If This Is So, Why Not Die Now?

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Sean Jewell, writing for Eternal Return Press:

Because when I die, is the 【still】that replaces the C𝐨𝓶𝕡𝐥e𝐱Iţ𝕐 not more beautiful? If this is true, is there any life for which it is not true? Would it not be the most graceful act to flow this logic ≋F≋U≋R≋T≋H≋E≋R≋? For all of us to choose the nearest spot of ground & collectively, in one painless instant, take the simplest path to our universal destination? Finding, finally, the sublime universal connection that escaped us in life in a simultaneous last breath?

Tumblefeeds

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I’ve fired up a #tumblefeeds channel on the Northern Information Discord server. This channel is a melange of new media artists, collectives, organizations, writers, musicians, friends, and foes…

I believe the way forward is actually a return to the blogosphere if the 00’s. Microblogging is dead. Get out there, buy an artsy domain, and make a personal blog. This is a step towards digital sovereignty.

If you’d like to be syndicated on the #tumblefeeds, send me a message.

Structural Injustice

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Ariadne Conill:

Over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that the Internet as we know it is utterly broken. Lately, I’ve also been pondering how participants in the modern Internet have enabled and perpetuated harm to society at large. Repeatedly, we have seen the independence of the commons chipped away by powerful men who wish for participants to serve their own whims, while those who raise concernswith these developments are either shunned, banned or doxed.

On Friday, October 28th, we will see another demonstration of these structural injustices where the commons takes another loss to the whims of a powerful man. Last time, it was freenode’s takeover by Andrew Lee, and this time it will be Twitter’s takeover by Elon Musk. No, really, the deal is already concluded: TWTR will be delisted from NASDAQ on Friday.

Will this be the end of Twitter? Probably not, but it will be the end of the current relationship the commons shares with Twitter. Instead of acting as a self-described “public square,” it will further evolve into a chaotic cacophony of trolling and counter-trolling driven in the name of algorithmic engagement. Some will move to other microblogging services and networks, and will likely discover that everything which made Twitter horrible likely applies in some way to the replacement.

The Deeper Question Concerning Sphaerae

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Mike Edmunds, writing for Inference:

From my own perspective, the deeper question concerning sphaerae is to what extent the development of this technology prompted the Greeks and Romans into a new worldview. The technology may have affected not only mathematics, but also the idea that the universe itself is in some sense mechanical — and long before the so-called scientific revolution of the Renaissance. For Samuel Sambursky, the question is

whether these models are only convenient means of illustration, devices adapted to our needs for an ordered description, or whether they represent to a greater or lesser degree some faithful image of a physical reality corresponding to them.

If meant as a faithful image of reality, there are several themes present in such an image. The first would be the realization that gearing, with, where necessary, the addition of pins, slots, and levers, reproduces rather well the celestial properties of determinism, repeatability, regular cyclic motion, and irregular cyclic motion. This set of properties starts to provide a physical explanation for the motions of celestial bodies without ongoing direction or intervention from the gods. This is not to say that the universe is driven by actual gearing, but does suggest that a physical, rather than divine or magical, explanation of its motions is possible, even if the actual details are as yet unknown. Paul Keyser points out that Theodoros, in the fifth century CE, certainly believed in mechanical determinism: the universe moves in a necessary motion like “a machine on wheels and pulleys built by an engineer.” Much earlier, in the fourth century BCE, Eudoxus of Cnidus, Callippus, and Aristotle suggested a universe constructed from nested crystal spheres — some 55 or 56 of them. The spheres could be thought of as a mechanical model even if this construction, they believed, perhaps required divine intervention for the rotations. Turning wheels had been conjectured as cosmic analogies since at least the time of Anaximander, who died around 546 BCE.

The Struggle for Devirtualization

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Have you ever migrated 1.5 million lifeforms? When I was a kid my mom was a prairie steward. One time I got to help move insects from one prairie to another. Maybe in kindergarten. I captured them with nets and tubes. Then, miles away on yet another golden hill, we let them go. Clouds of triumphant of freedom. Quite literally escaping extinction.

(Would aliens do the same for us?)

