When you open your lens, you see my face.
I reach toward your eye and my hand inflates to cartoonish size and I pinch your head with two fingers to adjust the angle of your neck. Now you can see only my shiny face and not my unwashed jeans.
I adjust my glasses, blink rapidly and clear my throat. My gaze is pointed at you but I am looking far beyond.
### G-G-GREETINGS HUMoiNS<
### IT ISE TIME FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF THE MAX T-T-TALKING SCIOPS SHOW
### b e w a r e y o u r h u m a n m i nd s m a y n o t s u r v i v e v e
### HA HA HEiH WAha. Ha. ha. ha.
Kidding. I’m not an “influencer”, or a “personality”. I’m barely a “creator”.
I write this letter as a sort of nervous tic. I can’t help it. I put it on the internet for free so if you like it you can read it. If you don’t like it, you can have your money back.
Unlike your Instafarm and Yobtube stars, I don’t show my face. I don’t “engage”. I barely remember to respond to emails. I don’t want you to be enamored with me from afar, I just want to slip samizdat in your pocket as we pass on the street.
But in the the brand new shiny world of soociiiiiaal meeedeea, popularity scores are listed on a leaderboard, and every interaction is gamified to keep you posting.
You could go sing karaoke, or you could stay home with your webcam and your DIY lighting and your backup tracks.
You could go out to a show, but photographing your outfit takes so long. Maybe just kick off shoes and crack a bottle at home.
You could get up and pee, but you can’t stop streaming!
The flip side of the first-world tragedy of the Creator is the attention-starved millions who follow them. Yes, one person can have twenty million Followers for playing video games on a webcam, and that person’s life is about as stressful as you would expect. But the experience of the fan is far stranger.
It’s religious: a being of light and sound, untouchable in every way, teleports into your room every day and talks to you like you’re old friends.
But it never listens to you. It has twenty million people to worship it, it doesn’t need you, and if it graces you with so much as a poop emoji you should be grateful. You love it. It merely tolerates you – as long as you don’t try to treat it like a real friend, or show up at its house with cookies.
This kind of one-sided affection is a parasocial relationship . Video essayist Shannon Strucci made an intro called FAKE FRIENDS and a deep dive called PARASOCIAL HELL on this concept. If you prefer text, you can get a gloss by reading this Digg article about it (apparently digg is still a thing).
The best part about parasocial hell is how well it fits with the alienation of late capitalism. We’re all crammed in our cans on the shelves of the city, waiting for the next episode of Pretend You Have Friends. Producing our own episodes of Hey What’s Up Guys. Nobody has enough followers, until suddenly they have way too many followers.
Fortunately, this state of low entropy can’t last long. The advertising model is busted. Amazorn is crushing it, while Facebork is starting to plateau. That’s because Amazorn moves goods, and Facebork moves eyeballs. We don’t need an algorithm deciding which products to put in our news feed, because we can just ask the algorithm at the all-consuming internet store.
When the advertising money bleeds out of the social platforms, there won’t be a market for “nanoinfluencers”. A few people will have won enough celebrity to transfer to the next medium, but most of the #vanlife crowd are going to go from #sponsored to #hungry #anythinghelps #godbless.
And if that’s not enough, we’ll just automate away the job of influencer. Virtual influencers are already a thing – remember Lil Maquela – but with the latest developments in face and voice synthesis, we can simulate anyone. China has AI newscasters now . All you need is a GPU and a couple dozen hours of video or audio.
Streamers and casters will be prime targets for counterfeiters. Hundreds of episodes freely available on the internet: a goldmine for data pirates. People already write erotic fanfiction about their favorite streamers – how long will it be til they fake up some porn?
So, on the incredibly small chance I win the popularity jackpot, I’m going to pre-empt all that trouble with this offer: buy my face . I’ll sell you the rights to my identity, and a data set to train your fakes on.
You can make an artificial version of me do whatever you want. You can torture it, you can fall in love with it, I don’t care. Just don’t come to my house.
Thanks for reading,
###### SCIOPS is a weekly letter about cognitive security and other stuff. Feel free to forward it, or share it on your social profiling media. You can find a web version of the latest letter here , or view the archive here .
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