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The Genie Coefficient
in which i trick you into learning one small thing
The suave Italian sociologist Corrado Gini introduced a very effective method of evaluating inequalities in society. It is now known as the “Gini Coefficient.” This number (between 0 and 1) is the score of how a particular property is widely shared or narrowly imbalanced across a population. Frequently, this is used to describe wealth or income equality — but it may also suggest things like health, access to information, the degree to which authorities take your input seriously, how likely you are to get shot by police, etc.
It is now a trite cliche to observe that the United States of America has a much higher Gini Coefficient than most other wealthy, post-industrial countries. And this problem has been increasing for decades. Although total American wealth and power has been increasing, more and more of the rewards are being legally and illegally placed under the control of fewer and fewer minds.
At the same time, we also speak casually of “genies” — based on our cartoon understanding of the ancient Middle Eastern folklore about Djinn spirits…
What would a Genie Coefficient indicate?
Perhaps the score, between 0 and 1, of how much opulent weirdness, magical destabilization, dangerous wish-granting & impossible transformations haunt our population?
Sadly, I do not yet have a specific mathematical proposal about how to measure the Genie Coefficient, but it seems pretty clear that this number has been going up steadily both in the United States and around the world. Genies are being released in vast and worrying numbers. Everything starts to look preposterous and uncanny.
I feel like “big weirdness” used to be spaced out by long intervals. I know there were famous Surrealist dreamcatchers painting in France in the 1920s but it took decades of war and normalcy before that world-famous boy band The Beatles had a brief period of psychedelic strangeness — at exactly the same moment Star Trek, Hunter Thompson and Situationalism came online.
And it took 30 years after that before David Lynch’s Twin Peaks disrupted network television with its backwards-talking dwarves, alien owls, Tibetan forensics and endless cherry pies. These vivid moments, when the whole culture seems to confronted dimensions of shamanic and dream-like weirdness, were few and far between. Our Genie coefficient was usually low.
That is no longer the case.
Somewhere between the news about Charlie Sheen’s anti-Semitic “tiger blood” and the roll-out of electric, self-driving transport trucks, we elected (?) that crass, obscene and truth-indifferent buffoon host of TV’s Celebrity Apprentice as president of the United States. Every expert assured us that this would not happen. But it did. And that was also the election that first featured the wild popularity of an avowed Socialist. What the fuck has been going on? We now look back fondly on those innocent days when Bill Clinton contested the meaning of the word “is” and cheesy 80s karate actor Chuck Norris became an immortal character out of internet folklore.
Now is a time when Elon Musk is using his re-usable rockets to launch thousands of mini-satellites into the Starlink grid around the Earth. “Disrupt” and “fail faster” are slogans from the most profitable and powerful corporations since Dynastic Egypt and Rome. It’s already been years since the American military admitted the existence of UFOs and released official video footage of anomalous crafts. What should we feel about such a world as this?
“Deepfake apps” make it possible for ANYONE to invent audio or video footage of anyone else doing anything we want. And so anyone can deny video and audio evidence of their actions.
It’s been years since “post-truth” was word-of-the-year. As I write this in 2020, Stephen Colbert is the moderate voice of the mainstream! An ambiguous mass pandemic brought the global economy to a halt. Or did it? Or is it??? The raging apocalyptic forest fires have became constant background noise. The existence of infinite parallel universes have made a strong run for the office of hard-nosed conventional wisdom in physics! Everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket. Children are option to have their genders switched. Big name environmentalists are promoting GMOs & nuclear power. Hunks of meat for burgers are being grown in labs sans animals. Flying killer robots rain death upon foreign weddings at the push of a button. Frisbee-golf is a legitimate sport. Stand-up comedian Joe Rogan became the most popular broadcaster in human history. Cannabis decriminalization is everywhere. And major health services around the world are debating the role that “spirituality” should play in their institutions. Every opinion, and every fact, is now contested AND believed from every direction.
Our Genie coefficient is off the charts.
So whatever is your plan for society, family, understanding, politics, money-making, health, religion (and you should be TRYING something) has to take this apparent amplification of weirdness very seriously. At this point, it is simply a matter of luck whether the system holds together, wrecks itself or upgrades in an inspirational manner. All options are on the table. That’s the evolutionary niche to which we must adapt. Nothing is too strange, implausible, offensive, stupid or intelligent to work. The ice of normality, like the ice at the North Pole, has begun to fracture and melt.
No one is getting out dry.
To quote Hunter S. Thompson:
“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere.”