I have superpowers, OK? One of them is predicting earthquakes. Don’t go showing me “government” “reports” disproving my awesome abilities. Twice already this year, I have shaken awake before my house has. So you will believe me when I tell you, unblessed mortals, that my seismological Spidey sense discerns a Third Event. This catastrophe won’t involve literal tectonics. What I’m detecting is the quivering instability of the metaphorical. You know, the platforms, the slabs of virtual bedrock underlying my life. Entertainment platforms. Social media platforms. Delivery platforms. Dating platforms. Security platforms. Platforms—here’s where meaning truly crumbles—as a goddamn service. Every day they shift beneath my feet. I wobble and sideways-leap, a manic hopscotcher, from one digi-plane to the next, deplatforming and replatforming, slacking to Zoom (cross-platform functionality!) with a stop for analytics and a detour through Twitch. One misstep and I’d slam into the cyberpavement. Youch! As if the landscape weren’t treacherous enough, the coder-architects insist on layering on the AI, further unanchoring the ensmartened platforms from my control. Now Instagram must scroll through me. Picture the digital strata, if you can: AI platforms on top of software ecosystems built on hardware platforms resting on deadtree-desk platforms. The metaphor can’t survive the intercalations. The French plateforme literally means flat shape, but tech has no use for simple geometries. It must complexify and extra-dimensionalize, obscuring the dangers in steadying figurations. The AI-enabled, cloud-integrated, solutions-oriented platform of the future? Cute! Nonthreatening! Well, just you wait. It gathers mass. It’s deeply unstable. The Big One won’t crack open the earth. Look up, and out, for the dataquake.
This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.