magic starSummarize by Aili

The Internet Feels Dead, Doesn’t It?

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the decline of the internet from its early days as a vibrant, decentralized space for creativity and the free exchange of ideas, to its current state as a heavily commercialized and controlled platform dominated by large tech companies. It explores the concept of "enshittification" - the process by which the internet has been tamed, sanitized, and repackaged for mass consumption, and how this has led to a loss of authenticity and human expression online. The article also touches on the "dead internet theory" and the idea that much of what we see online today may be generated by bots and AI rather than real people. Finally, it calls for a reimagining of the internet as a true commons, a space for genuine connection and collaboration, and the free exchange of ideas.

🙋 Q&A

[01] From punk rock to adult contemporary. (And back again?)

1. What were the early days of the internet like, according to the article?

  • The early days of the internet were described as a "wild, untamed frontier, brimming with possibility" - a "digital punk rock revolution" where ideas flowed freely and relatively unencumbered by corporate control.
  • The internet was seen as a place of radical democracy, where communities were bound together by shared passions rather than geography or social class.

2. How has the internet changed since those early days?

  • The internet has become a "hollow shell of its former self" - a "never-ending stream of staged videos, malformed AI art, and regurgitated Substack opinions" all packaged for maximum engagement and minimum substance.
  • It has become "one giant, inescapable advertisement, every click tracked, every preference cataloged, every moment of attention ruthlessly monetized."

[02] The enshittification of the internet

1. What is the "enshittification" of the internet, according to the article?

  • The "enshittification" refers to the slow, inexorable process by which the "delightful chaos of the early web is tamed, sanitized, and repackaged for mass consumption."
  • The quirky, homespun charm of early web pages and forums has been replaced by the "sleek, corporate minimalism" of platforms like Instagram and Reddit.

2. How has this affected platforms like YouTube?

  • YouTube, which was once a place for "genuine, unfiltered human expression," has become an "endless sea of reaction videos, drama vlogs, and thinly-veiled product placements."
  • The algorithm rewards "not creativity or originality, but engagement at any cost," leading to a steady diet of "manufactured outrage, fake controversies, and vapid 'content' designed to keep us clicking, watching, and scrolling."

[03] Dead internet theory

1. What is the "dead internet theory"?

  • The "dead internet theory" suggests that the internet is already dead, and what we're interacting with now is "little more than a convincing simulacrum populated by bots and AI."
  • It's becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the real from the fake online, as the "uncanny valley of AI-generated text and images is rapidly shrinking."

2. What is the underlying cause of this, according to the article?

  • The "dead internet theory" is not an accident of technology, but the "logical endpoint of a system that prioritizes profit over people at every turn."
  • The internet has been "enclosed by private interests, fenced off, strip-mined for data," with our every interaction and intimate thought becoming "raw material for the machine, fuel for the engines of targeted advertising and behavioral prediction."

[04] Toward a better internet

1. What are some glimmers of hope for a better internet, according to the article?

  • The rise of decentralized technologies and peer-to-peer networks, such as torrents, offer the potential for a "new kind of internet, one that returns power to the hands of users rather than corporations."
  • The growing demand for data privacy and algorithmic transparency suggests an "early stirrings of a public awakening" to the consequences of our online lives.

2. What does the article call for in terms of reimagining the internet?

  • The article calls for building an internet that is a "true commons, a space for genuine connection and collaboration, for creativity and community, and the free exchange of ideas without succumbing to the free-speech-also-means-hate-speech fallacy."
  • It envisions an internet that "brings out the best in us rather than the worst," and one that is "worthy of the utopian visions that birthed it."
Shared by Daniel Chen ·
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