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At Last, It Has Happened
The internet is now just one undifferentiated thing.
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Now on to this week’s column.
We have reached the singularity.
Not the song “Singularity,” by Jon Hopkins (2018). Or the other songs “Singularity,” by BTS (2018), Caligula’s Horse (2011), Textures (2011), Born of Osris (2011), Steve Aoki & Angger Dimas (2013), Tesseract (2013), New Order (2015) and Devan Townsend (2019). Or the song “The Singularity,” by Doctor Steel (2002).
Nope. Also not the seven albums called Singularity from Joe Morris in 2001 to Hopkins in 2018. Also not the movie starring John Kusack, although obviously that description doesn’t narrow it down very much; there are 71 of them. I’m talking about the flick called Singularity. But again, not that.
Furthermore, not the three novels titled Singularity, nor the Marvel Comic character called Singularity, nor the 2005 Ray Kurzweil book called The Singularity Is Near, which is about encroaching “technological singularity” — the hypothetical point at which artificial intelligence renders the human race irrelevant. In fact, when I speak of singularity, Kurzweil could not be farther from my thoughts. In general, Kurzweil could not be farther from my thoughts. Because the catastrophic damage from A.I. will long precede sentience. (Want to learn more? Go to ChatGPT and ask it about “ChatGPT.”)
And, no, not “system theory” singularity, the condition in which a small change can yield not a butterfly effect but a tectonic effect. Finally, for all you quantum physics nerds, I do not refer to gravitational singularity, wherein gravity becomes so intense it interferes with the contours of the space/time continuum. Like a black hole, or Donald Trump Jr.’s videos.
Duh. Not that shit, either.
I’m a media critic, so obviously I’m addressing media singularity. Have I mentioned that we’ve achieved it? Yes, as of Monday September 5, 2023, the universe has folded into itself. The New York Times has become internet advertising, and internet advertising has become The New York Times. They are now undifferentiated. They are one.
A feature spread by Caroline Hopkins, in the form of a Q&A, is titled “How Do I Get Rid of Toenail Fungus?”
They say the philosophy at The Times is that nobody has covered a story until The Times has covered it. They can’t be scooped, because supposedly nobody else is authoritative enough to stake a legitimate claim. They don’t sweat, for example, lagging behind The Daily Caller or whoever on the Hunter Biden laptop news. Or not news. Another example of events that The Times was slow to report on is, whaddyacallit, the Holocaust.
But in the case of Fungusgate, that attitude just doesn’t wash. Because this subject has been filling my newsfeeds, day after day, thousands of times, for years. Weirdly, until 5 minutes ago, I had never online-searched “toenail fungus,” because I have never had toenail fungus. Mind you, I’ve had everything else, including sarcoidosis, which mainly afflicts middle-aged Black women, but my toenails are as pristine as a fresh dusting of snow. They are my best feature. Not to blow my own horn, but I’d venture to describe them as jaw dropping. I’ve been approached to be an influencer, like Olivia Wilde or a minor Kardashian. People stop me on the beach to comment on my stunning funguslessness. “Sir, your feet are absolutely … charismatic. I am impressed by your lack of thickened, discolored, misshapen toenails. May I inquire as to your secret?”
I mention that not to boast, but only to observe that the fungussy headlines in my feeds are clearly not targeted advertising based on my own search and navigation history. No, they’re obviously just blasted by Big Antifungal, hellbent on inundating the world with their methods. (“Rockville woman discovers simple method for killing toenail fungus. It’s genius!”)
But back to this historic moment. Having realized that we are in a new media normal, I made a note to watch The Times, to see when they’d address the price of a walk-in shower, the glut of unsold SUVs now being all but given away and the availability in my state of cannabis gummies. But then it dawned that maybe the singularity began before September 5. So I went to the archive to see what stories have recently run. What follows is an assortment. Some are ad headlines, some are articles from The New York Times:
“The One Food Doctors Say You Should Never Eat”
“The Best Hamburger Helper You’ve Ever Had”
“Applying to College? Here’s How A.I. Tools Might Hurt, or Help”
“The Best Relationship Advice We’ve Gotten So Far This Year”
“How I Turned My Errands Into Exercise”
“The Clean Energy Future is Arriving Faster Than You Think”
“Spelling Bee Buddy: Personalized Hints That Update as You Play”
“Picking the Right Wall Color Isn’t Easy. Here’s How the Pro’s Do It”
“Use Your Phone as a Pocket Tutor for Study on the Go”
“How Schools Can Survive (and Maybe Even Thrive) With A.I. This Fall”
“Can’t Sleep? Try This Proven Alternative to Medication”
“Does the MIND Diet Prevent Dementia?”
“How Much Does a Walk-in Shower Actually Cost?”
“Seven Books for Better Sleep”
“Latest in Wellness: the Menopause Retreat”
At least three are not from advertisers. I’ll let you figure out which are which. Then together, we can give up all hope.