Categories
Culture

Day 874 and Steady Hand

All the science fiction I read as a kid has been a great trial run for the current reality. We have synthetic selves, AI chatbots, embedded intelligence, and money run by a consortium of your peers.

That’s not too shabby considering that my favorite utopian science fiction Star Trek depicted San Francisco as a crime ridden dystopia with a vast chasm of financial inequality. Oh wait.

I didn’t expect future shock to be so tiring. I expected a bit more fun and optimism and a little less doom, fascism and reactionaries. But I guess like all humans, we forget that our history is just repetitive series of discovering that power corrupts but human ingenuity prevails at solving the problems we bring in ourselves.

How long that luck holds is now in our hands. I sure hope we don’t fuck it up too much as we fuck around and find out. And if I’m going to survive future shock I need to take care of myself, stay one step ahead and make sure I have a little fun along the way. A steady hand and a calm nervous system is necessary for a chaotic world.

Categories
Community Politics

Day 871 and Collaboration in the Time of Cultural Cholera

Perhaps its a function of being an American abroad in Germany, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the social contract and the expectations we have for free association and collaboration.

Germany’s democratic socialism is abutting against the challenges of global market capitalism and cultural pluralism. And the strain is evident. Frankfurt is expensive and there are many competing populations from refugees to globo-homo cosmopolitans

I think only one in five people I’ve encountered appear to be native born German. It’s almost enough to make me feel like I’m in America. Which is to say I see the in-group and out-group competition clearly.

Different expectations for a civic polity can range wildly depending on the goal. We enable everything from humanity wide medical breakthroughs to individual physical health through incentives both individual and collective. And yes because I’m American I notice shit like who pays for parks and recreation. I also notice soda taxes. Choices are all around us and the incentives make it look like no choice at all.

Humans live at varying degrees of abstraction. Our capacity to go from whole to parts, and parts to whole, depends on education, temperament, intellect, emotional capacity and preferences.

And that diversity of views is what makes it so hard for us to infer what “chunk” of reality our fellow humans see. No wonder we struggle with collaboration as a species. Your fellow man is as sensitive to elite semiotics as they are to casual racism.

Where our new living history takes us is going to depend a lot on how we design incentives for collaboration that provides benefits to participants that are transparent. Otherwise I’d be strapping in for more civilizational struggles.

My aspirations include us finding ways to collaborate across much wider destinies with as much freedom for all can be managed. I’m hoping AI and crypto go hand in hand. High trust and no-trust are our only options at this scale. But like any reformation it threatens the current powers and worldviews.

Categories
Culture Politics Reading

Day 869 and Novelty

When I was a university student at Chicago we went through a two year core cannon which was mostly meant as a Great Books exercise. I’ve still got a dozen rainbow colored books dubbed the “Western Civilization” readers. I treasure them.

My professor was a scholar named Katy Weintraub. She was the better half of the beloved Professor Karl Weintraub. The classes were famous for good reason. I’ll forever be grateful for having been taught the western cannon by someone as capable as her.

One lesson that has stuck with me is the dangers inherent in the human urge for newness. She brought up the insidious, cumulative effects of novelty nearly every lesson.

History was driven by “newness” and its consequences. Each new historical moment was an opportunity to be reminded how fraught with the peril novel ideas and changing cultural mores could be. Death, war, famine, and conquest lurked behind an original idea.

Every rebellion, reformation, and new republic started with some asshole sharing a bright idea. And it tended to get you killed, even if your particular form of novelty got widely adopted down the road. See Christianity, various flavors of democracy, the printing press, and the Enlightenment to name a few.

The “best” part of modernity appears to be that everyone from yours truly to Donald Trump can constantly float novelty trial balloons from the comfort of their own toilet. Best and worst are doing a Janus double duty of meaning here.

Professor Weintraub might remind us that all forms of novelty are dangerous. New ideas represent change. And change is destabilizing even if we later recognize those changes as positive.

I’m certainly feeling the destabilizing effects of having to be alive during living history these days. I bet you are too. Turns out we don’t live outside of history at all. Maybe I finally understand why novelty represented such a danger in Professor Weintraub’s mind. Change has been, historically speaking, pretty hard on those living through it.

