Biohacking Internet Culture Startups

Day 1297 and Crypto Libertarians in the Age of Cyperpunk Anarcho-Tyranny

We are living in the past’s version of the future. The Cyperpunk I read in my youth is now the stuff of my daily life. It’s not as sleek as in fiction but it’s hard not to feel like it’s William Gibson’s world and I’m just living it.

The clubs looked a little sleazier as we escaped the aughts but we had a renaissance in technical tools for producing culture. Digital music and multimedia have exploded entire social media economies. Could Vernor Vinge be right and our economies will turn to creating data to train for the singularity?

We are only now getting Idoru but we are veering towards Burning Chrome. Half the anime avatars in accelerationist e/acc chats are wearing Mirror Shades and everyone watches for crypto rugs. But we are getting our Mt Gox Bitcoin back right?

What about borderless corporate worlds and mass scale surveillance identity? That’s here too. When William Gibson wrote “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” I wonder if he knew it would be the nexus of the network state debate?

I can turn on club kid techno from 2002 and look at a reality in 2024 and its aesthetic is pretty close to the details Jonny Mnemonic. A global pandemic that affects the nervous system of those infected which was accidentally released from a lab.

Johnny Mnemonic movie poster.

We’ve even got the LoTeks in a Luddite rebellion against a world connected by dubiously transparent artificial intelligence owned by actual Zaibatsu multinationals with more power than nation states. Fact and fiction spinning hyperstition better than Nick Land ever dreamed.

The vulnerability of our entire world to our digital networks was made dramatically apparent yesterday when Crowdstrike took a hot knife through the butter of corporate infrastructure and left us with blue screens of death.

It’s not real but it could be

Snowcrash and Crash Override? It’s better. We got amazing memes and elaborate fakes of the Blue Screen of Death. It actually did suck for airlines and banks because regulatory capture is the stuff of systemic risk.

And lest you think we’ve got no biohacking in this Cyperpunk world after the pandemic we have a renaissance in systemic & holistic approaches to medicine. Suddenly everyone is aware of the risk in agribusiness. Seed oils is normie stuff. Instead of turning Luddite the Danish invented advance metabolic medicine to cope. Everyone is on GLP-1 agonists.

Mix in the rise of nicotine and THC and you’ve got a national post prohibition bloom of folklore cures whose research has been suppressed by pharmaceutical companies and regulatory bodies alike. Conspiracy? Maybe but just the sludge of industry.

When I look at my own work I see the future arriving. We fund decentralized compute and marketplaces for inferences. We fund open source database software. We fund multi-sigs for hyper transactional blockchains. We fund nuclear fission that pulls its materials the sky.

And in that all of the is our founders are global citizens who have to manage anarcho-tyrannical borders with visas controlled by incompetent governments and live through the geopolitics of wars fought with drones and propaganda. The future is already here. It’s actually pretty cool. Just watch out for nervous system tics.

Aesthetics Culture

Day 1288 and Real Fake Girlbosses

All I wanted the first time I raised venture capital was to be able to make my business case. Once I’d done that I was sifted into into the wider cultural moment of girlbossism with everyone else in my cohort.

It quickly became the way to raise money because heaven forbid gender not be important. I was no Diane Green so I better get comfortable mugging for the cameras. I’d not so secretly hoped I’d be able to offload some of that lifestyle element to someone else. Someone more suitable.

At first I figured fine whatever it takes to get the money who cares embarrassing shit like becoming avatars for the zeitgeist doesn’t matter.

But now I think maybe it did. Every time a piece of social media goes viral with women messing around at the office I think what did we do? I’d envisioned that the difference between me in 2014 and the new younger, better, more ambitious versions of me 2024 to be, well, actually better?

Maybe they are. Media isn’t reality. But I had visions of women quietly running companies and venture funds competently and without concern for their gender. Surely in ten years more would have changed?

Instead we’ve got we’ve got the simulacra version of women like me filtered through Cosmopolitan features and glossy magazine spreads into TikTok dances for a company that makes pimple and acne treatments.

