Notes to self. Working on Standard Notes, an end-to-end encrypted notes app.
108573 words

The storyteller

I’ve been playing images in my head. Sort of making believe how things might go, were I actually to act on them. When I’m imagining the things I would do, or the things I would say, or the places I’d go, I receive a small compensation for it. A tiny bubbling taste of serotonin. Yum. Delicious.

Now let’s not change a single thing and go back to life exactly as it was.

Every action requires some sort of positive energy expenditure. And unfortunately, my inner brain optimizations are on the highest setting.

> Optimizing for minimum energy expenditure...

What!? No! Don’t do that! Override optimization levels to nominal!

Override failed. Insufficient privileges.

Damn it.

Well okay. This is my life now.

So, in the wee hours of the night, I sit now in surreptitious contemplation. How shall I hack this impenetrable son of a bitch?

Reality is merely a projection of the brain. All inside that little box that I can touch. Right...there. My entire universe just inches above my brows. And yet I can’t dictate its decisions with sudo level privileges?

Absurd. Totally, wholefully absurd.

Surely there must be a way in. A way to play games with your brain, to get it to do what ~you~ want it to do.

To date, and on this quest for probably the entirety of my waking life, I have not found a working solution.

But if our world is merely the fictitious story we tell ourselves, could we not intersperse our own fictional elements where we see fit? In the beginning, sure, it will feel awkward and downright fictional. But the habit-machine enclosed in your skull will be none the wiser. Tell or be told the same story hundreds of times, and your life-projector will gladly welcome the new element into its narrative. Probably even irreversibly so.

So, I’m going to pretend.

When faced with a task I don’t seemingly want to do, I’m going to simulate performing that task for as long as I can keep up the charade.

Here we have a messy kitchen.

I should clean it? I should clean it. I should clean it?

Stop. The fact you’re even contemplating it is signs enough you’ve already made your decision.

Instead of making a large commitment you'll probably fail on and later feel double bad for, decide you’re going to pretend to clean. Do the movements. Tell the lie that you’re going to give it a shot.

Fake pick up a dirty dish. Fake take it to the area where it will be cleaned. I mean, actually do those things. But you’re just pretending. You’re not actually going to finish this whole operation. Psht. You’re just simulating a small part.

Does anything stop you?

If not, keep pretending. Open the dishwasher. Pretend you’re going to empty it, so you can put in the dirty load.

Does anything stop you? Do you feel a strong resistance to pretending further?

If not, keep acting. Keep pretending for as long as you can keep up the charade. The end result of course is that you've pretended your way to a clean kitchen. You've overriden the relentless optimizations your brain has enacted on your action potential.

If you do feel a resistance, then ok, stop. Step away. Say, I’m sorry. Not today.

You’ll walk away with the dishes not having been done, but with at least the satisfaction that you tried, and when you did, you uncovered that the problem was more complicated than picking up a few dishes. I’m out of detergent. That’s why I was resisting. You know now what you could work towards next time.

In this case, an even more complicated task: You need to head to the store.

But, you don’t feel like it.

Tomorrow, you'll pretend to. You'll put your wallet in your pocket. You'll put on your shoes and strap your shoelaces. You'll take a few steps towards the front door. Does anything stop you? Keep pretending. Keep pretending until you’re stopped by thorough resistance. Understand that resistance. And relax. Cross off that task for today. You did good. You can try again tomorrow.

I've had the repeated inclination to write some thoughts into a journal for several weeks now. To document my current world for my future self. But I couldn’t get myself to put pen to paper.

So this is me pretending to write.

Susceptible to Control

Privacy is a question that I never quite seem to find a satisfying answer for. In the past, when I’ve asked myself why digital privacy is important, and why it’s worth struggling for, the answer I nestled on was that privacy is important because privacy is power.

But that’s about as far as I got. Privacy was about keeping a balance of power between those who would abuse it for their own gain, and those who live out their lives, unconsciously leaving valuable trails of information behind. The idea was that privacy isn’t necessarily about you, but about building a long-term better society. But I think that’s wrong.

Privacy is definitely about you.

