Categories
Aesthetics Culture

Day 1053 and Revivalism

You’ve gotta have faith.

I am a little surprised to find myself discussing what appears to be a genuine revivalist movement from all walks of life.

“This particular corner of Twitter” is neo-Shakerism. The singularity is always coming is coming for the computer nerds. The rationalists are pitted against futurists. Steely realists admit to having woo sensibilities about the nature of reality.

But we are also being subjected to surprisingly archetypal forms of the hero’s journey in every single news story and social media narrative at alarmingly rapid rate. A rational man is going to want to wag the dog. We do a little kayfabe. The crowd cheers its hero.

But also mere men are elevated to strange statuses. You can believe in a cause but be unsure of the martyrs and mercenaries that fight for it. I feel like if you were really that horny for the Roman Empire you’d have more dates handy on Caesars and the savior and be a little less focused on the Gladiators and the bread and circus.

But we’ve got people who can conjure fire and this time it’s not priests but machine learning engineers who write fan fiction about British Boarding schools that are in charge. The biggest dork you know gets to summon God. It’s not that irrational to worry we’ve summoned elder gods isn’t the of the divine right? Folk stories have some meaning right?

And like sure Bayesian inferences says maybe you should worship a Flying Spaghetti Monster. I say watch out for those Babylon death culture memetics because we didn’t have the right inference field about the sun for most of history. The trickster god can be summoned as sure as the devil. Lets remember information hygiene was not good for most of history so it paid to have some prejudices.

Nevertheless the worship of men has gods has generally been iffy. And so, and I can’t entirely explain it as evidenced by the rambling writing in doing this weekend, but the hive mine of the Internet feels like a real team effort at controlling popular opinion about the arrival of the promised land.

And sure I have recency bias. While I was in Amsterdam for the Network State Conference I was missing a gathering of what amounts to Christian hippie revivalists. Another node of my network that m feels adjacent to both technology and culture was at a Catholic divinity school in Washington D.C. Meanwhile my feed makes whisper jokes of mystery cults and computational power. Worship is powerful. I’ve talked to all sorts of rationalists into new forms of woo and, magic. We speak of queens and divas and witches. Everyone is sure that something is coming and they feel the divine.

It’s within these networks of social organization and belief where I see clashes of power and organization. There are political theorists and economists contending with what a centralized higher authority might do make for more efficient resource allocation. Appeal to authority! We have any number of radical thinkers who are essentially rogue elements of human consensus who are if they seized with a little bit of “agreed on common good” we can revolutionize how we do resource allocation. Central planning is so scientific. Tith!

I feel a little bit like the drama of everyone having access to social media has made us all participate in elaborate fan fictions about who moves the world. I see all over my timeline Zoomers staning over Schopenhauer and Heidegger and Kant as if they were secret movers of history. And they are.

We’ve got a genre of signalling on the internet where if you find a theorist whose mother wrote a nasty letter to him for being socially awkward you’d get people discussing general trauma dumping. Did you understand that? I’m sorry to say you have brain worms and you’ve been trained on a steady diet of rebellion and empire. Be safe out there.

Categories
Media Startups

Day 1051 and Wild Speculation

My timeline got absolutely imploded by the news that Sam Altman has been fired by the board of OpenAI. I’ve got so many priors and biases and you probably can guess at some of them. Others I hope I’ve played a little closer to the chest. I do not know what happened.

Everyone in Silicon Valley is going Matthew McConaughey paranoid smoking conspiracies

I do think we’d know more about what the fuck was going if we had the kind of reporting that was a little more shoot from the hip and a little less tsk tsk regime. I’ve never missed Valleywag more.

I do think it’s been an impossibly weird week and everyone is as reactive as it is possible to be. Silicon Valley has always had factions and drama and the Federal government breathing down its neck. So this feels like a little bit of the same cycle of power and drama that we’ve always had. No one is ever an angel and the devils are often unexpected. It’s best not to make a martyr out of mercenaries. Just don’t be too sure you know what army you’ve been drafted into.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1016 and Carrying On

It’s been a terrible week. I feel stupid even typing it. How many times can I state the obvious? It’s as if the repetition of stating that I’m in a hard place physically, and emotionally, somehow shames me. Can’t I say or feel something new?

