Let the Platforms Burn

The Opposite of Good Fires is Wildfires.

Cory Doctorow
13 min readJul 9


A forest wildfire. Peeking through the darks in the stark image are hints of the green Matrix “waterfall” effect.
Cameron Strandberg/CC BY 2.0 (modified)

California needs to burn. For millennia, First Nations people oversaw controlled burns in the forests they lived, played and worked in. These burns cleared out underbrush, saw off sick trees, and created canopy openings that admitted sunlight to help quicken new growth. The importance of fire to healthy renewal is testified to by the regional trees that can only reproduce through fire, including the state’s iconic giant redwood.

Centuries ago, European settlers dispossessed the state’s First Nations of their ancestral lands and banned “cultural burning,” declaring war on both indigenous people and fire. This was the start of a long period of firelessness, during which time ever-more-heroic measures have been deployed to keep fire at bay.

This is a vicious cycle: massive fire suppression efforts creates the illusion that people can safely live at the wildland–urban interface. Taken in by this illusion, more people move to this combustible zone. The presence of these people in the danger zone militates for more extreme fire-suppression, which makes the illusion all the more tempting. Yielding to temptation, more people move to the fire zone.

But the opposite of controlled burns isn’t no burns, it’s out-of-control burns: wildfires.

Fires that erase whole towns. Fires that burn unchecked. Anything that can’t go on forever will eventually stop. Fire debt mounts. When the interest payments get too high to bear, we go into chaotic default.

California needs to burn. It needs an orderly bankruptcy. It needs to revive the controlled “good fire” that kept the land safe and healthy and allowed humans and forests to peacefully co-exist.

The alternative to letting California burn in an orderly, controlled fashion is for California to burn anyway. It’s wildfire. It’s tragedy and destruction.

Social media needs to burn.

From its first days, the consumer computing and networking sector was synonymous with explosive growth.

Companies would spring up out of nowhere and grow to impossible scale overnight. The source of this rapid corporate gigantism was no mystery: it came from network effects.



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr