That we live in a world of multiple, concurrent realities is not a secret; but it is a truly alien universe one must occupy to have words and phrases like ‘business model’ and ‘user experience’ supplant basic ideas of human dignity. To have the words ‘gig economy’ fall out of your mouth, to have your eyes glaze over at the mental image of a constantly shifting underclass of on-demand labor, as though watching the moves of a mysterious chess game that plays itself and has yet to achieve sentience, is a cruelty so complete that it doesn’t even recognize its own malevolence.
It is worse than a child who, knowing nothing, burns alive a cadre of ants with matchsticks found in the kitchen drawer. It is the reduction of persons to not even things, not even creatures with some kind of inherent value attributed to them by their capacity for labor. They, we, are objects to be arranged and poked and prodded by a system ignorant of the most basic precepts of a functional society.
Quite like the scientific breakthroughs that heralded the atomic bomb, the world – or the planet itself – is destroyed everyday for millions of people by neat ideas and nifty tricks. The greatest threat to human survival has nothing to do with nuclear fire or inescapable pandemic, but the grinding of our too-mutable spirit down to the paste that greases the gears of currency and empire. Uber, Lyft, Crowdtap, Fiverr, Favor: these are the Charon’s that ferry our obsolete souls across the river and into limbo – souls automated or exported or delegitimized out of the workforce.
Life is made difficult by catastrophe, but not impossible, and the machine will stop at nothing to ensure that its production is still in some way profitable. Our gravest misstep will be to assume that the hands on the levers will understand the implications of the future they’re engendering, that such a pursuit is a zero-sum game. You can’t eat money, as the adage goes, but money buys power where the institution doesn’t already supply it – and power is adept at extracting sustenance.
We live at the behest of a beast so complete in its dominion that it need not even wake or stir to smooth over the wrinkles of our dissent. The leviathan sleeps at the helm of a rudderless ship headed for a catastrophe that has no certain class of victim and no foreseeable endpoint. True horror is not even a future established by violence, a boot stamping on a human face forever. It is an algorithmic nightmare where we have ceased to even represent beings in our own right, where we are slaves to numbers on screens like the mute benefactors of our own demise.