The Ovaltine Moment

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk Jay Bushman talks about futuristic transmedia storytelling attempts and the moment they tend to fall apart, which he calls the ovaltine moment, when the bubble bursts and the excitement fades into disappointment.

Automontage

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, Chenoe Hart explores space in VR and AR from an architecture perspective and why there are no easy answers.

Elderblog Sutra: 10

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Elderblog Sutra

I’ve been thinking about the context in which writing, or any kind of creative work that makes a public appearance, lives (for the author of the work rather than the consumer).

I often make up pseudomath equations to help me see the structure of an interesting question, even if it’s unlikely that there’s any actual interesting mathematical structure there. Here’s my pseudo-math attempt to model the idea of “work in context” (blue) as a convolution of aliveness (green) and general environmental context (brown).

As the blank blue graph suggests, I haven’t actually “solved” this pseudo-math problem to yield an evolving view of work in context, but lemme explain what I’m trying to poke at here.

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Predictable Identities: 21 – Enlightenment

This entry is part 21 of 21 in the series Predictable Identities

Before talking more about self-identifying, it’s worthwhile to consider why we even think that there is anything to identify  — a “self” that we can attach labels to. This is not a given; many people “…report no individualized sense of self, no self-related thoughts” This is from a paper on Persistent Non-Symbolic Experiences, a sciencey-sounding term for what is normally called “enlightenment”.

Who’s “enlightened”? If you ask them, any and all of:

Whatever do these all have in common? Here’s my Predictable Identities conjecture: the sense of self comes from habitual and repeated thoughts; novel thoughts make the self dissolve.

“Habitual thoughts” means everything from high-level cogitation to low-level processing of stimuli. Kaj Sotala points out that something as simple as the perception of hearing a stick hitting a woodblock is the result of complicated processing that combines several auditory frequencies, your previous experience with wood objects, and mental imagery. This processing usually happens automatically: [hear sound] -> [imagine block]. 

But, with enough concentration, one can break this habit, leaving just the raw sounds to do with as one wishes. The same is true of “habits” like [feel pain] -> [experience suffering] or [see object of desire] -> [experience craving] that are the common focus of the monk’s meditation, or the frameworks of social interaction Valentine writes about

When the part of your brain that monitors itself notices repeated patterns of thought it creates a high-level model called “self” that it can use for prediction. “I” am interpreting the sound as a stick hitting a woodblock. “I” suffer when in pain. “I” think of everything in terms of predictive processing. And “I” will likely continue to do so in the future.

But when a thought or interpretation arises that can’t be predicted from the habits of my mind, there is no reason to assign it to a consistent thinking “self”. The thoughts I’m used to thinking are mine, but the novel ones could be anyone’s or no one’s.

The Other Simulation Hypothesis

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, Tiago talks about Lisa Feldman Barrett’s constructivist theory of emotion and connects it to science fiction and the pleasure activism of adrienne maree brown to posit an “other” simulation hypothesis based on emotional experience. Also check out the post , Pleasure as an Organizing Principle, which Tiago wrote based on this.

The Galactic Numerology Collision

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, David Sneider, who made up the Galactic Tick Day tells the bizarre story of how the idea went viral and ended up getting entangled with conspiracy theory subcultures, and draws lessons from the experience.

Mediocratopia: 9

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Mediocratopia

We often conflate quality with excellence, to the point that the term quality mediocrity seems like an oxymoron, and mediocre quality seems like the same thing as poor quality. But quality and excellence are not the same thing, and mediocrity and quality are not mutually exclusive. Excellence is synonymous with quality only under behavioral regimes governed by an optimizing sensibility, operating on a closed and bounded notion of what the kids these days seem to be calling fitness-to-purpose. What does it map to when you’re mediocratizing rather than optimizing? I have an answer: fatness. Or for the kids, fitness-to-purposelessness.

Public domain fat cat caricature. From Trade Union Unity Magazine (September 1925)

Fatness is the systemic condition created by a mediocre response to abundance. In the opener for this blogchain, I linked to a bunch of my older writing about fat thinking, but I didn’t construct a notion of quality out of that attribute. Let’s do that now.

The short version: Fatness is embodied abundance. Or if you like clever lines: Fatness is future-fitness.

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AI And Human Digitization: When Seeing Is Not Believing?

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, Hao Li, founder of Pinscreen talks about using AI to generate human avatars and how that shapes future realities.

Spatial Intelligence: Architecture as a Giant Computer

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, Guvenc Ozel talks about the latest in architecture research in the use of VR to experience space in radically different ways.

Predictable Identities: 20 – Self and Other Labeling

This entry is part 20 of 21 in the series Predictable Identities

The last post set up the motivations and trade-offs of applying identity labels to yourself and to others. One can choose to oppose this ubiquitous labeling or indulge in it. With these two axes, we can sketch out the blogchain’s first (though inevitable) 2×2:

The anti-label corner is exemplified by Paul Graham’s famous exhortation to keep your identity small and Scott Alexander’s reminder that categories are just (occasionally) useful abstractions. This corner sees other-labeling as a distraction from more pertinent questions of what someone actually does or believes; they see self-labeling as a sacrifice of clear thinking for tribal conformity. “Nerd” is a bad label for this corner, but being resistant to labels is its very nature.

Identity politickers sit at the top right corner. They reinforce the centrality of identity built by stacking labels (intersectionality) and demand that others be loyal to their identity markers, as in the quote about black faces and voices. Identitarians are not fans of rich white guys like Paul and Scott, but these two at least stick to their expected role of adversary. They have much more contempt for identity traitors like Candace Owens.

On the top left are people who gleefully toss labels at their outgroup to reinforce its homogeneity and overall wickedness. This usually serves to distance oneself from a label. On the bottom right, a person can attach a self-label to some conventional opinion to demonstrate how nicely predictable they are and to associate with a group. 

These two corners are less of a committed stance and more of a tactical application of labels, but the same is true across the board – people change their willingness to label themselves and others depending on the situation. Labeling is a political tool; we should expect hypocrisy to be the norm rather than the exception.