TikTokfication II: an AI-driven Idiocracy (the Evidence)

TikTok is dumbing down every corner of society. Even the richest man on Earth. Here’s how it’s happening.

The White Orange 🍊⚪
27 min readSep 16, 2023

What if I told you there’s a film out there so entertaining, so addictive, that its viewers are losing all interest in anything other than repeatedly viewing it, disregarding all bodily functions and eventually dying? Thankfully for us, this is just the premise of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, but it’s not difficult to see the parallelism between “The Entertainment” — the ever-entertaining film in the novel— and our current society; give these attention-hacking AI algorithms enough time, enough understanding of the human brain, and what will be the outcome?

While I doubt (touch wood) such powerful form of entertainment will ever come to fruition, with about HALF of the American population on TikTok (and a billion people worldwide, according to its CEO) it is time to ask where do we stand. What has been the impact of TikTok — a drug, rather than a form of entertainment — on our society? What are we losing as a result of millions of people having their attention impaired to perform cognitively-demanding tasks? What are we losing, as a result of this attention-deficit pandemic? How are our leaders and cultural output being re-shaped by TikTok? And more worryingly, are we too, like in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy movie, heading towards rampant anti-intellectualism?

1. The symptoms of a social-media dominated society

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise

Have you ever promised yourself to sit and start a cognitively-demanding task only to find yourself browsing Instagram 10 minutes into it? Forgetting how you’d ended up there? You’re not alone — I found myself browsing Youtube when trying to write this post countless times. Nicolass Carr — author of The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains was also a victim of this type of compulsive, fidgety, restlessness behaviour.

Over the last few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense, that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory.” He wrote: “I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I feel it most strongly when I’m reading. I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or lengthy article… Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel like I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

You probably can relate.

According to the NHS, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may be broken down into the attention-deficit side and the hyperactivity side. Symptoms for the attention-deficit side include difficulty concentrating and focusing, having a short attention span and being easily distracted, making careless mistakes, appearing forgetful or losing things, being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming, being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings, restlessness, constantly fidgeting, etc.

Sounds familiar?

Wherever you look, ADHD is on the rise. ADHD diagnostics have surpassed 10% in the United States in children 4–17 yr old, a significant increase over the last 20 years [1,2]. In adults (25–34yr) rates increased 123% from 2007 to 2016 [1]. The Figure below shows incident rates for the UK. The numbers speak for themselves.

ADHD incident rates in the UK [3].

For the first time ADHD diagnosis have increased in adults in the UK, and there are recent studies showing social media usage is associated with ADHD prevalence [4].

Percentage of US adults using at least one social media as a function of time.
Percentage of US adults using at least one social media. Source: Pew Research Center.

While experts argue that it’s too early to tell whether there’s a link between digital media use and ADHD, and that changes in the way the condition is diagnosed and increased awareness may be behind the increases, they also note that “we live in a new age full of many more distractions. Even a healthy brain might be able to develop habits of overusing technology or becoming easily distractible. Some of it might end up looking like the criteria for ADHD without really being the same disease process in the brain.” or that “ Simply, ADHD symptoms can look and sound a whole lot like the struggles that define many people’s everyday workflows, which are so often fragmented by push notifications and digital dopamine hits. Who doesn’t have trouble multitasking or following with a task? And who isn’t fighting the urge to impulse-scroll social media during the particularly dull moments of any given afternoon?”

Whether social media causes ADHD might (still) be unclear — recall it also took a while to figure out smoking caused cancer — but I don’t think it’s far-fetched to suggest that these mind-spinning reels, this constant attention-shuffling through short-format content, this artificially-induced need to check your phone every second to seek those dopamine bursts, coupled with those flow-interrupting notifications might end up training our brain (or rather untraining) to fit under the umbrella term and loosely defined diagnosis of ADHD.

