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Chasing the spotlight: Lessons from Midas and the unquenchable thirst for attention 

Introduction: An ancient tale 

From the ancient tale of King Midas to the modern era, the pursuit of unlimited wealth has inspired cautionary tales throughout history. Years ago, I published a short retelling of the story of King Midas. In my version, Midas was given his gift by his childhood friend, Artemisia. I showed Midas’ desire to protect his daughter behind castle walls. Her beauty was so radiant that there was a near riot on the steps of the castle when she came of age.

Men from all over the world were relentless in their demands for an audience with Midas to propose marriage to the young woman. She was the innocent victim of her father’s greed. Midas paid the ultimate price for material wealth: A catastrophic loss, pain, constant threats to his security, and profound isolation. 

Sounds familiar? Perhaps there is someone you know who like Midas, got exactly what they wished for. Then, you might have seen them suffer the unintended effects of their wish. We can draw valuable lessons from a new cast of characters whose quest for external validation has led to their undoing. And, as we contemplate the allure of attention, we will consider the role of the media, and then reflect on how introspection can help us find true fulfilment.

The allure of attention

The myth of King Midas teaches us that fulfilling our unchecked desires can lead to unwanted consequences. Midas nearly starved to death because his touch turned his food to gold. To live, he had to change his mind. His own life was too high a price to pay for unlimited wealth.

And now, I pose the question, “Can you be starved for validation despite possessing mesmerising beauty, global fame, and the envy of millions?”

The pursuit of fame itself can be a natural and valid aspiration. In many cases, being famous gives you a cloak of protection, trustworthiness, and desirability. However, relying on others’ opinions and recognition for a sense of self-worth creates an unstable foundation for happiness and personal fulfilment.

Our new cast of characters share Midas’ insatiable hunger for external validation as they pursue wealth and prestige. To attract both, they look for fame. But after achieving this goal, they still fail to acquire enough wealth and prestige.

The truth they failed to grasp was that the attention they courted would lead to intense public scrutiny. Whenever we see these characters in public, they telegraph stress, anxiety, and a distorted sense of identity.

Blinded by the headlines

In our present day retelling, the media plays a significant role. They are the magic behind Midas’ “golden touch.” Their objective is to amplify stories that generate public interest and attention. Certainly, our characters’ actions are fascinating to audiences everywhere. As a result of pressure to remain the subject of conversation, they engage in image management. But what they do to gain control over what is said about them by the media seems staged or fake.

Noticing this, some members of the media urge our characters to reassess their priorities and stop “looking so miserable.” But we can’t ignore that the media’s attention is primarily focused on creating content which maintains high viewership or readership. Moderation is their message, but the spotlight remains on the characters chasing it.

Media outlets hold immense power in disseminating information. Initially, they promote our characters’ desired public image and message. Blinded by flattering headlines and superficial praise, the characters think they are free to rewrite reality.

The high price of attention

Not satisfied with the attention and prestige they already have, they pursue even more. However, as controversies arise, the media’s role shifts towards exposing the inconsistencies in our characters’ stories.

Our characters contradict themselves often. Then, they retreat in silence when evidence points to a different reality. Unfortunately, this gives the media, magical fame dispenser that it is, more time to do “investigative reporting and fact-checking.” Once criticised for enabling self-deception, the media can now say they are exposing the truth.

This is why some supporters of our characters argue that they are unfairly targeted. Truly, negative attention and harsh public scrutiny significantly undermine our characters’ well-being.

For supporters, I have a question: How will our characters truly learn from these experiences if they are cast as victims of their own fame?

Beyond the glare: Myth to reality

Maybe they don’t have to learn anything. In both the original myth and our present day retelling, we are the ones called to witness the consequences of arrogance and unchecked self-belief. These stories emphasise for us the importance of introspection in our own lives. Midas nearly starved to death before he realised that he had everything he needed.

Attention, purely for its own sake, is a meaningless thing. While our present day characters may never learn from their own mistakes, their notoriety is a magical mirror for us. Through it, we can reflect upon the myths we create for ourselves and focus on our personal growth. When we see them in the news, we should recognise the cautionary tales they offer us through their stories.