It can affect your life in ways so dramatic that you could only justify your new life circumstances as the course of your own will. And thus, you’ll always think, I know exactly how I got here. I remember the decisions I made that lead to me living this life, and I remember those decisions as being, in fact, of my own volition.

This is, unremarkably, no more than a lie we’ve been trained—or have trained ourselves—to tell to make our life seem consequential. To make our life make sense. We craft narratives that are digestible to us. Every event must be resolved one way or another. And when we don’t have all the information, when we are too small to possibly fathom the complicated nature of our existence, we craft simple explanations that we can live with.

But make no mistake about it: the stories we craft to understand our existence don't represent the actual nature of our existence. They represent how we perceive those circumstances.

Our world and the way we understand it—the way we’re able to fall asleep every night—represent our perception of it given the information our brain has been given to work with. A slight twinge of this information can produce kaleidoscopic variations in how you view yourself, your relationships, and your society.

We understand the world in terms of signals, which we process to produce images or stories of the world. And the horrifying truth is: our brains have horrible firewalls.

Almost anything can get in. That’s the whole idea, isn’t it? Signals go in, and our brain filters and parses. The results dictate the decisions you make, the actions you will take, and the consequences that will ripple throughout your radius of physical influence. It would stand to reason that one ought to be real careful about the signals we allow our brain to process. But of course, you might say, there is discretion. We ought to be intelligent enough to filter out nefarious signals.

The reality is that our “discernation” seems to be a very simple algorithm. Much simpler than we imagined. And the largest factor seems to just be: impressionability. The more you see something. Not more complex than that.

Quite simply, without privacy, you are Susceptible to Control. Put this in headline case and make an acronym of it, because it’s the one thing you should remember when you’re participating in modern digital society. You are STC. When you allow others to learn about you, your interests, and your habits, you allow yourself to be susceptible to how they might use that information to change the way you view your world. This would in effect directly control the purchases you make and the political affiliations you subscribe to.

And let’s not even be minutely grandiose about this: this is every day. It happens on the small and it happens on the large. Information that is produced in direct effect to your habit trails can be effectively weaponized to target messaging at you in attempt to change, or control, your behavior.

Our lives are filled with decisions, both the conscious and the unconscious. Decisions are—and let's be very clear about this—NOT existing in a vacuum. I’m yelling at myself mostly. I keep trying to tell myself that surely my decisions are of my own accord. Surely my opinions were derived validly and safely. Surely there has been no one but myself in charge of my decisions at every step of the way.

this. is. a. story. we. tell. ourselves.

Which is fine. We need stories to understand our world. Stories, like language and math, are symbols that we can manipulate. We can apply operations on them, like chaining them to form a continuous sequence, or adding and subtracting them. Stories are the way we understand the world. But the stories we’ve been told…

Ah. That’s where one has to be careful. That’s where one needs to be extremely self-aware.

The way you view your place in this world, the way you carry on your relationships with others, and the way you participate in modern society—these are all based on the messages you’ve received and internalized throughout your entire life. And even after all these decades, I am continually shocked at how little information I have had to work with given any difficult decision.

Can you imagine how limited you must have been then during the younger, most impressionable years of your life?

You...can not be trusted.

Everything you are—that thing you call your personality—is invented in direct response to the messages you’ve been bombarded with throughout your entire life.

It's time to be better. To move forward from our lie that we are who we are because we’re unique. Because we’re different. Because the infinite cosmos aligned at our exact coordinates to produce a unique, never before seen shade of light.

You are who you are because of the information you’ve received.

Privacy, then, is about reducing your susceptibility to control. It’s about protecting yourself from the nuclear weapons that are targeted messages. Targeted signals of information explicitly meant to influence the way you view the world first, and your purchasing habits second. (They never quite go for the sell right away anymore, do they?) The strength of these messages will always, always try to evolve to be more intelligent than you. To outplay you. There are trillions of dollars on the line that dictate this. Messaging will always evolve to try to outsmart you. To breach your firewall, and get into your brain to change its wiring, all for the direct benefit of some remote group of people.

Privacy is your firewall. It’s a security update for the modern human being. Privacy prevents those who would abuse it from understanding you. Privacy says that you’d like to be excluded from the greedy and violent agendas of unknown parties. Privacy is protection so that you can live out a more meaningful and self-derived life. It's where the decisions you make try to be as objective and true as possible, with as little influence as possible from strange third-parties.

