Disney’s Infinite Paperclips

In 2003, Nick Bostrom introduced the world to the Paperclip Maximizer:

Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paper clips as possible. The AI will realize quickly that it would be much better if there were no humans because humans might decide to switch it off. Because if humans do so, there would be fewer paper clips. Also, human bodies contain a lot of atoms that could be made into paper clips. The future that the AI would be trying to gear towards would be one in which there were a lot of paper clips but no humans.


People spend a lot of time worrying about AI. After all, imagine a hypothetical artificial person whose goal is to maximize one goal at the expense of all others, including human happiness and safety.

But this scenario is already here! Corporations are artificial entities that maximize profit at the expense of human happiness and safety.

Worse, corporations permeate everything under our capitalist society. For this post I’m leaving aside the most obvious and egregious violations of worker safety and environmental disaster; today I’m interested in talking about culture. (But seriously, if you want to get mad go read the Wikipedia article on NestlĂ© sometime; these people are pure evil).

Disney recently announced a bunch of upcoming projects, including ten new Star Wars properties, ten new Marvel properties, and thirty other Pixar/Disney films and series. And it makes me think of a paperclip factory.

These might even turn out to be fun films! In fact, they are practically guaranteed to be. People love Wendy’s and Coca-Cola too, but that doesn’t make ubiquitous fast food and soda a net good for society either.

Disney has found replicable formulas that reliably turn a profit. Star Wars. Superheroes. Pixar’s reliable “this will make you sad” plots. Which means that we’re going to get these formulas, over and and over again, forever. Or at least until everyone gets so thoroughly sick of Star Wars and Marvel that they stop watching and move onto whatever new formula they come up with.

I don’t know, maybe I’m in “old man yells at cloud” territory (to quote another now-Disney property), but it just seems so exhausting and bland. I want more perspectives in popular culture than the bland status-quo neoliberalism that Disney aims at for Maximum Palatability.

It’s a blog!

Hey, remember blogs? Blogs were neat.

I wanted a place to write things publicly now that I’m backing way off of Facebook, so I made one. Re-made one, really, since I used to blog all the time before social media sites absorbed all the world’s attention.

Hoping to share some interesting links and videos and music here in addition to my own rambling. Old school WebBlog stuff.

I’ve got comments turned off, because I am not interested in dealing with spam and trolls. But if you’ve got something to say, I’d love to know that I’m not writing out into the void. If you know me IRL then text me or ~talk to me~ (you know, when The Plague ends). If you don’t, my twitter is @jdharper or email me at jd@jdharper.com.

This site is very much a work in progress; progress is scheduled for “whenever I feel like dealing with it.” It’s a minimum viable product type of deal.