alper.nl https://alper.nl/dingen The homepage of Alper Cugun Tue, 16 Oct 2018 07:30:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 3623048 Highlights for The Idiot https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/10/highlights-for-the-idiot/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/10/highlights-for-the-idiot/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 07:30:45 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6065 Were Germans supposed to be particularly ordered and machinelike? Was it possible that Germans really were ordered and machinelike? There was no way to go through life, in Turkish or any other language, making only factual statements about direct observations. You were forced to use -miş, just by the human condition—just by existing in relation … Continue reading Highlights for The Idiot

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Were Germans supposed to be particularly ordered and machinelike? Was it possible that Germans really were ordered and machinelike?
There was no way to go through life, in Turkish or any other language, making only factual statements about direct observations. You were forced to use -miş, just by the human condition—just by existing in relation to other people.
I liked Spanish—I liked how the donkey had a place in the national literature
How would I get anywhere in life? How could anyone ever be interested in me?
But I couldn’t stop thinking about á and à—about Europe, where even the alphabet emitted exuberant sparks—about Ivan’s mother’s Mazda, and how you were always sad when you left Rome.
“You really like this boy,” she said, sounding so sad and affectionate that tears came to my eyes.
“I feel like a kid.” “Like a little girl, huh? It must be really terrible for you.” “I learned Turkish when I was three, so I don’t know enough words. I can’t talk about anything,” I said.
“Of course he will. Womanizers always call back. That’s their best quality.”
“Stuff like that can really bring out the sadist in you,” he said. “I’m standing there thinking of all the different ways I’ll rip out this guy’s guts.”
And still no waking moment went by that I didn’t think of him—he was in the background of everything I thought. My own perceptions were no longer enough to constitute the physical world for me. Every sound, every syllable that reached me, I wanted to filter through his consciousness. At a word from him I would have followed him anywhere, right off the so-called Prudential Center.
“In Turkey? You wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown. You’d give them a nervous breakdown.” I forgave him for a lot when he said that. I forgave him for almost everything.
A less beautiful girl wouldn’t have said that, I thought. Beautiful people lived in a different world, had different relations with people. From the beginning they were raised for love.

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Highlights for The Hall of Uselessness https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/10/highlights-for-the-hall-of-uselessness/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/10/highlights-for-the-hall-of-uselessness/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 07:22:02 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6063 One has the feeling that these critics do not really like literature—they do not enjoy reading. Worse even, if they were actually to enjoy a book, they would suspect it to be frivolous. In their eyes, something that is amusing cannot be important or serious. Though, as a wise doctor once remarked, between two doctors … Continue reading Highlights for The Hall of Uselessness

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One has the feeling that these critics do not really like literature—they do not enjoy reading. Worse even, if they were actually to enjoy a book, they would suspect it to be frivolous. In their eyes, something that is amusing cannot be important or serious.
Though, as a wise doctor once remarked, between two doctors whose medical qualifications are otherwise equal, we should trust the one who reads Chekhov.
The closer a book comes to being a genuine work of art, a true creation with a life of its own, the less likely it is that the author had full control over and a clear understanding of what he wrote.
what led them to their mysticism was simply the perception of “an intolerable disparity between the hugeness of their desire and the smallness of reality.”
Still, the notion that it is generally unwise to make pronouncements in areas that lie outside one’s expertise remains a sound principle. I only wish that Mr. Hitchens himself would abide by it.
This weird belief that a dead man called Jesus is still alive should command all the deeds and all the thoughts of a Christian.
“But if someone does not do it, how will good be done?” questioned the old gentleman in a voice full of perplexity. “Live so,” replied the Master in a voice suddenly stern, “live so that by the sanctity of thy life all good will be performed involuntarily.”
I was writing in a café; I had been sitting there for a couple of hours already, comfortably settled at a table with my books and papers. Like many lazy people, I enjoy a measure of hustle and bustle around me while I am supposed to work—it gives me an illusion of activity—and thus the surrounding din of conversations and calls did not disturb me in the least.
true Philistines are not people who are incapable of recognising beauty; they recognise it all too well; they detect its presence anywhere, immediately, and with a flair as infallible as that of the most sensitive aesthete—but for them, it is in order to be able better to pounce upon it at once and to destroy it before it can gain a foothold in their universal empire of ugliness.
And Claudel commented: “This mental process is identical to that of poetical writing . . . The impelling motion is the same. Which shows that the primary source of scientific thought is not reasoning, but the precise verification of an association originally supplied by the imagination.”
The fact is, these two arts—history writing and fiction writing—originating both in poetry, involve similar activities and mobilise the same faculties: memory and imagination; and this is why it could rightly be said that the novelist is the historian of the present and the historian the novelist of the past. Both must invent the truth.
He clearly felt that, together with the rest of the country, he was being progressively sucked into a poisonous swamp. To ensure a reasonably smooth and trouble-free existence, small compromises were constantly required—nothing difficult nor particularly dramatic; everyone else, to a various extent, was similarly involved. Yet the sum total of these fairly banal, daily surrenders eroded the integrity of each individual.
His short (unfinished), clear-sighted and sober memoir raises one terrifying question: all that Haffner knew at the time, many millions of people around him knew equally well. Why was there only one Haffner?
However, beware! Whenever people wonder “What is the truth?” usually it is because the truth is just under their noses—but it would be very inconvenient to acknowledge it.
“I do not care for scholars unless they are scholars without wishing to be or without knowing it. There is nothing easier than becoming a scholar. To acquire learning, it suffices to lock oneself up in one’s house for six months. It is far better to have a good imagination than a good memory.”
The brutalities of boarding school can routinely maim sensitive children for life; occasionally they may also breed a genius.
“Genius,” Baudelaire said, “is childhood recalled at will.”
There is no escaping the radical difference between the capacity for conception and that for execution: imagination and action are often at opposite poles. That is why novelists usually do not become millionaires, whereas millionaires do not even read novels.
Half of the misery in this world is caused by people whose only talent is to worm their way into positions for which they otherwise have no competence.
At the remotest end of Europe, Tolstoy secured without delay a copy of the book and was overwhelmed. One may say without exaggeration that Les Misérables triggered War and Peace. Giants breed giants.
Nor must we overlook the essential: he benefited from what only the warm affection of a united family can supply, a happy childhood, which arms one to face life and, once adult, to eliminate the risk of losing time in some fatuous and vain quest for happiness.
For the gift of the poet (which is also the gift of the child) is the ability to connect with the real world, to look at things with rapt attention. Both the poet and the child are blessed with what Chesterton called “the mystical minimum”: the awareness that things are—full stop. “If a thing is nothing else, that is good; it is—and that is good.”
None of the activities that really matter can be pursued in a merely professional capacity;
Thus he made the point that the man must be, to a certain extent, a specialist—out of necessity, he finds himself confined in a narrow professional pursuit, since he must do one thing well enough to earn the daily bread—whereas the woman is the true universalist: she must do a hundred things for the safe-guarding and management of the home.
He realised it was a status he could easily have achieved, had he agreed to pay the usual price—which is to isolate and emphasise only one side of the truth. This is always an easy recipe for achieving popularity and for gathering crowds of disciples; but to secure this sort of demagogic success one must mutilate a complex reality.
Generally speaking, literary people are exceedingly self-centred and vain—on the whole they are not a very attractive breed—but Chesterton did not belong to that species.
Here, Gide seems to be unwittingly joining Claudel, who held that the key metaphor with which to interpret the diverse manifestations of German culture was the sausage.
Conclusion: if one had to go out to sea in a small boat, one would not choose Orwell for skipper. But when meeting with shipwreck, disaster or other catastrophe, one could not dream of better company.
For all his gluttony and drunkenness, his passionate attachment to all things of beauty, his selfishness, his impatience, his unkindness and anger (a close friend once asked how he could reconcile his generally beastly behaviour and his Christianity; Waugh replied: “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid, I would hardly be a human being”), what he derived from his Catholicism was a fundamental ability not to take this world too seriously.
The latter exacted from him such an intense, nervous effort that sometimes, before starting to write, he would suffer fits of vomiting. Each time, he had to assume imaginatively the persona of his main protagonist—to become him—and then to see with the mind’s eye the world his pen was conjuring as it followed an inner dictation.
This phenomenon reached such an intensity that there were times when it scared Simenon, times when he felt drawn towards an uncertain border where his very sanity might founder.
Every life leaves behind an accumulation of broken odds and ends—bizarre and sometimes smelly. Rummaging there, one can always unearth enough evidence to establish that the deceased was both monstrous and mediocre. Such a combination is quite common—whoever doubts it needs only look at himself in a mirror.
In the eighteenth century, French was the common language of the leading minds of continental Europe; twentieth-century French intellectuals hardly noticed that times had changed in this respect; they retained the dangerous belief that whatever was not expressed in French could hardly matter.
Revel’s attempt at entering into active politics was short-lived, but the experience gave him an invaluable insight into the essential intellectual dishonesty that is unavoidably attached to partisan politicking.
Mitterrand was the purest type of political animal: he had no politics at all. He had a brilliant intelligence, but for him ideas were neither right nor wrong, they were only useful or useless in the pursuit of power. The object of power was not a possibility to enact certain policies; the object of all policies was simply to attain and retain power.
In other words, people who do not read fiction or poetry are in permanent danger of crashing against facts and being crushed by reality.
Confucius often said that if only a ruler could employ him, in one year he would achieve a lot, and in three years he would succeed. One day a disciple asked him, “If a king were to entrust you with a territory which you could govern according to your ideas, what would you do first?” Confucius replied, “My first task would certainly be to rectify the names.” On hearing this, the disciple was puzzled. “Rectify the names? And that would be your first priority? Is this a joke?” (Chesterton or Orwell, however, would have immediately understood and approved the idea.) Confucius had to explain: “If the names are not correct, if they do not match realities, language has no object. If language is without an object, action becomes impossible—and therefore, all human affairs disintegrate and their management becomes pointless and impossible. Hence, the very first task of a true statesman is to rectify the names.”
Zhou Zuoren (1885–1968), summarised in one pithy sentence this living tradition of which he himself was a product: “All that can be spelled out is without importance.”
Aesthetic criteria are functional: does the work do what it does efficiently, does it nourish the vital energy of the artist, does it succeed in capturing the spirit that informs mountains and rivers, does it establish harmony between the metamorphoses of forms and the metamorphoses of the world?
Orientalism could obviously have been written by no one but a Palestinian scholar with a huge chip on his shoulder and a very dim understanding of the European academic tradition (here perceived through the distorted prism of a certain type of American university, with its brutish hyper-specialisation, non-humanistic approach, and close, unhealthy links with government).
He dispatched the affairs of the state with the supreme efficiency of an old Daoist ruler who knows that one should govern a large empire the way one cooks a little fish.
His unique skills made him forever indispensable, while simultaneously he cultivated a quality of utter elusiveness; no one could pin him down to a specific political line, nor could one associate him with any particular faction. He never expressed personal ideas or indulged in penning his own theoretical views. Where did he really stand? What did he actually believe? Apparently he had no other policies but those of the leader of the moment, and nourished no other ambitions but to serve him with total dedication. Yet the brilliance of his mind, the sharpness of his intelligence, the electrifying quality of his personal magnetism, eloquence and authority constantly belied the kind of bland selflessness that he so studiously displayed in the performance of his public duties; Zhou’s enigma lay in the paradox that, with all his exceptional talents, he should also present a sort of disconcerting and essential hollowness.
Twenty-three hundred years ago, Zhuang Zi, in giving advice to a king, made him observe that when a small boat drifts in the way of a huge barge, the crew of the barge will immediately shout abuse at the stray craft; however, coming closer, if they discover that the little boat is empty, they will simply shut up and quietly steer clear of it. He concluded that a ruler who has to sail the turbulent waters of politics should first and foremost learn how to become an empty boat.
To reconcile such paradoxes, one must either learn the mental acrobatics of a very sophisticated game played by the enlightened vanguard and called “dialectics,” or, more vulgarly, face the fact that rather than being the prophet-philosopher as described by his worshippers, Mao was essentially always and foremost a practical politician for whom what mattered above everything was power—how to obtain it, how to retain it, how to regain it. In order to secure power, no sacrifice was ever too big—and least of all the sacrifice of principles. It is only in this light that it becomes possible to understand his alternations between compromise and ruthlessness, benevolence and ferocity, suppleness and brutality, and all his abrupt volte-faces: none of these were ever arbitrary.
Without an ability to decipher non-existent inscriptions written in invisible ink on blank pages, no one should ever dream of analysing the nature and reality of Chinese communism.
For Truth, by its very nature, is ugly, savage and cruel; it disturbs, it frightens, it hurts and it kills. If, in some extreme situations, it is to be used at all, it must be taken only in small doses, in strict isolation, and with the most rigorous prophylactic precautions. Whoever would be willing to spread it wildly, or to unload it in large quantities, just as it comes, is a dangerous and irresponsible person who should be restrained in the interest of his own safety, as well as for the protection of social harmony.
Kazimierz Brandys summed it up neatly (with the clear-sightedness that characterises so many Polish intellectuals, who on this subject have acquired a bitter expertise): “Contemporary history teaches us that all you need is one mentally sick individual, two ideologues and three hundred murderous thugs in order to take power and gag millions of people.”
Democracy is the only acceptable political system; yet it pertains to politics exclusively, and has no application in any other domain. When applied anywhere else, it is death—for truth is not democratic, intelligence and talent are not democratic, nor is beauty, nor love—nor God’s grace.
I am of course referring to the time before independence; for today, even if there should still be any enterprising Greek merchants around, I doubt very much that they would find passable tracks to reach these distant hamlets.
The most depressing thing is to watch these crowds of tourists, who paid a not inconsiderable amount to come here and secure for themselves eight days of happiness. In the motley uniforms of holiday convicts, they patrol lugubriously this huge Luna Park while trying hard to persuade themselves that they are getting their money’s worth of fun.
Literary scholars are particularly adept at cultivating this sort of nonsense: they seem permanently drunk on the psychedelic milk they keep sucking from the twin mammelles of Freud and Marx.