Categories
Aesthetics Community Finance

Day 863 Abstract The Pain Away

When I was a small child I attended meditation retreats with my parents. Hippies amirite? The particular branch practiced was some variant of Kashmir Shivaism, but I’ve got to imagine it was heavily edited for the consumption of white Boomers.

Who else would take a vacation to sit in silence, chant the Bhagavata Gita at 5am and practice sevā, all while having six year old children? Silicon Valley’s syncretic culture produces some weird hybrids. Seventies counter culture gave us some of the best religious revivals in American history.

If you didn’t catch the word sevā earlier it’s actually going to be the anchor of the post. Sevā as it was explained to me as a child at the ashram is selfless service. It’s work you do without expectation of reward. It is a dedication to others.

Practically it meant that anytime we lived at the ashram everyone contributed some set of work, mostly unskilled labor but not always, in the form of sevā. I did everything from food preparation and dish washing (working a commercial kitchen dishwasher is actually fun) to caring for some donated horses. I had fun summers as a child.

But the point was that everyone participated in some way to the functions of the ashram no matter who you were. And we did have some weird celebrities but that’s not the point. Sevā applied to us all. Though I’m sure glad I never looked too hard at the politics of finances of these ashtrays. Childhood innocence. As a child I just thought it was fun to contribute to the adult world.

But what I remember now is a sense of connection. That no aspect of these retreats was ever abstracted to far from me. The service was meant to bond you to an experience of a world bigger than yourself. And by recognizing that, you’d somehow connect more with others.

I try to remember that now when I am in lonely cities where every aspect of living with others is transaction. A food delivery service whisks you a meal in an hour in a country where you are an outsider without ties, bonds or service beyond the basic civilizational contract of capital markets.

The global cosmopolitan gloss of mobile applications have abstracted service away to the point where we can have an entire day of discourse about a man being sad a house cleaner washed a cast iron skillet but we can’t admit that we all pay for service as it cracks the facade.

We’ve got no sevā because that’s an expectation too great to hear. We can barely manage to pay a fee for service anymore. Imagine if we had to operate without intangibles. We can barely make Uber Eats function with taxes, tips, and services fees. Bless the markets for this freedom and curse it in the same breath.

Fuck the pain away? No, we abstract the pain away. No need to see who contributes anything. You can complain to a faceless chatbot cum customer service artificial intelligence about how some man on a bicycle didn’t deliver your order on time. The service lives below the machine now and has patience for frailty.

And yes I’m writing this because my Korean fried chicken and kimchi order got lost in a side street in Frankfurt for an hour or two.

Don’t worry the corporate entities that intermediated between me, the restaurant and the courier decided in my favor. The customer is always right as long as they have paid the fees to pretend that are lords.

All pain in the above transaction was abstracted away into some governance structure that decided it was worth 25 euro or so. One presumes some public market agreed on the price. I guess I did too. We all did.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 858 and In Passing

As I’ve been working on a nervous system mastery course the past few weeks I’ve been especially attuned to how quickly emotions rise and fall in my body. Like a small child, the range and swiftness of feelings always catches me by surprise. And it is a blessing.

I don’t repress anything. Good or bad, I let it rise up and feel it deeply and completely. This can lead to some awkward timing.

I had a moment of intense grief and sadness wash over me on the airplane today as part of an exercise called somatic free diving. I let the tears overcome me only because I had on an eye mask that I knew would hide it. I was in a safe place to feel it even though I was in public.

But just as quickly as the storm blew in so too did it dissipate. The emotions are always in pass if we allow ourselves to enjoy the temporality of our reactions. If the issues are in our tissues we can bring ourselves in and out of them just by noticing where in our body we feel our emotions.

The pressure to let go of bad feelings and hang onto good ones can be intense. We rush to toss off grief, sadness, fear, abandonment and rage while we cling to happiness, joy, wonder and arousal.

But I am playing with the idea that everyone and everything is just happening “in passing.” Humans only get to live forward in time linearly. None of the probabilistic potentialities happen for us. We enjoy heavily edited narrative memory and future fantasies but reality happens in the present.

