Highlights for Escapology

The first lesson Amiga learnt when she started to kill was how easy it is, and how utterly horrifying that can be.
All the homes here are assembled from huge 3D-printed parts and brightly coloured, though it’s hard to see in the meagre lighting. The brainchild of a design genie called Liberty, printed homes have become ubiquitous amongst under-mono communities, transforming them from shantytowns to neat, albeit crowded plastic villages. Everything modernizes eventually.
Having the right parts, being able to bear living inside himself, was more important.
Can’t entertain anything like that, even if he knows it could be true. Shock survives like this: focus on Sendai; forget everything else.
She’s not sure if she’s lying. But saying it makes it real, whether it’s truth or not.
Shoving emotion down should not feel this dangerous, she’s been doing it for years.
That’s why this is his family. People who allow you to be who you are, who’ll await your growth and change patiently, aware that everything happens in good time, they’re hard to come by.
As I said, we are fucked to a monumental degree.
She seemed different though. Less frosty, more like a human being. Odd quirk for a Cleaner. He wonders if it was new. She didn’t seem to know what to do with it. With herself. Only looked certain when she was killing.
She’s what was made of her, and so is he. And both of them want to change it. That’s why they’re here.
“Well, I’m a pragmatist. I say maybe things happen for a reason, maybe they don’t, but when you reach a point where you can take chance and turn it into intent, you don’t walk away. You act.”
Your problem, Amiga, is that you only see people in terms of yourself, and we all fail to match up, whether we could or not. I get it. I get the difference between what you do and what we’ve done.
Am I never going to stop feeling like an absolute shit around you? Not if you continue to be one.

Highlights for Dead Souls

The newcomer was somehow never at a loss and showed himself to be an experienced man of the world. Whatever the conversation, he always knew how to keep up his end: if the talk was of horse breeding, he spoke about horse breeding; if they were speaking of fine dogs, here, too, he made very sensible observations; if the discussion touched upon an investigation conducted by the treasury—he showed that he was not uninformed about legal wiles; if there were some argument about the game of billiards—in the game of billiards, too, he would not go amiss; if they spoke of virtue, on virtue, too, he reasoned very well, tears even came to his eyes; if on the distilling of spirits, then on the distilling of spirits he also knew his stuff; if on customs supervisors and officials, of them, too, he could judge as if he himself had been both an official and a supervisor.
Although, of course, they are not such notable characters, and are what is known as secondary or even tertiary, although the main lines and springs of the poem do not rest on them, and perhaps only occasionally touch and graze them lightly—still, the author is extremely fond of being circumstantial in all things, and in this respect, despite his being a Russian man, he wishes to be as precise as a German.
And in boarding schools, as we know, three main subjects constitute the foundation of human virtue: the French language, indispensable for a happy family life; the pianoforte, to afford a husband agreeable moments; and, finally, the managerial part proper: the crocheting of purses and other surprises.
But Selifan simply could not recall whether he had passed two or three turns. Thinking back and recalling the road somewhat, he realized that there had been many turns, all of which he had skipped. Since a Russian man in a critical moment finds what to do without going into further reasonings, he shouted, after turning right at the next crossroads: “Hup, my honored friends!” and started off at a gallop, thinking little of where the road he had taken would lead him.
A Russian driver has good instinct in place of eyes; as a result, he sometimes goes pumping along at full speed, eyes shut, and always gets somewhere or other.
He is among us everywhere, and is perhaps only wearing a different caftan; but people are light-mindedly unperceptive, and a man in a different caftan seems to them a different man.
Everything is desolate, and the stilled surface of the unresponding element is all the more terrible and deserted after that.
To such worthlessness, pettiness, vileness a man can descend! So changed he can become! Does this resemble the truth? Everything resembles the truth, everything can happen to a man. The now ardent youth would jump back in horror if he were shown his own portrait in old age. So take with you on your way, as you pass from youth’s tender years into stern, hardening manhood, take with you every humane impulse, do not leave them by the wayside, you will not pick them up later! Terrible, dreadful old age looms ahead, and nothing does it give back again!
And so your little shop fell into neglect, and you took to drinking and lying about in the streets, saying all the while: ‘No, it’s a bad world! There’s no life for a Russian man, the Germans keep getting in the way.’
