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Emergent Cooperation Phenomena
Weird Sun Twitter and other random acts of cooperation
During times of crisis, and sometimes during just regular times, there is a group of remarkable people that come together to become something more. Often, they work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could.
No, I’m not referring to the Avengers, I’m referring to people on the internet.
Weird Sun Twitter
I came across my first weird sun account through a retweet from Joscha Bach on Twitter. I don’t remember the account, nor the tweet, but I remember clicking on the user out of curiosity, because it’s cryptic name and profile convention grabbed my attention.
As I explored the account, I thought to myself that this was just another weird bird on the internet, tweeting statements of personal significance to build an audience through an anon. Then, as I scrolled down through this user’s tweets, Twitter showed me it’s ‘Who to Follow’ break section, featuring accounts similar to the one I was on. It would have looked something like the below:
I thought how strange, each of the accounts featuring a similar naming convention to the one that I was on, as well as a similar bio, and image convention. As I clicked from profile to profile, the well of accounts abiding by this same conventions grew deeper and deeper with seemingly no end.
I turned to Google for answers, entering a number of different searches that yielded me no results, until I finally came across this blog, which told roughly the following story…
Nearly a decade ago, an account by the name of @InstanceOfClass appeared on Twitter and announced it’s existence with the following tweet:
Equally cryptic tweets ensued until October 2018 when the account went silent. But that wasn’t the whole story, in that span of time, other suns appeared, and followed a similar series of conventions in account aesthetic and theme of content.
In March 2014, Member Of Species and Word Of Language appeared. Their avatars were color-rotated 120 degrees from Instance's, making a full color circle. Not long after, Element Of Set appeared, at the time with a dull gray sun for its avatar. These were the Original Suns, and they followed a strict format.
The format was this. The avatar is the picture of the sun from Instance's profile, with its color changed. Instance's bio was OMG, THIS. Member's bio was WTF, THIS. Word's bio was BBQ, THIS. You see the pattern. And the name has syntax X Of Y, where Y is a category and X is an item in that category. You'd think this format would not be incredibly difficult to follow.
The author of the blog I’d found, to be known as Grognor (RIP), went on to create this list of the weird suns of Twitter. With 53 accounts on this list and many more created since Grognor’s passing, the unanswered question remains, why and how the cooperation amongst these accounts appeared?
One silly example aside, this is a trend I’ve been thinking about for a while now, of emergent cooperation among strangers enabled by the internet.
The most recent example that managed to reach the public lexicon was the series of Reddit short squeezes that are in many cases still going on at the time of writing albeit with less coverage. ( GME = $304, AMC = $71, etc )
As far as I can tell, these phenomena are driven by leaderless coordination over shared infrastructure, whether it be Reddit, Twitter, Discord or something similar. At times, thought leaders or catalysts of these movements will be called out to make example of when the results of actions go south or simply interfere with the norms other entities have grown accustomed to. See ‘Roaring Kitty’s testimonial before Congress. My belief however, is that these movements aren’t reliant on any one actor with the exception perhaps of a social catalyst.
The investigation of how these kinds of social phenomena come to be may hold clues to the evolution of other complex systems that we observe in nature — or vice versa. That may sound silly as a closing to a story of a couple dozen anonymous suns on Twitter, but results of more serious movements like the short squeezes speak for themselves.
Next week, I’m going to talk about what seems to me like good order and bad order.
Have fun out there.