Words left unsaid

Every time I talk about this subject caring people ask if I am okay. I am right now, thanks for asking. Someday, sooner or later, I won’t be; that’s the way the disease works. When that happens, I’ll ask for help. Please join me in that promise.

~ Ken White from, https://popehat.substack.com/p/the-weight-of-the-unspoken-word

Every time I talk about this subject caring people ask if I am okay. I am right now, thanks for asking. Someday, sooner or later, I won’t be; that’s the way the disease works. When that happens, I’ll ask for help. Please join me in that promise.


What lies in that space?

In person, I try to not talk about technology. This is simply because I’ve spent such a significant portion of my awake-time already doing so, that I’d like to talk about something else now… for the rest of my life, in fact. But technology comes up a lot. These Days® artificial intelligence comes up a lot too. Mostly (in both those cases and others) I try to sit back and simply enjoy learning more about the people I’m with at that moment.

We dramatically overestimate the threat of an accidental AI takeover, because we tend to conflate intelligence with the drive to achieve dominance. This confusion is understandable: During our evolutionary history as (often violent) primates, intelligence was key to social dominance and enabled our reproductive success. And indeed, intelligence is a powerful adaptation, like horns, sharp claws or the ability to fly, which can facilitate survival in many ways. But intelligence per se does not generate the drive for domination, any more than horns do.

~ Anthony Zador, Yann LeCun from, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/dont-fear-the-terminator/

This is an insight—I’m going to call it a “wedge”—that I’d not thought of. There is a conceptual leap between “is intelligent” and “will strive for dominance.” For everyone I’ve heard speak about AI, the leap seems tiny, as if the one necessarily implies the other. But this wedge fits perfectly into that narrow space. In fact, it makes it really clear that there is a space between those two things. Interesting times.


RDF site summaries

…more commonly, Really Simple Syndication (RSS). If you don’t yet know what RSS is: RSS is a calm technology.

Introducing a quarter-century-old technology as if it were novel might seem a little strange. But despite the syndication format’s cult following, most internet users have never heard of it. That’s unfortunate, because RSS provides everyday internet users with an easy way to organize all of their online-content consumption—news media, blogs, YouTube channels, even search results for favorite terms—in one place, curated by the user, not an algorithm. The answer to our relatively recent social-media woes has been sitting there all along.

~ Yair Rosenberg from, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/03/social-media-algorithms-twitter-meta-rss-reader/673282/

Of course, the real problem is that we’ve all had the idea that “newer is better” broadcast at us for years. The Amish don’t eschew all technology; rather, they’re very particular and intentional about what technology they adopt. The Luddites didn’t want to smash and rollback all technology; they were technically skilled workers who thrived via technology, but who had a specific bone to pick about a new technology.

In recent decades we’ve been fire-hose, continuously fed the idea of techno-optimism… except without the really critical part: one can’t simply hew to, “technology is good.” Technology is nothing more than a tool. There are excellent tools, poor tools, and all tools can be used for good or evil. It’s the consideration we put into our decision to adopt or eschew a technology that matters most.


There is only discipline

I often mention the false sense of urgency that I experience. I have lots of ideas, sure, but it’s more than the frequent appearance of those endless new opportunities. It’s more so the sense that anything I’m already working on, I could do just a little bit better. There’s a pessimistic paranoia that old, greying system administrators develop; they look both ways even when crossing one-way streets. All of that combines within me. I’m not sure if all that striving leads me to feel there’s a scarcity of time and opportunity, or vice versa— I have a sense of scarcity, which leads to the sense of urgency and incessant striving.

Schopenhauer’s pessimism is based on two kinds of observation. The first is an inward-looking observation that we aren’t simply rational beings who seek to know and understand the world, but also desiring beings who strive to obtain things from the world. Behind every striving is a painful lack of something, Schopenhauer claims, yet obtaining this thing rarely makes us happy. For, even if we do manage to satisfy one desire, there are always several more unsatisfied ones ready to take its place. Or else we become bored, aware that a life with nothing to desire is dull and empty. If we are lucky enough to satisfy our basic needs, such as hunger and thirst, then in order to escape boredom we develop new needs for luxury items, such as alcohol, tobacco or fashionable clothing. At no point, Schopenhauer says, do we arrive at final and lasting satisfaction. Hence one of his well-known lines: ‘life swings back and forth like a pendulum between pain and boredom’.

~ David Bather Woods from, https://aeon.co/essays/for-schopenhauer-happiness-is-a-state-of-semi-satisfaction

For five months I’ve had a single sticky-note on my monitor which reads, “There are no miracles. There is only discipline.” It’s a strikingly clear guide star. I believe that a disciplined person knows not only when to strive, but also when to ignore an idea, when to pause for the time being, and when to rejuvenate.