But I don’t have any desire to dig any deeper into the wounds of the present. I am in too much pain. I am deeply emotionally affected by the situation in Israel. In ways I frankly didn’t anticipate. Those horrors overlapping with being sick, being far from home, and having a significant personal milestone, have collectively laid me flat.

I’d prefer to remain silent but the exercise of daily writing pulls at my habits no matter the extent of the misery. And maybe that’s the point. No microcosm of personal suffering or global macro view of atrocity changes the reality. Pain is an equally shared human condition. And we walk through it no matter our circumstances.

I have to assume I am not alone. The ambient misery is both personal and collective. The human experience is terrifyingly universal. I am fearful of my own physical fragility when abroad certainly but it’s bigger than being away from home. I’m afraid of being fragile in a cruel world that is getting crueler.

I’ve struggled to maintain a level head and a healthy routine this week as the whiplash of a hostile immune reaction and steroids took me from one misery to another. Prednisone is a cruel drug. It tamps down any reaction from your immune system. It’s a hard reboot for a physical system gone haywire. How appropriate given the circumstances.

It wasn’t quite how I envisioned turning over from one decade to another. And while I appreciated the stormy Baltic solitude to savor the weight and significance of my personal milestone, I can’t help but also notice that carrying on feels like a heavy burden.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics

Day 1011 and The Same Timezone

My circadian rhythm has succumbed to the shock of the current crisis. I’m currently on the same time zone as Israel as I’m in Tallinn in Estonia. It’s been a windy weekend with a record breaking wind storm so folks have been advised to stay inside.

That means I’ve been online watching a war breakout with no news delay or influencer filters. There is no defining set of news narratives. Twitter is broken but it’s still largely moved by the enormous traffic of the American dominance on its algorithm. Stories build but American news can whipsaw a single image into our consciousness.

Except there is no one to trust on the platform. The old verification system of the blue check didn’t provide much except that if someone said they worked confidence that the source. It was not a great system. But now there is no system.

It doesn’t seem as if there is a functional trust and safety team at Twitter. So a lot of people have seen horrors that has previously been buffed away by content warnings and nerfings. It’s a good thing and a bad thing.

Keep in mind “trust and safety” is gone might be a fancy way of saying none of the intelligence services have any natural dominance, none of the legacy news institutions are caught up to internet OSINT and you will see things.

And I have. By the time something hits the American audience I’ve had almost an entire work day with the information you are just seeing. And it’s been horrifying. Because it is. And being on the same time zone really lays bare just how much narrative fog permeates war in a crumbling corporate internet.

Categories
Politics Preparedness

Day 1010 and Exogenous Shocks

There are few shocks as jarring as waking up to a war starting. I was preparing to leave for Germany when the current Ukrainian conflict boiled over. I woke up in Estonia today to news of an escalation in Israel. No matter who you are or where you live, the existential dread of a hot conflict finds you.

Trying to orient your life around exogenous shocks of violence and conflict is part of the human condition. One that we seem as yet unable to evolve beyond no matter how much we elevate rationality. Every time a new rift emerges in the fragile status quo of the global consensus, I find myself wishing I were more surprised. But it’s pointless to be surprised by chaos.

I hesitate to weigh in on a conflict as it emerges as no matter how closely you watch the news it’s a mess of conflicting narratives. All I know is that more external risks like war will continue to drive volatility across all our human systems.

Our many complex human systems, from trade to politics, are already riddled with known endogenous internal risks. You start adding in more variables that can impact a given system and we don’t fully understand what is exogenous anymore. What’s outside the system if we’ve networked the whole planet?

