in general and creating the tech that they need themselves or have hackers do it for them.”

I tend to be a cynic, so I’m not too hopeful about the ability of lone-wolf hackers to circumvent governments and huge multinationals. But there is the possibility that a tool created by a small group can scale up to have a far greater impact. Bitcoin is a prime example.

One of the reasons why I’m intrigued by the open-source and free-software movements is that they try to do an end-run around typical corporate power structures. They don’t entirely succeed, of course, but it wouldn’t be fair to expect that.

I’m still pondering what my own modus operandi will be.

Technological Abundance: Interview With Multimedia Artist Torley

I originally discovered Torley through Flickr, where he shares screenshots of ethereal and bizarre scenes from Second Life. He is also a musician and has released projects like Glitch Piano, an album described thus:

“Not long ago, in a parallel universe fairly, fairly close… humans imported a master race of sentient pianos through spacetime portals, using the instruments as labor-beasts and war-weapons. Predictably, these magnificent creatures rebelled and bass’ed civilization, enslaving the masses like the un-self-actualized lowminds they broadly are.

The contained aurelics (sonic artifacts) are historical evidence of such a traumatic time, and oddly, we detected halos of rich emotional spectrum — including loveliness and humorosity — amidst the runes.”

I emailed Torley to request an interview, and he answered my questions at great length. The full text, minus a couple of portions redacted for his privacy, is available as a PDF. The dispatch that you’re currently reading is a sort of “greatest hits” summary, like what I did with Andi McClure’s interview.

During a hard period in his life, Torley read some of the classic cyberpunk novels as balm. Consequently, he…

“wondered if there was a ‘real’ (as real as real can be) place where I could explore some of these ideas. I learned of the cyberpunk city ‘Nexus Prime’ in the Second Life virtual world — almost all content created by its users! — constructed on the aptly-named Gibson region […] As a metaphor that worked on such a practical level, my first avatar was an amplified version of my physical self, then I projected further into the future — and became an incarnation of my time-traveling daughter, who came back to tell me ‘THINGS ARE GOING TO BE OKAY’. […] Eventually, I was hired by Linden Lab (makers of Second Life), which I am immensely grateful for as it changed my first life even further. I continue to work here on all of their products, including Sansar — our next-generation virtual world.”

I asked about the appeal of this genre, and Torley told me:

“I’ve long romanticized big cities with towering skyscrapers, and couriers scurrying in the dark, running past neon signs with some data that was too precarious to simply upload… so it had to be done sneakernet-style. I definitely enjoy the whole audiovisual package, even if it’s the most superficial images of what comes to mind when a cyberpunk trope is mentioned… and as a strain of sci-fi, to quote Gibson, to realize we are living in an unevenly distributed future RIGHT NOW. It’s happening all around us.”

He continued:

“For me, cyberpunk has always meant giving unpopular (minority) ideas a fighting chance. […] it means a resistance to change the system, and augment one’s personal self. Which is what I chose with my life path. […] We each contain that power to alter the operation of the big machine, even if we may be ‘just’ a gear or cog in the works. Megacorps fascinate me, and all the fictional marketing that goes into the worldbuilding process.”

Torley on his own daily habits:

“I enjoy consuming Soylent 2.0 everyday. ‘Revolutionary’ is an adjective not to be applied lightly, but it’s saving me an accumulating amount of time. I always wake up and have a bottle or two to start my day. I’m drinking some as I communicate right now. A few bottles make up the majority of my meals. […] I suppose Soylent is a cyberpunk ethos foodstuff — the target demographics are both diverse and fascinating. Yet we are all human, and time is a teacher that kills all its students. That’s why I think their marketing is clever — they emphasize that Soylent does not outright replace conventional food, but FREES you to choose what meals you want to chew.”

Circling back to Second Life:

“Second Life has been a safe space for me and many others — whether that’s exploring identity, sexuality, racial-cultural constructs, etc. How you perceive SL depends on how you perceive yourself […] It’s very easy to experiment with identity here. You can change your whole look as easily as people can change clothes in ‘meatspace’. One’s avatar’s total appearance can be changed in mere seconds, yet may get a completely 180-degree response from those around you inworld. A hulking dragon brings out a totally different reaction than being an adorable pixie. I have been many forms, almost always revolving around my pink-and-green color scheme. I’ve called it ‘the Torley Council’, wherein I imagine a type of mini United Nations in my head, with each persona diverse yet unified — it’s all me, after all.”

In closing:

“We are blessed to live in such an age of technological abundance, as unstable as some systems may be. We owe it to ourselves to harness those tools to be healthier, happier, more creative human beings. When our own needs are met and our resources are replenished — and when we are genuinely comfortable in our own skin — we can more ably help each other.”

I’ll crack open a neon watermelon and toast to that.

