This week → The transapocalyptic now ⊗ David Graeber’s possible worlds ⊗ Notes on Web3 ⊗ My ongoing slow journey to Web3 ⊗ The internet’s unkillable app
Excellent piece by Alex Steffen on, of course, the climate crisis. It’s a well presented and, in my opinion, quite balanced representation of where humanity is at right now regarding carbon and the unequal apocalypse we are starting to see happening in front of our collective eyes. Covering the work to be done, the scale and scope of change, the vultures taking advantage, the plutocrats preparing bunkers, and some hopeful outcomes, it’s a useful and sobering overview.
I always like when things are named in a way that makes sense and provides a useful handle on a topic. Steffen talks of “discontinuity” to explain that it’s not either the end of the world or back to normal, it’s a break in continuity; he talks of “ruggedizing” instead of adaptation or resilience; and of course he talks of spectrum of the “transapocalypse.” “Some parts of the world will experience death and suffering and tragic upheavals as horrible as any humanity ever seen, even while others experience unprecedented prosperity.”
One of the consequences of having suffered five decades of predatory delay on sustainability and climate action is that all around the world many of our places — cities and coastlines, grazing lands and floodplain farms, mountain towns and fishing villages — are moving from a state of being able to cope with shifts in heat, rainfall, and natural systems to a state of depletion and worn-out incapacity. […]
The planetary crisis means a huge increase in the number of people who will be pushed up to the very edge of apocalypse. Many will be driven over. This is an unjust price they will pay for decades of predatory delay by slow interests. […]
But it will also require something more: it will require ruggedization on a scale we’ve not yet really even imagined. It will require not only lessening the transapocalyptic pressures bearing down on humanity, but greatly increasing the number of places and systems and institutions that are capable of thriving in a much more discontinuous reality. […]
Bringing our civilization into balance with the carbon cycle is a epochal undertaking, and involves essentially rebuilding the world’s industries, even while we scale them up. […]
Finally, we need an intellectual and creative leap into engagement with the realities of our transapocalyptic present. If we are not foolish, we will be learning more, listening more, helping more, sharing more, engaging more and, unfortunately, intervening more.
More → There’s actually hope in Steffen’s piece but if you want more good news anyway, to balance out the doom, here’s some via Future Crunch: Indigenous peoples to get $1.7bn in recognition of role in protecting forests / World leaders, corporations at COP26, take major step to restore and protect forests / Nearly all development banks committed to cutting coal investment, data shows / EU, US end row over steel and aluminium tariffs, taking aim at ‘dirty’ production.
In the wake of Graeber and Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything being released, Molly Fischer for Intelligencer looks at the life and work of David Graeber. I’m not going to summarize an essay that summarizes the life of an important thinker, know that it might be the best Sunday read in this issue and a good way to nudge you/me into reading more of his work.
I shared a review of the book itself in No.193: It Didn’t Have to Be This Way.
There were societies that farmed without really committing to it, for example. There were societies whose authority figures’ power applied only during certain parts of the year. Cities coalesced without any apparent centralized government; brutal hierarchies took shape among people who later reversed their course. […]
“We are projects of collective self-creation,” write Graeber and Wengrow. “What if we approached human history that way? What if we treat people, from the beginning, as imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such?” […]
“One thing that always struck me about David,” she told me, “is how much he enjoyed meetings.” Under the fluorescent lights of a church basement or at Zuccotti Park, Graeber was in his element. He seemed “almost gleefully” to savor the experience of being in a group doing direct democracy. […]
In a talk at the London Review Bookshop, Graeber described changing one’s mind as a kind of “political happiness” — the pleasure of realizing that you don’t have to keep thinking the things you’ve thought before.
In the fog of topics and people I pay attention to, some kind of tipping point seems to have been passed with regards to Web3 because an unusual number of takes came out recently. I’ve piled a few in a file and it might become a future members’ Dispatch but in the mean time, start with these Notes by Robin Sloan. I’m not sure if I’m “genuinely neutrally curious” (as an interviewee for Offscreen said to me this week) or “cautiously curious” as Sloan is, but he’s pretty close to where I’m at on the subject, except that I’m mostly skeptic and he’s “a full-fledged enemy of Web3.”
I feel like this simple premise is often lost in the haze: the Ethereum Virtual Machine, humming heart of Web3, is a computer that charges you many dollars to execute a very small program very slowly. It does so in an environment with special properties, and in some cases, those properties are worth the expense. In others … it’s like running your website on a TRS-80 with a coin slot. […]
A key characteristic — really, a key aesthetic—of most (all?) blockchains is immutability. They are ledgers, after all. But, these days, where the internet is concerned, I find myself more interested in the opposite; in mutability and ephemerality. I like things that can change and grow, then vanish.
