I observed a discussion of AI art online, and someone made a chillingly accurate comment. They said people were using AI art to get clicks on message boards. Using a tool to make “art” that you didn’t make, to post to a board of people you don’t know, so they click on the post so you feel good. Nothing actually happens or means anything. It’s just automation wearing the clothes of human interaction.
I began asking just how much of modern interaction, infused by market-driven technology, is just meaningless clicks. How much is nothing.
Not much later, I was listening to a podcast on game and game development, and how some people courted controversy. You could make an utterly crappy game, but get the right people to scream about how great it is, cite culture war B.S. and you’d sell your game. You’d get “reviews” yes, but the reviews wouldn’t be about the game you made, just who you annoyed. The tools to make a game, the social media to discuss it, the ways to distribute it, but the game itself means nothing.
Doing something to get something else to happen over something else, while everyone pretends something meaningful is going on. Human interaction as a Mousetrap-style game to get clicks, sell adds, or just annoy someone you’ll never meet. Meaningless. Nothing.
These experiences helped me get a feel for the profound alienation that seems to have settled on many in our high-tech supposedly connected world. The system of clicks, views, reviews, etc. means something else than it says it is, if it’s about anything else anymore. Yes, some – a great deal – is about ad revenue, but that’s you doing something so someone else pays you to shill an unrelated product. Even then it’s still so abstract from what you say is going on.
The Enshittification of human interaction. People can’t even hate each other properly without worrying about follower count and ad revenue.
The thing is we expected the Internet to connect us – it can and it has. Yes, it lets you build a bubble, but humans always do that. As I look over this phenomena of human abstraction and clicks and numbers, I think a way to look at it is that we’ve added middlemen.
Ad revenue companies, many big tech companies, etc. Even crypto is really a kind of middleman, an unregulated stock market of the imagination that you eventually have to cash in for real money. All of it is inserting yourself into the human experience to charge a toll and getting people to click, maybe paying them in a cut or just giving them a number to watch go up.
And now, nothing means anything except clicks and who’s getting paid. Sometimes no one is getting anything but is hoping to or doing it out of habit. Worse, so much started pretty good.
Now I wonder how sustainable it all is – and I honestly don’t know. We’re in unexplored territory at scale while the climate changes and the world careens forward. But wherever we are now, I don’t think it’s going to solve our problems. You can’t solve anything with nothing, and there’s a whole lot of nothing right now – a complicated nothing.
We need less of this nothing.