Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2018-01-09T21:30:52Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com January 9. http://ranprieur.com/#c7c5d75d49af9a43745dfe445f1f2ccf7014d8cf 2018-01-09T21:30:52Z January 9. Thinking more about yesterday's subject, there's an old cliche in collapsism, "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." The message is obvious: stop caring about the ship and get people on lifeboats. The tricky thing is mapping the metaphor.

I used to think the ship was the entire modern way of life, the iceberg was technological unsustainability, and the lifeboats were low-tech subsistence kills. Now I think the ship is a whole fleet of nation-states, the iceberg is psychological unsustainability, the sinking may take centuries, and there will be many kinds of lifeboats, some of them not yet even knowable.

So that means it's not yet time to abandon the ship. We can still work within the system to make a better world -- it's just that the system is no longer the thing that finds the solutions. At best, it's the thing that moderates the transition, that keeps people alive and sane to find solutions too flexible for bureaucracy, and doesn't get too much in their way.

January 8. http://ranprieur.com/#22c951548a2c0a264a335c1e097429f3b2c1159b 2018-01-08T20:20:33Z January 8. Losing Faith in the State, Some Mexican Towns Quietly Break Away. You might guess this is a good thing, but if you read the article, these independent city-states are mostly terrible places to live, and they're all unstable.

The Hacker News comment thread links to this article, The Twin Insurgency, which argues that states are threatened from below by crime gangs, and from above by the global elite. The most interesting idea is that hardly anyone is trying to change the world by taking over the government. Instead, everyone is trying to carve out zones where they get the benefits of the state without the costs.

Lately I've been watching lots of nature documentaries, so now I'm seeing all the old institutions as giant dead animals on which predators and scavengers gather to feast. I don't see how this is not going to get worse. And I find that I've lost the urge to tell a compelling story: to blame it all on one thing, or to offer a solution. I used to see human society as a sandbox, where it makes sense to talk about what we can do to change it. Now I see it as a landslide, an unfolding disaster where we're only trying to survive.

January 5. http://ranprieur.com/#66cfe0c74e03a9293adc6e4f969f78f5c2630cbd 2018-01-05T17:50:10Z January 5. I haven't had any interesting thoughts lately, but here's a great bit I just read in Alasdair Gray's novel Lanark:

God, you see, is a word. It is the word for everything not speaking when someone says 'I think.' And by Propper's Law of Inverse Exclusion (which enables a flea in a matchbox to declare itself jailor of the universe) every single 'I think' has intimate knowledge of the surface of what it is not. But as every thinker reflects a different surface of what he isn't, and as God is our word for the whole, it follows that all agreement about God is based on misunderstanding.

January 3. http://ranprieur.com/#82b03c30cb98b0929a747845d8d7162886cfd93a 2018-01-03T15:30:58Z January 3. For the new year, some links about changing times:

Do civilisations collapse? It's a long article with a main point that's easy to summarize: States collapse, while cultures adapt and survive.

Why Teens Aren't Partying Anymore. The article is all about social media, but the smarter Hacker News comment thread looks at other factors like an increasingly restrictive culture.

French chef gives up a Michelin star. At first I'm thinking this is about the vanishing middle class. But when I read about the expense and waste that's required for even a single Michelin star, I'm thinking the upper class needs to vanish too.

Chess's New Best Player Is A Fearless, Swashbuckling Algorithm:

Unlike other top programs, which receive extensive input and fine-tuning from programmers and chess masters, drawing on the wealth of accumulated human chess knowledge, AlphaZero is exclusively self-taught. It learned to play solely by playing against itself, over and over and over... But maybe it's more illustrative to say that AlphaZero played like neither a human nor a computer, but like an alien.

January 1, 2018. http://ranprieur.com/#b0c80de5765180bb44166b2b9711c194fad44964 2018-01-01T13:10:46Z January 1, 2018. Instead of new year's resolutions, I call them "points of emphasis" because that way no amount of failure is discouraging. Last night I decided on three: 1) to notice unnecessary muscle tension and relax it; 2) to put more attention on my gut; 3) to make a mental note of where I put something down that I'll need to find later.

These are all about metacognition, about building an internal perspective that can manage where my attention is and what it's doing. Last night, walking around (on drugs) I was thinking: with enough metacognitive stamina, I could do fun experiments, like walk for ten minutes with attention on footsoles and peripheral vision, or sit by the stream and focus on that sound and the moon. Meditation books are all about focusing on the breath, but that's like a safety net, or a ladder, to get to focusing on things that are more interesting.

Also, here's Leigh Ann's playlist of her favorite songs of 2017. I don't have a Spotify account, so here's a simple txt file with a list of the songs, including three that are not on Spotify, including maybe the catchiest, Ty Segall - Thank You Mr K.