Social media-induced stupidity is on the rise too

The increasing sheer amount of extreme-dumb shit people are willing to do for the sake of pleasing the almighty algorithm testifies for the influence social media is having on people’s behaviour. You may have already noticed this, but just in case this video is probably a fair summary of what I’m trying to talk about here. It goes like this: some dumbfuck decides to upload a video doing some perhaps-genuine-but dumb shit, so dumb it makes you question whether shit is serious or not (e.g. someone cooking chicken with cough syrup), then people desperate for likes realize a talentless way to attract the audience is to do dumb shit, and there’s no dumber thing to do than replicating what you know is utterly dumb, potentially lethal and filming it for others to watch, so e.g. cough syrup-fried chicken becomes a trend, shit hits the fan and the FDA has to issue a warning on Fox News.

The Penny Challenge involved people plugging a charger halfway into an outlet so that the prongs are exposed, take a penny and hold it against the exposed prongs. The result? An electric shock if you were lucky, lifelong injuries and a fire if you were not. The Coronavirus Challenge involved putting your tongue on a door knob, an air-plane toilet or the likes, nowadays enough to get you famous. The Blackout Challenge, hold your breath until you pass out or die.

The last piece of evidence indicating we are hitting rock bottom is a new trend that consists of people voluntarily reducing themselves to coin-operated puppets, also known as NPCs (Non-Playable Characters). The whole idea or “live” as they call it, is to stand wobbling around like a character in a video game reacting to external people’s input (donations) in the form of various objects (icons) that trigger a predictable reaction on the “character”.

NPC trend. Pinky doll. Source: Freedumm media on Youtube.

These people are essentially willingly giving away their volition, voluntarily exposing themselves to a self-imposed form of public shaming in exchange for money (each “donation” is effectively a payment).

This is not an exhaustive list of the sort of weird shit people are willing to go into just for the sake of pleasing an algorithm whose decision-making capabilities are transcending the virtual world and spilling into reality. Just consider that any of this behaviour would not exist weren’t it for TikTok, because there would be no motives to film yourself doing such foolish shit. You probably don’t have any recollection of these sort of shit when your social media feed was just pictures of your friends getting trashed on their latest vacation. These type of dumb behaviour is on the rise; a clear example of how social media far-reaching influence transcends the screens, turning people into complete idiots for the sake of receiving a bunch of virtual hearts.

The sad part that remains unseen in all these videos is what’s at the other side of the phone: people spending time and energy into generating this talentless TikTok garbage. Their priorities in life have become completely deluded.

As my physics teacher would say: “An idiot is simply someone that does stupid stuff, and the more stupid stuff you do…”

2. Our Cultural Output

The most obvious influence of social media is in our capacity to assimilate information, to maintain our focus onto the task at hand, be it reading, watching TV or listening to music. On the consumer side, such decreased focus results in demand for shorter content, which in turn turns into shorter content, which in turn translates into shorter attention spans: a self-reinforcing cycle threatening to turn us into mindless scrolling monkeys. The obvious example is the pervasive presence of short vertically-scrollable videos (shorts, reels, TikToks) but also books, music and even scientific papers are becoming shorter. While cinema movies are still as long as before, they have been replaced by shorter TV series at home and endless sagas — think Fast & Furious 10, Saw X, Mission: Impossible VII — testify for the pervasive lack of originality in the industry (we’ll see more of this later). Content becomes shorter, but also reshaped by the medium in which it propagates (more on this later).

On the creative side, because social media is constantly drawing our attention, the deep mental states needed to create long-lasting pieces of art (be it e.g. music, paintings or books) become unattainable, degrading the quality of our cultural output, which becomes shallower and simpler (this is explored in detail in part I).


What Aldous Huxley feared with his Brave New World is that there would be no reason to ban books, because no one would want to read one.” — Neil Postman

It took more than 12 years for J. R. R. Tolkien to finish The Lord of the Rings. It’s hard to stress how much of a creational masterpiece the whole story is. Part of the success lies on the meticulousness to which Tolkien went to make the story as cohesive as possible. He started by creating an entire map, the Middle Earth, which he populated with fictional races such elves, orcs, and hobbits, monsters, spirits and other creatures. He then crafted the story around it, creating a body of connected tales, poems, fictional histories and even various family lineages and its own body of mythology. He went as far creating entire languages for the story, with their own scriptures, grammar, vocabulary and syntax as well their own family languages, all to form possibly the most cohesive fictional story of all times, becoming the quintessential novel of the high-fantasy genre and for which Tolkien is nowadays regarded as the father of.

