Seiler: Twitter is becoming completely dystopian

If you haven’t seen the new adaptation of William Gibson’s 2014 novel “The Peripheral” on Amazon Prime, it’s very enjoyable – except for the bits of the tale that seem depressing and not fictional.

The story takes place a few years from now in the rural South, where our young heroine Flynne nibbles away at the lower echelons of the digital economy. One of her hustle and bustle is contract work as a paid virtual reality gamer, which leads to her being hired by an obscure corporation to beta test a new game set in a compellingly realistic future metropolis. . It turns out that she’s actually zapped to London about a century in the future, after a series of disasters known collectively as the “jackpot” have left the planet reeling.

Flynne has become a pawn in a spy war between klepto-aristocrats: one side reaching back in time to play with human history like a careless child setting fire to an anthill, the other trying to undo that damage and can -be to improve the upcoming jackpot.

There’s a lot of comedy to be had from digital communication between the future and the past in “The Peripheral”: The London contingent are able to move massive amounts of cash in our time, buying everything from chain stores to 3D printing to rapid response mercenaries. They refer to Flynne’s reality as a “stub”, one of the infinite number of branching streams created each time someone pokes fun at the past.

There is of course a huge irony in the fact that the TV series is produced by Amazon, whose CEO Jeff Bezos is one of the richest individuals in the world.

In the case of the man at the top of this list, Elon Musk, we have a character who, from his name alone, looks like he stepped out of a Thomas Pynchon novel before stepping into a Gibson novel. Musk’s takeover of Twitter was less than 10 days ago and the platform has already been thrown into chaos and uncertainty. As I write this on Friday, Musk has begun laying off what could be half of the company’s staff as he tries to generate the profits needed to pay back what has been reported as $1 billion a year. debt service.

Musk’s first big revenue-generating idea is to charge users who want the “blue-check” level of verification participation – people often derided as snobbish media elites by lower-level snobbish media elites. As the editor of a medium-sized broadsheet, I want to make one thing clear: My family has ridiculed me for years for refusing to get me audited, and if anyone thinks I’m going to pay $8 a month for the privilege, they’re crazy.

To borrow a plot point from HBO’s “Westworld” (a show that shares creative flair with “The Peripheral”): Twitter’s business model was never built around delivering a product, because on Twitter, the user is the product – sharing ephemera, linking to powerful pieces of journalism, or posting dingbat misinformation about COVID-19 quack cures. If Musk wants to sell more advertising around this bunch of stuff to generate more revenue, go for it.

He should, however, keep in mind that fewer people will want to visit the heap if it starts to stink like salmon on a sidewalk. Last weekend I searched Twitter for the N-word and found how excited many racists were about Musk’s arrival, rendering the word in solid copy blocks and clever graphic styles like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” typing “All work and no play Makes Jack a dull boy.” I’ve reported a dozen of these accounts for violating Twitter’s ban on using racial/ethnic slurs; on Friday, only three of them had been treated.

Musk decided to treat advertisers’ apprehension the way a thuggish teenager in a leather jacket might respond to a candy store owner’s concern for his storefront. “Twitter has seen a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, although nothing has changed with content moderation and we’ve done everything we can to appease the activists” , he tweeted. “Extremely messed up! They are trying to destroy free speech in America. Nice democracy you have there – it would be a shame if anything happened to it.

NBC’s Ben Collins, whose bio on Twitter notes he covers “dystopian rhythm” (a phrase science fiction can’t top), noted on Friday that Musk’s withdrawal from the company could have dangerous effects on polling day. “The website is built on sticks, and it could fall apart,” Collins told MSNBC, summarizing what he was told by shocked employees. He said if Musk started allowing people to pay $8 to be verified on Monday, the result could be a galaxy of fake accounts — claiming to be candidates, election officials, journalists or just people — posting garbage then. that a nation listens to the facts.

A big prize, indeed.

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