And it’s all grist for the mill. People want to blame feminism and gender studies. Pffft. Cute. It’s not gender studies or critical theory that got us here. For all the Baudrillard, Foucault and Judith Butler we all absorbed, the thing is just a representation of a reality that never existed.

Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation explores the concepts of simulacra, simulation, and hyperreality. Simulacra are copies or representations that become detached from their original reality, leading to a state where distinctions between reality and representation blur. Baudrillard identifies four stages of simulacra: the faithful copy, the perversion of reality, the absence of profound reality, and pure simulacrum, where the representation becomes reality itself

Perplexity’s Synopsis

If you want a crack in the timeline go decide what the Summer of 68 produced as a culture. Maybe they were just reactionaries. Maybe I’m just a reaction to them. These girls are a reaction to me.

If you want to be a cynic there is no shortage of commentary on how media showed us culture that didn’t serve us. Those Summer of 68 men turned into Yuppie midlife crisis dads who weren’t there for their children and wives. Feminism giving depressed stifled women a chance to not regret their choices. But the choices already exist.

Your cultural war mileage may vary. Now we have cowardly millenial man children and forever princess boss bitches and endless rounds of upset every time we see women in an office doing something silly.

You can rage at critical theory all you like but this just one elaborate morality play being accountable. And no one wants that. Real fake Girlbossism selling blemish cream.

Everyone deserves better than this. I deserved better than this. The horror of contortions required to simply pursue work means you must do what media and finance require of you to succeed. Go watch Margin Call and see if you think you’d fare better in making those choices.

Finance Startups

Day 1286 and Halfway There, Living 2024 On A Prayer

An estimated 50% of the global population is participating in elections across 60 countries. That includes as supra-national entities like the European Union holding major elections. Naturally this made anyone who has to do any type of planning anxious.  

Concerns about access to compute and adequate energy, overbearing and inconsistent regulatory regimes impacting exits, growth and liquidity events, and the post-ZIRP monetary policy driving up cost of capital have been in the foreground of startup communities.

I see this reflected in my H1 investments. Access to energy, access to compute, and decentralization of both compute & energy are directionally the major trends that I believe will matter over the next decade. 

CapEx concerns and hyperscaling may grip the Magnificent 7 and worry analysts at Goldman Sachs but I’d encourage students of economic history to look to Carlotta Perez and her theory of deployment in previous economic innovation cycles for a more nuanced take. I think simple reads of over-investment are for suckers. 

From where we stand, capital serves the founders who make things of real value. That takes time. Regular builders have simpler needs while they do it: the freedom to make what they want with readily accessible tools without interference. 

We originated #FreedomToCompute as a tagline that shows our values. Not only has it driven me deal flow, but the coalition of e/acc, crypto, and El Segundo hardware/deep tech autists even changed a political party’s platform.

I’ll admit that I was surprised by the Republican Party’s adoption of innovation in crypto, artificial intelligence, and space as a core policy plank. They must really be courting startups as a constituency but I’m happy to have as many as possible aligned with us.

Science and progress are values traditionally associated with liberalism’s left leaning parties, but it seems the axis of “the best is yet to come”  is a wide coalition. My heuristics have thusly been updated so we can remain up and to the right. 

Anna Gat’s Axis of Hope

Culture Politics

Day 1285 and Platform Changes

I don’t want to make this into a whole thing but the Republicans have posted the GOP party platform. The Silicon Diaspora is now such an important constituency we’ve got enough sway to move policy.

A network state of e/acc, crypto builders, Bitcoiners, El Segundo hardware startups, deep tech autists and white pilled Space dorks changed a political party’s platform.

And it wasn’t the one I expected. Scientific progress was something I’d come to associate with liberals. It would seem Democrats are not as certain about being technically progressive anymore. But the middle that builds is a constituency.