What I’m getting at is that these type of masterpieces will become rarer and rarer. First, because the boredom and spare time needed to undertake such a dedicated project has been replaced by mind-numbing social-media scrolling (see part I). Secondly, because of the artificially-generated urge to check your phone to get that effortless dopamine reward as soon as you face some resistance or discomfort when attempting the cognitively-demanding task of trying to put such type of story together, instead of pushing through it.

And this of course affects readers at the other end. Who’s going to pick up on the slow and dull process of reading, where the effort/reward ratio is almost always skewed towards effort, when there’s a form of entertainment in which like a drug, the neurochemical reward is off-balance with respect to the effort you have to put in? Who’s going to stay self-disciplined, quiet and focused, when you can just reach for your pocket and start scrolling? Who’s going to put the effort of decoding several pages of print for the sake of a beautiful story, the opportunity to learn something new or an interesting fact, when there’s a form of entertainment bypassing the demands in cognitive exertion inherent in achieving a reward?

According to WordsRated, the number of pages of bestselling books has decreased by 50 pages from 2011 to 2021, with the fraction of books over 400 pages dropping by 30% from the bestselling lists, another sign of the TikTokfication. Alongside it’s the widespread decline reading times. US Americans read around 3 books less in 2021 compared to 1990. They also spent 16 minutes a day reading on average in 2019, compared to 23 min in 2004, a 30% decrease. And this decline seems more pronounce in the younger generations (20–24yr old). Similar declines are observed among kids too, with nearly 30% of 13-year-old kids saying to never or hardly ever read, compared a mere 8% in 1984. In the UK, according to an annual survey from the National Literacy Trust run since 2005, 2022 saw the strongest decline in reading enjoyment among kids (8–18yr), a trend that started in 2016 and that — mind you — was temporarily offset during the COVID lock-downs in 2021. Similarly another study reports only 23% of kids read for pleasure in 2020, reading times being replaced by screen time in activities such as “Youtube”. Canadians too spend around a 10% less time reading since 2014. In Japan, kids in 1989 used to read 9 books per month, in 2019 only 2.5. The time devoted to reading has been replaced by Videogames or “Watching Videos” on the smartphone. As an anecdotal evidence below is the “Interest Over Time” for the word “Books”.

Interest on Books over time Google Trends.

Reading books is not only another form of entertainment, it is strongly associated with academic success, improved vocabulary, critical and logical thinking, and problem-solving abilities (and I’m sure the list is not exhaustive) — because of the demands it imposes on cognitive exertion. Reading also exercises self-discipline, because it requires us to focus uninterruptedly on a static object over long stretches of time, requiring “top-down” control over our primitive instinct of distractedness on our surroundings (something TikTok feeds on). But it is precisely the type of cognitively-demanding task such as reading, along with the conditions it requires — silence, isolation and concentration — that are more readily impacted by social media.

Without social media, reading would become again a much more viable form of entertaining, but faced with the enticing effortless dopamine rewards of social media, what mad fool chooses to read?

The decline of reading times is just another sign of our society trading rationality by mindless entertainment.


If there’s something that characterises a good song is the ability to tell a story. Best musicians are able to tell a story without words, using only sounds, melodies and harmonies. By further intersecting pauses and rhythm variations, they are able to express feelings, trigger emotions, serve as inspiration, sooth or even pump us. They can help us cope with break ups, boost our mood, or sadden us. From basic compositions evoking perhaps the simplest of all feelings, happiness —think kids songs —to deeper pieces triggering more complex emotions such as hope or nostalgia, all songs tell a story.