Privacy is truly about living a life of your own.


In the game Factorio, your goal is to create a well-oiled factory that produces objects which are then used in other parts of your factory. I had a flash addiction to this game, meaning I played it intensely for a period of two weeks, then never touched it again.

The game was dangerous. It synthesized the human incentive loop into a mind-wrapping game one could not help but be mercilessly sucked into. The game's purpose was mostly up to you, but, in order to upgrade your factory parts, in order to research new scientific methods of production, you needed to produce certain items at certain levels of scale. And so began the endless puzzle.

At every point in the game, you sort of have a silent objective: you want your factory to be "stable". You want it to produce goods, you want all the assembly lines to be running smoothly, and you want your natural resources flowing orderly into the machines that need it. In the beginning, you have coal and iron deposits close to where you begin, but after a while, you'll deplete these, and you'll need to build a railroad to ship resources from remote locations. So you revamp your factory to produce a whole other industry of products and parts, creating a perplexing logistics nightmare requiring high doses of problem solving. And you really want to solve it, because you're this close to stability.

But it never comes.

You never get stability. You tell yourself, surely I have all the parts, strategy, and experience needed to get this factory flowing smoothly and with high levels of autonomy.

But things break. They need repair. Resources dry up here and there. Assembly lines get backed up. So you beef up your operation further still, installing new machines and enforcing new procedures. Things look great for not more than ten seconds before you realize your entire factory seems to be operating with less zeal, less intensity. Ah, electricity production is low. Need more steam engines. Need more generators. Need more towers.

Tragically, no matter how close you get to seeming operational bliss, the cycle of upgrades never end. And so, two weeks into this strangely grasping game, I said, why? Why should I keep playing? More resources, more machines, more production...more problems.

We've been here before haven't we?

My inability to find stable contentedness clashed with my desire to grow. And so the only way through it was to cycle. Content for a day, growth-seeking for a week. Contentedness for a day causes no problems, in the long run. It's a no-op. Growth-seeking for just one day, however, creates exponential future responsibility that may be impossible to absolve yourself from.

So how do you play this game peacefully?

With Factorio, I couldn't find a way. I couldn't find a way to play it without being relentlessly capitalistic. A company, of course, is a factory no different. The goal was to create a factory so simple, that it could achieve autonomy merely by fact of nimbleness. But a factory is living. And as with things that live, growth is as inescapable as the air we inhabit. Growth is time + adaptability.

So the question becomes, if a simple factory isn't within the realm of physics, does one pursue a simpler factory? Or is it all the same. Complex, simple, and anywhere in between: is it all the same?

My nihilistic side says, of course it's all the same. Everything's the same. And nothing matters.

My optimistic side, my hopeful side, my ambitious side, says: of course they're different. Of course less problems is better than more problems.

But infinity minus one is still infinity. Infinity cut in half is still infinity. It would seem, that if optimizing the stability of my consciousness is the goal, then consciousness seems to have a wrapping effect around anything that it encounters, such that it occupies one problem with the same intensity it would occupy a hundred problems.

So cheers. Cheers to this lovely game we find ourselves in. Cheers to the physical laws in whose arena we play out the relentless process of consciousness. Cheers to instinct, emotions, chemicals, disease, drought, destruction, production, and competition. And a huge cheer—nay, a standing ovation—for the mystery.

This is one hell of an experience.

You, Deity

We make plans as if our future self were rational, when present self is never more than a galactic mess of emotions.

Present you is the only possible person that can save you.

How to learn programming the natural way

Some years ago, I had a fellow developer ask me where I learned to type on the keyboard. I said, huh? What do you mean. It’s a keyboard. You just tap on it, and eventually you get rally tappy on it. I’ve been doing it since I was three feet tall. He said oh. “I took one of those Mavis Beacon typing classes.”

Both of us, at that point, were equally proficient in typing on a keyboard and understood the super complex mechanics of hand placement and proper finger etiquette. I learnt it absentmindedly, and he learned it brute force. The result is the same. One method is just less exhilarating.