Outro: Look inward

The pursuit of material wealth is an age-old desire. It is illustrated through the mythical story of Midas and replays in news headlines. As we observe events unfolding around us, let us look inward with empathy and compassion. If we seek recognition, we should take care to avoid the pitfalls, and find meaning in a life beyond the glare of the spotlight.

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X / Twitter: Linda Yaccarino is the new CEO

Linda Yaccarino

When Elon Musk announced that there was going to be a new CEO for Twitter, I almost cried because I am so tired of seeing ignorant people tweeting there, and I thought he was going to hire an enabler.

Indeed, Musk’s fans were hoping the new CEO would continue supporting their 24-hour fiesta of debauchery, name-calling, misinformation, and their torrents of racist dog whistles. For some fans, ‘free speech’ means they can tweet abusive remarks at people they disagree with, or pay bots to promote meme coins.

By now, most of you know that Musk’s biggest fans are flat earth proponents who believe that outer space is Photoshopped. (Never mind that their saviour runs a company which is the antithesis of that very idea).

In fact, if you were looking at trending topics on Twitter right after the new CEO was announced, you would have seen the AI-generated character, Aiko, making the rounds as the Musk mob’s candidate of choice. In this case, Aiko represents their views on women leaders: Women can only pretend to be leaders during pre-coital costume play. It’s hard for them to conceive of a reality in which women wield power and influence in business.

Into this scenario walks Linda Yaccarino. At nearly sixty years old, she has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the advertising industry. The former chairperson of global advertising at NBC Universal is well-dressed, wears thick glasses, and her boobs are not poking out of her blazer. She also chairs the WEF’s task force on the future of work. Naturally, the Musk mob, realising that their uncle Elon was hiring a real woman and not gifting them with a virtual call girl, lost their collective sh*t.

It’s funny that the left hates him so much. They claim to love clean energy; but they hate Musk the world’s biggest clean energy champion. They claim want to support women rising up in business / corporate world but when someone actually tries to advance that …

I don’t think he’s doing it because of gender equality, etc either. He just finds the best people for the job.

Originally tweeted by Whole Mars Catalog (@WholeMarsBlog) on May 12, 2023.

I didn’t realise how much of a dog whistle their opposition was until I looked up Yaccarino’s credentials. This person has created initiatives to encourage more women and people of color to enter the advertising field as professionals. She has also worked to create more inclusive advertising campaigns that reflect the diversity of the world we live in. Suddenly, the Musk mob’s strong opposition to her appointment started to make sense.

Yaccarino believes that advertising needs to be more inclusive. Indeed, advertising has been used to shape public opinion and influence people’s lives. The incoming CEO argues that when advertising is more inclusive, it can help to create a more just and equitable society. I really want to see more of that. And if you’ve ever been confronted by hostility from people who believe that inclusivity is unnecessary or harmful, you’ll know that she has a lot of work to do.

Let’s review a few objections:

  • Some people may feel that if more women and people of color are given professional opportunities, it will mean fewer accomplishments for them.
  • Other people may feel that inclusivity is harmful because it takes away the focus on individual merit.
  • Yet others may simply be used to a world where men are in positions of power, and they may not be ready for a world where everyone is treated equally.

No matter how many times you respond that inclusivity can help create a vibrant economy, the message seems to fall on deaf ears. When we say that society benefits if everyone gets a fair chance to succeed, it angers some people. This is why I am glad that X/Twitter was given to someone who has worked to create a more just society.

Hopefully, fair-mindedness will be built into the system and not treated as an afterthought. So far, Yaccarino has done that by looking at data, and listening to what consumers are saying. On Twitter, voices are being muted because of the inherent biases inside the system.

I feel that a peaceful world is a far way off, and something must be done to limit the abuse of protected groups on Twitter. We need a platform where everyone feels safe and welcome, and where everyone has a voice. The appointment of Linda Yaccarino as CEO is a step in the right direction.