Most often that sticky-note triggers my thinking about living a balanced discipline. I see the note (it’s unfortunately only on my monitor, but should be added to the interior of my eyelids) and then I notice if I’m feeling harried, or if I’m striving… Why? Is this thing I’m doing, or that thing I feel I should be doing, actually urgent? And how—get clear here, Craig—did this or that even get to be the thing I’m doing, the thing on my radar, on my to-do list, on my to-should list… What would it be like, to simply be?



In March of 2022 I returned to tracking my activity. For me, what gets tracked gets optimized. I created the simplest tracking worksheet that did what I wanted and I set about keeping track. There are things I loath about my current FitBit; I can’t quite entirely disable the notifications. And touch screens don’t work with sweaty fingers, which leads to frustration just when I’m exhausted. I’ve never had an Apple Watch, but maybe it was time?

When I bought the phone last year, I went all out. I got the 1 terabyte model (a ridiculous amount of storage space, in hindsight), because I expected to have the thing for a while. But I’ve come to resent this phone.

~ Chris Bailey from, https://chrisbailey.com/smartphones-should-not-be-this-nice/

I went to the Apple Store to arrange for a battery replacement for my iPhone, and I intended to spend my waiting time examining watches. I spent an hour exploring and testing, and picked one out. I bought it, booted it up, synced it to my Apple ecosystem, and strapped it on. I went on my way with a new phone battery and $700 in conspicuous consumption on my wrist. Intending to lean into wearing and using the watch as much as possible.

And for the next two days I wanted to rip it off my wrist and smash it with a hammer. I spent endless hours trying to disable this, silence that, adjust this feature, avoid setting up that other feature… All because I wanted the Watch’s better GPS tracking of distance covered, and better biometric measurements. I struggled with trying to sleep with a digital screen strapped to my wrist—there is no digital screen that will ever exist, which is permitted in my sleep space. Alas, the Watch is the antithesis of calm technology and it was clear I was never going to change its DNA.

On the third day, I carefully put it all back in its packaging as best I could. I drove all the way back to the Apple Store. I knew Apple had a 7-day, no questions asked, full money back guarantee. I handed it back to a rep. They of course asked, “Was there a problem? Or something you didn’t like?” My reply—

“Meh.” And then I left.


Somewhat wacky

At this point I’m resigned to my nature being unchangeable. I need structure to work within, and I cannot suffer long stretches of boredom. I’m comfortable knowing that at least some of what I do makes the world a better place; I’m comfy with my internal validation. I also know that if I start to focus too much on making money I lose my spark. What I’m left wondering is wether there is some thing focused enough that people could dig in and follow (in the sense of deeply understanding the thing, my motivations, and my goal.) I’m certain however, that without that clear thing I must continue to explore and satisfy my curiosity, and not focus overly on monetization.

If you’re thinking about running a membership program, you’re probably a bit wacky. Everything I write about membership programs should be filtered through the lens that: I live a somewhat uncommon, sometimes extremely wacky life. It’s good to keep that in mind. My work is mostly, inherently, non-commercial. Or less commercial than it might be “optimized” for. When people ask me: Who are you? What do you do? And I tell them — I walk, I write, I photograph, I make books, I run a membership program. Their suspicion is plainly visible: No, but what do you do to survive? As if the soul itself wasn’t a thing to be nourished. This is survival, I want to say.

~ Craig Mod from, https://craigmod.com/essays/memberships_year_four/

I’ve tried several times to create membership systems around passion projects. The core problem I encounter is that bolting on a membership system creates in- and out-groups. Any passion project I’ve had feeds that passion through my connections to the other people who engage. The in-group has always been too small to sustain my passion. If you wish you can support my work. But for the foreseeable future, I’m focusing on the passion and not the monetization.



Learning to distinguish the map versus the territory is an essential step. It’s critical to learn what a map is, and what maps are good for, in order to proceed with one’s life. Maps enable me to see and do things otherwise impossible; maps reveal unknown unknowns. Maps can also frustrate me endlessly. Sometimes I don’t want to have an opinion; I don’t want to spend the energy to have an opinion. I don’t care how I get from here to there. Just. Tell. Me. how to get there. And of course nothing in this paragraph has to do with literal maps of the world— I’m not talking about cartography nor driving directions.

On closer examination, it turns out there are many things wrong with it. Thousand True Fans is a hollow philosophy. It is Chicken Soup for the Digital Creator’s Soul, ultimately devoid of any real nutritional value.

~ Dave Karpf from, https://davekarpf.substack.com/p/the-hollow-core-of-kevin-kellys-thousand

Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans is a map, before it there was another map, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and there were others. When you find a new-to-you map it opens your mind to new possibilities. I would assume the first children’s books I encountered were astounding, but wouldn’t have the same effect today. (I’m not denigrating either of those works; I’m not suggesting they are “children’s books”.)

But I do get frustrated. I see a terrific map, and then I want to make a terrific next “move”. That’s not how maps work, Craig. You look at the map, then you take the next small step informed by everything you know, including the new perspective from the new map. You write one sentence (for example, on a page soliciting support for your work) and that’s informed by all the maps you’ve previously seen. Big picture. Little steps.