Blog Archives

Inauguration Day and The Century of the Self

“The original idea had been that the liberation of the self would create a new kind of people, free of social constraint. That radical change had happened but while the new beings felt liberated, they had become increasingly dependent for their identity on business. The corporations realized that it was in their interest to encourage people to feel like they were unique individuals and then offer them ways to express that individuality. The world in which people felt that they were rebelling against conformity was no longer a threat to business but had become its greatest opportunity.”… “If politics is also Freudian, i.e. if it’s a matter of politicians appealing to the same basic unconscious feelings that businesses appeal to then why not let businesses do it? Business can do it better. Business knows how to do it. Business after all is in the business of responding to those feelings.”

— The Century of Self, 2002

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On this memorable day I’m curious about how we strike the right balance with our egos. After all, they can be used as a powerful driving force but left unchecked it can easily run rampant. In some ways it can be viewed as a formless and highly virulent parasite, intent on establishing itself through growing its collection of material objects, reputation and power.

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Digital Nomads and the Future of Community

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Do you want to work remotely from exotic locations? NomadList is a fun place to start thinking about possible locations 🙂 Back in 2005 I was travelling & working as a web designer for western clients while hopping throughout asia. I called myself a technomad and lived out of cheap furnished apartments, hotels and internet cafes. It’s exciting to see 10 years later that many thousands of people are doing the same, referring to themselves “digital nomads”. Not as catchy as technomad, but it’s the same idea and more importantly it’s catching on: Digital Nomads just had their first conference and there are estimates that there might be as many at 1bn working remotely by 2035. See this link for the full presentation.

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A Funny Thing Happened in Fresno, on the Way to the Farm

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On the way up to the Farm, I dropped into Fresno to catch a jazz show with my old friend Ric. Ric was quite a character: he’d been to jail a few times, lost at sea at one point, in crutches at least twice and who celebrated kicking his drug addiction by drinking liters of coffee and smoking like a chimney. He was also a hell of a jazz player before he’d fallen down some stairs.

After the show, we grabbed a few drinks at a local restaurant / bar / music lounge where a few of the jazz musicians had moved on to. The Fresno girls that waltzed in and out were surprisingly loud and trashy. We didn’t stay too long and Ric offered me a spot to crash at his place.

Ric had always had interesting friends and his roommates, or more accurately, his hosts were no exception. He led me through a living room that was either being renovated or just falling apart, it was hard to tell in the darkness. He pulled at a bookcase and it came ajar, revealing a carpeted staircase. I crept upstairs, tip toed past some sleeping dogs, and passed out on a sofa.

As I opened my eyes, I found myself on a dusty couch and for a moment forgot where I was. I happen to find that feeling quite enjoyable – it’s like waking up in a new adventure and trying to figure it out. The dusty room was ornately decorated and furnished with a full oak bar and as my eyes drifted downward they met the stare of 3 equally dusty poodles. Big questions in my head were centered around the responsibility of successfully creating and leading community. And no random house could have been more helpful to wake up in.

I came down the stairs and out of the book case to a morning breakfast scene. Ric and his host, an 86 year old sociologist who wrote a book called “primitive drinking”; Chandler Washburne, had taught for years at UC Fresno, been a friend of Kerouacs and married to Ex belly dancer Beyla, who herself had previously been married to Spencer from Jefferson airplane. I sat on a faded floral-print couch in his study and began a conversation that lasted well into the afternoon. Some of the things we covered:

  • Learning the social OS
  • Dynamics of various sized communities
  • Can communities run in a decentralized way or is hierarchical leadership needed?
  • ‘Encounter’ groups from the 60s
  • Benevolent dictatorship, positive emotional
  • Distributed leadership
  • Pre lingual laws Only as many as Can be remembered
  • What is the mission out there and do you know if you’ve achieved it.
  • How do you quantify social success?
  • Establishing of rules and objectives
  • Lead by action not by mandate
  • Consistency is crucial to successful leadership
  • Laughing is an extension of panting – it’s a mammalian thing
  • Rat licking experiment – rats that got licked by the mothers were friendly and more exploratory, others were more anxious. This is epigenetic..
  • Brains develop differently, ability to use language plays a huge roll in this
  • Most people hear music with right side of brain, but musicians use the left because they can put names to things..
  • Artists communicate in a non standardized language
  • Social hackery to manifest changes, appeal to a visceral emotion
  • We don’t see the actor, we see the part they’re playing
  • It’s a grand experiment / life is improv
  • If life is indeed a play, then all roles must be filled!

With many of my questions answered, or at least on the way to being answered, I sat down and wrote a long email to my Burning Man camp, discussing many of the things that we had covered over glazed donuts that morning.

How can serendipity be so abundant!?

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