Categories
Culture

Day 1259 and Cooler Than Me

I was once (devastatingly) told by an ex-boyfriend that the song he associated with me was Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me. He felt I cared too much about taste.

This wasn’t an unfair assessment as I was working in fashion at the time and maintained all the intellectual pretensions of being a antiquity obsessed fresh out of Chicago Austrian school economist devotee. A capitalist with taste isn’t really a likable figure.

Twitter mutual Tracing Woodgrains (himself a frequent commenter on the value of beauty and taste) suggested reading this essay in the American Mind about the cultural flaccidity of conservatism and their taste problems.

Reading the essay, I thought it a shame that the taste problem that clearly plagues the right goes on unabated. They tolerate losers with bad taste. And they carry on about how they are losers which further salts the wound. It’s not the kind of commentary that suggests their culture is worthy of dominance.

I am privy to the occasional conversation on this subject as I being crypto libertarian I am bit of a neutral in the culture and institutional wars between progressive and reactionaries. At a dinner of mostly internet dissident right wing types, the topic of being losers was aired.

The host, a clear winner from the ascendant investing and engineering autist culture, rightly pointed out if conservatives wanted to align their fortunes to winning cultures (it was implied like Silicon Valley was a winner culture) then the right wing too needed to become winners. I fear that advice fell on deaf ears. It’s hard to tell someone that being a loser is a skills issue.

Libertarians get a kind of drop out “smokers behind the bleachers” kind of cool in America. The lower case libertarian of the philosophical bent not whatever big L party apparatus that might exist. Those guys are all losers.

The “fuck the Fed” constitution carrying types have a lot that is likable and winning. Fighting civil asset forfeiture, and for marijuana decriminalization, first and second amendment protections, and bodily sovereignty are winner issues across different constituencies.

To go against the grain of big government pieties of both left and right is to resign yourself to being on the outs pretty regularly by disagreeing with both sides but to rest confidentially in the cool of knowing you hold your ground.

To be on the outs means you retain a crucial aspect of cool. You aren’t the mainstream even though you benefit from not being made its enemy no matter who is winning.

Casablanca is libertarian coded and undeniably cool. Seeing the fallen world as it is and having the balls (or backbone for those with delicate sensibilities) to live your own life is an act of bravery. To have own opinion amongst sinners and saints is fundamentally to cultivate and know your own taste.

That returns me to the essay by Spencer Klavan “A Matter of Taste” that kicked off my response.

If we’re serious about a revival, we are going to have to accept the inherent risk and unpredictability that comes from letting artists see the world before they judge it.

In turn, we are going to have to learn to suspend our own judgment long enough to see what the artists bring us for what it is. In other words, we will have to cultivate a little taste.

If we do not know our own taste we can hardly know the line at which we draw the boundaries of civilization. To know what we value is the point of cultivating taste. To hold on to the standards you’ve set for yourself is to hold yourself up to others. To live this way in action and through your own revealed preferences is to say “this is what I value” in my actual life. If you can’t do that, then you will always be in danger of having someone they are cooler than you. And a loser might care.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 1245 and AI: Tool Versus Master

A bad workman blames his tools

Idiom

As we rapidly accelerate the power of our computing tools, machine learning has blossomed into the most heated topic in government policy, business strategy, and popular culture, as artificial intelligence begins to affect everyday life.

The focus on harms, and in particular singularity doomerism, has (ironically) pulled focus from the implications of the seminal “attention is all you need” paper.

Astonishing as it may seem at times, intelligence does not top out at “median human”, but can, and possibly will, go much further.

What a triumph this represents. We will all have access to tools that will enable our entire species to build. More intelligence applied to more problems means more solutions to very real human problems.

I am in Austin Texas for Consensus 2024. I’ll be participating a town hall to discuss how crypto’s mindset of open-source, decentralized computation might help us grapple with who builds, maintains, & owns AI tools.

Policymakers and Silicon Valley executives are both calling for regulation of artificial intelligence as fears grow over its potential harms. But others warn of entrenching a dominant, opaque, centralized Big Tech model and instead advocate for open-source code, decentralized computation and distributed data sourcing. Whom should policymakers listen to? What, if anything, can governments do to help this vital technology evolve in a pro-human way?

