Every fortnight I curate some of the observations and insights that were shared on social media. I call these Friday’s Finds.
“Power not only corrupts, it addicts.” – Ursula Le Guin, via @ndcollaborative
[Ingrid] Burrington points out that infrastructure is often designed to be ignored. The field guide, with its cheerful drawings of manhole covers and cable markings, turns the infrastructure into something ordinary and familiar, not intimidating, and not some magical process by which videos and images appear in your phone.
“If it’s effective, it’s invisible,” she says. “But if it’s taken for granted, we lose the ability to make decisions about how it’s used.”
“Nearly 65 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Player Piano was published, painting a picture of a post-war dystopian future where the machines have replaced workers and society has become stratified. At the top are well-paid engineers who invent new machines to replace more workers and tend to whatever small mechanical glitches arise. At the bottom are replaced workers, who have been given jobs at the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps (“Reeks and Wrecks”) with a small salary as a kind of basic income. Their real purpose to consume whatever the main computer’s algorithm has decided must be consumed to keep the economy humming. Although the tech is vacuum tubes and the storytelling both relentlessly sexist and blithely racist, it is deflating to realize just how predictable our cutting-edge present seems to have been. There are smart homes and AI, hackers and drones. There is also an uprising…”
…”What have you got against machines?” said Buck.
“Well, what the heck,” said Buck. “I mean, they aren’t people. They don’t suffer. They don’t mind working.”
“No. But they compete with people.”
“That’s a pretty good thing, isn’t it—considering what a sloppy job most people do of anything?”
“Anybody that competes with slaves, becomes a slave,” said Harrison thickly, and he left.”…
—Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano, 1952
“It’s not the absurdity of bureaucracy alone, but the irony of the character’s circular reasoning in reaction to it, that is emblematic of Kafka’s writing. His tragicomic stories act as a form of mythology for the modern industrial age, employing dream logic to explore the relationships between systems of arbitrary power and the individuals caught up in them.”
“Our vision for the next evolutionary level of democracy is straightforward: We see a burgeoning polycultural system in which people can live and work on their own terms.
Our certainty around this shift emerges from two primary insights.
First, we connect the breaking down and collapse of familiar institutional elements such as financial and educational systems, monetary policies and political platforms as a welcome and necessary consequence of the systemic entropy found within the current monocultural paradigm. Creative collapse, within an evolutionary framework, is a good thing. It means we are evolving.
Secondly, we know from experience and from history that radical ingenuity — a singular type of creativity capable of world changing effect — only arises when people face down an existential pressure. When commonplace people become, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a maladjusted, creative minority, there emerges a unique opportunity for them to change the ways they think and act in the world. They challenge and discard their commonplace practices and commonsense ways of dealing with the world.”