Now while longer doesn’t necessarily mean better, what kind of story can be told in ten-twenty seconds? At most, “an idea, a tweet” as someone has beautiful described Lil Yatch’s 83s new hit “Poland”, “consisting of two keening hooks and some slack rhymes”. Can’t miss it, the lyrics either.

I would call it an unfinished product, a brain fart. Precisely the type of simple and shallow piece a social-media dominated brain can produce, devoid of any deeper refining. Music used to be a form of art, conceived to channel one’s emotions as a form of self-expression, for others to be enjoyed in solitude at home, at a party or at the wildest rave. That‘s no longer the case.

It is no surprise that TikTok, being a descendent of Musica.ly, has had its most profound impact on the lever it used to raise to the top: music. The TikTokfication can be felt on the length of the songs being produced nowadays, shorter and shorter [1,2,3] and often times produced directly to suit TikTok-duration spans instead of a piece on its own, a direct and palpable influence of the medium on the message. Music is now being atomized, turned into 10s duration polytones, the TikTok equivalent of the video. But music being reduced to soundbites is only half of the story. The “message” has been bent to adapt to the “medium” (remember part I) or put it simply, TikTok is metamorphosing music (I go into more detail on this on part I).

Songs are now routinely torn apart, altered, snipped, slowed down or sped up, treated like a means to and end, rather than the end itself, the end now being instead a TikTok video. Music is now conceived or repurposed for the uttermost absurdity of filming a 10s-duration meme-like clips of your-stupid-self in front of your camera.

And the TikTok hits speak for themselves. Most are simply altered versions of original songs, either slowed down or sped-up to high-pitch chimp-singer level (such as this Lady Gaga — Blody Mary or Oliver Tree & Robin Schulz — Miss You) or edits of covers of remixes of covers of edits of super old songs such as this Linkin Park — In the end version, this remixed David Guetta’s rehash of the famous Eiffel 65’s “Blue” song or this annoying Busta Rhyme’s Remix that plagued absolutely all shorts/reels/TikTok or whatever iteration of those and that was literally impossible to avoid in 2021 and that I bet no one has ever listened in its entirety.

What’s striking is how slowing down or speeding up old tunes is becoming a widespread practice in music production (even outside of TikTok). The vast amount of these “remixes” — even if they qualify as such is questionable — is also a symptom of the pervasive lack of musical originality. For instance, there were two songs sampling the same song, “Calabria” (the original song being from 2007), in the top 30 UK songs in June 2022. Take a listen, please. Radiohead’s “I’m a creep” has been already altered and repurposed (at least) twice. But in the second rehash of the song by R3HAB & GATTUSO we find another telltale of the current lack of originality in music production.

R3HAB & Gattuso Rehash of “I’m a Creep” by Radiohead, yet another “rehash”.

Recognise those drums at around 0:48? I became obsessed with them and now I know why. The culprit of it all is this song, another rehash/slowed down version of the famous Axwell’s epic mix of “In My Mind” of Ivan Gough and Feenixpawl’s original song. Well guess what we find again at 0:48, same fucking drum pattern. And again. And again in this rehash of “Freed from Desire” and again in this rehash of “Calabria” (yet another version from the previous remixes!) and I could go on and on. The formula is the same: take an old tune, time-stretch and stick those drums to it. Tune. Music is no longer “created”, instead it is dully, unoriginally and repetitively repurposed.

And even if you create a normal-length original song, TikTokers will reduced to a polyphone anyway, and play it till exhaustion. For instance, take a look at Sam Smith — Unholy’s song — which by the way is just 2:38 min long. I had no idea this was a “song” until I discovered it by chance, but had been bombarded with the TikTok-soundbite version a million times (all without ever going into TikTok). Same goes to this rehash of Bruno Mar’s — To the Moon (that annoying “take me to the Mooooon” that has plagued every video out there); suffices to say no one has ever listened beyond the first ten seconds.