Identity Velocity

Today’s dispatch was contributed by Way Spurr-Chen, a developer who curates the Glitchet newsletter (“weekly futuristic news and glitch aesthetic webzine”), hangs out on Twitter, and has myriad other projects.


We’ve always changed ourselves with some form of magic or another. Incantations, self-hypnosis, drugs. A finely pressed suit and $400 handbag. The dire imaginations of children, actors, pretenders. We wear masks and we play games — we are changers. The cessation of an atom’s vibration is a deep freeze: to stay still is to die. That’s probably why you’re reading this. You can smell which way the wind blows, and “forward” is a funny smell worth paying attention to.

Still, that wind blows fast. I’ve been reading about people controlling robotic limbs with their minds, a surgeon who implanted himself to see if he could digitize his thoughts, companies injecting their employees with RFID chips, and people putting LEDs under their skin. And those are just the biohackers! The internet allows us to get lost in increasingly specific subcultures and ideas. Our connectivity splinters us like lightning as our lives course through endless information. Years don’t feel like years anymore; I feel like I’m being blended into months and I’m counting my days in weeks. I wonder when I’ll know that I’ve been left behind, but that’s the trick: I’m already behind. We all are. You can’t be “on it” anymore — you can only tune into the infinite noise and pick out a signal. Wherever you find people, you’ll find a community thriving and moving faster than you can keep up.

What does that do to our play? We’re learning the power of permanence online while realizing the importance of having anonymous options. As the amount of information we put online increases, encased in silicon boxes, so does our ability to modulate, flex, and bend that signal through the future. (May our audiences be as forgiving of our pasts as we are.) It becomes simultaneously easier to transform yourself and to be pinned to an old version of yourself. Yet we will always shove forward bravely to new identities; we can’t stop.

Magical glitch artwork by Mário João.

Artwork by Mário João.

That’s just the internet. Old news already. Our ability to change ourselves, though, our bodies — that’s fast. When I saw those armless kids with modular LEGO prosthetics they could build on, I wanted one. I bet there will be a point where it’s a reasonable exchange to swap a flesh arm for a robot arm, even if your robot arm’s USB 3.0 extensions will probably be obsolete by 2020. (I hope you got the universal RFC shoulder socket adapter. Sometimes you gotta lose a little more flesh, but that’s just the tradeoff for longevity. Make sure you do your research: you wouldn’t want to buy from a startup that’s hoping to get acquired by Microsoft. Google might be OK.)

Of course, those are just functional, almost decorative. The thing I wonder most is how I would feel, knowing that I’m part machine, or part internet, or different, enhanced. Even if I can control the rate of my own transformation, would I feel pressured by the options available? What about aesthetics? When we can change ourselves so quickly, and we see the degree at which others might change, would we be compelled to enter an arms race (no pun intended) to become the most stylish, the most hip, the most specific? How fast can self-perception change? Does it lead or does it follow the things that we find ourselves becoming?

Certainly, perspective and identity are constantly in flux and the self rarely sees its reflection. But I hope the things I can hold onto are my habits. These give me stability. These define me. Even if I did get a robot arm, or an RFID chip, or a vibrating penis (I wouldn’t — I mean, maybe — no — let me think about it), I would still like whiskey and ginger beers, lasagna, dark clothes, the smell of a bonfire on the beach. I have these things to hold onto, regardless of what else about myself I change. I can take solace in the idea that I still haven’t changed. Not really. I can hold onto the rest of my humanity that is slow and almost static.

But the future always brings us new questions: what happens when you augment that? Your mind? Would you erase your memories? Would you program yourself to like something that the love of your life likes? Does it matter? Identity may not need to seem discrete, concrete. After all, can you step into the same river twice? Maybe you just have to tune into the signal in the noise wherever you find it. Mask-wearers, pretenders, changers that we are — maybe that’s already what we do. We’ll just get faster.


If you like Exolymph, you will definitely like Glitchet, so I recommend that you go sign up!

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.

We Already Occupy The Dystopia We Imagine

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 edited their answers down to a newsletter-appropriate length, but the full transcript is available here. 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. […] 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. […] 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. […]

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. […]

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 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 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. […]

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.

If We Ever Did

“In societies like ours many types of groups form around technologies […] We no longer live in a world of unmediated human relations, if we ever did.” — Andrew Feenberg

I’m obsessed with our continual attempts to expand our physical selves. The experience of being human has always been distributed — individuals are nodes in overlapping networks — and humanness flows between loci through channels outside of ourselves.

Computers serve as vessels for identity expression. Their infrastructure connects the nodes. Of course, conspicuous consumption and performative personal broadcasting are not new — we’ve used objects to communicate our cultural values forever, and our possessions can be said to embody our priorities.

At times we treat technology like a religious fetish. Maybe we’re just drawn to our own nature(s). Every human creation is a self-portrait.

Illustration by Maria De La Guardia.

Illustration by Maria De La Guardia.

© 2017 Exolymph. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.