Hello there 🙂
Welcome to issue forty eight of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected things I’ve recently encountered.
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Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…
Part I: Things I’ve Encountered Online…
Being a super-rich dude is super-hard, friends. Here’s the main problem – the thing that allows the super-rich dude to create all of his wealth, is also the thing that at some point in the near future is likely to cause the collapse of society as we know it.
And then what is the super-rich dude to do?
Now super-rich dudes don’t know for sure what will cause this apocalyptic societal collapse. They just refer to it as “the event”.
From the article:
“The event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, solar storm, unstoppable virus, or malicious computer hack that takes everything down.”
Douglas Rushkoff (the author of the article), met a bunch of these super-rich dudes, and was quizzed at length by them:
“the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”
This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour.
They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from raiders as well as angry mobs. One had already secured a dozen Navy Seals to make their way to his compound if he gave them the right cue.
But how would he pay the guards once even his crypto was worthless?
What would stop the guards from eventually choosing their own leader?”
That’s right friends, these dudes have absolutely zero interest in seeking to avert the impending doom; all they’re interested in is figuring out they can survive this apocalypse of their own creation, and control their employees:
“The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival.”
Welcome to the dystopia! Put on this collar that will allow me to control you. No I can’t pay you, because money doesn’t exist anymore; but I will allow you to survive with me here in this hermetically sealed bunker where you’ll have to do whatever I say or you’ll die. Yes it is nice here isn’t it? Look at the taps: they’re real gold!
“I tried to reason with them. I made pro-social arguments for partnership and solidarity as the best approaches to our collective, long-term challenges. The way to get your guards to exhibit loyalty in the future was to treat them like friends right now, I explained. Don’t just invest in ammo and electric fences, invest in people and relationships. They rolled their eyes at what must have sounded to them like hippy philosophy.”
Dear reader at this point I felt like whilst what Rushkoff was saying had merit, he was still largely missing the point – i.e. if you really want to survive the best thing to do might actually be to work towards averting “the event”. Ugh.
In fairness, I think Rushkoff does recognise this – he goes on to say:
“These people once showered the world with madly optimistic business plans for how technology might benefit human society. Now they’ve reduced technological progress to a video game that one of them wins by finding the escape hatch. Will it be Jeff Bezos migrating to space, Thiel to his New Zealand compound, or Mark Zuckerberg to his virtual metaverse? And these catastrophising billionaires are the presumptive winners of the digital economy – the supposed champions of the survival-of-the-fittest business landscape that’s fuelling most of this speculation to begin with.
Never before have our society’s most powerful players assumed that the primary impact of their own conquests would be to render the world itself unliveable for everyone else. Nor have they ever before had the technologies through which to programme their sensibilities into the very fabric of our society. The landscape is alive with algorithms and intelligences actively encouraging these selfish and isolationist outlooks. Those sociopathic enough to embrace them are rewarded with cash and control over the rest of us. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop. This is new.
Amplified by digital technologies and the unprecedented wealth disparity they afford, The Mindset allows for the easy externalisation of harm to others, and inspires a corresponding longing for transcendence and separation from the people and places that have been abused.”
Later in the same article Rushkoff goes on to talk about his meeting with another character called JC Cole:
“He had done a Swot analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – and concluded that preparing for calamity required us to take the very same measures as trying to prevent one. “By coincidence,” he explained, “I am setting up a series of safe haven farms in the NYC area. These are designed to best handle an ‘event’ and also benefit society as semi-organic farms.
He believed the best way to cope with the impending disaster was to change the way we treat one another, the economy, and the planet right now – while also developing a network of secret, totally self-sufficient residential farm communities for millionaires, guarded by Navy Seals armed to the teeth.”
Yeah… try to do some good things which are for everyone, but also protect the super-rich dudes, amirite?
Tellingly perhaps, JC Cole also said this:
“Honestly, I am less concerned about gangs with guns than the woman at the end of the driveway holding a baby and asking for food.” He paused, and sighed, “I don’t want to be in that moral dilemma.”
Dear reader, I’m certain that your average super-rich dude wouldn’t give that woman and her baby a second thought.
You should definitely go read the full article – it’s both fascinating, and awful; but the broader, more important point I took from it is that the super-rich have absolutely zero interest in the survival of humanity. They only care about their own survival. We cannot look to them, for solutions for us.
Also, somewhat related:
Moar serendipitous finds:
It may seem as though critics typically pan the year’s biggest hits. But that is not the case. While audiences do tend to give blockbusters a higher score than critics, the average gap in their ratings is usually around 5 points. There has been at least one year where critics gave the biggest movies higher ratings than audiences. And there have been many years where the difference is negligible.
In 2022? It is not so much a gap as a chasm. Audiences have given the top 10 movies an average score more than 19 points higher than critics, by far the biggest difference this century. The only two of the year’s 10 biggest movies where audiences and critics are even close are “Top Gun: Maverick” and “The Batman.”
