Episode 267
August 19, 2022

“The Algorithm Made Him Do It”

As we wrap up conference season, we discuss the vibe shift, the crying CEO, and how algorithms are a celebration of insincerity. Listen now!

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this episode sponsored by

Vibe Shift, Say What?

  • Brian is live from Etail East, covering what’s going on, how it went, and how far conference season has come since last year.
  • We’re not talking about data anymore… we’re talking about vibes. We talk about them in The Senses, but the vibe shift is different for everything. 
  • “The funniest thing about this idea of vibe shift is that everyone is having a really hard time defining what it is and where we're going.” – Brian
  • In the wise words of Brian Lange, “you can’t have a vibe if you’re not with somebody.”
  • Everyone is casting lots of their communal vibes into a pool, and a layer cake is happening of what the new vibe is. If the vibes are wrong, you go and find a new vibe. 
  • People are going to follow the algorithm no matter what, it's just who we are. 
  • “If the algorithm is the ultimate media, the message is humanity is unnecessary.” – Brian
  • The algorithm is taking over things that humanity can analyze, those being: what is, what could be, and what should be. 
  • “This person's livelihood is at the mercy of the algorithm.” –Phillip 
  • When you don’t update the algorithm soon enough, the crying selfie is what happens. Eventually, it leads to undesirable outcomes because everyone plays the game well.

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Phillip: [00:00:08] Sing it, Brian. {singing} "Tears stream..." Sing it. {singing} "Down your..." Sing it. Come on. You can sing it.

Brian: [00:01:23] {singing} "Down your face."

Phillip: [00:01:27] {laughter} He goes down an octave. I love it. Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about crying CEOs and a bunch of other stuff. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:34] I guess that is in the falsetto.

Phillip: [00:01:37] Are you recording on your end, by the way?

Brian: [00:01:39] I think I am.

Phillip: [00:01:42] {laughter} You think you're recording on your Zoom device?

Brian: [00:01:45] Yep. Yep, I'm right.

Phillip: [00:01:46] Yeah. Okay, good, good.

Brian: [00:01:47] I'm Live at eTail East, everyone.

Phillip: [00:01:49] All right, we're going to cover a bunch of stuff here today. We're going to talk about the cringe post of the decade. Braden Wallake from HyperSocial. We're going to talk about that. I think that this guy did nothing wrong. The algorithm made him do it. We'll get into that. Brian, you're at eTail East. Give me a little bit of a little overview. What's the mood like as we kind of head into the fall and the BFCM season?

Brian: [00:02:19] It felt like business as usual, actually. That's it. It was like, yeah, it felt like everyone was fully back. It didn't even feel weird. Just felt like kind of I think everyone just was like, "Back to conference season." And eTail East is typically a little smaller.

Phillip: [00:02:38] Yes, that was what I was going to say. If it was back to normal, it means eTail east was a little contained.

Brian: [00:02:44] Yep.

Phillip: [00:02:44] Not very rowdy.

Brian: [00:02:45] It felt really normal. Like it felt like a normal eTail East. Smaller than eTail West.

Phillip: [00:02:53] Sure.

Brian: [00:02:53] And not in a critical way, not as much fun as eTail West because yes, eTail West is in Palm Springs, although and it was cloyingly hot in Boston.

Phillip: [00:03:05] Cloyingly hot.

Brian: [00:03:07] Yes. The weather today is fantastic. And as usual, there was lots of good food to be had around Boston. I love going to Boston even in the heat. I was happy to be here. It's such a beautiful, beautiful city. That is something the eTail series has nailed is picking awesome spots to be.

Phillip: [00:03:38] I like Boston. It's a pretty dope little city. You're there right now, actually, as we're recording.

Brian: [00:03:45] I am.

Phillip: [00:03:45] So we've got this is the last big conference of the season, right? That sort of caps off the end of the sort of eCommerce everyone's getting back to work and building up towards the holiday season. We know that...

Brian: [00:03:59] Unless you count Groceryshop which that's the...

Phillip: [00:04:02] Yeah, I guess you're right. Now that's in October, right?

Brian: [00:04:05] In September.

Phillip: [00:04:06] September. Okay. So we've got one more left here. But, you know, I think Grocery is probably less impacted in the same way that holiday purchasing patterns go. And also what I've seen, we were at Groceryshop last year. I remember we had a really interesting podcast and talked about a lot of really sort of like... I think that was the first Vegas show back for us after COVID. The tone of the like vendor area, the attendees... There were a lot of attendees, as I remember, 700 or 800. There were quite a few attendees.

Brian: [00:04:52] Or more. It was like a couple of grand.

Phillip: [00:04:54] I don't remember. I've replaced those memories now with a bunch of crap and we'll have to talk about it. I overwrote those because not really important. What I do remember is that it's very, very different from a vendor perspective. Like what services grocery? Well, it's a ton of automation and you see a lot of like robotics and a lot of automated computing. You see a lot of that sort of fulfillment angle, especially around eCommerce fulfillment and last mile direct delivery partnerships, that sort of thing. And that makes that show interesting for me. That's the thing that kind of makes that show interesting.

