Liked Pluralistic: You were promised a jetpack by liars (17 May 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

As a society, we have vested an alarming amount of power in the hands of tech billionaires who profess to be embittered science fiction fans who merely want to realize the “promises” of our Golden Age stfnal dreams. These bros insist that they can overcome both the technical hurdles and the absolutely insurmountable privation involved in space colonization:

They have somehow mistaken Neal Stephenson’s dystopian satirical “metaverse” for a roadmap:

As Charlie Stross writes, it’s not just that these weirdos can’t tell the difference between imaginative parables about the future and predictions about the future – it’s also that they keep mistaking dystopias for business plans:

Cyberpunk was a warning, not a suggestion. Please, I beg you, stop building the fucking torment nexus:

Pluralistic: You were promised a jetpack by liars (17 May 2024) by Cory Doctorow

Bookmarked Pluralistic: The antitrust case against Apple (22 Mar 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

Apple is unexceptional. It’s just another Big Tech monopolist. Rounded corners don’t preserve virtue any better than square ones. Any company that is freed from constraints – of competition, regulation and interoperability – will always enshittify. Apple – being unexceptional – is no exception.

Bookmarked Someday, we’ll all take comfort in the internet’s “dark corners” (

We all deserve dark corners where we stand a chance of finding well-managed communities that can deliver the value that keeps us stuck to our decaying giant platforms. Eventually, the enshittification will chase every user off these platforms – not just kids or sex-workers or political radicals. When that happens, it sure would be nice if everyone could set up in a dark corner of their own.

Someday, we’ll all take comfort in the internet’s “dark corners”/ by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow explains as platforms continue to become more problematic, that dark corners on the web will become so important. For me this comes back to the challenge of the domain of one’s own. The problem I feel is that it is easier to have a site of your own, but more of a challenge to build a community. I guess time will tell.

Read The Bezzle

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Money-laundering, cyber-knavery and shell-company chicanery: Marty Hench is an expert in them all. He’s Silicon Valley’s most accomplished forensic accountant and well versed in the devious ways of Fortune 500s, divorcing oligarchs, and international drug cartels alike (and there’s more crossover than you might imagine).
Cory Doctorow’s hard-charging, read-in-one-sitting, techno take on the classic PI pulp novel.
**It’s 2006, and Marty Hench is at the top of his game as a self-employed forensic accountant, a veteran of the long guerrilla war between the people who want to hide money and the people who want to find it.
He spends his downtime holidaying on Catalina Island, where scenic, imported bison wander the bluffs and frozen, reheated fast food burgers cost $25. (Wait, what?)
When, during one vacation, Marty disrupts a seemingly innocuous scheme, he has no idea he’s kicked off a chain of events that will overtake the next decade of his life.
Because he’s made his most dangerous mistake yet. He’s trespassed into the playgrounds of the ultra-wealthy and identified their latest target: California’s Department of Corrections, who manage the state’s prison system.
Secure in the knowledge that they’re living behind far too many firewalls to be identified, the tycoons have hundreds of thousands of prisoners at their mercy, and the potential of millions of pounds to make off them.
But now, Marty is about to ruin their fun…

Source: The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow has a way of holding up a mirror that helps make the world around feel that bit stranger, in a good way. The Martin Hench series explores the world through the eyes of forensic accountant. With The Bezzle, Doctorow dives into the world of the US prison system and the way that anyone can be held guilty of something. Marlene argues that the book is a ‘bezzle within a bezzle’:

The story in The Bezzle is a bezzle within a bezzle in a kind of möbius strip of bezzling that doesn’t so much end as shift into a state of mutually assured destruction. A state that Marty, fortunately for him, is finally able to observe from the outside looking in, instead of either from the inside of a jail cell looking out the way that his friend Scott ends up, or up from six feet under, as the villain of this story certainly intended.


However, I was left wondering if we are always-already interpellated within the bezzle and that we are never truly outside of this?

I enjoyed the book and as always was left thinking about everything from pyramid schemes, open access and privitisation. I liked Tavendale’s suggestion that it is part novel and part cautionary tale.

It reads partly as a novel and partly a cautionary tale on the excesses of the worlds of business and finance, and on the toothlessness of governmental oversight.

Source: Book Review: The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow by Tavendale

This is probably a good way of discussing most of Doctorow’s writing as he shines a light on certain elements of life around us to help us think differently.

