Fragments

An attempt at writing something new and unedited every day in 2019, as part of a New Year’s resolution. Inspired partly by Mark Fisher’s old blog (k-punk).

To get notified of new posts, you can sign up for my email newsletter which will contain a fragment round-up (and other content) each Sunday.

84
Boots Riley's 2018 film 'Sorry To Bother You' is not just a piece of speculative fiction - it depicts a dystopian future that's already here. Tags: class-struggle, startups, the gig-economy
83
An illustrated guide for those concerned that they're too privileged to join a union. Tags: class-struggle, startups
82
Not all millennials - Mar 23 (676 words)
You'll find no shortage of articles on the proscribed economic prospects of millennials. It may be true for the majority, but if you're in the minority, it's confusing. Tags: inequality, personal, the left
81
Fintech startup 'Earnin' may be a glorified payday lender, but it's managed to evade regulation by collecting tips instead of interest. This is ... not good. Tags: startups, financialisation
80
If you have a boss, you need a union - Mar 21 (1772 words)
Kickstarter employees are trying to unionise, but some senior staff are claiming that a union doesn't make sense because they're too 'privileged'. Tags: class-struggle, startups
79
Three cheers for financial assets - Mar 20 (1956 words)
Bill Gates has joined the $100b club. Lyft is going to IPO at over $23b. You can trade municipal bonds without even doing any research on them. Tags: inequality, financialisation
78
Why are Asians so good at school? - Mar 19 (1930 words)
On the material factors behind the overrepresentation of Asian-Americans at prestigious high schools in NYC. Tags: inequality, immigration
77
When it's time to refactor - Mar 18 (1574 words)
A programming analogy for how we could see the failures of modern-day capitalism. Tags: personal
76
Making US immigration fair again - Mar 17 (1546 words)
Everyone knows the system is broken. Wouldn't it be great if we reformed it in such a way as to benefit capital? Tags: personal, immigration
75
Enterprise AI: We're hiring! - Mar 16 (1118 words)
San Francisco is filled with billboards advertising little more than the idea of working at a tech startup. Tags: startups
74
In 'The Man in the High Castle', one of the characters, John Smith, went from fighting the Nazis to becoming a high-ranking Nazi official. Tags: the-man-in-the-high-castle, the-left
73
Is UBI the answer? - Mar 14 (1660 words)
The UBI proposed by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is responding to a very different question from what the left is asking. Tags: class-struggle
72
An illustrated guide to the proper reaction to tragic news from various parts of the world. Tags: ideology
71
A collection of responses to the elite college admissions scandals. Tags: ideology
70
Just tell me what to do - Mar 11 (1243 words)
Sometimes I don't know if I should be prepping for the collapse, fighting to avert it, or just giving up because nothing I do will matter anyway. Tags: personal
69
Corn: the source of all value? - Mar 10 (1400 words)
What does it mean to say 'labour is the source of all value'? Why does Marx promote the labour theory of value, when a 'corn theory of value' would be just as mathematically valid? Tags: class-struggle
68
The struggle is ongoing - Mar 9 (842 words)
Reflections on the oft-ridiculed liberal idea that we live in 'the end of history', and what that meant to me personally. Tags: personal
67
A brief tale illustrating the tragic consequences of misunderstanding who creates value in a society, told through a series of tweets. Tags: startups
66
Homeless? There's an app for that - Mar 7 (1662 words)
The great delusion of startup culture is that basically every problem can be solved with a startup, even a social problem like homelessness. Tags: startups, housing, inequality
65
Capitalism and freedom - Mar 6 (1214 words)
Why do free market ideologues think capitalism is the best way to achieve freedom, and how should the left respond? Tags: ideology, class-struggle
64
Even, a fintech startup that offers payday loans, presents itself as tackling poverty. In reality, it's merely profiting from it. Tags: startups, financialisation
63
Free software, free ethics - Mar 4 (1643 words)
Did the free software movement sell out? Or was its vision of a software commons a doomed proposition from the outset? Tags: open-source, ideology
62
Class denialism - Mar 3 (1552 words)
The grand delusion of modern-day liberalism is that it denies the existence of distinct economic classes, instead opting to pretend that we're all in it together. Tags: class-struggle
61
Brief interviews with HR - Mar 2 (1060 words)
A series of imaginary conversations with HR at various unnamed tech companies. Tags: big-tech, startups, david-foster-wallace
60
An imaginary conversation with a representative of an unnamed gig economy company. Tags: gig-economy, david-foster-wallace
59
February recap - Feb 28 (1475 words)
A summary of the last 27 posts. Only 10 months to go ... Tags: recap
58
Bank of Uber - Feb 27 (1321 words)
A rundown of Uber's forays into the world of finance, and what that tells us about the system that gave rise to Uber. Tags: gig-economy, financialisation
57
The downside of tech IPOs - Feb 26 (1454 words)
This year's lineup of high-profile tech IPOs is going to be really, really bad for anyone who wants to live in the Bay Area and doesn't have access to IPO money. Tags: startups, inequality, housing
