Author - Paul Schatzkin

Dispatch From The Outskirts – Dec 12
The Beating A Not-Quite-Dead-Horse Edition

From the Department of “stop me if you’ve heard this before.”

Frankly, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the day-to-day Drumbeat Of Doom. No amount of putting my hands over my ears makes any difference.  It’s hard to enjoy Christmas music at the mall (irony alert!) when all you can hear inside your own head is the soundtrack from “Jaws.”

And despite my best (?) efforts to the contrary, I still find myself sucked into the vacuum. Empty feeling inside? Meet the infinite random trivial generator.  How’s that working out for you?  Not so well?  Scroll some more…

I know I’m not saying anything particularly original here.

And I take little solace when I see other voices – supposedly speaking with some higher authority  – echoing the themes that I’ve been expressing here for the past several months.

For example, a former Facebook executive who now confesses his personal guilt for  breathing the life into Frankenberg’s digital monster:

Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

A “hard break” from Facebook.  That’s what I’ve been trying to do since October. But it’s, umm… hard….

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

Apparently this guy has a new job title, “Master Of The Obvious.” From which pedestal he further enlightens:

Your behaviors… are being programmed…”

And this from a guy who left Facebook SIX YEARS ago! Dude… you’re just now figuring this out??

Personally, I find much irony in Palihapitya’s comments – and the fact that these digital media outlets are publishing them. All these people are suddenly waking up to the realization that new technologies are unpredictably disruptive.

Gee, who’da thunk?

Right now, in the wake of all the revelations about the 2016 election, Facebook and Twitter are getting all the critical press.  But it’s not  just Facebook and/or Twitter. It’s the whole new digital environment, everything from smart phones to  Netflix to the incredibly shitty new NYTimes iPad app.

Why is anybody surprised that all of this new technology is re-wiring our brains, and, consequently, the whole fabric of society is being rewoven in disturbing new ways?

To observe these impacts now is like registering surprise that “this hammer, it keeps banging on nails!”  That’s what hammers do.  They bang on nails.

And that’s what new technologies do: they fuck shit up.

That is why even the gentle strains of Bing Crosby and David Bowie crooning together on “The Little Drummer Boy” sounds like the soundtrack from a forty-year-old shark movie.

The News…

… is increasingly dire and unfathomably grim.

Every time we hit a new low, we think it’s the bottom.  Until we reach the next new low.  Until we finally come to the conclusion that there just is no fucking bottom.

So here, have a rainbow.

Better yet, have two of them.

And don’t say I never did anything for you…


Dispatch from the Outskirts – Nov 20
Why Do You Think They Call it ‘Dope’?

Here is what my “addiction to the algorithm” has produced today:

What have we really created? What psychology might call a double infantile narcissistic regression….

Is it any surprise then that societies are regressing, too, when tech is creating algorithmic addicts stuck in infantile states having counterfeit relationships, not, let’s say, vibrant citizens and neighbours and friends and institutions and trust between them all? … by regressing us to fixated infants searching desperately for the next fix, a dopaminergic approach to human possibility makes us less capable of genuinely adult behaviour: really openly discussing, handling, managing, our many great problems, from inequality to climate change to predatory behaviour.

Or, as I keep saying to anybody who will listen: “Trump: Because the Internet.”

Follow the link for the ‘rest of the story’:

The Dopamine Economy: The Mad Men Created Consumers. We’ve Created Algorithmic Addicts




Dispatch from the Outskirts – Nov 13:
Zuckerberg, Meet Hindenburg

How do you say that in Russian?

I’ll just leave this here.  My sister sent it to me about a week ago.

Is your favourite technology actually pathological?

…what caught my eye in Regis’ book was his description of the Zeppelin as an example of a ‘pathological technology’, and his definition of that suggestive phrase. For Regis, there are four things that make a technology ‘pathological’. First, they are oversized in terms of their absolute size or effects. Second, ‘pathological technologies’ cast such a powerful spell on people that all rational evidence against them or to their contrary is rendered null and void.

Third, their risks and even their blatantly dangerous downsides are systematically minimised and underplayed. And fourth, a technology should be considered pathological when there is an extreme mismatch between benefits and costs.

It strikes me that many of our modern technologies fit this pathological profile. The likes of Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit and Twitter create addictive feedback loops that keep us liking, swiping and in a state of ‘continuous partial attention’.

We now return your ‘partial attention’ to its regularly programmed distraction…

Dispatch from The Outskirts 11/05
WTF Is Going On In Saudi Arabia?

While y’all were getting all indignant (again!) over whether or not it’s “too soon” to do nothing (again!) about guns in the U.S., another seething cauldron or insane started boiling over…

“In sum, we know that Donald Trump is an existential crisis here in the US. But if you have any extra bandwidth, maybe pay attention to this. Because the Saudi-Iran conflict is reaching the boiling point, and if that fuckwit Jared doesn’t get indicted first, he’s going to lead us into yet another endless ground war in the Middle East.”

No, But Seriously! WTF Is Going On In Saudi Arabia?