about me

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

- Steven Wright

Me at the Smithsonian zoo, May 2019
What's new?
January 2020. Thanks Jordan for making a really nice 26 minute video about me.
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 blog archives. 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 instead I'm just looking for interesting stuff that's happening, without pretending that I can influence it.

I used to see collapse happening for physical reasons, like resources and climate. Now I see it happening for psychological reasons, that the tasks necessary to keep the system going, are drifting too far from what anyone enjoys doing.

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 thinking is that the global economy will have a series of stairstep collapses, and nation-states are at risk, but high tech will survive and get weirder.

I used to think rural homesteading was a good idea. Then I noticed that almost everyone who tried it was unhappy 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 a nomadic mental state. These are not incompatible with high tech.
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?
[under revision] This world is a collective dream, and it only seems objective and material because it has rules that are never broken when everyone is looking. 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 three wishes, what would you wish for?
1) That feeling I get on certain drugs, and in the best imaginary worlds, that everything is dense with meaning and deep with wonder -- I'd like to feel like that by default. 2) Steadily increasing overlap between what's good for me to do and what I feel like doing. 3) Continuing good health.
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 Alex!
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.
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 is my Big Blood fan page, and the main thing I worked on for more than a year around 2015.