As I’ve stretched through my expanse of time, I’ve found it somewhat increasingly difficult to teach myself new tricks. As a kid, learning is a thing you’re always doing. As an adult, learning is something you need to make time for. Today, programming is as gushing a prospect as gold in the old west. And right before you are all the tools you can possibly need. Tragically, the burden lies on you: will you put in the time?

But as I’ve heard from others, and read on blogs about people’s journey to learn programming, two things are mentioned very often: it’s very hard knowing where to start, and it’s very hard even after you know where to start.

So lots of people give up.

I’ve given up on many, many things in my life. Programming was not one of them, and I’m grateful to my past, clueless self. But that’s exactly it: I learned programming not because of some grand insight and keen forethought. I learned it because I wanted to change the damn color of some rectangle to red.

That’s it. That’s all that's needed to learn programming. You can read hundreds of blog posts and watch a dozen videos on how to program, and at the end of it still be completely incapacitated. Or, you can feel your way through it. From an end result, work backwards, rather than forwards. That is, rather than starting from the absolute beginning (which is completely maddening by the way; blank slates are the most uncomfortable point of any project, even till this day), you start with the end result already in front of you, and you tweak some tiny variable, and you see how it behaves.

That’s sort of how machine learning algorithms work, isn’t it? You try this statistical possibility, observe the result, and give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Eventually, it finds a way. You, a machine learner, do the same: find the source code of a complete project, set up the environment (here be dragons), and get the app running. Then, find one thing you want to change about the app, like a color, font, width, height, and figure out what file you’d need to change to do that.

Changing a green rectangle to red might take you hours on the first attempt. Maybe even days. You’ll have to google yourself to exhaustion, in ways you’ve never googled yourself before. Eventually, of course, it becomes common to you. So you give yourself harder and harder tasks. “Ok, I can change the rectangle to any color I want. Can I make two rectangles appear side by side?”

Follow that path, continually make new challenges for yourself, and eventually, you’ll know how to program. Programming isn’t a bunch of rules you need to learn in some strict order, and even if it were, it might take the rest of your life to learn them all. Programming is just this language you learn to speak in varying degrees. You never quite master it. You entertain yourself with how expressive you can be with this newfound language.

But you learn to speak it, just by speaking it.

My wife gets notified of new blog posts, read this one, and said that it inspired her. She said, however, that it might be helpful if you included some resources in the post. I said, well that's the whole point: you don't need any resources. You just need to find an opensource project, and run it. She said, run it where? I laughed. Ok, so obviously, there are different levels of expertise here. But, the point is, you should struggle a little bit. It's ok not knowing. As long as you have an end goal, and are determined, you will find a solution. You can start with running the encrypted notes project I work on called Standard Notes. It's in JavaScript, and setting it up locally is not too bad:

Dog food is soylent for dogs

What to feed the poor little man? This dog is real beyond words, and every slight negligence of attention on my part is an injustice to his world. So I try to accommodate our guest. Love, warmth, long walks, and infinitely satisfying cuddle sessions. I would be a five star establishment, were it not for negligence and ignorance of the most important part of the experience.

Rock food. How painful yet the sight of it is. Tiny rock-hard pebbles that give your dog only the best of what he needs. The true essence of food. The bags are irresistible: a menagerie of perfectly seasoned chicken, rich sweet potatoes, forest green peas, and some radioactively violet blueberries. You buy the bag thinking, that’s all in there. But, let’s be honest. It’s not. You, me—we’re just suckers for marketing. We're not the ones eating it. No, we’re sold on the image.

But give it to any dog that has tasted real food, and they will be the first to tell you—this is not real food. You’re an asshole for feeding me this. You try to bargain, convincing him and yourself that this is the only sustainable arrangement. He says, I’d rather starve.

And so my dog does not always display his highest levels of motivation towards rock food. He’s obviously not dumb enough to starve himself to death, so he’ll eat it when he’s given up all hope of a better life. Food is one of the most intensely satisfying experiences of this strange existence, and I rob him of this pleasure daily.

The real yet silently cruel solution would have been to never expose a dog to real food, show him this rock food, and say, “I swear, this is how food is on planet Earth.” But, it’s far too late for that here.

