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.

Culture Politics

Day 1296 and Mandate of Heaven

If you’ve been educated in the Western Cannon you are probably familiar with hubris. One does not defy the will of the gods.

The evolution of hubris from ancient Greece to modernity has extended our understanding of the prideful ego’s journey to arrogance. To be arrogant suggests a break with reality.

The term arrogance comes from the Latin adrogare, meaning “to feel that one has a right to demand certain attitudes and behaviors from other people”. To arrogate means “to claim or seize without justification… To make undue claims to having”

Who can claim the Mandate of Heaven? To even dare to do in many faiths suggests hubris. The breaching of limits and violations of the natural order suggest that Man should not suggest he knows the will of God.

And yet we push against the natural order all the time. Sometimes it is even demanded by the mythology of our moment. To make bold claims is to be sure you have a right to make them.

Watching the American mood witness invoking the will of any god is heady stuff. It is from the land of myths and those programs run on old operating systems. It’s not very hard to crash systemically when running on old programs. But I’d guess that is obvious to more than a few of us.

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.

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.


Day 1275 and Old Goat

I miss living in a world where nothing happens. I suspect well-off Americans took for granted the artificial smoothing of conflicts & markets that our global dominance granted. That era seems to be over. And blame must be apportioned.

Like many people, I watched the presidential debate last night between former President Trump and President Joe Biden. I had low expectations. It would seem they weren’t low enough.

You expect the lies from politicians. You expect spin from media commentators.

But nothing prepared me for the scapegoating of an old man clearly struggling. The entire chattering class, sensing weakness in Biden, seems to have decided to turn en mass.

A screenshot of headlines declaring Biden’s performance was a disaster.

Americans have many sins, not the least of which is tolerating a political establishment that is unable or unwilling to be held accountable.

Making a sacrifice of Biden when the hour is so late has the flavor of a desperate prayer. Placing those failures onto one symbol is powerful. Biden being subject to the ancient ritual in Leviticus was perhaps inevitable. The poor old goat deserved better than being made to carry the iniquities of us all.

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.


Day 1263 and Hoe-flation

As I run out the clock on the last vestiges of my Covid infection (two fucking weeks give me a break), I’ve had the pleasure of being extremely online.

There has been a bit of a kerfuffle on the costs of being “a well kept cosmopolitan woman” with varying levels of push back that are functionally regurgitating the plot of The Devil Wears Prada.

Breakdown of the costs of a “well-maintained” attractive woman in a large U.S. city:
hair: $400/every 2-3 months at least
facials: $200-300/mnth
fitness: $200-400/mnth
cosmetics: $100-300/mnth
nails: $100+/mnth
brows: $15-40/mnth
waxing/laser: $100-$150/mnth
med spas: $1k/every 3 mnths at least
And doesn’t even include clothes or shoes!

Expressions of feminine presentation through grooming is what the academics like to call “contested space” but you can probably get the gist of how it through it by skimming Veblen, Baudrillard and old issues of Cosmopolitan.

Needless to say, most women are not $10,000 Instagram models, professional girlfriends, trophy wives or professionals in glamour industries. This spend is extreme and for people who life off their image.

I’ve been a peon in the image business and I’ve been a girlboss and it’s a bit exhausting if you are not young, naturally beautifully or able to afford the upkeep. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I’ve watched many rounds of influencer burnout. I am blessed with good skin, good hair, the knowledge of my professional background and cosmetology school, and I have money to spend on myself.

Hair: $80 2x a year
Facials: $0
Fitness: $0 on gym or classes but we do have a barn squat rack & a mortgage
Cosmetics: $100-200 a month it’s my hobby & former profession
Nails: $50 for pedicures 6x
Brows: $0
Waxing: $90 4x year
Med Spa: Botox $220 every 120 days

I am myself in the middle ground of expensive personal presentation. I like everything about cosmetics from makeup to haircare. I posted my own breakdown above and it’s about $250 a month.

I don’t dye or heat style my hair, I am not heathy enough to be a gym rat (I wish I was), I get pedicures because it’s hard to do my own with my spinal problems but don’t get my nails done, I wax downstairs for personal preferences, I love skincare and at 40 it seemed time to get a light dose of Botox seasonally.

Which is in my book quite a bit of money to spend on appearances. It’s the opulence I allow myself on the other side of some financial success and I justify it by saying it’s worthwhile to keep up on my old industry.

My husband says it’s mostly an excuse to buy makeup I’ll never wear and he is naturally quite right. It’s a hobby like any other. I’m glad I can justify it for work though.

