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For tech CEOs, the dystopia is the point

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses how tech CEOs like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sam Altman use dystopian science fiction references to market their products, and how these "useful dystopias" might actually be the point.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] For tech CEOs, the dystopia is the point

1. What are some examples of tech CEOs using dystopian sci-fi references to market their products?

  • Elon Musk suggesting the Cybertruck is "what Blade Runner would have driven"
  • Mark Zuckerberg's love of the metaverse, which is inspired by the dystopian cyberpunk novels Snowcrash and Ready Player One
  • Sam Altman of OpenAI comparing their new voice interface ChatGPT-4o to the AI assistant in the film Her

2. Why do the author argue that these dystopian references are "actively useful" to the tech CEOs?

  • The common denominator is that the presumed user/owner of the product is the protagonist in these dystopian stories
  • It allows the CEOs to position their products as a way for the user to survive or thrive in a bleak, collapsing world
  • It taps into people's anxieties and provides an aspirational branding, even if it's a "deeply misanthropic variety"

3. How do the ideologies and personal circumstances of the tech CEOs align with these dystopian visions?

  • Elon Musk's disdain for unions, public transit, and anti-immigration views fit with a "Blade Runner/Mad Max" type of dystopia
  • Mark Zuckerberg's desire for isolation and personal space aligns with the metaverse as an "intensely isolated digital experience"
  • Sam Altman's end-times prepper mentality makes the "always-available ScarJo simulacrum" of Her a "useful dystopia"

[02] Conclusion

1. What is the author's overall view on how tech CEOs use dystopian references?

  • It's a way for them to grab cultural currency and play into public anxieties about advanced consumer technologies
  • Even if consumers don't fully understand the dystopian references, the narcissistic "us-against-the-collapsing-world" mentality behind them should be recognized
  • The author argues we shouldn't just mock the tech CEOs, but try to stop them from creating these "useful dystopias" in the first place.
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