I saw a viral tweet some time ago about a guy who fed his dog raw meat for a period of several months (ground beef and chicken legs, if I remember correctly). He showed a before and after picture, and it was thoroughly stunning. The dog's pale white coat and deeply tired eyes transformed into a rich golden fleece and a sharp, bold gaze.

Can it really be?

Who knows. It’s hard to tell what’s real anymore. So I put it in my backlog. “Look into this.”

Today, as I was pouring some bagged rock food with excellent branding into my beloved dog’s plate, I finally looked into it. And I said, what is this crap? Like, seriously? I shook the bag around, and the rocks started moving, banging against each other with a thick kshhhing sound. I smelled it, and it smelled like nothing. What’ here? So I took a look at the ingredients.

Organic chicken, organic chicken meal, organic sweet potatoes, organic chickpeas, organic peas, organic blueberries, organic alfalfa meal, organic coconut oil, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, salmon oil, iron amino acid complex, organic rosemary extract,…..

Well shit. I mean, this checks out, right? Those ingredients all sound good. It’s got all the things that food science says should sustain a long, healthy being.

Something like Soylent, right? Exactly like soylent. Dog food is soylent for dogs.

And now I feel bad. Have you tried a soylent diet? I couldn’t last even 1 day. Real food is unmistakable.

Common Genius

Excellent taste plus average resourcefulness, or average taste and excellent resourcefulness, is about all it would take.

Resourcefulness is a better way to phrase intelligence, as intelligence seems useless without the ability to impact neighboring matter. Resourcefulness can thus be found anywhere, and not imaginarily confined to unique circles.

I had a friend call me once, lamenting how his unique struggles are owed primarily to his high level of intelligence. I said, are you sure? Now don’t get me wrong—this man is a genius of unique kind. But what even is intelligence? Your ability to solve a math problem? Or your ability to influence others? Even if we agreed on a definition of intelligence, it would be too single-minded to have any real influence. You need something more. Or, I would be prouder to possess another trait.

Resourcefulness sounds like spontaneous intelligence. Academic intelligence, on the other hand, has no more than the ability to write books, which is profound in its own regard, but not what we’re looking for here. Street smart? Sounds like it. I think that’s another way to say resourceful.

Average resourcefulness plus excellent taste can yield great products, yet if you find yourself lacking in taste, excellent resourcefulness can more than make up for it. The boss level is out of this world. Excellent resourcefulness and excellent taste. Only a few names come to mind, one of whom crafted the device I’m typing this on. But, take any high quality product, and there’s your magic sauce.

Can either be acquired through brute force? I’ve found that taste, you wake up to, and resourcefulness, well, that wavers. It should be an always on thing, but that would take us into the mind-fatiguing topic of the energy required to fuel resourcefulness.


I told my friend, my requirements are: simple work, simple life. But I also need this amount of money on a monthly basis to find peace. And that I would need more users to get there.


Ugh. That word. I cried in agony. What a trap more is. More is a thing with madness as its only logical conclusion. So why chase more?

More users.
More employees.
More revenue.
More markets.

More problems.

Why should I bother? I should close off registration today and say, That’s it. We’ve hit peak users for our company. Thanks for stopping by, but we're going to focus all our attention on our present user base. We're going to form a happy little self-sustaining community around an impossibly stable software product.

Can you imagine? What madness, huh?

Well, there’s no winning. I want peace, I want simplicity, but I also want more, like every other damned human on this planet. Which way should I go? My mind only looks to growth as the next possible step. My chatty metamind looks ten years ahead and says, for what? It’s all the same. My friend might at this point quote the buddhists and say, find peace with what you have. Or better yet, stop running from peace.

Is there buddhism for business?

Not all days are equal

Good days are good, bad days are bad, and there's nothing you can do about that. I find that if a bad mood stupefies you as to its origin, then, it's probably not your fault. You don't always need a reason. You can have two identical days with the exact same starting points, variables, circumstances and factors, and have the best day you've had in a long time in one, and be completely miserable the other, and have absolutely no guesses as to why. If it were deducible, which I do not think it is, it would be in the realm of chaos theory and not calculus, which even then would be difficult enough. Better to say, "my chemicals are off today." It's not me. It can't be me. I did nothing that could have possibly brought this on myself.