Brian: [00:05:34] It is an interesting show. Looking forward to going. Really happy to be here at eTail. If I recall correctly, for the last Groceryshop, that's when we were like, "Oh yeah, Retail X was the sacrificial lamb of conferences." They felt like they had sort of come back with Groceryshop. Of course, we then went into NRF, which was...

Phillip: [00:05:55] Oh yeah, NRF was like, Yeah.

Brian: [00:05:57] Yes. But funny enough, I feel like I think I mentioned this, I was at eTail West as well. That show was really the first one back. And then we went into Shoptalk which was very, very, very, very back. And so I feel like we've kind of got over that shock now. I think it's like it's just back to business as usual.

Phillip: [00:06:26] Biz as uzhe.

Brian: [00:06:28] Biz as uzhe. Yes. B A U

Phillip: [00:06:29] Let's speaking of business as usual, let's take a little bit of a side journey here recently on The Senses, which is a newsletter that comes out twice a week from Future Commerce, we covered a couple of things that have just come around recently. A lot of growth in nonalcoholic beverage and nonalcoholic beverage, while it's growing from all of the entrenched incumbents, we're also seeing a lot of challenges happening in the NA beverage and low ABV beverage space with a lot of startups, namely Haus who? Helena Price Hambrecht, who is a friend of the show, just put out a Twitter post breaking a long Twitter silence over the last year, but she had posted on Twitter that Haus was unable to raise its series A after its lead pulled out and that sort of put them in a position... She had a great write-up and interview in Bon Appetit that I thought was very enlightening as to the process. And her transparency is like, if I built this business in public, I'm going to sell this business in parts and public too. And I felt like that was really courageous. And then there's been a lot of vitriol that sort of come out. So there are a few things that have happened around that that I wanted to cover that came out in The Senses. The first is what something I'm calling... You've heard of the vibe shift.

Brian: [00:07:59] I have actually, I'm really happy we're about to talk about this because I have a lot of thoughts about this that I want to get into. Like I want to talk about this.

Phillip: [00:08:09] So the vibe shift has happened in a lot of ways, right? It's been characterized as well. The vibe shift is well, the vibes are people are just kind of going off vibes, right? Like we're not talking about data anymore, we're talking about vibes. You're not talking about quantifiability or the scientific application of business principles. It's just vibes.

Brian: [00:08:28] Chief Vibes Officer.

Phillip: [00:08:28] {laughter} Right.

Brian: [00:08:29] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:08:32] We're also so this sort of like instinctual or gut-based decision making is a thing that we are hearing and people are using the word vibe as a surrogate for that. We're also seeing big swings in cultural behavior and nonalcoholic beverages are part of that. The sobriety movement seems to be part of that, something we've talked about quite a bit. So there's a little bit of that. So that's part of the vibe shift.

Brian: [00:09:00] Maybe, maybe.

Phillip: [00:09:00] And then in The Senses we also this week teased out a shift in thinking around religion and sort of what would be countercultural to secular and atheistic adherence. It would be well, maybe there's this piece in the New York Times opinion article about, hey, maybe the vibe shift is people returning back to these organized religions, particularly Catholicism. I think that that's all really interesting. And everyone's put this under the umbrella of Vibe Shift. So specifically when we're talking about beverage and alcohol, I'm going to call it the Imbibe Shift. So let's talk about the Imbibe Shift and then we'll talk a little bit about the other things because I find I find them all sort of wrapped up into there's a big swing of a lot of opinions are swinging in a lot of different directions away from things that we might have held to be true. So you have a lot to say.

Brian: [00:10:01] I do have a lot to say. So I heard it said recently that the funniest thing about this idea of vibe shift is that like everyone is having a really, really hard time defining what it is and where we're going. And I have a lot of thoughts about this. I think it actually gets back to the article that I just wrote for Insiders. And this is, I think, the key to all of this. [00:10:33] You can't have a vibe if you're not with somebody. As we've fragmented and things have gotten really one-dimensional in communication methods or even two-dimensional, it's become less dimensional. It is significantly harder to get a vibe or have a vibe. And so the big joke of the vibe shift is that it's like no one can really figure out what's going on. I think that that's because we just haven't really had the opportunity to be together. Reforming culture is what has to happen and it hasn't. We were separated so significantly and we continue to be separated more than we have in the past. And you can't get a vibe on someone without being next to them. [00:11:32] Literally, like smell, feel, touch...

Phillip: [00:11:37] You have to smell a person to really get the vibe. That's what you're saying.

Brian: [00:11:42] I mean, I think that's not that far off, actually. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:11:47] Just double down on it. Yeah.

Brian: [00:11:48] I'm doubling down on it. I think the hardest thing is getting a good read on someone. You can't get a good read on somebody or a situation unless you're all together.

Phillip: [00:12:01] So what if... Let's tease that out for a second. So when people say "The vibes are bad in Web3," or "The vibe shift that happened in Web3," these aren't people that are all acting independently in silos with each other. They're doing that, but they're not next to somebody. These are digital communities. How does the vibe shift then happen? So what you're describing sounds like...

Brian: [00:12:27] General culture... So you're talking about specific communities. I think that...

Phillip: [00:12:33] I have a theory. I'm trying to get to your thing before I disagree with you. I want to understand yours deeper.

Brian: [00:12:41] Yeah, because I think well, there's this, like when the article, the vibe shirt article came out, which was immediately read by everyone and immediately criticized by everyone.