But it gets worse. Like any other Internet platform attracting a sizeable userbase (such as 4chan or Reddit), TikTok has become a new Internet subculture hub. Unsurprisingly, the cacophony of 1.6 billion dancers had not enough with turning songs into soundbites or tearing apart all pieces of music ever conceived, the new medium needed a music genre of its own, one apt for the transmission of thoughtless information: phonk house. According to Wikipedia: “its main features are the use of cowbells and high bass. It is generally used in lo-fi videos showing drifting cars” — Thank you Wikipedia. This is how it sounds.

Familiar? It’s because it sounds like your 2000s dumb phone polytone.

3. Our leaders and politicians

The effect of social media becomes apparent when we look at our leaders and politicians. In a democratic society, our leaders represent the aggregate sum of all individual opinions, so they are a reflection society’s viewpoints and intentions. The same goes for social media, where top influencers are also the aggregate sum of individual likes and follows. So elected politicians and social media leaders give us a glimpse onto society’s way of thinking.

So who do you think is the most followed person on TikTok? Take a guess. A celebrity? A politician? Barack Obama? Mark Zuckerberg? Neither of those. It’s just some random girl. Surely she has some out-of-the-ordinary skills, she’s a good communicator or she is a leading example of self-empowerment? Neither of those either.

She does what absolutely everyone else on TikTok does: “dances”, pretends to sing, and ego-feeds herself in front of the camera, just like tens of millions of teens wasting their time in such a futile endeavour.

Maybe there some hope in the second most followed account:

I have no idea what I’ve just watched but hopefully won’t leave permanent brain damage.

Alright let’s take a look at more realistic “leaders”. Because political discourse with background music on TikTok is not (yet) an acceptable form of political discourse (but give it enough time and it’ll soon be), we’ll have to look at the most popular social media platform among leaders and policymakers, the platforms that at least allows for (some) print as a mean of communication: Twitter.

Elon Musk: From admirable entrepreneur to a social media meme

[The following was written prior to Musk buying Tweeter, has been left intentionally unedited and is still relevant]

I was deeply grateful to find that someone had tracked Musk’s twitter activity over time. In 2018 alone, he tweeted around 1440 tweets, that’s around 4 TWEETS A DAY. Astonishingly, that figure was only 42 for the whole of 2011 — he created his account June 2010 — meaning his social media usage has gone up 3300%: what we would call becoming a social media addict. The first question that comes to mind is, what kind of work can a person that must be CONSTANTLY on social media do? Elon Musk is less of the hard-working person he was back in the Paypal and Tesla founding days, his mind is now all over the place, completely distracted and incapacitated to carry out cognitively demanding tasks. Amid him tweeting Tesla to be in his mind 24/7 and spending less than 5% of his time on the Twitter acquisition deal to calm investors (more on that later), I’d be more worried about him spending 24/7 on Twitter.

Elon Musk happily using his phone, posting something on Twitter.
Elon Musk on Twitter 24/7, sorry X.

If you’ve followed Musk’s behaviour in the recent months, it is clear how he has become delusional, a meme, a public clown that cannot distinguish social media from reality. From tweeting to take Tesla private and — jokingly? — lying about Tesla being totally bankrupt to seriously promoting a meme coin which has (and will never have) any real world application — and which has now dropped 90% in value — and behaving like a 14 yr old child by insulting or ridiculing people publicly. The culmination of it all is the Twitter acquisition deal, which started as social media joke in 2017 and is another example of the irrational behaviour of Musk not being able to distinguish social media jokes from reality, hence why he is now backtracking using the bots as an excuse to get out of the deal.

The list of lawsuits he has been involved because of his tweets speak for the influence social media is having on his behaviour: In 2019 he was sued by a Cave diver for defamation after Musk called him a pedophile on Twitter; he was charged with Securities Fraud for his Tweet “announcing” to Take Tesla private — costing him and Tesla 40 million dollars in settlement charges and a company lawyer to pre-screen all his Tesla-related tweets from that moment onwards — ; the SEC issued him a subpoena later on 2021 for polling on Twitter whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stake. Him and his companies (Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring company) are facing a 258$ billion lawsuit for running a pyramid scheme and pumping the price of Dogecoin more than 36,000% over two years and then let it crash. And the cherry on the cake is the Twitter acquisition deal: he has not only been sued by Twitter for terminating the agreement, in the meantime he has also been sued by Twitter investors for manipulating the stock price.