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Highlights for The Chapo Guide to Revolution https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/09/highlights-for-the-chapo-guide-to-revolution/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/09/highlights-for-the-chapo-guide-to-revolution/#respond Sun, 23 Sep 2018 20:37:55 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6059 You find yourself in the dumbest of all possible worlds, clowns to the left of you, Re-thug-licans to the right. Official state religion is Shia Scientology. We’ll focus entirely on liquidating the “legitimate news” part of the media, along with its revolting acolytes, known as “journalists.” Our rival Nazi Germany had collapsed after it overleveraged … Continue reading Highlights for The Chapo Guide to Revolution

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You find yourself in the dumbest of all possible worlds, clowns to the left of you, Re-thug-licans to the right.
Official state religion is Shia Scientology.
We’ll focus entirely on liquidating the “legitimate news” part of the media, along with its revolting acolytes, known as “journalists.”
Our rival Nazi Germany had collapsed after it overleveraged risky investments in Eastern European “living space,” while Japan—once an aggressive competitor to America—was defeated due to a certain killer app developed in a cutting-edge incubator in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Despite that, the European Central Bank responded to the ’08 crisis with a Wahhabist-style neoliberal austerity that even the moderate consensus-makers in Washington didn’t have the stomach for.
How much safer would both America and the rest of the world be right now if our government’s response to 9/11 was to pretend it didn’t happen and do absolutely nothing?
The War on Terror is the bathtub our empire lies in, surveying a sunset over a wheat field in the Cialis commercial that is our twenty-first-century international statecraft.
Conservative pundits love to compare America to Rome, mainly because they want to be allowed to drape sheets around their asses and bring back slavery and man-boy love. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a useful analogy. Like Rome, we’re a deluded and decadent empire in terminal decline.
Republican voters were offered everything they had ever wanted—a new era of brutality and the repudiation of the symbol of Obama—while Democrats were served up four more years of morally incoherent and procedurally feckless liberalism. It was the logical conclusion, and the facts sure as shit didn’t care about anyone’s feelings.
Fact-checked, focus-grouped, data-driven Clinton lost to the most deranged presidential candidate ever: a clown, a fraud, a sexual predator, an inveterate liar who has faked every single thing he’s ever done—a giant cube of flesh who embodies all our vilest instincts and our ludicrous celebrity culture.
They do get something tangible from this deal: resistance against bathroom sickos, the petty privilege of being white, and the cathartic sadism of American military conquest and warfare.
For a long time they masterfully triangulated racial and class resentments to enrich the upper classes while the Democrats gave up trying to offer alternatives.
Hoppe correctly realized that the total abolition of the state in favor of a strict regime of private property and laissez-faire economics would involve the brutal curtailment of the freedoms of speech, movement, and bodily autonomy for the vast majority of people, and that was a good thing.
But for both Ezra and Matt, supporting the Iraq War was never a moral failing on their part but an analytical one.
As J. Galt, Megan cultivated a unique blogging style that perfectly matched being stupid with thinking your readers are stupid.
Gawker was a genuine example of an independent media company that skewered basically all the right assholes sucking off the political and media establishment.
It was embraced by middle-class hippies whose demands were not material and collective but aesthetic and individualist—which, once you smooth off the edges, is just libertarianism.
That’s because capital has no problem assimilating pop-cultural rebellion and antiauthoritarian imagery. In fact, that stuff creates all kinds of new markets, new consumers, new suckers.
It may make you feel better to watch a show that’s calling out Trump, or oppression, or our podcast—but if you stop there, you’re demobilized as a political actor.
the contemporary American right-winger is congenitally incapable of being funny, entertaining, or interesting in any of the ways art demands, relying instead on ham-fisted sentimentality and self-abasing ressentiment.
first, we realized that the way things worked on The West Wing wasn’t the way they worked in the real world; then we realized things had never worked that way; then finally we realized things should not work that way.
The premise of this cant was to assure people that they didn’t have to bother with challenging literature or indie cinema; television could provide all their cultural vitamins and minerals without their having to strain their eyes or leave their houses.
and there is no faker friend than your boss, no faker crew than your workplace.
You’re doing something very noble, and that’s why your boss cashed out to the tune of a few hundred million and you have to sublet your closet.
the scholarly professions are now all about getting tenure, doing safe spaces, and getting triggered by logic.
Content—be it a think piece, a call-out tweet, or something really degenerate, like a podcast—is one of the only real, tangible products we make anymore. But its creation also puts more physical and mental demands on workers than the most grizzled military operators have to endure.
In a sense, content makers are more troop-like than troops themselves, as information is the battlefield of the twenty-first century.
Lefties are again at the tip of the spear against a desperate capitalist system that’s readying a blood-soaked, militarized response to climate and economic catastrophes.
Spending every single moment thinking about politics (particularly on the Internet) will turn you cynical, hysterical, and probably reactionary. Let’s avoid that.

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Highlights for The Parent’s Tao Te Ching https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/09/highlights-for-the-parents-tao-te-ching/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/09/highlights-for-the-parents-tao-te-ching/#respond Sun, 16 Sep 2018 21:12:13 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6056 Call birth, “birth,” and death, “death,” without seeing one as good and the other as evil and your children will be at home with life. If you teach them to achieve they will never be content. If you teach them contentment, they will naturally achieve everything. You do not live your life through your children. … Continue reading Highlights for The Parent’s Tao Te Ching

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Call birth, “birth,” and death, “death,” without seeing one as good and the other as evil and your children will be at home with life.
If you teach them to achieve they will never be content. If you teach them contentment, they will naturally achieve everything.
You do not live your life through your children. Therefore they are free to find their own true fulfillment.
If you overly protect your children they will fear failure and avoid pain. But failure and pain are twin teachers of important lessons. Unless your children fully experience both how will they know they have nothing to fear?
Parents who hide failure, deny loss, and berate themselves for weakness, have nothing to teach their children. But parents who reveal themselves, in all of their humanness, become heroes. For children look to these parents and learn to love themselves.
Whatever they are doing, they are learning. And it is, for them, pure joy.
All of your “God” words will not teach your children as much as will your nurture, and your love, and your cherishing.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.
Don’t make parenting harder than it needs to be. It only requires focus. Worry is not focus. Attempting to control is not focus. Distracting yourself is not focus. Relaxed, non-fretful, attention to what is in front of you right now, is focus.
If you take the bait the battle rages. Instead step back, breathe deeply, relax, and stay at your center. Battles require two parties. One fighting alone soon tires.
A problem is not an interruption to a serene and happy life. A problem is an ordinary part of such a life.
You do not have to make your children into wonderful people. You only have to remind them that they are wonderful people.
But the Tao teaches that games are for fun, that business is for the common good, that no one wins at war, and that love endures for all.
Every moment is a death of all that has gone before, and a birth of all that is to come.

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Highlights for Ghachar Ghochar https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/highlights-for-ghachar-ghochar/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/highlights-for-ghachar-ghochar/#respond Mon, 27 Aug 2018 21:26:06 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6052 The woman had not abused us. She had not come here to pick a fight. We were thrown off balance by her love for one of us, and so we tore into her with such vengeance that she collapsed to the ground, sobbing. It’s true what they say – it’s not we who control money, … Continue reading Highlights for Ghachar Ghochar

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The woman had not abused us. She had not come here to pick a fight. We were thrown off balance by her love for one of us, and so we tore into her with such vengeance that she collapsed to the ground, sobbing.
It’s true what they say – it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.
I’ve longed often for a comparable experience, but there seems to be none. That sense of strangeness, surrender, dependence, compassion, entitlement and a hundred other sentiments bundled together cannot possibly be relived.

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German translation: Scheitersohn https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/german-translation-scheitersohn/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/german-translation-scheitersohn/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 20:37:02 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6046 I want to coin a German translation for the dirtbag left neologism failson. I propose Scheitersohn which I think has a nice ring to it.

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I want to coin a German translation for the dirtbag left neologism failson. I propose Scheitersohn which I think has a nice ring to it.

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Highlights for Woken Furies https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/highlights-for-woken-furies/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/highlights-for-woken-furies/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 20:39:20 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6047 That, of course, doesn’t apply to Envoys. We just used to go silently, crush the odd planetary uprising, topple the odd regime, and then plug in something UN-compliant that worked. Slaughter and suppression across the stars, for the greater good — naturally — of a unified Protectorate. The Envoys came and they tore your world … Continue reading Highlights for Woken Furies

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That, of course, doesn’t apply to Envoys. We just used to go silently, crush the odd planetary uprising, topple the odd regime, and then plug in something UN-compliant that worked. Slaughter and suppression across the stars, for the greater good — naturally — of a unified Protectorate.
The Envoys came and they tore your world apart. It wasn’t that simple, of course; the truth was far more complex, and ultimately far more scary. But who in this universe wants the truth?
‘Well, Quell looked back at this black-clad man and as she stared into his hot jet eyes she knew that he spoke the truth, that he was a man of his word. So she looked at the revolver in her hand and then back at the man. And she said then you are a fanatic and cannot learn, and she shot him in the face.’
The Quellists meanwhile simply slipped away, disappeared, abandoned the struggle and got on with living their lives as Nadia Makita had always argued they should be prepared to do. Technology has given us access to timescales of life our ancestors could only dream of, we must be prepared to use that timescale, to live on that timescale, if we are to realise our own dreams.
Just reminding you, is all. This life is like the sea. There’s a three-moon tidal slop running out there and if you let it, it’ll tear you apart from everyone and everything you ever cared about.’
‘So maybe some other time,’ he said quietly. ‘When you’re not carrying so much.’ ‘Yeah. Maybe.’ It wasn’t any other time I could usefully imagine, unless he was talking about the past, and I couldn’t see any way to get back there.
The Harlanites recognise it as well as we do, and they have already made their move. It only remains for us to make ours. If in the end I have to fight and die for the ghost and memory of Quellcrist Falconer and not the woman herself, then that will be better than not fighting at all.’
But in one of her less passionate moments, Quell herself once offered an escape clause for situations such as these. If the facts are against you, she said, but you cannot bear to cease believing — then at least suspend judgment. Wait and see.’
It was a confirmation that the time had come, that the political pot was boiling over. Of course it was going to spill, of course it was all going to fall in the same direction, onto the floor. Where else could it go?
Who ever gets a second shot at these things? Sooner or later, we all get in up to our necks. Then it s just a question of keeping your face out of the swamp, one stumbling step at a time.
‘I think she might be some kind of weapon, Sylvie.’ ‘So? Aren’t we all?’
I’d felt twinges of the same thing after, the fresh growth of comradeship and united purpose — and I’d ripped it up by the roots every time. That shit will get you killed. Get you used.
Everyone scrabbling for cash. Oligarchical caretakers. Piss-easy control system.

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A Case for Permeable Borders https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/a-case-for-permeable-borders/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/08/a-case-for-permeable-borders/#respond Sat, 11 Aug 2018 09:23:51 +0000 https://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6040 Events of the past months have sharply brought into focus the need for passable borders. I’m not coming out for fully open borders. That still seems somewhat extreme and too dismissive of borders (which contrary to some people’s opinions definitely are not arbitrary). I just think that keeping borders hermetically closed will exact a moral … Continue reading A Case for Permeable Borders

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Events of the past months have sharply brought into focus the need for passable borders. I’m not coming out for fully open borders. That still seems somewhat extreme and too dismissive of borders (which contrary to some people’s opinions definitely are not arbitrary). I just think that keeping borders hermetically closed will exact a moral cost from us that nobody should be willing to pay.

There are tons of arguments in favor of cross-border movement of people. I want to focus on two which are directly applicable to recent crises in the USA and Europe.

Internationalism

Open borders are a stopgap so that we might have international relations that are just. People trapped in a country that offers no prospects should have the option to vote with their feet. Whether they move as war, political or economic refugees, they do so because they really have to.

The flows of these people are an indication of global injustice and at the same time an incentive to do something about it. The people moving about would likely prefer not to have to leave their homes to go to another place where they may or may not be wanted.

We could have done something about the countries these people come from decades ago. Unfortunately most foreign policy and development aid revolves around short-term national interests and the propping up of dictators. Closing borders would remove this final incentive to work towards globally positive outcomes.

Virtue Ethics

Open borders provide everybody an opportunity to become better people. Like we have seen they also provide people an opportunity to become worse people. If you work for an organization that is a modern day equivalent of the Gestapo, like ICE is, then you have lost everything.

Becoming a better person is the ultimate goal in life and as such every opportunity to do so is a welcome one.

This is not just a demand on the people in the receiving countries, it is also a demand on the people migrating. Whatever the reason, their country was and probably still is backwards and broken—otherwise they would not have moved here. Let’s welcome them and transform them into the best person they can be.

Most migrants are already focused on this because they want to work, to educate themselves and to raise their kids in safety. We could make that social contract explicit and truly live it, providing vast and equal opportunities to everybody willing to live by our principles.

In the best possible case, Europe can be a life raft for the world and Europeanness can be an inclusive and expanding idea. Welcome aboard. Here’s an oar. Start paddling.

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Highlights for Be Like the Fox https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/07/highlights-for-be-like-the-fox/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/07/highlights-for-be-like-the-fox/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 21:05:43 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6035 His design ‘was to write for a tyrant those things that are pleasing to tyrants, bringing about in this way, if he could, the tyrant’s self-willed and swift downfall’. Pole warned; beware of this two-faced writer. ‘For it is the aim of his doctrine to act like a drug that causes princes to go mad,’ … Continue reading Highlights for Be Like the Fox

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His design ‘was to write for a tyrant those things that are pleasing to tyrants, bringing about in this way, if he could, the tyrant’s self-willed and swift downfall’.

Pole warned; beware of this two-faced writer. ‘For it is the aim of his doctrine to act like a drug that causes princes to go mad,’ making them attack their own people with ‘the savagery of the lion and the wiles of the fox’.

