Category Archives: dystopia

A City Is Not a Computer

Just as important as the data stored and accessed on city servers, in archival boxes, on library shelves and museum walls are the forms of urban intelligence that cannot be easily contained, framed, and catalogued. We need to ask: What place-based “information” doesn’t fit on a shelf or in a database?

The Problem of Abundance

“I’ve become obsessed,” Thompson wrote, “with a policy agenda that is focused on solving our national problem of scarcity.” His solution boiled down to abundance—increasing the supply of doctors, nurses, homes, infrastructure, nuclear energy, and so forth. Thompson, who as a moderate liberal is a scarce commodity all by himself, proposed a number of policy fixes he felt certain would lead us to abundance and thus repair all that is broken with the country.

This Tiny Town Created by ChatGPT Is Better Than Reality TV

A team of AI researchers at Google and Stanford University posted a study online on April 7 where they used OpenAI’s chatbot to create 25 “generative agents,” or unique personas with identities and goals, and placed them into a sandbox environment resembling a town called Smallville much like The Sims. The authors of the study (which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet) observed the agents as they went about their days, going to work, talking with one another, and even planning activities.

The bots and their virtual environment were rendered in delightful 16-bit sprites, giving it the look and feel of a video game. The results were a pretty idyllic village that seemed ripped out of Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing—if, you know, those games were also rife with incredibly complex and uncomfortable ethical and existential questions.,Smallville%20much%20like%20The%20Sims.

South Korea to give $490 allowance to reclusive youths to help them leave the house

South Korea is to offer reclusive youths a monthly living allowance of 650,000 won ($490) in order to encourage them out of their homes, as part of a new measure passed by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The measure also offers education, job and health support.

The condition is known as “hikikomori”, a Japanese term that roughly translated means, “to pull back”. The government wants to try to make it easier for those experiencing it to leave the house to go to school, university or work.

They left social media for good. Are they happier?

Plenty of Americans claim social media is a scourge, but few cut the cord. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say social media has a mostly negative impact on life in this country, but 72 percent maintain at least one social media account, according to data from Pew Research Center. Headlines point at social apps to explain upward trends in anxiety, depression and loneliness among Americans, but people of all ages continue turning to social media to build communities. Amid our gripes and widespread distrust, social media serves as a new public square, where news develops, leaders debate and users form potentially lifesaving connections.

Your brain may not be private much longer

Neurotechnology is upon us. Your brain urgently needs new rights.

The risks are profound. And the gaps in our existing rights are deeply problematic. So, where do I come out on the balance? I’m a little bit of a tech inevitabilist. I think the idea that you can somehow stop the train and say, “On balance, maybe this isn’t better for humanity and therefore we shouldn’t introduce it” — I just don’t see it working.

Maybe people will say, “My brain is too sacred and the risks are so profound that I’m not willing to do it myself,” but with the ways that people unwittingly give up information all the time and the benefits that are promised to them, I think that’s unlikely. I think we’ve got to carve out a different approach.

Nita Farahany

Forget Utopia. Ignore Dystopia. Embrace Protopia!

“Either we’re headed for a dystopia or we’re headed for a utopia,” Mr. Kelly, 70, recalled in a recent interview, describing the prevailing attitudes about the future at the time. “Neither of those seemed to be feasible, or even desirable.”

So Mr. Kelly coined a term to describe a third option, meant to represent the reality in which he believed we already lived: protopia.

Resetting the Hero Code

by Marie Lena Tupot and Tim Stock

This morning, Robert C. Hockett, Cornell Professor of Law, discussed the Silicon Valley Bank situation on CNN. Hockett emphasized that the moment we are in is one of reindustrialization. We are back to making things. Hockett calls out the renewed importance of sector-specific banks, functioning as defacto credit unions and managed prudently. The situation has caught everyone off guard. Why? One reason Hockett cites is that the U.S. hasn’t had an interest rise like this in 50 years.

Agreed, but there is another phenomenon we are seeing. The narrative of hero code. Silicon Valley Bank has functioned along the lines of hero code. It was founded by former Bank of America managers in 1983 over a game of poker (Piscione, 2013). The most recent Wired Magazine‘s interview with Hockett asks “Is it sensible for a single bank to dominate an industry?” and uses words such as “rescue.”

With reindustrialization and a move back to maker culture, the notion of hero has long been losing its relevance.

This makes sense when we hear Hockett bring up the 1970s’ Volcker Era. PBS discussed Volcker in November 2022: “Ultimately, it took a crackdown by cigar-chomping Fed chairman Paul Volcker to break the cycle of rising prices and wages. Volcker slammed the brakes on the economy by raising interest rates to 20% — tough medicine to prove he was serious about getting inflation under control” (Horsley, 2022).

Heroes are not about “tough medicine.”

We can look at what hero code really means through the lens of developing AI and the design of ideal artificial moral agents: applying bravery, courage, integrity (Wiltshire, 2015). It’s a bit alarming though that in the age of ChatGPT, the most recent archetypal discussion looks at only the hero.

We have come so far from that framework, and are now stuck with heroes. Some right-wing memes even take issue with extending the honor of hero to healthcare frontline workers, believing hero lives only in the realm of law enforcement.

A hero is only one archetype that makes the world go ‘round.

We need to diversify our understanding of human behavioral codes. Karl Jung established nine archetypes. They each play a role in human culture. We look at each archetype to better understand centers of gravity. 

The everyman, ruler, caregiver, innocent, lover, hero, jester, creator, explorer, magician, sage, and rebel. They all live out there at the same moment. To date, the hero stands alone having devolved into a dreaded narcissist. Hello, Russell Brand. Guardian columnist George Monbiot says he “once admired Russell Brand. But his grim trajectory shows us where politics is heading.”

We need a clear process of information gathering and intelligence to understand the cognitive spaces behind these discussions.

Director John Walker’s 2019 documentary Assholes: A Theory is onto something. “BAD behavior is as old as human history, something we all encounter at some point—whether on the playground, in the workplace or in public life. But the phenomenon seems to be amplified in an age of venomous social media and resurgent authoritarian politics.”

The academics, including Hockett, interviewed in support of the hypothesis are pretty remarkable. Although, the documentary makers are liberally using the term “theory” at this point. 

Works cited:

Horsley, S. (2022, September 29). Memories of the 1970s haunt the Fed, pushing its aggressive rate moves. NPR. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from,about%20getting%20inflation%20under%20control. 

Lichfield, G. (2023, March 13). Silicon Valley will still need a bank. Wired. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from

Monbiot, G. (2023, March 10). I once admired Russell Brand. but his grim trajectory shows us where politics is heading | George Monbiot. The Guardian. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from 

Piscione, D. P. (2013, April). Secrets of Silicon Valley: What everyone else can learn from the innovation capital of the world. Palgrave Macmillan.

Walker, J. (Director). (2019). Assholes: A Theory [Film]. A John Walker Production.

Wiltshire, T. J. (2015, February 14). A prospective framework for the design of ideal artificial moral agents: Insights from the science of heroism in humans – minds and machines. SpringerLink. Retrieved March 13, 2023, from