Not that this solves anything. I mean, I blamed it on my chemicals today and still felt like shit. But, if ever I had the impulse to start finding reasons as to the root of the cause, my shitiness intensified. God forbid I start asking myself, "what do I need to start changing about myself?" That's when the real stress kicks in. When you blame it on the chemicals, instead of blaming it on yourself, it at least leaves opportunity for a hard reset tomorrow. Usually, my chemicals do reset the next day. And I'll have no idea why I felt so bad yesterday. But, if I blame it on myself, then it almost always transfers over to the next day. Chemicals solve themselves over night. But self-condescending analysis of some deeply-rooted theoretical problems you may have carry over like an unsolved bug. And since they're only theories, you may never make progress, and trap yourself in a never ending cycle of self-pity.

Good days are good. Bad days are bad. It's as simple as that.


You're more likely to notice the bad things around you, than you are the good things. This is easy to notice. I have around me right now innumerable good things. I'm sheltered in a warm room, and have an endless supply of coffee. That's pretty good. My dog is snuggling cozily next to me, I'm not tired, I have food to eat, my bills are paid. Great, great things. But, it would be silly if that's all I thought about.

No, better to think about the bad things. So I can fix them.

Which proves, it doesn't matter what you have or don't have. Everyone is the same in that, when you have something, it's no longer on the fore of your consciousness. When you don't have something, it's all you can think about.

No one is better off. That we look to the future acquisition of some material as the next step in our journey towards contentedness is a trick our mind plays on us to compel us to act, not necessarily for our own good, but the collective good.

Ambiance Monetizer

I was at a coffee shop today and overheard someone talk about a book they purchased on Amazon.

Upon hearing that word, a bit immediately flipped in my brain and reminded me of a few things I’ve been meaning to order.

So I went and made a purchase.

I thought it would be funny if at some point Amazon introduces a device shops can place to monetize their ambiance, which at random times during the hour has no other purpose than to scream “Amazon!” as obnoxiously as possible.

Not open to suggestion

I recently took a trip with a friend, and noticed myself behaving extrinsically, rather than intrinsically, and felt dirty about it. That is, rather than drinking coffee when I felt like drinking coffee, my friend might awake earlier than me and say "Hey, I'm making coffee, want some?" To which I might reply, sure, why not!

I thought this was harmless, but carried on to other elements of life, you start living a life of suggestion.

"Hey, I'm taking a walk, want to join?" Sure, why not! When really, maybe I wanted to walk an hour from now.

That I was open to suggestion at first appears to be a trait of open-mindedness, but later manifested itself as: I don't feel that good. I drank coffee when I usually wouldn't have. I took walks when I usually wouldn't have. I ate this generously offered candy bar when I usually wouldn't have.

So the next day, I told my friend, I'm not open to suggestion today. He said, I'm making some coffee—want some? I said no, sorry, not open to suggestion today. I drank coffee about 45 minutes later when it felt right within me to do so. My friend said, hey, it's nice out, want to go on a hike? I said no, sorry, you go ahead. I'm not open to suggestion today. I took a hike about an hour later, when it felt right within me to do so. I applied this pattern throughout the entire day, and felt thoroughly better.

When I returned home, I felt myself unable to shed this mentality. I started becoming ultra sensitive to everything that was suggesting me to do something I didn't necessarily want to do. Everything in the artificial life is designed to influence you, and when you perform activities not because they feel right, but because there is either "nothing else to do", or because it's a certain time of day, you're living a life of suggestion.

The most flagrant belligerent?

The huge television in my living room. How else is one supposed to design a living room other than a square arrangement of sofas facing a huge flat screen TV? We certainly didn't know any better.

I found however that when I entered my home, tired and wanting of rest, and definitely without the thought of watching TV having crossed my mind—when I enter and sit on the couch, the huge TV is practically begging me to use it. The entire living room design is centered around the suggestion of watching TV. So, in many cases, you end up watching TV, or playing video games, not because it was inherently what you wanted to do, but because the design of your life is centered around oppressive suggestions that can be difficult to detect and resist.