They become characters on a stage where he, Niccolò Machiavelli, probes their minds, sizes them up, tries to conceal his misgivings, or holds back his irritation for diplomacy’s sake.

When someone’s game is rotten, Niccolò often suggests – even if it looks like the main one in town, the only one where real men can prove that they are winners – don’t let them force you to play it. Better to make and play by your own rules.

Whoever seeks to act according to others, he later tells his more convention-bound friend Francesco Vettori, will accomplish nothing, because no two men who think alike can be found.

The ideal Medici leader had to seem born to rule while also seeming to think of himself as one of the people. His every move needed to project a double illusion: of natural superiority to every other citizen and a total, easy-going unawareness of that superiority.

Soderini, who was among the first citizens of Florence and by far superior to the others, a man whose prudence and authority were known not only in Florence but among all the princes of Italy, responds: What you call a great victory looks to me like a loss. If you’d won over Volterra by treaty and agreement, you would have had advantage and security from it. But since you have to hold it by force, in adverse times it will bring you weakness and trouble, and in peaceful times, loss and expense.

Plots to overthrow governments, Niccolò often observes, are almost always betrayed by one of the plotters.

And don’t rush to proclaim any policy a great success, for often gain is seen and widely praised in policies at first – especially when they appear bold, surprising, risky – even though there is the ruin of the republic concealed underneath.

The struggle to overcome great difficulties teaches people self-discipline and self-knowledge, not least knowledge of their own resources of mind and spirit, which might go untapped if they had it easy. This makes them tougher than those who have too many hereditary advantages: they are thicker-skinned against those who try to pull them down, more tolerant of the setbacks that face everyone at some time or another.

Whatever the quality of their brains, advisers live in constant fear of saying too much or too little, or the wrong things at the wrong time.

The Machiavelli family win the case, proving on a small scale a point Niccolò will make over and over in his writings: weak families, individuals, cities and peoples should never shy away from fighting those who put them down or take what is theirs.9 Even if they lose some battles, their efforts do them proud, and make life harder for their oppressors.

If you want to maintain your state over time, the only sure way is to arm your own people and keep them satisfied; it’s always safer to found yourself not upon fortresses but upon the benevolence of men.

For when one foresees from afar, one can easily find a remedy for future troubles. But when you wait until they come close to you, the medicine is not in time, because the disease has become incurable.

Niccolò speaks from very personal knowledge when he says that freedom, one knows, is often restored in a city by those who have never tasted it but who loved it only through the memories of it left to them by their fathers. And thus, he continues, once recovered, they preserve it with all obstinacy and at any peril.

Founders of new institutions should assume that a large part of human nature inclines most people to behave badly, at least now and then: to take more than their share of power or wealth, to profit from other people’s weaknesses, to cheat, lie, betray promises. Inclinations like these can’t be rooted out of our species; human nature itself cannot be reformed so that more and more people become reliably angelic.

Sheltered by his patrician family name, Agostino can afford not to take seriously men like della Valle, with their popular or recent peasant origins; social rank trumps official rank. While Ser Antonio’s tantrums make Biagio cringe behind the heap of portfolios on his desk, Agostino merely stares at their office superior as if he were a stray farm animal that has somehow wandered into the city and, stumbling into the refined halls of government, panicked and run amuck.

the two essential, unwritten rules of Florentine diplomacy. One: give them words, good words, be a veritable fountain bubbling over with sweet words; but use every industry to avoid offering them deeds. Two: have at the tip of your tongue a ready arsenal of excuses for not spending money.

But the surest way to win esteem, Niccolò writes in the Prince, is to be a true friend and a true enemy.

Nonetheless, it was hardly a civil thing to violate the laws. For if ignoring legal procedures may do good in one particular case, nonetheless the example does ill. And if one sets up a habit of breaking the [legal and political] orders for the sake of good, then later, under that colouring, they are broken for ill.

The French are more eager for money than for blood.

In adversity they are abject, and in prosperity insolent. If you can resist the fury of their first onslaught, you will find them depressed and so entirely discouraged, that they become cowardly like women.

The cardinal has grown indulgent towards this odd young Florentine, who has no air of inherited greatness yet speaks boldly, with the confidence of sound judgement rather than of birth or rank.

He would later advise envoys to princely courts that they should observe the nature of the man: whether he rules for himself or lets himself be ruled; whether he is stingy or liberal; whether he loves war or peace; whether desire for glory or any other passion moves him, whether the people love him.

This matter is very important; there are men who, through being clever and two-faced, have so completely lost the trust of a prince that they have never afterwards been able to negotiate with him.

One needs to be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten the wolves.

This, for Machiavelli, is the real test of any statesman’s quality: his virtue. And while good fortune can help you conquer states, virtù is what lets you hold them securely.

Those who become princes solely by fortune have it much easier at first, rising to power with little trouble. But when the time comes to consolidate their newfound power, then all the difficulties arise, since these impetuous high-flyers seldom take the time to build up solid foundations for their state. Because of this, princes of fortune tend to be moody, fickle in their policies, even manic – now acting as if nothing could stop them, then losing all confidence at the first failure, as if failure weren’t a normal part of life. Virtuous leaders are far steadier, more trustworthy. They refuse to become arrogant with success or dejected with failure and, if their luck changes for better or for worse, they do not vary but always keep their spirit firm, showing that fortune does not have power over them.

That’s another thing about fortune-dependent types: they tend to think that they’re the only shrewd operators in the room. They can easily deceive others, but never be deceived.

For Niccolò, virtù can mean spiritedness, especially in battle. But the highest-quality virtù includes an aptitude for organization, industry, and far-sighted prudence. It further includes an unclouded knowledge of one’s own limits, the wisdom and self-discipline not to overreach them, and the ingenuity to use whatever opportunities and resources one has, however scarce they might be. Virtù doesn’t need good luck, or even much freedom, to work wonders. On the contrary, it is most admirable, even most effective, where there are obstacles to overcome.

Give men secure work that allows them to feed their families and win public respect, in employments that are the nerve and life of the city, and they’ll become its stoutest defenders.

the knowledge that whatever defects you find in a particular set of men, or in human nature generally, well-designed laws and institutions can hold their defects in check and cultivate virtues you – and perhaps they – didn’t know they had.

Everyone wants to be coddled and esteemed, so that is what someone who finds himself where you are has to do.

A statesman needs to know when to use clemency and when severity.

He did not know, Machiavelli would later write, that one cannot wait for the time, goodness is not enough, fortune varies, and malignity does not find a gift that appeases it.

They committed one of the commonest, most devastating mistakes made in politics and war: when peoples do not know how to put limits to their hopes and measure their own capabilities, they are ruined. In this way, the insolence that victory or the false hope of victory arouses makes men lose the opportunity of having a certain good through hoping to have an uncertain better.

A man’s mind, he muses in The Ass, can’t easily be turned against his nature or habits. Though his brain might warn him of the dangers in honest criticism, his nature forces him to see – and point out – human errors in hopes of correcting them. And in the present age so grudging and evil, one always sees bad more quickly than good.

We lie to each other and start believing our own lies. The ones who come out best are the noisiest babblers and flatterers. They spout platitudes and say nothing. For the herd and their herd-masters only hear what is easy to hear, what they think they already know, keep repeating the same badly reasoned blandness to flatter themselves and their herd-chiefs.

For it is not enough to say: ‘I do not care for anything; I do not desire honours or useful things; I wish to live quietly and without quarrel!’ These excuses won’t be believed if they come from a man notable for his quality, even when such men choose the quiet life truly and without any ambition.

Neither money nor sheer numbers of men make strong armies, he tells his readers, but only people who are motivated to fight to the death. And they’ll be motivated only when they have a real stake in the government they’re expected to defend: when they can make a decent living, feel that they’re treated with public respect, perhaps even take part in politics.

In any city, ancient or modern, one finds an enmity between the great, whatever they call themselves – nobles, patricians, the rich – and the people. This arises because the great everywhere want to dominate, while the people want not to be dominated. The people’s desire is more reasonable than the desire of a few to dominate the many. It follows that governments that seek to satisfy the popular desire are firmer and last longer than those that let a few command the rest.

Moreover, to cure the illness of excessive ambition among the people words are enough ; while for curing the prince’s, steel is needed.

So they should indeed never give up. They have always to hope and, since they hope, not to give up in whatever fortune and whatever travail they may find themselves.

Look at the Germans and the Swiss: they live more simply than we do, and are free and well-armed. Our rich Italians live lavishly and aspire to live even more lavishly, but what freedom we have is constantly threatened by unrest from the poor.

Don’t push your luck when you’re clutching at your last desperate hopes, compromise to cut your losses, save what you can; what you lose now you can recover later.

I’ve had a letter from you that has given me the greatest pleasure. If God grants you and me life, I believe that I may make you a man of good standing, if you are willing to do your share. But you must study hard and take pains to learn letters and music – for you know how much distinction is given me for what little ability I possess. Thus, my son, if you want to please me and to bring profit and honour to yourself, study, do well, and learn, because everyone will help you if you help yourself.

Instead of attacking Florence, imperial forces rapidly move to Rome. On 6 May, they sack the Holy City, the bloodiest attack in living memory, with famished German troops shouting, ‘Vivat Luther Papa!’ as they smash sacred relics and plunder houses, shops, banks.

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Highlights for Why We Sleep https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/07/highlights-for-why-we-sleep/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/07/highlights-for-why-we-sleep/#comments Wed, 04 Jul 2018 20:57:01 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6031 Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Scientists such as myself have even started lobbying doctors to start “prescribing” sleep. Society’s apathy toward sleep has, in part, been caused by the historic failure of science to … Continue reading Highlights for Why We Sleep

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Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Scientists such as myself have even started lobbying doctors to start “prescribing” sleep.

Society’s apathy toward sleep has, in part, been caused by the historic failure of science to explain why we need it.

suprachiasmatic (pronounced soo-pra-kai-as-MAT-ik)

We require more supple work schedules that better adapt to all chronotypes, and not just one in its extreme.

Caffeine—which is not only prevalent in coffee, certain teas, and many energy drinks, but also foods such as dark chocolate and ice cream, as well as drugs such as weight-loss pills and pain relievers—is one of the most common culprits that keep people from falling asleep easily and sleeping soundly thereafter, typically masquerading as insomnia, an actual medical condition.

Their scientists exposed spiders to different drugs and then observed the webs that they constructed.X Those drugs included LSD, speed (amphetamine), marijuana, and caffeine.

Caffeine is also the only addictive substance that we readily give to our children and teens—the consequences of which we will return to later in the book.

Second, can you function optimally without caffeine before noon? If the answer is “no,” then you are most likely self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation.

Before bed, you diligently set your alarm for 6:00 a.m. Miraculously, however, you woke up at 5:58 a.m., unassisted, right before the alarm.

Have you ever taken a long road trip in your car and noticed that at some point in the journey, the FM radio stations you’ve been listening to begin dropping out in signal strength?

When it comes to information processing, think of the wake state principally as reception (experiencing and constantly learning the world around you), NREM sleep as reflection (storing and strengthening those raw ingredients of new facts and skills), and REM sleep as integration (interconnecting these raw ingredients with each other, with all past experiences, and, in doing so, building an ever more accurate model of how the world works, including innovative insights and problem-solving abilities).

The steady, slow, synchronous waves that sweep across the brain during deep sleep open up communication possibilities between distant regions of the brain, allowing them to collaboratively send and receive their different repositories of stored experience.

The mystery deepens when we consider pinnipeds (one of my all-time favorite words, from the Latin derivatives: pinna “fin” and pedis “foot”), such as fur seals.

I believe a similar story of atypical, but nevertheless present, REM sleep will ultimately be observed in dolphins and whales and seals when in the ocean. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Sleep with both sides of the brain, or sleep with just one side and then switch. Both are possible, but sleep you must. Sleep is non-negotiable.

Both you and the meeting attendees are falling prey to an evolutionarily imprinted lull in wakefulness that favors an afternoon nap, called the post-prandial alertness dip (from the Latin prandium, “meal”).

Apparent from this remarkable study is this fact: when we are cleaved from the innate practice of biphasic sleep, our lives are shortened.

From these clues, I offer a theorem: the tree-to-ground reengineering of sleep was a key trigger that rocketed Homo sapiens to the top of evolution’s lofty pyramid.

Now we can appreciate what I believe to be a classic, self-fulfilling positive cycle of evolution. Our shift from tree to ground sleeping instigated an ever more bountiful amount of relative REM sleep compared with other primates, and from this bounty emerged a steep increase in cognitive creativity, emotional intelligence, and thus social complexity. This, alongside our increasingly dense, interconnected brains, led to improved daily (and nightly) survival strategies. In turn, the harder we worked those increasingly developed emotional and creative circuits of the brain during the day, the greater was our need to service and recalibrate these ever-demanding neural systems at night with more REM sleep.

This phase of development, which infuses the brain with masses of neural connections, is called synaptogenesis, as it involves the creation of millions of wiring links, or synapses, between neurons. By deliberate design, it is an overenthusiastic first pass at setting up the mainframe of a brain. There is a great deal of redundancy, offering many, many possible circuit configurations to emerge within the infant’s brain once born.

As a result of this mismatch, the fetus brain still generates formidable motor commands during REM sleep, except there is no paralysis to hold them back. Without restraint, those commands are freely translated into frenetic body movements, felt by the mother as acrobatic kicks and featherweight punches.

Newborns will normally transition straight into REM sleep after a feeding. Many mothers already know this: almost as soon as suckling stops, and sometimes even before, the infant’s eyelids will close, and underneath, the eyes will begin darting left-right, indicating that their baby is now being nourished by REM sleep.

Sleep accomplishes this by using meaningful tags that have been hung onto those memories during initial learning, or potentially identified during sleep itself.

Sleep powerfully, yet very selectively, boosted the retention of those words previously tagged for “remembering,” yet actively avoided the strengthening of those memories tagged for “forgetting.”

