Disconnect's Top 10 of 2023

Plus an update on the newsletter's future

Disconnect's Top 10 of 2023

I still find it hard to believe 2023 is already coming to close, but I’m certainly in no place to stop it. While the world seems to be spiraling, 2023 has been a good one for this newsletter. Since February, I’ve published 100 posts — more than I thought! — for 9,750 subscribers. I was wondering if we’d hit 10,000 by the new year, but it looks like it will be in early January — still before the newsletter’s first anniversary!

Before getting into the top 10 posts of the year, I want to briefly address the newsletter’s future. You might remember I recently signed onto an open letter against Substack’s platforming and monetizing of Nazis — which, admittedly, is only one of the issues of I have with the platform’s content and moderation policies. Well, leadership did respond to the letter, but the response was terrible, effectively defending their decision to amplify and profit from Nazi content based on misleading and even false justifications. I don’t care to provide a long rebuttal to those arguments — others, like Ken White, have done it much better than I could anyway — but it made it clear that Disconnect no longer has a place on Substack.

When I started this newsletter 11 months ago, I decided to go with Substack for a few reasons: it was undeniable that it was the most popular option as many other people I knew were using it, the platform itself works well and is really easy to start using, and it had beneficial network effects that help a new publication attract subscribers and get off the ground. I figured, at least to start, it made sense to use Substack, and while I hoped they would change their content policies, I knew the option always existed for me to leave. One compliment I can provide to Substack’s leaders is that, unlike Patreon, they set the platform up in such a way that writers own their subscribers, so if I move somewhere else, I can bring my subscribers (both free and paid) with me with no action on their part.

I’ve already had a number of people unsubscribe and cancel their paid subscriptions because of Substack’s policy on Nazis, and I completely respect that decision. Before this latest controversy, I was already considering whether to move sometime in 2024 — likely later in the year — though I have to admit, I was nervous about what losing the Substack network effects would mean for Disconnect. While I enjoy writing the newsletter, it still has to provide me an income sufficient enough to make it worthwhile. This controversy has not only pushed me on a moral level to want to make the move earlier than planned; it’s also showed me that Substack has become more of a liability than a benefit.

If you’ve been on the fence about unsubscribing because of Substack and its policies, I hope you’ll be willing to give me a little more time to do the migration properly. I had already planned to take a break over the holidays and I wasn’t changing that because of Substack. I’ve already made contact with the folks over at Ghost who will help me make the migration (even though they’re also on holiday), but it will likely take two or three weeks to get a theme in place, make sure the posts look good and everything’s working properly, then port over the subscribers, redirect the domain, and all the fun stuff that comes along with that.

Before the migration happens, I’ll be in touch to let you know about any logistical details like the new email address posts will be sent from, but as the year comes to a close and people have been asking whether Disconnect would be sticking with Substack, I just wanted to let you know there is a plan, but I wasn’t canceling my break because of Substack’s leaders. I actually think it’s a great time to be making a change, given the newsletter’s first birthday is just around the corner.

I’m really excited about what 2024 has in store for Disconnect — and I hope you’ll stick with me to see how it goes!

Top 10 posts of 2023

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to see there’s a lot Elon Musk and AI in the top 10 posts of the year. I was writing quite a bit about Musk this year as he continued to spiral, but I am going to pull back a bit in 2024 because there are some posts I’ve been wanting to write for a while about the political economy of various tech businesses that I think you’ll also find quite fascinating.

But that’s for 2024. Here are the stories readers consumed most in 2023:

Elon Musk wants to relive his start-up days. He’s repeating the same mistakes.
What PayPal’s history teaches us about Elon Musk’s management of Twitter
Elon Musk is a racist
From demonizing migrants to pushing “white genocide,” he’s saying the silent part out loud
The Hyperloop was always a scam
It’s time to be honest about Musk’s vacuum tube to nowhere
The ChatGPT revolution is another tech fantasy
Generative AI will enrich investors and be deployed against everyone else
Apple’s Vision Pro headset deserves to be ridiculed
Tech companies want us isolated and constantly staring at screens because it drives profit
Why Silicon Valley is bringing eugenics back
Elon Musk is the most prominent face of the effort to protect tech’s privilege
The media’s failure on Elon Musk
After building him up, they need to tear him down
Generative AI closes off a better future
Ursula Le Guin said we must be able to imagine freedom. AI traps us in the past.
The religion of techno-optimism
Tech billionaires are using faith to solidify their power
How Sam Altman plays into Microsoft’s ambitions
The company wants to sell you cloud services to power all that AI garbage

Thanks again for a great 2023, and have a happy new year!

Paris Marx