At Last: 95 Theses for the Church of Technology

A few people are finally coming to terms with the startling notion that maybe, just maybe, the laws of the universe do not assert that technological innovation must always evolve on an exclusively positive trajectory for the immediate betterment of all humanity.

(Personally, I would suggest Ray Kurzweil’s insistence that raw, free-range, organic human nature is somehow deficient or incomplete and thus in need of augmentation is a manifestation of the same fundamental delusion which led to the conception of Original Sin; like the old Gatekeepers who monopolized salvation by way of baptism, Kurzweil & Co. belong to a priestly class whose main objective is the preservation of their own exalted status and the accumulation of personal wealth, cynically cloaked in shepherds’ platitudes.)

So, with a tip o’ the floppy Renaissance hat to the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, Irish writer, educator and Internet historian John Naughton has posted 95 theses on the virtual door of the Super Cool Church of Technological Progress.

Tis interesting to note that Luther’s vitriolic Post-It notes were fueled by the ridiculous racket known as “papal indulgences,” which allowed the sinful landed gentry, merchants, and inbred aristocrats to purchase vouchers which guaranteed a breezy, expedited layover in the dingy Underworld DMV they call Purgatory.

Naugthton had the unique presence of mind to recognize that the Catholic Church’s degenerate ascension from a radical, Sermon on the Mount-style force for street-level activism to the decadent, cloistered monstrosity of the Middle Ages has an obvious parallel in the Internet’s evolution from an open-source, populist encyclopedia to the vapid, pay-for-play den of marketing vipers, inane bullshit, and casual villainy we know today.

Here’s a quick sampling:

Thesis 11: Think of Google and Facebook as if they were ExxonMobil and Glencore

Google and Facebook portray themselves as ‘tech’ companies and reap the PR benefits of that particular strategy: connotations of modernity, innovation, progressiveness and soothing rhetoric about ‘not being evil’ and building a ‘global community’. This is basically manipulative hogwash. These companies are large capitalist corporations which derive the overwhelming bulk of their revenues from extracting users’ data, refining and selling it to advertisers. Google gets 87 per cent of its revenues this way; Facebook’s proportion is even higher — 95 per cent.

So Google and Facebook are basically extractive companies — like ExxonMobil and Glencore, the world’s biggest mining company. The only difference is that the resources that the latter pair extract, refine and sell are natural ones — oil & gas (ExxonMobil) and minerals and ores (Glencore).

In contrast, the resources that are ‘mined’ by Google and Facebook are the personal data and online data-trails (‘Likes’, shares, searches, browsing histories, photo and video-uploads, etc.) of their users.

The big difference between the online giants and their offline counterparts is that whereas oil reserves, say, are finite, data-reserves can be increased by inducing Google and Facebook users to engage even more intensively with the companies’ services.

Thesis 15: Your smartphone is a slot-machine in your pocket

The smartphone is probably the most addictive device ever made. This is partly because it is — or can be — an extraordinarily useful device. But there seems to be more to it than mere usefulness — as a few minutes in any crowded public place, bus or train will confirm. Look around you next time you’re out and about, and count the number of people sitting alone who are not interacting with their phones.

Methodologies for measuring smartphone interactions vary. One study, conducted in 2013 by a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, found that people interacted with their phones about 150 times a day on average. This caused a good many raised eyebrows in media commentary at the time, but a more recent (2016) study, based on a a demographically diverse sample of 94 Android users, suggests that it is now a gross underestimate. The researchers wanted to find out how many times a day users touched their phones — with a ‘touch’ being a tap, type, swipe or click — over a period of four and a half days. Subjects used a specially-written app that counted every interaction.

The results were startling. The heaviest users registered nearly 5,500 daily touches, involving 225 minutes of interaction. But the average number of daily touches for the entire sample population was 2,617 — representing 145 minutes of interaction, which is about 560 interactions per day.

Given that so-called ‘user engagement’ is what the business model of surveillance capitalism (Thesis 14) seeks to maximise, such high levels of smartphone interaction are not coincidental: a great deal of applied psychological research informs the design and interfaces of major smartphone apps. Some of this same research informs the design of slot machines. The smartphone is now addictive by design.

Read the full list HERE.

And hey, Dysinfauxknautz: this article has inspired me to dive head-first into the Social Mediaz and reform the system from within! So friend me on MySpace! Snapchat my Twittr! And sext me on LinkedInn if your so inclined!!!

J. B. Turnstone

J. B. Turnstone

The Last Human Lighthouse Keeper at Hamlet's Mill, via
High Priest and Highly Reluctant Treasurer of the Alleged Order of the Nettle and the Toad, an Occult Society for Occultists Who Can't Bear to Keep Anything Occulted. Founder and Vice President, Luddite Ornithologists League (LOL). I shan't apologize for being a politically incorrect omnivore.
J. B. Turnstone