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  • Doug Belshaw 12:05 pm on February 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Venkatesh Rao   

    Entangled divergence 

    via Venkatesh Rao
  • Doug Belshaw 10:25 am on February 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: maps, Venkatesh Rao   

    Map-makers try to make one map that accounts for everything they see happening to things they care about. Then they try to craft narratives on that one map. Maps can be wrong or incomplete, but they aren’t usually incoherent or entropic, because they represent a single, totalizing, absolutely interested point of view, and a set of associated epistemic, ontological, and aesthetic preferences.

    Sense-makers on the other hand, try to come at the territory using multiple maps, as well as direct experience. Theirs is not a disinterested point of view, but a relative, multi-interested point of view. We want various points of view to agree in a certain limited sense, lending confidence to our hope that we’ve made sense of reality through triangulation.

    Venkatesh Rao

  • Doug Belshaw 12:38 pm on January 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Venkatesh Rao   

    Culture is the necessary art of perpetuating the disturbing rumor that reality is meaningful. That beneath the pain and the pleasure, the cruelty and the compassion, the estranging and the connecting, the breaking and the making, the ugliness and the beauty, the losing and the winning, the dying and the living, there is Something More.™


    The way you perpetuate the rumor is by making meaning games. These come in many forms, besides the obvious ones like creating a religion or writing a poem. Like being a good middle manager, running for President, or announcing a daring plan to colonize Mars.

    All fall into one of two patterns: redistributing meaning and creating new meaning. There is also a third category, accelerating the destruction of rotting meaning. But since rotting meaning self-destructs naturally anyway, there isn’t much demand for accelerating the process.


    To seek meaning is to believe in truth before virtue, virtue before beauty, beauty before creation, creation before victory. This is the honor code of meaning-seeking. If you follow this code perfectly, you will make exactly no money.


    You must stop believing in this code exactly when you are ready to begin immortality. When your own appetite for meaning is satiated, and you are ready to start making meaning games for others. When you’re ready to play god for your own amusement.

    Venkatesh Rao
  • Doug Belshaw 12:28 pm on January 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Venkatesh Rao   

    We need a term for an anti-snowflake. I propose clod.

    If you view someone as a precious snowflake, they necessarily view you as a clod. This post is about the clod-snowflake dynamic. All culture arises out of it.


    In general, you are a clod in that area of life where you are something of a professional. The area of life where you remain in control of your emotions and the situation no matter what the world throws at you. Usually, this ability is worth money or some other reward.

    You are a snowflake in the area of life that can evoke the most uncontrolled emotions in you, or cause you to freeze up.

    Venkatesh Rao
  • Doug Belshaw 1:08 pm on September 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Venkatesh Rao   

    Even the most hardened sociopath, in the most viciously Darwinian of domains (like, say, a Wall Street trader, or an academic studying “critical theory”), has a self-image with a precious-snowflake aspect to it. This is the part of you that you see most clearly when you stare into a mirror. You see yourself as you were when you were a child. You don’t notice the extra chins and jowls that come with age, or the extra padding in the wrong places. You don’t notice the stray gray hairs, the tiredness in the eyes, or the wrinkles. You stare into the mirror, and the face of the child you once were stares back, through the worn shell of the adult. You might even strike a pose or make an expression that exaggerates the illusion. The child is not idealized or romanticized, however. It is the real past-you,whether you were the resentful and angry kind of kid, or the happy-go-lucky kind. It takes conscious effort to snap back to reality and see and feel yourself as you are now. This is why it is particularly jarring to watch video footage of yourself. Unlike the image in the mirror, the person on the video playback screen is not a puppet you can control. Video playback breaks the illusion of being the child within, because it is footage of you at a different time, performing adulthood without the child on display, or active in awareness.

    So you think, do I really look and sound like that? Or if you’re in a more maudlin mood, is this who I’ve become? It’s not just in-head acoustics versus how you are heard, or the posture you feel versus the posture you strike. It’s the fact that the person out there, performing, is not the person you feel when you look inside. There is something it is like to be you, on the inside, and it is not that person out there. This child — a sort of Freudian id++ — embodies the precious snowflake.

