empiresThe Matrix, unlike Keanu Reeves, hasn’t aged well. It wants to be both timeless and futuristic, but that’s impossible, and now it comes off as steampunk: a comical chiaroscuro of old and new. Hackers who share files using compact discs. People who “jack in” using public phone booths. It’s as if a 1997 college kid and a post-singularity wireheader got into a head-on collision and their possessions got mixed together as they were strewn over the highway.

For a while, people joked that we actually do live in the Matrix, and the dwindling numbers of phone booths means Machine City is finally catching on to our means of escape. Imagine it were so. Imagine being a redpilled human inside the Matrix, and knowing that your only escape rests in your masters leaving the door open. No glorious Colditzian escapes. If you want out of the Matrix, you must rely on the most ignoble method of victory imaginable: the enemy making a mistake.

Welcome to internet marketing, where there are fewer phone booths by the day.

When the internet appeared, so did new opportunities to make money. This was not a goose that laid golden eggs. You need products to sell, or services to sell, and most people have neither. “Get rich quick” will never exist on the internet, and for most people, neither will “get rich slow.” Very few people are capable of functioning as entrepeneurs, online or off, even a matter Even if you have a marketable skill, . Someone selling novelty keychains on eBay might make money, but he’s never going to scale that into “fuck you” money.

But you know what does scale? Infoproducts. Get rich quick. It wasn’t the gold miners who made the money during the Yukon gold rush, it was suppliers, the people who made the shovels, the pickaxes, the dynamite. There was only so much gold in the ground, far less than the number of poor schmucks looking for gold. Likewise, it’s been well known for years that the easiest way to get rich from a self-help book is to write one.

Corporate America’s informercial culture soon invaded the internet, flooding the internet with sales pages for shoddy ebooks promising secrets to fantastic wealth and success. A man called Frank Irwin Kern was one of the early ones: his Instant Internet Empires product cost $47.77, and he promised that buyers could make more than $115,000 a year. How? Well, that’s the trick. You were actually buying the right to re-sell the Instant Internet Empires product. To achieve the promised $115,000 year, you’d have to sell the product to 2,400 people. The third generation of the scheme would need to sell the product to 13,829,760,000 people to each make $115,000. This isn’t a pyramid scheme. It’s a four-dimensional hypertetrahedron.

This stuff has been infesting the internet for years, and it’s as much a part of online mythos as the tone of a dialling modem. It’s the fuel of every sales letter (“Are you SURE you want to close this page and miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime?”), the accelerant of every spam email, the catalyst of every Craigslist Herbalife “job opportunity”. Kern was smacked down with an FTC judgement. He had disciples eager to replace him.

And it’s all a glitch in the Matrix. No more phone booths.

More soon.

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