Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2017-09-22T22:20:06Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com September 22. http://ranprieur.com/#649faf1da2bf8239bc7d191e6046428cb3f61fec 2017-09-22T22:20:06Z September 22. My big project earlier this week was putting my novel online. It's not finished -- I'm still making small changes, and occasional big changes, like rewriting the moon's advice in chapter 4 as a new poem. But the translation to html and css is done, and I don't want to wait any longer to release it. There's a separate page for every chapter, and also for the dictionary, and they're all linked from this index page. I decided to go ahead and title it "Witches of the Pinspecked Void," but I haven't given up on the working title.

Update: new better pdf file, and I've also uploaded epub and mobi, dictionaries coming soon. Download links are on the index page.

My illustrations are the intellectual property of Picbreeder, but the marginal starfield is a layering of two public domain images, and I'm putting the whole text under a Creative Commons license.

When I was writing it, I had no sense of how popular it was going to be, and it's actually nice that it turned out to be at the low end, because now I feel no pressure to please an audience with whatever I write next. And I expect to continue writing fiction, because now that I've developed a process that works, it's much more rewarding than writing this blog.

By the way, here's a short fiction contest that I'm probably not going to enter, and can't afford to win, but some of you might consider it. They want a story up to 5000 words on "the impacts of a basic income on individual lives and on society at large." The winner gets $12,000.

September 20. http://ranprieur.com/#b0f03c7c834af580e57d1ea0b114ca29629d57cd 2017-09-20T20:00:18Z September 20. Yesterday on the subreddit there was a good article, Why are today's teens putting off sex, driving, dating and drinking? It offers two answers that contradict each other: that "a more resource-rich and secure environment" is giving kids the freedom to grow up more slowly and carefully, and that a tight economy is frightening kids into taking fewer risks.

I think it's more about technology and culture than economics. With the internet, you no longer have to be a total nerd to have a better time staying home than going out to party; and at the same time, the population is becoming more nerdy. They say kids aren't growing up, but how an "adult" is supposed to behave is a cultural invention, and it's changing.

New subject, but also about changing culture: Consciousness Goes Deeper Than You Think. The title makes it sound like we have new information, when really we have a new way of using words. We used to define "consciousness" as re-representation, the creation of a mental perspective detached from the stream of experience. Now we're defining it as the actual stream of experience, which means our representation of consciousness, created by that word, goes deeper.

September 18. http://ranprieur.com/#015df78e6b2dbddc4242785bfce479a04e55196a 2017-09-18T18:40:58Z September 18. I'm working on other stuff today. Here are two good articles about the Amish: Approach Technology Like the Amish, and In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling.

September 15. http://ranprieur.com/#ebd3634485ecdbfaa6367d161a5b633c87f6423b 2017-09-15T15:10:59Z September 15. Various fun links for the weekend. How Mushrooms Could Repair Our Crumbling Infrastructure:

Their idea is that fungal spores are added to the concrete when it is mixed and then lie dormant until the concrete cracks. Water flowing into the cracks causes the spores to germinate, filling the cracks with fungal fibers that trigger the formation of calcium carbonate -- which eventually fills the void.

I've been playing Windows Minesweeper for many years, and it's frustrating because no matter how good you are, you still usually get blown up when the board comes down to a guess. Finally someone has programmed a Minesweeper that doesn't require guessing: Simon Tatham's Mines.

From eight years ago, a creative reddit comment defining a Cuil as one level of abstraction away from reality. So, if you ask for a hamburger:

4 Cuils: Why are we speaking German? A mime cries softly as he cradles a young cow. Your grandfather stares at you as the cow falls apart into patties. You look down only to see me with pickles for eyes, I am singing the song that gives birth to the universe.

And some music, a great punk crescendo from last year: Cabbage - Grim Up North Korea.

September 13. http://ranprieur.com/#d34421046b66cddd2c69ea578effba0d6f22dd40 2017-09-13T13:50:30Z September 13. A reader sends this timely article from two years ago, Walker Percy's Theory of Hurricanes. It's the same idea as Rebecca Solnit's book A Paradise Built in Hell, that people become happier in disasters.

I'm skipping straight to the hard question: how can we make this permanent? How can we build a society where the loose, friendly, engaged social vibe that now emerges in disasters, is how we feel all the time? Or at least more often?

Just having one catastrophe after another won't work -- they tried that in Haiti. I don't think there's any simple or easy answer. It's just going to take hundreds of years of walking there, one step in law, one step in culture, until we have a set of laws built on trust and improvisation, instead of fear and predictability, and a culture where people don't take advantage of that, or feel traumatized.

Sometimes I think all lawmakers should start as game designers, because game designers have to understand the thin line between trauma and adventure, between safety as a padded cell and safety as a platform for launching.

On another tangent, I'm wondering about psychedelics, and if they transform the brain the same way a good disaster transforms a city.

September 11. http://ranprieur.com/#82dacff1e640fb1d4a7b9418b547cd6770050add 2017-09-11T23:30:03Z September 11. Interesting subreddit post: On the Demonic and Virtual Reality. The idea is that we could think of "demons" not as magical beings, but the way we think about human social constructions like fascism and religion.