Not without putting too fine a point on it, if you don’t snooze, you lose.

As a result, car crashes caused by drowsiness tend to be far more deadly than those caused by alcohol or drugs. Said crassly, when you fall asleep at the wheel of your car on a freeway, there is now a one-ton missile traveling at 65 miles per hour, and no one is in control.

Approximately 80 percent of truck drivers in the US are overweight, and 50 percent are clinically obese.

One of my true loves is teaching a large undergraduate class on the science of sleep at the University of California, Berkeley.

One night of modest sleep reduction—even just one or two hours—will promptly speed the contracting rate of a person’s heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase the systolic blood pressure within their vasculature.

Making matters worse, growth hormone—a great healer of the body—which normally surges at night, is shut off by the state of sleep deprivation.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the switch to daylight savings time in March results in most people losing an hour of sleep opportunity. Should you tabulate millions of daily hospital records, as researchers have done, you discover that this seemingly trivial sleep reduction comes with a frightening spike in heart attacks the following day.

The experimental results support the finding that men suffering from sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea associated with snoring, have significantly lower levels of testosterone than those of similar age and backgrounds but who do not suffer from a sleep condition.

Indeed, journaling your waking thoughts, feelings, and concerns has a proven mental health benefit, and the same appears true of your dreams. A meaningful, psychologically healthy life is an examined one, as Socrates so often declared.

It is sleep that builds connections between distantly related informational elements that are not obvious in the light of the waking day. Our participants went to bed with disparate pieces of the jigsaw and woke up with the puzzle complete.

It is possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration in Homo sapiens’ evolution.

If alarming your heart, quite literally, were not bad enough, using the snooze feature means that you will repeatedly inflict that cardiovascular assault again and again within a short span of time.

Sleep deprivation degrades many of the key faculties required for most forms of employment.

But insufficient sleep—another harmful, potentially deadly factor—is commonly tolerated and even woefully encouraged. This mentality has persisted, in part, because certain business leaders mistakenly believe that time on-task equates with task completion and productivity. Even in the industrial era of rote factory work, this was untrue.

The irony that employees miss is that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer to accomplish a goal.

Of note to those in business, many of these studies report deleterious effects on business outcomes on the basis of only very modest reductions in sleep amount within an individual, perhaps twenty- to sixty-minute differences between an employee who is honest, creative, innovate, collaborative, and productive and one who is not.

One in twenty residents will kill a patient due to a lack of sleep.

what if we moved from a stance of analytics (i.e., here is your past and/or current sleep and here is your past and/or current body weight) to that of forward-looking predictalytics?

Even if this software solution decreases flu infection rates by just a small percentage, it will save hundreds of millions of dollars by way of improved immunization efficiency

Rather, this method of routine sleep tracking would help them identify this issue, and cognitive behavioral therapy could be provided through their smartphones.

As a result, the decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.

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Highlights for Radical Candor https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/06/highlights-for-radical-candor/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/06/highlights-for-radical-candor/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 07:45:49 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6024 As you probably know, for every piece of subpar work you accept, for every missed deadline you let slip, you begin to feel resentment and then anger. You no longer just think the work is bad: you think the person is bad. This makes it harder to have an even-keeled conversation. You start to avoid … Continue reading Highlights for Radical Candor

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As you probably know, for every piece of subpar work you accept, for every missed deadline you let slip, you begin to feel resentment and then anger. You no longer just think the work is bad: you think the person is bad. This makes it harder to have an even-keeled conversation. You start to avoid talking to the person at all.

The only reason it was OK for me to talk to Jared that way was because of the relationship we’d formed over the years.

The point is, rather, that if you are someone who is most comfortable communicating in that way, you have to build relationships of trust that can support it, and you have to hire people who can adapt to your style.

Twenty years ago, management skills were neither taught nor rewarded in Silicon Valley, but today its companies are obsessed with it.

They achieve these results not by doing all the work themselves but by guiding the people on their teams. Bosses guide a team to achieve results.

“Radical Candor” is what happens when you put “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly” together.

My humanity was an attribute, not a liability, to being effective.

A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.

The secret to winning, he said, is to point out to great players what they could have done better, even when they have just won a game.

They know they’ve done some things wrong, but they’re not sure what, exactly. Their direct reports never know where they stand, and they aren’t being given an opportunity to learn or grow; they often stall or get fired. Not such a great way to build a relationship.

Start by getting feedback, in other words, not by dishing it out. Then when you do start giving it, start with praise, not criticism.

Well, stop repressing your innate ability to care personally. Give a damn!

Generally, an ambition or a commitment outside of work enhances a person’s value to the team—that means you get, say, a great artist as your graphic designer, as long as you don’t insist that the artist get on the fast track at work.

What I am saying is we all have periods in our lives when our professional growth speeds up or slows down. Recreation is essential for creation.

Kick-ass bosses never judge people doing great work as having “capped out.” Instead, they treat them with the honor that they are due and retain the individuals who will keep their team stable, cohesive, and productive.

I once had a colleague who’d planned carefully so that when he had his first baby he was in a job that he’d mastered and thus could get home to be with his newborn.

Allowing transfers is important because it prevents bosses from blackballing employees who want to move on, and allows for the fact that sometimes two people just don’t work that well together.

In many ways, your job as the boss is to set and uphold a quality bar. That can feel harsh in the short term, but in the long run the only thing that is meaner is lowering the bar.

The fact is that poor performers often create as much extra work for others as they accomplish themselves, because they leave parts of their job undone or do other parts sloppily or behave unprofessionally in ways that others must compensate for.

When a highly successful person takes a job with a new company and the “fit” isn’t right, it can be painful for everyone. If neither the culture nor the individual can change, it’s best to part ways. You generally can’t fix a cultural-fit issue.

The truth is, people really do change. Somebody who’s been on a gradual growth trajectory may suddenly become restless and yearn for a new challenge at work. Or, a person who’s been on a steep growth trajectory for years may be craving a period of stability. This is another reason why you have to manage. Being a great boss involves constantly adjusting to the new reality of the day or week or year as it unfolds.

Too many bosses think their role is to turn it off—to avoid all the friction by simply making a decision and sparing the team the pain of debate. It’s not. Debate takes time and requires emotional energy. But lack of debate saps a team of more time and emotional energy in the long run.

That is why kick-ass bosses often do not decide themselves, but rather create a clear decision-making process that empowers people closest to the facts to make as many decisions as possible. Not only does that result in better decisions, it results in better morale.

The essence of leadership is not getting overwhelmed by circumstances.

The time you spend at work can be an expression of who you are as a human being, an enormous enrichment to your life, and a boon to your friends and family.

You can guide your team to get results if you’ve built a trusting relationship with each person reporting to you, and there can only be real trust when people feel free at work. The first rule of building the kind of relationship with the people that will make them feel free at work is to relinquish unilateral authority.

You already spend a lot of hours every day with your colleagues and direct reports. Use that time to build relationships. For the most part, it’s better to use the time after work to keep yourself centered than to socialize with work colleagues.

Too many managers fear that public challenge will undermine their authority. It’s natural to want to repress dissent, but a good reaction to public criticism can be the very thing that establishes your credibility as a strong leader, and will help you build a culture of guidance.

“Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”

Don’t let the fact that you can’t offer a solution make you reluctant to offer guidance. Think about times that guidance has been most helpful to you, and offer it in that spirit.

So let me reiterate: impromptu guidance really, truly is something you can squeeze in between meetings in three minutes or less. If you give it right away in between meetings, you will not only save yourself a subsequent meeting but also deliver the guidance in less time than it would take you to schedule the subsequent meeting. And the quality of your guidance will be much better.

Often the reason why you’ll be tempted not to deliver guidance in person is that you are trying to avoid seeing the other person’s emotional reaction. This is natural. But the quality of your guidance will improve if you’re present for these feelings.

Once people got to know him well, they realized he wasn’t a jerk, he was just super intense; in fact, he cared as deeply about his colleagues as he did about the quality of the work they did together.

Part of your job as a boss (and as a human being) is to acknowledge and deal with emotional responses, not to dismiss or avoid them.

If you find you cannot be Radically Candid with your boss, I recommend that you consider finding a new job with a new boss.

Andy Grove had a mantra at Intel that we borrowed to describe leadership at Apple: Listen, Challenge, Commit. A strong leader has the humility to listen, the confidence to challenge, and the wisdom to know when to quit arguing and to get on board.

We must stop gender politics.

And even if the ratings aren’t lower, selection for promotion and leadership roles depend heavily on “likeability.”

That wasted people’s time (a cardinal sin for a boss)

In these meetings, which need to happen only once a year to be effective, you will meet with the people who work for your direct reports, without your direct reports in the room, and ask what they could do or stop doing to be better bosses.

The more visible the change, the better. Review these changes in a follow-up to the skip level meeting, and encourage the team to tell you whether or not they made a difference. If people feel that no changes were made, or that the meeting didn’t make a difference, treat this very seriously.

The first conversation is designed to learn what motivates each person who reports directly to you.

The second conversation moves from understanding what motivates people to understanding the person’s dreams—what they want to achieve at the apex of their career, how they imagine life at its best to feel.

Once people were clear on what they wanted to learn next, it was much easier for managers to identify opportunities at work that would help them develop skills in the next six to eighteen months that would take them in the direction of at least one of their dreams.

All hiring is flawed and subjective, and these drawbacks cannot be fixed; they can only be managed.

Firing people is not easy, either emotionally or legally. At companies where it’s too easy to fire people, bad/unfair firing decisions get made, with the result that even people who are great at their jobs start to get spooked. When people feel that kind of fear, they start to avoid taking risks. They learn less, they grow less, they innovate less, they become less than they could be.

The importance of the simplest things, like thank-yous, are most often forgotten by bosses—even good bosses.

Here’s the agenda that I’ve found to be most effective:

■    Learn: review key metrics (twenty minutes)

■    Listen: put updates in a shared document (fifteen minutes)

■    Clarify: identify key decisions & debates (thirty minutes)

Most people hate to be excluded from decisions relevant to them, but they hate attending meetings that are irrelevant to them even more. With a little transparency, it all sorts itself out.

Measuring activities and visualizing workflows will push you and your team to make sure you really understand how what you all do drives success—or doesn’t.

Notice the things you don’t notice when you’re buried in work at your desk or racing, head down, from one meeting to the next. Ask people who catch your attention—ideally, people you haven’t talked to in a while—what they’re working on. Find some small problems and treat them like “the universe through a grain of sand.”

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Highlights for No Name in the Street https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/06/highlights-for-no-name-in-the-street/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/06/highlights-for-no-name-in-the-street/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 18:55:27 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6017 Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become. I was not the same, but they were, as though they had been trapped, preserved, … Continue reading Highlights for No Name in the Street

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Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become.

I was not the same, but they were, as though they had been trapped, preserved, in that moment in time.

They should have known me better, or at least enough, to have known that I meant what I said. But the general reaction to famous people who hold difficult opinions is that they can’t really mean it. It’s considered, generally, to be merely an astute way of attracting public attention, a way of making oneself interesting: one marches in Montgomery, for example, merely (in my own case) to sell one’s books.

This means that one must accept one’s nakedness. And nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.

This is the way people react to the loss of empire—for the loss of an empire also implies a radical revision of the individual identity—and I was to see this over and over again, not only in France.

Thus, the exploitation of the colony’s resources was done for the good of the natives; and so vocal could the French become as concerns what they had brought into their colonies that it would have been the height of bad manners to have asked what they had brought out.

Not without warning, and not without precedent: but only poets, since they must excavate and recreate history, have ever learned anything from it.

For, intellectual activity, according to me, is, and must be, disinterested—the truth is a two-edged sword—and if one is not willing to be pierced by that sword, even to the extreme of dying on it, then all of one’s intellectual activity is a masturbatory delusion and a wicked and dangerous fraud.

Nevertheless, this learned, civilized, intellectual-liberal debate cheerfully raged in its vacuum, while every hour brought more distress and confusion—and dishonor—to the country they claimed to love.

But they had no right not to know that; if they did not know that, they knew nothing and had no right to speak as though they were responsible actors in their society;

I may have been romantic about London—because of Charles Dickens—but the romance lasted for exactly as long as it took me to carry my bags out of Victoria Station.

Four hundred years in the West had certainly turned me into a Westerner—there was no way around that. But four hundred years in the West had also failed to bleach me—there was no way around that, either

It is power, not justice, which keeps rearranging the map, and the Algerians were not fighting the French for justice (of which, indeed, they must have had their fill by that time) but for the power to determine their own destinies.

One may see that the history, which is now indivisible from oneself, has been full of errors and excesses; but this is not the same thing as seeing that, for millions of people, this history—oneself—has been nothing but an intolerable yoke, a stinking prison, a shrieking grave. It is not so easy to see that, for millions of people, life itself depends on the speediest possible demolition of this history, even if this means the leveling, or the destruction of its heirs.

Everybody else was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine.

I was old enough to recognize how deep and strangling were my fears, how manifold and mighty my limits: but no one can demand more of life than that life do him the honor to demand that he learn to live with his fears, and learn to live, every day, both within his limits and beyond them.

But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

It was as though he were wrestling with the mighty fact that the danger in which he stood was as nothing compared to the spiritual horror which drove those who were trying to destroy him. They endangered him, but they doomed themselves.

Every Southern city seemed to me to have been but lately rescued from the swamps, which were patiently waiting to reclaim it. The people all seemed to remember their time under water, and to be both dreading and anticipating their return to that freedom from responsibility.

Every white face turned to stone: the arrival of the messenger of death could not have had a more devastating effect than the appearance in the restaurant doorway of a small, unarmed, utterly astounded black man. I had realized my error as soon as I opened the door: but the absolute terror on all these white faces—I swear that not a soul moved—paralyzed me. They stared at me, I stared at them.

One has only to remember that American investments cannot be considered safe wherever the population cannot be considered tractable; with this in mind, consider the American reaction to the Jew who boasts of sending arms to Israel, and the probable fate of an American black who wishes to stage a rally for the purpose of sending arms to black South Africa.

