Revenge of the Nerds
Increasingly, there are only two basic human types populating this planet. There are autistic nerds, who alone are capable of participating effectively in the advanced technological processes that characterize the emerging economy, and there is everybody else. For everybody else, this situation is uncomfortable. The nerds are steadily finding ways to do all the things ordinary and sub-ordinary people do, more efficiently and economically, by programming machines. Only the nerds have any understanding of how this works, and — until generalized machine intelligences arrive to keep them company — only they will. The masses only know three things:
(a) They want the cool stuff the nerds are creating
(b) They don’t have anything much to offer in exchange for it
(c) They aren’t remotely happy about that
Politics across the spectrum is being pulled apart by the socio-economic fission. From Neo-Marxists to Neoreactionaries, there is a reasonably lucid understanding that nerd competence is the only economic resource that matters much anymore, while the swelling grievance of preponderant obsolescing humanity is an irresistible pander-magnet. What to do? Win over the nerds, and run the world (from the machinic back-end)? Or demagogue the masses, and ride its tsunami of resentment to political power? Either defend the nerds against the masses, or help the masses to put the nerds in their place. That’s the dilemma. Empty ‘third-way’ chatter can be expected, as always, but the real agenda will be Boolean, and insultingly easy to decode.
For the autistic nerds, the social relations that matter are those among themselves — the productive networks which are their model for final-phase human culture in general — along with the ever more intricate connections they enter into with technological machines. From pretty much everybody else — whether psycho-sadistic girls, or extractive mobs and tyrannical politicians — they expect nothing except social torture, parasitism, and bullying, mixed up with some menial services that the machines of tomorrow will do better. Their tendency is to find a way to flee.
For the rest of humanity, exposed ever more clearly as a kind of needy detritus, bullying is all that’s left. If they can’t find a way to pocket the nerds’ lunch-money, they won’t be getting anything to eat. From this perspective, an escaping nerd is far more of an intolerable aggression than a policeman’s boot in the teeth. There’s only one popular politics at the end of the road, and that’s cage the nerds. Find a formulation for this which sounds both convincing and kinda-sorta reasonable, and the red carpet to power is rolled out before your feet.
Which is it going to be? Starve the masses or enslave the nerds? There’s no way this doesn’t get incredibly ugly.
From the Outside in perspective, the fast track to realism on all this is to stop pretending that anybody other than nerds has anything much to offer the future. (Completely devoid of autistic nerd competences ourselves, the detachment from which we speak is impeccable.) This harsh-realist short-cut eliminates all the time-wasting on ‘special’ things non-nerds can do — which somehow always end up being closely related to the task of governance (and that, as we have seen, reduces ultimately to intimidating nerds). “OK, you’re not a nerd, but you’re special.” We’ve all heard that before.
Even without being an autistic nerd, one can be gifted with some modest measure of intelligence — enough in any case to realize: “History’s shaping itself into some nightmarish nerd-revenge narrative.” It doesn’t even take an artificial super-intelligence to understand why that should be.
ADDED: The structure is tragic —
@SamoBurja Ape status dynamics is the motor of hubris, and its disconnection from technical capability is the mechanism of nemesis.
— Outsideness (@Outsideness) March 21, 2014
ADDED: It’s late to be adding links, but this Henry Dampier post is too germane to pass by.
ADDED: Impressionistic ethnography of Silicon Valley.