Listing post from June 25, 2022
On Saturday Roe v Wade was overturned and I attended a Des Rocs show at LPR in the village. I had a lot on my mind so I took a series of rough notes. Since I was feeling a little hopeless when I got home I decided to share them as a set of Instagram stories so at least I could feel like I was sharing something that could be meaningful or different after terrible state action that I feel so powerless to stop. These are the written form of those notes, and will serve as the hub note for each idea as I break each one I find interesting out into separate posts.
Very rough ideas aheadThese ideas are very much in a "seedling" phase. I support them but I will add to them, and I may amend them. Please treat them only as prompts to spur more discussion.
Some concepts that are embedded in culture that no longer apply
- Lifetime appointments. If you believe history is open-ended that is a blank check. The "drain" on this system is death, and death is becoming less frequent, so your system of checks and balances is broken. This is why we have justices that have broken ideas of statecraft, citizenship, personhood, and autonomy.
- The idea that slower feedback loops are ever a good thing in government. It's based in a defensive idea of statecraft, that you're somehow protecting the world from the "dangers of democracy" by having senators with 6 year terms and no limits, and judges with lifetime appointments with no meaningful auditing process. If you came to me with this as a staffing strategy for any business or organization I would reject it out-of-hand. It's bad and based on a flawed understanding of how brilliant humans can be in the right systems.
- Singular exclusive citizenship. It is plainly out of date on the face of it. It only serves as a useful exclusivity policy for the powerful. I am plainly a citizen of both Ohio and New York1. Policies in all those places affected me legally and emotionally. Most of my friends are citizens of two or more places. We need a new concept of citizenship, maybe based on "dependencies" in software. Like I depend on the interfaces of these governments so I am a citizen of them2
- The entire concept of artifacts as the thing that workers or artists produce, and that these artifacts are "done" at time of release. What happens when a singer wants to rewrite a song, or a scientist wants to correct a study? Thinking of the guy who wrote that alpha wolf study and regrets it. These artifacts should be reimagined as versioned instances, snapshots of a creative process.
- Kanye is an interesting example of this with Ultralight Beams versions3. He took so much heat for updating his albums after launch, but why? It's a standard we don't hold over any other creative profession, software creators being a notable one. But I want to find older examples because I'm sure there are more.
The implications of fiat currency on wealth hoarding
The time we live in is partially due to a backlash trying to correct for a giant misstep in the conservative (small 'c') ideology. Seeing that misstep might help us pull it open further.
The meaning of gold is imaginary, and it always has been. it was a gliterry talisman of hard-fought battle with, and taming of, the earth. But it was what all hierarchies in the western world were built on. And if you didn't control that mcguffin you didn't have Power. At least until fiat currency was invented.
The creation of fiat revealed the game. That power is primarily a socially-created construct.
When we talk about wealth redistribution, we are talking about changing hearts in order to let them loosen imagined hands on imagined, conceptual, wealth. The billionaires that dictate US policy do not hold power, they hold promissory notes to it.
Who's afraid of the negotiated reality of culture?
The idea that we hold physical realities over philosophical ones is in itself born of a fundamental fear of ideas.
One of the patterns of fear is the belief that your enemies are both impossibly weak and impossibly strong. What if you were against the very concept of new ideas themselves? You would think that idea studies were simultaneously meaningless and the greatest threat to you nation in a culture war.
A history of revolutionary technologies that don't make money
We don't have to look far for tech that capitalism skates over or avoids because they would break its internal logic. Look at APIs as a concept. They, if applied widely, would break most of capitalism. So we slowly started talking about the revolutionary implications of a future where everyone had APIs to and from their personal digital identity.
Accepting base conditions of the present without accepting the trajectory
Something cool about teens. They see the same things as adults. They want to change things. I think the only thing that limits them is that they often haven't yet accepted all the weird givens of the actual present.