Force does not work the way its advocates seem to think it does. It does not, for example, reveal to the victim the strength of his adversary. On the contrary, it reveals the weakness, even the panic of his adversary, and this revelation invests the victim with patience. Furthermore, it is ultimately fatal to create too many victims. The victor can do nothing with these victims, for they do not belong to him, but—to the victims.

Malcolm considered himself to be the spiritual property of the people who produced him. He did not consider himself to be their saviour, he was far too modest for that, and gave that role to another; but he considered himself to be their servant and in order not to betray that trust, he was willing to die, and died.

She was far safer walking the streets alone than when walking with me—a brutal and humiliating fact which thoroughly destroyed whatever relationship this girl and I might have been able to achieve. This happens all the time in America, but Americans have yet to realize what a sinister fact this is, and what it says about them.

I am astonished until today that I have both my eyes and most of my teeth and functioning kidneys and my sexual equipment: but small black boys have the advantage of being able to curl themselves into knots, and roll with the kicks and the punches.

But everything that might have charmed me merely reminded me of how many were excluded, how many were suffering and groaning and dying, not far from a paradise which was itself but another circle of hell

In the village, as in the ghetto, those who were not dangerous before the search-and-destroy operation assuredly become so afterward, for the inhabitants of the village, like the inhabitants of the ghetto, realize that they are identified, judged, menaced, murdered, solely because of the color of their skin.

The prison is overcrowded, the calendars full, the judges busy, the lawyers ambitious, and the cops zealous. What does it matter if someone gets trapped here for a year or two, gets ruined here, goes mad here, commits murder or suicide here? It’s too bad, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Billy spoke the truth, but it’s hard to shame the devil.

White America remains unable to believe that black America’s grievances are real; they are unable to believe this because they cannot face what this fact says about themselves and their country; and the effect of this massive and hostile incomprehension is to increase the danger in which all black people live here, especially the young.

This unhappy failing will prove to be especially aggravated in the case of the American rulers, who have never heard of history and who have never read it, who do not know what the passion of a people can withstand or what it can accomplish, or how fatal is the moment, for the kingdom, when the passion is driven underground.

To study the economic structure of this country, to know which hands control the wealth, and to which end, seems an academic exercise—and yet it is necessary, all of it is necessary, for discipline, for knowledge, and for power.

I know what I would do if I had a gun and someone had a gun pointed at my brother, and I would not count ten to do it and there would be no hatred in it, nor any remorse. People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

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Highlights for Neoreaction a Basilisk https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-neoreaction-a-basilisk/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-neoreaction-a-basilisk/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 19:35:14 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6013 Angela Nagle’s appalling Kill All Normies, which takes the jaw-droppingly foolish methodology of simply reporting all of the alt-right’s self-justifications as self-evident truths so as to conclude that the real reason neo-nazis have been sweeping into power is because we’re too tolerant of trans people. This brings us to our second relatively uninteresting question, which … Continue reading Highlights for Neoreaction a Basilisk

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Angela Nagle’s appalling Kill All Normies, which takes the jaw-droppingly foolish methodology of simply reporting all of the alt-right’s self-justifications as self-evident truths so as to conclude that the real reason neo-nazis have been sweeping into power is because we’re too tolerant of trans people.

This brings us to our second relatively uninteresting question, which is what to do about the alt-right. In this case the answer is even easier and more obvious than the first: you smash their bases of power, with violent resistance if necessary. If you want a more general solution that also takes care of the factors that led to a bunch of idiot racists being emboldened in the first place you drag all the billionaires out of their houses and put their heads on spikes.

The lethal meme, known as Roko’s Basilisk, used the peculiarities of Yudkowskian thought to posit a future AI that would condemn to eternal torture everyone from the present who had ever imagined it if they subsequently failed to do whatever they could to bring about its existence.

I want to be clear, with all possible sincerity, that I love the braggadocio here. I want what he is selling. Yes, Mencius, savagely tear away the veil of lies with which I cope with the abject horror that is reality and reveal to me the awful, agonizing truth of being. Give me the red pill. The problem is, once we get our golf ball-sized reality distortion pill home, put on some Laibach, and settle in for an epic bout of Thanatosian psychedelia, we discover the unfortunate truth: we’re actually just huffing paint in an unhygienic gas station bathroom. Jesus, this isn’t even bat country.

By “crap,” of course, I do not mean “wrong.” Rather, I mean obvious, in the sense of sounding like the guy at the bar watching the news (probably Fox) and muttering about how “they’re all a bunch of crooks.” Liberal democracy a hopelessly inadequate and doomed system preserved by a system of continual indoctrination? You don’t say.

And this really is stunningly weird in the context of all his red pill rhetoric about the corrupt horrors of liberal democracy. Because while there are a great many obvious critiques of contemporary society, “there’s just not enough respect for profit” really doesn’t feel like one of them.

With this, we have a genuinely tricky moment, simply because of the sheer and unbridled number of unexamined assumptions going on here.

But all the same, if you’re going to talk about suppressed ideologies that oppose the interests of entrenched power, you’ve really got to talk about the original red pill: Marxism.

It is tempting to suggest that Moldbug is a failed Marxist in the sense that Jupiter is a failed star, its mass falling tantalizingly short of the tipping point whereby nuclear fusion begins. Over and over again, Moldbug asks questions much like those that Marx asked, and his answers begin with many of the same initial observations. But inevitably, a few steps in, he makes some ridiculously broad generalization or fails to consider some obvious alternative possibility, and the train of thought fizzles into characteristic idiocy.

This sort of “the world can be saved if only everyone listens to me” narcissism belongs in the genre of fiction, where it can accomplish something, and not in the visionary manifesto, where it only reveals its own impotence.

That is not to say they can get away with being wrong, at least not straightforwardly so, but it is to reiterate that the key problem with Moldbug, Yudkowsky, and Land is that they are in key regards uninteresting—that they offer dull and unsatisfying answers to their most compelling questions, of which “hang out with a bunch of racist nerdbros” is merely the worst.

Terence McKenna’s suggestion that DMT is an alien intelligence’s attempt to communicate directly with the human brain

That’s the whole point of the right to exit—a final and decisive rescue of individual liberty at all costs. But exiting requires that people stay behind; if we all go, we’ll just have to storm out again. The entire point of the project is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

He posits that in this situation the “absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all” becomes increasingly relevant, and observes that this is a frequent theme of both philosophy and horror.

The truth is that, despite Land’s evident fascination with them, the bulk of neoreactionaries are not people one would want to have a beer with, and there’s not a great case for reading their books either.

Yudkowsky isn’t just running from error; he’s running from the idea of authority. The real horror of the Basilisk is that the AI at the end of the universe is just another third grade teacher who doesn’t care if you understand the material, just if you apply the rote method being taught.

Hauntology comes from within us; the Weird from outside.

The red pill, pwnage, and for that matter the horror reading, monstrous offspring, and Satanic inversions all follow the same basic pattern—a sort of conceptual infiltration of someone’s thought in which their own methods and systems are used against them.

It is, after all, the great one-liner critique of Mencius Moldbug: he’s exactly what you’d expect to happen if you asked a software engineer to redesign political philosophy. And crucially, Moldbug basically agrees with it—he just also genuinely believes that the Silicon Valley “disruptor” crowd would be capable of running the world with no problems if only people would let them.

Which is to say, Satan opens by negging Eve, accusing her of looking at him “with disdain, Displeas’d that I approach thee thus, and gaze Insatiate, I thus single, nor have feard Thy awful brow,”112 which may be the earliest instance of telling someone they have resting bitch face.

In the face of an ecologically brutal planet, the guys with guns and tribal loyalties are a depressingly compelling bet to stick around.

With Moldbug the sense is overwhelmingly that empathy just never crossed his mind as something to factor into his design. He flat out didn’t think of it. Yudkowsky, on the other hand, thinks about it a lot and cares very deeply about it; he’s just incompetent at it.

The result of this approach is that Yudkowsky, without really meaning to, tends to look at everyone else in the world as inefficient Eliezer Yudkowskys instead of people as such.

Moldbug, Yudkowsky, and Land don’t just “do poorly” with empathy—they represent the most visible and explicit edge of a Cathedral-scaled system of values that casts the desire to listen and try to understand people who are different from you as anathema to reason itself.

This forces us to consider white culture as a set of perpetual ruins—as something that has always been lost, and that can only be apprehended as a tenuous and incomplete reconstruction.

No, what’s really notable here is Moldbug’s doe-eyed certainty that such a thing as an absolute truth service could be built; that there is a general plan of action so self-evidently compelling that if he only expressed it properly everyone would immediately flock to his side. In short, after thousands of words railing against the Cathedral for secretly being a religion, he’s accidentally reinvented religion. And then lost the holy text. You couldn’t parody it better.

They have that marvelous feature of the best gods: perfectly answering a question you didn’t know you had.

And a few, such as Ahania, are genuinely breathtaking in their scope: a pleasure goddess representing intellectual curiosity who is bound in a Persephone-like structure of death and rebirth is a metaphysical/literary construct to rival Milton’s Satan, and one Blake barely scratches the surface of.

And it’s hard not to suggest that the world would be a better place if Yudkowsky had stuck to children’s literature for adult geeks as opposed to starting a weird AI cult that derails efforts to curtail malaria.

And while Gamergate usually doesn’t have a product to sell in quite the same literal way, it’s worth noting how, for instance, two doors down from them is someone like Stefan Molyneux, whose output amounts to 30-60 minute PowerPoint presentations consisting of a by-now familiar sort of low-content dissembling, and whose business endgame is literally a cult.

The Gamergate narrative has always required a vast quasi-conspiracy to function, some story whereby feminists or SJWs or cultural Marxists exercise near-complete control over video games and video game journalism.

Not even a monoculture then—an anticulture, with Vivian James ironically its perfect representation. It’s a desire to befit their worldview, its adamance dwarfed only by its fundamental emptiness. There’s nothing there. There’s never been anything there.

And Gamergate as a whole is scarcely better. It’s always been notable for its near-complete lack of actual discussion of videogames.

More interesting is where his basic inclination towards racial stereotyping originates from: the material realities of New York real estate, its patterns of historical ethnic migrations geologically stratified across the city’s expansion.

He might have had a name. But then he literally built a six-hundred-and-sixty-six foot tower to which he offered up that name, sacrificing it upon its black altar such that the building became a titanic sigil of the sixteenth Major Arcana of the Tarot of the Golden Dawn, symbolizing destruction and ruin, with only the remnants of the man whose name it ate living within the rotting heart of its penthouse.

He sold his name, yes, but what did he get out of the deal? The answer, simply put, is what he would hereafter treat as his most valuable asset: his brand. In short, he became a creature of pure image.

But it also includes the raw allostatic load of living under his rule; the basic psychological wear and tear of waking up every morning in a post-fact world dominated by a bullying narcissist. The act of living in a world where the basic validity of your identity is contingent and perpetually imperiled, where the very definition of “fact” is in dispute, and where a brutish logic of dominance and humiliation pervades the entire social order.

Individuals can act all they want. They won’t make the end of the world go away, any more than their freedom to quit work can make them free to not starve

It helps that one can be against today’s racist wars—though not on the grounds of anti-racism, except of the most specious variety—while quietly accepting and utilising the racial inequities inherited from the racist imperialism of the past. As usual, reactionary thinking is dependant upon amnesia.

It admits that value is a mental construct, but one that is ‘real’ because it has a real social basis and real social effects. Value, for Marx, is neither a thing nor an essence, neither quality nor spirit. It is a social reality because of what humans actually do.

Theoretically detached from the objective and the material, and connected to business as a client, mainstream economics has become—to a large extent—an ideological discourse.

This is how Moldbug and Thiel’s view that democracy is incompatible with liberty arises. A democracy is a society in which the mass of the population—who are, by definition, mostly without property—can shape policy so that it curtails the freedom of the propertied to make their choices. In a free society—by their definition—the capitalists get to make their choices unfettered.

For the Austrians, democracy is to blame for capitalism going into crisis. Democracy breeds special claims by people who are not really concerned with making the choices that regulate the economy. The people without a big stake—the masses—thus destabilise the system.

This is the so-called Austrian ‘Business Cycle.’ Boiled right down: crashes and recessions happen because central banks set interest rates too low. Easy credit results, which screws up market signals. Loaners go crazy. Bubbles inflate and burst. Such lopsided production can only be remedied via letting interest rates rise to their ‘natural’ rate. In other words, the Austrian prescription is: let the crisis rip. It will be harsher but quicker. The only cure for god’s wrath is to wait for the plague to exhaust itself.

Opposition to democracy is entailed by the Austrian view of how capitalism works. Democracy is the rule of the ignorant and selfish public, and the state is their tyrannical arm. Moronic majoritarianism wields unjustifiable power over the propertied and the entrepreneurs who are, for Hayek for instance, almost promethean artists in their special sensitivity and understanding.

The logically consequent idea that emergency dictatorship may be necessary to preserve liberal society from democracy is in neoliberalism’s source code. Neoliberalism, contrary to myth, is an authoritarian ideology, committed to defending property and wealth by violence both physical and structural.

The leaders of Rothbard’s revolution would be the libertarians and the minarchists. The troops would be the masses, spurred to fight the elites. And the spurring would take the form of appeals to racism.

The disproportionate number of former-libertarians in American fascism is revealing because conservatives are far more numerous in America than libertarians, which suggests that libertarianism is statistically over-represented.

The Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory now espoused across the alt-right is a reiteration of what the (actual) Nazis called kulturbolschewismus, an idea central to Nazi dogma, about degenerate art and culture being manufactured by Jewish communists to undermine the unity of the German people. The resurrection and repackaging of this idea across a movement soaked in libertarianism is not surprising, because antagonism to socialism goes right back to the dawn of libertarianism, to the Austrian School’s foundational and self-chosen role as the intellectual foe of Marx.