Our ranks and estates are so irritated these days that they take personally whatever appears in printed books: such, evidently, is the mood in the air. It is enough simply to say that there is a stupid man in a certain town, and it already becomes personal; suddenly a gentleman of respectable appearance pops up and shouts: “But I, too, am a man, which means that I, too, am stupid”—in short, he instantly grasps the situation.
a new governor-general had been appointed to the province—an event known to put officials into a state of alarm: there would be reshuffling, reprimanding, lambasting, and all the official belly-wash to which a superior treats his subordinates.
During that time he had the pleasure of experiencing those agreeable moments, familiar to every traveler, when the trunk is all packed and only strings, scraps of paper, and various litter are strewn about the room, when a man belongs neither to the road nor to sitting in place,
but he came out just as the saying goes: ‘Not like mother, not like father, but like Roger the lodger.’
If you please your superior, then even if you don’t succeed in your studies and God has given you no talent, you will still do well and get ahead of everybody.
Don’t keep company with your schoolmates, they won’t teach you any good; but if you do, then keep company with the richer ones, on the chance that they may be useful to you. Do not regale or treat anyone, but rather behave in such a way that they treat you, and above all keep and save your kopeck: it is the most reliable thing in the world. A comrade or companion will cheat you and be the first to betray you in trouble; but a kopeck will never betray you, whatever trouble you get into. You can do everything and break through everything with a kopeck.
without gaining favor beforehand, as we all know, even the simplest document or certificate cannot be obtained; a bottle of Madeira must at least be poured down every gullet
But there are passions that it is not for man to choose. They are born with him at the moment of his birth into this world, and he is not granted the power to refuse them. They are guided by a higher destiny, and they have in them something eternally calling, never ceasing throughout one’s life.
Chichikov just smiled, jouncing slightly on his leather cushion, for he loved fast driving. And what Russian does not love fast driving? How can his soul, which yearns to get into a whirl, to carouse, to say sometimes: “Devil take it all!”—how can his soul not love it? Not love it when something ecstatically wondrous is felt in it?
He began to find myriads of faults in him, and came to hate him for having such a sugary expression when talking to a superior, and straightaway becoming all vinegar when addressing a subordinate.
Where is he who, in the native tongue of our Russian soul, could speak to us this all-powerful word: forward? who, knowing all the forces and qualities, and all the depths of our nature, could, by one magic gesture, point the Russian man towards a lofty life? With what words, with what love the grateful Russian man would repay him! But century follows century, half a million loafers, sluggards, and sloths lie in deep slumber, and rarely is a man born in Russia who is capable of uttering it, this all-powerful word.
Our Pavel Ivanovich showed an extraordinary flexibility in adapting to everything. He approved of the philosophical unhurriedness of his host, saying that it promised a hundred-year life. About solitude he expressed himself rather felicitously—namely, that it nursed great thoughts in a man. Having looked at the library and spoken with great praise of books in general, he observed that they save a man from idleness. In short, he let fall few words, but significant.
“Ah!” the colonel said with a smile, “there’s the benefit of paperwork! It will indeed take longer, but nothing will escape: every little detail will be in view.”
The commission for divers petitions existed only on a signboard. Its chairman, a former valet, had been transferred to the newly formed village construction committee. He had been replaced by the clerk Timoshka, who had been dispatched on an investigation—to sort things out between the drunken steward and the village headman, a crook and a cheat. No official anywhere.
“Now, what could be clearer? You have peasants, so you should foster them in their peasant way of life. What is this way of life? What is the peasant’s occupation? Ploughing? Then see to it that he’s a good ploughman. Clear? No, clever fellows turn up who say: ‘He should be taken out of this condition. The life he leads is too crude and simple: he must be made acquainted with the objects of luxury.’ They themselves, owing to this luxury, have become rags instead of people, and got infested with devil knows what diseases,
I say to the muzhik: ‘Whoever you work for, whether me, or yourself, or a neighbor, just work. If you’re active, I’ll be your first helper. You have no livestock, here’s a horse for you, here’s a cow, here’s a cart … Whatever you need, I’m ready to supply you with, only work. It kills me if your management is not well set up, and I see disorder and poverty there. I won’t suffer idleness. I am set over you so that you should work.’