My only frustration was with who is Martin Hench. Yes there were similarities with The Red Team Blues, but there were times it felt like a different characters. I kind of wondered if this was some sort of quantum fiction where the same character is able to live out different realities in different worlds that are both related and unrelated. For example, in Red Team Blues, Hench is in his late 60’s. However, in the ten years that this book spans, I am unsure how old Hench is or is meant to be. With all that aside, I felt it was a thought provoking read and enjoyed reading it.

Liked Pluralistic: The Coprophagic AI crisis (14 Mar 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

A key requirement for being a science fiction writer without losing your mind is the ability to distinguish between science fiction (futuristic thought experiments) and predictions. SF writers who lack this trait come to fancy themselves fortune-tellers who SEE! THE! FUTURE!

The thing is, sf writers cheat. We palm cards in order to set up pulp adventure stories that let us indulge our thought experiments. These palmed cards – say, faster-than-light drives or time-machines – are narrative devices, not scientifically grounded proposals.

The Coprophagic AI crisis by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow reflects on the science fiction narrative device that ‘more training data’ can improve artificial intelligence arguing that it simply is not true.

What’s more, while the proposition that “more training data will linearly improve the quality of AI predictions” is a mere article of faith, “training an AI on the output of another AI makes it exponentially worse” is a matter of fact.

Source: The Coprophagic AI crisis by Cory Doctorow

Liked Pluralistic: Your car spies on you and rats you out to insurance companies (12 Mar 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

Cars are enshittified. The dozens of chips that auto makers have shoveled into their car design are only incidentally related to delivering a better product. The primary use for those chips is autoenshittification – access to legal strictures (“IP”) that allows them to block modifications and repairs that would interfere with the unfettered abuse of their own customers

Replied to Message in a bottle by David TrussDavid Truss (

Write a note, put it in a bottle, cork it, and throw it into the ocean. The tides move the bottle from one shore to another and the message is picked up randomly by a stranger who isn’t expecting the message. An audience of one. Today, the internet lets us toss our message into a […]

Today, the internet lets us toss our message into a cyber ocean. As I write this, I have an idea of some of the people who will see it, but I also know that it has the potential to be picked up by some random person somewhere far away, opened up and read at random, without me ever knowing where my post, my message in a bottle, landed.

David Truss

Hi David, I was wading through my ocean of RSS and this post popped up. Personally, when I publish on the web, I am always left with the thought that it could be read, not that it will be read. This possibility forces me to be clear and concise with what I write. This is something that Clive Thompson once wrote about regarding the power of blogging:

Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.

Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter by Clive Thompson

Reflecting on research into education, he argues that their is power in explaining your thoughts.

Children who didn’t explain their thinking performed worst. The ones who recorded their explanations did better.

Why Even the Worst Bloggers Are Making Us Smarter by Clive Thompson

Interestingly, in reflecting upon Pluralistic and his memex method, Cory Doctorow discusses the importance of doing it first and foremost for yourself.

First and foremost, I do it for me. The memex I’ve created by thinking about and then describing every interesting thing I’ve encountered is hugely important for how I understand the world. It’s the raw material of every novel, article, story and speech I write.

20 years a blogger by Cory Doctorow

Thinking of blogging like this makes me wonder about the ‘message in a bottle’ metaphor. Maybe there is an alternative history to ‘messages in a bottle’, but all the tales that I read about them was that they related to people trying to escape their little island. I am not sure that is why I write? I am happy if someone passing finds my message and wishes to trade ideas, something you commented on ten years ago:

“As connected learners we are not just curating ideas and resources, we are creating relationships, some are just ‘weak ties’ but others are very meaning, rich and strong. I don’t just read Dean, I hear his voice, I connect to previous things he has said, and I pause just a little longer if he says something I disagree with.” David Truss in response to Learning in a Connected World

It Takes a Village … by Aaron Davis

But I am not sure I wanted to be rescued? I wonder if Doctorow’s dandelion metaphor is more apt?

Dandelions produce two thousand seeds every spring, and when a good, stiff breeze comes around, those seeds are blown into the air, going every which way. The dandelion’s strategy is to maximize the number of blind chances it has for continuing its genetic line—not to carefully plot every germination. It works: every summer, every crack in every sidewalk has a dandelion growing out of it.

