Miscellaneous Notes

I’ve almost pulled together enough grist to cut down on the “miscellaneous notes”  posts and scribble on something pseudo-consistent. I started writing on Huizinga to publish next week, but I may as well wait for the new year. The rest of the year’s posts will probably be housekeeping (lists of related posts, one last devblog update)

 

I. 

Aeon Magazine on Creepypasta/Weird Fiction. I riffed on Weird Fiction once a few months ago now, it’s a fun an interesting subject that presumes a chaotic, unknowable, uncaring universe, and is usually a powerful foil to the human-aggrandizing Science Fiction genre that I also adore.

A more telling aspect is the preponderance of those ‘lost episode’ and ‘haunted software’ riffs. Stories in that mould proliferate like Japanese knotweed, to the extent that the Creepypasta Wiki no longer accepts them. Are they a product of the web’s innate tendency towards pop-cultural nostalgia, or something else? A generation or two that grew up saturated in children’s TV and computer games might now be wondering about the deeper effects of that immersion on their adult minds. Those of us now in our 30s and 40s are pioneers in that mental space, and are being followed by more hardened cohorts. Part of our generational project, in art and life, will be to explore what that saturation has meant. In this, creepypasta is ahead of a good deal of high art and literature.

Furthermore, creepypasta scratches at the unspoken deal made between children and adults. If all is well, the horrors that surround us during childhood are suppressed, and we discover them only as we approach adulthood. Maturity brings the realisation that frightful stuff had been going on around us all the time — so why not possession and mass suicide as well as the usual death, disease and strife? Meanwhile, adult minds have fashioned supposed amusements that, to the child, can have awful gravity, as anyone who remembers the nightmare figure of Noseybonk from the 1980s BBC TV programme Jigsaw can attest.

As for the haunted attachments, games and files, our use of networked computers is daily coloured by fear of infection and corruption, of predators and those who would assume our identity, of viruses and data-sucking catastrophes. What if something dark is able to breach that all-important final firewall, the gap between the central processing unit and the person sitting at the keyboard? What if it already has? That would be ‘a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard’, without a doubt — but the unplumbed space haunted by demons and chaos is the network, not the cosmos. In using the internet to creep ourselves out recreationally, we begin to understand the real ways in which it haunts our fears.

 

II.

Bitcoin is more than money (as is any money). The summary is probably enough to get the gist of it, unless you want examples (and even so, it’s a short article):

Our use of money is infused with profound cultural and political meaning, and the interplay of rival currencies can offer insights into cultural tensions. This was as true of post-Soviet Russia as it is of Bitcoin today. The anarchic virtual currency is part of a wider cultural movement that embraces technology, and replaces institutions with networks. The long-term impact of this transformation may be even greater still, a resilient non-institutional currency could form the bedrock for a wider transnational identity.

I explored Bitcoin personally in late October, trying a mining pool and buying in at an exchange. I mostly cashed out before the big drop when China pushed away from it (got lucky). I still have some holdings of BTC, LTC, and DOGE, just for fun. I’m still very interested in this idea of a “distributed autonomous company”, but there’s not much substantive out there.

 

III.

Alternative institutional forms. I still can’t tell how much of this is crap. Maybe I should dig more into these:

I found this gem by Aaron Dignan linked via this previous article. While the general theme is around “what to do with a 10,000 person stagnant organisation” (and it offers some concrete advice towards that), the really interesting part is the overview of three modern ways to structure a business, namely:

Holacracy (Medium, Zappos): “authority should be distributed, everyone should be able to sense and process (solve) the tensions (ideas/problems) they perceive, roles and employees are not one-to-one, and that the organization can and should evolve toward its “requisite structure” (the ultimate structure for its current environment)”


Agile squads (Spotify): “Instead of an engineering department, a design department, and a marketing department that each collaborate on products with dubious ownership, they organize vertically around products (or more specifically pieces of products) and traditional disciplines are loosely held horizontally.”


Self-organising (Valve, Github): “Unlike the examples above, they accomplish this by essentially having no structure. Employees are encouraged to work on whatever they want — to find the projects that engage them and do the best work of their lives.”

 

IV.

Old but good. I was discussing this with some friends recently: Michael O’Church on the 3-Ladder System of Social Class in the US.

Typical depictions of social class in the United States posit a linear, ordered hierarchy. I’ve actually come to the conclusion that there are 3 distinct ladders, with approximately four social classes on each. Additionally, there is an underclass of people not connected to any of the ladders, creating an unlucky 13th social class. I’ll attempt to explain how this three-ladder system works, what it means, and also why it is a source of conflict. The ladders I will assign the names Labor, Gentry, and Elite. My specific percentage estimates of each category are not derived from anything other than estimation based on what I’ve seen, and my limited understanding of the macroeconomics of income in the United States, so don’t take them for more than an approximation. I’ll assess the social role of each of these classes in order, from bottom to top.

 

Misc.

  • Markets. “How the Economic Machine Works” was fun, and uses some common metaphors to easily illustrate the concept. The “machine” metaphor certainly invokes more certainty than is warranted, I guess.
  • Institutions. “Don’t Mistake This For Gridlock” is counter to previous writers I’ve shared who are more critical of our political entrenchment. Of course there’s also the “This *is* Gridlock but Gridlock is Good” school, as well, a conservative school of thought about government action that’s especially reasonable-sounding during times of evident polarization.
  • Tribes. “The Culture that Gave Birth to the Personal Computer” by Walter Isaacson. Why haven’t I seen Stewart Brand being portrayed in a movie?