“He who was born with thousands, who was brought up on thousands, will acquire no more: he already has his whims and whatnot! One ought to begin from the beginning, not from the middle. From below, one ought to begin from below. Only then do you get to know well the people and life amidst which you’ll have to make shift afterwards. Once you’ve suffered this or that on your own hide, and have learned that every kopeck is nailed down with a three-kopeck nail, and have gone through every torment, then you’ll grow so wise and well schooled that you won’t blunder or go amiss in any undertaking.
I often think, in fact: ‘Now, why is so much intelligence given to one head? Now, if only one little drop of it could get into my foolish pate, if only so that I could keep my house! I don’t know how to do anything, I can’t do anything!’ Ah, Pavel Ivanovich, take it into your care! Most of all I pity the poor muzhiks. I feel that I was never able to be …* what do you want me to do, I can’t be exacting and strict. And how could I get them accustomed to order if I myself am disorderly! I’d set them free right now, but the Russian man is somehow so arranged, he somehow can’t do without being prodded … He’ll just fall asleep, he’ll just get moldy.
We were educated, and how do we live? I went to the university and listened to lectures in all fields, yet not only did I not learn the art and order of living, but it seems I learned best the art of spending more money on various new refinements and comforts, and became better acquainted with the objects for which one needs money.
“One needs a supply of reasonableness,” said Chichikov, “one must consult one’s reasonableness every moment, conduct a friendly conversation with it.”
He still did not know that in Russia, in Moscow and other cities, there are such wizards to be found, whose life is an inexplicable riddle. He seems to have spent everything, is up to his ears in debt, has no resources anywhere, and the dinner that is being given promises to be the last; and the diners think that by the next day the host will be dragged off to prison. Ten years pass after that—the wizard is still holding out in the world, is up to his ears in debt more than ever, and still gives a dinner in the same way, and everybody thinks it will be the last, and everybody is sure that the next day the host will be dragged off to prison.

Highlights for Crucial Conversations

As it turns out, you don’t have to choose between being honest and being effective. You don’t have to choose between candor and your career. People who routinely hold crucial conversations and hold them well are able to express controversial and even risky opinions in a way that gets heard. Their bosses, peers, and direct reports listen without becoming defensive or angry.
When two or more of us enter crucial conversations, by definition we don’t share the same pool. Our opinions differ. I believe one thing; you another. I have one history; you another.
when people feel comfortable speaking up and meaning does flow freely, the shared pool can dramatically increase a group’s ability to make better decisions.
People who believe they need to start with themselves do just that. As they work on themselves, they also become the most skilled at dialogue. So here’s the irony. It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills. As is often the case, the rich get richer.
Put succinctly, when you name the game, you can stop playing it.
Asking questions about what we really want serves two important purposes. First, it reminds us of our goal. Second, it juices up our brain in a way that helps us keep focused.
Third, present your brain with a more complex problem. Finally, combine the two into an and question that forces you to search for more creative and productive options than silence and violence.
On the other hand, if you make it safe enough, you can talk about almost anything and people will listen.
When you don’t feel safe, even well-intended comments are suspect.
if you don’t feel safe, you can’t take any feedback.
So instead of taking their attack as a sign that safety is at risk, you take it at its face—as an attack. “I’m under attack!” you think. Then the dumb part of your brain kicks in and you respond in kind. Or maybe you try to escape.
Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning.
Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool.
The best don’t play games. Period. They know that in order to solve their problem, they’ll need to talk about their problem—with no pretending, sugarcoating, or faking. So they do something completely different. They step out of the content of the conversation, make it safe, and then step back in. Once safety is restored, they can talk about nearly anything.
Mutual Purpose means that others perceive that you’re working toward a common outcome in the conversation, that you care about their goals, interests, and values. And vice versa. You believe they care about yours.
Before you begin, examine your motives. Ask yourself the Start with Heart questions:  •    What do I want for me?  •    What do I want for others?  •    What do I want for the relationship?
Mutual Respect is the continuance condition of dialogue. As people perceive that others don’t respect them, the conversation immediately becomes unsafe and dialogue comes to a screeching halt.
Ask the following question to determine when Mutual Respect is at risk:  •    Do others believe I respect them?
We Start with Heart by committing to stay in the conversation until we invent a solution that serves a purpose we both share.
We also have to be willing to verbalize this commitment even when our partner seems committed to winning. We act on faith that our partner is stuck in silence or violence because he or she feels unsafe.
Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. We add meaning to the action we observed. We make a guess at the motive driving the behavior. Why were they doing that? We also add judgment—is that good or bad? And then, based on these thoughts or stories, our body responds with an emotion.
People who excel at dialogue are able to influence their emotions during crucial conversations. They recognize that while it’s true that at first we are in control of the stories we tell—after all, we do make them up of our own accord—once they’re told, the stories control us.
Question your feelings and stories. Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, you have to stop and ask, given the circumstances, is it the right feeling?
Don’t confuse stories with facts. Sometimes you fail to question your stories because you see them as immutable facts.
Either our stories are completely accurate and propel us in healthy directions, or they’re quite inaccurate but justify our current behavior—making us feel good about ourselves and calling for no need to change.
These five tools can be easily remembered with the acronym STATE. It stands for:  •    Share your facts  •    Tell your story  •    Ask for others’ paths  •    Talk tentatively  •    Encourage testing
To make matters worse, this strategy creates still another self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re so anxious to blurt out our unflattering conclusions that we say things in extremely ineffective ways. Then, when we get bad results (and we are going to get bad results), we tell ourselves that we just can’t share risky views without creating problems. So the next time we’ve got something sticky to say, we’re even more reluctant to say it. We hold it inside where the story builds up steam, and when we do eventually share our horrific story, we do so with a vengeance. The cycle starts all over again.
One of the ironies of dialogue is that, when talking with those holding opposing opinions, the more convinced and forceful you act, the more resistant others become. Speaking in absolute and overstated terms does not increase your influence, it decreases it. The converse is also true—the more tentatively you speak, the more open people become to your opinions.
You should never pretend to be less confident than you are. But likewise, you should not pretend to be more confident than your limited capacity allows. Our observations could be faulty. Our stories—well, they’re only educated guesses.
By tentatively sharing a story rather than attacking, name-calling, and threatening, the worried spouse averted a huge battle, and the couple’s relationship was strengthened at a time when it could easily have been damaged.
You simply have to win. There’s too much at risk and only you have the right ideas. Left to their own devices, others will mess things up. So when you care a great deal and are sure of your views, you don’t merely speak—you try to force your opinions into the pool of meaning. You know, drown people in the truth. Quite naturally, others resist. You in turn push even harder.
Open yourself up to the belief that others might have something to say, and better still, they might even hold a piece of the puzzle—and then ask them for their views.
By holding people accountable, not only do you increase their motivation and ability to deliver on promises, but you create a culture of integrity.
If others don’t want to talk about tough issues, it’s because they believe that it won’t do any good. Either they aren’t good at dialogue, or you aren’t, or you both aren’t—or so they think.
Every time you become aggressive or insulting, you give your spouse additional evidence that crucial conversations do nothing but cause harm.
Make it perfectly clear that once you’ve given an assignment, there are only two acceptable paths. Employees need to complete the assignment as planned, or if they run into a problem, they need to immediately inform you. No surprises. Similarly, if they decide that another job needs to be done instead, they call you. No surprises.
That is, people who improve their dialogue skills continually ask themselves whether they’re in or out of dialogue.
The other person has the ability to choose how to respond to your efforts. These skills are not techniques for controlling others; they are not tools for manipulating behavior or eliminating others’ agency. These skills have limits and do not guarantee that other people will behave in exactly the way you desire.
If yse these skills exactly the way we tell you to and the other person doesn’t want to dialogue, you won’t get to dialogue. However, if you persist over time, refusing to take offense, making your motive genuine, showing respect, and constantly searching for Mutual Purpose, then the other person will almost always join you in dialogue.

I read this science-fiction short story which is reminiscent of Ann Leckie’s books in how it plays with gender and militarism, but I think this is better.

Highlights for Winners Take All

Instead, the system—in America and around the world—has been organized to siphon the gains from innovation upward, such that the fortunes of the world’s billionaires now grow at more than double the pace of everyone else’s, and the top 10 percent of humanity have come to hold 90 percent of the planet’s wealth.
How can there be anything wrong with trying to do good? The answer may be: when the good is an accomplice to even greater, if more invisible, harm.
For when elites assume leadership of social change, they are able to reshape what social change is—above all, to present it as something that should never threaten winners.
The only thing better than controlling money and power is to control the efforts to question the distribution of money and power.
They were supposed to make democracy more vital and effective for ordinary people, but preferably without challenging their fellow winners too much. They were to grow the public’s trust in institutions without digging too far into why the people leading those institutions were mistrusted.