    It must be killed periodically if you are to keep on living. It will almost always come back to life, so it must be killed every few years, as it steadily regains strength. So long as you do this with disciplined regularity, the precious snowflake part of you will remain a valuable part of your psyche, but never in control. But if you let it grow unchecked, it will consume the rest of you, driving you to clueless, self-absorbed, uncreative narcissism.

    Venkatesh Rao, Crash Early, Crash Often
  • Doug Belshaw 4:32 pm on February 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Paul Jarvis, Venkatesh Rao,   

    A communicable patch of legibility in an ungoverned thought space 

    Earlier this week I wrote a short post on Thought Shrapnel that quoted this line from Paul Jarvis: “What makes the content you create awesome is that it’s a story told through your unique lens”.

    This ‘unique lens’ both stays the same and changes over time. Take Warren Ellis’ decision this week to retire his blog at morning.computer:

    My mornings have been so fucked up and non-morning-y for a while now that I haven’t had any rhythm on this journal, and it feels increasingly like a bad fit for the way my life is now. Four years ago, it let me order my thoughts. Today it’s “well, shit, it’s 3pm already.” I’ve been thinking, for the last couple of months, that I’d like to maintain a public presence on the net, but that I need to do something else.

    Our lives change, sometimes through an act of will but more often through serendipity and the shape of events. Ellis has decided that his online presence doesn’t suit the change in his circumstances, showing that that lens we have on the world can (and probably should) mature as we age.

    My good friend Bryan Mathers, no doubt influenced by Ecclesiastes 3, often talks of us having ‘seasons’ in our life. I think that’s a good way of looking at things, as it’s a kind of eudaimonic ‘happy medium’ between, on the one hand, a chameleon-like changing of one’s views to suit the surroundings and, on the other, being a stubborn (often grouchy) stick-in-the-mud.

    Thankfully, Warren Ellis is keeping Orbital Operationshis excellent Sunday newsletter, going. In today’s issue he cites Venkatesh Rao who has a question for those who still maintain blogs:

    Old blogs must choose: should they turn into elder blogs, or should they turn into late-style blogs? One does not preclude the other, but you must decide what you solve for.

    I have, and continue to, maintain a patchwork of blogs that come to life and almost die-off at regular intervals. It’s been this way since about 2004, so I’m coming up to 15 years of blogging. But what does Rao mean by ‘elder’ and ‘late-style’ blogs?

    The idea is that in a complex game, after most players have finished a first full play-through, the mechanics might still leave interesting things for them to do. An Act 2 game-within-a-game emerges for experienced players who have exhausted the nominal game. A game dominated by such second-order players is an elder game. In Borderlands, the elder game was apparently gun collecting.


    An elder game can be contrasted with a late style, which is a style of creative production taken to an extreme, past the point of baroque exhaustion, in a sort of virtuoso display of raging against the dying of the night. Late-style game play is an overclocked finite game resisting the forces of mortality. An elder game is a derivative infinite game, emergent immortality hacked out of mortality.

    I’m going to get some flak for this, no doubt, but the forty-something year-old white dudes who are 90% of the IndieWeb community are, to me, definitely an example of late-style blogging. They’d be very happy if we could turn the clock back.

    You have to roll with the times, and/or decide who you’re doing all this for. I guess I’m an elder blogger, not in the sense of any seniority (or, for that matter, knowing what I’m doing), but in the words of Venkatesh Rao, I’m hopefully providing a “communicable patch of legibility in an ungoverned thought space of interest to many”.

    We live in a world of extremes, and often the middle of things gets hollowed-out leaving just both ends of the spectrum. In the online space, that feels like podcasts and newsletters at the long-form end, and Instagram and Twitter at the short-form end. What does that mean for blogging? Well, I’m not particularly bothered about business models, about huge audiences, and about ‘trends’. I’m happy just getting my thoughts out there using whatever vehicle feels right for the purpose.

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