Mansplaining as a Service
Look around you, and it won’t take long to notice the schisms opening up throughout Tech Land.
Straight in at number one, and old news at this point, given the speed at which things are moving, is crypto. You’re never going to believe this, but it turns out that your friends and mine, the Tech Bros of Crypto, have not discovered a new, decentralised way to govern currency after all but have instead built a system of levels where those at the top get rich off the backs of those at the bottom—less revelatory, more Ponzi.
Next up is another keen supporter of crypto, Elon Musk, who recently bought Twitter for an obscene amount of money and turned it into a casino where all the chips are stacked in favour of the alt-right. Next week he’s going to charge you for tweets containing nouns. The week after, he’ll sack the single engineer remaining at the company live on Twitter for your amusement. Hopefully, not too long after that, the whole thing will sink into the sea, and we’ll never have to talk about it again.
Oh, and while we’re on Elon (sorry), let us not forget that as recently as this week, Tesla had to recall over 300,000 vehicles because it turns out they aren’t self-driving at all (next year, just another year, you’ll see), but don’t worry, the upshot is they do kill a lot of people at crossroads, so at least that’s something.
At least we haven’t lost ten years of progress in an evolutionary dead end that has allowed native apps to eat our lunch and rendered my entire career a complete waste of time.
But I’m not the only one crying into my dogecoin. Big Tech could do with a pep talk too. It’s org chart season. And by that, I mean it’s that part of the year when the billionaires decree that their minions haven’t had enough pain and suffering, so they lay them off in a round of needless redundancies to satisfy some unknown investor who just ran out of caviar.
It all started back when Head Frat Boy Zuckerberg came up with this like, really far-out idea, man—the metaverse—and even renamed his entire company after that idea to rebrand himself out of a past cock-up, but in the process ran headlong into another catastrophe that is going nowhere, and, well, it’s obviously the engineers’ faults so let’s fire them all, and that’ll be that. Ever since, tech firms have attempted to outdo themselves in their own versions of Squid Games Does Layoffs.
But wait, we’re also seeing changes at the top of Big Tech this year. Plot twist!
Apple has decided that on the back of releasing possibly the worst macOS Settings, sorry Preferences, sorry System Settings panel in history, now would be an excellent time to ditch its top designer and deprioritise the entire design team within the company by lining them into another layer of middle-aged white guys. What could possibly have already gone wrong?
Oh, and then there’s Google, our Big Crescendo.
You see, Google is a company with a bit of a problem. Well, quite a few problems.
Firstly, the web is filling up with bilge. SEO farms pump out guff in a bid to win views. These results get crawled by Google, which makes for a far inferior search experience for everybody else. Thankfully, it’s not a monopoly, and there are many other places we can turn to when this kind of thing happens.
So, on one flank, Google’s flagship product—and some folks would say, possibly their only product—is being degraded by people gaming their system, whilst on the other flank, we turn to the new tech hotness in town, which is also having a go at whacking Google into next week.
I present to you: Mansplaining as a Service.
MaaS, or generative AI, as some would have you believe, is a joke. I mean, it would be if bona fide journalists weren’t suddenly treating it like a sentient being.
I’ll be the first to admit that this whole AI schtick worried me. When ChatGPT exploded into the world, I thought it was game over. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, right? So there I am, showing my less tech-leaning mates this thing, punching in all sorts of rubbish and marvelling at how it spits stuff back out on demand: build me a site using React; invent me a new cryptocurrency; imagine a world where the internet wasn’t a massive disappointment.
The old “we’re doomed” was rolled out more than once.
But, as time wears on, and as Microsoft and then Google have lost their senses and decided to barrel over the edge of the cliff into this new frontier, I can’t help thinking that this is yet another example of Tech Land getting way ahead of itself with a new, shiny trick.
Mansplaining as a Service is not going to take your job. Sure, some idiots are going to found start-ups that are based on this crank technology, and sure, we’re going to get a new swathe of Elon Musks and Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Frieds who think they’ve definitely, absolutely, categorically solved the riddle this time, but stop for a second, and think.
We’re witnessing a glorified autocomplete spewing tautologies and lies based on the experiences of people who post things on the internet.
Yes, based on StackOverflow (illegally, probably), but also 4Chan. I mean, do the maths, because it seems computers can’t anymore: would you trust anything that uses the internet as its source material? Are you surprised it parrots back at us like a depressed emo kid? What did we think would happen?
It’s been a helluva start to the year.