Such an undertaking would be conflictual; it would name names of offending financial institutions; it would pick fights with people who might one day be useful to you.
you might conclude that you should do something to repair the systems that are working to keep Jacobs poor. But if those problems were solved, you wouldn’t have much of a win-win business to grow.
VCs and entrepreneurs are considered by many to be thinkers these days, their commercial utterances treated like ideas, and these ideas are often in the future tense: claims about the next world, forged by adding up the theses of their portfolio companies or extrapolating from their own start-up’s mission statement. That people listened to their ideas gave them a chance to launder their self-interested hopes into more selfless-sounding predictions about the world.
This power gave them great responsibility and exposed them to the possibility of resentment—unless they convinced people that the future they were fighting for would unfold automatically, would be the fruit of forces rather than their choices, of providence rather than power.
If you want to be a thought leader and not dismissed as a critic, your job is to help the public see problems as personal and individual dramas rather than collective and systemic ones.
The money can liberate the top thought leaders from the institutions and colleagues that might otherwise provide some kind of intellectual check on them, while sometimes turning their ideas into advertisements rather than self-contained work.
“Conversation with a Tax Collector About Poetry,” by Vladimir Mayakovsky
Scaling back her critique of the system had allowed her to be wildly popular with MarketWorld elites and more easily digested by the world at large; and so she became famous, which drew the system of sexism into her life as never before and heightened her awareness of it; and its ferocity convinced her not to take on that system but to conclude that it might never change; and this acquiescence made her turn from uprooting sexism to helping women survive it.
For the aspiring thought leader, it is less important to have an undergirding of scholarly research than it is to be your idea—to perform and hawk it relentlessly.
When a thought leader strips politics and perpetrators from a problem, she often gains access to a bigger platform to influence change-makers—but she also adds to the vast pile of stories promoted by MarketWorld that tell us that change is easy, is a win-win, and doesn’t require sacrifice.
The kinds of changes favored by the public in an age of inequality, as reflected from time to time in some electoral platforms, are usually unacceptable to elites. Simple rejection of those types of changes can only invite greater hostility toward the elites. It is more useful for the elites to be seen as favoring change—their kind of change, of course.
It wasn’t as though you had no choice but to compromise. You could easily develop your ideas and promote them through what he labeled “marginal magazines” and “militant conferences.”
The question of building more inclusive economies would be atomized into endless subcategories, until the human reality all but vanished.
What if these winners didn’t know everything? What if those outsiders who weren’t in the room knew a thing or two?
Instead of listening, absorbing, trying to decipher slowly and respectfully the dynamics of the space one had entered, the high-flying, high-priced consultant was expected to jump in and know things.
Consultants first find the “business need,” or the basic problem, based on evaluating the company and its industry. Then they “analyze.” This step requires “framing the problem: defining the boundaries of the problem and breaking it down into its component elements to allow the problem-solving team to come up with an initial hypothesis as to the solution.” This is the insta-certitude at work—hypothesis-making comes early. Then the consultants must “design the analysis” and “gather the data” to prove the hypothesis, and must decide, based on the results, whether their theory of the solution is right. If it is, the next step is “presenting” in a crisp, clear, convincing way that can win over clients understandably wary of fancy outsiders’ big ideas. At last, the solution comes to the “implementation” phase, through “iteration that leads to continual improvement.”
The protocols and those who employed them did have a lot to offer the world of social problems: rigor, logic, data, an ability to make decisions swiftly. As they spread into the work of battling disease or reforming education, they could do a great deal of good and allow people’s money and time to go further than they could have without it. But there was always a price, and part of that price was that problems reformatted according to the protocols were recast in the light of a winner’s gaze. After all, the definition of a problem is done by the problem-solver and crowds out other ways of seeing it.
Inspire the rich to do more good, but never, ever tell them to do less harm; inspire them to give back, but never, ever tell them to take less; inspire them to join the solution, but never, ever accuse them of being part of the problem.
Leave us alone in the competitive marketplace, and we will tend to you after the winnings are won. The money will be spent more wisely on you than it would be by you. You will have your chance to enjoy our wealth, in the way we think you should enjoy it.
Generosity entitles the winners to exemption from questions like these.