I am hoping to catch some people in passing while I am in transit. However I know possibilities are endless and my linear limitations will intersect with all of the other beings also in passing with equality linear limitations.

All of that has become beautiful and tangible to me the further I dive into my own nervous system and it’s inner workings. If you do want to join the next cohort with me (apparently alumni are able to do so) my code JULIE does something. Probably saves you some money. For me the course has saved me something far less tangible and I am grateful.

Categories
Culture Homesteading

Day 856 and Spring Into Action

It’s been a beautiful week in the Gallatin Valley. Every single morning on my daily constitutional walk I notice new growth. Very suddenly we went from of melting & assessing snow damage to bright and sunny spring green.

The more northern latitudes get a shorter growing season (in fact we will get more snow) but the season is one of magnified intensity as our evenings stretch towards 10pm before the light is gone. And so on this first weekend of May we’ve begun taking action on spring. Hobby farmers spring into action.

Alex slicing open a bag of manure in our back pasture in preparation for tree planting
A man, a hole, and a shovel

My husband and I have no idea what we are doing but with the true spirit of fuck around and find out we began anyway. Our running joke is that Alex is a #ManofAction as there is just simply so much more practically to do when you live on land for which you are ultimately responsible. It’s a lot of fun and very grounding.

And as you might guess the most liberating feeling in the world is being held accountable for yourself and your choices. So even knowing full well you are basically that dog typing on a computer subtitled “I’ve got no ideal what I’m doing” you carry on anyway.

I’ve got no idea what I’m doing Golden Retriever Typing

While I did a few laps around the pasture and helped with a bit of the lighter work my role was mostly to capture the fun and excitement of trying something new. We picked two apple, two plum and one cherry from Starks Brothers to add in after a fall planting of a number of apple trees. We’ve got no idea if any of this is going to take. We’ve read some books but that barely counts.

Meanwhile inside the homestead I’ve been doing some spring cleaning. I’ve been appropriately assigned gender formative roles as I actually enjoy keeping things attractive and beautiful. The closests need turning over from the wool and layering over to tee-shirts, sundresses, and linens. Alex mostly goes from button downs to tee shirts. Jeans are swapped for cargo shorts. Being a man is simpler.

Winter boots need to be put away and flats, sneakers and sandals brought to the front. Alex had more work gear and footwear as he does more of the outdoors work than I do so shoes are more Alex than me.

Heavy winter oil and moisture rich cosmetics will give way to lighter water creams and ceramides. I don’t change retinols but I may add in more C and lactic acid for turnover in the heat. Alex meanwhile gets away with a basic vitamin C moisturizer and SPF.

I alas have not dealt with getting my hair trimmed in sometime but the reminder that it’s time to cut off dead ends is ultimately a spring time ambition. Hopefully you had the good sense to prune in the winter. My husband is lucky enough to simply buzz his head. Happy spring everyone and may your rituals enjoyable to you.

Categories
Finance Internet Culture Startups

Day 853 and Alignment on Our Consensus

Some narrative wars are being fought right right. Who owns the future and who gets to decide on what something is worth? That question is rippling through AI communities and crypto DAOs. And then the Federal Reserve raised another quarter point and Balaji explained probabilistic thinking and it went over everyone’s heads. And the beat goes on.

We are all looking at the consensus making in the market and applying our separate projections onto the great stage of guessing if you think you know what other people think everyone knows. What is common knowledge. Turns out calculus is useful!

You’d think the value of an honest days work would be common knowledge. But labor costs sure have gone up. Or maybe a gallon of milk. Politicians don’t know. How much do you get for a dollar? I’d like to know if you think it has changed. These are things you can evaluate yourself. You do not need a fancy expert. Though sometimes economists on Twitter will answer your questions.

But are we aligned on the measurements and valuations being used? What do you value vs Janet Yellen. I believe we have a right to ask for the people and technologies that run our lives to be accountable.

We have to agree on some collective civilization level norm on what we value and what the boundaries are on what things are worth and how we protect those valuable things.

It’s my personal opinion that we are all performing a bit of chaos magic as we ask that we align on a future that can collectively together build the most aligned consensus of agreement. Maybe it happens at the neighborhood level or maybe it’s a whole state. But we need to agree to some terms.