We are constantly being suggested to—how we should feel, what we should be talking about, what activities we should do. When you open, there is a list of trending topics, which suggests that you too should be apprised of these events, and perhaps contribute to the conversation. You see your follower count, which suggests how you should feel, relative to others. Advertisements on TV are flagrantly suggestive, almost as to be entirely offensive. When I returned from my trip, I couldn't believe that flagrantly suggestive advertisements ("Cool, healthy, and fulfilled people drink Diet Coke.") are even societally acceptable. But what can we do.

In the country, on my trip, avoiding suggestion was extremely easy. It was a mostly natural environment. Back in the city life, everything about your environment is unconsciously designed to influence you. I avoided any thought or desire of watching TV or playing video games on my trip, but as soon as I returned home, my environment sucked me back in. Slowly at first, and now my grip is relinquishing entirely. Something needs to change.

I'm tempted to scrap my living room all together of any suggestion. If you want to watch TV, go on into that other room where the TV is. As for the living room, it should be a basecamp from where you launch your activities, based on internal impulses and not external influence. I would have done this in a heartbeat, but, obviously, "real life" has certain conditions. The in-between solution my wife and I agreed on was that we could cover the TV when it's not in use, perhaps either with a pull down curtain, or some sort of shutters. Why should a huge ass TV constantly insist on itself, even when you are not using it, or have no intention of using it?

I'm finding it harder and harder to resist suggestion in the artificial world. You can't just change yourself. There is no you. There is just the environment that makes you. It's why bad habits always come crawling back. It's not enough to just change yourself.

I'm still fighting hard to resist suggestion. I haven't checked any feed of any sort since my trip, including a Twitter feed, a news feed, or any other news-based feed. My rule is, you can tweet out if you want to, but, no feeding.

I also don't mind checking Twitter notifications if I have any, but again, the timeline is off limits. It's an endless feed of suggestion. "Don't know how you should feel right now? Here is a list of suggestions based on what other people are feeling." It's not a way to live.

My hope is to be intentional. To do something because it's inherently what I want to do. This isn't a blanket assault on consumption. It's an assault on unguided, unintentioned consumption. You can play video games, but only if you had it in your mind that you wanted to play video games prior to sitting down on the couch. You can watch TV, but only if you had it in your mind that you wanted to watch TV prior to seeing your TV. But when you are completely empty, and at the mercy of "what are my options?", you'll never quite feel at ease. You will always be at the mercy of suggestion, very far away from your internal state, which—make no mistake about it—has the ability to be at reasonable peace.

It's not your fault

Several years ago, I went vegan for six months, because I wanted to be conscientious. I was fortunate enough to exit that unfortunately ascetic lifestyle after realizing:

It’s not your fault you like meat.

Humans have been eating meat long before I was ever born. Long before any of us were ever born. We’ve been eating meat for millions of years.

If I crave it, it’s not my fault. Sure, I can try to fight it. I can resist my hardware. But if I give in, it’s not my fault.

It's not your fault the entire premise of biological existence is feeding on other biological beings.

It’s not your fault you’re confused living in a strange and artificial world.

It’s not your fault you like sweet and salty foods, even if to an excessive degree.

It's not your fault you've been conditioned to seek external sources of pleasure under the rule of consumerism. We are impressionable beings, and you were born into a world where small-minded humans before you have already strictly defined all the things, and how too you should see it.

It’s not your fault, during the endless dregs of your day, you flick ceaselessly through Twitter/Instagram/Facebook searching for something new.

It’s not your fault you're tired, sad, helpless, misshaped, sick, lost, fatigued, confused.

Because there is no you. There is no human individual. What we know as human is topological; is emergent. It’s the interconnected network of many of us. That's what makes you. One human individual is an alien concept altogether—one which is thoroughly unexplored, and ultimately undefined.

It’s not your fault you’re the result of history before you; that your thoughts, ideas, principles, fantasies, and desires are sometimes, maybe even often, culturally out of line.

It’s not your fault you’re trapped in a world you didn’t design.

The Artificial Life

There was a story some years ago about living circumstances for the 1.3 million employees of Foxconn in China, the company that builds Apple’s products. It’s a problem of scale, no doubt, but these workers lived in crammed boxes stacked atop one another high into the sky. In between the buildings, there was a net.

