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Notes to myself, possibly of interest to others.
-- Bill Northlich

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Pessimism

Kevin DePew: Dubious financial-credit system, indefinite postponement of balancing assets and liabilities, constant waste and war to continue expanding the mega machine; man, that really cuts to the quick, no? It wrestles with the very beast of the thing. Yeah, the very beast of the thing. Except the historian and literary critic Lewis Mumford wrote that in The New Yorker 36 years ago. Thirty-six years. That was a long time ago...

The Worst of All Possible Times

These are the worst of all possible times. Just ask any cab driver. The US default and inevitable currency collapse is only the tip of the iceberg. Hyperinflation, or deflation, or stagnation, take your pick. There will be no winners this time; we will all be impoverished by the banking system, slaves to the global elite. Government has never been more corrupt. Businessmen and bankers, never more villainous. Our schools are failing. College is a scam. The environment is being polluted, our children's future traded away in a maze of carbon credits and energy derivatives. Or, on the other side of the coin, environmentalism itself is little more than a clever ploy by cynical capitalists to wring out the last dollar from a foolish public only too eager to trade cash for recycled plastic plates and over-priced vinegar-based solutions branded with little green pine trees. And we are obsessed with distraction, pop culture, celebrity, bread and circuses facilitated by technology and rapid-fire communication, if one can even call it that, rewiring our brains to crave the Pavlovian immediacy of the virtual call and response, Twitter, Facebook, a vast ocean of meaninglessness which crowds out the significant, narrative broken by unbound connectivity and emergent complexity. Nothing makes sense anymore. That's one way to look at it.

Perhaps it is the only way.

From 1975, Mumford again, "We had begun, whether we liked it or not, to live in a porous, permeable, increasingly translucent world, whose walls and boundaries, if not altogether illusions, existed mostly in the mind."

Reading that -- the struggle with the evaporation of prior walls and boundaries, the increasingly translucent world, the illusion of control and linearity evaporating before our very eyes -- makes me despair of ever having an original idea in my lifetime. It's exactly what I felt I had described in a number of earlier pieces on how technology is exposing the non-linearity of life, The Crisis of Non-Linearity I called it. How foolish. The idea is as old as the first scratch on a cave wall. The stakes are no different, only magnified by our lack of humility and the arrogance of assuming the worst.

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