The whole article is great. Go read it 🙂
Since 2015, LJ Rader has been pairing photos from professional sports with historical artworks. What began as a personal project that involved visits to museums and some of the week’s most intensely emotional images from soccer matches or basketball games has evolved into Twitter and Instagram accounts with considerable followings.
“… the spectacle of Simba nuzzling the corpse of his dead dad had desensitised a generation to cartoon death. In particular, the death of a parent was now just a plot point to be got out of the way early in the film; then the fun stuff could start. It felt manipulative and exploitative: no longer shocking, Disney had made death boring.”
“Shoreditch is a tractor beam for men whose nickname relates to their “legendary” shenanigans at boarding school, where their parents abandoned them at 11, and self-define as working-class because one of their female cousins – whom they once kissed – didn’t go to university. And speaking of unresolved childhood trauma, a “famous ball pit cocktail bar” is a popular hotspot. It’s where future divorced couples frolic in plastic, sip supposedly retro drinks and search for Mr or Mrs Right, before stumbling home via London’s most stressful station: Liverpool Street.”
I was really heartened to read this. There are tonnes of “crisis pregnancy centres” out there that not only do not offer abortions, they actively steer people away from them. Clearly this update doesn’t solve the very dubious practises of some such organisations, but I’m hopeful this update will help people.
After years of revelations about strange lights in the sky, first hand reports from Navy pilots about UFOs, and governmental investigations, Congress seems to have admitted something startling in print: it doesn’t believe all UFOs are “man-made.”
The truth is out there 🙂
You might also like:
Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now
It has been a fantastic fortnight for reading.
I absolutely loved These Bodies of Water: Notes on the British Empire, the Middle East and Where We Meet, by Sabrina Mahfouz. It’s a book I picked up on a whim, and I’m so glad I did – I’m not sure there’s any other way I might have come across it – it’s suffered from precious little promotion, which sucks, because it’s brilliant.
Mahfouz was accepted into Civil Service Fast Stream (a graduate program); and, as a result of her seeking a posting at the Ministry of Defence, found herself sat in a series of interviews in Whitehall where she was interrogated about everything from her political leanings to her private life. On paper it was to ascertain whether or not she should be granted higher levels of security clearance; but implicit was the unspoken question: as a woman of Middle Eastern heritage, could she really be trusted?
Years later, Mahfouz found herself confronting the meaning behind this interrogation, and how it was specifically informed by the British Empire’s historical dominance in the Middle East. In These Bodies of Water, she investigates this history through the Middle Eastern coastlines and waterways that were so vital to the Empire’s hold. Interwoven with her own personal experiences, she combines history, politics, myth and poetry in a devastating examination of this unacknowledged part of Britain’s colonial past.
It’s incredible and you should get yourself a copy immediately.
Another book well worth your time is Companion Piece by Ali Smith, the scheme-busting fifth part of Smith’s seasonal quartet Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer.
Companion Piece is ostensibly a lockdown story, but at its heart, I think perhaps it’s a story about intrusion – how as people, we intrude on each other; how even when we try to shut it out, the outside world intrudes; how our dreams intrude our waking life.
You’ll find glorious wordplay here; plus a heady mix of history, the supernatural, folklore, and the overwhelming strangeness of the times we’re living through. It’s utterly delicious.
Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching
The Dropout (Disney+) deals with the bizarre, terrible, but nevertheless true story of Elisabeth Holmes, founder of the medical company Theranos. Holmes claimed to have developed technology that would revolutionise blood testing, and with it a massive part of the US healthcare system. How? Rather than requiring a vial-sized sample of blood, her tech could purportedly run tests on just a few drops; and rather than sending blood samples away to a lab to be tested, the tests could be run in situ via one of her nifty little machines.
The trouble was, the technology didn’t actually work; and no one bothered to properly check her claims.
They did however, give her a lot of money. She was able to raise $945 million from investors and Theranos signed partnerships with Walgreens and Safeway. At its peak, Theranos was valued at $9 billion.
It’s worth noting this is drama, rather than documentary, but as shows go it apparently sticks reasonably closely to the facts, is absolutely fascinating, and well worth your time.
Part IV: What I’ve been up to…
This has been a glorious fortnight! I got to see my friend Bridget whilst she was over from the US, (with the added bonus of a dose of P-Nott); caught up with Surena (always lovely); got rained on in a pub garden with Steve; I saw my Dad, I had a delightfully long Sunday lunch with Nichola, Jackie, and Collette; and tonight I’m off to see Dear Evan Hansen.
Workwise, I ran the first session of my WTS Training Workshop which was amazing! Such a smashing group of women, and getting to do anything with Areej is always absolutely dreamy. I also got to judge a bunch of Global Content Award entries which is always fascinating, and the panel discussion was aces.
I am very excited to be speaking at MKGO alongside a bunch of wonderful humans – check out the line up and bag yourself a ticket here.
Plus, I’ll be recording an episode for the We Earn Media podcast with my friend and fellow Distilled alumna Britt Klontz.
Also in October, there’s this:
On October 5th I’ll be running a training course in Brighton. It will be lovely. You can find more details about the course, and book your spot here.
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