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow

Bookmarked Pluralistic: The majority of censorship is self-censorship; The Bezzle excerpt (Part V) (22 Feb 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

Censors have always done – and still do – their work not by wielding power, but by projecting it. Even the most powerful state actors are not powerful enough to truly censor, in the sense of confiscating every work expressing an idea and punishing everyone who creates such a work. Instead, they rely on self-censorship, both by individuals and by intermediaries. When censors act to block one work and not another, or when they punish one transgressor while another is free to speak, it’s tempting to think that they are following some arcane ruleset that defines when enforcement is strict and when it’s weak. But the truth is, they censor erratically because they are too weak to censor comprehensively.

Source: Pluralistic: The majority of censorship is self-censorship; The Bezzle excerpt (Part V) (22 Feb 2024) by Cory Doctorow

Discussing Ada Palmer’s essay Tools for Thinking About Censorship, Cory Doctorow explains how the majority of censorship is actually self-censorship that is enforced by powerful state actors projecting power, rather than enforcing it.

Bookmarked Pluralistic: Brinkwhump Linkdump (02 Mar 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

All of this cartoonish villainry is the totally foreseeable consequence of a culture of impunity, in which companies like HP and KPMG can rob, cheat, steal (and sometimes even kill) without consequence. This impunity is so pervasive that the exceptions – where a rich criminal faces real consequences – become touchstones: Enron, Arthur Anderson, Theranos, and, of course, FTX.

Source: by Cory Doctorow

In a linkdump, Cory Doctorow reflects upon KPMG’s stuff up in auditing the wrong company for the Australian government and HP’s push for users to pay rent for printers.

Liked Pluralistic: How I got scammed (05 Feb 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

I wuz robbed.

More specifically, I was tricked by a phone-phisher pretending to be from my bank, and he convinced me to hand over my credit-card number, then did $8,000+ worth of fraud with it before I figured out what happened. And then he tried to do it again, a week later!

Source: Pluralistic: How I got scammed (05 Feb 2024)

Replied to Start Up No.2158: Senate yells at tech leaders, want an ‘everything reader’?, US zaps infected routers, Vision Pro?, and more (The Overspill: when there’s more that I want to say)

I’ve heard Doctorow speak, and he’s incredibly persuasive: he has that rare talent of making everything he says sound like it’s completely obvious, and each successive piece of logic as inexorable as Lego pieces joining. Also: I’ve no idea how he produces so much, day after day, and finds time to sleep and eat.

Source: Start Up No.2158: Senate yells at tech leaders, want an ‘everything reader’?, US zaps infected routers, Vision Pro?, and more by @charlesarthur

I often wonder the same thing Charles. I struggle to keep up with all of Cory’s work, let alone to consider the amount of time and effort that must go into it. I think he clearly must have well honed habits. Just wonder if there is any downtime in his life?

Replied to Pluralistic: American education has all the downsides of standardization, none of the upsides (16 Jan 2024) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

If I found myself at loose ends, trying to find a project to devote the rest of my life to, I’d be pitching funders on building a national, open access portal to build an educational commons.

Source: American education has all the downsides of standardization, none of the upsides by Cory Doctorow

Although it was not necessarily ‘national’ or ‘open access’, one of the things that was attempted by the Ultranet was an educational commons. The challenge I found with this was around mindset. Even though staff were paid by the government, many teachers saw resources created as their own, not something to be added to a collective repository.

I kind of get the feeling that this maybe what Bonfire is trying to achieve. I have not given it enough time to know though.

Liked Pluralistic: What kind of bubble is AI? (19 Dec 2023) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

Once the bubble pops (all bubbles pop), AI applications will have to rise or fall on their actual merits, not their promise. The odds are stacked against the long-term survival of high-value, risk-intolerant AI applications.

The problem for AI is that while there are a lot of risk-tolerant applications, they’re almost all low-value; while nearly all the high-value applications are risk-intolerant. Once AI has to be profitable – once investors withdraw their subsidies from money-losing ventures – the risk-tolerant applications need to be sufficient to run those tremendously expensive servers in those brutally expensive data-centers tended by exceptionally expensive technical workers.

