Category Archives: Media

Prince Philip is dead, apparently

Someone told me that today Prince Philip has died, this morning (Friday 9th April 2021). He was 99 years old.

I’ve still not actively looked at any news this year but I caught bits and pieces accidentally, over the last couple of months. Examples:

  • Kim Kardashian and Kanye West divorcing
  • A woman got raped, murdered, dismembered by a police officer (in London??)
  • A ship got stuck in the Suez canal (?)
  • From yesterday: troubles in Northern Ireland

Last week, I stopped subscribing to a print news magazine, because I’ve not been reading it, and I also deleted Facebook a couple of months ago.

I’ve lately been imagining the world as The Matrix, where all the digital people permanently plugged into information are like the Matrix human pods. I’m like Morpheus – I’ve stopped taking the blue pill, by disconnecting from the constant stream of information. It feels very freeing – I can breathe!

Another useful side-effect of deprogramming myself and reducing noise from irrelevant sources has been clarity of thought. With fewer content to clog up my bandwidth, I see everything crystal clear.

For example:

  • Language and communication is just a tool that you can use to ‘build reality’ (discourse)
  • Politicians and other people who want to manipulate you in some way or other (e.g. your employer / manager etc.) will use it as such
  • Because of this, you can (and should) do it too
  • That doesn’t mean it’s real what you read / hear / see etc.

Another film (alongside The Matrix) that is a good example of what deprogramming feels like is John Carpenter’s (1988) film They Live. It’s about some guy who finds sunglasses and, when putting them on, realises that the ruling class (= rich cunts) are aliens concealing their appearance and manipulating people to consume, breed, and conform to the status quo via subliminal messages in mass media. Basically like what Boris Johnson and his pals have been doing for the last 5 years or so.

The final good thing about unplugging from The Matrix has been that I’ve had a lot of room to do good stuff – for example, I’ve started playing Final Fantasy VII Remake, which was a freebie on the PlayStation Plus in March. I’m really enjoying it!

Life is so rich.

The Social Dilemma, Drugs, and Toxic Existential Confusion

I watched The Social Dilemma last night, and today I came across the following passage in a book I’ve been reading.

We need a serviceable definition of what we mean by “drug”. A drug is something that causes unexamined, obsessive, and habitual behavior. You don’t examine obsessive behavior; you just do it. You let nothing get in the way of your gratification. This is the kind of life that we are being sold at every level. To watch, to consume, and to watch and consume yet more. The psychedelic option is off in a tiny corner, never mentioned; yet it represents the only counterflow directed against a tendency to leave people in designer states of consciousness. Not their own designs, but the designs of Madison Avenue, of the Pentagon, of the Fortune 500 corporations. This isn’t just metaphor; it is really happening to us.

Looking down on Los Angeles from an airliner, I never fail to notice that it is like looking at a printed circuit: all those curved driveways and cul de sacs with the same little modules installed along each one. As long as the Reader’s Digest stays subscribed to and the TV stays on, these modules are all interchangeable parts within a very large machine. This is the nightmarish reality that Marshall McLuhan and Wyndham Lewis and others foresaw: the creation of the public as herd. The public has no history and no future, the public lives in a golden moment created by a credit system which binds them ineluctably to a web of illusions that is never critiqued. This is the ultimate consequence of having broken off the symbiotic relationship with the Gaian matrix of the planet. This is the consequence of lack of partnership; this is the legacy of imbalance between the sexes; this is the terminal phase of a long descent into meaninglessness and toxic existential confusion.

It pretty much sums up where I think we are right now, even though it was written in 1992 when the public Internet didn’t even exist, let alone social media! I think I’ve come to terms with living in a post-truth world, and descending into toxic existential confusion is just what we need to reach the bottom.

From there, the only way is up.

All the things I don’t write about (because the internet is shit these days)

The internet is shit these days. A cesspit of ads, social media trolling on Twitter,  Instagram harassment, mass-manipulation and hollowing out of our democracy.

I’ve long stopped using it to socialise or have fun, find like-minded people, or anything like that. 20 years ago I met a young guy called Hank on IRC, he was Dutch, I didn’t know anything  about him or ever saw a photo, all I knew was we were into the same music, and chatting to him made my heart quicken. I didn’t want to meet him in real life – the internet was an escape from real life, it was anonymous and free. It was wonderful.

IRC chat
CC image courtesy of schid7864 on Deviant Art

Today the internet is shit, and dead to me. I don’t use it that much, other than for functional stuff like banking, booking flights, and so on. It’s quite cool in a way because most of the nonsense that comes with it these days (such as the aforementioned harassment, trolling, being manipulated, developing mental health problems etc.) passes me by, and I’m able to just choose its useful parts, which perhaps isn’t as easy for people who grew up with it and know no different.

The one downside is that I’m no longer able to connect, reach out, and find like-minded people online, to exchange ideas about things I truly care about or have an opinion on (believe me, I have MANY opinions!). I used to love healthy, democratic debate – yes, largely anonymously, but mostly honest and respectful. I still to this day love anonymous text and discussion such as on reddit, although I stopped participating a long, long time ago (two of my favourite subs are Foreveralone and Deadbedrooms.).

The things I don’t write about (because the internet is shit):

In no particular order, here are some of the topics that you will never see me talk about, or share an opinion on:

  • What I think about safe spaces
  • What I think about LGBTQQIA (or LGBTQQIA+)
  • What I think about inclusivity
  • What I think about feelings and offending feelings
  • What I think about incels / the black pill / red pillers / PUAs
  • What I think about the Tories
  • What I think about the rich and privileged
  • What I think about Brexit voters
  • What I think about the alt-right
  • What I think about social media
  • What I think about surveillance capitalism
  • What I think about porn
  • What I think about drugs
  • What I think about Ed Sheeran

Yes, Ed Sheeran. I don’t even want to talk about  Ed fucking Sheeran. That’s how bad it is.

