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27

Personally, I don’t mind MBTI as a way to arbitrarily self-label. It has no scientific validity, but I figure if an MBTI type speaks to you then use it- others can see it as a shorthand to grasp something about what you see in yourself. I’m a consistent INTP, and perhaps it’s the Barnum Effect but I don’t mind adopting that identity.

I don’t have a huge problem with entertaining ideas that aren’t actually ‘true’ if they have some other use (in this case, in an expressive way). I enjoy stories and I enjoy the randomness of voluntarily submitting to a system of rules or fictions (a game type Caillois calls “Alea”). I’ve adopted my girlfriend’s brother’s occasional decision-making method of rolling dice occasionally. At upscale restaurants I like to take the waiter’s recommendation. I do not believe in horoscopes but I find them to be a fun tool to break out of inclinations in the day’s choices. I am not threatened by their cosmic meaninglessness.

I’m 27 today. The big 3^3.

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Solastalgia in the 2020s

a/n: I don’t think the idea is fully fleshed-out yet, but I can always add and revise.

TL;DR

  • According to Sterling, the twenty-teens are defined by Dark Euphoria, a cultural temperament of exhilarating unthinkableness. This is the topic of the preceding post.
  • The tone of Sterling’s speeches in the past couple of years has moved on from anxiety to exhaustion.
  • Solastalgia is the feeling of dislocation without having gone anywhere, as a result of damage (natural or artificial) to your ecosystem.
  • Cultures can learn and adapt, which is why Sterling is a short-term declinist but not a doomsayer, fitting in the “Stagnated Future” category in this old taxonomy I used a few years ago.

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Dark Euphoria in the 2010s

Bruce Sterling has a knack for coining/adopting rich phrases to describe cultural sensibilities. I watched some of his recent (2017) talks, and I wanted to record some notes on them to share. I figured a good place to start would be on his earlier talks on the current cultural moment.

Bruce Sterling’s talks on “Dark Euphoria” span from roughly 2009 to 2012 or so. During this era,  he coined some unique categories about our cultural moment and the activity of the Stacks (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), and while I won’t go into the Stacks bit here, a Youtube search on his name will bring up hours of engaging rambling.

I start with some concepts he has been tossing around for about a decade now, to set the scene, with some personal annotation and some tie-in to some great Ribbonfarm addenda. In a sequel post I’ll share notes on his more recent talk.

Transcript of Reboot 11 speech by Bruce Sterling, 25-6-2009

 

TL;DR

  • According to Sterling, the twenty-teens are defined by Dark Euphoria, a cultural temperament of exhilarating unthinkableness.
    • I associate this temperament with the opening of a torrent of alternative narratives that undermine the authority of our traditional information gatekeepers, h/t Martin Gurri‘s book.
  • Sterling defines four broad demographics, the two larger narratives about the “Shock of the Old” (Crisis Capitalism among the old+global rich, and Development without Progress among the emerging semi-poor) and two new generational demographics under Dark Euphoria: Gothic High-Tech and Favela Chic. 
    • I tie these ideas to a thread from Ribbonfarm about life scripts that spoke to me, and a thread from Gurri about the Nihilist, which I think is still an underrated archetype.
  • Within this cultural sensibility, it is worthwhile to examine our relationship with our work, with our government, and with our belongings.

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Idiots Are Not Necessary

“It’s hard to grasp that other investors have different goals than we do, because an anchor of psychology is not realizing that rational people can see the world through a different lens than your own.”

 

I have held positions that are at odds with my position now. I think I can still pass the Ideological Turing Test on those ideas, but I’m less sure of that than I used to be- when you’re settled in a way of thinking, the uniqueness of that framing becomes harder to see. Your set of assumptions feel true and unalterable. Making your foundational beliefs genuinely alterable is uncomfortable and taxing.

 

One difference I can grok about my mindset now versus maybe a decade ago is that back then I could see failure around me but couldn’t really appreciate Chesterton’s Fence. As a result, I lived with an assumption that behind persistent problems were probably just dumb people. This is a bit of a straw man, but I didn’t have the hands-on experience to understand the sheer hairiness of even pretty common problems. Andrew Sullivan’s blog introduced me to Burkean conservatism. Over time, and especially through my work, I’ve discovered that really smart people are behind many many more large-scale shitty things than I had previously supposed, often because nature is indifferent, communication is unreliable, incentives are misaligned, and fighting chaos is generally exhausting. I think that was the theme of my earliest musings on this blog, really- for me, it was fertile ground for metacognition back in 2012-2013, and now has cooled into just another set of ‘true things about the world’ that frame how I see almost anything.

 

To be clear, there is plenty of arational/irrational behavior out there. But irrationality is not always a sufficient condition for large-scale, persistent problems.

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