If they aren’t, then the business case for running those servers goes away, and so do the servers – and so do all those risk-tolerant, low-value applications. It doesn’t matter if helping blind people make sense of their surroundings is socially beneficial. It doesn’t matter if teenaged gamers love their epic character art. It doesn’t even matter how horny scammers are for generating AI nonsense SEO websites

Source: What kind of bubble is AI? by Cory Doctorow

Liked Pluralistic: “If buying isn’t owning, piracy isn’t stealing” (08 Dec 2023) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow ( Today’s links “If buying isn’t owning, piracy isn’t stealing”: When Big Content makes the paid version *worse* than the free one. Hey look at this: Delights to delectate. This day in history: 2003, 2008, 2018, 2022. Colophon: Recent pu…

Red Team Blues by Cory Doctorow is the first novel in the Marty Hench series. It revolves around Hench, a forensic accountant doing one last job. However, things do not necessarily go to plan.

One of the things that I find interesting about Doctorow’s work is the balance between observing the world and explaining how things work. With Red Team Blues, more than say the Little Brother series, I felt myself enthralled in the story, rather than being endlessly distracted by the technology. Paul Di Filippo talks about a ‘maturing’, but I also think that this series has a different feel, providing a different perspective. Rather than youth, we are given an older perspective, with Marty Hench 67 and ready for retirement.

My only gripe with the novel was that Hench really did not seem like a 67 year old, but then again, his life is clearly a bit different.

I got the Wil Wheaton read audiobook as a part of a pledged associated with the Kickstarter campaign.

Liked Pluralistic: 07 Oct 2022 “Don’t spy on a privacy lab,” and other career advice for university provosts by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

the students arrange the sensors into a “public art piece” in the lobby – a table covered in sensors spelling out “NO!,” surrounded by Sharpie annotations decrying the program.

Meanwhile, students are still furious. It’s not just that the sensors are invasive, nor that they are scientifically incoherent, nor that they cost more than a year’s salary – they also emit lots of RF noise that interferes with the students’ own research.

Bookmarked Interoperable Facebook (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

What if Facebook – and the other tech giants – were simply less important to your life? What if you had lots of choices about how you and the people you care about could communicate with each other?

In a video and paper, Cory Doctorow unpacks how an interoperable Facebook might work. He does this by unpacking four scenarios:

– Notifying contacts that you are leaving Facebook
– Blocking content from particular federated servers
– Blocking objectionable material from Facebook that it allows, but your network does not
– Posting material that Facebook prohibits

What excites me about the world that Doctorow imagines in this paper is the control and nuance over such things as feeds. Personally, I would be just grateful to be able to follow updates from sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin via a feed, rather than having to log in.

Replied to Pluralistic: 17 Aug 2022: Chokepoint Capitalism Kickstarter is live by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (

What is “chokepoint capitalism?” It’s when a multinational monopolist (or cartel) locks up audiences inside a system that they control, and uses that control to gouge artists, creating toll booths between creators and their audiences.

I have supported Cory Doctorow’s latest kickstarter. Interesting to see the use of in regards to the audiobook. Seems a similar approach to musicians using Bandcamp to provide access to crowdfunded music.
Liked The Swerve (Locus)

The swerve is our hopeful future. Our happy ending isn’t averting the disas­ter. Our happy ending is surviving the disaster. Managed retreat. Emergency measures.

In the swerve, we’ll still have refugee crises, but we’ll address them hu­manely, rather than building gulags and guard-towers.

We’ll still have wildfires, but we’ll evacuate cities ahead of them, and we’ll commit billions to controlled burns.

We’ll still have floods, but we’ll relocate our cities out of floodplains.

Bookmarked So You’ve Decided to Unfollow Me – Cory Doctorow – Medium (Medium)

Find a writer you like and read them. If you can’t find the writer whose work you want to read, become that writer. That’s what I did. It’s great.

Cory Doctorow addresses the changing times in regards to challenges with being able to be able follow a particular part of someone’s interests or output.

If you loved a writer’s output of x but couldn’t abide their output of y, no problem — you’d just suck their feed into your reader and tell it to block stuff tagged as y.

That dream is mostly dead. Even on the Fediverse, your ability to follow someone for x but not y is crude as hell, hardly better than the web of the early 2000s.

Personally, what I find interesting about Doctorow’s discussion is whether you find a writer or are just interested in a topic. Although I am really intrigued by Chris Aldrich’s model, where you can easily put together a custom feed of the bits you you like. I fear that this sort of model still puts too my onus on the writer, not the reader. I also feel that maybe there is something of a reality of going crate digging. Maybe, feed readers will continue to evolve and become ‘smart’, but for now I will live with the practice of serendipitously sifting and sorting through feeds for the dots.