It is clear that social media has corrupted Elon Musk and made of the richest man on Earth a joke, and it serves as yet an example on how social media is affecting society, as his tweets are now part of the headlines, influence financial markets and even his own decisions (such as selling his shares or buying Twitter).

Is this a 5-year old kid or the richest man on Earth?

[Written on Dec of 2022]

I don’t think I need to add anything to that, if anything, the Twitter acquisition deal has been proven to be an absolute disaster, another proof that Mr. Musk has lost it, and anyone that has been following the news would agree that Musk had no idea what he’s doing. He abruptly fired half of the company, only to later ask some to return after realizing some employees were laid off “accidentally” while others were an essential component of the company. How is this disastrous management even remotely possible? The chaos surrounding the “blue check” verification logo is another symptom of the distraction Mr. Musk is submerged into (now racking up 40+ tweets day). It was obvious that making it a subscription-based service was a bad idea as the whole point of the logo was to be granted to verify personalities precisely to avoid impersonification. Surprise, it took him 5 days to get rid of the service as Twitter was flooded with impostors, causing many companies to remove advertising on Twitter, with the corresponding massive drop in revenue.

I could go on forever: his ex employees are now suing the company for violating the California federal law, as the company did not provide the required 60-day notice period for mass layoffs. The final indication that he has no idea of what he’s doing comes from him criticising Twitter for not being “open” to “free-speech” only to start doing precisely what Twitter already did: ban accounts that incite violence or even any mention or access to Substack’s or Mastodon’s links on Twitter (sorry should have said “X”).

A once memorable and admirable entrepreneur, turned into a public joke by an addiction not even the richest man on Earth is exempt of.

The US presidential debates: when president Camacho becomes reality

Once upon time political debates revolved around discussing pressing issues affecting the citizens of the country. Politicians would publicly discuss their thought-out measures, putting forward arguments to convince voters of their effectiveness in critical issues such as boosting the economy, improving healthcare and education or raising standards of living. Viewers on the other hand would expect to hear a respectful debate in an elaborate, organised and thoughtful manner, in order to be able to make an informed decision on the leadership of the country for the next years.

The 2012 presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would approximately fit this description, as we would expect, particularly considering the future of the most important economy in the world was at stake.

(for a real eye-opener you may also want to watch the first ever televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy)

The 2012 presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Pause for a second and note the thoughtful and articulated tone of both candidates, and how the conversation revolves around current problems and their proposed solutions and as we would expect and unsurprisingly for a presidential debate, the conversation never revolves around themselves. Arguably, “boring”, “slow” and even slightly “hard-to-follow” are words that come to mind to describe the debate, but the word entertaining would never come to mind, exactly as expected for a presidential debate whose objective is not to entertain the audience.

Until social media wiped it out all out.

Fast forward four years to 2016 and the shitshow starts, first on the ring: Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump. Can’t tell whether I’m about to watch a presidential debate or two boxers about to fight?

The 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

According to Wikipedia — ” debates put an emphasis upon logical consistency and factual accuracy” — did you see any of that? Instead of a respectful debate centred around proposed measures and their potential impact on important matters such as the economy or the healthcare system — recall this is what political debates are for — , the debate quickly shifts towards a discussion of “who said what and when” and “you-more-stupid-than-me” type of arguments. It is what a parody of a presidential debate would look like, just that THIS is the actual debate, a debate marked by an utter lack of respect — not even the moderator is respected —and strangely, punctuated by humour; but by no means “putting emphasis on logical consistency and factual accuracy”.

