They came, they saw, they conspired

Some time ago, we found out that the rumors of a complex, multi-layered, long-term global conspiracy to take over the world were in fact true. They had been at it for centuries, ever so slowly inserting themselves into various centers of power, some obsolete, some emerging, some so boring you wouldn’t even think of them as such. In short, they were all over the place, and they endeavored to make it theirs. If rumors and analytical indicators were anything to go by, they were pretty efficient at it.

We did what any rational municipal planning body would have done. We hired them to solve our complex, multi-layered, long-term local problems. There were necessary construction projects that had stalled since time immemorial, structural issues which required some serious out of the box thinking to solve or bypass, and on the whole a vast range of problems which we simply could not solve left to our own devices. While the solutions they proposed sometimes made little short-term sense, they overall tended to make such retroactive sense that having done otherwise seems nonsensical or ideological to an extreme degree.

To be sure, the risk of them inserting their own machinations into our everyday lives was an ever present constant. But listen. They solved traffic. They solved segregation. They solved homelessness. It would be something of a stretch to say that they solved ecology, but things used to be much, much worse in that regard. Everything is better now. Ever the very air is cleaner, somehow.

If this somehow furthers their plans for global domination – we’ll take it. We willingly understand and accept these new terms and conditions.

Digital white noise

The terms of service were very clear. The website (“WEBSITE”) was free to use by anyone, on condition that they posted a link to it every now and again. Not too often, but not too infrequently either. There was a balance to these things, and the trick was to time the mandatory posts just right

As predicted, this generated a lot of buzz around and about the site, especially as the big influencers got to posting. So much buzz, in fact, that other sites caught on and implemented their own version of this condition, so as to cash in on the increased attention. The attention economy is a thing, after all

Soon, just about every website had included this clause somewhere. This, predictably lead to a lot of people posting links with very low enthusiasm very often. For a while, there seemed to be nothing other than these links dominating the timelines across several social media, a veritable flood of spam for things everyone was already aware of or actively using. A very unpleasant situation indeed

Then, through some unspecified magic of spontaneous social organization, it was decided that the 13th and 27th of each month would be Link Posting Day, where everyone algorithmically posted everything they were obliged to post. At a certain predetermined time, the links flooded every timeline there ever was, and then everything continued as if nothing had happened. A big ol’ reset button of socially mediated white noise

Just as intended

Prophetic visions of the coming year

It will take a while to get used to this new, unfamiliar number on calendars and stationeries

You will be, ever so imperceptibly, older

Your friends have all started to have kids, and keeping track of them all is an exercise in forensic demography

More and more often, your attempts to communicate with youngsters run into the roadblock of not knowing their mediated frames of reference

Equally as often, your attempts to reference contemporary popular culture results in blank stares and discreet Wikipedia inquiries

The recent year 2009 happened ten years ago

Your list of things to do never actually gets any shorter; things are just removed from the top and added at the bottom

Failures accumulate while successes fade away

Those books will never get read. For most of them, that’s okay

Everything is embedded within layers and layers of history. Some of these layers are yours

No matter how much you did, you could have done more. Ironically, the key to getting things done is to let this thought go

Productivity is a myth that obfuscates the amount of energy we actually expend doing things

Even expensive pants tear

You are not missing out

No one actually remembers what it meant to party in 1999, so you are free to make up your own nostalgic throwbacks

We are, ever so gradually, becoming the Wise Ancients

2019 will be a glorious year to create your own ancient rituals

Hug every cat

Just checking

Someone told him to check his privilege

So he did

His first discovery was that he was not alone in the project of checking his privilege. In fact, statisticians and social scientists alike made rough estimates as to the geometry of the outer areas of said privilege, employing ever more sophisticated methodologies in their efforts. They said it was both fractal and exponential, getting bigger in different ways depending on the measures used to measure it. Overall, perplexity reigned; phrases like “somehow both bounded and infinite” were tossed around with frightening regularity

Moving from the periphery to the center, he quickly discovered it to be an intricately tangled web of services, targeted incentives and hidden opportunities just waiting for him to use them. Any one aspect would take weeks to understand fully, and the prospect of understanding it all in its entirety seemed beyond the scope of the limitations imposed by human longevity (the boost provided by free healthcare notwithstanding). Nevertheless, free university courses were available for the express purpose of enhancing public awareness of both parts and whole. The most difficult part of it all seemed to be knowing if and where to start

A profound sense of vertigo overtook him. If this was what it was like to be a regular nobody under socialism, imagine what it’d be like to be a slightly richer nobody under socialism

Attention deficit

This was clearly a dream. Everything was too ordered and structured to be otherwise. To be sure, it was all disjointed pieces juxtaposed in parallel with no clear reasons for anything being where it was, but every piece was also clearly delineated from other pieces in such a way that there could be no confusion as to which was which. Such precisely organized chaos could only be the product of a dreamscape; any real agent organizing these things would attempt to impose some sort of principle or another into what went where, rather than this haphazard everything everywhere all at once kind of hot mess

Somewhere in the back of his mind, a nagging suspicion made him think that this might be one of those rare moments in his life where paying attention to what was going on might be a priority

