"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Dr. King, Alcatraz, and Civil Disobedience

At the remove of decades, and felt through the thick rubbery buffer of my white male privilege, what I admire most about Dr. King is the soaring power of his oratory.

Read More

World Mind vs AI and Big Brother

People's versions of the Apocalypse are particular to their culture. When I lived in rebel Humboldt County, it was all about the red dawn, visions of economic and/or ecological collapse, etc. Down in Silicon Valley, you get a lot more people talking about a technocalypse, some variation on Singularity theory, concern that AI will undo us all. Additionally, the recent revelations of the NSA's vast surveillance programs have cast a shadow over the optimistic vibe that comes long with a growing internet.

In this post, I want to talk about why I believe humanity will likely not be overmatched by machines, with bonus observations on how digital democracy can still thrive in an era of Big Data Big Brother.

Moore's Law Has Been Broken For About Ten Years

There is no good account of how "powerful" the human mind is as an information processing system. There are random-ass guesses from futurists and AI researchers, but nobody really knows what the capabilities are for the mind to run, let alone how to compare it to silicon based computers. That said, the random-ass guesses generally conclude that it will take a lot of CPU power to model a brain. Like, more than all the computing power that exists in the world today.

No big deal, say the preachers of AI - computing power is growing ever more rapidly, because Moore's law, etc. But that's not actually true. Moore's "law" was more of a smart observation: that circuit density was doubling about every 18 months. However, this hasn't been true for a while — Moore's law is collapsing, because of the physical limits of silicon.

Read More

The Challenge / "I'm Long On The Internet"

I don't doubt that the Earth, the miracle of life, and probably even the human species have a long future, but our particular mode of living seems not long for the world. When you stop and think about the challenges that we're actually facing, and then you take a look at what we collectively invest our time and energy in, it's hard not to feel discouraged. This is what I'm referring to when I say there's an "undercurrent of doom" out there. I preach a dark future, etc.

Except really I don't. Apocalyptic thinking is contagious but ultimately not very insightful, and dispair has the downside of being both depressing and ineffective. Knowing is half the battle, so one place to start is thinking about the challenge.

Read More

Another World Is Possible?

I've been slowly making my way through First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, which I picked up while browsing the Strand back in the spring and then purchased as a supplemental counterweight to the delightfully light/fun Shantaram. Žižek isn't really breezy, but he's certainly brilliant, and more importantly willing to ask pretty hard questions.

The book is part dissection of the contemporary neoliberal status quo ideology, and part argument to revive the idea of (haunting music) Communism. It's already delivered a few gems, such as this explanation of the uselessness of the modern Leftist opposition:

In the good old days of Really Existing Socialism, a joke popular among dissidents was used to illustrate the futility of their protests. In the fifteenth century, when Russia was occupied by Mongols, a peasant and his wife were walking along a dusty country road; a Mongol warrior on a horse stopped at their side and told the peasant he would now proceed to rape his wife; he then added, "But since there's a lot of dust on the ground, you must hold my testicles while I rape your wife, so that they will not get dirty!" Once the Mongol had done the deed and ridden away, the peasant started laughing and jumping with joy. His surprise wife asked, "How can you be jumping with joy when I was just brutally raped in your presence?" The farmer answered: "But I got him! His balls are covered with dust!"

A lot of the rest is somewhat remedial for anyone with a critical eye for the world: how a "kinder" — or more recently "greener" — capitalist status quo has taken hold and is recycling its opposition into its own system, etc. The interesting piece to me is not this critique, but the argumentation to seriously (re)consider the Marxist alternative.

Read More

Hipsters With Bazookas

Read More

Revolution on the Right

I'm wearing this fly new hoodie I got from the artist who did that "Act Like Ya Know" poster that I liked. Rage is not revolution, but it might be a precourser.

I think it's important to recognize that when we talk about political extremism in Estados Unidos, the far Right is much larger, organized, well funded and (critically) well armed and prepared to shed blood compared to the Left. They are a strong movement which has embraced increasingly violent and eliminationist rhetoric, especially with regards to Muslims in the wake of 9/11.

It's been years since eco-radicals even burned down a lumber-yard — which is ultimately just property crime — but anti-choice radicals still kill doctors and "militia" members (or anti-tax hardliners) blow up buildings in protest of what they perceive to be tyranny.

The political right has been fueled by fear and anger for decades. The chickens are coming home to roost.

Read More

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.

Read More

Mission Statement Draft #13419

So, the news from the centers of power is grim. Exceedingly grim. The Democratic Party is, as an institution, putting on a world-class clinic in organizational dysfunction. In complete control of the government, they have failed to make any significant achievements over the course of a full year. Their only big move, last winter's stimulus plan, has been roundly understood to be too timid, and as a result the economy, while still existent, is in a prolonged "jobless recovery" limbo.

Then last week's one-two combination of truly devastating news. First the pseduo-aristocratic nomination of a Kennedy-family apparatchik to succeed old Teddy in Massachusetts going down in flames to a right-winger in a pickup who flat out wanted it more. Scott Brown did five times as many public events as Coakly, had a hot-shit new media team (running Drupal), and surged at the end to take the win. That's Edward Kennedy's seat, going to a rather immoderate Republican, and bringing an end to the 60-vote theory of power in the Senate.

Republicans Seize 41 - 59 Senate Majority

Read More

There's a Riot Goin' On

Read More

Understand The Ecominy!

Read More