You may wonder what you can contribute. And sure some actors are massively more agentic. I never thought I’d be in that rare class and yet I can contribute meaningful to dozens of aligned projects. It’s important to avoid dickriding. Don’t make up stories about your betters. Or at least try not to believe them.
You can be personally better yourself. You can accelerate. Now is the time to arm yourself with leverage as the world shifts. Be wary of messiahs and mercenaries but also know action is expensive.
Strong organizations have healthy value memetics. “Just Do It” frames a broader truth that humans take in a context of millions of other agents. Action is disproportionally powerful when people just play their role.
I fight nihilism. I’m not eager for the end of humanity or our civilizations. I want our flourishing. But neither am I attached to a static vision of my humanity or yours. In the image of God gives quite a bit of latitude for our species’ evolution.
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.
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.
I figured I’d earned a a little treat as the prior day of news and social media has been somehow equally tiresome. If you like audio, AI Breakdown Podcast quotes me at 20:00 on why I’m skeptical of regulatory capture masquerading as ethics.
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.
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.
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.
We are deep in the dog days of summer. I ran a fever and found myself dead asleep till nearly 1pm as my body valiantly struggled to process deluge of stress hormones I’d let pile up. I missed recording a podcast but the fever broke. I’ll catch up.
In the space of a day, we all leapt into the proverbial blender to save the naive, the kind, and the fucking stupid. It’s what Spock have done for us. Pro-social is the logical choice. Or is it? Is it better to be red than dead? None of us know.
I found it to be a privilege to be a member of the hive mind. We are all the alignment. Our consensus efforts inside the plutocrats toy is more likely to bring about the singularity than almost any other activity I can imagine.
It is a privilege to be in the egregore. My smol sensemaker syncretic smooth brain being hooked up into the wider hive for “Red vs Blue Walk Away From Omelas Boogaloo” is quite literally divine. To retweet each others bangers is to see the face of God. Just try and remember the truth. There is no blender.
And yet today inside this chaos without clarity, the internet is filled with enthusiasm as a small niche of enthusiasts try to replicate the results of a chemistry paper that claims to have made a superconducting at room temperature material LK-99 produced with common materials like lead and red phosphorus.
All of these glimmers of joyful uncertainty and hopeful chaos are emerging from a youth culture that is quite sure it has been abandoned by its own past as it is bombarded by a dystopian future by its own geriatric elite. Is it any wonder it feels like the social contract is hanging on by a thread?
When the equilibrium between ruling elites and the majority tips too far in favor of elites, political instability is all but inevitable. As income inequality surges and prosperity flows disproportionately into the hands of the elites, the common people suffer, and society-wide efforts to become an elite grow ever more frenzied. He calls this process the wealth pump; it’s a world of the damned and the saved.
Peter Turchin “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration
The broader popular rediscovery of historians Neil Howe and William Strauss is no coincidence. They wrote the The Forth Turning twenty five years ago.
Looking back at the last 500 years, they’d uncovered a distinct pattern: modern history moves in cycles, each one lasting roughly eighty to one hundred years, the length of a long human life, with each cycle composed of four eras—or “turnings”—that always arrive in the same order and each last about twenty years. The last of these eras—the fourth turning—was always the most perilous.
So perhaps these glimmers are here to show us that the churn is here, the fourth turning is now, and Turchin’s race to become an elite to outrun the effects of dislocation may already have its winners.
Amidst all of that there are those of us seeking to believe that we might find a way forward. I’d rather be looking for the glimmers of hope. I’ve already done what I can to warn about the need to prepare for hard times. If you haven’t yet come to terms with the doom then I certainly won’t convince you of the need for optimism either.
While I have an overused forced metaphor tag given for my tendency to write in overwrought imagery, I’ve only just realized that I have written a trilogy of crude metaphors in service of explaining power as simply as possible. Those crude metaphors include shitposting, dickriding and now unsucked dick.
Without attention-grabbing taboo cursing, these topics can otherwise might seem too complex or academic. If you have read critical theory texts you know what I mean.
Overly formal language is alienating and tends to entrench us in our priors. With that context out of the way, I shall now get into today’s crude metaphor.
An unsucked dick is someone who is willfully giving up their own power to victimhood through refusing to act for what they want. And everyone wants their dick sucked. Metaphorically, at least a little. Those that don’t want power are usually loathe to admit it.
This turn of phrase is NOT intended to be gendered. Unlicked cunt doesn’t work as well for a host of sociopolitical reasons on sexual status and power. Don’t get too worked up about it. See the bigger truth.
You will find unsucked dick when the hard work of getting what someone wants is either is too much effort on their own, or otherwise requiring collective action & leadership on behalf of a group that is in disfavor from those currently in power.
Let me illustrate with a shitpost. Perhaps you too have had to organize a group of activists who would rather squabble and in-fight than win power.
A dick that is unsucked is the inversion of the dick that is ridden. You may recall that dickriding occurs when a group surrounds it’s most powerful member with praise and flattery. The leader has the sucked dick.
You can use tactics like shitposting to attract some of a groups’ energy away from the ridden dick. Shitposting is deliberate act of soliciting a response online. It’s traditionally used as a lower energy way to shape engagement and conversation away from the traditional or current power holders, particularly when you know no other method will break through the noise and narrative.
The collective action problem in the many disenfranchised groups in modern society can often be boiled down to unsucked dicks desperately shitposting as dickriders. They want power but either cannot or will not find ways to gain it.