The moderator at the start attests that “we are gonna focus on many of the issues that voters tell us are most important”. Indeed, viewers came to listen and understand what their future leaders would do for the country, yet they what they got is a discussion of why Trump said Hillary “doesn’t have the look”. Viewers came with the expectation to witness a respectful exchange of facts and logical argumentation, yet what they got is a parody straight of the movie Idiocracy and a clown scaringly talking like president Camacho. They came to witness arguably the most important presidential debate of the world, yet they found themselves in a rap battle shouting “WOOHOO, MIC DROP!”. A show, a circus, but hey, entertaining as hell.

An this is the story of how the first clown came in hold of the presidential house in the US. How a social media maniac and manipulator was able to use these tools to make comedy and ad hominem type of argumentation an acceptable form of political discourse.

And later on in 2020… well we all have engraved in our memories the 2020 political debate between Trump and Biden, don’t we? It’s essentially the same, but worse:

The 2020 presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Again there is a complete lack of respect (once again not even for the moderator), no political discourse whatsoever, it is again a circus, two kids insulting each other. And mind you again, this is the most important presidential debate of the world, it is meant to decide the course of the most powerful nation in the world and yet here we are, I argue as a result of social media, watching a highly entertaining circus.

This trend in political debates is just the result of HOW a society has been transformed as it shifted from the enlightenment, where rationality reigned as the book was the main mean of propagating information, to being dominated by the TV and finally by social media, to the point where memes are now an acceptable form of political campaign and entertainment reigns above everything else. It is a distracted and badly informed society, but a well-entertained one.

Nayib Bukele: doubling down on Bitcoin with public funds

Can you say a tweet is worth a thousand words?

What if I told you that there exists a president TODAY that has used more than $100 millions of public funds (yes, taxpayer money) to gamble on a worthless cryptocurrency, in which the only way to make money is that a bigger idiot than himself comes and pays a higher price for it (a form of Dunning–Kruger effect if you ask me). Sounds like Sci-Fi right? Unbelievable? What if I told you that on top of that he has already lost $66 millions of public funds on his gamble? This is not Sci-Fi, it’s the fucking Idiocracy unfolding in front of our eyes, it’s the uttermost absurd coming into being, it’s once again what you get when you confuse Twitter, with reality.

Nayib Bukele buying the BTC “dip”, not so cheap after all…

The president I am talking about is Nayib Burkele, president of El Salvador, a country on the brink of default where 20% of the population lives for under $5 a day, a country seeing its wealth being gambled away by his DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED president, another Elon-style Twitter maniac.

According to Wikipedia — “El Salvador now has the most distressed sovereign debt in the world, and it’s because of the bitcoin folly,” economist Steve Hanke told Fortune magazine. “The markets think that Bukele’s gone mad, and he has.” The IMF urged the Bukele government to strip bitcoin of its status as legal currency due to its large risks, indicating a major obstacle for the government’s efforts to get an international loan from the institution. As of June 2022, the Salvadoran government has lost $56 million dollars in bitcoin, and economists state that the country is likely going to default on its debt.”

Isn’t this a clear case of a person creating his own parallel reality? Portraying himself on Twitter as a visionary, a messiah who will bring wealth and salvation to El Salvador with a currency that will reward those early “woke” adopters who saw its value before everyone else (note also the egocentric rhetoric). HERE HE IS!, broadcasting to the world through the Twitter megaphone that “EL SALVADOR NOW OWNS 400 BTCs” “Hurray!”. And meanwhile, the reality is that he has lost more than 50% of public funds on a decentralized Ponzi scheme, all the while the country is on the brink of collapse.

This is what you get when social media takes over the political discourse, when it is more important to agitate Twitter, to get likes, retweets, than to bring actual measures to the table, when priorities are reversed, and what matters the most is the image you portray to the world, rather than the actual facts.

Yet another example of the unfolding Idiocracy.