56
Analysing the dubious business model of a real-life startup, Cobo: a 'two-sided marketplace for working out of homes during the day'. Tags: housing, startups
55
Life under fascist rule - Feb 24 (1121 words)
In the alternate history TV series 'The Man in the High Castle', most of 1960s America simply accepts Nazi or Japanese rule as a fact of life. Why don't they resist? Tags: the-man-in-the-high-castle, ideology
54
Capitalism, empathy, and punishment - Feb 23 (1173 words)
Capital has many weapons at its disposal, but it takes a profound lack of empathy to actually pull the trigger. Tags: class-struggle
53
Without their permission - Feb 22 (1427 words)
Startup founders love to flout the rules, assuming it's best to ask for forgiveness, not permission. But they're not breaking the rules for the right cause. Tags: class-struggle, startups
52
I was marching - Feb 21 (726 words)
On Meridel Le Sueur's celebrated essay of the same name, about her experiences during the Minneapolis truck drivers' strike of 1934. Tags: the-left, class-struggle
51
You say you're a socialist, but ... - Feb 20 (1394 words)
How can socialists claim they care about workers' rights but still use their iPhone? Easy: because socialism is a method of systemic critique, not a description of personal consumption habits. Tags: the-left
50
Gatekeeping in the tech industry - Feb 19 (1129 words)
On the 'computer priesthood', negative solidarity, and the story of a hit man who kills other hit men so he can make more money. Tags: cultural-criticism, ideology, class-struggle
49
Why is J.K. Rowling so rich? - Feb 18 (850 words)
Because modern-day capitalism is extremely bad at effectively allocating resources. Tags: inequality
48
Fleshing out the catchphrase that began as a Twitter joke but has since become part of my larger political project. Tags: class-struggle, big-tech
47
'Old people' are not the problem - Feb 16 (854 words)
Generational war is a poor substitute for class war, because it misdiagnoses the cause of the problem. Tags: class-struggle
46
Operation Barbarossa - Feb 15 (1643 words)
Fleshing out a (possibly tenuous) parallel between capital's relationship to labour & Germany's 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Tags: ideology, class-struggle, the-man-in-the-high-castle
45
Mainstream US politics is a great illustration of how not to solve the prisoner's dilemma. Tags: class-struggle
44
What the prevalence of advertising fraud tells us about the business models of platforms like Google & Facebook, and why advertising is core to capitalism as a whole. Tags: games, advertising, big-tech
43
When a tip is not a tip - Feb 12 (2108 words)
On DoorDash's institutionalised tip theft policy, and how that undermines the implicit contract that gives it legitimacy. Tags: gig-economy, class-struggle, ideology
42
People of wealth - Feb 11 (522 words)
On Howard Schultz's recent suggestion to refer to billionaires as 'people of wealth' instead. Tags: class-struggle
41
When everyone else is an NPC - Feb 10 (1619 words)
On Dynasty Warriors, and the political implications of treating other people like NPCs. Tags: games, ideology, class-struggle
40
Exploding the contradictions - Feb 9 (828 words)
More on Erik Olin Wright, and how his theory of 'contradictory class location' could be relevant to tech worker organising. Tags: class-struggle
39
No map is available - Feb 8 (1119 words)
On Erik Olin Wright and his idea of a socialist compass. Tags: personal
38
The limits of consumer action - Feb 7 (1615 words)
Instacart workers recently organised against a change in pay structure, and won. Bizarrely, some saw this as a victory for consumer action. Tags: gig-economy, class-struggle
37
Gaming frequent flyer programs - Feb 6 (2481 words)
As airlines' products have gotten more and more consumer-unfriendly - made possible through consolidation and shareholder pressures - their loyalty programs have become more like games. Tags: financialisation, personal, travel, games
36
Leaping into the unknown - Feb 5 (1946 words)
An attempt to explain why I latched onto left politics after ragequitting tech. Tags: personal, the-left
35
Selling shovels - Feb 4 (1944 words)
On Silicon Valley and the new California Gold Rush. Tags: startups, class-struggle, personal, advertising
34
The Super Bowl - Feb 3 (1687 words)
The 53rd Super Bowl took place today, in the Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, in an exciting display of ads interpersed with a bit of football. Tags: advertising, mark-fisher
33
An ad on every surface - Feb 2 (1405 words)
The logical endpoint of capitalism is a world where every inch of existence is both commodified and contains an advertisement for something else. Tags: advertising
32
The Viewer In The High Castle - Feb 1 (2469 words)
Thoughts on the TV adaptation of The Man In The High Castle. Plus: a previously unpublished essay on why this sort of dystopian science fiction is important. Tags: the-man-in-the-high-castle, david-foster-wallace, cultural-criticism
31
January recap - Jan 31 (2445 words)
A summary of the last 30 posts, and a glimpse of topics I'll be writing about next month. Tags: recap
30
Today in tech news: Apple fires a warning shot at Facebook for violating its app store policies. And the wheel keeps spinning. Tags: game-of-thrones, big-tech, advertising
29
The Lucas Plan & Silicon Valley - Jan 29 (1861 words)
In the 1970s, workers at Lucas Aerospace came up with a plan to repurpose the company's equipment to build more socially useful products, while also bringing it under worker control. Tags: class-struggle, big-tech
