The Future Doesn’t Work, With Ed Zitron

It’s complicated. On the one hand, I feel like we have been getting upset by the same stuff every week on the podcast for the last few episodes. This is a fairly low-intensity stretch of the sports calendar, and longtime listeners will know that I myself simply love to get upset, but this seems like something to look out for. But also, on the other hand, have you seen the stuff that we’ve been getting upset about? The feckless rich wrecking important stuff on principle or just out of spite, toothless or co-opted institutions, all manner of cheesy cynical depravities all up and down the culture, and things of that nature. It’s upsetting! And that’s before we even get into the dim, self-dealing, incipiently fascist tech goons pouting atop great hordes of wealth and creating nothing much of note.

I am happy to report that, this week, we got to those guys.

We had an assist in this from longtime friend of the program Ed Zitron, whose new podcast Better Offline and less-new newsletter Where’s Your Ed At have done invaluable work on this class and the mess they’ve made. He’s also written some funny and insightful stories for me at some of my previous stops about the depraved stuff he’s seen in the fancy sections of various sports events, which we touch on a little bit here. But, given the scope and scale of the fuckery being discussed, there was not much time to talk about the different car dealership guys he’s seen pee themselves at the raw bar before various NFL games. Maybe we’ll get to that next time.

This go-round, though, was a pretty wide-ranging and decently heated speedrun through what Ed’s described as The Rot Economy and which you and I know as “the way things are now.” After some prefatory England chat—I might as well say here that neither Drew nor I countered Ed’s actual English accent with our own, widely loathed versions of same—we turned to the omens and signs and janky, too-expensive products of the Rot Economy. Drew and Ed have both experienced the new Apple Vision Pro, and we used that half-wondrous, half-finished $3,500 pair of eyewear as a way into several vexing questions. (I also, briefly, used it as an excuse to do my shitty English accent, and for this I apologize to all who are offended or even merely disappointed.)

So we strapped on the extra-hot, haphazardly fitted brain goggles and addressed questions like “why do companies like Apple release stuff before it’s finished?” and “why are they not worried about what the customers get, or think?” and “who is all this actually for?” Ed, who worked around tech for years before he started writing about it, has a greater sense of this than Drew or I, but there are some stubborn mysteries at the heart of the broader Rot Economy experience. It is one thing to say that all of this is being done to appease investors, and true enough, but who are these investors, and what do they actually want, and how is it that the interests of these investors wound up so thoroughly crosswise with not just those of working people—that one’s not much of a mystery—but consumers themselves? And what is it going to take to make this shit stop?

All of which is to say that, even before we got to the Elon Musk-related material in the back stretch of the podcast, there was plenty to get upset about, and we did. I got so wound up at one point that I had to note where in my “question” I was—near, but not at, the end—and Ed and Drew both got themselves decently heated. The phrase “a Harkonnen scenario” was used, it’s not important by whom, to describe how Musk washes himself. I wouldn’t say that we solved any of the problems we talked about, although I did think there were some interesting points in favor of the guillotine options discussed in there, but it felt good to say it all out loud. It’s a long road ahead when it comes to undoing any of this, but getting angry about the right things seems like a reasonable enough place to start.

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