Phillip: [00:12:52] {laughter} Yeah.

Brian: [00:12:54] I think the point of the article was like, hey, we've gone through these different vibes, which I think everyone was actually on... Like that part wasn't criticized. Identification of vibe was not criticized. It's the outcome. The outcome was, well, things are changing again, and maybe it's indie sleaze. The projection of where we were headed was you say vibe shift. Well, there's nothing to put a finger on as to what it is. And so I think my point is that that's because  [00:13:37]as a general culture, we've been more fragmented and disconnected and single modality with our communication or I shouldn't say a single modality, but we've been separated by screens and we've been asynchronous in a lot of communication more than we ever have. [00:13:54]

Phillip: [00:13:56] That makes more sense. Everybody sort of casting lots of their vibes into, you know, a communal pool. And in that behavior, some of the contribution of those vibes are not happening simultaneously. So you sort of create this almost like layer cake effect of you're just building on what the last vibe was. Where as opposed to, and so let's talk about commerce for a second. Because I think this is where I think that the shift specifically, forget the vibe for a second, but the shift is...

Brian: [00:15:26] Right. The shift. Yes.

Phillip: [00:15:26] If the vibes are bad, you go find where the vibes are good. And this is where like do you want to wallow in pity and wallow in sadness or whatever defeatism that you're feeling, whatever you happen to be going through? Culturally, if you can change your circumstance and go be around people who aren't in the pit of despair, wouldn't you go do that? And that could be for me, maybe if for years, maybe the folks you're hanging around, you change the people you're hanging around, and that changes the mood. And maybe those people don't drink as much anymore, right? Maybe they do things in the morning. They don't hang out late at night. And maybe that's what causes you to kind of rethink your priorities when it comes to alcohol consumption. And that changes what you buy and that changes the kind of brands that need to belong in the world. And maybe and this is a bit of a stretch, but Kyle Chayka wrote this piece for New Yorker magazine, and he says, "Well, algorithm anxiety," which is a phrase that I like to think that I coined in October of 2021 when I wrote a piece called The Idolatry of the Algorithm. I talked about algorithm anxiety and how [00:16:42] algorithms are controlling every part of our lives and everything around us. Maybe a digital fast and unplugging from the matrix is what you need so that the vibes are different so that you're not... You turn off Instagram when it makes you feel bad, right? And you turn off Twitter when people are being vitriolic and maybe you just delete your LinkedIn because the CEOs are crying and they're performatively being vulnerable in front of the whole world. But when you make space in your life to do that, you're going to put your time somewhere else. Where does that time go? The time goes to something else that must exist in the world to fill that space and occupy it which results in different purchasing decisions and different people groups that you wind up aligning to. [00:17:23] And so you take that back to algorithm anxiety. If algorithms are controlling everything in your life and you want to unplug from that, maybe there are religious communities or spiritual communities and maybe you're not monotheistic, but maybe we're more polytheistic nowadays like we believe a little bit more of everything. Take a little from this. Take a little from that. Like we're a little more spiritually open-minded. We did this study for Visions. 41% of people said they're more superstitious now than they used to be two years ago. You know, people are a little more open to exploring more areas of their spirituality. They're finding more people to do that with. That changes the way you behave. It changes the things you buy, the clothes you wear to if you go to a church. It changes because the people group that you're aligning to changes. And so that's the thing that I'm trying to get to is that like yeah you just like the unplugging itself changes a lot of the behavior.

Brian: [00:18:22] I think you're absolutely dead on. I'm going to keep coming back to this and probably will be for like the next ten years of my life. But I am being heavily influenced by Marshall McLuhan right now.

Phillip: [00:18:36] For those unaffiliated and not me, because I'm definitely all the way up to speed.

Brian: [00:18:40] {laughter} Marshall McLuhan was an advertiser, philosopher, inventor, professor, and just a thinker.

Phillip: [00:18:50] I knew that.

Brian: [00:18:50] From the fifties and sixties.

Phillip: [00:18:52] Yeah, of course.

Brian: [00:18:55] He wrote a bunch of books. The one that's really visually impacting me right now is the book called The Medium is the Massage. You heard that right. Massage. He actually came up with The Medium is the Message, which was in a prior book that he wrote. But this one was sort of dedicated to sort of rehashing a set of ideas he'd written about in previous books, but he did it in a really visually compelling... And actually, I'll say this, Phillip, but we haven't even talked about this much yet, but we are unintentional disciples of McLuhan in many ways. His visual styles and the way that he puts stuff together in this book, even down to the eye on the cover. Which yeah, just blowing my mind that what he was able to almost practically prophesy. He was incredible at understanding implications for the electronic world. And one of the things that...

Phillip: [00:19:58] In a pre-digital society.

Brian: [00:19:59] In. pre-digital society. This is the sixties.

Phillip: [00:20:02] He was an advertising guru. He understood influence and he understood shaping desires.

Brian: [00:20:11] Correct. Well, and for him, his whole idea that the medium is the message is that the media, the form of media is actually an extension of us and actually reflects back on us. And the content of that media isn't as powerful as the media itself and what it does to us, like how it's built and how it affects us.