King had argued that the circumstances of economic injustice, when examined, had something to do with the people in power, and that true generosity might mean restrained taking, not just the belated shedding of some of what had been taken.
There Bill Clinton would stand beside you and read your commitment to the room and praise you. This moment would become, among the doing-well-by-doing-good set, the coveted capstone to a career: People who were influential and/or rich but relatively unknown would bask in the celebrity-like glow.
Then there was a flurry of business-speak: “In order to reach the world that we want by 2030, collaboration and co-design are key.”
When private actors move into the solution of public problems, it becomes less and less of the public’s business.
The “they” were the rootless cosmopolitans’ less-rarefied fellow citizens, who in one place after another were gravitating to nationalism, demagogy, and resentful exclusion—and rejecting some of the elites’ most cherished beliefs: borderlessness, market cures for all diseases, inevitable technological progress, benign technocratic stewardship.
It is a way of doing good that allows them to ignore the fact that their democracies aren’t working well. Or, even more simply, it allows them to avoid the duty they might otherwise feel to interact with their fellow citizens across divides, to learn about the problems facing their own communities, which might implicate them, their choices, and their privileges—as opposed to universal challenges like climate change or the woes of faraway places like Rwandan coffee plantations.
“Probably people who get together in these congregations don’t think of what they’re doing as politics,” Rodrik said. “But of course it’s politics. It’s just a politics that has a different locus and has a different view of who matters and how you can change things, and has a different theory of change and who the agents of change are.”
But the same elite help, backed by the same noble intentions, can instead “disrupt” democracy when it “replaces the public sphere with all manner of private initiatives for special public purposes.” These latter works don’t simply do what government cannot do. They “crowd out the public sector, further reducing both its legitimacy and its efficacy, and replace civic goals with narrower concerns about efficiency and markets.”
The seasoned and astute private world-changer seeks to alter “the public conversation about which social issues matter, sets an agenda for how they matter, and specifies who is the preferred provider of services to address these issues without any engagement with the deliberative processes of civil society.”
“So it’s not just the right thing to do,” Verveer said. “It’s the business-smart thing to do.” This was the highest praise a cause could receive.
The only problem-solving approach that worked in the modern world, according to Clinton, was one that made the people an afterthought, to be helped but not truly heard.
One’s American plutocrat friends didn’t necessarily have a problem with more energetic government in Africa. But they preferred win-win solutions in their own backyard, where energetic government sounded like it could end up being expensive.
Economistic reasoning dominates our age, and we may be tempted to focus on the first half of each of the above sentences—a marginal contribution you can see and touch—and to ignore the second half, involving a vaguer thing called complicity.
Her claim, rather, is that citizens of a democracy are collectively responsible for what their society foreseeably and persistently allows; that they have a special duty toward those it systematically fails; and that this burden falls most heavily on those most amply rewarded by the same, ultimately arbitrary set of arrangements.
To live in a society without laws and shared institutions that applied equally to all would be, Cordelli says, to live “dependent on the arbitrary will of another. It would be like a form of servitude.”
She says you are worth nothing without society because there can be no hedge fund managers, nor violinists, nor technology entrepreneurs, in the absence of a civilizational infrastructure that we take for granted.
Then there is the fact that absent a political system of shared institutions, anyone could dominate anyone. Every person with anything precious to protect would be at constant risk of plunder by everybody else.
“When it comes to effecting change in a way that makes them feel good—when it comes to building a business, lobbying for certain things, effectively helping some people through philanthropy, then they are agents,” Cordelli said. “They powerfully and intentionally can exercise change.” However, she went on, “When it comes to paying more taxes, when it comes to trying to advocate for more just institutions, when it comes to actually trying to prevent injustices that are systemic or trying to advocate for less inequality and more redistribution, then they’re paralyzed. There is nothing they can do.

Will Larson (whose new book is lying on my desk at work) writes a welcome long view on the technology career, something we will increasingly need to think about and come to terms with.


Highlights for My Struggle

As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, sixty . . .
I do not want anyone to get close to me, I do not want anyone to see me, and this is the way things have developed: no one gets close and no one sees me.
They even squeeze out the most recent past: ask me what I did three days ago and I can’t remember.
Here I have to find other goals and come to terms with them. The art of living is what I am talking about.
I have always had a great need for solitude. I require huge swathes of loneliness and when I do not have it, which has been the case for the last five years, my frustration can sometimes become almost panicked, or aggressive.
