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Tag: survival of the fittest

This website was archived on July 20, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.
Exolymph creator Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

To Prep or Not to Prep, and Why

Rebecca Onion wrote an interesting essay about immersing herself in survivalist “prepper” fiction. (The gateway drug was apocalyptic fiction, so, uh, I might be at risk.) Here’s an illustrative sample:

In more than one of these books, the prepper encounters people who expect him to share the resources he’s planned ahead to store. […] In Steven Konkoly’s The Jakarta Pandemic, the prepper character lives on a cul-de-sac with many unprepared neighbors who demand that each household reveal the amount of food it holds, to be put into a stockpile and shared. […] The group’s other plan, to put together a shared day care, strikes even more notes of Soviet Russia. This kind of sharing, in the book’s logic, puts everyone in danger; the mothers who don’t want to take care of their own kids will end up sick and, finally, dead.

This strongly reminds me of an essay on Slate Star Codex, in which Scott Alexander writes, “My hypothesis is that rightism is what happens when you’re optimizing for surviving an unsafe environment, [whereas] leftism is what happens when you’re optimized for thriving in a safe environment.”

In a reply to one of the comments, he explains:

If you’re in a stable society without zombies, optimizing your life for zombie defense is a waste of time; working towards not-immediately-survival-related but nice and beautiful and enjoyable things like the environment and equality and knowledge-for-knowledge’s sake may be an excellent choice.

This strikes me as broadly true.

The logic and priorities of preppers are sensible in a kill-or-be-killed world without infrastructure. But those of us in rich countries don’t live in that world, so preppers end up being weirdos on the political margins.

I wonder, where does cyberpunk fall in this scheme? What do our ideals and suspicions optimize for? To be honest, I don’t think cyberpunk is an optimal paradigm at all — blithely working the system is the best strategy for actual success. Cheerful cynicism, I guess? Cyberpunk is uncheerful cynicism in a world of capitalism and computers.

Header photo by Cathy T.

Large Nonbiological Organisms

Back in late January, ReTech sent me this email. He gave me permission to distribute it.

My observations over my life have shown me that once humans create an organization it becomes a living system independent of its creators and members. To wit, it satisfies some basic rules of a living organic system. If you look at Apple or any other corporation, this becomes painfully apparent. Same goes for any government agency.

Image via al tuttle.

Image via al tuttle.

  1. collect resources / food to sustain life
  2. protect self
  3. propagate self
  4. spread / integrate into established environment
  5. create perception of need AKA mask / hide to help protect and spread

This came to light when I was reading about the March of Dimes’ original charter and how they evolved.

This is all my opinion and completely subject to the bullshit rule: everything is 99% bullshit and 1% truth. So take it for what it is.

ReTech is one of the most interesting people I’ve met through this project. He’s on Facebook as well.

Keep Your Eye On Evolution

“At the most basic level, an economy grows when whenever people take resources and rearrange them in a way that makes them more valuable. […] We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. The difficulty is the same one we have with compounding: possibilities do not merely add up; they multiply.” — Paul Romer re: economic growth

There are reasons to be optimistic. The world is terrible overall, but it’s getting better by the day!

Or getting worse. It depends on who you ask.

Artwork by 3Skulls.

Artwork by 3Skulls.

The basic purpose of technological innovation is to enable things that weren’t possible before. This is also the basic result of technological innovation, so maybe “purpose” is irrelevant. It’s like Darwin established: things are just sort of happening, according to no one’s plan, and whatever works best will persist. Survival of the fittest, baby!

People tend to interpret “fittest” as “strongest”, but it actually means “most likely to successfully reproduce”. This is true of ideas and technologies as well as organisms — the concepts and techniques that spread easily are the ones that take hold and occasionally reshape society.

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