"The Gig Economy" by Zero HP Lovecraft
May 19, 2018 10:22 AM   Subscribe

"The Gig Economy" by Internet user Zero HP Lovecraft - a short horror of occult techno-economic acceleration.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth (29 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
I expected, at the end, to find that the narrator was a brain in a jar (The Whisperer in Darkness). But, in the end, he isn't even that, is he?
posted by SPrintF at 10:33 AM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't get it.

But I like it.
posted by ook at 11:20 AM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

This reads very much like a version of Reza Negarestani's Cyclonopedia, updated for some slightly-more recent anxieties. Or maybe the flip side of Nick Land/Jordan Peterson's work - the application of the occult to modern systems, but this time from a human-oriented perspective. Not sure where Eliezer Yudkowsky fits into it, but he's in there somewhere, too.

Also, I'm amazed that the word 'hyperobject' doesn't appear even once!
posted by sagc at 12:39 PM on May 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Reminded me at times of The Crying of Lot 49, the Daemon series, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and (the subject of prescience in) the Dune series. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
posted by woj at 1:12 PM on May 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Depressive meanderings have me relistening to OK Computer, and thinking of entropy and Pynchon and Yurick. This essay resonates.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:13 PM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

lots of the ideas were clearly borrowed from other science fiction. I noted Snow Crash, Infinite Jest, and the stuff from Borges which was called out directly. (then again recombination like that seems sort of appropriate to the subject matter.)

the whole plot depends on deep learning, AI, cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and so on living up to their most hysterical hype. like smart contracts have to actually be autonomous and sophisticated, not just glorified scripts for bookkeeping. i'm wondering whether in ten years it will seem silly, like reading a story about a haunted modem whose squawking noises are actually the shrieks of its victims.

however, the author or authors clearly have real familiarity with machine learning and other areas of computer science. the use of buzzwords was all very accurate. for example:
Deep learning systems aren’t magic; they’re just eyes that see hyperplanes of relatedness in high-dimensional vector spaces.
i thought it was good and i hope whoever wrote it goes outside and looks at a tree or something.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:22 PM on May 19, 2018 [13 favorites]

> woj:
"Reminded me at times of The Crying of Lot 49, the Daemon series, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and (the subject of prescience in) the Dune series. I thoroughly enjoyed it."

Make sure you get your kickback. I grabbed the Daemon series. SERIOUSLY not up to any Pynchon right now.
posted by Samizdata at 2:29 PM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:36 PM on May 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

> Samizdata:
I recommend that series a lot. In my mind, it is a much better easily-digestable piece of current (at the time of writing) sci-fi than Ready Player One, which came out around the same period, but stole the spotlight.

I have to admit that The Crying of Lot 49 is the only work of Pynchon's that I have been able to make it through. I enjoyed it more for the plot and ambience than the actual writing. Honestly, I loathe everything else I have read by him, and threw Gravity's Rainbow across the room when I got to the banana breakfast. I find it hard to believe any of my friends that claim to love his writing.
posted by woj at 3:36 PM on May 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

And to reinforce what @vogon_poet already said - it really struck me that the author definitely has done their homework if they are not actively involved in some of these scenes. S/He nails the jargon of cryptocurrencies, ICOs, machine learning, etc. If you are someone familiar with these subjects, it is always glaring when authors get it wrong, but this one hits the mark. It's difficult to even find a pedantic nitpick.
posted by woj at 3:59 PM on May 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

The internet is an ocean but for some reason we call it a cloud, as if it were above us, ethereal, transcendent. It’s a warehouse full of servers, many such warehouses. And yet the cloud is not the servers that run it, any more than a mind is a brain. Through the miracle of virtualization, a new parallel universe arises with its own ontology and its own phenomenology. A brain computes a mind and a server computes a cloud, you see? They are analogs, but one is digital.

This bit is particularly excellent. Obvious once it is spelled out.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:36 PM on May 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Pairs well with the leaked "Selfish Ledger" concept from Google
posted by grobstein at 6:12 PM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

We can’t even choose the words that our thumbs emit into our phones. A robot does that for us. Try turning off “autocorrect”, a product whose name sounds like a threat, and you’ll see. As machine learning tech disseminates, smart assistants will choose the words in our emails and computer assistants will plan out our lives for us. Our descendants, if we continue to breed, will not find the concept of free will to be comprehensible.
posted by grobstein at 6:12 PM on May 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

The utopian version of this is Bruce Sterling's Maneki Neko. From 1999. Oh how I miss those optimistic times.
posted by kandinski at 6:41 PM on May 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

