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🤡 Sam Altman is a control freak
A short essay about Worldcoin, OpenAI, and Sam Altman’s general distrust in his fellow humans
This week felt like a nice day at the park where you feed the ducks, only to find out later that the ducks were planted on the lake to gather intelligence, and will definitely be blackmailing you later. Or something.
Anyway, this week’s issue is all about Sam Altman’s contempt for the human race. He is not happy unless he is controlling EVERYONE. The broad strokes are:
Sam Altman, unsurprisingly, thinks that remote work was an ‘experiment’, and it’s now over. Get back to the office so he can control you!
There is a gross insistence that the work of startups is severely delicate, nuanced, and complex; no other industry can ‘solve problems’ as hard and fast as the tech industry.
This is made clear by the launch of Worldcoin, a project which will distribute crypto to everyone on Earth, as long as they hand over their biometrics (lol).
Thank you for reading; as usual hit the comment button if you have something to say. Cheers, you’re a champ.
This week, at some kind of camping event run by Stripe (god can Silicon Valley just have a day off), Sam Altman said that supporting people to work remotely, was an “experiment” which, “is over, and the technology is not yet good enough that people can be full remote forever, particularly on startups.”
Sam Altman really is the darling of the tech industry at the moment. Now that he’s bravely delivered the wonders of generative AI to our humble society, everyone is very eager to listen to every word that flops out of his mouth. As a grimey tech CEO, his perspective on remote work is of course not unique. None of them like it — unless their company literally makes tools meant to enhance it.
The tech CEO who proudly insists that work isn’t really work unless you’re doing it in the office is someone who has never taken the time to learn how to manage people, or even trust them. They have a foundational contempt for workers that pushes them to believe that, unless they’re under careful managerial supervision, they’ll spend the whole day wanking and playing Call of Duty. What they fail to understand is that high-paid tech workers — arguably the kinds of workers that are steeped in the most kool-aid — will likely work hard to build their cringe piece of SaaS, whether they are in an office or not. But we all know it’s not about any of that; getting people back into the office is just about control.
Sam Altman loves controlling people; and will insist that it is for their own good. Saying, with any kind of authority, that ‘technology is not good enough’ to go remote is obviously laughable. Laptops are lightweight, powerful, and portable; data is stored in clouds; software often requires a login so is not technically tied to any machine. But the truly astringent part of his argument is that coming back to the office is especially important for startups: “startups need a lot of in-person time, and the more fragile and nuanced and uncertain a set of ideas are, the more time you need together in person,” he says.
Sorry, but OpenAI has done everything it can to jettison ‘the human side’ from everyday joyful experiences such as drawing, writing, or listening to music — which according to Sam Altman, is how things should be. Unless you’re at work. In which case, it’s all human hands on deck, please. Writing a stage play about a hotel run by cats is now a fun activity for robots. But work? Still for humans! Get your butt into the office.
At the stinky core of Sam’s swirling mass of piece-of-shit takes is the idea that the work that he and other startup owners are facilitating is so precious and complex, that it requires the careful in-person attention of a team of specialist lab technicians. Literally, get the fuck over yourself. Anyone anywhere can move tickets on a Trello board, and anyone anywhere can review a pull request. This stems from the belief that the work he is doing unmatched in both its complexity and capacity to enact meaningful change. This is obviously embarrassingly inaccurate, and kind of degrading towards truly important work. E.g. my girlfriend works for an organisation in the UK called Respect. They work with perpetrators of domestic violence to break the cycle of abuse — this is actually complex work, and the impacts are measurably good (less domestic violence, duh). Oh and guess what: Respect is fully remote, and has been since before the pandemic.
Sam’s loathsome penchant for controlling people is made thuddingly obvious via his horrific crypto project, Worldcoin, which this week, just launched World App, a consumer-facing crypto wallet. The problems with this are not hard to find: Worldcoin is a token that will be distributed to all citizens of the world, as a kind of ‘alternative’ UBI. I’m saying ‘alternative’ not because we already have UBI, but because the ‘money’ would obviously be crypto, and not just… actual useful money. But anyway, the idea is that Worldcoin will just be freely handed out thus absorbing everyone into its crypto ecosystem.
Of course, Worldcoin is not actually free. To get it, you have to provide biometrics — and this is sold as a benefit, not a caveat. By scanning people’s irises, Worldcoin will create a unique ID for each person, called a World ID (these product names really are the worst). This is for verification purposes; apparently before this, there was no way for humans to truly identify themselves online — and that was a huge problem. We see this pattern play out over and over: a technologist will set out a problem that basically isn’t real, explain why it’s destroying humanity, and then sell their ‘solution’. Except, in this case, one of the ‘problems’ (generative AI) was directly caused by Sam Altman himself. Here’s the first paragraph of the World ID announcement:
“Digital identity has been an open problem since the invention of the internet. Even today, more than 50% of the world’s population doesn’t have a verifiable legal ID. As we venture into the exciting new Age of Artificial Intelligence, solving proof of personhood is more important than ever—specifically to ensure democratic access and governance of these systems, fairly distribute the benefits generated and know who and what to trust online.”
You know, it’s funny. Normally tech bros will reinvent a taxi service or something and tell you it’s brand new — Worldcoin have done that, but with a benefit fraud detection system. We already have those; did they not know that institutions generally hate poor people, and will do anything to restrict their benefits? At least taxis are useful to some, lol. I guess traditional benefit fraud detection systems were not quite pernicious enough for Sam; no, he needs to create an authoritarian ledger of human biometrics, reducing everyone down to a machine-readable unique ID, so that they can receive the exact amount of useless tokens they’re supposed to, without friction. Don’t you get it? It’s convenient, hassle-free UBI and verification: with World ID, you’ll never have to give your email address to a company ever again! You just have to hand your biometrics over to Sam Altman, that’s all.
I feel I should point out that Worldcoin’s initial recruitment strategy was to deceive people in Indonesia, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Chile (and more), into having their biometrics scanned, only to receive ‘payment’ in Worldcoin, which hadn’t even launched yet. So, really, they were compensated only with a promise of potential future wealth. The unhealthy preoccupation with pushing everyone to be institutionally legible is of course, again, a transparent pursuit to control them. People like Sam Altman love to remind communities across the globe that unless they participate in the financial system, they are nothing. He must systematise everyone!
Finally, we’ve come full-circle on the problem-solution chain: one of the other ‘benefits’ of the World ID is that it will ‘prove your personhood’ in this crazy era of AI that we’ve somehow found ourselves in. Yes, it’s just so weird that generative AI has ‘become a thing’ that’s just happening to us — like how weather ‘just happens’ — and it required absolutely no deliberate action from anyone. Thank god Sam Altman has the solution. I cannot wait to see what problems Worldcoin will create, and how Sam will shepherd us to safety.
That’s it for this week, please now sink comfortably into your weekend. Bye then x