People might not necessarily formulate their objections to the content of newspapers that way, but they’re nevertheless absenting themselves from daily exposure to one of the main means by which the ruling class produce ideology and public consent. This is at least as big a concern to the people running the media as the need to claw back profits.

In all of these cases, the strategy is to play on insecurities of young men in an age where there are mounting ideological challenges out there—especially on the Internet—to their untroubled social privilege. Coupled with the twin legacies of decades of neoliberalism—increasing ideological and political disorientation, and a future far less secure than that which faced their parents and grandparents at their age—such challenges can terrify the semi-privileged layer of young, white, middle class men, who enjoy all those privileges without also enjoying actual material security.

Reactionary politics once again takes advantage of having a wide batrachian mouth, both sides of which may be used for talking.

The reason actions don’t lead inevitably to goals isn’t because there are complex material structures of oppression that heavily shape people’s lives, but because we exist in linear time. Not only does Rothbard not connect time to what dominates it for most people in capitalist society—work—but hilariously, he doesn’t even bother connecting time to its ultimate horror and constraint, death.

To quote the monster directly: “Milton produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature.” Marx would like all labour to be like that, and sees no fundamental reason why it shouldn’t.

It’s pretty clear that the Austrian School doesn’t even remotely care about this fact, but it doesn’t inherently contradict anything they say. But that is, in the end, the point, and one I’ve made before: they don’t care. That’s clear, in a sense, all the way back in the basic axiom, with its active foregrounding of the heroic individual acting upon the world, as opposed to the state of affairs that most actual people experience, which is mostly being buffeted around by various external forces, whether they be governments, history, or the class system. Indeed, “individual human beings are acted upon” would be every bit as justifiable an axiom as “individual human beings act,” if not moreso.

They have been hugging Marxism on the brink of the Reichenbach Falls for a century and a half, staring into its eyes, but have never really seen it.

Mises’ only invocation of courage is in the context of statesmen standing up to labor unions. Decency only comes up in the context of “laws of morality and decency.” And his sole mention of kindness is a complete and grotesque misunderstanding of the very concept as he declares that “the indigent has no claim to the kindness shown to him,” as if being unearned isn’t the entire fucking point of kindness. It is a conception of human action without a shred of concern for empathy – human action devoid of all humanity.

But the real reason for this is that, more than anyone else, Marx provided an alternative to the charade on which their entire philosophical edifice was constructed. He showed the need for the destruction of that which, to them, gives the world meaning—and a method by which it might be achieved.

Given that no small number of conspiracy theories are, in point of fact, anti-Semitic, any attempt to uncritically synthesize them will be as well.

Icke’s theory is much the same way. We know wealthy elites control our minds. Knowing they’re lizards (or, for that matter, Jews) doesn’t actually change anything. It is, to borrow a phrase, malignantly useless knowledge.

Not only does nothing follow from Icke’s conclusions, nothing follows within the argument itself. Icke does not so much lay out a case for the lizard people as blunder among vague associations, hoping that the aggregate of a bunch of extremely tenuous connections will somehow be persuasive instead of a discombobulated mess of shoddy research and sloppy reasoning.

The history of the world consists of a lot of wealthy assholes sleeping with each other and killing people. Changing up which assholes slept with and killed who doesn’t actually make much of a difference.

Ridiculous arguments, especially ones that recognize their absurdity, are capable of revealing things that do not follow obviously, if at all, from self-consciously serious approaches, but that are nevertheless true and valuable realizations.

So is his inclination to be skeptical of the “official” version of history. The value of this, to be clear, is not simply skepticism for its own sake (an approach that is just as likely to lead to things like climate change denial or creationism as it is to some productive insight), but rather the realization that, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors, and the standard version of history is inevitably the one that most flatters those in power.

It is not entirely clear why monstrous truth must take reptilian form, but just as the weird turns instinctively to tentacles and the hauntological inevitably drifts towards skulls, for some reason awful truth must take the form of a reptile, whether a petrifying basilisk or just a bunch of pan-dimensional aliens.

This is a leftist book, and so must engage in a circular firing squad at least once.

This set a pattern whereby trans rights were repeatedly employed by the gay rights movement as a bargaining chip—as the thing they were pointedly willing to sell out in the name of compromise, as they spectacularly did when lobbying for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which excluded trans people in every version that was brought to Congress prior to 2009.

Thiel’s vision of corporate success is blatantly just the Moldbug/Land vision of how authoritarian capitalism will save us from the Great Filter.

Rather, it’s that once you’re willing to question the basic fact of Thiel’s competence it rapidly becomes apparent that the only actual evidence for this competence is that he has a lot of money.

And his fascination with seasteading numbers him among the litany of people interested in micronations, which is such a rich vein of complete crackpottery that I’d hate to deprive you of the pleasure of Googling it. This borders on the investment portfolio you’d get if you gave David Icke several billion dollars.

Who would craft such a thing as the alt-right? Only a fucking idiot. What other answer were we possibly going to find? It’s been idiots all the way down. And so of course even its billionaire supervillains bankrolling world-conquering AIs, vampiric life extension, and Donald Trump are idiots. This borders on “A is A.” And yet for all its obviousness, it captures what is perhaps the key realization about the alt-right—one that’s been implicit through much of this book, but is worth making explicit as we come to a close: they’re stupid.

I do not suggest this to diminish their horror. Far from it: the essential horror of the abyss is stupidity. That’s why it’s an abyss. The unique and exquisite danger of stupidity is that by its nature, it is beyond reason. There is nothing that can be said to it, because by definition it wouldn’t understand. It is an ur-basilisk—the one terrifying possibility that haunts every single argument that has ever been made. It is a move without response, playing by no rules other than its own, which do not generally include any obligation towards consistency. It is, in its way, the only approach that can never lose an argument. And in the alt-right and its affiliates we have one of the most staggeringly vast nexuses of raw stupidity the world has ever crafted.

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Parklets Bergmannstraße https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/parklets-bergmannstrase/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/parklets-bergmannstrase/#respond Thu, 24 May 2018 18:17:14 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6007 I got around to visiting the Parklets in the Bergmannstraße. That is a plural because there are two of them during this pilot and that’s it. As far as quality and usage goes I don’t think there is anything to complain about. The benches look and feel nice and they are being used by the … Continue reading Parklets Bergmannstraße

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I got around to visiting the Parklets in the Bergmannstraße. That is a plural because there are two of them during this pilot and that’s it.

Parklet Bergmannstrasse

As far as quality and usage goes I don’t think there is anything to complain about. The benches look and feel nice and they are being used by the tons of people passing through this street. It is nice to have some extra seating here that is non-commercial.

Parklet Bergmannstrasse

The only issue is that the rest of the street (especially the traffic situation on the thoroughfare) is still terrible. After having seen the botched project in the Maaßenstraße local government is afraid to do much of anything, let alone give this street and neighborhood the overhaul they so desperately need.

Maybe they are right to not do anything. Public works in Berlin have the tendency to not work out. If you already know that you are going to screw it up, you might as well keep your hands off it. But there are lots of new people in Berlin who demand better and in many cases are also willing and able to do it themselves. Let’s see how long the government can resist that pressure.

Begegnungszone Nein Danke

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Presenting at the Good School https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/presenting-at-the-good-school/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/presenting-at-the-good-school/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:04:49 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=6001 A couple of weeks ago I took the train to Hamburg and back to present at the Good School. Here’s a picture of me in action courtesy of The Good School.

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A couple of weeks ago I took the train to Hamburg and back to present at the Good School. Here’s a picture of me in action courtesy of The Good School.

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UIKonf Unconference: Gradual Coordinators https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/uikonf-unconference-gradual-coordinators/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/uikonf-unconference-gradual-coordinators/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 07:05:33 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5997 I dropped by the UIKonf unconference yesterday and gave a quick code/architecture talk. Normally I do mostly design/strategy type talks which are a lot more handwavy, so this felt a bit out of my water. Besides actual code I threw in some talk about impostor syndrome, the value of cleaning and maintenance, gradualism as defined … Continue reading UIKonf Unconference: Gradual Coordinators

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I dropped by the UIKonf unconference yesterday and gave a quick code/architecture talk. Normally I do mostly design/strategy type talks which are a lot more handwavy, so this felt a bit out of my water.

Besides actual code I threw in some talk about impostor syndrome, the value of cleaning and maintenance, gradualism as defined by parkour and Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”.

I think there is a lot of value in getting more different perspectives into the standard programming talk. I have seen enough engineering talks by now and many of them suffer from a lack of diversity.

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Highlights for Bluets https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-bluets/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-bluets/#respond Sat, 12 May 2018 20:02:34 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5995 This is a simple story, but it spooks me, insofar as it reminds me that the eye is simply a recorder, with or without our will. Perhaps the same could be said of the heart. But whether there is a violence at work here remains undecided. Last night I wept in a way I haven’t … Continue reading Highlights for Bluets

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This is a simple story, but it spooks me, insofar as it reminds me that the eye is simply a recorder, with or without our will. Perhaps the same could be said of the heart. But whether there is a violence at work here remains undecided.

Last night I wept in a way I haven’t wept for some time. I wept until I aged myself. I watched it happen in the mirror. I watched the lines arrive around my eyes like engraved sunbursts; it was like watching flowers open in time-lapse on a windowsill.

The only exception was Holland, which, for inscrutable reasons, wanted a murky, rainbow-hued abstraction.

Joan Mitchell, for one, customarily chose her pigments for their intensity rather than their durability—a choice that, as many painters know, can in time bring one’s paintings into a sorry state of decay. (Is writing spared this phenomenon?)

But I am inclined to think that anyone who thinks or talks this way has simply never felt the pulsing of a pussy in serious need of fucking—a pulsing that communicates nothing less than the suckings and ejaculations of the heart.

I will admit, however, upon considering the matter further, that writing does do something to one’s memory—that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs, in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve.

But if writing does displace the idea—if it extrudes it, as it were, like grinding a lump of wet clay through a hole—where does the excess go? “We don’t want to pollute our world with leftover egos” (Chögyam Trungpa).

I have heard that this pain can be converted, as it were, by accepting “the fundamental impermanence of all things.” This acceptance bewilders me: sometimes it seems an act of will; at others, of surrender.

The tepid “there must be a reason for it” notion sometimes floated by religious or quasi-religious acquaintances or bystanders, is, to her, another form of violence.

Likewise, I can say that seeing it has made me a believer, though I cannot say what, or in what, exactly, I have come to believe.

As her witness, I can testify to no reason, no lesson. But I can say this: in watching her, sitting with her, helping her, weeping with her, touching her, and talking with her, I have seen the bright pith of her soul. I cannot tell you what it looks like, exactly, but I can say that I have seen it.

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Highlights for A Contest of Ideas https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-a-contest-of-ideas/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-a-contest-of-ideas/#respond Sat, 12 May 2018 14:35:15 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5993 One cannot chart a course of social action without understanding the world in which one lives, works, and struggles. The rise of a system of global supply chains, with their multilayered set of factories, vendors, and transport links, has created a world system in which legal ownership of the forces of production have been divorced … Continue reading Highlights for A Contest of Ideas

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One cannot chart a course of social action without understanding the world in which one lives, works, and struggles.

The rise of a system of global supply chains, with their multilayered set of factories, vendors, and transport links, has created a world system in which legal ownership of the forces of production have been divorced from operational control. This shift has generated a system in which accountability for labor conditions is legally diffused and knowledge of the actual producers is far from transparent.

Like the global retailers of our time, they favored free trade, a weak regulatory state, transnational production, and cheap, if not unfree, labor.

Most auto industry foremen took home wages about 25 percent higher than the men they supervised. More important, their paycheck was a good deal more predictable because managers sought to keep a core of experienced men employed even during large layoffs. Such employment stability enabled foremen to purchase solid houses in the better working-class neighborhoods and maintain a standard of living that approached that of the lower middle class.

Freemasonry stood for brotherhood and respectability and propagated a creed of sober self-improvement, conventional morality, and class harmony.

However, on a deeper social and psychological level, the foremen’s union orientation proved a tribute to the ability of a newly mobilized working class to sweep into its orbit whole social strata that in more socially quiescent times might have opposed it.

The Reuther plan nevertheless cast a long shadow, for it contained hallmarks of the strategic approach that was so characteristic of labor-liberalism in the 1940s: an assault on management’s traditional power made in the name of economic efficiency and the public interest, and an effort to shift power relations within the structure of industry and politics, usually by means of a tripartite governmental entity empowered to plan for whole sections of the economy.

Its vision and its power attracted a species of political animal that is hardly existent today: the “labor-liberal,” who saw organized labor as absolutely central to the successful pursuit of his or her political agenda.

The fight for collective bargaining, they argued, had to remain secondary to the more important goal of racial betterment, which could only be achieved by “good will, friendly understanding, and mutual respect and co-operation between the races.”

Others rejected the influence of people who “have always told us what the white people want, but somehow or other are particularly silent on what we want.” “

The union hall, only a few blocks from the Reynolds Building, housed a constant round of meetings, plays, and musical entertainments, as well as classes in labor history, black history, and current events.

The activists encouraged the city’s blacks to participate in electoral politics. “Politics IS food, clothes, and housing,” declared the committee that registered some seven hundred new black voters in the months before the 1944 elections.

With almost one hundred thousand black workers organized in the Detroit area, black union activists played a central role in the civil rights struggle.

Soon after the war, the company began a mechanization campaign that eliminated several predominantly black departments.

But most historians came to see the world of working-class politics as a venue in which a genuinely progressive, multiracial ethos had the best chance to realize itself. This was because the unions, for all their imperfections, were sites of racial empowerment, sometimes within a genuinely integrated context, but perhaps even more as political entities in which black caucuses and factions could emerge in an organic fashion, as they did in unions representing workers in the steel, packinghouse, auto, shipbuilding, and railroad industries in years that long preceded the 1960s.

The responsibilities and expectations of American citizenship—due process, free speech, the right of assembly and petition—would now find their place in factory, mill, and office. A civil society would be constructed within the very womb of the privately held enterprise.

