[Of the thousands of good links I've seen over the years, these are here partly by merit and partly by luck. For more, look through the archives linked on the bottom of the home page.]
The miracle of the commons
. If you go out and look, land held in common tends to be managed well, and privately owned land tends to be exploited. But in 1968 a eugenicist named Garrett Hardin pulled a paper out of his ass that said exactly the opposite with no evidence, and the owning classes thought it was brilliant. A 2008 article on the same subject, Debunking the Tragedy of the Commons
Iain Boal: Specters of Malthus
. I've seen a lot of dumb attacks on Malthus, but this is a very smart one, arguing that population only outruns food supply when there's non-local control of resources.
PDF by Kevin Carson, Industrial Policy: New Wine in Old Bottles
. The big idea is that back in the late 1800's it became more efficient to do manufacturing in an autonomous network of home industries, and since then, centrally controlled corporate production has survived purely through deceit and violence.
Also by Carson, a critique of the so-called Green Revolution
, in which nice scientists thought they were saving billions of lives, when really they were helping industrial agribusiness to ruin the world.
An explanation of something that should be obvious by now: Technology is Not Neutral
This four part reddit comment on environmental history
explains how capitalism changed our culture from seeing value in land, to seeing value in "labor productivity" which basically means destroying land to create commodities. There's also an interesting critique of science.
Another long reddit comment on the roots of mental illness in culture and trauma
, rather than brain malfunction.
Two important texts by Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity
and Tools for Conviviality
. I've written elsewhere that reading Illich is like looking at the sun. If it takes us a thousand more years to become smart enough that these ideas seem obvious, we'll be doing well.
Two essays by Curtis White in Orion Magazine, The Idols of Environmentalism
, and The Ecology of Work
From the blogger Siderea, Class in America
covers the important difference between economic class (money) and social class (culture), which we confuse with economic class because we're forbidden to talk about it.
An important article on the Jubilee
tradition, in which ancient civilizations would prevent violent collapse by periodically canceling debts and returning land to farmers.
Classic David Graeber essay, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs
. And the short version of his book, Debt: The First Five Thousand Years
argues that human society is facing challenges of increasing complexity, which will soon be too complex to be solved by hierarchy, so the old systems will either collapse or gradually give up power to systems with lateral connections.
My favorite Ribbonfarm post, Welcome to the Future Nauseous
, arguing that technology can change society no faster than we can change our cultural sense of what's normal.
This transcript of Bruce Sterling's Reboot 11 speech
is loaded with good ideas. My favorite is that "progress" is no longer objective -- instead of getting better in a way that we all agree on, the world is just chasing preferences now.
My three favorite Onion articles: 6-Year-Old Stares Down Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling
, Insurance Executive Fakes Own Life
, and Nation's Lower Class At Least Grateful It Not Part Of Nation's Middle Class
Beautiful chess article, The Departed Queen
, with insights on artificial intelligence. The author, over hundreds of games, worked out a way to consistently beat a powerful chess computer through an early queen sacrifice, and then beat a much better human player by getting him to take the same path.
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, AlphaZero is exclusively self-taught... it's more illustrative to say that AlphaZero played like neither a human nor a computer, but like an alien.
Fun blog post about the advantages of unpowered tools: Muscle Over Motor
Brief article about the value of not thinking
Strange essay on cryptoforestry
, with a style similar to Fredy Perlman.
The Plant Ecology of Concrete, Garbage and Urine
. As described by one of the comments: "Imagine a guy with a camera walking through homeless people territory and a dump place, getting all scientific about plants."
There's No Tomorrow
, a half hour movie about peak oil. The animation is brilliant, and I haven't seen anything that explains the issues so clearly and concisely.
The Theory of Anyway
, that all the stuff we're supposed to do to because of peak oil and climate change is stuff we should be doing anyway.
The Machine Stops
, a 100 year old story about a future where everyone stays in their room hooked up to a global information network, which turns their attention away from reality, causing the whole thing to crash.
Why the demise of civilisation may be inevitable
, focusing on complexity and system design.
I've seen lots of utopian visions in which humans continue living in small systems forever, but I haven't seen one yet that can stand up to the evidence in this piece, Why cities keep growing, corporations and people always die, and life gets faster
, an article by Charles C. Mann summarizing his book about advanced civilization in the Americas before Columbus. (alternate link)
Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test
. The famous test seemed to show that kids who are able to delay gratification are more successful later in life. It turns out, kids from families that are already successful, are more willing
to delay gratification because their world is more reliable.
From the old forums, an excellent summary of corporate farming
Toby Hemenway analyzes foraging, agriculture, and horticulture
Jeff Vail on Rescuing Suburbia
, through "its potential to serve as the substrate for something entirely different from suburbia, but located where suburbia currently stands."
Charles Eisenstein's Economics of Fermentation
explains how lacto-fermented food and drink is allied to small local systems and economic freedom.
The Right to Raw Milk
. I've never seen the science and the politics of raw milk covered so well in one place.
Daily Kos review of Henry's Quest
, a wonderful children's book about a medieval post-oil future. Related: an unfinished page on future Medieval America
My favorite grand unifying social philosophy, Chris Davis's Idle Theory
More about idleness, Efficiency is the Enemy
, arguing that even in the business world, it's good to have workers sitting around doing nothing, because this slack enables quick responsiveness and flexibility.
More about idleness, Quitting the Paint Factory
. I especially like the section near the end about the connection between busyness and fascism.
More about idleness, The Busy Trap
Bill Watterson: a cartoonist's advice
is an illustrated text from a graduation speech by Watterson. "To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed."
