This week: Comrades in Deep Future / Growth must end. Economist don’t seem to realise that / WeWork and Counterfeit Capitalism / If you do not build a second brain or go offline, you will BECOME the second brain / Vox Media and New York magazine isn’t a marriage, but it’s a deal that makes sense

A year ago: Common Cyborg.


Comrades in Deep Future

At e-flux, artist Jonas Staal starts from the Muskian-Bezosian neocolonial, extractivist, corporatist state ideals for Mars, to then takes us through a series of “extremely diverse landmarks of emancipatory science and cosmic fiction” to begin articulating “a propaganda art of hyperempathy.” I’ll have to re-read to make more sense of how (or whether) all of this does fit together but an interesting read nonetheless, with Bogdanov, Le Guin, Butler, and Haraway; the constructivist and productivist, propaganda practice; and quick nods to the Kurdish women’s movement and the Zone à Défendre (ZAD) in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

But the plan includes no physical political or cultural infrastructures to speak of, or any meaningful discourse on future forms of governance: there is no parliament or space of common decision-making, or cultural spaces (besides the bar) for that matter. […]

[C]ontemporary neocolonial, extractivist, and corporatist interplanetary objectives are blatantly clear, and as space law was drafted for and by nation-states, multinational companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin face only limited juridical hurdles in their objectives. […]

The catastrophes about to be exported into outer space replicate earthbound exploitation, but in emancipatory science and cosmic fiction it works the other way around: interplanetary imaginaries become ways of expanding our understanding and practice of terrestrial life. […]

A politics of hyperempathy, as Butler proposes in her literary social experiment, is inherently egalitarian: what I do to you I will feel equally myself. Muskian notions of the Mars “colony” and the human “pioneer,” which are agents of aggression, could then be rearticulated into hyperempathic models such as interplanetary cooperation and interplanetary guesting. […]

In Donna Haraway’s words, this demands a form of “sympoiesis,” meaning a practice of “making-with,” in accordance with her argument that “nothing is really autopoietic or self-organizing.”

Growth must end. Economist don’t seem to realise that

Interview with Vaclav Smil about his new book on growth. Bill Gates is always super enthused with Smil’s books, I wonder how he’ll take this one, considering the main point is “that growth must come to an end.” Nothing super new in there, interesting because of who listens to him, for some of the ways he frames things and for his emphasis on not talking in global terms but in needs and solutions varying by country. Also, mentioned in one of the questions, which I quite like: “anthropogenic insults to ecosystems.”

But I wanted to put it all together under one roof so people could see how these things are inevitably connected and how it all shares one crystal clarity: that growth must come to an end. […]

The economists will tell you we can decouple growth from material consumption, but that is total nonsense. The options are quite clear from the historical evidence. If you don’t manage decline, then you succumb to it and you are gone. The best hope is that you find some way to manage it. […]

We could halve our energy and material consumption and this would put us back around the level of the 1960s. We could cut down without losing anything important. … Not much is going to happen to their lives. People don’t realise how much slack in the system we have. […]

This is what kind of species we are: we are stupid, we are negligent, we are tardy. But on the other hand, we are adaptable, we are smart and even as things are falling apart, we are trying to stitch them together. But the most difficult thing is to calculate the net effect. Are we up or down? For all the analysis, we don’t know this. […]

WeWork and Counterfeit Capitalism

Excellent look at the WeWork debacle and, more importantly, at how access to capital and predatory pricing work and are so widely used right now by Silicon Valley and people with access to large amounts of capital, like SoftBank. I could have highlighted the whole thing really, have a read.

All of this, the faux philanthropy, the strange management choices, the personal behavior, and so forth indicates something very simple. I am going to be blunt, because it’s time to stop using euphemisms just because someone is rich and a business leader. Adam Neumann is not “quirky,” he is not “charismatic,” and he does not have “an unorthodox leadership style.” He is an untalented and abusive monster who lies to get what he wants. And he was given an unlimited credit line from which he could legally steal. […]

[JP Morgan’s] Dimon is a mediocrity who essentially got lucky his bank was too slow to get in on the subprime scam in 2006; he then used his bank’s incompetence at getting into the bubble as justification for how prudent he was. […]

The goal of Son, and increasingly most large financiers in private equity and venture capital, is to find big markets and then dump capital into one player in such a market who can underprice until he becomes the dominant remaining actor. In this manner, financiers can help kill all competition, with the idea of profiting later on via the surviving monopoly. […]

What predatory pricing does is to enable competition purely based on access to capital. Someone like Neumann, and Son’s entire model with his Vision Fund, is to take inputs, combine them into products worth less than their cost, and plug up the deficit through the capital markets in hopes of acquiring market power later or of just self-dealing so the losses are placed onto someone else.

If you do not build a second brain or go offline, you will BECOME the second brain

I’m going to have to revisit this thread by Venkatesh Rao, and I’m especially curious about your thoughts, dear readers. Definitely an unusual viewpoint on how to view the “Global Social Computer in the Cloud (GSCITC),” deep work, on being two years ahead of the curve, and the “gonzo option.” Somewhat involuntarily, I seem to be very close to the gonzo option right now and trying to get back into books more, so this is certainly food for though—as an option to scrap or an inspiration remains to be seen.

What those of us who are here are doing is making a deal with the devil (or an angel): in return for being 1-2 years ahead of curve, we play 2nd brain to a shared first brain. We’ve ceded control of executive attention not to evil companies, but… an emergent oracular brain. […]

So my recommendations would be: develop an intuitive ability to tune your GSCITC immersion from full-retreat if you got a big grant to do some work only 3 other people in the world understand… to full-speed-ahead gonzo immersion if you need 2y oracular foresight.

Vox Media and New York magazine isn’t a marriage, but it’s a deal that makes sense

Interesting for the thoughts on the fit between the two, and the second quote below on the different kind of scale appropriate for this new(ish) subscription moment.

The fact that the merger will apparently not be accompanied by editorial layoffs (“Nothing changes editorially for any of our brands”) is both rare and evidence of that complementarity. […]

When the digital publishing business was mostly about advertising, the purpose of moar scale was primarily about cutting backend costs and being able to do deals with a higher grade of advertiser. But as it shifts more toward subscription, moar scale is also about assembling a big-enough and diverse-enough bundle of content to appeal to a bigger audience.

Miscellany

Found via

Some of the articles for this week were found via Alan, Corey, Jason, Johannes, and Tom.

Header image: Metropolis (1927) Colorized & Dubbed using a Deep Learning algorithm.