What Created Flat Earth Theory?

“It’s easier to control people when we’re on a ball.” — Eddie Bravo

If you’re struggling to grasp why some people defend the flat earth theory so ferociously, it helps to remember that it’s just as much a real theory people believe in as it is a representation of general mistrust for the media’s dominant narrative.

The video below is a perfect example; a short clip of Alex Jones saying that he doesn’t believe the earth is flat, but if the mainstream media said it was spherical, he’d start to question it.


That’s the basic attitude that sums up why flat earth theory is so popular; it’s an extended metaphor blown out of proportion.…   [continue reading]

Through the Lens of @FFD8FFDB: Art by Security Cameras

If you hang around near unsecured security cameras, you might accidentally appear on @FFD8FFDB, an automated Twitter art project run by developer Derek Arnold. The bot is connected to a range of unsuspecting cameras across the U.S. and tweets a screenshot from a random one every 20 minutes.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound particularly appealing. In fact, one of Arnold’s goals was to get any response at all, even a disinterested reaction. The project isn’t supposed to be creepy or menacing — which is often the aesthetic of a security camera. Instead, the images are framed as “beautiful, rather than filthy”, he writes in an article explaining why he chose to start the project.…   [continue reading]

The Last Joke of the Scene: Sitcoms and Sincerity

Television imitates life. The fact that it’s only an imitation is clearer in a sitcom than any other genre. If you distil TV down to its most basic elements — and then simplify each element further — you’re left with the sitcom.

Many sitcoms break the formula, but the most popular (and sometimes older) shows don’t. The Big Bang Theory, Full House, That 70s Show. Even newer releases like The Ranch. They are in the usual form of television but predigested and tidied up to the point where any mystery, crisis, tension or deeper meaning is diffused almost instantaneously, whether that’s at the end of the episode, or at the end of a scene.…   [continue reading]

Life is Chronological, But Social Media Can’t Be

In March 2016, Twitter made the switch away from a purely chronological timeline to one partially ordered by algorithms. By looking at Twitter’s origins — a simple way to update groups of people — the switch away from ordering information chronologically is more interesting than it first seems, and represents the state of the internet and the way we use it in 2017.

The origins of Twitter

When it started, Twitter (or twttr as it was then called) was just an SMS service linked to a website.

Famously influential tech critic Om Malik wrote the world’s first blog post on Twitter a few months after it launched.…   [continue reading]

Stefan Bohacek Interview: The Ethics and Humanity of Bots

Stefan Bohacek is the founder of BotWiki, a project that aims to catalog the useful, friendly and artistic bots of the world. He also has a number of side-projects on his site, fourtonfish.com. The projects include Detective, a chat-based game that randomly pairs you with a human or a bot and makes you decide which you’re chatting with.

We spoke about the philosophy and ethics of bots, as well as the ideas behind BotWiki, Detective, and his other exciting projects.

Listen to the interview below:

Or read the transcript for all the links we refer to:

BotWiki’s been a fascinating project for me lately.…   [continue reading]

Your Bot Art Belongs in a Museum

Recently I interviewed BotWiki founder Stefan Bohacek on the distinction between art made by a human and art made by a machine. “If you think art is these deep thoughts expressed by a human, then of course what bots make isn’t art”, he said. “If you think art is anything that looks good, then bots make art”.

Thinking more on the issue, I realized that a bot’s output is just the randomized result of human input. Even advanced bots with neural networks either learn from human input or learn from other bots that were programmed by humans. In the end, there’s no distinction between art created by bots and humans because humans are the ones that set boundaries for the bot and say what it can and can’t generate.…   [continue reading]

Is Netflix the New TV? Not Really

In 1997, Netflix wasn’t formed to disrupt our TV habits, it was formed to support them.

It launched with a library of 925 DVDs. The main thing that separated it from something like Blockbuster (and what eventually ended up allowing Netflix to trump them) is the monthly subscription. All-you-can-eat content, with a much wider selection than traditional TV or cinema.

Netflix Logos

By 2000, Netflix had already declined an acquisition offer of $50 million from a terrified Blockbuster, and then went on to make DVD rentals obsolete with a revolutionary on-demand platform and a discovery algorithm within the space of 6 years.

Using similar tactics to YouTube, and emerging within the same year, Netflix represents the YouTube-ization of television.…   [continue reading]

Nathan Bernard Interview: #GorillaGate, Fake News, and Twitter Bots

With roots in coding, Nathan Bernard turned his tech skills to the world of content. Specifically, political satire in a similar vein to Vic Berger and Todd Dracula.

During the last election, Nathan developed an obsession with an alt-right spam account, Neil Turner, after seeing that it got the first reply to Trump within seconds, every single time. This led him to investigate who Neil Turner is and immerse himself in the world of the alt-right. It threw him into a dark rabbit hole which involved talking to a neo-nazi who was on FBI registers, receiving death threats and getting his computer hacked.…   [continue reading]

What Created Alex Jones?

Alex Jones, explicit spreader of misinformation and founder of right-wing fake news site InfoWars, is a rabbit hole of intrigue I’d never expected to fall into.

From his sinister doomsday conspiracies to his brain force drugs and survivalist equipment he peddles through his online store, at first his very existence seems like a hilarious riddle.

Why would extreme right-wing media be associated with vitamins, survivalism, and hyper-masculinity? You can see the pattern in other alt-right figureheads like the grunting, nootropic-addled Mike Cernovich (he runs a pro-Trump blog peppered with pedophilia accusations and manliness advice).

The alt-right, Jones included, rallied around Trump in the run-up to the 2016 election.…   [continue reading]

The Internet Should be a Communist Utopia. It’s Not, Because of the Filter Bubble

When you talk about the filter bubble, you’re talking about something quite specific. It’s the heavily curated ecosystem of the internet. A set of rules that filter all of the world’s information and organize it into what algorithms expect you to want to see — algorithms that suggest your next video on YouTube, or show you an article on Facebook.

At first, it can seem like a user friendly way to prioritize and curate the internet according to a set of personalized boundaries. You only see relevant content, and it brings order to the sprawling, chaotic internet.

In the era where fake news and propaganda virally populates Facebook — the world’s biggest news aggregation platform — it’s gone from being a user-friendly convenience to a threat to how we perceive the world around us.…   [continue reading]