I think a lot of the cringe things kids do are because they understand and want to change the same things. The only difference is that they want a different set of base conditions, so they mock things that are goofy about the way things are, and they get mad about things they can't change.
This is by no means limited to teens. Adults from my generation can be heard saying that "this is the darkest timeline" and "I hate it here" (I am very guilty of these).
It's on adults to help them accept the way things are as the starting point. But there is something between accepting the given state of affairs and the accepting its trajectory. Never forget that.
Postel's Law and the deep generosity of the web
I saw City Nerd on YT use the term trust but verify, and that speaks to how there is a generation of web professionals that would not have careers without these anti-capitalist ideas that are foundational to the web, like "be generous in what you accept but stingy in what you send" (Postel's Law)
Code switching is brand new
Code switching is not a bad thing, it's a new thing.
Trying to take other people's and "society"s emotion into account whenever we think often feels alien and look alien from the outside often, especially when taken to its widest understandings of the term. That is because it is. It is new, fundamentally novel (for effective purposes) in human affairs.
Never in history have people had friendship across so many different groups of people. If you accept that humanity is never going to be a single culture, code-switching is part of the solution for that new paradigm.
taken to its widest understanding
I like the idea of using "taken to its widest understanding" instead of "taken to its logical conclusion". The latter phrase does two things wrong.
- First is it conceives as the word as a closed system, and as Thinking in Systems says, all clouds are imagined.
- Second it appeals to that odd American obsession in in the 21st Century that "facts" and "logic" are more truthful than intuitions.
Intuitions reframed through Arthur C. Clarke
Intuitions, to rework Clark's definition of magic, are "conceptual technologies sufficiently advanced enough to be indistinguishable from magic." I believe human intuition is fallible, and prone to socially- and evolutionarily contingent biases. But I believe it is useful to think of them as processes that our current frames of thinking are not sophisticated enough to understand completely, so as not dismiss human experience.
- reference Maggie Appleton's talk on the cultural anthropology of React, where she mentions Bruno Lutor's thought that technology is society made durable.
Common syntax is a portable user interface
I like Obsidian and other notes like it because at the end of the day as long as you use the correct syntax you can take your notes anywhere and import them in later. Syntax is an interface that you get to carry with you where ever you go.
The American "soul machine"
People fret a lot about dangerous AI like the "paperclip machine" thought experiment.
But I posit that what our government is building in the time I live in is a "soul machine", which has the same kind of disastrous results, if not on the same scale.
Oftentimes it seems the only goal of our government is to generate legitimate souls to be judged by heaven. Anything that gets in the way of that, or distracts in a way that may someday upset that flow of incoming souls, is an abomination.
So many people in my circles have posted about how "this isn't about babies, it's about control." I agree, but I also think there is a need to understand and dismantle the evangelical roots of this kind of governance.
The point of anti-abortion policies for pro-lifers—indeed, the point of everything in the universe—is to find and save souls from damnation in Hell. That is the single tenant of their worldview. Human life comes second, often for themselves and more often for people outside of their social world. At no point in evangelical governance is human life, nor especially human wellbeing, necessary to bring into consideration.
Thanks for reading through these if you made it all the way. Some of these will take me some time to chew on to see if I feel the same way about them in a few months. My hope in sharing this is that by publishing the wild ideas that come to me in rage-filled days like this, I might get someone else thinking differently, and open up the adjacent possible just a little bit. Because we need to imagine a new future for America.
If any of these ideas were interesting to you, please reach out to me on Instagram, Twitter, or email. I'm looking for people to bounce ideas off of these days. Stay safe out there 🤙🏻
and for a exhausting couple years was also a DC citizen as well 😴 ↩
Might be worth keeping in mind Hank Green's video on social platform citizenship ↩
artists like Kanye often try to avoid reification for good purposes, but reach for the only tools to avoid reification that society offers, which are often abusive or misogynistic or otherwise bigoted. Need to find ways to avoid being reified—be transgressive—without hate. ↩