During those dramatic years in the early 1960s, when demonstrations and marches led by Martin Luther King and other militants pushed civil rights to the top of the social agenda, the entire discourse of American liberalism shifted decisively out of the New Deal–labor orbit and into a world in which the racial divide colored all politics.

From the early 1960s onward, the most legitimate, and in many instances the most potent, defense of American job rights would be found not through collective initiative, as codified in the Wagner Act and advanced by the trade unions, but through an individual’s claim to his or her civil rights based on race, gender, age, or other attribute.

That’s true, because this recent advance in social legislation arises not out of the potency of the American labor left, which has been in retreat, but relies instead on the enormous political legitimacy amassed by the civil rights movement and its many rights-conscious heirs.

This is because solidarity is not just a song or a sentiment but requires a measure of coercion that can enforce the social bond when not all members of the organization—or the picket line—are in full agreement. Unions are combat organizations, and solidarity is not just another word for majority rule, especially when their existence is at stake. Thus, in recent decades, employer antiunionism has become increasingly oriented toward the ostensible protection of the individual rights of workers as against undemocratic unions and restrictive contracts that hamper the free choice of employees.

As anti-sweatshop and human rights advocates are now rediscovering, no consistent regulation is really possible without hearing from the workers themselves, and their voices will remain silent unless they have some institution that protects them from the consequences of speaking up.

Thus, the same species of rights-conscious liberalism that abolished racial segregation, ended McCarthyism, and legalized women’s rights has also undermined the legal basis of union power and turned solidarity into a quaint and antique notion.

Rights consciousness therefore transfers authority into the hands of another body—a court, a panel, a government agency—to sort out the various claims and strike the approximate balance. Justice may be served for a particular individual, or even an entire class, but not always through a system of participatory debate and democratic decision making.

In the United States workers have used the new workers rights that emerged out of the civil rights movement to democratize gender and racial hierarchies, only to see their real security and opportunities undermined by the dramatic transformation of a working environment over which they have had little control.

First, the unions must themselves champion the rights impulse so that it does not become the presumptive property of the corporations, the free marketers, or even the human rights NGOs. To flourish again trade unionism does require civil rights and human rights and their vigorous enforcement in every global workplace.

Like the socialists of Europe and the industrial democrats of New Deal America, trade unionism requires a transformative vision to sustain its moral and institutional existence, to link individual rights and social purpose.

Like many other American progressives, both were enthusiasts for Mussolini-style corporatism. Fascism’s appeal to such liberals was found in its experimental nature, its antidogmatic temper, and its moral élan.

The 1935 Wagner Act did offer as its key rationale the establishment of industrial peace, but only after providing guarantees that genuinely independent trade unions had the power and solidarity to meet with their capitalist adversaries on a terrain that gave to labor the economic and political power necessary to cut a negotiated bargain.

In a pattern that really did have a fascist character, Southern elites had long figured out how to mobilize a big slice of the white working class in the interest of a reactionary and violently oppressive racial order. Thus the bitter resistance to the civil rights movement and to the implementation of school desegregation, which reached its apogee in the 1950s, was just the most overt manifestation of the reactionary manipulation of popular white sentiment—a sentiment that had first become apparent when Southern elites confronted New Deal statutes covering crop allotments, minimum wages, welfare payments, worker rights, and voting procedures.

In many of these authoritarian states, opposition movements that were defeated in 1968 reemerged a decade or more later, providing the leadership and a good deal of the spirit for the “velvet revolutions” that brought down the Eastern European regimes in 1989.

Mark Lilla has reminded us,

There was a tension between what capitalist society required of its citizens as producers and the habits it fostered in them as consumers. This contradiction, Bell wrote, would leave advanced capitalist societies without the moral basis they needed for continued prosperity and cohesion.

All revolutions, successful or not, link a transformation of the cultural and ideological terrain with a shift in power and governance.

There were culture wars in the 1930s as well as in later decades; one reason FDR was such a polarizing figure was that he embodied in his administration and in his persona the “class treason” that was so hateful to a generation of Yankee conservatives who had been the natural arbitrators of power and taste for so many decades.

The longest-standing argument against public sector unionism rests on the idea that such collective bargaining by workers in the public sector undercuts the sovereignty of government. The second idea is that public sector unionism makes government too expensive and sets a standard that private industry cannot meet. And the third conservative argument, which reflects the rise in recent years of an intense hostility to the very idea of a welfare state, asserts that public sector unions are bad not because they undermine the sovereignty of the state, but because they sustain it, especially insofar as the state, at either the local or national levels, creates a set of public goods, like education, infrastructure, health care, and even public safety, that conservatives seek to either abolish or privatize.

Trade unions oppose the fragmentation of the public school system, they fight the privatization of municipal services, they sustain the Democratic Party, and they politicize and mobilize voters who would otherwise remain alienated and voiceless.

“Many of the new research people,” he wrote in 1946, probably indicating his own feelings, “are disaffected and morally unhappy: they will their minds to people they don’t like for purposes they don’t feel at one with . . . What some of them really want is to connect their skill and intelligence to a movement in which they can believe; they are ready to give a lot of energy to an organization that would harness these skills in the service of the left. And the left to most of them means labor.”

Mills responded, “By intellectual here we mean humanitarian socialist. What the hell else? So I’ll say so in some innocent, hard-boiled way.”

The phrase “political publics” is important to this typology and in Mills’s mind is quite distinct from the more passive, uninformed “public opinion.” The political publics are more self-conscious, more politically alert communities either of ideology or interest that bring to bear a particular sensibility to the issues of the day. They formulate the ideas and programs that operate on the consciousness of the passive, atomized mass.

Not if “the power and the intellect” are united. And that is why Mills found trade union leaders to be “the strategic elite in American society,” even as he also warned on the very last page, “Never has so much depended upon men who are so ill-prepared and so little inclined to assume the responsibility.”

Trade unions are hybrid institutions—half monopoly seller of labor, half nascent social movement—and their leadership is just as mixed, though not always in the same personage: “an army general and a parliamentary debater, a political boss and an entrepreneur, a rebel and a disciplinarian.”

Here they defended the wildcat strikes that periodically erupted, pushed for a labor party, and attacked those in the labor movement, such as the Communists, who subordinated working-class aspirations for a better life and a more democratic workplace to the foreign policy interests of one of the big powers.

Despite high levels of consumption, unionization, and political complacency, Swados would later write, “there is one thing that the worker doesn’t do like the middle-class: he works like a worker.”

Confronted with the financial and political strength of the most powerful American corporations, the UAW tempered its fight against job dissatisfaction, unemployment, and racial discrimination.

As early as 1945 and 1946 the Communists were overwhelmingly defeated in Western Zone trade union elections by those who remembered the disastrous role played by the Reds during the immediate pre–Nazi era (the Communist slogan then was “After Hitler Us!”).

Thus Lovestone helped erect the ideological Iron Curtain that walled off the unions from an entire generation of New Left activists and civil rights militants whose energy and talent was essential to the health of a truly “free” labor movement.

Some were now union officers and staffers: their resistance, equivocation, and hypocrisy fueled Herbert Hill’s outrage for the rest of his life. Nothing infuriated him more than the complicacy, condescension, presumption, and outright racism that he found in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). In 1960 the ILGWU still traded on its socialist roots, its pioneering role in the New Deal, and in some circles its Jewish and Italian communitarianism. Yet anyone who bothered to look could also see that a stratum of aging Jewish liberals was presiding over a trade union that systematically excluded African Americans and Puerto Ricans from advancement in both the shop and the union hierarchy.

Hill wrote that she “denies the record of union racism in order to sanitize labor history,” along with many other labor historians who “find it necessary to minimize or deny racism in the labor movement because its existence conflicts with the useable past that they are constructing as labor history.”

Hill condemned what he called the “revived populist neo-Marxism that advanced the ideology of working class consciousness and solidarity against the social realties of race.” And as he put it in his critique of Gutman’s study of the late nineteenth-century United Mine Workers, “The attempt to dissolve race in class thus emerged in the ‘New Labor History’ as a modern version of the old socialist dream: that the class struggle, joined by united workers, would in time resolve the persistent and ideologically vexing issue of race by rendering it irrelevant.”

Organized labor is embattled, and not just at the bargaining table, but in a fundamentally ideological way that calls its very existence into question. In this context, academic intellectuals play a vital role as defenders, legitimizers, and even spokespeople for a movement that no longer quite knows how to explain itself to a larger public.

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Highlights for Ecology Without Nature https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-ecology-without-nature/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/highlights-for-ecology-without-nature/#respond Sun, 06 May 2018 20:37:52 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5989 To speak thus is to use the aesthetic as an anesthetic. We would be unable to cope with modernity unless we had a few pockets of place in which to store our hope. Rendering is technically what visual- and sonic-effects artists do to a film to generate a more or less consistent sense of atmosphere … Continue reading Highlights for Ecology Without Nature

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To speak thus is to use the aesthetic as an anesthetic.

We would be unable to cope with modernity unless we had a few pockets of place in which to store our hope.

Rendering is technically what visual- and sonic-effects artists do to a film to generate a more or less consistent sense of atmosphere or world.

elcphrasis

Texts also exploit negative rhythm to generate tone. The absence of sound or graphic marks can be as potent as their presence. Gaps between stanzas, and other kinds of broken lineation, create tone out of sheer blankness.

Moreover, there is an aesthetic politics of the rhizome, which promotes rhizome for rhizome’s sake.

ecopoetics

Ecorhapsody

ecomimesis

Ecodidacticism

ecorhapsodic

It is providing a fantasy, an aesthetic playground in which the ideas in the book appear incarnated, a literary gravitational field generated by the sheer quantity of vivid description (elcphrasis).

This paradoxical act of identification with the fantasy object of ideology could be mirrored in critical analysis, by the relentless close reading of texts, not in order to achieve some tasteful distance toward them, but precisely in order to “mess around” with them, or as my students sometimes say in horror, “dissect.”

In sum, one of the principal complaints against establishing a vivid, solidly real nature “out there” or “over there” is that it just fails to be convincing. This lack of believability penetrates to the very core of ecomimesis, the most potent rhetorical device for establishing a sense of nature. The inherent instability of language, and of the human and nonhuman worlds, ensure that ecomimesis fails to deliver.

The problem comes when we start to think that there is something behind or beyond or above (in other words, outside!) the inside-outside distinction. Not that the distinction is real; it is entirely spurious. Thus, it is wrong to claim that there is something more real beyond inside and outside, whether that thing is a world of (sacred) nature (traditional ecological language) or machines (Deleuze and Guattari world). Yet it is equally wrong to say that there is nothing, to “believe in nothing,” as it were, and to say that he or she who has the best argument is the right one—pure nihilism. There is not even nothing beyond inside and outside. Getting used to that could take a lifetime, or more.

We can expect to find ambient qualities in any artwork whatsoever. We need not restrict ourselves to works that are specifically ambient, and especially not that subset of works that contain ecomimesis. In a world properly attuned to the environment, we would read poems with an eye to ecology, no matter what their content.

Nature cannot remain itself—it is the flickering shapes on the edges of our perception, the strangers who disturb us with their proximity, the machines whose monstrosity inspires revulsion.

They are identical because, under current economic conditions, not only is there no place, but there is also no space.

Before and after the work of capital, there persists a curious silence and absence marked by traces of misery and oppression.

Although some DJs have created superstar cults, the notion of the disco or house DJ is that of an anonymous worker in a “sound factory,” generating libidinal pulses in a space of dancing, producing ambience, in the same way as fairgrounds provide machines for enjoyment rather than work.

Marx described how capitalist alienation is fundamentally how human labor power and labor time get factored out of the process of value generation, even though they are intrinsic to it. Capitalism encrypts labor.

Rainforests are ransacked for biotechnology, and the insides of life-forms provide new products such as patented genomes in what ecofeminist Vandana Shiva describes as another wave of colonization.

In returning to Romanticism, ecocriticism highlights the yearning for a bygone life of feudal hierarchy. Primitivist environmentalisms crave a lost golden age of interconnect-edness with the environment. They look to pre-feudal, sometimes prehistoric, pasts to discover forms of primitive communism. In contrast, futurist environmentalisms are based on the notion that the golden age has not yet happened. They acknowledge that despite the medievalist glamour, most people never had much of a relationship with their land under a feudal hierarchy.

Ambient poetics is about making the imperceptible perceptible, while retaining the form of its imperceptibility—to make the invisible visible, the inaudible audible.

Ambient art wants to make the unknown known, like science. But it also wishes to retain the flavor of the unknown, a certain mystifying opacity—otherwise ambient art would in fact be science.

Organicism, that peculiarly English form of nature ideology, paints society as a nonsystemic heap of classes, beliefs, and practices, as ramshackle and spontaneous as a pile of compost. This is a rich, compelling, and finally authoritarian fantasy—there’s no arguing with it.

Tolkien narrates the victory of the suburbanite, the “little person,” embedded in a tamed yet natural-seeming environment. Nestled into the horizon as they are in their burrows, the wider world of global politics is blissfully unavailable to them. Tolkien’s work embodies a key nationalist fantasy, a sense of “world” as real, tangible yet indeterminate, evoking a metonymic chain of images—an anamorphic form.

The question of animals—sometimes I wonder whether it is the question—radically disrupts any idea of a single, independent, solid environment.

For Tolkien, dwarves, elves, hobbits, and talking eagles are welcome others, but swarthy “southern” or “eastern” men are not.

The only way to remain close to the strangers without killing them (turning them into yourself or into an inanimate object) is to maintain a sense of irony. If irony and movement are not part of environmentalism, strangers are in danger of disappearing, exclusion, ostracism, or worse.

State terror takes an interest in ecological catastrophe.

The struggle between individualism and holism offers an attenuated choice between absolute liberty and absolute authority—in other words, the dilemma called America. Americans are caught between the constitution and a militarized state, between placards and pepper spray.