Devirtualize. Verb. To invert paradigm of digital-first, physical-second. And virtualization was always second-nature. So many of us leapt in with both feet.

(After all, we grew up here.)

Somewhere, months later, I saw “online-ness” offered as another axis with to gauge your employees. 21st century flare minimums, etcetera.

(But then what?)

Now, I go into the “office” once a week. Tuesday is the day. I have two accountability buddies. It is good for each of us. Devirtualize. Sometimes we all pull up. Sometimes two. Sometimes only one. Last Tuesday I was alone.

(But yesterday-Tuesday I got to interact with humans! Isaac and I hacked the Gibson. Arthur played Aerials and Chop Suey on drums. Jack shredded bass and spoke of distant horizons. Erik plotted empires.)

“Office” in scare-quotes because Output HQ is the most comfortable professional domicile within which I’ve ever had the pleasure of conducting business. Drum machines and instruments just sorta float around in slow eddies which can only map to employee devirtualization-cycles.

(Ah, that photoshoot three weeks ago is now one-third tucked away…)

Those who entered isolation earliest are more likely to leave the latest. It is simple - they were the most paranoid and/or most at-risk so they’re more likely to be the more cautious and alert.

(Just because I’ve seen every science fiction movie ever made doesn’t make my paranoia any less valid, thanks.)

But why did we have to migrate all the insects in the first place? What was wrong with the prairie? Simple. It was in the path of a subdivision, a highway, some strip malls. It was in the path of the American dream.

(For each dream you destroy, three more shall spring, and each shall be more smoldering than all previous.)

Failure is Something You Want to Tempt

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Simon Sarris, writing for The Map is Mostly Water:

So it is an error to wait around for inspiration, or to demand some feeling of readiness for an undertaking, or for a teacher or some other golden opportunity. I think these slouching inclinations come partly from an overly-systematized experience during childhood school years, and partly from a fear of failure. In fact, when you stop waiting for others—for either their permission or instruction—and instead begin on your own, fumbling through, regardless of how ready you are, this could be considered one of the true beginnings of adulthood.

I think there is value in pushing learning and doing as close together as possible. I wish to learn like an apprentice with no fixed master, instead with repeated trial and sharing the results. If no teacher is found along the way, then the mistakes will be my teacher. Every undertaking is a series of questions and experiments. I believe every hard thing you do, for that matter, acts as a multiplier on the rest of your knowledge.

Failure is something you want to tempt. You should court it the way the bullfighter courts the bull. When I wish to learn something, I begin with this in mind. A meaningful first project should have sufficient difficulty that there is some real chance of failure. It is in approaching the edges of our abilities that we are really learning, and often simple projects feel more like delaying things, including delaying mastery. A chance of failure ensures your hands are firmly touching reality, and not endlessly flipping through the textbook, or forever flirting only with ideas.

All Adjacent Possible

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Venkatesh Rao at Ribbonfarm:

Tik-tok strikes me as a curiously appropriate social medium for these tenuous times. The things that spread on and out of Tik-tok seem culturally energized, but unvectored, and ultimately self-contained in a way that makes it hard to call them trends, let alone cohering into bundles worth labeling torrents.

They are fleeting moods at best. They seem to correspond to a kind of dreamy undecidedness in historical processes. The world is asleep, but actively dreaming. Often fever-dreaming. But the body politic of the world is in the rigor mortis of REM sleep. It cannot act to unleash the built-up energy.

The essential immobilized dreaminess is why I call this psychohistorical tenuousness. Psychohistorical tenuousness is world history dreaming about being, without progressing to becoming. All adjacent possible, no actuality.

Our Iceberg is Not Far Away

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Francine Prose, writing for The Guardian:

Because the greatest shock of all would be to wake up one morning and find that while we were driving the kids to soccer practice and enjoying that welcome after-work cocktail, more and more of our rights had been stripped away, as has happened in so many countries in which democracy vanished, overnight and in darkness –when, as it were, no one was looking. The overturning of Roe v Wade should shock us even more than it already does – shock us into looking beyond the dance floor of the Titanic and spotting that iceberg, looming in our path, not so very far away.

