Notes from the plane back from Austin
The real problem is that I don't get along with a lot of tech people. It reminds me of how when I was in acting school I found I didn't like many actors. Here I am in a space, a culture, a zone where I seem to be getting some traction, and I'm increasingly frustrated with my nominal peers.
In particular I find the crossover between geeks, hipsters and entrepreneurs — a flavor that runs strong in SF — to be especially nettlesome. There's a kind of passive-aggressive form of snobbish competition which emerges around these kinds of people, a sort of nerd machismo. I don't really have time in my life to contend with machismo, and the un-manly brand is just annoying.
Cue the record-scratch sound effect. There's an undeniably enormous element of "I am the things I hate about other people" at work here. I'm a geek, entrepreneur, hipsterish in style, and possessed of my own stinky brand of macho bullshit. The opinion-piece colliery to thinly-veiled autobiographical content is perhaps thinly-veiled self-loathing?
Maybe, but there's also something particular to my structural-hole-bridging personality that I think prevents me from really clicking into a truly deep groove with any given set of people. My persona is playing twister with the universe, and I've always got a food or a hand on some other dot. Never all at home.
It's an old gripe. There's not much I can do about this but live through it, to keep transcending whatever games I can. Noticing things one hates about oneself in others is a growing moment once you realize that's what's going on, and opportunities are created every time I can see my way past one of these things, to a higher purpose or more integrated whole. This is where you level up as a person, I think.
I am my own man, which is a vastly privileged thing to be. I have, as they say, First World Problems. And although I know I am not like other people in my circumstances, and probably not in my composition, I believe at a core level that I could be anyone, and everyone could be me. Not literally, but situationally. I think we can all be "our own people", and the world would keep on churning, maybe quite a bit for the better, if we were.
Which makes it particularly jarring when I'm forced to the realization that all this internet goodness isn't changing human nature, or at least if it is, it is evolving us more even slowly than a W3C spec (cue rimshot). People are still largely the same: shallow, scared, narrowly self-interested: very much not their own people. We may be moving gradually towards a brighter future, but in the mean-time I'm confronting the very things I hope to change manifesting themselves in the very space that I thought would be home base for said changing. That's a mouthful, but hopefully you catch my drift. It's a bummer, man.
I don't subscribe to the notion that people are inherently anything more complex that social pattern recognizers who like to be well fed, safe, sexually satisfied, and part of a community. Beyond that — and even sometimes in the face of that — we are what we believe, what we learn from observation and emulation, what we come to know in the spaces between us and others.
Human nature, such as we reference it, can change. It can change in pretty big ways and with impressive relative speed compared to, say, geology or genetics. Specifically, as soon as we gain insight into ourselves, our selves themselves are changed; a sort of Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle of the psyche. It's one of the reasons I don't find those "simulation theories" very philosophically interesting. Epistemology often comes down to pretty basic decisions — what do you believe — and I fundamentally don't subscribe to a mechanistic/deterministic model for humanity. We're an organic, emergent phenomena, and thus a constantly moving target. We can't simulate ourselves accurately because if we did we wouldn't be us.
And so one can argue that the generation coming up and the generation that's gotten on board with the internet thing have evolved in fundamental ways. Our assumptions about communication and geography are different, as are our understanding about how knowledge and truth are obtained. I think these shifts are more or less for the better, but in and of themselves they don't seem to have led to very different behaviors other than the phenomena of internet usage in and of itself. We retain the same patterns of action otherwise; a politics dictated by an elite class of of insiders and talking heads, a social milieu defined by those who are in and those who are out, an economics that is on the way to creating a permanent generational underclass. All of these things should and could be changing, but they aren't. At least not yet.
Under such circumstances, one can begin questioning the strength of one's small-d democratic beliefs. I can idealize a world of egalitarian brotherhood and harmony among peoples, but what if peoples themselves aren't so into it? What if they prefer starfucking, holy wars and reality television?
As an upper-middle-class college-educated straight white male, it's hardly my place to judge anyone, but it would be really cool to see something unexpected in the next year or so. I'm always optimistic and constantly hopeful.