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This article was published on November 24, 2020

Ableist capitalist individualism

Ableist capitalist individualism
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hola pandemic pals,

I saw an elderly gentleman selling face masks outside of a convenience store today. He shook hands with almost everyone who spoke to him as they passed. I paused for a long moment and watched, unable to stop myself from wondering if he’d still be alive come Christmas. If he quits selling masks he may go hungry. There isn’t much in the way of government aid for the elderly or disabled where I live. And if he stops being warm and friendly to potential buyers, he’s far less likely to sell anything. For millions, the choice is either risk catching COVID-19 so you can eat or go hungry with winter on the way. And then there’s the people who believe they’re more important than everyone else. They think COVID-19 is a personal problem. As long as they aren’t sick, it isn’t a big deal.They believe evil bullshit like, “When it’s your time to die, it’s your time to die.” This pedantry allows them to excuse their murderous behavior when they decide to travel for the holidays, gather with family and friends, and ignore expert health and safety guidelines.

It’s a form of capitalist individualism that history’s never seen before. Modern technology makes it possible for a group of people to quarantine themselves away from the world without missing a beat. We have endless 24-hour streaming TV, movies, music, video games, and porn.

And, in most places, you can even get food and supplies delivered right to your front door. In California you can open an app and order cannabis. In Mexico, I can get OTC painkillers and anti-depressants delivered using the same service that also brings me Burger King, Domino’s, and dozens of local offerings.

We are more connected than we’ve ever been, more prepared to hunker down and isolate than any other time in history. And yet the “haves” can’t stop going to bars, clubs, churches, gyms, salons, and hundreds of other unnecessary places because their personal convenience and emotional state is more important the the lives of others.

We’re all depressed. We all “need” physical contact and emotional intimacy. The difference, however, is that those willing to endure this hardship in quarantine aren’t actively making things worse for everyone.

We can either embrace the long-distance Zoom-based holiday season and all the technology we’re lucky enough to have, or we can keep killing each other.

By the numbers

It’s that time again. Let’s see the three countries with the most COVID-19 cases as of 11/24 (source: Worldometers):
  • USA: Cases: 12,845,641 Deaths: 264,671
  • India: Cases: 9,216,049 Deaths: 134,661
  • Brazil: Cases: 6,090,197 Deaths: 169,569

Tweet thread of the week

What to read

Vaccines that don’t stop the spread and the stupidity of holiday travel…
? Someone please email me to tell me I’m not the only person who thinks it’s outright indecent to risk spreading COVID-19 just because it’s the holidays. Here’s a report. (AP news)
? COVID-19 is getting hard to treat. Here’s why (spoiler: it’s mutating) (The New York Times)
? Moderna’s CEO says people who get the vaccine can still spread COVID-19. (Axios via Twitter)
? Trick or COVID-19? The answer is COVID-19. That’s what Halloween brought to Tijuana this year. (Fox News 5 San Diego)
? Doctors are worried that vaccine side-effects will discourage some people from getting their second necessary dose. (CNBC)
? Pilipino-American nurses are dying of COVID-19 at ridiculously disproportionate rates. (CNN)


In this little section, we’d like to discuss the tech that’s getting us through the pandemic.

I’ve become obsessed with table-top roleplaying games (TTRPGs) lately. Mind you, I don’t actually play them. Though I have played Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire: The Masquerade, Rifts, GURPS, and dozens of other TTRPGs over the years these days I’m more into just sort of collecting and reading them.

When the pandemic started (and I still figured quarantine would only last about 6 months or so) I started doubling down on subscription content services such as Netflix, Hulu, WWE Network, Xbox Game Pass, and others.

But, after nearly a year of binge-watching and playing video games instead of jamming on the beach, making new friends, and going out to eat, I’m about ready to lose it. I need an even bigger escape than TV shows and video games can give me.

Enter DriveThru RPG. This website sells TTRPG games in the form of PDF files.

Back in the day we’d all walk down to the local comic book or gaming store and spend hours browsing books, drooling over fancy dice and playmat sets, and wishing we could afford some of those massively expensive board games and figurines the clerks kept on the shelves behind the counter.

But now you can peruse gaming books and purchase them digitally from the comfort of your home. Heck, you can even play D&D and Cyberpunk and almost any other game using one of the dozens of online virtual tables available (or just through a Zoom session with your friends).

However, as I mentioned, I’m not looking for a group or necessarily trying to play TTRPGs at all right now. I’m actually systematically purchasing and reading as many books in the Palladium Books “Multiverse” of roleplaying games as I possibly can.

And I’m just doing it for the lore. Re-reading old Rifts and Heroes books from the early 90s reminds me of a simpler time when my world wasn’t on fire. And reading the newest books gives my imagination new places to explore without committing to a narrative or story.

Sometimes just seeing a page full of numbers and statistics for creatures, weapons, and magic that doesn’t exist fills me with a sense of comfort no bestselling novel or blockbuster movie can.

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