The net is an admission that suicide is embedded into the overall design of the arrangement, and short of a full-out global economic revolution, this was just the way it was going to be.

I thought of those people, and shook my head in pity. Those poor bastards.

In Sapiens, the author argues that the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago was the death of individual happiness. Systems that solve many of our problems do just that: they do the thing we were supposed to do. Millions of years of evolution have designed a human who feels at its most natural when performing certain actions which are in accordance with its instincts. In other words, it was by design that if you performed these actions, you would biologically feel good. That’s the whole premise.

In a few short years, and counting, we’ve managed to “solve" most of our yucky biological chores, like hunting and gathering, washing, cleaning, and today, cooking, traveling, and foraging (now called yelping).

It’s all taken care of by Uber for X.

What remains? What remains when all of our million-year-old chores are domesticated, and made ridiculously effortless—as easy as a few haptic taps on a surface? What do you call that existence, when you are completely absolved of biological chore?

Enter The Artificial Life.

The Artificial Life is not one of nature. It is a woefully unprescient conception designed by us, and mostly facilitated through the use of language. Our bodies, our minds, and the concert of their interactions are unable to fully appreciate the Artificial Life. It's still trying to do something else.

The Artificial Life is city living. Any city. If you can get food delivered to you in under an hour, you are living the Artificial Life, even if you don’t exercise that power frequently. In the Artificial Life, you do things that are abstract; that nothing in the natural world, including our bodies, can really make sense of. Watching Netflix on a rectangular TV hung up on your wall? That isn’t a real task. It’s not a real thing. It’s abstract pleasure for our unapologetically reward seeking mind. Our brain is tricked in a hundred which ways before watching Netflix is recognized as a real thing you’re doing. But our body doesn’t get it. It produces real chemicals when things happen on a fake display.

Here are things you might do in the natural world that evolution has recognized as fulfilling:

  • Hunt or gather food
  • Cook the food
  • Collect wood for a fire
  • Build a fire
  • Build a home
  • Explore the earth around you
  • Do nothing, after a tiring day’s work

Here are things you might do in the Artificial Life:

  • Have food delivered to you in 35 minutes
  • Set your Nest to 74 degrees
  • Turn on your digital fireplace
  • Build a home in Minecraft
  • Explore Twitter
  • Do nothing, after a tiring day’s work, and feel guilty for doing so

Is it any wonder why fulfillment is lacking in abundance in cities?

I spend a lot of time fine-tuning my artificial life to optimize for fulfillment and peace. I make progress, but it’s always fleeting. The wisdom which I might have gained a few weeks ago about being more present is today no longer cutting it. I need something new. So I go search, for the same thing, in a different package.

And this cycle repeats, and repeats, and repeats. I might just be ok realizing there is no fulfilling city life. Not until a bridge is built between the abstract and the physical. Not until our bodies understand where they are.

Presently, they haven't got a clue.


Sometimes, when I’m deep in it, I think that there are several billion people on the planet, all worrying after something. Each and every one has found some way to entertain their mind with the wonderfully wicked world of what if. And it must be, if each of us is worrying ceaselessly after something—it must be that our worlds aren’t as real as we think they are.

Sometimes, it helps to know that my problems are sort of...imaginary.

After reading the above to myself, I realize another aspect, which is perfectly contradicting.

Emergence is a wild phenomenon, and something that would by definition be impossible for the individual to recognize. Emergence, put simply, is the phenomenon whereby the sum of the parts exhibit behaviors not present in the constituents. Wikipedia:

Emergence is a phenomenon whereby larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities such that the larger entities exhibit properties the smaller/simpler entities do not exhibit.

Perhaps our worrying is a great contribution we make to the collective entity that is Human Emergent? I'm accustomed to viewing worrying as a bug, not a feature; a vestigial trait. But, I don't even have to contemplate the bigger picture aloud: it's clear something's up. This level of advancement, while infinitely underwhelming, appears to be unheard of.

Perhaps our sadness, worry, and anxiety is a uniquely delicious nutrient for Human Emergent?

This Kurzgesagt video delivers a quick mind-blow on the topic:
Emergence – How Stupid Things Become Smart Together