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The rise of dopamine culture.

Welcome to Wednesday, Apexians. It’s one of those days where I’m devoting our entire installment to just one piece. Because I think it’s important.

For years, I’ve been grousing about the enshittification of the internet. (I didn’t use that word, of course, until Cory Doctorow coined it last year. It’s perfect. (More here.)

I was always a vocal detractor of Twitter. I loathe TikTok, which I think embodies everything that’s wrong with modern culture. It’s a net negative for our society — and a huge one — not a net positive.

Anyhow, Ted Gioia (the honest broker) recently published a pair of articles that I think ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks seriously about modern life. Today’s installment of Apex is devoted exclusively to them.

The rise of dopamine culture. [The Honest Broker] — “The tech platforms aren’t like the Medici in Florence, or those other rich patrons of the arts. They don’t want to find the next Michelangelo or Mozart. They want to create a world of junkies — because they will be the dealers. Addiction is the goal. They don’t say it openly, but they don’t need to. Just look at what they do. Everything is designed to lock users into an addictive cycle.”

In both articles, Gioia shares this graphic, which I think is both clever and apt.

His second piece is a follow-up to the first.

In praise of ritual. [The Honest Broker] — “I want to focus on the many positive ways people create a healthy, integrated life that minimizes scrolling and swiping and mindless digital distractions. Many of you have found joy and solace—and an escape from app dependence—in artmaking or nature walks or other real world activities. There are countless ways of being-in-the-world with contentment and mindfulness. Today I want to discuss just one bedrock of real world life that is often neglected—or frequently even mocked: Ritual.”

In that second piece, Gioia writes, “I find it revealing and disturbing that readers who work on the front lines (in education, therapy, or tech itself) expressed the highest degree of alarm. They know better than anybody where we’re heading, and want to find an escape path.”

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself browsing a couple of subreddits for university professors. The posts there echo Gioia. They’re scary.

I know this probably comes across very much as “old man bitching about young people”, but that’s not what I intend it to be. It’s not only young people. It’s all people — or at least all people who actively use modern devices and the internet. We’re all falling victim to this. Even me. Especially me.

So, that’s Apex for today. It’s probably also my personal blog for today haha. This topic is important enough to me that I want to spread it to as large an audience as possible.

I’ll be back tomorrow with our regularly-scheduled programming.