Woven Gold: Dark Patterns
Thursday September 29th, 2022
I was surfing in Malibu when Death Valley reached 127 degrees Fahrenheit. Swimming like a dolphin while the world scorched to another all-time high. It’s hard to tell if these are Smokey the Bear fires or biblical ones when droughts, floods, and wildfires cover our news feeds regularly with paper-thin urgency. Even though one-third of Pakistan is now under water, it feels as though the world won’t mobilize against the extremities of climate change until people are flash frozen on the streets and baby seals wash ashore with oil bleeding out of their eyes.
“Societal collapse is in the air,” Timothée Chalamet proclaims. Assuming a manner of nonchalant, existential dread is what all the cool kids do. Reality, after all, is heavy, even for the Mahdi to the Fremen. Somehow nihilism became as edgy as a pretty face sucking away their youth on a cigarette. Gross and shallow.
Anyways, being a grom (an inexperienced surfer) is like trying to jump into a collapsing wormhole at just the right moment so you can get onto a speeding waterslide. If you can’t paddle into the wave and stand up on the slipstream, get out of the way for those that can. Otherwise, they’ll tear you to shreds for getting in their way.
Surfing is like sharing a moving skate ramp made of rolling thunder and clouds with sharks and sea dragons. For beginners like myself, you stay around the outer rings of where all the good waves are towards the shore to expose yourself to the occasional wave at the tail end of a perfect one farther back. What happens, though, is that experienced surfers ride the really good waves all the way to where the most inexperienced surfers are because they end up at the same starting point of the wave pool.
The thing that makes you think sideways is that you never see veterans; older surfers naturally welcome and teach new surfers in the wild. Something as natural as teaching the next generation the circle of life and the cycle of waves is somehow the most unnatural thing to do.
Repeating Dark Patterns
I wrote The Alchemy of Money because we live in a world where the order of our world has completely diverged from its natural rhythms. As I write in the essay, the rich are eating the poor, and the old are sucking on the blood of the youth to keep their zombie companies alive. These should be non-controversial, indisputable facts.
Thomas Piketty has shown through his work on Capital in the 21st Century that the rate of return on private capital in the past grows faster than anything in the present can produce. The past is devouring the future.
Freakonomics has shown that the U.S. economy invests more financial capital in the old than the young.
East & West
The Japanese economy is the #1 case in point. This country westernized the fastest after two nuclear bombs were dropped on them and became the 2nd largest economy in the world in just a few decades. If you look at the Japanese economy, the resemblance to ours is uncanny. Men are demotivated, suicide is high, people do not have enough kids, and the economy is struggling to support an aging population. I suspect this is because we imposed a western system onto the eastern peoples, and now the gears are stuck. Both Japan and the United States are snuffing out the ability of the young to imagine a better future. They’re also going to realize they need new immigrants to help save and wipe their asses.
By the late aughts, it was apparent that East and West were synchronizing. Milestones Japan had hit decades earlier — a great financial crash, political chaos, the exodus of a generation of youth into increasingly elaborate virtual escapes all of it now was happening abroad, too. The things Japan produced weren’t simply products. They were tools for navigating a strange new landscape, by becoming more connected and more isolating than ever before. Japanese creators and consumers weren’t just trendsetters. They were harbingers for all the weirdness of our late-state capitalist lives.
– Pure Invention by Matt Alt
Markets work very similarly to waves, and investing is like surfing. You have to be able to read the waters and ride the right waves. In marketing, you call these trends; in finance, you call these forecasts. I can tell you from my experience and intuition that both the trends and forecasts don’t look good. The waves are choppy and more dangerous. Reaching new highs and lows. While technology has been both a blessing and a curse, its deflationary effects lulled us into a false state of “everything’s fine.” Inflation in the physical world works like a backdraft. Sucking the oxygen out of the air makes breathing difficult, only to ignite an explosion with devastating force when you least expect it. I suspect the frequency of American Anarchy will rise in the coming days–making our national fears over E.Coli and Mad Cow Disease seem quaint.
I’ve been writing about money, marketing, and cities because the nature of media, how money flows, and how cities have been built are causing most of our discord. These disciplines need to be united. We worry more about the stock market than hurricanes. Mortgage rates over floods and inflation over the next generation. Community, mental health, and wellness are consumerized trends because it’s what’s missing from the fabric of our lives. Think about how people actively ignore you in elevators and how you talk to strangers through their dogs.
We need to invest better than investors, connect with each other better than marketers, and build better cities than our governments. I can’t think of a more exciting reason to be alive today. And despite our respective ethnocentric world views, nothing will stop the future from arriving.
Nearly 90% of urban growth will take place in Asia and Africa.
An additional 2.5 billion people will be living in cities by 2050.
Nearly 80% of the urban infrastructure in India in 2050 has yet to be built.
That’s all for now. Have a beautiful rest of your day.
Thanks for reading!
“ ...the nature of media, how money flows, and how cities have been built are causing most of our discord. These disciplines need to be united. We worry more about the stock market than hurricanes. Mortgage rates over floods and inflation over the next generation.”
An accurate distillation of global consciousness-- brought about by mass media focusing everyone on short-term ephemeral concerns that have nothing to do with fostering the best of humanity. Our values are in grave need of realignment.
Grateful for your like-minded attention to this effort.