Phillip: [00:20:35] That is so unbelievably true. And this is so unbelievably true. And people will argue and say it's not true. But there is a bookish person or someone who's like a voracious reader has a bit of a stereotype. Like you can kind of conjure up what they might look like. You might think to yourself, that is what a bookish person looks like. A Twitter bro or a LinkedIn CEO also has a bit of you can conjure up what that person, how they might behave, the kinds of things that they may frequent.

Brian: [00:21:20] Yes.

Phillip: [00:21:20] The kinds of brands they may buy. You're absolutely... The medium really is the message. And the person tends to... Either the media shapes them or the media attracts a certain sort of a...

Brian: [00:21:34] Yes. It's both.

Phillip: [00:21:36] It's both. They're sympathetic.

Brian: [00:21:39] So that's a vibe shift. Something that he says in this book is he talks about being in a world of all-at-once-ness, which is the idea that everything is simultaneously happening as a result of electronic communication and connection. And so all the vibes are all happening at one time because it's all like moving back and forth. And he basically says literally, this is a quote, "Information pours upon us instantaneously and continuously. As soon as information is acquired it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information. Our electronically configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build cereal block by block, step by step, because instant communication ensures that all factors of the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay." This is in the sixties. This guy was...

Phillip: [00:22:41] This guy was not on Twitter. {laughter} Man, I wonder what he would... {laughter} I wonder what he would think about Twitter today. It's brilliant. Also, this comes back to something that we talked about in our former podcast, the one right before this interview with Seyi Taylor about there's nothing new under the sun. The things that we continue to invent are just new and rehashed. They're not even new. They're sort of rehashed ideas, rediscovered ideas, re-implemented modalities and forms of communication or commerce that already exist somewhere and have already existed and will exist again in the future. And we all think that we're all so smart and novel and that we're all doing something truly unique. In reality, we're something we said in the Visions podcast recently is Mike Lackman, the CEO of Trade Coffee, said, "Well, we must stand on the shoulders of giants." And I said, "Well, or you could, you know, tread on the casualties of war," like they are effectively the same thing. And I feel like we're in some respects where we're certainly standing on others' accomplishments and on others we're treading on some graves.

Brian: [00:23:59] Yeah. This is actually back to [00:24:01] The Senses, there was an article in The Senses just recently about Derek Thompson in the Atlantic about how like everything is getting older. And one of the reasons he gave for that is that there is so much that has come before us and there is so much information available to us that in order for us to actually do anything of significance, we actually have to absorb so much more before we get there. I think that's really interesting. But you also contrast that with the idea from McLuhan, again, of the amateur versus the professional and how amateurs have actually been the ones to shape the world. Because professionals have to play into their profession. Amateurs can go explore. Michael Faraday never really took any formal math aside from elementary education and reinvented our complete understanding of electricity. It's only those who have nothing to lose and that do not have to play to a community that can step outside of it. [00:25:06]

Phillip: [00:25:07] This reminds me of a film from the early 2000s starring Nicolas Cage, one of the greatest actors of our generation.

Brian: [00:25:17] Yeah. I'm in.

Phillip: [00:25:17] There's a film called Adaptation.

Brian: [00:25:21] I love that movie.

Phillip: [00:25:22] Where Nic Cage plays a writer. And as he's writing, the things that he's writing come into being. They become made manifest reality. And in my recollection, this is both for good and for bad. There's calamity. There's hilarity. Looking back on some of the things that we've talked about or we've written over the last few years in the pages of Future Commerce or in some of our research like the Visions Report, I feel like some of the things that we're talking about have come to pass a lot quicker than I thought it would. And in fact, in this piece about algorithm anxiety, Kyle Chayka calls back some of the things that we've been talking about, about the way that there's like sort of an almost the same sort of psycho spiritual stressors that people that are being deprogrammed from cults experience. This like weight of oversight or a weight of surveillance that sort of hangs over them and their inability to make decisions for themselves is the same kind of weight that people that suffer from extreme dependance on algorithms may be experiencing. And it's a new classification of behavioral and personality disorders. And in some ways I start thinking to myself is there a possibility that we are exploring these things that exist in the world and we're putting language to them? As we've said before, that's kind of our job. But nobody really understands that. We try to pattern match, we try to recognize trends and then we try to name those things so that they're easier to identify or are we somehow manifest them.

Brian: [00:27:14] {laughter} That's a good question.

Phillip: [00:27:19] It's a really good question that there's this a lot of the early work in science fiction was incredibly like utopic realities. The fact is, is that the last 50 years of science fiction has been very dystopic. And, you know, the writing, you sort have what you say, and then you say what you have. This self-reinforcement cycle that we happen to be in is like we're all building towards a future that maybe is not so bright because we have been... I don't know. We've been immersed in it our whole lives and popular culture. This is the eventuality, right?

Brian: [00:28:00] I do wonder if that's because I think the ultimate end of utopian thinking is dystopic reality.

Phillip: [00:28:07] The lack of free will, the lack of choice, even if things look sparkly and shiny and new, in reality...

Brian: [00:28:14]  [00:28:16]Enforced systems always lead to problems. They always lead to much worse consequences than the ultimate good that they were hoping to attain because humanity does not fit well into a box. [00:28:30]

Phillip: [00:28:31] Can we get back to nonalcoholic beverages? Somehow, to me, this seems really indicative of a bunch of things where people are realizing that and I don't want to like make you have to preach my points here, because I know that you and I have definitely different consumption habits, but I used to drink alcohol. Five years ago I stopped drinking alcohol. I feel like I'm better for it. I feel like a lot of people in that intervening five years have also decided that drinking alcohol, whether their WHOOP ban, told them that that was bad and so they realized it was bad, or whether they just realized one day I feel better when I don't drink or maybe they're on medication, whatever the reason might be. Seems like a lot more people are making that sort of decision now. And that's part of... I think it's like a crucial part of the vibe shift is that there are two things happening at once. [00:29:23] Not only are people making personal health decisions and putting that out into the world, and people are being influenced by it. But it's creating this uncorkening effect where the more people feel like they've been given permission to be able to share that sort of personal information the more it's taking hold and giving other people permission to also try it and be part of that lifestyle for themselves. It's causing more people, I think, to really question and examine, do I have to have a dependence on alcohol that I'm not comfortable with? Is this a change that I need to make that I wasn't considering making before? That is a massive vibe shift and one that I think hasn't really existed in a prevalent way in our culture before. [00:30:15]

Brian: [00:31:46] Moving past like imbibe or not imbibe, do you think that that is true for a lot of things? Where someone might feel a certain way or they're just being more "transparent" about things that they have going on? What do you think the net effect of that is across all areas? Like not just alcohol, but like everything.

Phillip: [00:32:19] Well let's take the small, small, small things, right? Because I mean, alcohol consumption could be certainly a very divisive topic. Two years ago, it was extremely fashionable, especially if you were in venture capital to quote Yuval Noah Harari, whose book Sapiens. Having it on your bookshelf, saying that you're reading it, taking a picture of you with the book. It's extremely fashionable. Everybody's like, "You've got to read this book."

Brian: [00:32:48] LinkedIn loved it.

Phillip: [00:32:50] LinkedIn loved this book. Twitter loved this book. Two years later, it is extremely unfashionable to like this book. You see things now it's like "He's a ten, but he reads Sapiens," right?

Brian: [00:33:03] Right.

Phillip: [00:33:03] And I find that [00:33:06] these sorts of elements of fashion, they sort of rise and fall extremely quickly based on who it was that gave permission in the marketplace to have that point of view. I don't think that people changed their minds on where they stood on the book in that intervening time. I think that certain crowds of people were given permission to speak their minds based on who it was that spoke up first. [00:33:31] That is what I think is a massive this like... So [00:33:36] that is fashion. That's fashion. It's fashionable to hate something. So the people that hate it speak up, and it's fashionable to like something, so the people that like it speak up. [00:33:47]

Brian: [00:33:47] Do you think that there's something even bigger, though, that we have to contend with smaller trends? I'm going to go back to McLuhan again. He has the section in...

Phillip: [00:33:59] The next ten years are going to be great with you, by the way. It's posthumously. He's only written so many books. So I'll hopefully move through them quickly.

Brian: [00:34:05] Yeah. That's why I said the next ten years. The section is called The Others. He says, "The shock of recognition in electronic information environment minority groups can no longer be contained or ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with and responsible for each other."

Phillip: [00:34:32] So let's contextualize that in his time, which was the 1960s, you said?

Brian: [00:34:40] Yes. It's like 67, I think.

Phillip: [00:34:42] Oh yeah. Oh, so I mean, he's in the middle of the civil rights movement in the United States, massive upheaval, a lot of civil unrest. And minority groups in particular can mean a lot of things, like it can mean everything from underprivileged and oppressed minority groups, like as people groups. And that could be sexual orientation. It could be racial definition, but it could also be minority group affiliations like the KKK coming into the light for the first time like we're shining a light on the dark.

Brian: [00:35:15] He's talking about all of it.

Phillip: [00:35:16] He's talking about all of it.

Brian: [00:35:17] He's saying that every minority group must be contended with because we are all connected to the information at all times. And so I think that actually plays into exactly what you're saying.

Phillip: [00:35:30] Minority groups are becoming even more minority now, though. And this goes to a really interesting I think I mentioned this on a previous podcast of Balaji Srinivasan just wrote a book, not on audiobook yet, but you can get it for free called The Network State. I believe you can get it for free, the PDF for free, at TheNetworkState.com and there's also a free Kindle version. But his big idea here is that the nation state is a physical manifestation of something. The network state is the digital neighborhood's organizing into legitimized people groups that have citizenship. And the bigger idea there is really Bitcoin Maxis are the fundamentalists and they're the ones who most embody the network state because they are aligned around ideology, and they are aligned around the implementation of something like an idea and an ideal.

Brian: [00:36:42] Actually back to utopianism.

Phillip: [00:36:44] Which goes back to this idea of political affiliation. It's also like a policy decision, too, of how we maximize the proliferation of our ideas through policy is another hallmark of a network state. Certainly, I'm not going to try to recount all of that here. What's really interesting about what you're saying is that that is playing out now, even though it was foretold in the sixties, the minority groups are becoming even more minority over time and there are like niche groups that are gaining incredible...

Brian: [00:37:26] The Sapiens readers.