This loooong (and still growing) thread by Venkatesh Rao took me a while to read through, packed with links as it is. I haven’t read that much about Web3 so take this rating for what it is, but so far it’s the best explanation I’ve read and the first one that has me thinking “I should have a look at all of this” instead of “ouch, I’m getting tired just thinking of figuring this stuff out.” Linked above is the blogish Threaderapp version, here’s the actual thread which is more legible in a number of places.
- “Sites” you can visit with them
- Blockchain pointing to everybody and everything forever
- Content-centric network. […]
An interesting coinage I've heard a few times, though by no means dominant, is "pluriverse" (compare with metaverse and Mastodon's fediverse). I like it. Metaverse suggests top-down. Fediverse suggests a federation of traditional org types. Pluriverse suggests chaotic-diversity.
Spoiler: it’s email. Good and funny piece by Dave Pell on newsletters. Read it if you don’t understand the draw (which would be weird since you are reading one right now) or if you are a fan of the form. Good insights and context.
A newsletter comes from a single person (or at least many feel like they do), and it lands in your inbox along with messages from your colleagues, your friends, your mom. Good newsletters have a reply-to address as well. You want to reply? Hit reply. And when you do, the conversation becomes one-to-one, not a game of one-upmanship performed for the retweeting masses. […]
Newsletters are patient. I send something to you, and you can read it when you want to and respond (or not) when you want to. You get to absorb and consider the contents of a newsletter without the rest of the internet chiming in, telling you what to think while puking out tweets, replies, posts, comments, photos, videos, news, and memes at a pace that pulverizes human attentional capacity.
No.196 Asides ⊕ See Note
- 🇺🇸 🦇 🐝 🐸 🦅 🦊 Wild Animals Are Thriving in New York City Right Now. “There have been bats and endangered butterflies, wild and rare native bees; a coyote in Central Park; beavers, salamanders and leopard frogs in Staten Island; a bobcat, mink and several foxes in the Bronx, along with endangered alewife herring and American eels traversing fish ladders in the Bronx River while hungry osprey and egrets lurk nearby; large wild oysters and tiny sea horses at piers along the Hudson River; baby damselflies, the world’s most endangered sea turtles and a baby seal in Queens; and exotic insects not seen in decades in Brooklyn.”
- 🤩 This is the verse I’m looking for! (Also, Waititi’s upcoming films list is insane.) Taika Waititi is making a movie based on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Incal comics. *“The Incal is also just the first work in a series of connected comics that Jodorowsky wrote (referred to as the Jodoverse), which could see the upcoming film be the start of the kind of long-running franchise that Hollywood has been chasing since the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
- 📚 ⭐️ 5 Book Plan: Towards New Histories of the Future. “A reading list of books that offer critical perspectives on past and present futures chosen by Fred Scharmen, author of Space Forces.”
- 🇵🇹 💪🏼 Portugal makes it illegal for your boss to text you after work in ‘game changer’ remote work law. “Under the new rules, employers could face penalties for contacting workers outside of office hours. Companies will also have to help pay for expenses incurred by remote working, such as higher electricity and internet bills.”
- 🎥 This might be a very very niche mix of aesthetics, slow video, archinerdery but I enjoyed it. eco-Brut | Nowhere Grotesk “What is eco-brutalism? Why is eco-brutalism? What does it all mean?” (Via Jay.)
- 🎥 🌊 Don’t know exactly what’s going to happen over a week of viewing but the trailer is 👨🏼🍳 💋. The Beach “This Thanksgiving, the A24 Screening Room invites viewers to spend a week at The Beach, in a new kind of sensory viewing experience that transcends traditional television.”
- 🤑 👾 Unity buys Weta Digital. “The unified tools and the incredible scientists and technologists of Weta Digital will accelerate our mission to give content creators easy to use and high performance tools to bring their visions to life. This pipeline has been developed with an artists-first mentality and the result is an incredible set of tools capable of the pinnacle of visual effects (VFX) forged within the uncompromising schedules of hundreds of film and TV productions.”
- 🤔 🧠 Wrist-worn neural interfaces have come of age. “Cala Health has taken wrist interface technology into medical device territory. Their prescription-only wristband for individuals with movement disorders influences the brain’s tremor network by stimulating nerves at the wrist.”
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