Weeknotes 14: capitalism has largely been a way of not needing each other
Via Richard D. Barlett, I listened to a podcast with Daniel Schmachtenberger on what he calls the “generator functions” (i.e. root causes) of existential risk. It’s more of a lecture than an interview (there’s not much discussion).
I listened to all three episodes, totalling over 2 hours, in one go, which kind of fried my brain! In a good way.
If you want to be challenged to think deeply about our problems, as well as how they relate to the philosophy of how we see ourselves in relation to other beings, I can definitely recommend it. Buckle up though, you’re in for a ride.
Some quotes. On philosophy:
Ontologically, when I say ‘I’, I might think ‘I’ and I’ve got some idea of what that means – a set of atoms contained in a particular boundary that looks like this guy called me, it’s on my Facebook picture, a set of memories or whatever. But when I think of ‘I’, I usually don’t think of all the plants on the biosphere, without which I would not exist because there would be no atmosphere and I would be dead.
And I usually don’t think about all of the soil bacteria without which the plants wouldn’t exist, and all of the pollinators. But I don’t exist without all those. So if I think of ‘I’ without those, it’s an ill formed concept. But when I think of that ill formed concept and I think that it’s a good concept, it’s a real thing, I can think about advantaging that I at the expense of the things that I depend on. And that is a kind of insanity but it is a kind of ubiquitous insanity currently. For me to make a choice for me, I have to know what the fuck I am. I am not a separate thing in game theory at competition with everything else. I am ultimately interdependent with and dependent on so much other than me.
On social media (emphasis mine):
You’ll notice that mostly now people live in nuclear family homes on their own, don’t interact with other people all that much and then they spend all their time addictively looking at other people on screens. They watch TV and they watch people and then they go to Facebook and they look at people and they read news articles about people. They’re fucking fascinated by people but then we’re conditioned currently to suck at interacting with people – capitalism has largely been a way of not needing each other directly and being able to indirectly intermediate meeting each other through money. Money can just buy whatever I need, I don’t actually have to have friends or neighbours or give a shit about anybody or have anyone give a shit about me. That seems really convenient and everybody is in a crisis of loneliness at home looking at people hoping that they’re getting likes, which are not real relationships.
I dipped my toe in the waters of contributing to the Open Food Network codebase. It took me a long time to get it running on my machine because a very old version of Ruby is required, which cannot compile against the newer version of OpenSSL on my machine. I eventually figured out how to compile the older OpenSSL manually, and then link Ruby against it. Then I made a minor bug fix. Later in the week I ended up reading a bunch of discussions, wiki pages and bugs in order to try to understand more about the project and where it’s at.
On Tuesday I had a call across at least 3 timezones, and both hemispheres, with some Enspiral people. We were discussing “cobudgeting”, which is basically a process where money available in the network gets distributed to projects/people that need it. I got involved at the suggestion of Fran Pick after we were discussing the software tool Cobudget and I said I needed more insight into the actual process.
It was quite an interesting conversation to be involved in – I think these sorts of processes are really radical – but it was also quite noticeable that the others had vastly more context and understanding of it all that me! But this is how we learn…