A pixelated skull graphic is centered on a black background, with horizontal bands of vibrant colors intersecting the image, simulating a visual glitch. The colors — light gray, dark gray, bright red, yellow, and blue — appear in sharp, fragmented lines that give the impression of the image being momentarily disrupted by digital interference. The pattern of gray crosses is subtly visible in the background, further adding to the glitch effect. This digital distortion suggests that the skull image is experiencing a moment of digital decay, reminiscent of static interference on an old television screen.

After giving a potted history of the internet and all of the ways it has failed to live up to its promise, Paris Marx suggests that we need to start over with the entire tech industry. It’s hard to disagree.

My internet habits are vastly different to what they were a decade ago. Back then, I was seven years into using Twitter, had a great following and ‘personal learning network’. The world, pre-Brexit and Trump had the seeds of the turmoil to come, but Big Tech was nowhere near as brazen as it is post-pandemic, and coked-up on AI fever dreams.

There can only be only conclusion from all of this: the digital revolution has failed. The initial promise was a deception to lay the foundation for another corporate value-creation scheme, but the benefits that emerged from it have been so deeply eroded by commercial imperatives that the drawbacks far outweigh the remaining redeeming qualities — and that only gets worse with every day generative AI tools are allowed to keep flooding the web with synthetic material.

The time for tinkering around the edges has passed, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the only hope to be found today is in seeking to tear down the edifice the tech industry has erected and to build new foundations for a different kind of internet that isn’t poisoned by the requirement to produce obscene and ever-increasing profits to fill the overflowing coffers of a narrow segment of the population.

There were many networks before the internet, and there can be new networks that follow it. We don’t have to be locked into the digital dystopia Silicon Valley has created in a network where there was once so much hope for something else entirely. The ongoing erosion already seems to be sending people fleeing by ditching smartphones (or at least trying to reduce how much they use them), pulling back from the mess that social media has become, and ditching the algorithmic soup of streaming services.

Personal rejection is a welcome development, but as the web declines, we need to consider what a better alternative could look like and the political project it would fit within. We also can’t fall for any attempt to cast a libertarian “declaration of independence” as a truly liberatory future for everyone.

Source: Disconnect

Image: DALL-E 3