The act of translating the world's complexity into a computable format and structure inherently leads to compression: in which the territory is compressed into a map. This is why Facebook presents us with such a tragically lame abstraction of the richness of human social life.
At small scales or with narrowly scoped "translations", this is actually fine. Accounting software is a good example of this, as is music production software. Even email seems to be ok.
But at scale, any computing system that interacts with the wider world - such as a global transportation system (Uber), a home-based hospitality company (Airbnb), or egalitarian content delivery system (YouTube) will be forced to see its map interface with the territory. The results are never good.
Have you seen what happens when you take a screenshot, print it out and scan it back into your machine? Maybe not much at first, but over time more and more artifacts - noise - will appear. It's called generation loss and eventually, as entropy gains an ever-increasing foothold, nothing will be left but this digital gibberish. This is what happens with these computing systems at scale. As these systems enter into a cycle of ingesting and translating (compressing) the world's complexity, they then output their distorted model for the world to deal with.
Money culture depends on symbolic reality. It depends on a confusion between the object and what the object represents. To keep you and me buying and upgrading an overstock of meaningless things depends on those things having an acquisitional value. It is the act of buying things that is important. In our society, people who cannot buy things are the underclass.
Symbolic man surrounds himself with objects as tyrants surround themselves with subjects: 'These will obey me. Through them I am worshipped. Through them I exercise control.' These fraudulent kingdoms, hard-headed and practical, are really the soft-centre of fantasy. They are wish fulfillment nightmares where more is piled on more to manufacture the illusion of abundance. They are lands of emptiness and want. Things do not satisfy. In part they fail to satisfy because their symbolic value changes so regularly and what brought whistles of admiration one year is next year's car boot sale bargain. In part they fail to satisfy because much of what we buy is gadgetry and fashion, which makes objects temporary and the need to be able to purchase them, permanent. In part they fail because we do not actually want the things we buy. They are illusion, narcotic, hallucination.
“Students in writing classes, whether undergrad or grad, typically write as if there were a director and camera crew filling in the scenery for them, along with actors who are providing voice and facial expressions for the characters—or rather they appear to assume that readers will fill in these things automatically and generally, because as demonstrated by film and TV, everyone knows what a “typical” living room or a city street or a pretty girl’s face looks like. I can only think that this natural human tendency (to assume that what I am seeing in my mind’s eye is what everyone is seeing) has been magnified by lifetimes of watching stories unfold on TV and movie screens where (even taking subtle multifarious artistic choices into account) people behave and scenery looks as we expect in very basic ways--on a city street you have pedestrians, traffic, the sky-line; it all looks pretty much exactly as one expects it to.”
“The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.”
— David Graeber
Elders in Okinawa, Japan, one of the original blue zones longevity hotspots, live extraordinarily better and longer lives than almost anyone else in the world. Moai, one of their longevity traditions, are social support groups that start in childhood and extend into the 100s. The term originated hundreds of years ago as a means of a village’s financial support system. Originally, moais were formed to pool the resources of an entire village for projects or public works. If an individual needed capital to buy land or take care of an emergency, the only way was to pool money locally. Today the idea has expanded to become more of a social support network, a cultural tradition for built-in companionship.
In small neighborhoods across Okinawa, friends “meet for a common purpose” (sometimes daily and sometimes a couple days a week) to gossip, experience life, and to share advice and even financial assistance when needed. They call these groups their moai.
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
∆ Love after Love, by Derek Walcott