Attention was duly paid

It turned out that each and every one of these strangely underorganized pieces were reconstructions of conversations that took place after he had left the scene. Some were about him specifically, some about other things. Some conversations painted him in a flattering light, others not. Some surprised him, others came crashing down on him the way only a confirmed suspicion could crash and down

At length, the dream ended. Immobilized by insight, he stayed put in bed the rest of the day, to sort out what even had happened and how to deal

Attention was duly paid

Just in time logistics

It had been a long ride to the interview. Traffic, rain, GPS giving wrong directions, roadworks, stray cattle, a train intersection remaining closed for an extended period of time (possibly related to the stray cattle), more traffic, more rain, no coffee

No breakfast, either. It was one of those mornings. The only way forward was to power through it. Unless “it” is cattle; it was not that kind of morning just quite yet

And then, suddenly, he arrived. The automatic doors opened, the receptionist politely nodded directions, the strangely colorless (yet tasteful) wallpaper flew past as he hurried past on his way to only being tastefully late

They were all there, smiling, understanding, yeah, cattle, it happens in these parts. No worries. Let’s just all take a deep breath to collect ourselves before the interview proper starts, no hurry

Deep breaths were taken. Worries were noped

And then it was time for the first question. Worries were quickly unnoped in anticipation, and then it came:

“Time zones”

That was it, not even a question mark. Apparently, it was his turn to talk


Maximum security

All other methods had failed. Strong passwords – nope. Two factor anything – nope. A robust training program regarding safe management of login credentials – no dice. Nothing worked. Except, it was hoped, this one last final solution

Finding volunteers had been difficult. Partly it was due to incompatible personalities, but mostly it was due to a fundamental reluctance to let go. Old habits died hard, and so at length only a few viable candidates were found

It would have to do

Soon, the new system was in place. In order to log in, you had to get the system administrator purring, and then keep it purring. The theory being that those trying to break into the system would be too stressed to multitask properly, and thus unable to make progress

So far, the system seemed to work perfectly

Corporate autonomy

Life as a business owner was not as she had thought it would be. Instead of the big leap into freedom promised by starry-eyed entrepreneurs, it mostly seemed to be mindless minutiae in endless, exhaustive detail. After realizing that there had to be a web page and that it had to have a graphical design, she almost snapped. What saved her was the realization that she could just pay someone to do it for her

Then, she got it. The idea that would make her rich

For every mindless task that needed to be done, she found someone to do it for her. Not in the role of a full-time employee, but rather as a microtransactioned independent contractor. The web page? Outsourced. The logo? Outsourced. Accounting? You betcha it was outsourced

Soon, she found herself in a position of having nothing to do. The whole thing ran itself, no input needed. Months passed by, and the business seemed to be making money somehow. She was not quite sure what it did, but as the money kept coming, she did not quite manage to muster enough energy to care

Then, she started another business. And another. And another. Before long, she had a dozen businesses minding themselves, running wholly on outsourced microtransactions

Truly, the autonomous market is a glorious thing

The skateboard academic

He was, to put it bluntly, a good educator. Not only did students leave his lectures heads abuzz with new thoughts and a desire to get new impressions – they also anticipated each new lecture with trembling knees, and a mild sense of awe at the upcoming widening of perspective. Nor were they mere passive recipients of information; the aforementioned anticipation sparked action, reading, discussions, in some cases a whole academic habitus. From a pedagogic perspective, he was quite the thing

From a pragmatic business point of view, his presence also had distinct advantages. In survey after survey, students reported they had actively applied to this university instead of literally all the others – based on his presence alone. Indeed, even those who had managed to get enrolled at more prestigious universities had turned them down in favor of coming here. Of all the things that put the university on the map, he was one of the more significant

Alas, he also had not published a paper in 2.7 years. When the administration took note of this abysmal performance and lack of academic excellence, they immediately informed him that his contract would not be renewed

Algorithmic matchmaking

At first glance, the trend was as inexplicable as it was unexpected. For what seemed to be no discernable reason, hiking rates had hiked. More people than ever ventured out into the countryside to explore the nooks and crannies of nature – the mountaintops, the deep forests, the long treks only possible in wilderness conditions. Something had set all these people in motion, and no one knew what

At first, it was assumed it was the ancient allure of Nature, in all its splendor. The simplest answer usually being something akin to the truth, and all that. But when asked, hikers rarely made reference to this most natural of reasons. In fact, the responses didn’t seem to indicate any particular reason at all, on either individual or collective levels. The stated reasons were all over the place, ranging from budding but enthusiastic spirituality (which somehow did not make reference to nature), to a (seemingly very sudden) interest in exercise, to vague stories of very distant relatives once having occupied these lands. The sheer variation of flimsy responses became the subject of much speculation, before the real reason finally revealed itself by means of participatory observation

It turns out that uploading photos of oneself in outdoor situations into dating apps generated more matches than indoor equivalents. Moreover, the more outdoors the photos were, the more matches it generated. Thus, it became something of a race to the most remote locations, so as to be able to return home and tell the tale

Perhaps it could be said to be the ancient allure of Nature, after all