I wish I believed a sunnier outlook was reasonable in the immediate term. Destiny remains in the hands of men. And we are a species prone to reactionary behavior. We are evolved to it. But we are tied together on this planet and every conflict, shock and unexpected event can ripple out to touch us all.

Categories
Aesthetics Culture

Day 993 and Service Expectations

We are in a weird moment for transactional goods and services. As more people draw inwards towards themselves, the social contract is less clear. What do we expect when we pay someone to do something for us? Do we make small talk? Do we smile? Do we reach for connection?

I went to a nail salon today. I’d called ahead looking for a specific nail technician. I was really relying on having her as I treat pedicures as more of a medical grooming need than a strictly aesthetic one.

I get pedicures mostly because the bending over required for clipping, filing, and cuticle trimming is hard on my Ankylosing Spondylitis. I prefer to have someone handle that grooming for me to avoid the unnecessary discomfort.

Especially because an ingrown nail can be a significant infection for someone like me as I take immune suppressants for my autoimmune condition. A little nick or cut gone wrong can get me quite sick.

I like to know I’m working with a careful nail technician. I went through cosmetology school and am familiar with what is in a safe aesthetician environment.

So I was surprised to find myself trying to communicate via non verbal cues with a gentleman who seemed unclear about what tools to use for what job. The woman is scheduled the appointment with was busy with someone else. I said I’d wait but it got lost in translation.

I got more anxious as an acrylic nail drill got involved. I don’t use acrylics. And I really started to panic when a razor came out. I definitely didn’t want that used on my cuticles.

And I found myself unsure in the moment. Do I just trust this gentleman who cannot understand a word I am saying with razors and drills? Or do I just get up and go?

I stayed for too long. The drill was used on my big toe and cut down too far. I finally after some shock extricated myself and left cash on the table and drove home feeling scared and unsettled without letting him finish.

If we can’t figure out how to communicate with each it’s complicates your social expectations. I didn’t want to ruin a service or not trust the person in front of me. But I also have expectations for the experience and safety from knowing something about the job and it’s safety requirements.

I found myself unsettled by the whole experience. That my expectations are high trust and I find myself simply not being able to make the transactional moment work. I’d failed. I paid in full for a service I didn’t get what I needed. I left.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 992 and What We Can’t Know

Most of my life I’ve been been awash in assurances. Maybe this wasn’t so bad when I was a child. Approaching life with confidence in the world breeds positivity.

We’ve come to expect certitude. Our institutions and elders deliver most of their hard-earned knowledge with certainty.

Nuance and shades of grey feel dangerous these days. Too much room for interpretation leaves room for confusion. After all, if it’s just a small percentage on the edges, why give people cause to worry?

Except we all find ourselves in the small percentage at some point. As normal as we may be in some areas, or even most, you will probably find yourself being on the edge.

You will want assurances. And as it turns out we are not yet good enough at math to know many things. You can get close to the limit. Infinitely so. But we can never get there. Just try calculating out Pi if you are skeptical of my math.

Categories
Community Internet Culture

Day 989 and Autopoietic Ergodicity

In one of my group chats, I hang out with a bunch of rationalist machine learning engineers who are happily climbing the rungs of accelerating life.

I really love the energy of the community as it’s centered tangibly around making things. It’s a little less talk and a lot more action. It’s got a bit of a feeling of Stack Overflow’s early helpfulness but without the Hacker News nerd sniping culture. It’s like the best of a small Reddit thread but for dudes who want to make shit with artificial intelligence.

Now, of course, every community finds itself with disruptive members and turf fights over social mores. Virtual spaces are notorious for clout chasing and personal dramas. Veterans of green text wars are familiar with Geeks, Mops and Sociopaths in Subculture Evolution.

And so it seems fitting that last night, in a much bigger very public egregore that is e/acc’s online community, we got to witness an immune reaction to someone trying to apply non-consensus standards.

I spent an hour watching it play out last night and then went back to reading before bedtime. I’ve got some personal investment in the space and it’s people, so of course that’s what I’m doing on a Friday Night.