Thankfully, we aren’t starting from scratch in building a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence. Code has been treated as speech in Bernstein v. United States Department of State. It would seem like a reasonable precedent to consider algorithms speech as well.

And let us be clear, math and computing power are as essential as speech. In today’s world, they ARE speech. Humans may speak in natural language, but the way we extend ourselves, build things, and grow as a species is through our tools. Computation is a tool. To presume that these tools do harm is to make us bad workmen.

Now of course incumbent powers may try to keep the disruptive and democratizing power of these tools out of the hands of the populace “for their own safety”, but imagine if the first amendment had been frozen in time at the printing press and didn’t protect the internet? We cannot accept permanently lowered standards of fundamental rights.

The 90s era fight for strong encryption enabled a flourishing of digital businesses from finance to e-commerce. We must insist that the freedom to innovate remains the default for U.S. digital policy.

Ultimately, I agree with R Street’s Adam Thierer. He says “fear based narratives that prompt calls for preemptive regulation of computational processes and treat AI innovations ‘as guilty until proven innocent’ are no way to make good policy.”

America does not have a Federal Computer Commission for computing or the internet but instead relies on the wide variety of laws, regulations, and agencies that existed long before digital technologies came along.

R Street Comments on NTIA

If we are to regulate sensibly, let us treat artificial intelligence as we would any other tool and let us do so within the existing framework of our constitutional rights and their interpretations within past precedents.

Categories
Media

Day 1235 and Spin Doctors

Anytime I am outside of the bubble of American media algorithms, I feel like I see more clearly. It’s easier to spot “spin” when you see multiple narratives from competing supranational actors. When I’m in Europe, it’s much easier to see competing angles from Russia, China, and competing industrial interests.

The term “spin doctor” emerged during the Reagan-Mondale debates in the 1984 election.

A spin doctor is a person, typically a political aide or publicist, whose role is to present information or events in a way that favors a particular perspective or interpretation. Their goal is to influence public opinion by putting a favorable “spin” on the narrative.

It combines the meanings of “spin” (a biased interpretation or slant) and “doctor” (someone who repairs or fine-tunes things). Spin doctors aim to control the media’s portrayal of events by providing their own analysis and framing the story in a way that benefits their side.

Perplexity’s “Spin Doctor”

I’ve not heard “spin doctor” used recently even as we’ve gone further into cultural obsessions with media and its role in shaping opinion across the Internet age.

We’ve never had more awareness of how the news sausage gets made and it only drives interest. Filter bubbles are now written up in listicles. Publicists are the subject of profile treatments their clients typically receive.

We are in the golden age of propaganda and every single one of us competes in shifting alliances of attention and affiliation. We are all spin doctors now for our causes.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1226 and Integrating

I am meant to be wrapping up a personal development course today. It has been a more intense experience than I expected.

I am quite tired and am considering simply skipping the final sessions “integration” for a nap.

I am sure I could pass on it without consequence and maybe I’d even be better off if I did so. I am beyond exhausted from the week and the experience.

My hope is that I can hold myself together and simply disappear for a long sleep. What better way to integrate than through being unconscious?

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 1222 and No Exit

Even the most niche corner of the Internet can deliver fame instantly and irrevocably. I don’t think your average person is aware of just how much fame can be delivered by algorithm and how impossible it can be to shed it once you’ve gotten it.

If Andy Warhol could revise his “15 minutes of fame” conceit for the Internet age he’d probably have to grapple with how extended the event horizon of Internet fame can be.

The best you can hope for with algorithmic fame is that it fully dissipates into the background radiation of other people’s more concerted efforts to acquire fame for themselves. There is alas no exit.

Internet fame is mostly about being legible to other people and if you project something that makes sense into the wide abyss you will be known by someone.