Phillip: [00:37:26] Yes, it's the Sapiens readers. {laughter}

Brian: [00:37:28] That's a minority group.

Phillip: [00:37:29] That is the otherification that he was talking about, about the others. He never even watched Lost. He saved so much of his time. Never had to watch Lost. Hundreds of hours I put into Lost all for naught.

Brian: [00:37:43] You're not in the minority there.

Phillip: [00:37:45] Let's bring this back around. I do want to tease out this idea. So there was that story that I said that we would get to. There was the story about Braden Wallake, who posted on LinkedIn a picture of him crying because he laid off some folks from HyperSocial. Very divisive post. We'll link it up here in the show notes. Just so we're all aware, I think this is terribly cringy.

Brian: [00:38:17] I'm sure it was very divisive, actually.

Phillip: [00:38:20] Most everybody hates it.

Brian: [00:38:21] Very united. It was a very united response.

Phillip: [00:38:24] People hate this and as well they should. It's very cringy. My take on this, Brian, was how do you get here? How does he do this?

Brian: [00:38:34] Right.

Phillip: [00:38:35] Right.

Brian: [00:38:37] I love actually love your take. People were happy to jump in and...

Phillip: [00:38:42] People don't... People do not like my take.

Brian: [00:38:44] I love this take actually.

Phillip: [00:38:45] Let's take this context and change it. If this were a zoom recording of him delivering the message that he had to let his staff go and he was crying that would have been no problem. The real cringe factor is that he has taken a picture, ostensibly, has taken a picture of himself or multiple and had to choose one. Like he had taken a picture of himself crying as a selfie and attached it to a LinkedIn-style narrative of, look how sad this whole thing is. And I'm building in public. So you're right. It's not divisive at all. I think everybody unanimously or has decided that this is, you know, bad behavior and cringe-worthy. What I'm trying to get at is what made him do this.

Brian: [00:39:41] Right. Right. Because a lot of people just think, oh, what an idiot?

Phillip: [00:39:45] What a douche.

Brian: [00:39:47] Right. Exactly right.

Phillip: [00:39:48] How could he think this was a good idea? Is this bad judgment? Is he trying to capitalize and like get fake Internet points from other people suffering? I mean, yes, on both accounts, I guess to some degree. But what makes him do it? Why would he make the decision to post this? And I think that what I've come down to is the algorithm taught him that this is what the bloodthirsty Colosseum crowd with gladiators and arena demand of us now.

Brian: [00:40:28] He might have even been rewarded for his efforts in some ways. The amount of attention...

Phillip: [00:40:35] I've never heard of HyperSocial. No one at Vice has ever written about this guy probably.

Brian: [00:40:44] Right.

Phillip: [00:40:44] Yeah. So my take here is what role? Like, yes, he has agency. Yes, he is a human capable of making decisions. He has to own his own bad behavior.

Brian: [00:40:57] Right. He did this.

Phillip: [00:40:59] But how do you become the kind of a person who would take a picture of yourself crying and post it on LinkedIn of all platforms? The algorithm. At the end of the day, it comes down to this is the kind of thing that gets reach in our world. And the algorithm doesn't care if that's because it's cringy. The algorithm doesn't care if that's because it's earnest or it's authentic. The algorithm is optimized for reach.

Brian: [00:41:28] Yes.

Phillip: [00:41:28] And so if you are becoming one with the algorithm and you're very online and you're like him, you are learning over time innate, through behavior...

Brian: [00:41:41] Performative content.

Phillip: [00:41:43] It's performative public vulnerability.

Brian: [00:41:45] Right. Correct.

Phillip: [00:41:46] He's being rewarded for it. Is that his fault? Like, is it his fault that he's... This is the world we've created.

Brian: [00:41:57] Right. So there's I think you said it earlier. [00:42:01] People are responsible for the decisions. There are a lot of people out there that will for the purposes of growing their business or getting attention or whatever it is, they are going to follow the algorithm because they have decided that is who they are. This particular outcome is just one in a long string of decisions to post in a style that is going to be rewarded by the system. [00:42:40]

Phillip: [00:42:40] I mean, the reward being attention. Right?

Brian: [00:42:43] Attention. Yes, correct. Reach.

Phillip: [00:42:45] Let's take this one step further because I really think this is really critical. In Visions we talked about a topic. One of our trends was the celebration of insincerity.

Brian: [00:43:04] Yes.

Phillip: [00:43:05] And I don't know what to call this.

Brian: [00:43:08] What if this is the algorithm's celebration of insincerity?

Phillip: [00:43:13] I mean, this is as close to... If we believe that an algorithm can shape our desires and tastes, which I believe most people would agree with, in fact, in our Visions study this year, I think it was 54%. I'd have to call back the actual numbers. I'm not going to pull it up here. But 54% or so of survey respondents in our study said that they believe that algorithms or social media suggestions and trends shape their tastes and the way that they buy things. If that is the case then why wouldn't that also naturally shape the kind of posts that you create and over time, eventually, evolutionarily, you get some weird aberration of an evolution where it's like we are going to have some weird outcomes from that, where there's going to be outliers. And one of those outliers is the kind of person who would publish a post of him crying on LinkedIn that's incredibly cringe-worthy. That becomes a nature versus nurture conversation, and I don't know that anybody would publicly say that they believe that someone is a racist by nature. I think a lot of people would say, well, you learn that, right? You learn that from a young age or you are raised in an environment to behave that way. Or like maybe it's the media diet that you consume that like changes people over time. Something we had in The Senses this week was irony poisoning. The Alt-Right pipeline is driven by people who are just like super on 4chan and like they're just ironists and they're so wrapped up in irony. Eventually, it becomes truth to them. Is this someone's nature to post like this or do they learn that and acquire that over time?

