As I was discussing at length with NFTieri and Dmitri Cherniakii during our respective 9(!)-hour art-walk-and-talks in New York City this past week, it’s hard to counter-culturally overemphasise the degree to which Production > Consumption.iii
Unfortunately, the way our world is currently designed is extractively and corruptingly consumption-oriented. But recognising that this is so still begs the question: why might this be the case and what can we do about it?
One less-than-flattering hypothesis for the rock-headed averagistasiv in the audience might be that we’ve created a socioeconomic environment with sooooo much narrow material wealth that we’ve grossly outstripped the imaginative and spiritual capacities needed to leverage them, and so find ourselves in a Wile E. Coyote moment where we’ve run over the edge of the cliff and are in fact living out JM Keynes’ wildest work-life-balance dreams without us being so much the wiser for it, nor society so much the more prosperous for it, not the future so much the more bountiful for it.
Tragicomically, instead of leveraging our newfound leisure to create untold splendours and reach new heights of human civilisation – the kind that would make the fourth millenium‘s Napolean weep at our feet – we find ourselves merely capable of filling our evidently worthless days with mindless meetings and bureaucratic make-work projects, pretending to “work” “full-time” when in fact only putting in at most a day’s honest labour per week, with the rest spent busily doom-scrolling, “optimising,” or vapidly status-seeking atop the sinking titanic that is our late-stage industrial society. Turns out, the overwhelming majority of “people” don’t deserve leisure and the world would be a better place if they had 99% less of it!
I mean really, how else can we reconcile the current blitzkrieg of technological accelerationism of AI/BMIv with the idea that this very same technology also appears to be corroding the iron trusses undergirding the very civilisation that creates and maintains it? Is this not cybernetic cicada meets oneric ouroboros? Surely it is…vi
Not that we’re without antidotes! Simply put, if somewhat harder to execute, we must now leverage family-orientation, self-discipline, and the latest technology to empty our cups that we may fill them anew:
In this sun-drenched world, the biggest flex is the most fleeting flex. The winner is he who denies durable physicality and whole-heartedly embraces the transience of all existence, no matter an object’s pretences to longevity. Thus comes the drive for goods that are ever cheaper (in the qualitative sense) yet ever more expensive (in the quantitative sense), all so that the alpha can look death in the eye by denying the mere possibility of immortality, as he always has. Amor fati is sexy, cool, and priviledged, now as ever. Today it just feeds on art fairs (and fashions shows) instead of battlefields and gladiatorial arenas. […]
In this light, the metaverse of the future might then rightfully be the world of the fragile, the world of the empty, the world in need of constant repair, where the vagabond is reified, the gypsy is glorified, in which we’re all rootless Wandering Jews, even those of us who are megalomaniacal performance artists. Maybe especially so.
And on the other side we dream of civilisations heights that return Glory and Transcendence to their proper place at the acme of all, not least of all as represented in our architecture, which has, since the late 19th century, favoured historically lowly Houses of Commercevii over the correctly high Houses of God as the most significant structures (ie. tallest buildings) in our cities.viii And in our personal lives, we fight with every fiber of our beings against the massively winnowing (bordering on genocidal) societal “defaults” that turn us away from production and towards cicadian-ouroborian consumption, and instead we find every available avenue to produce value for our fellow man, and especially so for our successors. Particularly as parents, we have a responsibility to model the future world we wish to inhabit.
- NFTier and I had an absolutely transcendent conversation first at The Met, then at the World Trade Center Apple Store where we tried on the new Vision Pro, and then finally at his family’s home where I was treated to an incredible home-cooked Pakistani dinner while we watched the national election (instead of the Superbowl obviously).