Social media comparisons for lifestyles that are simply beyond most people’s reach shouldn’t be considered aspirational. My spending should level not considered aspirational on this either if I’m candid. I could easily get away with less and look good.

The good news is that for bargain hunters who want to combat hoe-flation costs in their life is that we’ve never had better access to quality grooming. We have cheap actives brands like the Inky List and the Ordinary, access to the best Korean biochemists, and excellent buyers clubs.

It’s never been easier or cheaper to learn to be well groomed. I very much advocate for looking your best as it reflects a commitment to caring for yourself and your body. Just don’t get carried away when a $16 product can do the job of the $200 one ok? Ask me if you need advice on what to buy.


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.


Day 1212 and Being One of Many

Quick. Without overthinking it, pick one.

Words or Numbers.

I can’t predict your choice, but I’ll admit my “rational” conscience mind desperately wants me to pick numbers.

Alas my emotional subconscious intelligence quickly goes intuitive, lurching my feelings to a grabby place with “words.” That the right answer. I’d be hard pressed to correct my gut.

Humans love a good story. Even a single word can contain centuries of meaning. Just ask someone to define “woman” if you don’t believe me.

In the battle between numeracy and literacy, the bell has long ago been rung on the fight. Cave paintings transitioned to runes. Runes became alphabets. Literacy won before numbers got beyond accounting for the treasures of a king.

Priesthoods may have hated man understanding “the Word” but human minds were already on board with incantations of auspicious words before we got formal symbolic systems.

Probably understandably attempts to introduce topics like algebra were was a bit of stretch. Even simple arithmetic proved to be a contentious abstraction for many humans.

Ideas like property are a not a long haul from understanding “mine” and “yours” but it’s quite a leap to understand “how much” and “in what ways across different time and organizational schemas” which gets humans upset over specific collection of things.

Look at your hands and you understand that base ten allows you to calculate simple transactions for resources within your life.

Beyond that good luck. Got an abacus? Understanding that zero and one can communicate a universe’s worth of information is an even further leap. Attention wanders quickly without a computer.

And yet, as I enjoy the aesthetics of my own numeric symmetry in my 1212 days of consecutive writing, I know it’s my private counting mechanism.

“The need for numeracy today is enormous. Business requires people who have grasped the principles of reducing chaos of information to some kind of order.”

The Economist 1966

The narrative overlay of what numbers mean matters more than the numbers. So I’ll ask again. Which would you pick? Words or numbers?


Day 1206 and Appearances

I have come to enjoy the logistics of self presentation. I used to resent the extent of the labor that could go into cosmetics & fashion when I worked in the industry. Now I can enjoy having put in the long hours to have acquired my skills.

I’ve put a lot of thought into how best to pack a bag. Handbags are a sort of Boy Scout style training for young women in that “be prepared” has come to mean having all the tools of the trade of femininity neatly stowed away in a stylish purse.

These obsessions with what we have in our bags runs from the Queen’s Marmalade sandwiches to whole cultural industries producing #WhatsInMyBag as identity politics. Men do it too but “go bag” sounds tactical and thus somehow more serious. It’s not.

I’ve written extensively about my mixed feelings on packing & travel in the past, so it’s nice to have enjoyed that struggle and be able to now aside if I so desire. Packing a bag well has become a thing in which I am expert and that’s a lovely feeling.

The pleasure of negotiating the logistics of appearance can be a game to me now in a way that simply wasn’t when I was younger and struggling. Now when I don’t need to be perceived in a positive way to survive, I can enjoy the problem of optimizing for a giant game of “what am I saying without words” and more importantly “to whom?”

I’ve come to enjoy packing as the self soothing experience in a rapidly changing world. I can control some aspect of what I show to the world. It becomes a design problem. The three bag cascade is now a savvy way to manage airline chaos. The labels on my packing cubes become a pleasurable prayer ritual as I not so neatly write in cursive “black sleeve tee-shirt.”

I like the challenge of imagining the multiple social, professional, cultural and geographic flows I might navigate. Will I be able to manage the many different ways in which I might encounter other humans while they also live through the same set of fears & uncertainties of 2024? It can be terrifying (personal safety is a factor) and yet it’s absolutely a skills issue to navigate these things.

And so I ask “do technical fabric wrap dresses send the right message” or would I be better suited in cotton or silk if I’m in a desert? How about adding in semi-tropical humidity as a potential variable?

Every decision in how I pack a bag can represent a small marker in my perception by others as we manage this ridiculous system we inhabit together. It is a social game and everyone is playing. You might enjoy learning some of the rules too.