It’s such a small thing and I know politicians don’t have a track record of doing what they say. But the idea that a ragtag group of internet friends could get our issues given place of pride in a platform feels nice. A multimodal pro-social game yielded a positive sum.

We want more technology being built quickly by those with the agency to do so. We’ve got diseases to cure, climate change to adapt to, software to be coded, nuclear reactors to be spun up and a long path to space from there.

I hope the value of better medicine, better tools, and more ambition makes its way to everyone.

For now I think it’s cool that I can see where every line in this policy document came from. A very hodge podge group of internet weirdos in Discords, policy shops, Twitter communities, and group chats got politicians to agree with us. It feels kind of nice. I believe FreedomToCompute is a constitutional American right and we are proving our case

Community Media

Day 1281 and Independence Day

On day 915, which was last year’s 4th of July I wrote about the aspirational America as an idea. It involved blowing shit up. It seems like each Independence Day I find a way to praise Roland Emmerich’s fine science fiction film.

I haven’t watched it yet today but hopefully I’ll at least put on a few clips to enjoy fighter pilots, aliens, inspirational Presidential speeches and fireworks.

The backdrop of drama in the media about Joe Biden is in some ways an ideal way to recall the fractious American community. A continent held together not by ethnicity or religion but by entirely abstract ideals is going to constantly tested.

The theory of print capitalism posits that capital sprung from the solidarity of nationalism presented for the first time in mass media. The common cause of one’s countryman makes it easier to levy for taxes for conflict.

We are far beyond print in our media now. It’s almost cheap to call out media climate “totalizing” an it undersells the experience. Social media makes the experience of Americanness so fluid it ranges from aesthetic choice to the anarcho-tyranny of ailing power.

And yet we try to do better as the general temperament of the nations. America is a place where the founding mythos is that anyone from anywhere can become one of us.

The nationalism of belonging in America has nothing to do with meeting a check box of criteria. Though we are trying to make it more so with bureaucracy. The ideal is that free country sets the condition so anyone succeed. Liberty is a hard fought thing. You can celebrate it in a manner that’s pleasing here. Namely fireworks.

Happy 4th of July everyone. I’m as committed to the American project. The frontier is in our souls and we search it out together in freedom.

Culture Startups

Day 1278 and Follow On

I’d like to think I’ve got a talent for understanding how hype and momentum are built.

I learned this skill set by doing. I picked it up simply by being a cool kid working in the trenches of the business of style.

How does hype turn into capital? Well it’s complicated. Consider two significant trends from my youth. Was Indie Sleeze a real cultural moment or manufactured? Did we get taken in by the HypeBeast? Ask Glenn Youngkin in his Caryle Group era about his Supreme investment. Get Gavin McInnes and James Jebbia to go a couple rounds about their relative wealth. and come back to me. Still unsure? Ask Barbara Kruger about the clusterfuck of uncool jokers.

The original culture and the commodification of the culture is a spectrum and the Tommy Hilfiger Event Horizon is infinite. Who makes culture, who money and who only brings money can be challenging to calculate.

The thing about cool, it’s sine qua non, is that it grapples at every stage of its existence with its own validity. Cool thrives as a grounding process to what’s actually happening in reality.

Cool is a relational experience between someone or something authentically popular amongst a group that relates well with each other.

And that relational power is validated by some wider need in the world for their belief, innovation, art, product or philosophy. Sometimes this can be quite irrational surely but consensus is hard to come by. One of the classic essays in validation of cool is geeks, mops and sociopaths in subculture evolution.

The validation of something “cool” eventually reaches a point of opportunistic acceptance by those merely into a thing for the capital. Sometimes it’s social and sometimes literal currency.

These so called “sociopaths” who follow the momentum often do not realize that they are just in it to capitalize on cool. I don’t want to suggest anyone in a thing for money or cachet is a sociopath just that incentives for status are significant drivers for people.

Often we need the people in it for the money. It’s wonderful that angel investing exists and momentum investors have perfectly rational incentives. Sometimes you will even see significant self awareness about this. If you put resources into a community and don’t cause trouble you are often welcome.

