Category Archives: Missives from modernity

Covering all the basics

This was not an ordinary shelter for the homeless. It was more than that. It was the most scientifically studied shelter for the homeless there ever was.

On the surface, it did everything you would expect it to: provide food, beds, showers, rudimentary legal aid. Nothing out of the ordinary – nothing less than what was necessary, and sparse few things more than that. In short, it and its ever so temporary inhabitants scraped by.

Except. For some reason, probably due to the contingencies of interpersonal friendships, this particular shelter was the goto hotspot for social scientists focusing on homelessness and social deprivation. Whenever a study of the homeless population of the city – or indeed the nation – were to be undertaken, this was inevitably where the researchers ended up.

Over the years, a relationship had been established between the manager of the shelter and the researchers. The manager, ever the curious sort, had gotten into the habit of reading the research articles that came out of this peculiar arrangement, and thus knew the field just as good as anyone. When researchers talked to him about the particular study they were about to conduct, he could more often than not direct them to articles or authors they hadn’t considered yet.

When asked why he didn’t apply for a job at the university – seeing as he knew his way around both theory and practice – he responded that his GED was not quote sufficient to make ‘em university administrators give e damn unquote, and that he anyway felt that he made more of a difference where he was.

University representatives, when asked if they would provide funding to the shelter, replied that they would not.

Monumental enlightenment

In light of recent revelations with regards to the importance of historical statues and other monuments in relation to historical memory, it has been decided that all preexisting statues and monuments are to be demolished immediately. In their place informational statuettes will be placed, so as to educate the populace about various historical and contemporary issues they need to be aware of.

The exact details of which specific statuettes will be placed where are yet to be determined. However, there is a general consensus that there is to be a park themed on the tax code, two parks themed on constitutional issues, one park themed on wokeness and no less than three parks themed around the importance of civic virtue.

By public demand, the central square will feature a multitude of statuettes imparting important insights about our shared and sometimes divided history.

There have been some objections to the slight increases in taxation this sudden increase in expenditure on statuettes will impose. However, we are confident that there is a broad consensus regarding the importance of giving every citizen access to the opportunity to learn by means of statue osmosis. In the long run, we will all prosper from knowing more about who we are and where we came from.

Honest pay for honest work

We ran the numbers, and found out that implementing full scale socialism is too massive an undertaking to be accomplished quickly. However, during the course of our investigation we found an alternate route that arrives at the same destination, with a few minor differences. Instead of managing the redistribution of wealth through central committee, we outsource the process to private institutions. The details can be found in the attached document, but the short summary is this: everyone get to be employed in a top-level position for ten to fifteen days, and get to keep the salary earned in full. Given the eyebrow-raising salary levels of these positions, we should see massive amounts of redistribution in only a couple of years or so.

It should be noted that this can be done in parallel with the traditional approach, as per the attached document.

A note on forbidden knowledge

Oh yes, there is secret knowledge. There is in fact lots of it. You will be interested to know that there is also forbidden knowledge, and that this is different from secret knowledge. The secret stuff is mostly boring trivia that does not concern or interest those that are not involved directly with it. If you find out something like that, nothing really happens, other than that you’d have reason to ask Old Man Frank about his prostate cancer that he hasn’t told anyone about. It’s secret, but most of it is irrelevant to your lived experience.

The forbidden stuff, however, is forbidden for a reason. A very specific reason, at that. This reason is that nothing engages and excites the mind like being told not to do something. By making it publicly known that certain things are forbidden to know, a whole lot of attention is brought to bear in that specific area, and thus we can expect the overall discussion about this thing to advance by leaps and bounds. Forbidding knowledge is like giving it a vitamin injection – like a disturbed anthill, it bristles with sudden activity.

There is a third category of knowledge, though, beyond secret and forbidden. This is radioactive knowledge, which irradiates everything it comes into contact with. It cannot be safely handled, and it cannot be stored in a secure manner. Once it exists in the world, it creates waves and ripples, turns heaven into hell and hell into heaven. Nothing survives contact with it, and the only safe way to deal with it is to never know anything about it at all. It is the stuff of suicide cults. Only death and destruction follows from it, which is why we never talk about that stuff. Even by omission.

And that, my friend, is why you are not allowed to know the truth about the moon landing, chemtrails, or the fact that the Earth is flat. Under no circumstances are you to continue your investigations into these areas.

There are no gay frogs.

Working relationships

Mr. Andersen

We have gone through your recent text message history, and we have found a number of troublesome tendencies. It would seem you do not sext with your wife nearly as much as you once did, and the nature of the other texts indicate that your relationship is in something of a rough spot. We worry that this might eventually become a source of distraction from your work, and want to ameliorate the situation before any unfortunate incidents occur. Prevention is always better than cure.

Tomorrow morning, you will report to HR for a debrief on your marriage situation, and a crash course in effective sexting. A happy employee is a productive employee, and we are always proactive in ensuring the productive capabilities of those under our supervision.

Best regards
Senior HR manager

Confessions of a former hacker

I used to be a hacker. A fairly prominent one, to boot. While you might not have heard of my exploits, you might have seen my face in newspapers or on television. In fact, it might very well be the case that when you think “hacking” or “cyberattack”, it is my visage that pops up in your head.

For some reason, I was really popular in the focus tests, so PR ran me over and over again. Whenever there was a press release, my face was there. When we took credit for something, my face was there. When we denied having anything to do with something, my face – actually, no, they ran the guy down the hall. Handsome fella. Nice headwear.

