Tracking the Rise of the neo-Luddites

I’m not quite sure what to call this thread, but… a place for discussion and links related to what seems to be a rather rapidly rising neo-Luddite movement - including among tech workers. I’m not even quite sure that’s the right term, but it’s close enough to use for discussion purposes.

I’ve been seeing lately a rather rapid rise in the “… yeah, this whole tech thing isn’t what we hoped for, it’s no longer useful to humans, and we should consider doing something about that” sorts of sentiments in places I don’t normally expect them - Hacker News is one place that’s gone, in the past 6 months, to rather rapidly upvoting things that are quite hostile about tech. Some of this is certainly the “Wait, this latest Large Language Model actually looks like it could be coming for my income…” problem, but it’s more than just that - that’s been prompting some of the discussion, but the recognition that consumer tech is just human-hostile data grabbing surveillance technology is bubbling up a lot more lately. It’s not helped by things like “Oh, yeah, turn off wifi calling and VoLTE if you don’t want to get remote-0click-pwned… your carrier only supports VoLTE? Sucks for you!” issues coming out.

An interesting substack popped up a few weeks ago - Dark Futura. There are only a few articles in it so far, but they’re well worth a read and ponder.

Dead Internet looks at the fact that the internet seems to have less and less of value - I’ve heard of the concept floating around for a while, and it seemed like a “haha, OK, that’s fun to think about for a bit…” idea, but… eh. More and more, as we’re seeing what the LLM can output, how do you really know if something you’re interacting with is human or not? Even without that, the “Hi, I’m Syonyk, make sure you Mash That Like Button and Subscribe to my Substack and Patron and Follow me on Twinstapp and…” greetings on videos are past the point of a joke, etc.

Age Of Regression Upon Us looks at the increasingly likely future of “Tech stagnates, and things get weird” - based around an initial observation that now even Walmart is showcasing vinyl (which, last year, outsold CDs 41M to 33M, and don’t even mention the revenue difference). The engine of technological progress seems to be sputtering, at least in terms of actual benefits to most humans.

And this is where I see the key point - do we develop technology in support of humans, or do we develop technologies to enslave humans? The past decade has clearly been heading in the direction of the second - you’re just a set of eyeballs to serve ads to (based on data collected about whatever’s rattling around behind them), for profit.

Markets for Lemons, and the Great Logging Off is another article looking at the problem from a signal to noise ratio - what happens when most of the interactions on the internet are AI to AI (for some suitable value of AI), when the scammers and spammers aren’t limited by needing humans to run the other end, etc.

Anyway, the sentiment is rising. Yes, I’m aware of the absurdity of discussing this online, but I also intend to discuss this in local groups and see what I can put together. Ideas and brainstorming of what that looks like are quite welcome too!

I think part of it, at least on HackersNude, is that EVERY SINGLE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCE that has been in the news and famous over the last twenty years has just been … methods of selling advertising more and faster.

But there’s another part of it, and I’m sure everyone kind of realizes it - to use old Ars terminology - all online social places are the Soap Box now; you can’t escape it. And so everyone you interact with online becomes a predictable chatbot; ChatGPT just is so scary because everyone ALREADY IS A BOT.

There’s also a third part, which we should admit has been around forever, the Take this Job and Shove It feeling - but if people actually start doing it instead of just talking about it, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

And the fourth thing I’ll mention is the gradual enkiddening of the “tech people” - when I was young so many of everything was filled with similar “youngsters”; those people have grown up and grown older and now often have children of their own, and that causes a HUGE outlook change on life, if not lifestyle changes.

There’s also the aspect more and more where people realize that one or two companies could accidentally (not even on purpose) decide they’re persona non grata and their entire online life is just gone.

As to the dead internet theory, I think money ruined everything. When the internet was young either you were PAID to put something up (like a company website or whatever) or you did it out of potentially obsessive love for whatever you were doing. But now you can do a video and make hundreds if not thousands of dollars, so you very quickly start doing the type of video that can be monetized, which goes back to the second point, which means they all become similaristic bland pasteurized processed content. Sure you can still find the odd Youtube channel where someone has done five hundred hours of video on the LaserJet series of printers, but there was a time that was basically the ONLY content you’d find, because you couldn’t do it for money so you had to be doing it for love.

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That’s a good way of thinking about it. I check in on the SB every now and then, and… it’s the same thing, 500th page on. It’s this weird little corner of outrage about how Other People Are [whatever] Wrong and It’s All Their Fault - so, of course, can’t blame us for things being a disaster. Every now and then I think about posting something, and… eh. Nah. I’ll just get the usual dogpile for the usual reasons. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of being a chatbot, but you’re right, all the interactions are quite predictable. Including how I’m a horrible whatever for something someone once thought I might have thought.

That’s where things get interesting. There are fields in which it seems that a few people saying “Screw this, I’m out…” would more or less gut the leading edge of that field. It’s hard enough finding people in the low level weeds I play in these days… and most of us are 40+. The not-quite-joke about how anyone doing computers long enough wants to retire to a nice garden farm isn’t far from the truth. I’ve been debating if that’s something I could do sometime sooner rather than later.

Certainly true! My daughter has been angling for her own turntable recently. On learning that it required a preamp to apply the RIAA equalization curve and boost levels, her first thought was, “We can solder one of those up!” The Bottlehead kit awaiting some lighter stain argues she’s right. :wink: Though more realistically, it would free up the other preamp.

Yeah… I do wonder sometimes what would have happened if I’d put my blog efforts towards video instead, but I just so hate video, and it does seem to lead to this weird conformity and O-faces for the thumbnails…

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What I’ve seen work in some cases is video in support of blog posts (and not the other way around) - some things really ARE better as a video, but they’re often not as many as people think. So trying to explain your entire solar setup in a video is painful and probably counter-productive, but a blog post that has a short video showing the layout can work.

As for record players I should probably get more into them, I have a decent collection and a player (with a built in preamp and USB lol) - the TEAC TN-300. It’s been gathering dust since the kids got big enough to clamber around. I wish it had an auto arm-return/shutoff, the only real feature it’s missing.

I’ve done that on occasion. Rarely, and it has been a long while, but I’ve done it. I don’t object 100% to video. I only object to about 95% of what it’s used for these days…

It’s OK, I’m only judging you a little bit. :wink: I have an excuse to get a better turntable here soon - I’ve got a JVC QL-A2, with a 3D printed replacement part, and a Schitt Mani preamp, soon to be replaced with something a little more tubey and Bottleheady. But, if my daughter wants a turntable in her room, why, I could just upgrade the living room one! :wink:

But, yes. You really should get it back online. And then explore your local thrift stores for records. You’ll find that they’re mastered assuming you have a competent system, and remember that “dynamics” are a thing in music, as opposed to the brick wall, optimized for earbuds on the New York Subway sound that most CDs are mastered for. Looking at the technical merits of the systems, CDs, despite the technical capabilities, have “sucked acoustically” for the past decade or two as a result of management decisions, not the actual platform.

… and then build a nicer preamp, get some better speakers, and get the whole analog chain going.

More on AI from DF: Rise of the TechnoGod: Artificial Intelligence Black Swan and the AI Threat No One is Talking About

I’d say it ranges a bit into conspiracy theory, but these days, that and “what actually seems to have come to the surface” are depressingly close. It is a somewhat disturbing read on the state of that under the label “AI,” though.

Interesting read in the context of generating plausible-looking context-responding content getting easier.

The author called smaller, niche communities ‘fragmented silos’, which struck me as an interesting term. Bots aside I have never seen the value of surface-level [at best] discussion of topics on the ‘open sea’ big social media networks. Such places always devolve into echo chambers on controversial topics, and at best provide basic information about more objective topics simply because there always more beginners than experts in a field, and by volume tend to dictate the level of depth topics that can be discussed.

