by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.
The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.
Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.
Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.
|I'm going to preface this entry by noting that I have never had a Twatter account, and I haven't used my Facebook account in years. I would go on and delete it, but that requires me recovering its password, which I have yet to be able to do. So it's basically a zombie account.
I mention this because occasionally I get emails from Failbook announcing that someone or other wants to friend me there. If you're reading this, I'm not ignoring you. I'm ignoring Assbook.
Because freaking everything has to have a damned acronym now. EHAA: Everything Has An Acronym.
Do you ever scroll through your social media feeds and feel gross? If so, you’re not alone.
No. See above. The only social media I'm on is right here, and generally the people here don't suck (those that do tend not to last very long). I also participate in Google Guides, but that barely qualifies as it's not constantly bombarding me with other peoples' bullshit.
And yet we go back, day after day, over and over and over, endlessly scrolling, like addicts hooked on a drug that we once loved but now kind of hate and cannot or will not even try to escape.
I'm not claiming moral superiority here. I have other addictions.
Technologist and philosopher Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer and early internet evangelist who isn’t on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, contends that you should just quit social media. Go cold turkey. In his latest book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now...
Don't go on social media! Buy my book instead!
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not going to rag on someone for promoting their book, not here on a writing site. Unless, of course, I think the book will suck. I don't think that's the case here.
He’s developed a simple acronym to sum up the sinister purpose of tech companies that brought us the platforms we’re hooked on and their effect on us—BUMMER. It stands for Behaviors of Users Modified and Made into Empires for Rent.
On the other hand, this is easily one of the bottom five worst forced acronyms I've ever encountered.
BUMMER platforms are more than just a bummer from Lanier’s perspective—they’re eroding health and happiness and political and social discourse, curbing our free will, and turning us into, well, “assholes.”
Whew, it's a good thing we don't have free will to start with, and that I'm already an asshole.
Or, as Claire Lehmann, founding editor of Quillette magazine puts it in an Oct. 17 tweet (of course—where else might she express herself?), “Social media satiates our appetite for moral disgust and tribal conflict.”
I admit that there is something to be said for Twitter's character limit, as it forces people to condense their thoughts into digestible form. It's a worthy writing exercise. On the downside, as I've said before, engaging on Twitter is like arguing with bumper stickers.
In an interview in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Lanier explains that you can spot a BUMMER platform by examining whether Russian intelligence warfare units like the Internet Research Agency targeted it and used it to manipulate people. The list includes Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram.
Obviously, I don't stay away from YouTube. Except in very particular circumstances, though, I don't venture into the comments. I've deliberately trained their algorithms to give me suggestions in the categories of music and science videos, though. Occasionally, political commentary will crop up there, and to combat it, I search for music or science videos and eventually they dilute away.
To disengage from the experiment is simple enough, he says. All you have to do is stop using BUMMER platforms. That’s the best way to undermine the systems designed to manipulate us and, he argues, the only way to force tech companies to change the platforms’ fundamentally flawed business model.
Oh, sure, simple. I mean, yeah, I've done it (with the exception of YouTube, as I noted), but then, I'm that guy who has never, ever had cable TV.
The problem with attempting social change by imploring people to do (or refrain from) certain behaviors is that you will never get enough people on board. This is why boycotts tend not to work, this is why the world will never go vegan, and this is why we're doomed to a dreary post-apocalyptic future due to climate change.
If you do go boldly where Lanier and Simon have gone and abandon the tech platforms everyone else seems to be on, rest assured, it might not have to be for long. Lanier says he is currently working on creating healthier social media platforms that won’t be such a BUMMER.
This article is more than two years old. The only new social media platforms I've heard of since then are even worse than Facetwat.
Instead of abandoning the (I won't use the acronym because it's stupid) standard social media platforms, I'm seeing more and more people signing up for them. It won't be me, though. Guess I'll just have to languish and die in obscurity. I'd rather do that than subject myself to the bullshit I've seen on social media.