How to keep someone with you forever
... in a bad way, by keeping them in a constant state of crisis and hope.
E.F. Schumacher on Buddhist Economics
Joe Bageant's best work, compiled from three talks: Escape from the Zombie Food Court
The intro to a book about space permaculture
. I've read the book, Gaiome
, and highly recommend it for the five or six people interested in both deep ecology and space exploration.
Michael Pollan on What It's Like to Trip on the Most Potent Magic Mushroom
. He's a very good essayist and this has to be one of the best trip reports ever written.
Big Bird (Terence McKenna)
. Someone has compiled more than eight minutes of McKenna's best spoken word bits, and lip-synced it to a video of Big Bird taking children on a tour of a farm. My favorite bit: "The unspeakable is the true domain of being. And then within that, there is a very small subset of those things which can actually be captured in language. Mostly it's all mystery."
takes the audio from speeches and illustrates them with a master cartoonist on a dry erase board, so instead of seeing a talking head, you see the ideas come to life. Here's one of the best on YouTube, The surprising truth about what motivates us
David Foster Wallace graduation speech
turned into a video. It's mostly about how you can make your life better by changing your perspective on the tedious details. Here's a longer text version
On the same subject, a reddit comment about learning to see beauty in the mundane world
(with the help of cannabis).
Great reddit thread: You just died. God escorts you to a door, telling you that this is your own personal heaven. What's behind your door?
The significance of plot without conflict
, about a Japanese plot structure called kishotenketsu.
Every Five Seconds an Inkjet Printer Dies Somewhere
is a smart essay by Johannes Grenzfurthner about the deep roots of school shootings and other theatrical mass murders.
A lengthy and fascinating history of the world
, from millions of years ago to the present. It focuses on weapons and fighting but is full of all kinds of cool stuff.
Until very recently, Europeans slept all winter
The Last of the Monsters with Iron Teeth
is about the impressive history of children's culture, and its tragic destruction in the modern age.
The Case for Delayed Adulthood
argues that the adolescent brain is more adaptable and better at learning, and that "prolonged adolescence" might be making us smarter.
The best argument I've seen for the benefits of meditation: Meditation: Why Bother?
Medical Dark Matter
, showing that "healthcare causes only about 3% of health variation," and the rest is caused by social factors.
On the same subject, Lynn Margulis reviews Leonard Sagan's book The Health of Nations
, which shows that modern people live longer not because of better medicine or sanitation, but a nicer cultural climate.
Science justifies barefoot running
How I quit heroin and other toxic substances
, a great essay on drug addiction.
Myths over Miami
, an exploration of the myth system of homeless kids.
Philip K Dick's essay How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
. And another Dick essay, The Android and the Human
Walter Wink on the myth of redemptive violence
, which he calls "the simplest, laziest, most exciting, uncomplicated, irrational, and primitive depiction of evil the world has even known." Also, Wink wrote the best article on Jesus
I've ever seen.
, a sixteen page comic you can put in junk mail envelopes to give ideas to the people who open them.
How a single driver can smooth out traffic jams
Dropping out in the 21st century
, an article with a couple quotes from me at the end.
Rudy Rucker's "Reality Is A Novel" Theory
Rupert Sheldrake's summary of morphic fields
A very smart Jacques Vallee article, arguing that aliens are trying to contact us, but their reality and technology are so different from ours that we don't recognize their communications, or we dismiss them as too strange to be "real". PDF: Incommensurability, Orthodoxy and the Physics of High Strangeness
Trepanation: Elective Surgery You Need Like A Hole in the Head
The best theory I've seen about ghosts
-- that there are parallel worlds, intersecting and overlapping our own, and stuff can come through if there's electromagnetic interference.
And a related article, a nice summary of the Holographic Universe
theory and how it explains the so-called "paranormal".
Closer to dominant science, a suggestion that in a holographic universe, gravity is created by information
And my favorite trippy science article: Does time come together like an island of boats floating on the open seas?
politics and complaining
Death Grip: How political psychology explains Bush's ghastly success
. This is the most depressing article ever, showing that when humans are reminded of their own mortality, they turn into right wing zombies -- and the effect is even stronger on liberals!
The Politics of Victimization
is the best essay I've seen on the psychology of American politics, comparing it to an abusive relationship. Also, The Docile American
David Graeber's Hope in Common
argues that hopelessness is not natural, but is produced and maintained by the ruling powers at great expense, and that expense is dragging down the economy.
Scary article about Dominionism
My favorite Bush psychological profile
An anonymous post about how easy it is to sabotage the infrastructure and therefore, since no one does it, how there is no terrorism
in the USA except for a few spectacles which, in this context, look really suspicious.
The Betrayal Of Adam Smith
. America has never been capitalist!
Are cops constitutional?
Modern police are a recent invention of the centralized industrial state. Less than 200 years ago, all the nice stuff they do was done by regular citizens, and all the bad stuff they do was done only by soldiers and criminals. On the same subject: Policing is a dirty job, but nobody's gotta do it
Transcript of a great Bill Hicks
What does income distribution in the USA look like? The L Curve
Awesome postapocalypse highway
Incredible flash game, Today I Die
. I recommend you don't click the "stuck" button but keep playing until you figure it out.
That's about the size of it
was my favorite video when I was five years old, and I like it even more now.
The same thing in the other direction: Baroque Mandelbrot zoom
Two more of my favorite music videos: Red Fang - Wires
and The American Dollar - Anything You Synthesize