If this doesn’t make any sense to you I’d recommend picking up some Satre. The ending isn’t very satisfying but it does repeat. So don’t worry too much about getting it right away

Eh bien, continuons…” 

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1217 and Triggered

I deliberately put myself into an exercise today where I gave another person permission to trigger me. I mean trigger in the emotional sense.

caused to feel an intense and usually negative emotional reaction affected by an emotional trigger

Merriam Webster

I very much recommend the experience. If we workout our bodies and our minds surely we should consider the value in working our emotions over.

Openly welcoming emotional punches may seem about as sane as welcoming an actual punch but like in all things practice makes perfect. It’s good to prepare with the relevant skills for all kinds of things.

I am not a boxer or martial artist myself but I appreciate fight metaphors and their applications in the power dynamics of life. Much of living feels like a conflict to even the most level headed of us. Which I’m not sure is a title I can claim honestly but I do try to follow the maxim in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Don’t panic”

Douglas Adams

Even if we opted into some level of being available in the rituals of being alive we can find ourselves surprised to be considered fair game in the agendas and power struggles of others.

We are all civilians in our own mind. Sometimes we’ve stepped conflict without even knowing and you’d best keep your wits about you. Consequences for actions have a tendency to come back around for even the most cautious.

So if you’ve got the opportunity to be put into “fight or flight” you might find the opportunity worth the while. After all, everyone’s got a plan till they are punched in the face. So stay safe everyone!

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1216 and If It Is Really Important

My husband was unreachable for the last 72 hours. So no one gets worried while I tell the story, I’ll note this was planned, nothing bad happened and he is back on the grid.

This is the first time I’ve had had no way of getting word to Alex if I wanted to do so in over decade of marriage.

This probably tells you a lot about how accessible we are to each other even when we are apart. We’ve had entire continents between us but I’ve always been able to reach him and he can always reach me. We’ve basically been in non-stop contact since our first date.

Until this weekend. For the last three days Alex was unreachable because he was on a camping (ok hunting) trip.

Many parts of Montana have so few people it’s pretty simple to go completely off grid. And he did.

If you have a decent truck, a Bureau of Land Management map and the ambition to bag a wild turkey you too can get off grid and become unreachable.

When Alex got back onto the grid he texted me.

He asked me what had happened while he had been offline. My first instinct was try to fill him in on everything. But so much had happened I found myself unable to even start.

I went back through hundreds of news stories, group chats, Twitter timelines, and emails in an attempt to sum up everything I’d seen while he’d been off grid. It was my turn to disappear. It was now me who was unreachable

Thankfully Alex stopped be before I got too far into the wild.

“If it’s really important it will get filtered up to me”

Alex Miller 4/30/24

As is often the case my husband was right. So I stopped. Please take this as a sign to not worry about getting caught up. We will filter things up to each outer.

Categories
Community Emotional Work

Day 1214 and Hectic

Things are hectic. For all my boosterism about leaning into acceleration I don’t personally live that fast. So I feel it when things are hectic.

I was raised in some of the pushback from various future shock worriers so I’m a fan of living at a human pace. Because as I said (and I’ll continue to repeat it), things are hectic.

A friend of mine and I were comparing notes on what kept her busy. I had hectic things about abstractions. A family friend had paused away this week. My friend had similarly weighty concerns. We both saw a tragedy occur on the periphery of our social circles.

We didn’t have the luxury to feel all the things in our lives. Things are hectic. It is a Sunday so I did some shopping for coming week. I had errands to be done so I could be focused for the week. Mountains must be moved but the things under your control are mostly simple.

Categories
Preparedness Travel

Day 1209 and No Mercy On The Road

No matter now much I prepare, and I clearly take packing and travel preparedness seriously, there is no overcoming the random shitshows that plague travel these days

I swung through Chicago’s O’Hare in an economy seat to position myself for a long haul flight. That short haul economy flight went without a hitch. I landed in Terminal 1 and made my way t Terminal 5 which is how things started going sideways in multiple directions.

The bus system/holding pen for transit between terminals is amazing for its on the ground access to airplanes but it sure is slow. Once I got to Terminal 5 it was clear the lounge assigned me via the airline wouldn’t work. It was 5 degrees warmer than in the airport terminal (a European airline of course) with no available seating, or inexplicably, any bathrooms. So much for having paid a premium.