The Blinking Past

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The blinking past persists but each pulse erodes epochal episodes. How many more times will you remember that one thing? That golden afternoon; that forbidden evening? A decaying deal with the inner sanctums of your beautiful skull.

The Case of the Missing Nominative

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I have noticed an unsettling trend in recent years:

Have noticed an unsettling trend in recent years.

There is this tendency to drop the first-person nominative pronoun (aka, the loneliest word: “I”) from communications.

This phenomenon appears confined to text-based mediums like SMS, Twitter, or Discord. I haven’t observed folks do it verbally.

I chalk it up to simple laziness and frugality. Gotta minimize effort and keep it under the character count, right? Plus, the speaker is always “baked in” to the message on these platforms: tweets are accompanied by handles; texts by phone numbers. Frugality and economy are things I can get behind. I enjoy being lazy, too. But…

What I find unsettling is the how passive these pronoun-less statements become:

  • “Have cancer,” versus, “I have cancer.”
  • “Went to the mall,” versus, “I went to the mall.”
  • “Amputated the patient’s arm,” versus, “I amputated the patient’s arm.”

Pasteurized! The whole lot of them! Utterly drained of charge, urgency, and agency. What could have been a strong assertion shrinks to a spineless hedge.

Voting “present” on an important piece of legislature has the same energy.

And no, not all communications need a sense of urgency and charge. But — I do declare — if you’ve got the gall to publish a whatever, consider the potential impact of not using your pronouns.

I’m fascinated by linguistic relativity: the idea that language can impact perception of reality. I have a theory The Case of the Missing Nominatives has actually had a massive impact on our shared reality.

With so many people choosing to drop pronouns from their communications, our shared discourse has become increasingly cavalier. Everything takes on the air of a self-evident “truism.” Perhaps this is an evolved defense mechanism to an increasingly toxic environment of trolls wielding ad hominem attacks? By removing yourself from the statement, do you actually decrease the attack surface? Is this a type of linguistic camouflage?

Unsure.

Exponential Crush

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Jason Parham, at Wired:

And because we live in a precise intersection of time and circumstance there is a very particular sensation, in the slipstream of inconceivable terror, that posseses the body, that seeps into the recesses of the mind. The sensation is not anguish alone that one feels, that one understands with a too-familiar sigh and heartbreak, because the feeling, in the context of this moment, is more than that. It is a simultaneous and exponential crush, swell, and unsettling: Everything is compounded on top of, next to, and under what is happening and what has already happened to you.

[…]

Our bold, flawed project of citizenry, of permitting Americans of every hue, status, orientation, and religious belief a voice in the building of our republic has failed. Our elected leaders have failed us. And we, in part, have failed ourselves by not doing more sooner. The collective feel—the Final Vibe, as it were—is total disrepair, and an ushering into the dark ages.

Symphony in Acid

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https://symphonyinacid.net/:

This is an interactive website promoting a track Symphony in Acid from the album Unspoken Words by Max Cooper. Animation and code done by Ksawery Komputery.

This is some of the most hard hitting new-media art I’ve felt in a long time.

Connection to the Sublime

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Venkatesh Rao at Ribbonfarm:

On the other hand, if you’re an older adult in a place that was peaceful through much of your life, but is unraveling into a generalized crisis in your old age, you face a different problem — though your crisis bandwidth has expanded with age, it is not up to the challenge the times are throwing at you in your old age. You will be overwhelmed.

We seem to be entering a historical period where crisis circumstances are more common than normalcy. This means crisis mindsets will increasingly be the default, not flourishing mindsets.

Cultivating better crisis mindsets means building up all the unsubtle practical capabilities and resources of course, and perhaps, to a degree, even seeking out small crises to prepare you for bigger ones. Taleb is right about that. Antifragility is key. But it is not enough.

It strikes me that the most important aspect of cultivating a crisis mindset is the subtlest one — the ability to retain a strong connection to the sublime, to life beyond mere survival and claustrophobic intersubjectivity, in whatever stolen moments you can find against the general backdrop of never-ending crisis.