There are only two problems with the work ethic today: Work doesn’t reliably deliver the social, moral, and spiritual goods it promises, and artificial intelligence is about to render the work ethic moot.
Gisele Regatao: “My accent? It’s mild; Americans can tell right away that I am not a native English speaker, but foreigners can’t. I moved to the US from Brazil 20 years ago, though most people can’t tell where I’m from. … I knew accents could be taboo for some radio people, but I thought NPR would be thrilled to have a piece about a Brazilian artist by a Brazilian journalist. Plus, I’d voiced stories for WNYC and PRI’s The World many times before.” She completed the piece, but NPR wouldn’t air it.
So, what happens when people stop writing letters? Or when books become less central to society—a tangential diversion or eccentricity—less important than movies, which are less important than the premium cable channels, which are less important than Netflix and Amazon Prime, which are less important than video games, all of which together are less important than social media? What happens when our writers and thinkers express themselves through Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter instead of on the page?
The first decade of the 21st century was a transitional one in terms of reader-writer relations, its habits now as foreign as those of Edward R. Murrow’s America. Gone are the happy days when we dialed up to submit a comment to Salon.com, only to be abused by Glenn Greenwald or destroyed — respectfully — by the academics at Crooked Timber. Back then, we could not have imagined feeling nostalgic for the blogosphere, a term we mocked for years until we found it charming and utopian. Blogs felt like gatherings of the like-minded, or at least the not completely random.
Everything about the recent past, and the generalization of the op-ed form across the internet, suggests there is an inexhaustible fund of such figures, a reserve army of op-ed labor waiting in the wings. Twitter has helped turn the internet into an engine for producing op-eds, for turning writers into op-ed writers, and for turning readers into people on the hunt for an op-ed. The system will not be satisfied until it has made op-ed writers of us all.