Ed Sheeran

The Machines are here already

I came across a critical analysis of the modern internet recently, specifically how its algorithms today already shape and influence human behaviour, society, and the way the world is going.

It confirms my suspicion that we already are in the matrix in some way. It’s not that computers / robots / AI have ‘taken over’ as a discrete, external entity from us (as e.g. in Terminator) but instead the influence is much more subtle and insidious.

This is NOT the enemy – if only it were this easy.

Three ways in which the machines are in control

1. The smartphone reduces your Real Life (RL) experience

A smartphone just sucks someone into a small screen, where all their attention is focused. Have you seen people at a bus stop or on public transport recently? They just look into the palm of their hand.

If all that time is now spent on screens, it is not spent in the real (3-dimensional) world involving all of your senses.

I don’t know if the increase in mental health issues amongst young people is correlated with that, but arguably if you spend less time practising ‘being yourself’ in the real world you may find it more difficult. For that reason alone you should reduce your screen time and



Don’t let the machines reduce your RL experience. The real (3D) world is messy but it involves ALL your senses!

2. The algorithms reduce your understanding that other views exist

One of the beauties of the algorithms running the internet is that they’re so subtle. While most people are aware of some degree of personalisation (e.g. you see content similar to what you’ve previously liked / bought), on a meta-level they still think everyone roughly shares the same reality (e.g. 62% of people in the UK don’t realise their social networks can affect the news they see – more on that later). This is the so-called filter bubble, according to Wikipedia

a state of intellectual isolation that can result from personalized searches when a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user, such as location, past click-behavior and search history.

In addition, confirmation bias means we favour information which confirms previously existing beliefs or biases, and filter out the rest. Our existing beliefs also affect how we process and interpret new information (i.e. we slant it towards what we already believe).

This and other psychological research explains why Trump got elected.

The algorithms (especially on social media) fuel our (very human) confirmation biases, so we think everyone thinks like us / agrees with us. All we see every day is confirmation of our own views. We do NOT really understand any more in a deep way that other views and realities exist.

This absence of a shared reality, some argue, is a threat to democracy.

3. The algorithms harm your child’s development by feeding it bad content

‘Suggested videos’ / ‘watch next’ is NOT a good thing, if the algorithm is optimising for horrific Peppa the Pig parody videos. Your baby could see the following:

 A dentist with a huge syringe appears. Peppa’s teeth get pulled out. Distressed crying can be heard on the soundtrack.

(From: The disturbing YouTube videos that are tricking children).

And that apparently is only a harmless example. This kind of stuff imprints on your baby’s memory. Thanks to algorithms and machine learning,  baby will get served up more of the same stuff. You, on the other hand, don’t even know it’s going on in the first place.

The article on Medium that inspired this blog post – Something is wrong on the internet – explains quite well how it all works.

Peppa the Pig goes wild and scary

Do you control your machines?

I believe we can and should live with our machines, peacefully, but that it is us who calls the shots. I’d like to see some kind of digital enlightenment where we’re much more aware (enlightened) about some of the stuff that really goes on underneath!

It is shocking to think that, in 2018 in the UK, according to new research:

  • 62% don’t realise their social networks can affect the news they see
  • 45% of people are unaware that information they enter on
    websites and social media can help target ads
  • 83% are unaware information can be collected about them that other people have shared

The full research, the aptly subtitled ‘2018 Digital Understanding Report’, was commissioned by Martha Lane Fox’ doteveryone think tank.

If it is true that the machines are here already, then digital education – and I don’t mean programming –  is the only way to ensure we learn to keep them in their places.





What is a 56k modem?

When filling in my tax return this week, I noticed HMRC provided download times for slow connections including 56k modem speed (download time 3.4 minutes for a 1340 KB file!).

56k modem speedWhile this made sense to me (I used a 56k modem to connect to the Internet in the 90s), I wondered what younger self-employed (or otherwise tax returners) would make of it – do they know what a 56k modem is? Would they google it?

I thought I’d provide some answers all in one place 🙂 .

What is a 56k modem?

A 56k modem was a tool to connect to the Internet in the late 90s. The biggest modem maker in the world at the time was US Robotics. Below is a photo of a 56k modem – it’s the one I had in fact.

56k modem US Robotics
CC image courtesy of Frédéric BISSON on Flickr

How fast is 56k dial up Internet?

56k dial-up Internet was quite slow. It took AGES to even view images.

I’ve tried finding an example – here’s a simulator that shows you an image being loaded on a 56k connection. I’d say it’s pretty accurate (although images tended to not be that big back then!).

When did the 56k modem come out?

The Internet says that the 56k modem came out in 1998; I’ve found a  story on the Independent from 1997 announcing the imminent arrival of 56k modems:

These new modems certainly sound tempting. They can download data from the Internet at a rate of 56,000 bits per second (56Kbps).

I got mine in 98. I think I had a 33.6k modem for a little while before that (with a 486 computer).

Below is what the Windows 95 operating system looked like – you had to set up your modem and dial-up network connection manually.

windows 95 operating system
CC image courtesy of TORLEY on Flickr

Is dial-up still used?

In the UK – in small numbers if at all (I haven’t found any concrete stats). BT turned off dial-up internet on 1 September 2013 which left 1,000 people unable to move to broadband.

There was supposedly still a PlusNet service (a BT subsidiary), however the Internet says that PlusNet dial-up internet stopped on 7th January 2015.

Should HMRC remove their reference to 56k modems?

Yes. Although it resulted in this post – so no.

Also, it might make someone else smile 🙂 .