Dali Zheng(郑达里)

Disinformation Systems

Modern technological progress masks societal decay.
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On the Banality of Software Jobs

As good jobs are becoming scarce, one "profession" (if one could call it that) that has stood out is software development. Once the solace of autistic nerds with personal computers, it has been infiltrated by those who used to mock, bully, and shove them in lockers. Months-long boot camps promising six-figure salaries upon graduating, seems a lot better than going to community college or working at McDonalds.

The underlying fallacy is that the world needs more software developers. The call for an increase in H1-B visas in the USA is remarkably similar to the command economy of the Soviet Union, where gross mis-allocations of resources occurred regularly. Software tends to have an inverse economy of scale. Producing lots of software is extremely wasteful and error prone, while less is sublime. Common knowledge states that bad software provides job security for its authors, so there is even a disincentive to produce quality work. One only needs to look at the horror show that is enterprise software to realize that it's just a bunch of grunts munging data from one obsolete or obscure format to another.

Automation looks like the top one percent doing the work of the bottom ninety-nine percent. A master programmer isn't going to do grunt work much faster than a grunt, he's going to automate the work so that it won't have to be done by a human. The current tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley, has this completely backwards. They are focused on extracting value from human capital, peons who do their laundry, deliver food, drive them around, and other menial jobs. This effectively creates an underclass of menial service providers who serve the autistic Silicon Valley elite.

Most software developers relish in the thought that that their jobs are secure from automation, when in fact, their responsibility is to automate work. The nature of software development defined by rigid frameworks lends itself to automation, but always shys away from full automation. Most software developers get by configuring frameworks to do what business demands, they are framework configurators. Hardly any original thought involved. I posit that their livelihoods could in fact be displaced by automation.

A thought experiment: the world would be better off with less software, not more. Less software means less bug-ridden code full of security exploits, more generalized solutions rather than one-offs, and no more enterprise monstrosities tha span millions of lines of code. It would also necessarily mean less software development jobs, but the overall quality of employment would be higher.

Disinformation Economy

The factories in a post-industrial society don't just shut down. The machines may stop running and their buildings abandoned, but the exploitation never stops. If the primary sector of the economy is defined by agriculture, that which lies at the foundation of civilization, then the secondary sector being the production of manufactured goods has shifted to the quaternary sector of (dis)information.

Enter the software "engineer", the very word implies an industriousness and machine precision that couldn't be further from the art of writing software. The industry demands more software "engineers", but they fail to understand that crappy software keeps their authors employed. The service economy will self-cannibalize at some point. There can't be services for service providers for services forever.

Memetics and Simulacra

Memes are the most important cultural phenomena of this century, beneath the consideration of the mainstream until very recently. In the cesspools of the Internet, memes were cosa nostra, our thing. There was a pragmatic reason for their secrecy: when a meme is decontextualized by outsiders, the original meaning is removed and it becomes a simulacrum of its former self.

Memes, like genes, compete in an environment not unlike Darwinian natural selection. They must adapt in a manner similar to genetic mutation, and survive long enough on transient storage mediums to reproduce. In this regard, they are not unlike living organisms, in the realm of consciousness rather than matter.

The senescence of a meme can be defined by progressing from a faithful representation to a perversion, until the original meaning is lost. A meme dies when there is finality, an impasse in which new ideas can not emerge. This situation can occur when it is adopted for ideological means, by an unintended audience, or any other dead-end that forces a closure to creativity.

When a meme becomes mainstream, it has reached its terminal stage, as further evolution is no longer possible. By the time a meme widely recognized, its meaning has ossified and it's already dead. Memes evolve until they reach perfection, and then they die.

Systemic Collapse

Editor's note: this was written when I was a teenager and it has been edited for stylistic changes from the original post, however the content remains mostly the same.

The average man in 1950's America had a respectable job, a home, and a family, all by the time he reached his early twenties. The same man today likely has none of those, as a casualty of a long civilizational decline. The inevitable collapse will not be contained to the economic plane, but will wreak havoc upon civilization and the Earth herself.

There were higher values than looks, money, and status that mattered, such as character and integrity. A man could afford a middle-class lifestyle simply by having a work ethic, and marry young without the risks that come with marrying later. The social contract was more equitable without politicized power struggle between both sexes. Since then, the sexual revolution happened, globalization happened faster than cultures can adapt, and the system has broken down beyond repair.

The core of the social breakdown lies in the disintegration of the family, it has become obsolete. Promiscuity is the new standard, and it creates a new market which was previously suppressed: the sexual marketplace. The old law and order does not apply in this marketplace, as institutions such as community and marriage are obsolete. Communities kept people together and ostracized anti-socials to maintain social order. Individuals without these communal bonds come apart, and the judicial systems thrive on divorce as an industry. The peak social experience has been replaced by primal desires, the sexual act itself.

The industrial society thrives upon depleting the Earth of her natural resources. As the literal underworld is exhaustively mined out, so too is the spiritual world. Individuals exhausted by love, or no love at all. The transiently populated cities of today remain relevant in terms of proximity in online dating profiles.

Echoes of the collapse of civilization as we know it will reverberate throughout the collective subconscious of history. Individual anecdotes crop up online which form patterns that forebode the collapse; at least we are not alone. The systemic collapse will start with the failure of technological civilization as the first world descends into the third world: infrastructure will rot. Electrical grids, irrigation systems, high technology, the niceties of technological civilization will struggle to remain operational. The breakdown will advance into the later stages of the devaluation of currency, dissolution of government, and small-scale conflicts. In the post-civilized world, atomized individuals will be most vulnerable.

America has passed the zenith in its golden age of the 20th century, and from here is the slow decline towards the nadir. The only option left is to rethink and rebuild from the spiritual ruins of present civilization.