So a few things happened since we last posted –
1. we moved our offices to Minneapolis.
2. We learned how to make GIFs.
3. The Fappening.
Last things first. Content manufacturer noodlebb and I have been running an ongoing conversation re: Spotify, torrenting, intellectual property rights, and the general improbability of writers/musicians/artists ever making money again. What this has to with the Fappening is semi-tangential, but hang on (not too hard though, this argument is about to be conspiracy-theory-level lazy/basic af) –
As people have noticed since time immemorial, the internet makes it very easy to steal things. The general response by various industries has been to pay less money to the people who make things. This is great news for the consumer (who likes saving money) but not so great for the person who make things (who likes having money at all). It’s hypothetically v. bad news for everyone – because the person who makes things will eventually stop making things due to poverty/starvation/death, and the consumer won’t have anything to buy as a result.
In the pop journalism world, the bulk of this conversation has been centered around musicians. I’m not particularly concerned about them – musicians have never made very much money and are now making more music than ever before. Same goes for writers, poets, visual artists, filmmakers – artists will keep making art whether they’re starving or not because they’re artists and they have weird work ethics. I’m more concerned about actual manufactured goods – which are heading toward prices that will only be sustainable through slavery – and non-art intellectual property – most particularly, journalism. The former is a different (but not entirely separate) can of worms. The latter is what we’re focused on today. It is easier than ever to steal intellectual content, and the news content industry’s only possible response is to pay their writers dirt. I can steal an online NYT subscription anonymously without any risk of legal repercussion, and so can you. Enough people can/will/do this, and in not too long the NYT is going to feel it, and when they do they are going to slash their budgets. The reporters aren’t going to get paid. And then they are going to quit. Because reporters are not artists and they have normal work ethics and people with normal work ethics who dont get paid dont work. This is a bleak reality and it is already well on its way to happening.
Put ad blockers and IP scramblers on top of this theft-based economy and you have a major news outlet that makes absolutely no money. When I go online using Tor with an AdBlockPlus add-on to steal the New York Times, the New York Times gets literally nothing out of me. They can’t track me to sell my data, they can’t get my subscription cash, they can’t even show me advertisements. It isnt difficult to be this useless to a corporation – anyone can do it! I am not very good at computers and I set up all of this technology in under a minute. It’s too easy to do. You can do it. You should do it. In a generation, everyone will do it. We can make ourselves anonymous, we can scramble advertising, and we can take everything we want for free. The click-based internet advertising industry, whether it knows it or not, is going to fail. In ten years no money will be made from free content. It is borderline impossible to make money from paid content now. There is no money in this thing. We’re at the apex of the second tech bubble. An economy that includes the internet cannot sustain and will fall apart. Everything is/will be/has to be free.
The Fappening is only a precursor of what’s to come. It’s a visceral example of what has been and what now must be realized as an absolute truth – everything that is digitized, that has ever been digitized, can be, and therefore will be, shared. If you have a photograph of yourself that you dont want someone else to see, and you have shared that photograph with literally anyone in any capacity – it is probably already too late. If you dont believe this then go to 4chan and look at what they do to girls’ cellphones. The Fappening is a horrible event, but it cant be treated as an isolated incident that can be prevented in the future. The technology exists. The enemy is anonymous. There is no such thing as digital privacy. Everything that exists on a computer is public information and it is everyone’s right to share it. Everything includes HBO GO accounts, credit card information, sexts, personal emails, intellectual property, music files, nuclear reactor codes. The potential is infinite and the only prevention is a cold war style firewall arms race. This is not moral opinion – this is reality.
This is not necessarily scary. The result is potentially the greatest compilation of art and intellect ever created, instantly accessible and absolutely free. If we separate the internet from traditional conceptions of ownership and economy – from traditional concepts of “person” – we have an unlimited free-for-all of art, interaction, and information. Everything that everyone has ever known or done is in front of us, and the possibilities exceed all previous conceptions of intellectual capacity.
But if we continue to link the internet to material economies and physical conceptions of personal interaction – commerce, intellectual property, sexual relations, international security – we will crash the global economy, deplete all intellectual resources, destroy interpersonal intimacy, and give an angry sixteen year old the chance to blow up New York City with Iranian nuclear missiles in an afternoon. Because the codes to all international communications and military power exist on the same spectrum as the pay section of the New York Times that I am currently skimming through right now. The Fappening was first – a major act of terrorism will be next. Anyone’s life can be ruined by a series of clicks. We set ourselves up for this and we are fucked.
This is maybe sort of over-dramatic. Hackers on one side run into hackers on the other. We might be safe from a suburban-angst-inspired nuclear holocaust. But we undeniably have a free-for-all that’s messy enough to sink the recording industry, leak a heavily PR-controlled supermodel’s most intimate photographs, and make a viable career in journalism about as realistic as an NFL contract. If all media is free and readily available, then all economies dependent on information and intellectual property can and will collapse. We can’t continue to move forward with the conception that the internet is a frontier open to traditional ideas of private ownership. It’s too depersonalized for that. There’s too much accessibility. For the same reasons, we can’t continue to use the internet to expand the bounds of traditional private ownership. When words were on paper, the New York Times could own the paper. When the words are in the cloud, the New York Times has nothing real to own.
The internet is not real. It can never be real. It can never be treated as a material agent of globalization because its very existence is founded in immateriality.
The world is real. It is extremely real. It cannot be globalized and universally shared because it is made of material things that are physical, localized and specific.
Go home and take a naked selfie Poloroid and light it on fire as you pass it to yr girlfriend. Get on a VPN and make a GIF of the strip video she sent you from her ipod phone and post it on Imgur. Do both at the same time. One is yrs and the other is everyone’s, and that’s totally incredible as long as you know that there’s no middle ground. This is all unfounded and I’m probably the millionth person to say it but whatever, that’s what beautiful about all this isn’t it?
We have the most immaculately useless work of collaborative human potential ever created and we are treating it like it’s a practical counter to our self-destruction.
We can do this gracefully. We can let the crumbling material systems crash and sustain something lasting and beautiful that will get us through many post-apocalypses to come. Or we can keep heading in the direction we’re going and blow it all up.
This is our Library of Alexandria. This is the End of Empire.