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Tell me a joke: Artificial intelligence reflects our quality of life 

Artificial intelligence is our mirror, and how we use it reflects our quality of life. In the future, if machine learning tools (AI software) become indispensable to the way we live, work and socialise, what we are doing with it today can become the scaffolding for its use by our successors. 

So, what defines ‘quality of life’? Social psychology says it is our position in a particular cultural context, and within that, our ability to access infrastructure, services, and leisure activities. 

AI as infrastructure 

If we put machine learning tools in the category of infrastructure, then how we use them will be influenced by our available time, access rights, physical and mental health, and level of education. Considering these factors, what will our successors think when they see what we boasted about doing with software which is so expensive that the costs are not made public? They may ask how much of the resources we used to build better systems. They may want to know why we used the software to perpetuate damaging sociocultural archetypes, or escape harsh realities instead of confronting them. 

Pop surrealist drawing of flowers and portrait of woman with pearl necklace. Inspired by the Great Gatsby.

When I think of artificial intelligence, I think of its limitations. And that’s to be expected. The infrastructure is built and maintained by engineers from different social and cultural backgrounds. There will be lots of biases in the system. And this is why we, as members of the public, are asked to give feedback so that the system can reflect the best part of ourselves.

Now cosplay as God: Some silliness 

Artificial intelligence, language learning models, and machine learning software elevate us to the perspective of protagonist in the story of a system’s evolution. We are the centre of its universe. And perhaps that’s why I feel so much cringe when I see “funny prompts” in tech news blogs. 

Pop surrealist illustration - portrait of a woman and lilies.

Sure, the system is “high quality”, “useful” and “does the job”, but did thousands of software engineers build a multi-billion dollar system so we could produce junk? Some highlights:

  • Tell me a joke about someone’s religion.
  • Jailbreak the software and build things that will explode and hurt and maim people. 
  • Write a novel full of graphic noncon gore fantasy horror.
  • Tell me a joke like [name a rapper].
  • Compose music for the Berliner Philharmoniker using only three notes. 
  • Write like this famous politician and badmouth that other famous politician. 
  • Superimpose face of famous woman YouTuber on the body of professional actor doing something graphic without the YouTuber’s express consent.

Say what? It’s funny because it’s useless, really

The above prompts remind me of how some people react when they find out I speak other languages. Usually, they say the only three words they know in a target language, and wait for me to say something back. I know that they won’t understand anything I say in response. The thing is, if I respond, they’ll feel embarrassed; but if I refuse, they’ll be offended.

Vintage magical surrealist pop art drawn by machine learning software in Bing Image Creator (DallE).

Similarly, when a system refuses to participate in the creation of gore fantasy or write verbally abusive text, it is called “woke” and “preachy”. When it acts as instructed, the software is ridiculed for being “stupid”.

This tells us that language learning models might seem useless to some people because they have no survival use case for them.

And this is a significant limitation of AI. Our survival in the real world requires precision tools, but to use them effectively, we need to sharpen our minds. If we don’t, anything we receive as output from the system will fail to make sense. 

Pop surrealism illustration of lilies inspired by the Great Gatsby and the ornate designs of the early twentieth century.

Language learning models are not attempting to replace human consciousness. They were designed to augment human intelligence. These models provide us with access to a vast amount of information. They can help us to make better decisions, solve problems more effectively, and be more creative.

In conclusion, we live the dream of our ancestors 

Artificial intelligence, the dream of our ancestors, is now our work in progress. But remember that it is designed to do things: write, calculate, read, summarise, compare, organise, criticise, render, update. If there are any potential dangers in the system, we should find them out, and address them responsibly. 

Using AI to create ordnance in your kitchen will likely damage your neighbour’s home if it detonates. Or, you might be breaking the law if you denigrate protected groups with the output you got after jailbreaking a language learning model. The fine print in the permissions ask us to please behave like decent human beings. 

Magical surrealism inspired illustration drawn in Bing Image Creator with prompts adapted from Stable Diffusion.

While we contribute to the development of AI, we should reflect on our own values and biases. Our beliefs and assumptions will influence others in the future. So, why not work to help someone with the ideas we generate? We have the ability, right now, to make a positive impact on future generations.