But as I got up the next day and saw everyone going back to work, a insightful lowbie named bmorphism (slang for smaller anon accounts on Twitter within subcultures) introduced me to a term I’d never heard before. Autopoietic Ergodicity. Or how do multi-actor dynamic systems self regulate?

He introduced me Autopoietic Ergodicity via a link on PerplexityAI which seemed appropriate. And it got me thinking about how we as individuals interact on a much wider system and how it interacts with us.

The term combines two ideas by positing that complex adaptive systems (like living organisms or ecosystems) exhibit self-regulating behavior that enables them to maintain persistent patterns while also experiencing change from external influences. These systems are capable of minimizing changes caused by random factors, ensuring their essential dynamics remain stable without needing to undergo a complete reset or cycle back to the initial state. It’s like having a dampening mechanism that continually adjusts for fluctuations, allowing system resilience and long-term persistence in an ever-changing environment.

It’s my suspicion that something special is happening across portions of the fracturing social web as most of our platforms go back under more centralized control. The system is fighting back.

A meme using a Dune visual that originally has the elder Etreides saying to Paul “we need to cultivate desert power” with a substitution “autist power”

The grey tribes that have populated Silicon Valley have an opinion about the future. And it’s a positive one. We’ve got to find ways to be resilient in the face of memetic interference on our systems. There will be high energy distractions. We’ve got to be reminded that it’s a competition for efficient use of energy and we shouldn’t let it be drained. We’ve got to focus on making things that speak for themselves.

Categories
Culture Preparedness

Day 986 and Risky Business

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how we see risk the past few years. What is an acceptable risk? What are the boundaries of risk perception and how much variability is there between two people? How much of those tolerances are innate versus cultural? Can you consent to risks you don’t understand?

Philosophers have been working on these questions for a while and we don’t seem to have gotten much further on the problem than some of us dislike change and some of us are more open to change. Figuring out any grand causal theories of openness doesn’t seem any more legible with regression analysis.

We have little coordination of acceptable risks at the individual, local, national, planetary and species level, just as we most need to understand if we can all collectively tolerate significant social, economic and political risks associated with new technologies.

We just don’t seem to have consensus on risk much beyond “don’t get someone killed.” Yelling “slow down” barely works with toddlers, so I don’t see how anyone considers it a viable tactic for coping with, let’s just say, artificial intelligence.

I don’t consider myself to be someone who takes a lot of unnecessary risks. I like to do my homework. While I was never a Boy Scout, I do subscribe to their motto. “Be Prepared!” But if you asked my friends and family they’d probably say I am a risk taker. Who is right? It’s clear that preparation and planning mitigate known risks. Beyond that it’s not up to me. It’s probably not up to you either.

Categories
Medical

Day 985 and Know So Little

Every time I have have cause to interact with any medical speciality I find myself blown away by just how little we know.

I’ve been going back to doctors to understand what my options are for living with an autoimmune condition and having children. And the truth is we just don’t know much.

I made a life altering decision several years ago by letting a medical decision be framed to me like a consumer product. We opted to freeze eggs and embryos and it turned our entire lives inside out. It triggered an autoimmune response in me that I’ll live with forever.

Somehow in the intervening half decade years we’ve learned precious little about women’s health and fertility. And we are advocating for somehow knowing even less.

Because that’s what we’ve done by letting the government into our health decisions. Don’t kid yourself into thinking when we involve government and bureaucrats we somehow improve our knowledge and safety. At it’s most friendly, when the government shows up it’s about ass covering. At it’s most hostile it’s about control.

We argue about ethics, safety and life as if we even have a shared ideal of any of those concepts. Whose life? My life? My unknown children? I’m not convinced we ever cared about women’s health as an independent variable. We treat fertility as a sideshow and hormones as some variable over which we pretend to have control. And yet every time I try to assess my own risks I find out that we known just about nothing. There are no good answers. And it’s all poorly understood risks.