I wandered up and down Terminal 5 looking for a food court. Frontera’s takeaway sandwiches had a forty minute wait. Dunkin Donuts was fully stocked but with a 40 person deep line. There was somehow no McDonalds.

The upscale fast casual options like Wow Bao and other private equity branded spots all took turns shouting what they were out of to the crowd waiting. No falafel or pita at the Mediterranean spot. Only 3 options were remaining at the Asian fusion spot. I got half my dumpling order. I didn’t have the heart to press for the remaining items from the single harried worker. $8 didn’t matter.

I went to my gate to wait for the flight afterwards. I sat on the floor. There were no seats anywhere in the terminal (or as previously mentioned the lounge). Somehow, once I boarded my long haul flight the crew managed to change my assigned seat on it without consulting me. It was a much worse seat than I had purchased.

If I had any idea how bad this new seat was going to be I might have fought it at counter, alas they gave no indication this new seat would be an issue.

It was the worst possible seat in the class without any place to store a backpack under foot nor were there holders or nooks for water bottles or your other sundries. I struggled to reposition medication and liquids on the tiny table. The chatty friendly Boomer next to me didn’t realize he was using both his table as well mine making it even order to find space to groom and medicate.

I tried to get that across to him. That all of the space he was using wasn’t actually space but meant to be my side. I failed to get that through. He stole my pack of tissues when I left it out. He did give them back when I pressed him. He seemed embarrassed. Later I released he’d also taken my water bottle. I feel there must be some wider lesson in this.

It wasn’t a proper flat lay seat though I’d paid for a business ticket. I had nowhere to put my medications, toiletries or other sundries. There wasn’t even a spot to put a water bottle. I rearranged as much as I could to avoid having all my things fall into the aisle, took an Ambien, prayed I’d not need access anything else and went to sleep.

I woke up on the other side of the ocean, gathered my things and deplaned.

My watch dinged. Your iPad has been left behind. Somewhere in this process my iPad must have been lost. I didn’t take it out of my backpack to my knowledge so that was a mystery. As I deplaned I was sure I had everything.

Behind where was the question? I only had 30 minutes to get rush to the last leg of my flight but I vainly went back to previous gate trying to see if that was where my iPad had been left behind. There was one at the gate which seemed fast.

As I unpacked all my bags trying to see if the tablet might be somewhere in my luggage I fell and broke my iPhone screen in the process. The top half shattered. It might hold it together for a day or two. Maybe.

Then I had issues clearing the next leg security with my injection medications for my ankylosis. I was told I didn’t need to clear security at this transit point so I wasn’t fully prepared. My bag got unpacked again. At least at this point it was clear my iPad really was gone.

Finally I make with 10 minutes to spare to my final leg. I am upgraded to first but they refuse to allow me to bring my carry on. “It is over 18 kilos!” I begin to cry. It was not over 18 kilos. I weighed it myself.

No one else was even in my 3 rows around me. The empty upper baggage storage had no other bags in them. I tried to sway them saying I have a medication I can’t afford to lose. Nothing works. She wants to exercise authority. My grey roller bag is put below. I pray it’s not also lost to me.

At this point I’ve not eaten a real meal in 24 hours, two crucial electronics are status “unsure” and I’ve got no way of knowing if either my roller bag or checked luggage will make it. Thankfully my three bag cascade system has me with a change of pajamas, basic toiletries and my medications. No matter the effort I point in there never seems to be mercy for the traveler

Categories
Internet Culture Reading

Day 1208 and 16 Years

I don’t recall exactly when I first began using WordPress. If memory serves, it was a friend James in the philosophy department at my university who set up and hosted my first blog sometime around 2003. Eventually I went out on my own.

While I’ve only been writing on JFredrickson.com for 1208 days (ha only) the current account I’ve been using since 2008 has an anniversary today.

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com! You registered on WordPress.com 16 years ago. Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

I’m delighted to be a long time user of the service. I believe in the value of open source software and the stewardship of Matt Mullenweg. While there are plenty of other social media platforms where I can reach an audience no one has earned my trust like WordPress. II use many other content management systems, social media accounts and the like but for my own identity under my own control nothing else compares.