The bots/AI issue just seems to put the ever worsening S/N ratio in brighter light. ‘open sea’ social media has always lacked much feeling of true [for the internet anyway] community, as opposed to the ‘fragmented silos’ of old forums, BBS, and perhaps even subreddits. Places where you might get to know a few of the more frequent posters and build something of a relationship through repeated discussion on similar topics. Places where discussion can get more in-depth. here doesn’t have a paywall, or invite only, and yet the risk of being overrun by AI chatbots is pretty much zero. We discuss topics of philosophy, lifestyle, and technology with great detail and nuance. Any GPT based chatbot is going to be discovered in likely 1 post, because it’s easy to spot the lack of true understanding of a topic when we’re discussing the finer benefits of an ‘analog lifestyle’, or technical topics such as ‘how do I trace this very specific set of faults on this very specific model of solar inverter’.

Something trying to tell you the basics of ‘how to buy and use a DMM’ in such a case will always be recognized for what it is- clearly lacking the technical knowledge to contribute to the conversation, and the understanding of the knowledge already clearly possessed by someone capable of even asking for such specific help.

Meanwhile I’ll never know if that was a bot replying to my reddit post with a Wikipedia excerpt or even less useful input, because that’s about the best of what you get on social media from actual people already.

nobody tell him that he’s the only human here, and the rest are chatbots setup by Syonyk before he returned to his home planet :wink:

What I have seen happen time and time and time again is a small group of like-minded people get together around some topic (solar panels, going innadawoods, whatever) and that group eventually has threads appear and moved aside for more generic topics; even a forum dedicated to restoring old military equipment will get subforums/off-topic areas for PC building, etc.

And I think that’s proper and good; the “massive hard and wide reddit segmented forums” is a disaster; too big! too big!

And this is the scary part about the AI; not that the AI will get smart enough to replace us, but that we will become dumb enough that nobody can tell the difference, because everyone is just tweeting into the void.

(The “views” count added by Musk is the most depressing thing ever, you see thousands of people who tweet literally tens/hundreds of times a day, and they get 5-10 views.)

This post will get similar numbers of views, but at least I know it inconvenienced SOMEONE a tiny bit and they actually read it. :wink:

I mean, if you are all chatbots advanced enough to offer truly sound technical advice on 3D printing, lithium battery bank design, PV inverter selection, and amusing stories from Kerbal Space Program… should I really mind all that much? :stuck_out_tongue:

Scary, yes, but what does that have to do with AI? ‘rise of AI’ isn’t the problem then, decline of human competence is. Like discussed in the Literacy in Modern Culture thread.

I imagine the “opinion influencer” operations are having a field day with this tech in comment threads. It’s almost custom built for it. Have a bunch of “Write a response to this, in the style of someone who XYZ…” pipelines processing things, that can recall what they’ve written in the past.

Yeah, they used to be interesting places to find people. Not anymore. :frowning: I know several people who post here via various subreddits. Find the same person in a few different ones you frequent, and, hey, there’s probably some common interest. Of course, unhappy with being a text only thing, Reddit had to go make their shiny “new” interface, in pursuit of all the idle image scrolling.

Have you seen my KSP builds? There’s no way I’d get back without a few reverts…

Huh. I had no idea that was added. My blog’s twitter count is pretty unused.

You used to be able to see views on your own tweets somehow, now it’s visible to everyone on every post.

Speaking of content farms I discovered that there are obituary farms that are …. very special.

Some recent articles related to this concept:

One of my theories for some years has been that the rejection would be from the teenagers who have seen what being “chronically online” has done to their parents/relatives/etc.

And while this is from 2019, it certainly seems to be a teenager saying exactly that: “Nope. I don’t want that, and I don’t need that.”