> a story about a haunted modem whose squawking noises are actually the shrieks of its victims

Wanna read that story.
posted by zrail at 7:39 PM on May 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


I figure he never left the Alph myself, and everything since then is a hallucination inside.
posted by sotonohito at 7:41 PM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

i googled the pseudonym looking for more good writing and found the dude's neoreactionary twitter page instead. given Nick Land's politics circa 2018 maybe this shouldn't have been a surprise. one of those times when you wish l'auteur really were mort, I guess.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:30 PM on May 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

Aw man noooo why’d he have to be a neoreactionary
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:38 PM on May 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Because he is a mirror of young Lovecraft. Growing older he has become more closed, more alienated by a world whose rapid change is closing doors of perception until all that is left is the horror that we will all be the pawns of cryptocyberminds rather than humans who function in an at least human hierarchy. If only we had leaders who could protect us from this inevitable nightmare. Or we could just recognize that the computational systems we are looking at are only now beginning to compare to bacteria in their blunt force problem solving abilities. If only a philosopher-king would show us the way. That being said he did dig being posted here.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:18 PM on May 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

And I am wrong. I thought vogon_poet meant this was Nick Land. Turns out this fellow read, Infinite Jest, in high school. So I am gonna go with the whole young Lovecraft as hopeful parallel instead. Either way the story is good even if some of the underlying assumptions are BS.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:44 PM on May 19, 2018

Regrettably, it seems that the distance between 'nascent crypto-Lovecraftian author' and 'puling transphobic white-supremacist butt-goitre' is traversable at the blink of an eye.

A thoroughly ugly little creature. Don't feed it.
posted by prismatic7 at 11:29 PM on May 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Neoreaction A Basilisk is a good chaser.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thought it was a bit overly verbose and repetitive... just like Lovecraft am I rite! And just like the internet... am I rite! So skipped to the end.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:39 AM on May 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I fail to see how the author's personal politics play into whether or not the story was enjoyable as a piece of science fiction.
posted by woj at 12:32 PM on May 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed all the twists in this, not just in plot but also style...that seems very Lovecraftian to me, especially stuff like The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. You know, at first the story seems like a piece of journalistic writing, then it brings in some folklore from Borges, then it has a dream sequence, then it turns historical and borrows the plot from Snow Crash, and through all of this you keep waiting for the resolution to the central mystery, which, when it occurs, is buried under so many layers of madness and story-within-a-story that you're really not sure if anything was resolved at all. A+, would read again.
posted by subdee at 2:50 PM on May 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was, I'll admit, more or less thoroughly enjoying this, until I got to the stomach-lurchingly awful bit about the receptionists, at which point I realised that I was almost certainly reading the work of the kind of male who genuinely doesn't believe women to be fully human.

Made it to the end, but all of the joy and much of the interest had gone.

Just another story about the World Populated Entirely By Men. Ho hum.

A neo-reactionary you say? No shit.
posted by motty at 5:42 PM on May 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Metaffilter: As the text progresses, he begins to mimic the same eccentricities that he describes.
posted by rufb at 6:20 PM on May 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I read the entire thing. Gosh, although I wanted to like it, I knew something was up. There are only a couple brief mentions of female characters. Two receptionists, described as "the fat one" and "the pretty one".
Then I looked it up: turns out this author is a misogynist and a white supremacist.
It's too bad I can't in good conscience share this story or examine it for positive qualities any more.
posted by GladysKnight at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

The point at which this story begins to lose relevancy for me - where it becomes more than obvious that the writer is more interested in the more-hamfisted-than-he-thinks placement of SF references as a "Hey, I've read X and Y, and L too! Check me out! Clever, right?" than in building an interesting, thoughtful idea of a sinister and possibly extraterrestrial intelligence gaming the human race into becoming maladapted von Neumann-machines-by-proxy via a labyrinthine, horrifying, maddening, continuous, expanding disruption of the real vis-a-vis the mechanisms of contemporary capitalism - and arguably, that idea has been done to death at this point, I mean, really - is when he mentions the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Again. And again.

I feel like I just read something written by someone who skimmed the Cliff Notes version of Watts' Blindsight and took away only "vastly distributed interstellar computational process" and "somethin' about linguistics, I guess?".

Also, just kind of thinking aloud: Yeah, of course Alt-Righters would be drawn to the Lovecraftian. Makes total sense.

Will check out Neoreaction a Basilisk for sure.
posted by Minus215Cee at 2:25 PM on May 21, 2018

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