March 15, 2023•384 words
Rome's plebeian citizens tried "secessio plebis" many times: they left the city and refused to come back until their demands were met. The patricians, unable to get even the basic things to function on their own, yielded - on at least five occasions.
Modern employees are trying this right now. There was the Great Resignation, there's the Conscious Quitting - and my favourite trend: getting others to watch you quit your job on social media.
In many ways, this has always been the promise: you take away whatever little contribution you've got in the system, and watch the system change. You join forces to make the taking-away more pronounced, and watch the system changes get stronger.
I'm thinking about more than work, though. In traditional settings, quitting meant taking away your labour. In surveillance capitalism, it's more complex than that - and yet the premise is the same.
If enough people quit a bad employer, there's not enough labour to use up, and the business grinds to a halt.
If enough people quit a bad social medium, there's not enough eyeballs on ads, so the advertisers go somewhere else, so the platform grinds to a halt.
If enough people leave the surveillance-laced, bullshit-filled internet, there's not enough subjects to surveil and peddle bullshit to, so the system grinds to a halt.
In a system built on your presence, your data, your attention and willpower, these are the things you take away to go somewhere else.
"Where are you going to go?", asks the business owner, and the CEO. They're bluffing, desperately. We can call the bluff on bad businesses and bad social media platforms now - there's usually somewhere else to go, and these guys know it.
For now, we catch rare glimpses of how we might be able to call the surveillance capitalist's bluff. Where are we going to go when we're away from the internet? What happens in these moments when you move house and the cable guys haven't been yet? Libraries? Outdoors? Talking to people in coffee shops? Most of our answers are about the past.
The big idea might be for us to be able to go somewhere else, somewhere new - the moment we decide to leave the internet. The big idea might be to build a future-looking answer.