How gets to do that and how do we enable them? Maybe it’s humans. Maybe it’s humans guiding machines to make us more powerful. I myself believe that machines will need a valuation mechanism to sort priorities on our behalf.

People ask if I’m on team AI or team crypto. AI needs crypto to bridge the many different value sets and marketplaces together. Some of these types of value marketplaces may even be cultural values. That’s the goal of the network state. Align with the state that empowers your values. But then these states will also need to coordinate in various states of mistrust, distrust or if we dare trustlessness.

But aligning on how we govern and what rules we must abide by is a hard problem. We’ve relied on national liberty in America for a good while and it has produced many failures along the way.

But occasionally the utopians win a few rounds. Freedom does indeed reign it just takes a lot of fight. But we work to align as many of us as possible toward a consensus. Nobody said civilization was easy to maintain.

Categories
Community Internet Culture Startups

Day 848 and Summer Camp

I’m not a camp kid. I’m told there exists a group of kids whose formative summer experiences are at summer camp and I’ve watched enough American television to have the gist of the genre. It looks fun.

Professional conferences appear to offer a similar experience to adults. You have a yearly event or two that gets together various sets of old colleagues and professional teams that then overlap with social and affinity groups. I’ve been at Consensus which is one of crypto’s many conferences but somehow one of its most inclusive.

It’s a bit of a crossover event where a lot of different factions put aside their differences and ask why the fuck are we here and what the fuck are we even building anyway. And the answer seems to be every kind of kid you’d expect at summer camp. We are building a pretty inclusive place with a lot of weirdos.

You’ve got the academic nuanced protocol dorks, the tradfi to defi chads, the solar punk regenerative commons open source projects, developer tool companies, analytics firms and graph data scientists, privacy and OpSec nerds, and even the baroque online misogynists. And me, who is, I guess, a chaos magic witch or a pre-seed venture investor if you are nasty.

Crypto is for everybody and sometimes we aren’t thrilled by everyone who shows up but we do our best to make sure everyone is included in the effort. Maybe we even help cool down the radicals and maximalists right? Maybe we can reach a consensus?

Everyone who is here this year is down for the fight. There are a millions reasons why skepticism of centralizing authority and panopticon states is good. Mostly it comes down to insisting on finding a trust layer that we can all agree on. Even if you are a racist weirdo online.

And I’d imagine most marginalized identities can understand the basic skepticism how big institutions. I’ve only got a few issues (disability and gender come to mind) and even I see how institutions turn a blind eye to our needs if we don’t stand up. So we’ve got to agree on a common set of civilizational rules. If a state can’t do that then we better build alternatives fast. Trust layers matter.

So I’m glad that I’m in an aligned fight for those basic ideals. We are fighting for a consensus in a pluralistic world. Because that’s one where we can all prosper. And speaking as someone at summer camp for utopians, it feels pretty good to be optimistic. Just give us a decade or two to keep fucking around and finding out. With enough of us competing we will get there.

Categories
Community Startups

Day 847 and Erasure

I hosted an interactive town hall for Consensus this afternoon. The topic was the path forward for building communities online, offline and IRL with cryptocurrency, decentralized autonomous organizations and maybe even network states.

I’ve been working on this town hall for several months. I worked with Marc Hochstein to refine the thesis question, build the flow and topics, bring together speakers from unique ecosystems and projects, and horse trade the various bit of social capital required to get interesting content out the door. I worked hard on it. I felt I was one of the owners of the panel.

Builders of new types of communities – online, IRL, and hybrids – roll up their sleeves and discuss how they’ve addressed challenges from 60,000-foot strategy to immediate on-the-ground tactics in a zero-trust world with high trust expectations. Topics include: governance and accountability; organic scaling through consensus (who and what decides on whether it is achieved); the architecture of sustaining and driving loyalty; navigating regulatory hurdles; uncertainty around novel governance structures; and managing information and workflows around who and what is trusted.

I was proud of my first question as I felt qualified to ask having once been the founder and leader of an organization. Conway’s Law is a familiar adage in software design. Simply put, what we build is a reflection of who we are and how we communicate with each other. So I opened the town hall with this as the thirty thousand foot view.

