about me

"The other day I... uh, no, that wasn't me."

- Steven Wright

What's new?
January 2018. Living in Pullman now, probably until summer of 2020. Writing has been slow this winter.

How do you say your name?
My first name rhymes with Dan, not Don. Think of the Flock of Seagulls song, not the Kurosawa film. And I pronounce my last name like it rhymes with "free-er," but the French pronunciation is cool too.
I've just discovered your site. What should I read first?
The newer blog archives. And if you can make sense of it, my novel. The older blog archives and the essays have a lot of stuff I've changed my mind about.
Like what?
I used to start with the most exciting and epic ideas and find a way to make them sound true. Gradually my practice shifted to asking interesting questions, mostly about social philosophy, and aiming for original and concise answers. I'm getting tired of politics and pointing out what's wrong with the world, and writing more about entertainment, philosophy, and personal stuff.

I used to be a doomer optimist, expecting the collapse of complex society to make a better world. Then I expected the big systems to muddle through the coming disasters and tried to figure out the details. My latest thought is that nation-states will collapse and technology will mostly survive. But the more I know, the less confident I feel in any prediction.

I used to think rural homesteading was a good idea. Then I noticed that almost everyone who tried it was depressed and had to drive too much, and my strategy changed to getting a modest house in a city with cheap housing, with a yard for fruit trees. Now I'm improvising more than planning.

I used to treat "civilization" as a monolithic idea, a simple black box that could just be plugged into ideological equations. Now I see it as a bunch of different things that have been linked in the past, but do not have to be linked. But here's a positive definition of "civilization": the increase in elegant complexity of human-made systems, and we have all kinds of room to do better.

There are two motivations in primitivism, and I accidentally fed the wrong one: the desire to participate in radical change driven by moral judgments, which is what got us into this mess in the first place. The other motivation is to live like actual people in the best primitive tribes: have modest needs, an absolute right to say no, and an nomadic mental state. These are not incompatible with high tech.
How has your thinking changed the most recently?
I'm leaning back toward predicting doom, but I now see it rooted in psychology. People have less motivation to do the tasks that keep the big systems going, and will get more excited by actions that destabilize those systems. I imagine a slow and deep collapse of nation-states, punctuated by many economic collapses, with technology not collapsing but getting weird.
Can you condense your political ideas to 100 words?
I'm a patient anarchist and a provisional socialist. The state will not be building the world we need, but for now we need it to moderate the transition, to balance the tendency for power to become more concentrated, to keep us alive and sane as we develop new kinds of horizontally connected systems, and eventually a world with zero coercion and widely distributed power, maybe in as little as a thousand years.
How about your philosophical ideas?
As light can behave like particles or waves, reality can behave like either matter or mind. Somehow mind is divided into many experiencing perspectives, but by default their experience is inconsistent. Experience becomes more consistent as perspectives agree to share the same world. Your reality is a compromise between your creation and your surrender to the creations of others. In a world with high consistency, objective truth is a valuable way of thinking and science is powerful, but they're not exactly true. Morality and meaning can be reduced to omniscient hedonism, but there are good feelings that transcend humanity.
Who is your biggest role model?
Paul Erdos, who was such a good mathematician that he traveled around staying with other mathematicians, and they would take care of all his practical needs while he just talked with them about math. Erdos said this when he took a month off from amphetamines: "Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper." That's how I feel about cannabis and fiction.
How much weed do you smoke?
I use a Silver Surfer vaporizer, which is extremely efficient when you learn to use it. About three times a week, I'll vape around a twentieth of a gram, or eat some homemade cannabutter, and enjoy a few hours of being a better person in almost every way. I'm not an everyday stoner because I use it to open doors, and after a few days it becomes more of a door closer.
What is your favorite long fiction?
In order of when I read them: Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano, Little, Big by John Crowley, A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery.
If a genie gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
To have such strong intuitive intelligence, that what I feel like doing or not doing, and what's good for me to do or not do, would be basically the same. A less realistic wish would be to have any mental state I've ever had, including drug-induced, at will with no penalty.
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Instead of fixating on goals, practice quickly noticing fleeting opportunities.

Does your blog have an RSS feed?
Doing it myself would be too much work, but Patrick has written a script that creates a feed based on the way I format my entries. I've uploaded it to http://ranprieur.com/feed.php. You might also try Page2RSS.
Do you plan on publishing your old writing?
In 2011, a friend went on lulu.com and cranked out a book in a day. It's called How to Drop Out and Other Essays. That link goes to the paperback, and here's the hardcover. In 2012 she put together a collection of my zines: paperback and hardcover. Nobody is making money on this, not even Lulu since they take a percentage of the author's profits. Some of the texts are also available as free pdf downloads. Thanks Lexie!
I thought you lived on an off-grid homestead.
No, but you can read about those adventures in my old Landblog FAQ or the landblog archives from 2004-2011.
Is your land for sale?
For a while I wanted to get rid of it to simplify my life, but I realized that I can't afford to sell it because the income would bump me off Obamacare. So I'll either donate it to someone with a proven record of doing conservation or permaculture, or sell it for an outrageous sum to someone who makes it easy for me.
What's your email address?
My name with no spaces at gmail.com.
I like it when people email me to say hi. You don't have to bring gifts. You can also post on the Ran Prieur subreddit.

Old Interviews
In text, the BoingBoing interview by Avi, and older interviews by by Tim Boucher and Burn the Furniture.
In audio, interviews by Paul Wheaton (2011, 28 minutes), Aaron (2006? 40 minutes), Ken Rose (2011, 46 minutes), and Mark Haim at KOPN (2009, 51 minutes).
And here are four videos, around 100 minutes total, of me being interviewed in October 2005 for What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.
Old Personal links
100 things about me
Frugal Early Retirement FAQ
Winter Tour FAQ
How I bought a house
I bought land
My July 2004 bike trip
Favorite Films
Favorite Songs is the most frequently updated page on this site other than the home page. Lately I've been making playlists.
Favorite Albums plus Hawkwind
Ecstasy and Doom, my insane appreciation of Big Blood.