When Vanja was around eight months old she began to have violent outbursts, like fits at times, and for a while it was impossible to reach her, she just screamed and screamed. All we could do was hold her until it had subsided. It is not easy to say what caused it, but it often occurred when she had had a great many impressions to absorb, such as when we had driven to her grandmother’s in the country outside Stockholm, when she had spent too much time with other children, or we had been in town all day. Then, inconsolable and completely beside herself, she could scream at the top of her voice. Sensitivity and strength of will are not a simple combination.
Perhaps even, at certain moments, joy. And isn’t that enough? Isn’t it enough? Yes, if joy had been the goal it would have been enough. But joy is not my goal, never has been, what good is joy to me? The family is not my goal either. If it had been, and I could have devoted all my energy to it, we would have had a fantastic time, of that I am sure.
I know I can change all this, I know we too can become that kind of family, but then I would have to want it and in which case life would have to revolve around nothing else. And that is not what I want. I do everything I have to do for the family; that is my duty. The only thing I have learned from life is to endure it, never to question it, and to burn up the longing generated by this in writing.
That does not mean I do not love them, because I do, with all my heart, it simply means that the meaning they produce is not sufficient to fulfill a whole life.
She had a liberating, gentle smile that I admired and found endlessly appealing, both because it did not embrace me or others like me, it belonged to the very essence of her being, to which only she herself and her friends had recourse, and also because her top lip was slightly twisted.
We were utterly hopeless, completely out of our depth, there was not a snowball’s chance in hell of anything coming of this, we wouldn’t even be good enough to perform at a school party, but although this was the reality we never experienced it as such. On the contrary, this was what gave our lives meaning.
But my pleasure was partly due to my father always perking up for such events. He became more friendly towards me, took me into his confidence, so to speak, and regarded me as someone to be considered, but this was not the most important thing, for this friendliness he showed to his son was merely one aspect of a greater magnanimity that infused him on such occasions: he became charming, witty, knowledgeable, and entertaining, which in a way justified the fact that I had such mixed emotions about him and was so preoccupied with them.
I was not exactly invulnerable, my weaknesses were there for all to see and exploit, and the fact that they didn’t, because they didn’t have enough insight to be able to see them, was surely not my problem.
They had been drinking before I arrived, and although he was kindness itself, it was threatening nonetheless; not directly, of course, because, sitting there, I didn’t fear him, but indirectly because I could no longer read him. It was as if all the knowledge I had acquired about him through my childhood, and which enabled me to prepare for any eventuality, was, in one fell swoop, invalid. So what was valid?
I could remember all the places I had been, all the rooms I had been in. Just not what happened there.
You know too little and it doesn’t exist. You know too much and it doesn’t exist. Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows. That is what writing is about. Not what happens there, not what actions are played out there, but the there itself.
What I ought to do was affirm what existed, affirm the state of things as they are, in other words, revel in the world outside instead of searching for a way out, for in that way I would undoubtedly have a better life, but I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t, something had congealed inside me, a conviction was rooted inside me, and although it was essentialist, that is, outmoded and, furthermore, romantic, I could not get past it, for the simple reason that it had not only been thought but also experienced, in these sudden states of clearsightedness that everyone must know, where for a few seconds you catch sight of another world from the one you were in only a moment earlier, where the world seems to step forward and show itself for a brief glimpse before reverting and leaving everything as before . . .
The box of Kleenex was a sign that here weeping and death had undergone inflation.
The zone that had come into existence when we first left the undertaker’s, and that seemed to make everything around me dead, or meaningless, had grown in size and strength.
We laughed, Tonje ran inside for her camera, and when she came out she put one arm around me and took a photo with the other hand outstretched. We were two children.
The fact that he could be more malicious to me than anyone else changed nothing, it was part and parcel of it, and in the context we lived, the hatred I felt for him was no more than a brook is to an ocean, a lamp to the night.
The sole difference, which is the difference between a child’s reality and an adult’s, was that they were no longer laden with meaning.
I didn’t care anymore anyway. But there had been days when I had cared, days when I had been on the outside and had suffered. Now I was only on the outside.
My father was an idiot, I wanted nothing to do with him, and it cost me nothing to keep well away from him. It wasn’t a question of keeping away from something, it was a question of the something not existing; nothing about him touched me.