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TikTok is talking to me. I'm listening.
thought digest, 1.16.2023
Last week, I visited something like eleven psychics in New Orleans, and they all told me to reactivate my Twitter and get the fuck over myself. Instead, I deleted my Tumblr. I’m sorry. Tumblr-Katherine has come to an end, too. Telegram is also kaput.
(If you need to reach me, just send me an email or comment here.)
Anyway, most of these psychics teased that I’d have a child this year.
Whenever I see a genuine psychic—you know if you’re talking to someone who has the eye—they tell me to see a therapist. Not sure what that’s about; I don’t come in asking them to hex people or anything like that. I usually just say career or love. Those are the only two words besides pleasantries: career or love.
Not one of these New Orleans psychics addressed what I secretly hoped they’d talk about, either, what made me see a psychic in the first place. Eventually, I got over that thing and didn’t want to hear about it anymore.
So: therapist, a return to social media, change fields, immanent childbearing.
That’s what I got.
I liked New Orleans. I liked it more than I like Chicago, and a little less than I like Miami. I think I’ll visit Baton Rouge next, so I disabuse myself of the idea that I like the Deep South. (Louisiana is the Deep South, right?)
What I especially liked about my trip is that whenever you ask someone from New Orleans what to do there, they say, usually in pleasantly accented English, “Oh, I don’t know, walk around.”
Great—that’s all I ever want to do. Just walk around. And not talk to people. Except, of course, if they have a regional accent.
Here’s what’s been on my mind, Louisiana aside:
I wrote an article for Tablet about Artificial Intelligence.
I wonder if we’re thinking about it all wrong—if we should be viewing generative AI tools like chatGPT more like an extension of ourselves (e.g. glasses, prosthetic limbs)—as opposed to anthropomorphizing them. Augmentation over displacement. Your favorite note-taking app might not be a “second brain,” but maybe with AI it can be.
Here’s an example from Ryan McKinney I like: Imagine a world where AI reads the 100+ notifications you have waiting for you from the group chat and summarizes them based on what it’s learned is most interesting to you.
Someone in my Discord server also brought up the important (and oft-ignored) point that, in other ways, we frequently overestimate AI.
This is about law specifically, but I’d imagine this applies to many fields:
But let’s say all the dystopian predictions about the way AI is going to change our lives are right, especially homing in on online content. What then?
“The man on the iron throne of mobile gaming” and friend-of-the-Stack Gabe Leydon wrote a little bit about this explosion of synthetic media a couple of years ago, speculating that we’ll see a mass-rejection of media in response to a proliferation of deep fakes.
That seems to track to me, too, even though I’m not quite as cynical.
We’ll have to grapple with the nuking of whatever remains of trust and authority in media. Here are some ideas on where to go from there:
A premium is placed on anything verifiable by the human senses—theatre, for example.
A return to localism, even in the form of apps like NextDoor or Facebook Groups.
Blockchain-verified chats. A triumphant return of NFTs?
I also think a lot about the embrace of AI assistants that “get us.” Not like Replika, which strives to take the place of a friend or lover, but an assistive tool.
Another favorite example: TikTok tarot card spreads, minus the memes (“he’s returning”), are often at least directionally correct.
And I think they get it right, at least for me, because the app somehow has access to my text messages and recommends me tarot card readings and channeled messages based on what it can glean from that (plus things like Google searches probably help).
I don’t hate it, though. It’s nice. Oh really, you think that person is a narcissist?
I think the various security concerns we’ve all heard a lot about are probably right, too. The more benign ones, like TikTok just being a super-competent sales funnel, are definitely right. But not all surveillance apps are trying to convince me to buy Dior products that change color with the pH of my skin (I fell for that, by the way) or wrap pickles in fruit roll-ups and then freeze them and eat them.
Sometimes, there’s insight there. Maybe that’s all in my head, though.
Split attention. Something else I mentioned in that article was the rise of videos that pair ASMR or “very satisfying” imagery with an episode of Family Guy. I know many people who can’t use TikTok because it precludes multi-tasking. They’re too inured to splitting their attention, and with TikTok, you’re either on TikTok, or you’re not. There’s no middle road where you can be on TikTok and text your friends and play a game. But these videos simulate multitasking, and they’re doing pretty well.
TikTok has some remarkably distressed soldiers. I don’t know why, but my FYP has been distressed service members for over a week now. Typically in the Army, these guys are always streaming: in the office, getting ready, sitting in their car, complaining they don’t want to go to work. I’ve even seen guys trying to recruit. What’s incredible to me is that if you toggle to the account of any given depressed TikTok-addled soldier, they don’t post a lot of regular content—a couple of stock videos, things that look gamed to go viral. The U.S. military mostly sticks to lives. TikTok prevents you from going live if you have less than 1,000 followers, and that initial 1,000 follower hump isn't an easy hurdle to overcome, which explains the texture of the static content. Were they not all miserable, I’d say it all feels a little too… designed.
Maybe they are just using it to socialize?
Anti-family propaganda. Here’s a final thought for today… (and this beat out me musing about how astroturfed so many right-wing influencers are, a la Carnivore Aurelius):
We talk a lot about anti-parent propaganda. Don’t listen to your parents, they don’t understand you, so on and so forth. But what about anti-child propaganda?
Not anti-natalist, anti-child: your kid is evil, your kid is getting up to terrible things… Just something to chew on.
Anyway, I’m finally going to read that Cormac McCarthy book now.