December 4. Three old Ask Reddit threads on the same subject. This fascinates me because I have low intuitive intelligence and I'm envious.
Have you ever had a gut feeling that something was bad so you left, only to find out that something bad actually did happen?
Have you ever had a "something isn't right" feeling, and you were right?
What's the craziest gut feeling you have ever had that actually became true?
December 8. When I was in high school and college, back in the 1980's, I don't think I even once heard the words "social anxiety". I mean it existed, but it wasn't enough of a problem that ordinary people gave it a name. Now it's everywhere, and I don't think it's limited to the millennial generation, because I've got it too, and worse than when I was younger. So where does it come from?
Yesterday, cog-boosted by cannabis, I wrote this: "Does the internet cause anxiety by normalizing a socially easier simworld?" In more words: The internet is an unprecedented global artificial world (I call it Internesia) in which social behavior has looser rules and less serious consequences than the world of modern society. If you're at a job interview, or at a party, or even just going to the store, the rules are tighter and the stakes are higher than when you're goofing off anonymously in some comment thread.
So what happens to someone who spends more time on the internet than out in society? The easier world becomes the new baseline, and what used to be the normal world now feels difficult and frightening. As the social internet grows, this happens to more and more people.
December 11. Continuing on the subject of antisocial media, we're all in a war for attention, and the deep ancestral context is that we're sitting around a campfire with friends and family, and the attention you get from other people is what makes you feel valuable and real.
The digital campfire seems much improved. You can share more exciting stuff, faster, to more people, anywhere. But this bandwidth is bottlenecked by the same human biology. The dizzying spectacle becomes the new baseline, and we're no happier. The medium is infested with parasitic robots, so less human attention gets through to actual humans, who have some sense of the quantity of attention they're getting, but no sense of the quality.
Even if you get face to face with people, you're competing with their phones -- and they're competing with yours -- because what's on the phone really is more interesting.
I'm not sure how we'll get out of this trap as a society, but as an individual, you get out of it through a commitment to going into boredom and out the other side. I just read this in an email: "It's crazy that when I am not on my computer, I find myself doing creative projects out of boredom. I think that's how it is supposed to work!"
And another line from my weed journal: "When you burn out looking for beauty in beautiful things, look for beauty in ugly things."
December 22. A link from the subreddit, If work dominated your every moment would life be worth living? The author argues that total work, a dystopian thought experiment, "is unmistakably close to our own world." We're always doing stuff because it's useful or productive, even play becomes a task, and "there is concomitantly the looming question: Is this the best use of my time?"
I think the author himself is caught in this trap, because his description of the world inside the trap is detailed and spot-on, while his description of the world outside the trap, in the final paragraph, is insipid and unhelpful, as if he's never been there and doesn't know the way. To be fair, it's the hardest problem in modern life. Obviously it starts with letting go of expectations and just doing what feels good in the moment. But that path is also full of traps, and technology keeps creating more of them.
This subject reminds me of a saying from Buddhism: "It takes 20 years to become enlightened -- or if you really push it, 30 years."
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.
January 5. I just read this 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 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 smart 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.