Category Archives: Missives from modernity

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.

The application of true love

“I have a confession to make” he said, trembling in both voice and body.

“So do I” she replied, slightly more skilled at hiding her feelings.

“I… I…”

“I know. I love you too.”



More silence.

“This is bad. This is real bad. What are we going to do?”

“We could run. Elope. Disappear. Find somewhere where no one knows us, and be together as strangers.”

“They’d find out. They know the signs. They always find people in love.”


“We could turn ourselves in.”




Ever since the military found out about the healing powers of true love, true lovers had been force-drafted into service as soon as they were discovered. After all, what could be more fearsome than enemies that would do anything to keep each other alive, and that could heal any injury – up to and including death – with the True Love’s Kiss?

They hugged. They cried. They hid.

They loved.

A modest radicalism

The proposal met opposition as soon as it was revealed. Mainly on two grounds, from two camps.

The first objection came from the radicals. Planting flowers is not, according to them, radical enough. It takes time and effort to sow the seeds that will one day grow up to be the communities of praxis required to change things in the long term. Flowers, while pretty and inspiring in their own right, are simply not enough. Think bigger.

The second objection came from botanists and ecologists. They objected that the proposal went way too far and would require way too much effort to implement. The flower in question requires a very elaborate ecosystem to grow, and building each interdependent part of this ecosystem would necessitate a comprehensive overhaul of the way the city operates. The creation of proper topsoil alone would mandate changing the zoning laws, in no small measure to ensure that the essential measure of microorganisms could succeed on their own terms. It would also require the active participation of most of the citizens, in an effort to collectively change their praxis in such a way that the sensitive ecological balance could be maintained over long periods of time. In short, the flowers were too much. Think smaller.

Overall, the authors were pleased with this response. It indicated that their proposal was, on average, on the level.

Working with people

We know that humans form bonds through shared experiences. We also know that nothing unites more than a common enemy. Further, we know that shared suffering is the basis for shared stories, which is the foundation for community building.

Based on this knowledge, we – Human Resources – have devised a team building exercise that is sure to create the efficient, tightly knit and happily productive workforce we have always aimed to create.

What we do is this: we ship off the employees to a remote island in the middle of nowhere. There, we have left scattered incoherent instructions for them to follow. Following these, they will eventually find out that there is not nearly enough food or resources for everyone, and their desperate attempt to make due with what we didn’t provide will cause them to bond in a shared struggle for survival. They will also, naturally, come to hate us for putting them there, further increasing the bonding and creation of shared experiences. A sense of community will arise naturally.

After a predetermined amount of time, they will discover that we will not bring them back from their wilderness isolation. This will force them to trek through the desolate industrial deathscape that brought us the richness we enjoy today, and they will in a similar manner come to appreciate the sacrifices made in order to take them this far. Those who persevere will be forever companions in arms, the emotional scars an eternal reminder of the sacrifices that had to be made.

Nothing is impossible for those who have done the impossible.

Best regards, better practices