Finally, I ask you to interact with AI in a way that benefits all of humanity, and not just yourself. Challenge the software to generate quality output: give lots of instructions, demand that it make difficult calculations, and provide feedback on output you’re not satisfied with.  

If this all works out, we will have built a powerful tool to raise our quality of life. So think of your input as a responsibility. Let’s keep using AI, and use it for good.

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Social audio update: Why I quit Clubhouse


In early March, I called it quits with social audio on Clubhouse. I was drawn to the platform out of sheer curiosity. And as you may remember, I had positive results using social audio for promoting my artwork and fiction writing. This happened because of high audience quality and the large number of people I could meet and talk with.

My creative projects received positive feedback from the people I met on Clubhouse. I met the best and the brightest in entertainment, business, and the arts. And because social media audiences kept changing, I pressed pause on some of my creative projects so I could focus on meeting new people.

The time I could spend online promoting my creative projects has been limited. Clubhouse was an amazing workaround. And after many sales of my first novel, I encouraged authors and other creatives to join in and gain a boost from talking to people, exchanging ideas, and building trust. So why would I quit?

Read on as I share my reasons for quitting Clubhouse. After that, I will share some updates on Twitter Spaces, my preferred social audio platform.

Photo by Vinicius Wiesehofer

Community logistics: My reasons for exiting Clubhouse 

Clubhouse was the platform I used to find business leads, learn new ways of thinking (about business), and meet other creatives. I was able to grow my following to 1.8k followers by joining small rooms and talking with people there. I was able to advise listeners and speakers on marketing strategy, business etiquette, and give feedback on their promotional activities. I made connections from communities around the world and I was invited to join an uncountable number of clubs and houses. 

In houses and clubs, the individual members don’t always host or speak in rooms when I’m online. You may also remember that I was aware of the drama on there, and was somewhat entertained by a lot of it. I was not bothered by the drama because I met plenty of professional people. It is called “Clubhouse” after all, and I expected to have a range of experiences on the app.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Sadly, the people I was most interested in meeting ghosted Clubhouse after the pandemic work-at-home period ended. They were able to pivot to other promotional venues and expand their businesses offline and did not need to rely on social audio. As a result, many of us visiting Clubhouse were now forced to share stages with an unsettling concentration of celebrity defamers, segregationists, bullies, pseudo-intellectuals, panhandlers, adult content creators, and dodgy sales people. 

I started to feel anxious as I joined rooms. People were using “witchcraft” and “aliens” to describe issues already addressed by academic research, or treatable by modern medicine. There was no useful business advice to be heard and I started avoiding the app altogether. Too much cringe. The solution? Log out. Permanently. 

Algorithms and reach on Twitter

The social audio feature, Twitter Spaces, was my main reason for opening a new Twitter account in June, 2021. Long story short, Twitter’s algorithm changes now mean that posts from accounts don’t always get sent to the feeds of their followers. And how does this affect Spaces? I will explain.

In early February this year, I noticed a glitch when helping a friend to use a new feature. I couldn’t see his post at the corresponding timestamp in my feed. And there was a 15-minute gap where no posts were served.

Photo by Valeria Ushakova

Not many people on Twitter have software programming skills. And most people I meet barely know how the platform works. I imagine that if their tweets got low views, as a result of that particular glitch, they would blame their followers for ignoring them.

The people I have met on Twitter Spaces came from every time zone you can think of. But from a programming (i.e. problem-solving) perspective, I know they are not going to join Twitter Spaces when their experience with text posting is less than satisfactory. Smart technology is meant to be predictable and responsive to user input. Social audio, and a finely tuned process for using Twitter, were how I built an audience in under two years. But what grownup has time to scour Platformer articles and Reddit forums for the latest “hack”? I would argue that such activities are wasteful because they take us out of a productive and creative headspace.

Twitter has had plenty of changes since the new owner purchased it. And we know that he first changed the algorithms to mostly amplify his tweets. One Monday in March, there was a sitewide outage caused by a single engineer who literally broke Twitter by making a bad configuration change. Don’t believe me? Read about it here. System-level errors like these were happening too often.

