If you see any missing terms that I reuse a lot, let me know. Terms annotated GP are from the Gervais Principle series.

Index of Terms

Ancient Eye
Baroque Unconscious
Crucible Effect
Curse of Development
Evil Twin
Future Nausea
Game Talk
Gervais Principle
Gollum Effect
Hall’s Law
Manufactured Normalcy Field
Milo Criterion
Scientific Sensibility
Straight Talk
Turpentine Effect
Ubiquity Illusion


  1. Ancient Eye: An approach to perceiving reality that precedes modern categories of professionalized disciplinary knowledge such as science, engineering or art.
  2. Babytalk (GP): The language spoken by Sociopaths and Losers to the Clueless. 
  3. Barbarian: On ribbonfarm, a term of approbation, while “civilized” is an insult. Somebody whose lifestyle pattern is not based on accumulation or externalization of cognition into institutions. The definition is based on Thorstein Veblen’s model in Theory of the Leisure Class.
  4. Baroque Unconscious: The idea that technology can be understood as an entity that behaves as though it is a sentient agent unconsciously groping towards realization of its own extreme baroque form.
  5. Clueless (GP):  Employees who overperform and believe in the benevolence of the organization.
  6. Crucible Effect: A crucible is group of optimal size for doing creative information work. The number of people is about 12. It is too large to be managed and too small to split up, balancing on the brink of chaos. Members of crucibles focus collective attention into an arms race of constant practice, backed by an established culture around its particular kind of information work. The escalation into increasingly more refined crucibles allows for the 10.000 hours of deliberate practice that is needed for elite performance.
  7. Curse of Development (GP): If the situational developmental gap between two people is sufficiently small, the more evolved person will systematically lose more often than he/she wins.
  8. Evil Twin: Somebody who thinks exactly like you in most ways, but differs in just a few critical ways that end up making all the difference.
  9. Future Nausea: The subjective reaction to being exposed to un-normalized futures. See Manufactured Normalcy Field.
  10. Game Talk  (GP): The language spoken by Losers among themselves.
  11. Gervais Principle ( (GP): The conjecture that Sociopaths promote the Clueless to middle management and fast-track a subset of enlightened Losers to upper management as new Sociopaths.
  12. Gollum Effect: The reduction of a consumer to a subhuman creature defined purely by patterns of consumption. Verb form: gollumize.
  13. Hackstability: A postulated stable equilibrium state created by a balance forces: exponentially increasing technological capability and entropy-driven technology collapse.
  14. Hall’s Law: A speculative Moore’s Law analog for the 19th century, based on the growing sophistication of manufacturing as measured by progress in creating interchangeable parts.
  15. HIWTYL  (GP): Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose, pronounced HIWTYL. The general design principle behind incentive structures designed by Sociopaths.
  16. Legibility: A system is legible if it is comprehensible to a calculative-rational observer looking to optimize the system from the point of view of narrow utilitarian concerns and eliminate other phenomenology. It is illegible if it serves many functions and purposes in complex ways, such that no single participant can easily comprehend the whole. The terms were coined by James Scott in Seeing Like a State. Illegible systems are generally more robust than legible ones, and Scott’s model is mainly about the failures caused by imposing legibility on an initially illegible reality. See State.
  17. Loser (GP): A bare-minimum effort, rationally disengaged employee who seeks fulfillment outside of work.
  18. Manufactured Normalcy Field: A large-scale engineered perception that makes radical technologies appear normal, thereby preventing the future from arriving for most people.
  19. Milo Criterion: Products must mature no faster than the rate at which users can adapt
  20. Posturetalk  (GP): The language spoken by the Clueless.
  21. Powertalk  (GP): The language spoken by Sociopaths.
  22. Refinement: Refinement is a measure of the amount of work that has gone into an artifact. Intelligence in design is fundamentally a predatory quality put in by Barbarians. Refinement in design is a non-predatory quality put in by civilized-Slaves.
  23. Scientific Sensibility: Perceiving reality in a dispassionate and mindful way. I argued that this is a more basic foundation for science than the “scientific method” and formal metaphysical motions like falsifiability or empiricism/analyticity.
  24. Sociopath  (GP): A self-aware employee who understands how organizations really work and takes reasoned risks to acquire power and influence by manipulating it.
  25. Straight Talk (GP): The language spoken between Sociopaths and Losers.
  26. Stream: A sort of slow, life-long communal nomadism, enabled by globalization and a sense of shared transnational social identity within a small population.
  27. Turpentine Effect: The tendency of practioners of a skilled craft to gravitate to tool-making over application
  28. Ubiquity Illusion: Creating a perception of ubiquity around a new product or service to fake social proof