28
Tech workers and journalists, unite? - Jan 28 (1156 words)
Google and Facebook didn't cause the demise of journalism, but they are hastening it, and hurting journalists in the process. But it doesn't have to be this way. Tags: class-struggle, big-tech, advertising
27
Making kings out of startup founders - Jan 27 (1738 words)
The legitimating myth of Silicon Valley suggests that successful entrepreneurs deserve their untold wealth because they created value for which they should be rewarded. Tags: startups, ideology, big-tech, gig-economy, inequality
26
Reflections on Fyre Festival - Jan 26 (1985 words)
Entrepreneur (and scam artist) Billy McFarland was a product of his system, and he has more in common with 'legitimate' entrepreneurs than they'd like to admit. Tags: ideology, startups
25
Some problems arise due to the larger socioeconomic system, and introducing technical innovations won't help unless they actually change that system. Tags: startups, inequality
24
Capital knows who the enemy is - Jan 24 (1335 words)
Labour is often confused about where its class interests lie. But capital never forgets. Tags: class-struggle, big-tech, ideology
23
What makes a diamond necklace worth $150 million? Why does everyone act as if it is worth anything at all? Tags: financialisation, ideology, cultural-criticism
22
A materialist analysis of RuneScape - Jan 22 (1703 words)
The materialist analysis that no one asked for but that I've been wanting to write for ages. Don't ask why. I won't be hurt if you don't read this. Tags: games, ideology, financialisation, personal, cultural-criticism
21
The 'click' - Jan 21 (1599 words)
What brought me to the left was finding a cognitive 'click' when I discovered big-t Theory. Tags: the-left, personal, david-foster-wallace
20
One of the justifications behind the rise of the financial industry is that it provides liquidity. But liquidity isn't always a good thing. Tags: financialisation, public-services
19
The world's richest couple - Jan 19 (2762 words)
Sure, MacKenzie Bezos should get half of Jeff Bezos' Amazon stock. But in an ideal world, that would be worth nothing. Tags: liberal-feminism, big-tech, financialisation, ideology
18
On scooters - Jan 18 (1422 words)
Scooter startups should not exist. If we want scooters, they should be a public service. Tags: startups, public-services, inequality
17
There's a storm coming - Jan 17 (1520 words)
The 2008 financial crisis showed us what happens when your models are incomplete. Tech companies have a similar problem, but with class struggle. Tags: financialisation, big-tech, class-struggle, gig-economy, batman, underdogs
16
Need to get your driver's license renewed, but don't want to spend 6 hours waiting in line? There's an app for that. Tags: gig-economy, startups, ideology, inequality
15
The idea of 'pre-tax income' is a pernicious myth that has led to some really dumb libertarian takes around 'taxpayer money'. It needs to be abolished. Tags: inequality, ideology, public-services, personal
14
Advice for anyone considering doing a masters degree on the topic of inequality. Tags: personal, inequality, career-advice
13
Tech startups may start out with good intentions, but the process of gaining wealth and power comes with existential risks. Tags: underdogs, batman, startups, ideology
12
What a lawsuit over gender discrimination in the top echelons of Silicon Valley reveals about the weakness of liberal feminism. Tags: liberal-feminism, inequality
11
The overnight test - Jan 11 (1359 words)
On Linds Reddings' 2012 blog post 'A Short Lesson in Perspective', which reflects on his 30 years in the advertising industry and concludes that it wasn't worth it. Tags: advertising, career-advice, personal
10
Take the job, but organise - Jan 10 (1207 words)
Have the option to work in tech, but concerned about the ethics of the industry? There's a solution for that: organise. Tags: big-tech, class-struggle, career-advice
9
Remember who the enemy is - Jan 9 (1465 words)
On Mark Fisher's 2013 blog post about The Hunger Games & why it's still relevant today. Tags: mark-fisher, the-hunger-games, ideology, class-struggle, cultural-criticism
8
Revenge of the nerds - Jan 8 (1679 words)
Reflections on Paul Graham's 2003 blog post about nerds, and what it illuminates about the tech industry today. Tags: startups, ideology, personal, underdogs
7
A truly diabolical startup idea that I really hope never actually materialises. Tags: inequality, startups
6
Dialectical banter - Jan 6 (1567 words)
A compendium of bad jokes about politics, philosophy, and other things, featuring myself and @tlornewr. Tags: personal, the-left
5
Musings on the concept of upward mobility, and how it's used to excuse inequality, no matter how stark or unjustifiable. Tags: inequality, ideology, gig-economy
4
But what if we used drones? - Jan 4 (2379 words)
The US needs neither a border wall nor drones. Plus: a previously unpublished piece on 'illegal' immigration. Tags: immigration, startups
3
Some inchoate thoughts on organising Silicon Valley's shadow workforce and why it matters. Tags: class-struggle, big-tech, ideology
2
2018 in retrospective - Jan 2 (1437 words)
A highly curated summary of things that happened to me in 2018. Tags: personal, immigration, writing
1
Why I'm doing this - Jan 1 (1081 words)
Why I'm making myself write a blog post every day in 2019. Tags: personal, mark-fisher, writing