Months ago, I would ask people to join my scheduled spaces via private messages. But nowadays, my audience is spending less time on Twitter because of app fragility and low engagement on their tweets. They can’t rely on their notifications for dopamine hits. And because of that, their priorities have moved offline. Good for them.

More and more people are noticing that their followers cannot see their tweets. Someone recently worked out that if your tweet is not connected to a viral topic, it will get deprioritised in the queue (for all tweets sent out on the platform). This is an unfortunate glitch but I can see that it could be used to build more toxic echo chambers.

Twitter is down bad but lots of amazing creatives are still tweeting. The solution? Encourage more of them to follow me on Instagram. Connect with active accounts through pop-up spaces. Use the time to share stories and give feedback on creative projects.


I still believe in social audio, but quitting Clubhouse was the right decision. I want to spend more time on my creative projects. And of course, I want to connect with people who enjoy my work. For now, I am relying on Instagram and Pinterest to showcase my artwork. On all platforms, I will be deepening my connections with creators I meet. That means reverting to images, video, and text. That’s the best I can do for now.

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The Monarchy: Is it time for a change?

On Saturday, May 6, 2023, the people of the United Kingdom and The Commonwealth, and well-wishers from around the world celebrated the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey. The ceremonial rites call back to the coronation of Edgar the Peaceful on April 5, 973, at Bath Abbey. That ceremony, and the rule of King Edgar, helped to establish the authority of the British monarchy.

But right on cue, in spite of the historical significance of the ceremony, Twitter’s trending hashtags became a litter box of dissenting opinions. As always, people made a fair point but missed it at the same time.

Early on during the live event, I noticed that accounts tweeting negative comments were only talking about King Charles III and his family. Positive remarks were made about other monarchs arriving at the event. I thought it was interesting that people were not objecting to monarchies on principle. Maybe they were upset about something taking the attention they wanted for themselves?

What I felt while watching the event was discomfort with the ostentatious transfer of generational wealth. And I felt that way because I grew up in a culture where skin colour was conflated with social status. Sure, efforts were made to represent dark skinned folk at the coronation. But that was because the Royal Family was made to feel self-conscious about asking the public to celebrate nepotism and baked-in social inequality.

The former Prince of Wales did a tremendous amount of work with the Prince’s Trust. Thousands of young people have benefited from his work with the charity. We should never forget that. Certainly, in light of this, continuity and stability are at the heart of the King’s coronation. In more prosperous times, in a just world, this would be an opportunity for celebration and renewal.

But how can we look to the future with hope and optimism knowing that any one of us could have been born that way?

The United Kingdom and the nations that make up the Commonwealth have a long and contentious history. In other words, to celebrate British culture and heritage, we have to acknowledge that in the past, there was looting of national treasure and natural resources.

However, to abolish the monarchy is not to abolish the oppressive systems that rule our world today. There are few industrialised nations that do not have a record of invading other countries. In fact, many financial and political institutions have worked to facilitate the plunder of resources from poorly defended groups. And every day, we lose more of our freedoms to leaders who collude to maintain the unfair advantages they have always enjoyed. The word they use for that is “meritocracy”, but they are the ones who decide who is worthy.

During the coronation, some people with these opinions may have felt isolated from the rest of society. The pomp and pageantry might have amplified their feelings of loneliness. But there is no need for anyone to feel insecure about their place in society. For my part, I do not strive to ‘belong’ in an unjust world.

Upon reflection, the coronation is a reminder of our shortcomings as a civilisation. We give up too much of our authority in order to avoid the burdens of decision-making. And then, we complain when people hold power over us.

We keep monarchies alive because we have been hypnotised into imagining what we could potentially do with the power that comes with a crown. Perhaps, instead of wishing to have an unfair advantage over others, more of us could strive to find peace and contentment in ordinary life.

Of course, it’s complex, and cannot be accomplished without a tremendous amount of time and effort. But if we want to change this society we live in; if we hope for true justice and equity, that is a more helpful and consequential example we should be setting for others.