If what we build is a reflection of the organizations that build it, then crypto is a reflection of this room. Assuming you believe our goal is to economic and monetary solutions for everyone willing to align with our reformation, are we living up to this ambition?

We had a lot of ground to cover. Issues of institutional distrust, transparency, governance, and decentralization’s promises for inclusion. But reactivity means we go to base emotions. An older woman asked the panel (not me though) why there weren’t more women on the panel. Needlessly to say I took that personally. Ain’t I a panelist?

I just brought the hammer down on this poor woman who wanted to call my panel a “manel” because lady it’s fucking erasure I worked for months to bring this group together, I’m on the stage as an expert, and you think don’t I count?

She said I was the moderator. Which like yeah it’s my fucking show because I have the expertise to bring the leaders together as I’m a peer. I shut it down as we had deeper questions on what inclusion than Boomer feminism or Girlbossing woke-ism can manage.

The beauty of Bitcoin and Ethereum and the ecosystem of L2s like Stacks is any of us can validate what’s going on. There is no “man” or patriarchy or systemic oppression keeping you out of learning and using the tools. Maybe they reflect their builders who haven’t always been inclusive but now all of us together can earn and build like anyone else. We can make our tools reflect us by insisting on being seen.

I regularly have my background and expertise and existence questioned by everyone. And I just keep showing up. So I’d like to say sticking a girl on a panel does nothing for inclusion. But being a woman who organized a serious (ly) weird town hall on community should also mean my experience counts as much as anyone else’s.

I want everyone to count. You count. I count. Your gender or sexual orientation doesn’t discount you unless you discount yourself first. I regularly make sure I’m seen and I want you seen too.

The way to count is by speaking up and making sure that men aren’t the only ones who contribute. Don’t want to make your gender or sex a thing?

Go ignore gender & sex and & identity entirely and be an anon with a Milady pfp. I came to crypto to be a sovereign of my own body and choices. It’s your choice. None of us are victims.

I was amused as dozens of women came up to me after with enthusiasm about how we do inclusion in crypto because we don’t need to be restricted by Girlbossing or Boomer feminism. We include ourselves as the system is inclusive by design.

Decentralized systems include us all. And that’s a future they can’t exclude us from. Do you want to categorize every identity into perfect little corporate identities and slogans. I don’t. We can build a future where we are free to be you and me. Ok Boomer?

Categories
Startups

Day 846 and Serendipity

Last night I arrived in Austin for my favorite annual cryptocurrency event called Consensus. If you are participating please consider coming to my interactive town hall on Thursday at 1:30pm where we have an hour of panel & audience discourse on the future of trust & community.

I am excited for this panel as I feel like I’m ready to own my experience as a professional community builder. It’s been a job in the social media era for a bit. But it’s only recently that we’ve realized the ecosystem of builders is tightly knit together by a tapestry of overlapping passions and competencies. It’s lots of different kinds of nerds.

We arrived earlier than expected which enabled us to go to an event with Jon Stokes (I was slightly more excited to see his wife Christina but Jon knows I adore him too). While we had lots of folks discussing heady issues like the network state, it is most joyful for me to discuss the more human aspects of life in a community. Who was looking after the kids and which one of our neighbors is housesitting. Practical daily living things felt like the natural connection of humans beings working together.

From there we went to a dinner with one of our most cherished real ones Ben Huh. The man knows food so I was thrilled to be feeling healthy enough to stay out and enjoy a meal with a table of deeply weird unabashedly themselves people. When we did introductions the question was “what is something you are obsessed with right now?”

The answers were wide ranging. High temperature cooking, textile pattern making, reality dating shows on Netflix (not for the record me but I am also obsessed), showing up as you are, sewing the perfect custom dress shirt, raising goats, riding tractors, reading science fiction mind bender The Three Body Problem, and mastering nervous system regulation (this one is me).

I felt like everyone I saw that night was one of my fellow travelers. The serendipity of overlapping passions and curiosity showed me so many ways I connect with diverse humans. I encountered politics as disparate as reactionary fascist and shitlib standard as everyone comes to grip with a future that feels as yet unwritten. There is a lot of serendipity on the frontier. It’s nice to be reminded that the future is built together.