Race to the Bottom

Sergio Luna

Dall-E mini Collage.
7 am CHIME time to wake up (14 unread messages).
You open your eyes CHIME breaking news somewhere in the world (like, share).
You wash your face CHIME Julia wants to connect with you (view profile).
You put your socks on CHIME do not miss out this week on Netflix (add to playlist).
You turn on the coffee machine CHIME recommended video for you (watch later)…
CHIME 7:52 am.

Notification after notification. A never-ending waltz of reels and feeds and stories and emojis and the quiet but intrusive banner following you like a shadow to the toilet during lunch break. Swipe left = bitter electric impulse. Swipe right = sweet electric impulse. Pavlov would be proud. The brain in overdrive: stimulated hormones dancing against the pinned content you keep tapping at. You go back home. Hiding in your pocket, the ghost limb craving for attention. You succumb:

Zap. Continue watching.

Zap. People like you watched this.

(placebo kicking in…)

Zap. The cure for a long day.

Zap. Tired?

Zap. We’ve got the solution: WATCH SOMETHING RANDOM [weblab hypothesis: +1.4% increased engagement MoM, +10.8% Monthly Streamed Hours (MSH)].


Bidding for your attention, all the great minds of this generation. Machines learning your words, feelings, and your next love. Scroll, soma, scroll, soma; repeat. Always watching. Measuring. Analysing. Bidding. Collecting your moves, moulding your next thought. Luck: becoming the A in the experiment. Cute dogs in exchange for your agency. Domesticated (remember Pavlov). You watch and click what you ought not to.

Machines holding the keys to what you see, read, hear, and feel. Once a free person, now a gold mine in a filter bubble. Old cliché: you are the product. Wrong. New social contract: you are raw material. Streams of zeros and ones turned into streams of sponsored ads. A clay puppet walking in circles in the chamber of personalization, the common sense of truth eroding with each twitch. Millions of processors pointing at your naked retina. Defenseless. An army of one vs unquantifiable years of combined experience in engineering, economics, and behavioral change (no philosophy; sorry). Hopeless. Lines of invisible code, optimized for that one click you fail to resist to. Another data point to decorate your personal reality.

Abundance. Not of wealth. Not of knowledge. But of signifiers: react, share, influencer, followers, meme, one-click buy, binge-watch, digital detox. Creative disruption, we were promised. Reality deconstruction, we got instead. Reality becomes an (ad-)mine field of bots, clickbait, and deepfakes made in a basement by teenagers between school homework and dinner. Swimming among mirrors. Escaping labyrinths. Lost in this hyperreality. Unable to see the truth beyond the shiny ad. One day in the digital field is a lifetime of bits and bytes, of inputs and outputs, of patterns and journeys. They know (fabricate) your next step – want to bet? Slow down and break the wheel. School is not enough to break free – certainly not even an MBA (another signifier). You become the defenseless bunny stalked by hungry lions. Every step, every breath, every click.

You find an escape from the mine field, the exit says: snooze notifications until 7 am. Click.

Follow millionaires entrepreneurs founders advisors futurists influencers waking up at 4 am to meditate in Bali hitting the gym at 5 am protein shake with eggs by 6 am while reading Ayn Rand and posting posts of poor philosophy and hyperproductivity. Become a content creator. Publish content: smart quotes from leaders and 17 tips to become successful in life, business and as creator. In your last day, thank the tech company you worked for (remember tagging your boss and add #careerdevelopment). Even better, leverage hypergrowth hacks to grow your audience: Tue 11 am, max reach on LinkedIn. Optimize every word, every space. Reverse-engineer the algorithm and climb to the top. Hurry up lest you don’t make it into the Forbes 16 under 16. Update your metadata, experiment with your avatar, track engagement and monetize every single thought you type. Become the reflection of the people you follow. Musk.  

Optimize your time, they say, as if you were a product with metrics to optimize for. Work hard, work in tech, work in corporate, work to make a better world. Falling short? Burning down? Breathe. Search online. Book your next retreat and reset your brain (digital detox included). Click here to learn more (terms may apply).

They sold us freedom and connection. Addiction, doubt and fear, is what we got instead. What’s the problem? It’s all for free!

Is this the ladder?

You are never told if the ladder actually goes up.

Log off. Log out.︎

Sergio Luna, Poet, Creative Writer, Product Manager, Engineer.
You can find him on LinkedIn, Instagram and on his personal website.

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