Maarten Steenhagen
Short reflections on philosophy, society, and the dreadful state of the world
AI Risk and Capitalism
How people seem suddenly worried about ‘Artificial Intelligence’! It’s as if massive threats to human flourishing suddenly become acceptable if they’re cushioned by a soothing cloud of sci-fi speculation. Well, let me tell you, there’s a much bigger problem, and the current path of AI largely owes its existence to it. It’s capitalism that is the overarching threat we should be discussing. So, what happened? A large number of people working in ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) have begun to see that AI might actually turn out very dangerous. (Full text on:
Jun 1
8 min
Marching from A to B
In December 2010 I was a graduate student at University College London (UCL) working on what felt like an impossible number of essays, while at the same time teaching philosophy students about psychology and the legacy of Sigmund Freud. It was a cold month, but I loved the bustle of London. My days triangulated between seminar room, library, and a tiny studio flat on Gower Street, right behind the monumental Waterstones bookshop. (Full text on:
May 30
10 min
Now the emergency is over...
On the 5th of May 2023 the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the enduring COVID-19 pandemic is now merely an established and ongoing health issue, and no longer a public health emergency of international concern. This change of position came about after the responsible committee (which even boasts Anders Tegnell as an advisor) had satisfied itself with a steep decrease in the number of reported COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations (i. (Full text on:
May 8
13 min
The right to encrypt
As you may have heard, the government of the United Kingdom is trying to pass an Online Safety Bill. This piece of legislation would have far-reaching and negative consequences for online security and privacy. In an open letter well-known communication channels such as WhatsApp and Signal object. They believe that the Bill could “break end-to-end encryption” and would “open the door to routine, general and indiscriminate surveillance of personal messages.” (Full text on:
Apr 29
18 min
Why am I still on Twitter?
I sent my first tweet on the 17th of June 2009. It contained a six-word description of that afternoon—I was travelling somewhere. Back then Twitter was for me a way of finding out what my friends were up to. Now, twelve-and-a-half thousand tweets and fourteen years later, the experience of being on Twitter resembles that of standing in the lurid departure hall of a noisy international airport—an activity I would undertake only because I wanted to get somewhere, not because I particularly like it. (Full text on:
Apr 18
15 min
A consumer phenomenology of the digital
Somewhere in Plato’s work you’ll find an argument against writing. That’s right; writing, as such. Given how important writing is to me, it always gives me an unsettled feeling to consider whether Plato is anywhere near worth taking seriously on this point. In the Phaedrus, Plato makes Socrates say that the written word will degrade human memory and remove the dialogic character of thinking—a text may speak to you, but it never listens. (Full text on:
Apr 12
14 min
Should you join the party?
I’ve been thinking recently about what form of political organisation I should put my time and energy in. How can I best contribute to bringing about societal and economic reform? It is glaringly obvious that such reform needs to happen. But so far the vast majority of those who agree that something needs to be done largely sits back, watching the future get bleaker and bleaker. Often it feels as if I’m sitting back. (Full text on:
Apr 7
13 min
What could post-collapse computing be?
Microchips are some of the most extraordinary objects humanity has ever made. This writes John Lanchester in the first March issue of the London Review of Books, which I read during breakfast. Computer chips are extraordinary in part because they seem impossible to put together. This fact about them makes chips dangerously fragile technology, and it is not obvious that we can continue to rely on them when the full effects of climate change will have made themselves felt. (Full text on:
Mar 27
13 min
George Orwell on fascism
The political energy of fascism is colouring the horizons of Europe. The right wing of public life is teeming with activity. With each new electoral gain, its momentum grows, as does the cold-bloodedness of their slogans and the callousness of the policies they imagine. At least in countries like Italy, Sweden, and The Netherlands, a fascistic revolution seems rapidly approaching. It does to me at least. Just look around you. (Full text on:
Mar 5
10 min
The cloud does not exist
It is hard to do away with metaphors, and we shouldn’t always want to. But some metaphors are better than others. That’s why it’s always useful to pause when a metaphor becomes entrenched, and look critically at what work it is doing. What is the metaphor making us believe, and what is it hiding from sight? A metaphor that very much deserves such critical treatment is the idea that our files and software are in ’the cloud'. (Full text on:
Feb 23
7 min
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