The editor and the algorithm


The editor is sitting at his desk, in the middle of a dark and lonely room that he calls ‘office’. Suffering an intense case of FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out—he found himself being a slave of the anxieties and fears of the twenty-first century. His face, always illuminated by a blue light emanating from the screens around him is in fact a mirror of his inner data-driven-paranoias and concerns. His favorite moment of the day is when he unplugs all his devices and feel safe just for awhile. But that’s the same moment when FOMO begins once more and his cyclical continues to rotate.

The editor is well known by a multitude of famous architects, having worked with many of them, and published their books about projects and theory. None, however, know about his increasing sense of social nervousness. He now lives resigned to accept the many manifestations of this anxiety—anxiety as rebellion, anxiety as a satire, anxiety as rage or even, anxiety as a secret pleasure. Because since he discovered the algorithmic bot that started to disrupt the publishing industry many years ago, dedicated to releasing new books, he has not found tranquility again. He often dreams with the time of slower rhythms, but he knows this is just a fantasy. Every day he wonders — “Is it possible that I’m working again on the same book that the bot?”. The editor nods his head not sure about the answer, but with the fear of an anticipated one.

Algorithms—which are tracing all his movements, searches, comments, likes, private messages, and interactions—are the ones behind the paroxysm of the infinite acceleration beyond any intellectual work he has recently completed. He lives in a constant race against time, because in the past decade, he has been late submitting every single publishing project he has started. The algorithm always arrives first.

Today, however, he’s working on a secret project: a book with a reenactment of Alison and Peter Smithson’s famous essay But today we collect ads. Yesterday they collected ads, but today we collect links and bits. He reacquaints himself with writing only in notebooks. He isolates, turns off the computer, puts the smartphone screen-down, and closes all doors and windows. Hands trembling, he takes a pencil and writes:

New project.
Format: book.
Title: ‘But today we collect links and bits.’
To do list: copy-edit, upload on Amazon.
Release date: Tomorrow.

He closes the notebook carefully, puts it in the wardrobe, and releases a sighs of relief—his project is safe. Then, FOMO starts again, his hands sweat while turning on the computer; he opens the browser on Amazon, his default page, and read: “New releases for today: But today we collect links and bits.”

He nods again.
The algorithm was one step ahead
—once more.


Temporary Failure Protocol: This text was originally published next week, on April 29th 2016 in LOBBY #4, Abundance (Bartlett School of Architecture) .


Thanks to ‘the editor’ James Taylor-Foster, for the invitation to contribute to LOBBY, for the edits, and for playing the ‘devil’s advocate’ role.
Header image: The Isolator, a helmet invented in 1925 by Hugo Gernsback.


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