AS IF YOU DIDN’T have enough shit to worry about, by the end of this decade you won’t even be able to trust a screen. No one will. The threat of digital forgery will taint every photo and video, every text and song. Even phone calls will be suspect when anyone (or, with AI, any thing) can impersonate anyone else. Consensus reality is coming to an end. Science fiction, especially filmic science fiction, is our best reference point for the batshit banana times that will replace it. 

The coming reality breakdown will likely accelerate every other global crisis— climate, democracy, human rights—in ways not yet fully imaginable. The whole thing defies imagination, not just in its speed, but in the awful totality of what this change will mean for humanity. It’s the climax to a tale that began 40,000 years ago, with the first human art. Now the cave paintings are coming to life, and they may not like us.

This is less of a newsletter than a book, one that can only be written in real time and present tense. 


Sam McPheeters grew up in upstate New York. Since 2009, he has written about film for Criterion and the Village Voice, and covered technology, culture and history for Bookforum, Creem, and Vice. His most recent book, Mutations, was the inaugural pick for the Pitchfork Book Club.

Jesse Pearson is an editor and writer based in Los Angeles. He’s the host of the Apology podcast and the founding editor of the sporadically published periodical of the same name.

Reality Breakdown is named after the 1983 song by No Trend.

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