- Dmitri and I first met up at his studio in Brooklyn to check out the thoughtfully crafted and increasingly famous “Floor Ringer” sculpture,
then we went to MoMA to make our own Goose JPEGs and have lunch at the picturesque The Modern restaurant before taking in the 1880s-1940s collection on the 5th floor. Then we parted ways for a couple hours while he went home to say hello to his darling new baby and I went to pick-up my Deafbeef Hashmarks from Bright Moments, before Dmitri and I reconvened for Zoya Cherkassky’s conversation at The Jewish Museum, followed by the most memorable restaurant meal I had all week at Hummus Kitchen in the Upper East Side.
- Produce value for the world and the world will pay us back 1000-fold! This is what is meant by “’tis better to give than to receive.” It’s all connected and it all comes back around as long as we’re constantly looking for ways to give of ourselves. Said another way by Joseph Campbell (via Tom Morgan):
My life course is absolutely indifferent to money. As a result, a lot of money has come in by my doing what I feel I want to do from the inside. If you do that, you are doing things that attract money, because you are giving life and life responds in the way of its counterpart in hard coin.
- Some say that this 3-year-old article comparing Mitch Chan’s IKB to EtherRocks could be published today (in light of Sotheby’s sealed-bid EtherRock sale concluding in a few days (link/archived) and be just as impactful. Thankfully we’ve got archives innit! ↩
- What’s the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMI), you ask? Hard to point out a clearer vision of this future and our future than that put forward by our man CEBK, which is really nothing less than seeing AI/BMI as the “mech suits” of our re-racinating anti-sterility cults (emphasis added):
As the cosmopolitan order Balkanizes into insular fertility cults, we’ll shift away from technologies of centralization—economies of scale & infrastructures of distribution—& towards modularity. Groups that make AI & neuralink their “mech suits” will win: Eg: assembly lines were great for the centralization era—they made us the mech suits for bureaucracies & protocols—but now these institutions & procedures have ossified atop us; AI et al can be substitutes for coordination, rather than complements to it… Consider banalities of work: assembly lines required everyone at an employer to be harmonized with everyone else, & thus achieved great efficiency, but now managers hurt efficiency by keeping us “too harmonized” (ie distracted from discipline & creativity by emails, meetings…)…In other words: the “transhumanism” of “uploading” ourselves into borg-type culture has become self-destructively misaligned, & the “tradhumanism” of getting an Angelic Intelligence to “manage the managers” for us is our first step towards freedom; ie artisanal workshops & guilds. This banal first step quickly accelerates “cultural evolution”—thanks to the “inference boost” which AI et al will grant us—but if cultures are selected for “habits” over “memes” (ie. if the sclerotic world-borg frays) then they quickly drift apart & speciate; depth beats breadth. If these rapidly evolving “habits” aren’t integrated into our biology, then they’ll be selected for acting somewhat like other chronic diseases (whereas respiratory viruses—like memes—optimize more for between-body spread because they’re more contagious): Cultures that metastasize like cancers in us aren’t necessarily bad—it can be good to give yourself over to mining one particular idea—but if cultures are spread like STDs (ie thru intimate contact) rather than like DNA (ie thru gamete bottlenecks) then…
- This is a metaphor inspired by 113’s X Spaces, which come highly recommended. They’re fruitful! ↩
- In Traditional Japan, merchants had lower status than farmers… because at least farmers made something! ↩
- When specifically, you might ask, did this ignoble and self-important transition occur? Well, it depends on the exact city, but here are a few notable examples:
- Chicago: The Home Insurance Building, completed in 1885, is often considered the world’s first skyscraper and surpassed the height of any church in the city.
- New York City: The Park Row Building, completed in 1899, surpassed the height of the Trinity Church.
- London: St. Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in London until 1962, when it was surpassed by the BT Tower.
- Paris: The Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889, surpassed the height of any church in Paris.
- Frankfurt: Frankfurt Cathedral was the tallest structure until the 1970s when the Westend Gate (formerly known as Plaza Büro Center) was completed.
This is New York City’s skyline in 2024. Poor little St. Patrick’s Cathedral is no match for 30 Rock and its corrupting ilk!