The Internet of Beefs
By Venkatesh Rao @vgr
January 16, 2020
You’ve heard me talk about crash-only programming, right? It’s a programming paradigm for critical infrastructure systems, where there is — by design — no graceful way to shut down. A program can only crash and try to recover from a crashed state, which might well be impossible. I came up with a term for the human version: beef-only thinking.
A beef-only thinker is someone you cannot simply talk to. Anything that is not an expression of pure, unqualified support for whatever they are doing or saying is received as a mark of disrespect, and a provocation to conflict. From there, you can only crash into honor-based conflict mode, or back away and disengage.
The connection to crash-only programming is more than cosmetic, but it will take some set-up before I can establish the conceptual bridge.
Online public spaces are now being slowly taken over by beef-only thinkers, as the global culture wars evolve into a stable, endemic, background societal condition of continuous conflict. As the Great Weirding morphs into the Permaweird, the public internet is turning into the Internet of Beefs.
The Internet of Beefs, or IoB, is everywhere, on all platforms, all the time. Meatspace is just a source of matériel to be deployed online, possibly after some tasteful editing, decontextualization, and now AI-assisted manipulation.
If you participate in online public life, you cannot entirely avoid the Internet of Beefs. It is too big, too ubiquitous, and too widely distributed and connected across platforms. To continue operating in public spaces without being drawn into the conflict, you have to build an arsenal of passive-aggressive behaviors like subtweeting, ghosting, blocking, and muting — all while ignoring beef-only thinkers calling you out furiously as dishonorable and cowardly, and trying to bait you into active aggression.
Venkatesh Rao serves as Editor-in-Chief. Venkat started writing Ribbonfarm in 2007. Ribbonfarm is a longform blog devoted to unusual takes on both familiar and new themes. What we call “refactored perception.”
Cultures of Conflict
North American, English-language theater of the IoB
Mooks and Knights
Knights of the IoB
Lord of a Mook Manor
Educational CyberPlayGround: Systems, Culture and our Voyage by Ferdi Serim 1998 to navigate uncharted seas of cultural conflict. “Current
Educational CyberPlayGround: Internet Hate Sites and Recruiting Tools on the net. about the whole concept of rough music and popular justice.