If the demonic names a type of oppressive virtual reality, then demon possession can be approached as the subjective inscription of these systems of injustice into an individual's consciousness. The demonic is the system of injustice that influences the material actions of all those in a society, while demon possession is where an individual becomes the actual mouthpiece of that injustice.

I believe something a little weirder. I've noticed that most human behavior comes from levels of the mind that we're not consciously aware of, and I think our individual subconscious minds are connected with each other in ways we haven't discovered yet, in highly complex networks. And these hidden subconscious civilizations can behave like primal gods, or like the paranoid myth of evil elites. But ultimately, the enemy is within.

Another link from the subreddit: The Satori Generation:

In Japan, they've come to be known as satori sedai -- the "enlightened generation". In Buddhist terms: free from material desires, focused on self-awareness, finding essential truths. But another translation is grimmer: "generation resignation", or those without ideals, ambition or hope.

They were born in the late 1980s on up, when their nation's economic juggernaut, with its promises of lifetime employment and conspicuous celebrations of consumption, was already a spent historical force. They don't believe the future will get better -- so they make do with what they have. In one respect, they're arch-realists. And they're freaking their elders out.

My take: as more of humanity climbs out of desperate poverty, our world becomes more and more like a set of games. These games compete for our participation, like religions. During the age of economic growth, the most popular game was to get more and more money. That game is dying, and I'm trying to play a different game with money: to arrange my life so that I have to think about money as little as possible.

September 8. http://ranprieur.com/#36a1c075ed1c3dadf615b0e804d29aa96d7a44ec 2017-09-08T20:00:07Z September 8. So I'm all moved to Pullman. After throwing away 20 garbage bags full of stuff with no resale value, having a yard sale, taking 15 boxes to Goodwill, and gradually selling 30 things for $1200 on Craigslist, I still had to move four carloads, and I'm eventually going to have to cut it down even more. When you're decluttering, every garbage day is like Christmas.

Pullman is where I came into this world 50 years ago, and it's an unlikely accident that I'm here again, just because my girlfriend from Florida happened to go back to school here. The best thing about a small town is the traffic. In Seattle it takes half an hour to drive anywhere, and here it takes five minutes.

Our apartment is well-located, relatively cheap, and about the same size as the part of the house that we actually lived in. We expect to be here through June of 2020, and after that, no one knows.

September 5. http://ranprieur.com/#5f0a3770b3316ef8f283dcd7e91acfbaa279855d 2017-09-05T17:30:08Z September 5. Lots of action yesterday on the subreddit, including this thoughtful discussion about "personal responsibility" and why certain categories of people have been more or less successful at certain things.

My thought is, yes, we all have to take responsibility for our own well-being, but that means different things to different people. I'm starting to view this whole world as a bunch of competing games, and what we call "success" is a very specific game. The dominant culture looks at marginalized communities and says, "Why aren't they succeeding on our terms?" Maybe it's because they don't like your terms.

I look at conventionally successful people and think, "They're making so much money -- why don't they live super-frugally for a few years, and then retire to a place with cheap housing, and spend the rest of their lives doing creative work or just getting high and listening to music?" Come on, people, the opportunities are there.

Every time someone tells a story about a panhandler who was offered a job and didn't take it, I want to say, "It works both ways. You have the option to become a panhandler and you're not taking it."

September 4. http://ranprieur.com/#9a354630cb37bf551cb9adbf54fb177a9c0d5236 2017-09-04T16:20:28Z September 4. A thought experiment for Labor Day. Imagine you live in a world where money is completely disconnected from work. Not only is there an unconditional minimum income, there's also a maximum income -- and they're the same! Corporate executives, sled dog racers, insurance agents, and people who just watch TV all day, all make the same amount of money.

In that world, what would you do with your time?

And how similar is that to what you actually do with your time?

To the extent that those things are the same, you're successful -- even if you're poor. To the extent that they're different, your quality of life is being constrained by cultural assumptions and economic rules that tie activity to money.

You've all seen that political grid, where one axis is social freedom and the other is economic freedom. That's always rubbed me the wrong way, and now I can say why: because it has "freedom" exactly backwards, defining it as the right to trade your labor for money, even if it's something you wouldn't do if it weren't for the money, and then turn around and trade your money for the labor of others, even if they're only doing it for the money. That's not people being free -- it's money being free to control us.

In a value system that puts quality of life first, economic freedom is not freedom of money but freedom from money, and the more disconnected money is from activity, the more free we are.

There are three problems here. The easiest is just to understand that anything less than a 100% volunteer workforce is inadequate. The hardest problem is getting there from here as an entire society. That's going to take hundreds of years and reforms that haven't been imagined yet. And the medium sized problem is moving in that direction in your own life.

Now someone might say, "What if what I love to do is make money?" That's silly, because money is supposed to be a means for the end of living well, not the end in itself. And if you just enjoy the process of accumulating abstract tokens, then you can get that pleasure from games. And if you say, "I enjoy accumulating abstract tokens that have real world value," then be careful, because you might be asking for a power that no one should have: to make people do stuff that they wouldn't do if they didn't need the money.