On the Design of Escaped Realities

by Venkat 01.16.2015

Human beings have this amazing ability to retreat from reality without knowing precisely what reality is, in which direction it lies, and how to solve the converse problem of deliberately approaching it. We have gotten so good at this game of retreat that we’ve even managed to define an entire frontier of virtual reality to […]

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Ritual and the Consciousness Monoculture

by Sarah Perry 01.08.2015

Sarah Perry is a resident blogger visiting us from her home turf at The View from Hell. A selective sweep occurs when a new, beneficial gene mutation appears and quickly sweeps across a population, erasing the genetic diversity that existed prior to the sweep. Similarly, languages have “swept” across continents as the cultures they belonged […]

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Black Mirror as Hell-Is-Other-People Futurism

by Venkat 01.01.2015

Over the break, I watched Black Mirror, the highly acclaimed British futurist show.  I am tempted to call it a tech-dystopian show, but it isn’t quite that. To count as dystopian, you need a corresponding utopian vision that has failed or is stillborn, and the show doesn’t offer or suggest any. People have also been comparing it to […]

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Complete 2014 Roundup

by Venkat 12.22.2014

Here’s the complete roundup of the year’s posts, in chronological order. New readers this year might want to check out the 2013 roundup. If you want to do some binge reading further back into the archives, there is a page for the Rust Age (2007-12) with both curated selections and complete roundups. We had 45 posts this […]

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Learning from Crashes

by Venkat 12.18.2014

I came up with a neat and compact little definition of a crash as a result of the recent ongoing obsession with the idea we’ve had around here. A crash is an unexpected subjective reaction to an unexpected real-world outcome. Both parts are important. If you have an unexpected outcome to an activity, but are able to […]

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Striving, Surviving, Suffering and Slacking

by Venkat 12.11.2014

The more I learn about the life stories of others, the more I tend to view mere survival as an accomplishment in the median case. This is an odd view of humanity, but an accurate one for the vast majority. We are misled about the actual difficulty of basic survival because societies are built around […]

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The Future of Tipping

by Venkat 12.02.2014

A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to the bitcoin-based tipping service for Twitter, ChangeTip, by Leslie John Dilley. It is a fascinating thing to experiment with, and you should try it out if you’re interested in bitcoin. What makes it particularly interesting is that you can define your own pseudo-currency units called “monikers”. […]

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Learning to Fly by Missing the Ground

by Venkat 11.20.2014

Earlier this year, I turned forty. I’ll give you a moment to choose between “crap I’ve been listening to an out-of-touch old dude who looks younger than he is” and “crap, I’ve been listening to a ponderously self-important kid whose picture I never bothered to look at.” Forty is an milestone in the middle of the uncanny valley […]

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The Design of Crash-Only Societies

by Ryan Tanaka 11.14.2014

Ryan Tanaka is a resident blogger, visiting us from his home turf at http://ryan-writer.com.  The improv session that inspired this article can be found here. Crash-only software: it only stops by crashing, and only starts by recovering.  It formalizes Murphy’s Law and creative-destruction into an applicable practice, where the end-of-things and the worst of outcomes […]

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Don’t Surround Yourself With Smarter People

by Venkat 11.05.2014

There is an idea that I have been guilty of uncritically parroting and promoting in the past: surround yourself with smarter people. Another popular version is never be the smartest guy in the room.  Beneath the humblebragging  in both versions (your cut-off for smart is a de facto declaration of “look how smart I am; only Einsteins are […]

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