Brian: [00:45:20] I won't quote him again, but he gets into how humor is like going to be the dominant form of communication. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:45:32] That's kind of where we are at the moment anyway.

Brian: [00:45:35] I do think you're on to something interesting here as well. I also wrote for The Senses while you were out, and I did quote McLuhan saying that if the media is the message and AI is the ultimate media, if the algorithm is the ultimate media, the message is humanity is unnecessary. And the reason I wrote that is because I think [00:46:02] AI is taking over, the algorithm is sort of taking over, things that humanity can analyze. What is, what could be, and what should be. And we can see this clearly. Like AI is very good and analyzing previous data. It's good at like saying, oh, these are the things that were, and then projecting what could happen if those things continued. And it's not perfect. It's getting better, but it's getting better and better and better. But also now we're applying it towards what should be right. And I think that's where when we let. An algorithm define what should exist, we've actually handed over our job as humans. [00:46:55]

Phillip: [00:46:55] Well, let's be real for a moment. This person is the head of an organization that I'm guessing by the name alone, HyperSocial, has something to social.

Brian: [00:47:10] It's built for the algo. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:47:12] Built for the algorithm. And if they're into lead generation and content marketing, HyperSocial, and their medium is social media, it stands to reason that this person, you know, he's a person, he's a human being. [00:47:34] This person's livelihood depends on and is at the mercy of the algorithm. So as a commercial actor, as a person in a play on a stage, he's at the mercy of the scriptwriter. The scriptwriter is the algorithm. His whole business is at the mercy of the whims and changes of a technology company. And the way that they tune and game or buff or nerf things that become viable content that will get organic reach. He's learned this, and in fact, he's learned it so well that he's the main character on Twitter today, which is like, you should never be the main character on Twitter. [00:48:18]

Brian: [00:48:18] But maybe that's the main outcome. Like if you follow that to its logical conclusion, he did it. He followed it. He followed it to its ultimate end.

Phillip: [00:48:28] It is the ultimate success. This is probably the most successful post he'll ever make of all time. He did exactly what he was supposed to do.

Brian: [00:48:37] Again, this gets back to like what you should do.

Phillip: [00:48:40] Is this nature or nurture? He's not uniquely qualified to have the organic reach that he has. He did what the algorithm expected of him to do or has given him the parameters to behave within.

Brian: [00:48:54] If we hand over what we should do...

Phillip: [00:48:55] I'm realizing this is a bad take, but I feel like we have to talk about it. Like we have to get this out. I'm not trying to absolve him of behavior. It's not good behavior.

Brian: [00:49:05] If we hand over what we should do to an algorithm, this is the outcome. This is the outcome. This is where I think we need to say, if the future's going to be a human story, this is actually sort of one of those, landmark moments where it's... I hate to put it that way, but this is what happens if we put things into the control of a computer. This is the outcome that we are looking for. We are going to end up all performatively crying on Twitter.

Phillip: [00:49:41] But people have been performatively crying on TikTok for two years. This is the thing that I cannot get over is that this same manifestation in other social media channels is also performative and is used in an ironic sense. This guy actually did it in, I would say he attempted to be authentic. Like he was attempting...

Brian: [00:50:14] But it's insincere. That's why it's so cringy.

Phillip: [00:50:18] It's insincere because it's just not a thing that is socially acceptable to be posting online.

Brian: [00:50:24] No, that's not why it's insincere. It's because the dude took, like, 20 photos.

Phillip: [00:50:30] Well, we don't know that. He posted one photo.

Brian: [00:50:32] Okay. Okay.

Phillip: [00:50:34] But let's be real. You know, there are plenty of posts on TikTok of people crying into a camera. That happens all the time. It's a trend. Like that's what people do. And so to tell him that, what I don't want to do is say that he should blame his behavior and like excuse his behavior because the algorithm made him do it. But in reality, the algorithm did. That is true.

Brian: [00:51:01] If you believe if as he did, that the ultimate aim is to please the algorithm and to get the most reach, then you're absolutely right.

Phillip: [00:51:12] I don't think he would have said it that way.

Brian: [00:51:14] No, that's what I'm saying.

Phillip: [00:51:15] The ultimate aim is I have an audience. They expect me to build transparently. I'm building in public. I have put everything in public. So this is in public too.

Brian: [00:51:29] Right.

Phillip: [00:51:29] What is the best way to show that I emotionally care? This is the decision matrix that you go through where you wind up here.

Brian: [00:51:36] Yes.

