Tandy Syndrome

Before some genius coined the word "enshittification" I knew the concept by a different term. "Tandy Syndrome".

Tandy Syndrome
Source: https://www.tandyonline.com/

Before some genius coined the word "enshittification" I knew the concept by a different term. "Tandy Syndrome". It's more or less the same thing and an economic disease with the same progression of symptoms and consequences.

Fun fact: Before I went looking for the logo above, I had no idea that Tandy still existed as a business. I literally haven't seen one in the wild since last century. Last sighting of a Tandy's in my neck of the woods? 1986.

Tandy used to be the one-stop nerd shop for electronica bits and electronic repairs. Way back when you could open up your hardware, diagnose a problem with the circuitry, and fix it with a few easily-obtainable tools. They even had some kits to teach kids about how to do that stuff.

For the record, I could never make my Crystal Radio work and I still have no idea why.

There were other places that sold gadgets and gizmos, but Tandy specialised in making those gizmos keep operating as expected. Every now and again, you could get something unavailable anywhere else. Some assembly required.

At some point, the people running Tandy realised that the kits and weirder-than-common gadgets were better sellers than the bits and bobs for repair. Like any good corporation, Tandy wanted to grow and expand. So they began to focus on more and more gadgets. Muscling out the repair stuff that was their primary business model.

Electronics nerds stopped going to Tandy because they never had the parts. They found other little places with a much more reliable supply. The people interested in gadgets and toys didn't go to Tandy because there were already about a hundred other places to get those gadgets and toys from.

In five years, Dick Smith's would follow the exact same path, falling off the radar and missing, presumed dead. Now that the internet exists, Tandy and Dick Smith both operate online. You can get your electronica parts if you know what you're looking for.

Currently, the electronica nerd shop to go to is Jaycar. Which, I note, is starting to get more gadgets and kits than keeping stock of electronica parts.

Everyone is refusing to learn from the lessons of history. They're also refusing to acknowledge a basic rule of physics and economy both: Infinite growth in a closed system is impossible. Earth is a closed system. Therefore, nothing on Earth can grow indefinitely. Something has to die to make space for other things.

Tandy might still be everywhere if they simply recognised their niche and stayed there. Dick Smith's might still be a regular spot in Aussie malls if they just stuck with nerd stuff. The instant nerdy shops stock only mainstream stuff, they lose their extant customers and rarely attract mainstream shoppers.

This is basically what Enshittification is. The desire for profit and growth tied to the customer base and attempting to extract the maximum amount of milk for the minimum amount of moo. Or... more profit for less effort.

Enter AI.

I've seen techbros argue that Large Learning Models are yet another tool coming forward to help people. The printing press let people print whatever they wanted [at least until the right to copy became codified into law]. Type writers let more writers commit Pulps to print. Word processors let more people write more thing.

I do admit, they have a point. There's "slop" in each iteration of those steps towards the modern day. That's the word we're settling on instead of pasteboard, blob, or glop. And there's been 'artisinal' slop before LLMs made it even easier to pump out garbage.

What makes LLM's different is that they're gigantic plagiarism machines. They're fed whatever their techbros think they can get away with, without any care or nuance. Just so long as they have enough examples of how words go together, they're happy.

Garbage in, garbage out.

So they fired all their 'artisinal' writers and cranked out gibberish slop because LLM's have no actual idea how to create anything. They just know what clickbait "should" look like. So now they're quietly hiring back 'artisinal' writers to return and make clickbait based on what the LLM suggested.

It's still slop, and it's one step removed from utter plagiarism, all the same. Writers need to eat. Corporations don't eat, sleep, or pay their taxes(mostly). All a Corporation does is grow, and suck more money upwards for the one percent. If they don't have to pay employees, they can have more money.

Nevermind that money does its best for the economy when it's circulating... the one with the most counters at the end - wins. Exactly what they win is entirely up to debate. And possibly moot. Because when they have all the counters - everyone else will be using something else as a medium of exchange.

Or they'll have ruined the world. It's fifty-fifty at this point.

And speaking of points, I need to get back onto mine.

Sink or swim, LLM's are probably not going away. And yes, they might actually become a useful tool at some point. But they will probably also help the flooding of the market with some absolutely terrible slop. And, as everyone in this economy should know by now - faster is not necessarily better.

The market will swing away from the slop and head towards the better stuff. Whether or not it's via LLM's remains to be seen.

In the meantime... those of us still doing 'artisinal' work by ourselves just have to weather the slop storm.

I'm confident enough in my ability to walk through those flames. Have to wonder about the people already 'working' with the LLM plagiarism machines.