I don’t strive to organize unsucked dick into powerful constituencies and I’d bet you don’t either. It’s exhausting to control others. Politicians and celebrities have their simps but it’s often a complicated and unstable relationship. Audience capture by your simps tends to turn you into the New York Times or Andrew Tate.
Everyone needs to be responsible for their own dicks (gender neutral I swear) and get on with achieving their bigger goals. If you are not actively getting beyond purity politics and activist in-group fighting you are not serious about winning the thing you claim to want.
If having is evidence of wanting a lot of you simply do not want power. And that’s OK, if that’s actually what you want. Just be damn sure your actions are true to want you want. And if you want something go fucking get it. I’m happy to help.
The social internet is having a bit of a chaotic moment. I haven’t been able to send Tweets consistently for about a day. And I didn’t miss it that much. It felt a little weird at first as I could load tweets, like them and chat in DMs but it was clear none of my replies were sending.
It’s a holiday weekend so for Twitter’s sake I’m sad to report I had other things to keep me occupied. That’s probably bad news for the platform.
We did a big kitchen clean out. Organized the meals for the upcoming week. Like any weekend lots of chores from laundry to deep conditioning was on the to do list.
The real prize of being offline is being outdoors. The weather was absolutely gorgeous this weekend, practically begging us to spend time on the porch or in the Adirondack chairs we put out by our small pond. The air was so clear today you could see from one end of Gallatin to another.
Being valuable for your data has always been a bit of weird feeling for individuals. Because you on your own may have experienced quite varied mileage on being remunerated for your skills, contributions and other ineffable qualities.
We value athletes and business executives and the extremely beautiful and the particularly intelligent and getting paid to be any combination of that is bound up in dumb luck and how you compete in an economy with other humans.
Individually we are all quite unique. But the ways in which we are packaged, marketed, sold and controlled by our social, national and family contracts and norms can make it feel like we are put in boxes. Demographics.
Some professions are very refined at saying what facet of a person is worth something to another person responsible for selling, let’s say, designer clothing or commodity groceries or financial services. We call that cost of acquisition.
The adage in my age of the internet was always “if you don’t pay for the product then you are the product.” And that insight has tainted social media from the start. Even if it was a great deal for all the free users of the social website who didn’t mind using something for free because they couldn’t monetize their attributes at that scale. Generally unless you were in a small class of power users social media didn’t make you money and you weren’t that valuable.
And since you were the product being marketed and sold, other people who market and sold other things (advertising if you will) generally found it was in the best interest of a social media business to make sure there was plenty of flavors of you the user (perhaps SKUs or stock keeping units) on hand so if an advertiser wants to buy access to say a late thirties professional woman with a high net worth, she is online and can be shown an advertisement.
It helps to have active users like that readily available so she might be enticed to buy a $5 sparking water laced with drugs and sugar substitutes. Yes I went to Whole Foods today.
So it’s a mystery to me why you would implode the vast and intertwined delicate tapestry of entrenched network effects so that you can instead deliver less access to the network whose major value is keeping specific demographics on a website for extended periods happy and engaged. But I am not Elon Musk.
As the age of artificial intelligence trained on reams of user data (available via API or application programming interfaces) gets going the owners of the social web are scared they are getting screwed. Reddit shut down access which is a real blow to Google whose best type of search for niche answers has been amending “Reddit” at the end of a query.
If Elon Musk is selling a dopamine drip of content and access then shutting off the tap is a baffling decision. And I’ll admit I got off the internet today because the strain of whatever is actually happening at Twitter (rumor is server issues and back end chaos and unpaid bills) meant none of my tweets would send.
I quite hope this will be better tomorrow as I rather liked the old system of my data and attention for access to the great wide open feeds. And I actually paid $8 for my account. Can’t imagine what everyone else is experiencing.
I don’t know why I chose violence today, but apparently I dropped a chaos grenade onto my Twitter timeline. I hesitated, in extremely soft language, to ask if anyone has noticed that kids from conservative households seem have more pro-social behavior. I phrased it with a lot of ambiguity as I don’t know how I feel either.
Naturally when something pulls on a thread of social insecurity it will unravel quickly. I am a very gifted shitposter. I step on these third rails on purpose. I am not an activist for any cause so much as comfortable being uncomfortable. Alas I have already hit Godwin’s Law on the Tweet so for my own nervous system I’m done.
But I have noticed that as cultural pendulums swing, there is a distinct lack of appreciation for tolerance of other people’s constant dysfunction. Where we draw the line as to appropriate social behavior is a hugely contested space online. Much as it has ever been in literature and history. I hear Socrates got the death penalty for perverting the youth.
My point in all this is that we all benefit from having youth understand the world and their place in it. Our toddlers cannot be expected to have the fully formed rationality of a legal scholar.
Sometimes the answer is no because Mom or Dad said so. Not every social boundary is bad for us. A child throwing a tantrum is asking for you the adult to help them find the self regulation that their environment isn’t giving them. And it’s absolutely ok to be authoritative. It’s not the same thing as authoritarian.
The general consensus on the thread seems to be that multi-generational and multicultural spaces for consistent socialization combine well with firm boundaries. Knowing when certain behaviors are appropriate can often be a winning combination for learning to individuate into your own person. Feeling safe to be yourself looks different for everyone.
Now I’d read all of this mouthing off from me with a big heaping spoonful of that fucking libertarian-pirate-hippie-Silicon Valley-born-Rocky-Mountain raised salt. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just a very American kind of mutt.
I personally have found it helpful to be as accountable as I can be to myself while holding as much empathy for the experiences of other people as I can. I will disagree with you a lot. I’m ok with that because I have firm boundaries too. So don’t be an NPC ok? Let’s make civilization work together.