Phillip: [00:51:38] We are incredibly aligned. I need you to be yelling at me and telling me I'm wrong. But I feel like this is what we haven't realized yet is exactly how much... Like we'll point out things like this and say LinkedIn is so cheugy, but it's not LinkedIn. It's every algorithm. We're all doing this all of the time. It's the societal norms around when we say something's out of bounds is it's taking us by surprise because we really haven't figured out yet that the behaviors are unbelievably malleable and we're very, very, very susceptible to being guided into certain behaviors. And those behaviors, we can't even visualize what they look like because they're a bunch of if-then statements that are in GitHub somewhere and it's not regulated and we're going to see a whole lot more of this.

Brian: [00:52:27] That's absolutely correct. You've nailed it. We've already seen a lot of it. This one caught us off guard because it's just sort of like...

Phillip: [00:52:34] It's such an outlier.

Brian: [00:52:35] Right. It pushes the boundary. It's not such an outlier. It's just enough of an outlier for us to step back and be like, whoa, hold up here. This is where we're headed.

Phillip: [00:52:48] Let me be...

Brian: [00:52:49] We'll all be posting our tearful videos.

Phillip: [00:52:53] Yeah, we all are. I'm tearfully going to post this because I'm exhausted by the conversation already. Let me say one last thing. If I had to make a prediction, Google used to name its algorithm updates. They'd give it a name when they were going to rev it and roll it out because they always were big friction points for the community. And they also, back in those days required big, big code level changes for Google in its search rankings. And it was like really disruptive for a lot of businesses.

Brian: [00:53:27] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:53:28] So they would give it a name. And in fact, this kind of thing happens all the time in gaming. I played League of Legends for a little while and they had seasons, and a season came and went and there were buffs and nerfs for some of your favorite, I forget what we call them, champions. And so it's like certain things got introduced, certain things got taken away, some things were overpowered, some things... Twitter has had the same algorithm for the last year, maybe longer. It's like threads have just been over, over-indexed. They're way too powerful, the thread champ is way too powerful. And it can clobber anyone's timeline because all you have to do is put a thread together. It doesn't even have to be good. If it follows a certain format, it becomes a meme instantly. Everybody gets internet points from it. What I think is going to happen is we're going to see a lot more of the sort of seasonal variety of changing of the algorithm and a lot more public discourse from organizations who are realizing that behavior is being curbed or being encouraged by the way that algorithms are being shaped. So rather than Twitter telling us that they're going to encourage certain types of behavior, we're going to see them saying, hey, for the next year, we're d prioritizing threads. For the next year, we're d prioritizing certain types of just like the way they can recognize hate speech, just the way that they can recognize, you know, a video where there is self-harm. In all those same ways we're going to have to see an era in the next few years where social media businesses, especially video entertainment businesses like TikTok, are much more transparent about when big algorithm changes are going to impact people so that their behaviors align accordingly. And it's going to have to happen because if they don't, regulation's going to have to step in.

Brian: [00:55:26] I also think I think you're on to something really interesting here, which is [00:55:31] this is what happens, the crying selfie is what happens when you don't update the algorithm soon enough. Because if you're not updating it frequently enough, eventually it will lead to undesirable outcomes because the game will get played too well. [00:55:52]

Phillip: [00:55:52] Evolutionary exaggeration. He's over-optimized for a certain type of behavior that winds us up here. Threads are another good example. Twitter has become more like LinkedIn every day because that's what the algorithm desires.

Brian: [00:56:09] Totally. And actually, back to your point about Google, I think the types of behaviors that we saw back then were super cringy as well. The gray hat and black hat SEO patterns were worse. They were downright illegal and really bad for the internet as far as content went. It was like we all tried to optimize, we had to if you wanted to get recognized as a website, you had to. And this is like I think what we're seeing here with some of these social platforms is underdeveloped algorithms or unattended algorithms.

Phillip: [00:56:46] Unattended. I would say it's unattended. By now if they were a video game company, there would have been 20 revs. There would have been multiple changes to try to curb certain types of behavior, because at the end of the day...

Brian: [00:57:00] It's all gamification.

Phillip: [00:57:02] It's all being gamified. Nobody wants to behave... Anyway, let's come back to the vibe shift. I think a lot of the vibe shift has to do with unintended algorithms and exaggerated evolutionary-like behaviors that are happening online primarily in text communication like Twitter and LinkedIn and in video communication like TikTok and Instagram.

Brian: [00:57:26] So I'm going to go a step further. I think that those vibes are all false. That's why we see them fall away so fast, and that's why they change when the algorithm changes. If we want to see anything of lasting, like a lasting cultural change, it happens in person.

Phillip: [00:57:40] It happens offline.

Brian: [00:57:41] Yeah, it happens offline. You want to see a vibe shift? Go unplug.

Phillip: [00:57:46] That's a great place to leave it. Thank you for listening to this episode of Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties, including but not limited to, our Visions podcast, which is getting rave reviews. It's sort of the intersection of culture, philosophy, and spirituality with commerce over top of all of it. It's an amazing series, really, really proud of the work that we've done there. We also have Decoded we have Step By Step. Lots to clue into and the once and foretold return of Infinite Shelf. So lots of podcast content coming. You get it all at FutureCommerce.fm. And while you're there sign up for our newsletter, The Senses. You can get that at FutureCommerce.fm/Subscribe. Thank you for listening. Commerce is a catalyst for change. In whose world? Your world. The world around you and yeah, we really believe that. And maybe, maybe if we all did, it could change the world. Thank you so much for listening.

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