Now you can refer to this type in startup investing as dumb money. The follow-on capital that is riding on the work of others who authentically believed before a thing was cool is a necessary part of the ecosystem.

I don’t at all mind when someone is a follower. You can be “a cringe follower late adopter” or whatever terminology we are now using to describe laggards in the adoption curve.

 Everett Rogers in his book Diffusion of Innovations

Unless you are a pain in the ass, actively predatory, or making your contribution more trouble than it’s worth, you should go ahead and lend your support if you can take the risk.

Don’t take it personally when hipsters sneer. They may have been earlier than you but it’s fine to back winners. Just don’t expect the founders to give you special dispensation for getting on board when it was safe to do so. It’s right that the alpha premium applies. I personally love it when not only am I right but I got paid more for the privilege.

Community Politics

Day 1277 and Don’t Lose Your Head

Everyone has their entertainment and mine is makes me a little bit of a stereotype. I hate podcasts but do most of my chores while listening to Bloomberg’s Odd Lots podcast.

I was catching up today with an interview with equities analyst Tom Lee. My attention got caught and stuck on his description of Bitcoin.

“Yes, Bitcoin is unlike other asset classes because there is a cooperative value. You know, the people who contribute to the network benefit from it. And that’s different than any other asset class.”

From Odd Lots: Why Tom Lee Thinks We Could See S&P 15,000 by 2030, Jun 24, 2024

Now I don’t think this is unique to Bitcoin. Cooperative value can be found in everything from nationalist politics to luxury handbag resale pricing. But I do this it’s important to have cooperative values be baked into a network for it accrue value.

We’ve traditionally mitigated concerns about market cooperation through clear property rights and legal protections. We’d backed up those claims with things as abstract as a monarch. We’ve evolved to it to the slightly more concrete full faith of the United States and Byzantine bodies of securities law. Fiduciary duty and all that.

But as we become less inclined to trust that the buck does in fact stop “anywhere” we are looking for ways to mitigate that risk. How to operate in a world without trust? You develop trustless protocols. Humans have plenty of intuitions about trust and many these intuitions struggle without a clear person with authority to act.

So I ask if we are heading into a “headless” age?

As distrust in institutional power struggles we are seeking out new ways to continue the business of life and civilization even if a high trust society is in question.

We’ve got networks like Bitcoin that work without a head. We have new corporate structures like decentralized autonomous organization (DAOs) that can operate strictly based on cooperative rules, and indeed now entire memetic cultures (like e/-cc) which hold power while being headless.

Lest you think this is some frontier tech idea that doesn’t apply to you we’ve headless content moderation systems & headless retail platforms. Huge swathes of financial tech is living above the API.

You could even argue that we’ve got headless political parties as the Democrats and Republicans both struggle with defacto heads nobody particular trusts. I don’t know if we can live in a headless democracy. Deciding who is a citizen is a very different matter than deciding who is a shareholder.


Day 1273 and Context Window

The fracturing of the social web has made it harder to connect person to person.

The enjoyment of sharing a platform or a protocol with other humans is undermined as grifters and opportunists bang against artificial intelligence slop and algorithmic manipulation. It’s just not as fun to be online in that atmosphere.

I happen to like putting a little more of humanity out here on the edges of the great social media seas. I am not everyone’s cup of tea but at least you know what flavor I am.

Perhaps humans need longer context windows just as much as our artificial intelligence. I’ll allow Google’s Keyword blog on DeepMind’s longer context window to explain.

Context windows are important because they help AI models recall information during a session. Have you ever forgotten someone’s name in the middle of a conversation a few minutes after they’ve said it, or sprinted across a room to grab a notebook to jot down a phone number you were just given? Remembering things in the flow of a conversation can be tricky for AI models, too — you might have had an experience where a chatbot “forgot” information after a few turns. That’s where long context windows can help.

What is a long context window?

