The Fake-Industrial Complex

I started writing a message last night. Auto-correct changed fame to fake. I was left with the words ‘fake industrial complex’ and I had to admit it was right. We have moved right through a fame/attention industry out to having a problem with a fake industrial complex

Come hither, all ye empty things,

Ye bubbles raised by breath of kings;

Who float upon the tide of state,

Come hither, and behold your fate.

Jonathan Swift, A Satirical Elegy on the Death of a Late Famous General

Famous for Being Famous

When did ‘creator’ start to mean someone who created nothing but simply lived from the advertising revenue of being or having an opinion? When did we judge success on audience, followers or influence? When did existing or having an opinion become a licensing opportunity on a global scale? When did billionaires spend money to have others hang on their strange views? (Sadly, some questions are answered with always)

We have allowed fame to be so hollowed out and allocated attention so recklessly under the sway of the Algorithmic Bubble that there is no longer any requirement of any reality to underpin it. The Outrage Economy rewards factlessness, precisely because fakes draw fact checkers and conflict is good for business. ‘Asking hard questions of the unqualified’ takes the place of inquiry, even when the questions asked have known simple answers.

Turtles All The Way Down

As we enthusiastically embrace the hype of generative AI we ignore that the black box obscures its decision making. Generative AI can produce credible fake answers. The software at its heart is not presently concerned with facts. We must also remember in consuming the world’s content to power its engines, it is also consuming our vast and ever growling reservoirs of fact-free bias-laden platitude-rich pattern-heavy thought leadership.

When Eisenhower warned in his farewell speech about the dangers of what he called the ‘military-industrial complex’, he spoke of the need to guard against the influence of the complex in ‘the councils of government’. Eisenhower highlighted the need for ‘an alert and knowledgeable citizenry’.

The fake-industrial complex has already stormed the citadels of global government and been resident there for decades through talking points, spin, ‘fake news’, photo opportunities and propaganda. We need a citizenry willing to continue its challenges to populism, demagoguery and totalitarian leaders.

The choice we each have as citizens, employees and as consumers is where we put our attention. The fake-industrial complex depends on unconsidered attention. When we deprive the media sources, the untrustworthy algorithms, and the charlatans of our attention, remarkable things begin to happen. We can challenge the fakes with the ignominy of irrelevance and let their algorithms, coalitions, and economic models tear them apart.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   

but because it never forgot what it could do.

Naomi Shihab Nye, Famous

One thought on “The Fake-Industrial Complex

  1. I worry about the future and how all this type of technology is changing how we communicate with each other; expectations of each other; the ethics and morals of choices we make from an individual, community and society level. I believe it’s healthier to have an arm’s length view, learning, asking questions, seeking perspectives from diverse groups… I’d hate to lose our humanity in the process by slowly being blunted emotionally by algorithms, climate change impacts, AI, fake news, and tech bros.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s