The Internet is a mega entertainment complex built on top of a graveyard of meaning. Only Silicon Valley-approved content, opinions, and mechanisms may be used to do anything on the Internet. I talk a bit about how the Internet has been slowly choked out and how it is now dead.
I am not particularly old. BBS, Usenet, MUDs and other such 1990s constructs were not part of my childhood, but I still got to explore some of the wild Internet of the early 2000s. Practically speaking, it was like entering international waters. Seemingly no rules applied, and no law held dominion. This was the case for many years, far before the start of the 21st century, although of course the Internet did not get substantially bigger until this century.
Yet, the strange thing is: the world did not explode. Children and adults alike were allowed to anonymously insult each other. Back then, kids were actually anonymous on the Internet, because they were taught by their parents not to enter white vans of strangers who offer candy. Most of them were taught not to talk to strangers at all, as they should be. This is in contrast to today, where it is actually considered strange for kids not to display their dox everywhere they go. Where are their parents?
To be clear, I would never allow my children unrestricted access to the Internet, regardless of whether it would be the 2003 or 2023 Internet. Internet usage is inherently anti-social, or asocial at the very best, which means it is unsuitable for children. Even if that were not the case, the fact alone that pornography is legal and can be readily accessed on the Internet should unilaterally place the severest of restrictions on Internet access for children. There should be no compromise or even discussion on this.
Regardless, my parents were uninformed about the dangers of the Internet, so I had largely unrestricted access to it. Although this was always a bad idea, my time was probably the last window where you could use the Internet with zero brakes on your consumption without coming out as a mind-melted husk of a human at the end. You'll see what I mean in a moment. The old Internet, compared to now, was barely commercialised. "Algorithms", "search engine optimisations", "ad revenue", "social media", and other cornerstones of current Internet were only in their infancy, and I bailed out just before they started getting shape.
Old Internet was characterised by comedy and exploration. You could see expressions of people from all around the world on Newgrounds, Albino Black Sheep, or their own websites. They did not need to censor themselves. Companies barely even filed DMCA complaints, even though large amounts of that content used copyrighted material. Again: the world did not explode. Did these companies go bankrupt from all this heinous copyright infringement? You were witnessing real people and their real passion for real things. Exploring further only got you more and more unique experiences of what people found meaningful in life. Granted, most of it was 1980s to 2000s pop culture tripe, but you get the point.
Compare this to today where copyright infringement and "family non-friendly" content is very aggressively persecuted. This is because Google, Facebook, and many others are founding their business on revenue from advertising on the Internet. In order to do that, they need to carve out in the corpse of the old Internet a more sterile environment. One where you may post content that advertisers will not find objectionable. American advertisers, to be clear. This is a colonial venture and the natives don't get a say in how the colony is run, obviously. If you have Catholic sensibilities then those shall not be respected, because Silicon Valley is run by rootless demons whose only concern is commerce.
You might be tempted to say: "Well, why not just search for meaningful content then?" The simple answer to that is that it is practically impossible, because all search engines are not driven by accuracy for your search, but for presenting the highest bidder for your trade offer. What, you are not looking to buy anything? Here's one hundred results that are all about selling you useless rubbish anyway. It is also possible that the results you are after are filtered, because they might be not friendly for advertisers. Even searching for the most rudimentary repair aspects or part information for your car is impossible. You will get all worthless results of aggressively optimised websites that will make sure to override any search terms as soon as you mention the word "car" or "auto".
Either way, even if search engines actually worked, meaning they were search engines and not advertiser engines, there is still one fundamental issue. That issue is that nobody makes their own websites in the first place. This is by design, which you may find to be a surprising statement, but it makes more sense the more you think about it.
This is why nobody really makes websites anymore. The days of simple HTML websites are long gone, and even CSS is barely comprehensible unless you spend hours unraveling the mess. Anything more complex than text and images on a page requires expert knowledge of five specifications, or a crappy, slow, proprietary, poorly coded pile of crap framework that only marginally accomplishes its intended goal. I use Zola to build these pages, but it is still something that your dad is more than likely not going to figure out how to use. You only have Google to thank for this.
This is just one example of how Silicon Valley companies carved out the Internet in their own image and turned it into a mega entertainment complex. Each of the other companies found their own area and dominate it ruthlessly. This is clearest illustrated with the following graph:
You can probably readily assume that this was not the situation in early 2000s, let alone 1990s. Even the data shows that the Internet is all the same. I was going to put up a different illustration that I saw before, but I could not find it, because search engines don't really work anymore. Go figure.
The algorithms and their consequences
Though the development of commercialised Internet was largely uninteresting, in much the same way as watching an animal starve to death in the forest is uninteresting, one thing was truly revolutionary in the most revolting way possible. That would be the rise of TikTok. On its face it does appear to be yet another (anti-)social media platform, but its innocuous appearance truly belies its demonic nature.
You see, TikTok is a Trojan horse from China. Its weapon is not a conventional one but a psychological one. To understand how that is, we should look at how algorithms in western platforms work. As you should know by now, or at least get the gist of, content on current Internet is not made by humans. That is, the stuff you get to see is carefully curated by an algorithm that tries its best to see what will get the most ad revenue for Google, Facebook, or whoever. The thing with that, though, is that the end-goal is profit. Yes, it does destroy feeble minds. It is sterile, malformed, ugly, but ultimately the single-mindedness behind it is profit.