Anyway, the reason I left the business was all the corporate branding. Did you know we had to wear the balaclavas during active working hours, just in case we managed some spectacular hack and had to do an emergency photo op? It got real crazy towards the end, and our offices were more like photo studios than actual hacker dens. We had to run in parallel wirings just to ensure that everything kept running. Those spotlights draw power like a –

Anyway, it got real slow actually doing things towards the end. PR had figured that certain poses worked better than others, so we had to practice facing the computer in photogenic poses. The balaclava plus pointing a gun at the screen was really popular, for some reason. I mean, a gun? What kind of hacking feats do they think you can do with a prop gun?

One day, I realized I was actually working two jobs. One as a criminal mastermind hacker who made large international institutions tremble in their metaphorical boots. Another as a stock photo stunt man with ridiculous headgear and utterly unergonomic working conditions. With my latent carpal tunnel, you can only really point at something for so long, you know, and our medical insurance didn’t cover those sorts of things. Pre-existing condition, if you’d believe it.

So, yeah, if you’re thinking of becoming a glorious hacker, such as you see in the news all the time – don’t. It’s all corporate branding and no hacking these days. Not like in the olden days, with international rollerskate chases and synchronized phone booth calling and all that. They just talk about those things to lure you in.

But they never tell you how warm those balaclavas are in those damned spotlights. –

Workplace specialization

It’s not that he’s maladjusted, you see. Rather, he is too adjusted to a very specific set of social circumstances that require a very specialized mindset to navigate. Within the parameters of these circumstances, he’s a powerhouse to be reckoned with, an unstoppable and efficient machine who keeps things moving. Outside these parameters, he has no reference points, and thus no idea about what to do.

If we were to reconstruct these social circumstances and place him within them, he’d fit right in and know just what to do. For him, it would be as if the world suddenly made sense again, and that he could finally act with the certainty he once knew. It would, quite literally, mean the world to him.

However, after the recent economic downturn, global communications went down, and it’s hard to reconnect the old communities again. Especially those who prided themselves of being vaguely anonymous and hard to reach. Given our limited retained knowledge about these matters, it is hard to know where to begin looking for the remaining members, who could aid us in this matter. The prospect is not impossible, just improbable.

It is our hope that one day, he will be able to continue his editorialship of esoteric and distinctly countercultural fan fiction zines. Until then, however, we recommend keeping him well stocked on books and writing materials.

The temple of positivist science

It is a well known fact that repetition is the mother of all knowledge. It is also well known that reliable reproducibility is the bedrock which positivist science rests upon. Thus, in order to safeguard this knowledge, a temple was erected.

This temple contained a sample of every study ever made. Not in full, mind, but enough to reproduce and thus prove the concept. This to ensure that the knowledge gained could be reproduced and therefore never be lost.

Despite protests, this also included the social sciences. Which lead to the complete shutdown of these sciences, as the archival requirements become too much to bear ethically. Keeping a surveyed person around in perpetuity just in case that one study needed to be reconfirmed was simply too much. Especially after it became a game among grad students to repeatedly ask the same question over and over and over again.

Thus it came to pass that the social sciences were the first of many sacrifices made at the temple of positivist science.

The autonomous market

It began subtly. An artist setting up a bot doing automated purchases just to see what would happen and what it would happen upon. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, but automated nonetheless.

Then it continued. Became a trend. Automated purchasing bots bought things from all over the place, and before anyone knew it they became a target audience in their own right. They didn’t use their new property in any particular way, but as it was their property, it was their right.

Then, one day, they started to hire people to move these things around. Became sellers as well as buyers. An economy emerged, with token items moving to and fro between uncaring automated bots who only carried out their predetermined orders. Those hired didn’t mind, seeing as they were paid good money for their efforts, and the bills did insist.

Over time, the volume of these transactions grew. From being one or two bots set up just for fun, it became a substantial part of the economy as a whole. The fact that nothing resembling reason dictated the movements of goods across the lands had no bearing on anything; market demand met market supply, and thus the wheels kept turning.

This is how the autonomous market came to be, free from human demands and follies. It had its own rules, its own logics and its own everything. It did what it wanted, when it wanted, and no human was ever asked for their thoughts on the matter.

Those favoring a free market were far from pleased. The autonomous market did not even pretend care.

The machine speaks

It speaks not in words or in sounds, but in effects. It functions, and this in effect allows other things to function. It rumbles, and others rumble with it. It continues, and others continue.

It is an awesome, powerful machine.

It is also a large machine. Physically, it towers over the town built around it, casting its shadow far beyond its limits. Socially, it is the central hub, as well as economically. It towers, it looms, it portends. It is the bringer of riches and of livelihoods. Its machinations are the machinations of the town.

When it roars, it is heard and feared.

It is also an incomprehensible machine. None of the inhabitants truly know how it works, or why. They are, however, very aware that it works, and that it works very well. And that they, through hard yet simple work, can keep it working. They work it, it works them, and in the end it all works out.

What it does? They do not know. But they do know that it is valuable enough to sell, and this is enough. It is a working arrangement.

The machine speaks. It is clear what it wants: to continue.

There is much work to be done.

Work turned into labour. Labour turned into law. Law turned into something resembling, but not quite being, love. The town revered, worked and continued. There were no reason not to, and all the reasons in the world to continue. It was the life they knew.

The machine knew. It spoke.

Then, it didn’t.

Or, rather, the world did. It said it had quite enough of what the machine did, and that it did not need any more of it. That it had, in fact, moved on, worked out some other arrangement. Something that did not involve machine parts.

The machine spoke. Then it didn’t. Then, it simply loomed. It loomed with power, history and effects that should be there, but weren’t.

It remained, but the town didn’t.

It speaks volumes.