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Posts tagged "thought":

24 Apr 2019

beefy_cabbage and Assassination Politics

Back in January 2019, Reddit user beefy_cabbage posted this image on Reddit's /r/me_irl subreddit.

beefy_cabbage.jpg

It was a prediction that the Queen of England would die on January 5th, 2019. Then a lot more Reddit users posted memes about the Queen's death or about how beefy_cabbage would probably be arrested. A lot of commenters argued that the meme implied a threat, while others claimed that it was obviously just a joke. Still others claimed that predictions couldn't possibly be a threat, and that's simply not true. Acutally what beefy_cabbage created could definitely imply a threat: a maket for the assassination of the Queen of England.

Crypto anarchist Jim Bell has an essay about assassination markets entitled Assassination Politics. In the essay he outlines a system by which the political landscape can be controlled via political assassination. Using an anonymous currency system and cryptograpy, an organization can "bet" on when a political figure will die. Whoever "guesses" the correct date gets the money. If there is a significant amount of money for a certain political figure on a certain date, then that may motivate an assassin to take action against that figure. The assassin kills the political figure on the correct date and collects the money.

Death markets take more forms than Bell's version. His idea was informed by "dead pools," where people bet on when someone such as a celebrity will die. These dead pools function more like regular betting pools. Bets are made and if you guess the correct date the celebrity dies, you collect the money. They have existed online in various places for a long time. According to the Wikipedia entry on dead pools, Rotten.com (a now-defunct, rather grody website known for its alarming content, but which also had an amazing section of essays on pop culture, politics, and history called the Rotten Library) operated the largest celebrity dead pool in the world. Macabre websites run these dead pools as just a bit of dark "fun." It isn't implied that any entity will act on any of the bets. You would assume that you would need a system like Bell's to make the leap from simple betting to assassination.

Maybe not if there is a motivating factor beyond money. What if there was an assassination market that didn't need money at all? An assassination market that didn't even need the crytography or the anonymity necessary to power Jim Bell's proposed system? I think an assassination market based on accrued fame could function the same way. Replace actual money with likes, subscribes, karma, or whatever social media currency we are interested in. A lack of anonymity would be preferred to truly collect your fame, and so could be implemented as easily as the simple dead pools that we've seen. Someone posts a meme predicting someone else's death. Another entity kills that person on the correct date and gains all the likes or karma or whatever.

It isn't a new observation that people will do just about anything for likes. Even though people don't do just about anything for likes, and those kind of observations are usually made by disaffected cranks that just want to deflate everyone's fun (not me of course…). The difference in this incident was how closely it resembled assassination politics, which is pretty funny. Beefy_cabbage's meme was a joke, and I think that is pretty obvious in its current cultural context, and because the Queen is still alive. But it is close enough to some sort of system for a new kind of assassination market, that I think we should take care. Once we meme ourselves into dystopia, I'm not sure it will be as funny. Or maybe it would be even funnier. I can't tell anymore.

Tags: thought
22 Apr 2019

Follow-Up

tape.png

Making graphics in an emulated MacPaint on Mini vMac would probably be a good example of the hipster-curmudgeon nexus. Both paradigms would have different motivations for doing so… but you know which one this is.

Tags: thought illustration
20 Apr 2019

On Hipsters and Curmudgeons

I thought I was becoming a curmudgeon, but now I don't think that is true.

A few months ago I was talking to a friend of mine about how I thought I was becoming curmudgeonly regarding technology. I have a notion (that many share, I might note) that the early web was better. Since I've been making webpages on Neocities, I think I am of the opinion that much of the current web has no soul. When I shared this with him, he asked me if any of the sites on Neocities were just ironic recreations of Geocities-styled websites, and if the irony bothered me. I affirmed that there were a lot of pages on the site that rely on that sort irony and that no, this did not bother me. He said that if the irony didn't bother me, then I'm not a curmudgeon. I think he is right. I'm no curmudgeon. If anything I'm some form of the dreaded hipster.

The "hipster" is one of the most maligned individuals in our culture, but the constantly shifting definition of the term makes it almost useless. It can be applied to anyone for almost any reason. If five people close their eyes and imagine a hipster, they will propbably have five different variations of hipster in their minds. The only thing that their envisioned hipster will have in common is that he is loathsome… and probably has a mustache. I think a redefinition of the term could be good. So here's a more optimistic and useful definition: Hipsters are individuals that employ a mix of sincerity, irony, contrarianism, and sometimes affectation to attain some level of cultural and emotional growth.

Curmudgeons value authenticity, sincerity, and contrarianism, but they never care about growth of any kind. Growth is antithetical to the curmudgeon. And they can never be accused of affectation, because they are absolutely sincere in their weirdness.

At first glance, hipsters can resemble curmudgeons due to some shared values. They both like contrarianism and authenticity. This is reflected in both groups' love of things that are outmoded. A hipster and a curmudgeon could conceivably both only listen to music on cassette tape, but for entirely different reasons that might look the same at first glance (the hipster to engage in contrarianism or irony, the curmudgeon because he thinks all new things are bad and dismisses them). Also, I will not dent that they can both be grating and annoying.

When my friend brought up the idea that if I embrace irony I can't be a curmudgeon, it seemed to fit. I'm not a curmudgeon. I think irony is an important tool to use to engage in culture. Irony bothers the curmudgeon because it undermines his complete authenticity. I think that that hipsters often wish they were curmudgeonly because that checks the box of authenticity. But it does not include the cultural and emotional growth that is also important to the hipster. Hipsters can only play at curmudgeonity because the goals of a hipster and a curmudgeon are different. The hipster wants to grow; the curmudgeon wants to stay the same.

I think this is lucky for the hipster because the curmudgeon is on a much darker path. A path that leads to cultural and emotional ruin: the path of the crank.

Tags: thought
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