I don’t think we need to get too bogged down in what it is to be human in an increasingly technological world. Humans tend to: get cold, fall over, do stupid things, laugh at each other, die, worry, cry and pick their noses etc.
I reject the algorithm in much the same way as I reject the gospel.
If it’s too easy, stop. If it’s too hard, persevere.
Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides. An unwelcome consequence of living in a world where everything is “easy” is that the only skill that matters is the ability to multitask. At the extreme, we don’t actually do anything; we only arrange what will be done, which is a flimsy basis for a life.
The power of having, doing, looking, needing, thinking, making, loving and losing only one thing at a time.
A person is a thing that leases his life back — every moment of it — from technology, which charges him rent for digital existence. Such a person is a neo-serf. He has no real agency or autonomy or independence whatsoever. His choices are all decided in advance, by computer programs — whether about whom to date, what to do at work, or what to read and learn. Instead of being an owner of property — a home, assets, investments — he is constantly leasing his life back, in a kind of reverse-rental ponzi scheme of human potential, from programs which somehow, have come to own even his subjectivity, his selfhood — his thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, intentions, desires. In this way, he is not really a person in the modern sense, a being with dignity, rights, meaning, and purpose— he is just a premodern creature, who pays lifelong rent to algorithms for the most basic acts of existence: for relationships, ideas, knowledge, intimacy, truth, selfhood itself. What else do you call such a person but a techno-serf?
Nothing is sure. Nothing is guaranteed. Life is often a matter of dice-rolls, dealt hands, cunning, and luck. Good people and good ideas die. Accept it. Realize that the universe can be both the same thing that births children into the world and gives them cancer.
The office yoga class might seem trivial, or even like a nice perk. But it’s emblematic of the debasement of so many of our most basic human impulses and processes by the increasingly dexterous touch of capital. We should be looking for new ways to organize, new ways to think and act ourselves into freedom. Instead, today we are on the road towards an existence plugged into a bio-monitor, our sleeping patterns logged, our calorie intake mandated by the people who pay us just enough to live.
And that’s when I decided that we — and by we I mean those of us currently drawing paychecks for professional design services — are design’s lost generation. We are the Family Ties era Michael J. Fox of the design lineage. Raised by hippies. Consumed by greed. Ruled by the hand of the market. And nourished by the last drops of sour milk from the withered old teat of capitalism gone rabid. Living where America ends — Silicon Valley.
Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing.
But we have much more agency than we fool ourselves into believing. Every challenge, no matter how large or complicated, is met one step at a time. Someone has to take that next step. It might as well be us.
It is a rare beauty to see the countryside painted white. An impossible feat accomplished overnight.
It is always the false that makes you suffer, the false desires and fears, the false values and ideas, the false relationships between people. Abandon the false and you are free of pain; truth makes happy, truth liberates.
The self-help industry epitomizes capitalism’s ability to perform this double movement: It tells us to free ourselves even as it says there is something missing in our lives, and that spending money is the best way to fix them both.
The gift of wounds.