Like We Did In Y2K | 2337

Discover the return of iconic fashion and music, alongside the significant cultural shift post-pandemic. Jay explores the impact on technology, from AI to the Metaverse, reflecting on past predictions by Wired magazine. Tune in for a nostalgic journey connecting past insights with today’s digital advancements in this episode of Y2K renaissance!

Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2023/11/12/301-2337-like-we-did-in-y2k/

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Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo


Like We Did in Y2k

I am beginning to suspect that the post pandemic vibe shift wasn’t just a change in culture but a time slip. The death of the global social feed and its centralising forces has transported us back to a time before it…

It cannot have failed to escape your notice that Y2K is back, baby. 

Juicy Couture, Low rise jeans, Nirvana t-shirts, baby tees and pleated skirts are everywhere. 

Emo’s back, and Blink 182, Greenday all have new singles out and I’ve seen people wearing Criminal Damages!

But beyond the worlds of music and fashion, out in wider culture and especially the world of technology, Y2K is back too. After the decade of moribund web2 stasis and the post the pandemic claustrophobia; we’ve vibe shifted into a glorious world of speculation. Optimism appearing about what technology could be, and what it could do for us. Y2K is b/acc in silicon valley too. 

Just look at all the buzzwords: Driverless cars! AR! VR! Metaverse! AI! Agents! All Y2K topics that were discussed in depth and in detail alongside the emergence of the internet.

Only now, these topics aren’t speculation and in some theoretical future, 25 years later we’re living it.

But in our future we have a real problem – it’s always now on the internet. 

At least fashion, with its elliptical trend logics and re-interpretation of aesthetic has a sense of its own history. For people who spend way too much time on social platforms history doesn’t exist at all. For them two weeks ago is ancient history, let alone 2 decades ago or more. 

But deep and informative writing from the late 90’s and Y2K about the topical technological buzzwords of today is still out there. Saved on aging servers and in unstyled web pages. Writing that has been online for nearly as long as the web has existed.

If you ever want to feel better informed about some new idea, buzzword or piece of marketing about a new technology that’s been announced recently. I suggest looking at what Wired magazine had to say about it in the early 1990s.

Writing about autonomous robots in September of 1994 Mark Tilden said the following.

This makes a wild robot, a feral machine that is already useful for some purposes. Other functions require domesticated robots – wild robots that have been bribed, tricked, or evolved into household roles. But the wild robot has to come first.

This is a useful insight into how LLMs are currently being developed and used. Prompt engineering, weights and attention mechanisms are all constraining and domesticating forces on the wild robot, or latent space that lies beneath the surface. Prompt injection is the bribing and tricking of the wild robot too. 

In a 1995 column called  β€œA Bill of Writes” w-r-i-t-e-s Nicholas Negroponte wrote the following: 

In a digital world, the bits are endlessly copyable, infinitely malleable, and they never go out of print. Millions of people can simultaneously read any digital document – and they can also steal it.

So, how do we protect digital information?

Having a Bill of Writes now means that we can spend the next 20 to 50 years hammering out new digital-property laws and international agreements without stunting our future. More importantly, it means that publishers and authors can elect to make their bits available after they decide they have earned enough, and the bits will be ready to go. Without a Bill of Writes, our grandchildren will spend a lot of time digitizing the 70 million items that will be saved by your library over the next 30 years.

This article nearly 30 years on, in the context of AI dataset training data, content ownership, and some calls for really draconian copyright laws from people how should really know better seems prescient. 

Just this week OpenAI announced its GPT agents. Y2K is back baby. The subject of agents in systems is something that a lot of people spent a great deal of time thinking and talking about in the late ’90s. If you meet someone excitedly talking about their applications in Discord or telegram ask them politely if they’ve read What’s An Agent, Anyway? A Sociological Case Study by LN Foner published in 1993. 

It’s a great paper about the social and cultural impact of the deployment of the Chat Bot and Autonomous Agent JULIA amongst real humans populating the virtual worlds of TinyMUD and DruidMUCK. It’s an essay that’s chock full of highly relevant learnings about the design of agents, and their execution in techno-social systems. Find it online as a PDF or on a very broken web page that’s still hosted by MIT. 

If people ask you about the Metaverse, ask them I’ve they’ve read ‘Avatars‘ from 1998, or the Margaret Wertheim’s ‘The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace‘ from 1999. 

The Internet of the late 90s and early Noughties was a lot closer to the post-vibe shift world of the Internet that we are moving towards today. The internet back then, was a maze of twisty little passages. Labyrinths of chat rooms, and forums. Small communities talking with one another in dark forests with no central gathering space. And people writing at the time tried to make sense of it all.

I’m young enough to remember this Internet, but I’m not old enough to have read all these old texts, books, essays, or works of criticism.

Gen z, don’t know anything about the world that Y2K nostalgia is mining. And neither do we millennials. 

If you really want to understand what’s going on the world right now in context of the Y2K revival: Pick up an old book like we did back in Y2K.

They’re a quid on e-bay, or 1.99 in Oxfam. That’s just all you need to do.

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