Monkey Logic — A Light Take on the Dark Patterns of our World

Why are people so angry?
Why are people so stupid?
Why the hell did she/he/it just do that?

The answer is Monkey Logic. We are not sanguine sages or intellectual titans. We are messily evolved amalgamations of ad-hoc fixes collected over Billions of years of hard-knocks trial and error. We have high expectations for the world, but Sanity and Rationalism are human inventions. Truth does not equal Beauty. Madness, money, and monogamy are our own psycho-cultural inventions; emergent tokens; semiotic short-hand heuristics for the recurring patterns of reality-

One man’s sanity is another man’s bat-shit crazy.

- case in point, for some, my use of a gendered noun will mark me as a moral degenerate and legitimate target of whatever heinous acts the mob considers appropriate this week for infractions against its shifting and arbitrary taboos.



My wife crochets. Small baskets for keys, square boxes for change, and recently, awesome little bags perfect for when she’s baking and doesn’t have a place for her iPhone while she listens to the Joe Rogan podcast. After early skepticism and perhaps a little good-natured criticism, I converted. Last week I asked to borrow the bag - I wanted to use my wired, noise-canceling headphones to listen to the Joe Rogan podcast while hoovering. It was at this point she decided she might just have a viral hit on her hands…

She set off to set up an online store but quickly stumbled into a thread of Etsy artisans bemoaning the introduction of advertising on the platform. I shuddered when she told me. As an author, I am a long-time sufferer of Amazon’s dubious practices. I know how the introduction of advertising forces authors to buy-in or fade-out. Products stop being surfaced according to quality and popularity as creators are forced to cut further into their profits to buy visibility. It becomes a race to the bottom fueled by a constant influx of hopefuls willing to accept selling loss-leaders in exchange for making it big somewhere down the road…

Etsy, Amazon, and their like, obviously love this model. Of course they do. They are no longer limited to a cut of platform sales. When they started shaking down their ‘tenants’ for protection money they unlocked a whole new revenue source.

“Nice line in hand-made socks you have there… it would be a shame if some upstart with deep pockets and a fresh pair of knitting-needles was to move in on your turf…”


Etsy is a publicly-traded company. A very large chunk of this ‘quaint little hand made goods store’ is owned by capitalist hegemons who are far from quaint; think BlackRock and Vanguard. If you are not familiar, these are among the world’s largest and most successful investment companies. Shares are massively disproportionately owned by the richest members of society. (The wealthiest top ten percent of people own more than ninety percent of the shares).

So what we have here are the most affluent elites - the billionaire hedge-fund oligarchs - shamelessly turning the screws on the smallest most humble workers. How much can anybody make selling socks or charming crocheted bags? Not a lot, but it’s about to become a lot less. My confident prediction is that in most cases it’s going to end up being less than nothing.

The slum-lord-monopolist-kleptocrats are bulldozing the dreams of their residents to squeeze out a little more value. It is not a victimless crime. True, some platform denizens are merely playing, slumming it by pretending to be an artist. They can cope with paying a bit more each week for their hobby, but there are livings being made in these digital ghettos too. The single mum who makes a little extra money making and selling baby mittens to help pay for winter warmth will just have to knit her family thicker hats.

On the upside, it’s good news for the Klepts. If they can press just a few more drops of sweat from each of their disgusting peasant tenants, they can manage to fill their penthouse infinity pools.

Do the super-rich really need more?
Clearly the answer is no, but they want it.
Monkey Logic.



They are really good bags with universal approval from our friends, she has gifted many, but you will never find them because she’d rather languish in obscurity than capitulate to a shady protection racket.

Anyone for Rat Tartare?


The system is crumbling, bifurcating. Money is becoming irrelevant for those with it, and unobtainable for those without. Negative interest rates are the only clue we need to be certain the wheels have come of this jalopy.  Of course, normal people don’t get to borrow at negative rates, that’s only for Ultra High Networth Individuals and Corporations.

The 0.1% (aka the plutocrats, oligarchs, kleptocrats — I wish I could find a word that I like) have eaten most of the pies and are in the process of snaffling down the rest.

The rich have clearly been very bad boys and girls, just look at the charts that show where all the productivity delivered by Manufacturing Automation, Supply Chain Optimization, Fin-Tech, Digital Transformation, etc, has gone:

Productivity has doubled, while wages stayed the same.
…where did all the money go?

 

Oh, there it is. The rich took it all!

When I started writing my Singularity’s Children books, the world had just experienced a major ‘correction‘. The #occupy movement and the whole 1% outrage was catching fire and there was a genuine sense that with recognition of the greed that had caused the economic train-wreck, a new fairer order might rise…

…Yeah, right!

Instead, the fat-lady was propped up, pumped full of amphetamines, and persuaded to sing again; one more time.

So here we are. A decade later and the world is burning:

The top image is a fictitious weather report imagining what the weather would be like in 2050 for a 2014 French TV documentary about climate change. The bottom image is the real weather report from last week.

 

Somehow, we forgot that the Klepts (how about that?) ate our future, and are still busy eating the futures of our grandchildren. We became distracted with a billion memes and outraged by a million unwitting infractions against a constantly shifting baseline of fraught-to-navigate social norms.

The Klepts know it though. They use their newspapers and TV channels to distract us, but they can’t hide the side effects of their gluttony—

—the cheesy crumbs are ground into the carpet; drifts of pie and pasty packaging are building in the corners of their bedrooms. They can hear mummy’s feet on the stairs, she is coming to take the pies away. They hug their disposable convenience-store plastic bags full of junk food, and stuff their faces faster, they know it’s over and soon they will be eating rat, like everybody else.

This system is well and truly broken. We need a new one.

But we must remember that the Klepts will fight tooth and nail to discredit any promising new ideas.  (This tension is the backstory and main arc of my Singularity’s Children books.)

But why should they fight? Surely getting an early start on cleaning up all the pie-scented effluent gumming up the works will make a better world for all of us—including them. Why should they resist?

Because a preemptive managed upgrade to the system won’t help them. Even if things stay civil and they don’t all get guillotined into minced-meat to make Soylent Green, they are probably right in suspecting that the massive wealth disparity they currently enjoy will not survive a reboot. Why should they voluntarily curtail the short amount of gluttony time they have left before a hard unscheduled reboot of society robs them of their wealth and status anyway?

We need to understand that we want different things, us and them. We have different incentives. Most of us will be willing to sacrifice a little to avert a global cataclysm, but they will be asked to give up a LOT.

One thing we do have in common with the Klepts, is that, like us, most of them are not saints, and because only a saint is strong enough to act against their own interests, the leaders of our Kleptocracy will never voluntarily make the tough decisions necessary to save us all.

We are not in the same boat. They have so much more to lose. They won’t be able to put down that delicious slice of poor-person-pie. So we will need to slap it out of their hands, or soon their weakness and greed will have us all diving for bloated carion through the flooded sewers of London and Mumbai…

Rat-tartare might sound grim to you, but to the Klepts, so does the prospect of microwaved Asda vegetable pie.

Bananas, Sex and Snowflakes


New Medium Essay. Not very Sci-Fi this one. But I needed to get it out of my head:

“The problem with monoculture is that when pathogens — parasites or predators — find a way to exploit one individual, they will have created a successful strategy to exploit all the others too. This is not a hypothetical intellectual curio, banana plantations worldwide are currently under siege from Fusarium oxysporum, ‘Panama Disease’.

This is why we go to the trouble of having sex…”

Read the rest…