Dismissal of the Scientific consensus: Jair Bolsonaro

In the Ship of Fools, Plato likens the governance of the state with a ship, in which the navigator, an experienced seafaring is mocked and ridiculed by the sailors as a useless stargazer. Because the sailors do not understand why one would waste time looking at the stars to navigate a vessel, they deem such endeavour as pointless, and disregard any advice this “mad man” could give. “How will the true pilot be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?”. The sailors keep on quarrelling about who is to command the vessel and bragging about their (inexistent) abilities as pilots, even if they’ve never received any training on how to command a vessel. The sailors eventually throng the captain and “proceed on their voyage in such manner as might be expected of them”. Bolsonaro is just a sailor.

In 2018 climate researches (the experts) at the University of São Paulo warned that if just 20–25% of the rainforest were cut down, the Amazon forest could reach a “tipping point”. At that point the Amazon forest would lose its ability to capture enough moisture to retain the rainforest, losing trees, which would in turn diminish moisture retention and vegetation, in a self-reinforcing cycle which would transform the eastern, southern and central Amazonia into a tropical Savannah. More articles followed suit: in March 2022 more experts (scientists) showed using high-resolution satellite imagery that 3/4 of the Amazon forest is losing resilience to bounce back since the 2000s. What does one do with this evidence at hand?

If you are Bolsonaro (a sailor in Plato’s allegory), you obviously get rid of the Climate Change Division of the ministry and two departments of the Ministry of the Environment dealing with climate change in Brazil, along with another one dealing with deforestation. You also dismantle Brazil’s environmental policies, so that deforestation can go unhindered: deforestation in June of 2019 increased 88% compared to the previous year according to the National Institute for Space Research — something Bolsonaro claimed to be false (he later fired the director of the institute) — while in August 2019, 8 months into his presidency, wildfires in the Amazon reached a record 5-year high. January, February, April, May and June of 2022 all saw new deforestation rates records. In September 2022 some scientists fear the tipping point has already been reached, now that about 26% of the Amazon has been lost or severely degraded.


It is unheard-of that our democratically elected leaders refute the scientific consensus (the experts) in matters that dictate the future of our civilization. With social media being such a breeding ground for political radicalism, science denial, fake news and misinformation, it is no coincidence that Bolsonaro tweeted and average of 7.33 tweets a day during his electoral campaign. It is once again a consequence of the political discourse taking place on social media, when megaphones are put in the wrong hands and when voters are carried away by irrational emotions triggered by polarizing and shallow content led by political populism. Bolsonaro may be choosing economical growth before the environment, yet once climate change causes the collapse of the environments, there will be no economical growth for anyone.


I’d like to finish by contrasting the current political discourse with this 16 min uninterrupted speech of Carl Sagan in front of congress in 1985:

It feels from another era, something that just cannot happen nowadays, because of how technology (in this case social media) has transformed our society for the worse. Here we have a commendable scientists telling congressmen what we humbly THINK WE KNOW about climate change based on our current understanding of physics and the gathered evidence. And equally admirable is having politicians willing to let the man develop in full everything he has to say about the matter, so that together a better future can be created out of it. Yet in our current era, beyond the fact that this type of uninterrupted speech is unheard of and inaudible nowadays in political circles (pun intended), and that scientist are rarely listened in this manner anymore, Carl Sagan would have been discredited as conspiracionist, charlatan or as having “an agenda”.

In a recent congressional hearing, congressmen grilled TikTok’s US CEO for over 5 hours over security concerns, such as TikTok spying through your camera, content safety or data sharing with the Chinese Communist Party [1]. Some of those may be valid concerns, yet what I’d be more worried about is TikTok threatening to turn the entire US population into a thoughtless herd of mindless sheep, as it might already be happening. As we have seen and saw in part I, social media is dumbing down our society, altering people’s behaviour, our means of communication and our political discourse, turning the world into a less serious place… At the core of the problem lies an AI algorithm trained to hack the human, and unless we start to regulate these things (more on that on part 3), we may sooner or later realize that Mike Judge’s Idiocracy was a Documentary, rather than a Comedy.

We are still living off the remnants of past generations, what will happen when the TikTok generation takes over?

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the journey!

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So what’s the solution to all this?
Wait for part 3!

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