Yes Yes Yum Yum No Spicy
You’ve likely have seen the NPC streamer meme by now. Young women on TikTok are mimiking behavior of Non Playing Characters (NPC) in Videogames by reacting to rewards given to them by their audience. It’s basically a videogame played by an audience with real actors in a TikTok-interface. I’m more than fascinated by them, and that’s not because I was “feeling my brain reconfigure after I watch this for the 30th time“ as the viral tweet by Goth600 suggests.
Here’s Cherry Crush, who describes herself as “Your very own AI Tamagotchi“ on TikTok.
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Here’s a summery of what’s going on from Know Your Meme:
Here’s another explainer by Real Jonah Blake:
I’m interested in this phenomenon in context of collective intelligence, which is the study of emergent phenomena of large networks of humans collaborating in more or less organized ways. Every corporation, every club, every organization has these emergent phenomena, depending on the rules of cooperatetion and the psychological makeup of it’s individual nodes aka people. I think about these collective intelligences in context of Artificial Intelligence and use the term “organizational AI“ to refer to them.
Organizational AI are around since the invention of complex societys, bureaucracy is a form of organizational AI, every corporation is an organizational AI and we even have solved the problem of AI-personhood for these instances and give them legal standing. You can even differenciate between different AI-architectures in this context: Chaotic, non-hierarchical swarm behavior is more akin to what we see in generative AI systems today, while organizations built on strong hierarchies seem more like classic decission tree AI-systems like the famous Eliza-chatbot.
However, what I’m saying is: Cherry “Yes Yes Yum Yum No Spicy“ Crush and her colleagues are the output of a form of collective intelligence prompted by economic incentives.
As Based Beff Jezos rightly remarks on the Tweeties:
In the memetic market competition, humans are reengineering their own behavior to mimic AI and be competitive in their ability to amass attention and capital. Wont be the last time humans become more robot-like to compete against synthetics.
And it sure as hell isn’t the first time, as the very same behavior and a rebellion against it is wonderfully visualized by Charlie Chaplin in his 1936 masterpiece “Modern Times“:
Every time you see the plastic smile on the face of a flight attendant, every time a waiter takes your order in a restaurant, every time you’re interacting with a bureaucrat, you’re looking at the prompted output of an organizational AI, or if you prefer: The emergent behavior of human nodes in a collective intelligence.
Charlie Chaplin is having none of it and rages against the machine, and while some people suggest these NPC streamers are a sign of the coming apocalypse or the downfall of the human spirit or whatever, I think these streamers are more aware, honest and confident about their role in an attention economy than a million Mr. Beasts combined. (I never watched a Mr.Beast video in my life — a YT-version of Oprah Winfrey seems lame and uninteresting to me.)
While the latter pretends to game the system, these streamers are implicitly admitting that, yes, in this attention economic game driven by technology, power and memetics you literally become a non-playing character, gamed by audiences and algorithms. It’s like Charlie Chaplin turning and twisting his body to flow through a machine for sensation and laughs, but in contexts and aesthetics of, well, modern times. These influencers making a good buck as a literal NPCs are just the latest human adaption to this modern attention economic machine, and i think that this NPC-roleplaying thing is a very, very self-aware way of doing that. Yum.
Also, let’s not pretend this is new just because the platform is contemporary. People always did performances to earn a living, and the influencer business is just one of it’s newer manifestations. With my old site, i was one of the first people in germany to monetize social media activity — the stuff we call influencer busines today.
Back then, in one of the first commercial projects for blogs in my country, i lived on a houseboat rented by Sony to do some promo-stuff for the back then newly introduced Playstation 3. We did some videos, made some weird stuff and wrote about it. It was less formalized and less gamified than “Yes Yes Yum Yum No Spicey“, but still what we did there was “emergent behavior of human nodes in a collective intelligence“ too.
I just wish i was so self-aware about my role in the attention economy back then as these women on TikTok are right now, or as Twitter-user X-Nardo writes:
This dystopian trend exposes our inclination to emulate virtual identities and raises the thought-provoking question of whether, underneath it all, we as undoxxed Twitter users are more similar to NPC Streamers than we realize.
Anyways. Here’s Slavoj Zizek yes yes yum yumming. And so on.