Chinese do not have the same goals. They are explicitly setting out for world domination. TikTok makes use of the same concept of "algorithms" as they are implemented in modern Internet platforms, but not to make profit. Instead, their goal is to utterly demoralise and destroy western children, in order to destroy the west as a whole. To this end, TikTok presents content that releases the highest amount of dopamine in the shortest possible amount of time. This, of course, ruins the brain. With children in early development, this has life-changing consequences.
To see concrete, direct examples of what I am talking about, I encourage you to watch this video where Jabroni Mike runs an immersive stream while using TikTok in the way it was intended to be used. The most prominent example of TikTok's mind-melting capabilities is the phenomenon dubbed "NPC streaming", where people stand in front of a camera for hours, and all they do is act out "NPC animations". These animations can be triggered by donating small amounts of money. The streamer who does these acts is typically a whorishly dressed woman, although even non-sexually dressed men are finding success in this trend.
To functional, rational people this might seem like an innocuous activity, but think about it for a second. Would you be interested to look at a woman say "Mmm, ice cream so good" or "Balloon, pop-pop-pop", while making weird gestures, for even a second? No? Because that is all they do for hours on end. What if I told you these streamers get thousands of dollars per hour, when a single "animation" costs less than one dollar. These people are earning close to a dollar per second.
This is because these interactions are actually viewed as something meaningful. If you are familiar with the phenomenon of socially alienated men who donate money to prostitutes on Twitch, in hopes that they can start a social relationship with a woman, this is that. It is that, but on an even more basal level. A level so basic it is extremely difficult to conceptualise for someone who has not been thoroughly demoralised by this Chinese contraption. You see, donating money to your favourite prostitute on Twitch and attaching formulated text with it is far too much work, and waiting for her to read out the message takes too long. TikTok has fried the minds of the kids so much that their dopamine receptors are burnt to a crisp. They are salted earth.
It is difficult to put into words what I mean, so I recommend watching this brief video to begin grasping the severity of the brain damage that our youth is suffering from TikTok. In that video, there are several videos next to each other:
- One of some block-destroying pong-like game
- One of playdough getting crushed
- One of Subway Surfers playthrough
- The actual video related to the title, of Family Guy, taking up less than one-fifth of the video's screen estate
The reason for this arrangement is that watching a ten-second clip of Family Guy requires too much focus. Yes. This is the result of unrestricted access to TikTok. Your dopamine receptors are rapidly decimated, to the point where you cannot watch a ten-second Family Guy clip without needing to shift your attention to some other dopamine-releasing content at the same time. This is what your children are reduced to if you expose them to TikTok. Probably to all the Silicon Valley platforms as well, but the Chinese are rapidly accelerating this for the explicit purpose of dominating you.
If for whatever reason you are still not convinced that TikTok is a Chinese weapon, then consider the fact that TikTok is not available in China.
Sleepwalking off a cliff
Yet, even as the current Internet is being weaponised by our mortal enemies, the western reaction to the depravity and destructiveness of the Internet is wholly lukewarm. I am met with passive hostility for merely suggesting that 5 year-olds should not have tablets, when someone asks for recommendations on hardware to buy their children who barely can walk. University of Oslo's humanities department as always comes with the most moronic takes on the matter, with Vilde Schanke Sundet saying that "People are just willing to look at weird stuff, that is the banal explanation". Her specialty is "media research", yet can't spot a Chinese weaponised social media in front of her nose.
YouTube, Facebook, and other Silicon Valley corporations immediately went onto copying TikTok, by releasing their own "shorts" features, hastily tacked on existing infrastructure. Silicon Valley cannot stomach a Chinese competitor on their territory, but of course not because they have any moral qualms about it being a weapon. Their only problem is that TikTok did not ask their permission, and is even taking money without sharing some with them. This is unacceptable.
The United States federal government is taking measures to ban TikTok from its country on the basis that it is, well, a weapon meant to destroy United States and its vassals. However, people will continue to not see the problems with Internet itself. When Ronnie McNutt killed himself on stream, the footage of his grizzly suicide was spread throughout TikTok. In a rather vile way, those videos were masked for unsuspecting children to view, thoroughly traumatising them. Yet, the reaction from parents was not: "Maybe I should have done a better job raising my own children." Instead, it was: "TikTok should have better moderation!"
We will see the consequences of this in around twenty years, when these children grow up. Can they connect two pieces of pipe together without needing to watch a Subway Surfers playthrough on the side? Can they even shower without a fidget spinner? These are not facetious questions. This is a genuine concern.
Things will continue as always with the Internet, because the Internet is far too valuable for Silicon Valley. Regardless of how sorry of a shape it turns out in, they will always be there to make sure it is within their control.
Nearly none of the Internet is used for its original intended purpose, namely as an organic, ever-evolving repository of knowledge. On average, fewer kids born this century know how to change the tyre on a car compared to those born last century, even those born in 1950s. Those people were not raised with the Internet, yet they know more about basic things to help themselves. They are less dumb than people born in the Information Age. This was the real power of the Internet. It empowered the individual, and destroyed superfluous institutions. Silicon Valley has thoroughly vanquished this primary purpose, which is where we are now. A bland, gray complex, where you are only allowed to be happy, and consume the next product.
Some people hypothesise, and I agree, that the Internet will become "dead Internet". Specifically that the Internet will at some point become so automated and thoroughly hollowed out, that people will be the lesser actors in its commercial activity. At some point, it will just be algorithms talking to algorithms, with occasional input from actual humans. The more I look at the Internet, the truer it seems. Everything seems to point towards that, but the Internet is already dead for me. There is no returning from its current state, really.
This is, in a way, first part of a two-part blog on the state of the Internet. In the second part, I will be talking about the more political aspects of the Internet and the profound absurdities of it.