Part of my affection for “blogging” whether it’s on my own WordPress powered website or Twitter (remember when we called it a microblogging service?) is that it gives the chance to establish a large context window for me.

You can definitely make predictions about me based on what I’ve shared. If I am as complex as million token window (which is what Google’s Gemini can now handle) I would honestly be surprised. So go ahead and augment any conversations you have with me with the wider context of Julie. It’s my goal that it allows us to connect better.

Internet Culture Politics

Day 1272 and GWOT

As an elder millennial fascinated by the mass media I have a lot of mixed feelings on the American government and how it waged the “war on terror.”

It is heavy on my mind with the current news of Julien Assange’s agreement with the American government.

I think a lot about media, and in particular the technology that powers media. An informed population can still act in its own best interests but what we get told affects what we perceive as our best interests. And as we become more informed naturally some skepticism of the intentions of power arise.

Media affects how nation states wage wars. As we’ve evolved from print to television to radio to the internet how we sell the costs of war changed. But there are always populations who pay enough attention to be skeptical.

The open internet was born of that skepticism of government even so much of the technology emerged thanks to America’s heavy investment in defense industries.

Scientists used to have a wide range of politics and it’s not a surprise that defending American interests is a popular idea amongst people who work for the government. But maybe you see things and fight for more accountability along the way.

The GWOT unevenly affected millennials. If you were middle class your kid probably didn’t join up unless being in the service was how you got to being middle class. There was no draft.

Being in Colorado I had exposure to folks who worked for defense contractors as a lot of the private sector had settled around the cluster of talent from Boulder’s science labs down to the Air Force Academy in Fort Collins.

But there has been skepticism in all the branches of government as it became harder to control the narratives. And Americans don’t particularly like the idea of having propaganda even though I’d argue we produce and consumer enormous quantities of it as a nation.

I wish I could be more cogent about any of this. I am regularly shocked by how little people seem to remember how we prosecuted these long wars. We quickly forget.

Don’t be too sure human nature had changed. Don’t be too keen to give the government power because you are afraid. We’ve already seen what they do with it.

Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 1261 and the Jackpot

Dedicated roamers of the internet are people who like to notice things. Cyperpunk aesthetics made it romantic to experience global abstractions even as the reality of the power of oligarch, state and corporation blended into murky dystopian reality.

I said recently on this photo that we’ve got to stop hyperstitioning William Gibson. We keep finding ourselves further into the future. Just look at these anonymous accounts (so you can enjoy being a participant in the propaganda) joking about a drone operator in Ukraine.

We have netrunners. They’re autistic Ukrainian drone operators and their ice baths are niccy rushes

It’s hard to remember that real people exist on the other side of the abstractions. And yet here we are about to be those real people facing history. And it does seem like the time for taking action is now.

Venkatash Rao wrote an essay “many shoes are dropping” that gave me the kind of frisson of living in future, but as Gibson famously says, a bit unevenly. Across all narrative and technical arcs and and inside geopolitical realities we are starting to see the change.

In this I can’t help but see Gibson’s Jackpot. The elements that Rao calls out are multiple significant elections (not the least of which is the final installment of Biden vs Trump), the capital and nation state power consensus he calls “after Westphalia” and the intertwined fates of artificial intelligence and crypto.

A lot can change in a world where every form of power is being tested. I’ve written about this Jackpot energy before.

The fictional “jackpot” described in the novels is an “androgenic, systemic, multiplex” cluster of environmental, medical and economic crises that begins to emerge in the present day and eventually reduces world population by 80 percent over the second half of the 21st century

The Jackpot Trilogy.

I myself think it a privilege to even be a bit player in this moment in time. That I can allocate resources in any way feels high leverage in a way I didn’t anticipate experiencing.

We are the adults in the room. It may not be mich but we have agency. I feel good about putting my focus on crypto, AI and nuclear energy. Like Rao I can tie together past thoughts across a wide corpus by writing here every day and make decisions based on what has emerged.