Mud, mud, glorious mud.

Since it looks like capitalism is about to use an ecological rhetoric of scarcity to justify future developments, it is vital that we recognize that there are serious problems with imagining an ecological view based on limits, even at the level of abstraction we have been exploring. And we need to notice that scarcity and limitation are not the only ecological concepts on the block. What if the problem were in fact one of a badly distributed and reified surplus?

Green consumerism made it possible to be both pro-capitalist and green, repeating the Romantic struggle between rebelling and selling out.

To be a consumerist, you don’t have to consume anything, just contemplate the idea of consuming.

But this promise typifies the paradox of the Romantic avant-garde. If we could just get the aesthetic form right, we could crack reality, open it up, and change it.

Both quietism and activism are two sides of the same beautiful coin. The beautiful soul fuses the aesthetic and the moral.

Likewise, there are fascist and New Age versions of environmentalism.

Nature writing partly militates against ecology rather than for it. By setting up nature as an object “over there”—a pristine wilderness beyond all trace of human contact—it re-establishes the very separation it seeks to abolish.

Significantly, Althusser suggests, if only poetically, that ideology is a dimension of existence—we exist “within” it.167 A more engaged ecological criticism would acknowledge this environment—one we are caught in even as we judge it.

The dizzyingly additive quality of the images makes us forget where we came from at the start of the paragraph, and where we are going—how do we end up at otter scat? But just as “out of joint” is the metaphorical slash of the “as I write.” Since the “as” slides between analogy, temporality, and strict semantic continuity, and since this sliding must take place for the passage to seduce us to visualize a fantasy world, “As I write” breaches the consistency of the ecomimesis even as it broaches it.

Only a very privileged person would make such a big deal out of having eyes and ears, of being able to walk, read, write. There are hints that nature is best accessed by the able-bodied, or at least, those with sharp, undistracted organs of perception.

Ecomimesis aims to rupture the aesthetic distance, to break down the subject-object dualism, to convince us that we belong to this world. But the end result is to reinforce the aesthetic distance, the very dimension in which the subject-object dualism persists. Since de-distancing has been reified, distance returns even more strongly, in surround-sound, with panoramic intensity.

Writing outside the dominant Western traditions, Trungpa notices how materialism and spiritualism are joined at the hip:

Our choice is false if it has been reduced to one between hypocrisy and cynicism, between wholeheartedly getting into environmental rhetoric and cynically distancing ourselves from it. In both cases, we would be writing liturgies for the beautiful soul. Although it is “realistic” to be cynical rather than hypocritical, we do not wish to reinforce the current state of affairs. Our answer to the ruthless ransacking of nature, and of the idea of nature, must be yes, we admit to the reality of the situation. And no, we refuse to submit to it.

Ecocritique could establish collective forms of identity that included other species and their worlds, real and possible. It would subvert fixating images of “world” that inhibit humans from grasping their place in an already historical nature.

To think in terms of either crude action or pure ideas is to remain within the prison of the beautiful soul.

Dark ecology acknowledges that there is no way out of the paradoxes outlined in this book. Far from remaining natural, ecocriticism must admit that it is contingent and queer.

If it is to be properly critical, montage must juxtapose the contents with the frame. Why? Simply to juxtapose contents without bringing form and subject position into the mix would leave things as they are.

 

 

If ecology without nature has taught us anything, it is that there is a need to acknowledge irreducible otherness, whether in poetics, ethics, or politics.

All is not lost in a consumerist universe, if only because the junk that surrounds us is so inconsistent. Its inconsistency has the quality of a clue. This clue is the secret of suffering curled up inside the very dimension of the object.

Embodied in the sonic and graphic materiality of the text, the earth quakes, setting up a subject quake, a tremor of the “I.” What remains after our long delve into the fake otherness of ecomimesis is the fragility of an “I” that we can’t quite get rid of, but that at least can be made to vibrate, in such a way that does not strengthen its aggressive resolve (like a hammer or a boot), but that dissolves its form, however momentarily.

Heidegger has most powerfully described place as open and beyond concept. But Heidegger, infamously, solidifies this very openness, turning history into destiny and leaving the way open for an extreme right-wing politics, which can easily assimilate ecological thinking to its ideological ends, precisely because ecological thinking is highly aestheticized. The Nazis passed original laws to protect animals and (German) forests as ends in themselves.

Romantic environmentalism is a flavor of modern consumerist ideology. It is thoroughly urban, even when it is born in the countryside.

Moving from one station to the next becomes a metaphor for moving from one word to another in a sentence. Landmarks become textual.

To see a place in its strangeness is not just to see how it is permeated with otherness. That could collapse into racism: otherness immigrates and I’m ready with my gun. Within a horizon, you can indeed be aware of “another” place over yonder. Appreciating strangeness is seeing the very strangeness of similarity and familiarity. To reintroduce the uncanny into the poetics of the home (oikos, ecology, ecomimesis) is a political act.

The ecological thought, the thinking of interconnectedness, has a dark side embodied not in a hippie aesthetic of life over death, or a sadistic-sentimental Bambification of sentient beings, but in a “goth” assertion of the contingent and necessarily queer idea that we want to stay with a dying world: dark ecology.

Ecopsychology

We start by thinking that we can “save” something called “the world” “over there,” but end up realizing that we ourselves are implicated. This is the solution to beautiful soul syndrome: reframing our field of activity as one for which we ourselves are formally responsible, even guilty.

We should be finding ways to stick around with the sticky mess that we’re in and that we are, making thinking dirtier, identifying with ugliness, practicing “hauntology” (Derrida’s phrase) rather than ontology.

I often think that the trouble with posthumanism is that we have not yet achieved humanity, and that humanity and posthumanity have no time for what Derrida calls the animal that therefore I am.

In this respect, dark ecology diverges from those Romanticisms that follow a Hegelian dialectic, the story of the reconciliation of the self to the other, who turns out to be the self in disguise.159 It gets over the dilemma of the beautiful soul, not by turning the other into the self, but perversely, by leaving things the way they are.

And being-here, being literally on this earth (Da-sein), would entail a need for forgiveness, an equally radical assumption that whatever is there is our responsibility, and ultimately, “our fault.”

Dark ecology tells us that we can’t escape our minds. Far from giving us a liturgy for how to get out of our guilty minds, how to stick our heads in nature and lose them, Clare helps us to stay right here, in the poisoned mud. Which is just where we need to be, right now.

The only firm ethical option in the current catastrophe, as I observed before, is admitting to the ecologically catastrophic in all its meaningless contingency, accepting responsibility groundlessly, whether or not “we ourselves” can be proved to be responsible.

Instead of trying to pull the world out of the mud, we could jump down into the mud. To emerge from the poisoned chrysalis of the beautiful soul, we admit that we have a choice. We choose and accept our own death, and the fact of mortality among species and ecosystems. This is the ultimate rationality: holding our mind open for the absolutely unknown that is to come. Evolution will not be televised. One cannot have a video of one’s own extinction. A warning to deep ecology: if we aestheticize this acceptance, we arrive at fascism, the cult of death. Instead, ecological criticism must politicize the aesthetic. We choose this poisoned ground. We will be equal to this senseless actuality. Ecology may be without nature. But it is not without us.

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Rawls’s Corporate Veil of Ignorance https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/rawlss-corporate-veil-of-ignorance/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/05/rawlss-corporate-veil-of-ignorance/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 06:55:21 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5986 As a variation on the classic one: the willingness of a corporate CEO to spend half an hour in a room without windows with a random customer.

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As a variation on the classic one: the willingness of a corporate CEO to spend half an hour in a room without windows with a random customer.

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Highlights for Broken Angels https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/04/highlights-for-broken-angels/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/04/highlights-for-broken-angels/#respond Mon, 16 Apr 2018 20:03:46 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5974 At the very least, you habitually find yourself in unfamiliar bodies on unfamiliar worlds where people are shooting at you. Even on a good day, no amount of briefing can prepare you for a total change of environment like that, and in the invariably unstable to lethally dangerous sets of circumstances the Envoys have been … Continue reading Highlights for Broken Angels

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At the very least, you habitually find yourself in unfamiliar bodies on unfamiliar worlds where people are shooting at you. Even on a good day, no amount of briefing can prepare you for a total change of environment like that, and in the invariably unstable to lethally dangerous sets of circumstances the Envoys have been created to deal with, there just isn’t any point.

Since it is logistically impossible to expect everything, she told us evenly, we will teach you not to expect anything. That way, you will be ready for it.

But really, I’m optimistic. You’d be surprised how many soldiers still find it difficult to shoot small children, even in these troubled times.

Testing the human frame to destruction

Lapinee, a construct vocalist, was designed and launched to front the replacement song, which told the story of a young boy, orphaned in a Kempist sneak raid but then adopted by a kindly corporate bloc and brought up to realise his full potential as a top-level planetary executive.

Maximum utility for ALL resources is our ultimate goal.

Mandrake was the commercial world’s equivalent of Carrera’s Wedge, and you had to assume a corresponding approach to latitudes of initiative at executive levels. There was really no other way for a cutting-edge organism to work.

And like Quell says, rip open the diseased heart of a corporation and what spills out?’

‘People.’

Body armour for the soul.

There’s a virtual version of me in the machine with some psychosurgeon peripherals wired in. I’ll send it in to bring back the best dozen and a half.

‘Look at that, Kovacs. We’re drinking coffee so far from Earth you have to work hard to pick out Sol in the night sky. We were carried here on a wind that blows in a dimension we cannot see or touch. Stored as dreams in the mind of a machine that thinks in a fashion so far in advance of our own brains it might as well carry the name of god. We have been resurrected into bodies not our own, grown in a secret garden outwith the body of any mortal woman. These are the facts of our existence, Kovacs. How, then, are they different, or any less mystical, than the belief that there is another realm where the dead live in the company of beings so far beyond us we must call them gods?’

We don’t need recourse to the places of origin to explain them. I’m just trying to show you how limited your world view is without an acceptance of wonder.

Times change, but market forces are forever. History unreels, the real dead stay that way.

The rest of us get to go on.

She said wars are fought over hormones. Male hormones, largely. It’s not about winning or losing at all, it’s about hormonal discharge.

War has a soothing, simplifying effect on politics that must hit the politicians like a betathanatine rush. You don’t have to balance the issues any more, and you can justify anything. Fight and win, and bring the victory home.

‘Every skill must be practised. Every act rehearsed. A blade is only a blade when it cuts.’

The wisdom of the ages shredded at a stroke into the pipe-cooked musings of a bunch of canal-dive barflies. Lao Tzu, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Muhammed — what did these guys know? Parochial locals, never even been off the planet. Where were they when the Martians were crossing interstellar space.

Face the facts. Then act on them. It’s the only mantra I know, the only doctrine I have to offer you, and it’s harder than you’d think, because I swear humans seem hardwired to do anything but. Face the facts. Don’t pray, don’t wish, don’t buy into centuries-old dogma and dead rhetoric. Don’t give in to your conditioning or your visions or your fucked-up sense of . . . whatever. FACE THE FACTS. THEN act.

He was like all of them. Same intensity, same goddamned fucking conviction that he was right. Just a different dream of what he was right about.

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Komplischwierig https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/04/komplischwierig/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/04/komplischwierig/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 18:44:13 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5971 I thought I had come up with the clever portmanteau “komplischwierig”, a combination of “kompliziert” (complicated) and “schwierig” (difficult). Unfortunately a quick Google search showed eight prior results where people have used the word. The other German neologism I thought I could claim was “Fleischglück” but of course I’m not the first person to come … Continue reading Komplischwierig

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I thought I had come up with the clever portmanteau “komplischwierig”, a combination of “kompliziert” (complicated) and “schwierig” (difficult). Unfortunately a quick Google search showed eight prior results where people have used the word.

The other German neologism I thought I could claim was “Fleischglück” but of course I’m not the first person to come up with that either.

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Highlights for Exit West https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/04/highlights-for-exit-west/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/04/highlights-for-exit-west/#respond Sun, 01 Apr 2018 19:46:19 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5968 but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does. Location, location, location, the … Continue reading Highlights for Exit West

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but that is the way of things, with cities as with life, for one moment we are pottering about our errands as usual and the next we are dying, and our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does.

Location, location, location, the realtors say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians.

They had begun, each of them, to be penetrated, but they had not yet kissed.

for he was so gentle, and evoked in her a protective caring, as if for one’s own child, or for a puppy, or for a beautiful memory one knows has already commenced to fade.

and he did not wish to do this, he preferred to abide, in a sense, in the past, for the past offered more to him.

and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.

who had run from war already, and did not know where next to run, and so were waiting, waiting, like so many others.

Even more than the fighter planes and the tanks these robots, few though they were, and the drones overhead, were frightening, because they suggested an unstoppable efficiency, an inhuman power, and evoked the kind of dread that a small mammal feels before a predator of an altogether different order, like a rodent before a snake.

cutting across divisions of race or language or nation, for what did those divisions matter now in a world full of doors,

The news in those days was full of war and migrants and nativists, and it was full of fracturing too, of regions pulling away from nations, and cities pulling away from hinterlands, and it seemed that as everyone was coming together everyone was also moving apart.

“Millions arrived in our country,” Saeed replied. “When there were wars nearby.”

“That was different. Our country was poor. We didn’t feel we had as much to lose.”

To flee forever is beyond the capacity of most: at some point even a hunted animal will stop, exhausted, and await its fate, if only for a while.

Perhaps they had decided they did not have it in them to do what would have needed to be done, to corral and bloody and where necessary slaughter the migrants, and had determined that some other way would have to be found.

In exchange for their labor in clearing terrain and building infrastructure and assembling dwellings from prefabricated blocks, migrants were promised forty meters and a pipe: a home on forty square meters of land and a connection to all the utilities of modernity.

A mutually agreed time tax had been enacted, such that a portion of the income and toil of those who had recently arrived on the island would go to those who had been there for decades, and this time tax was tapered in both directions, becoming a smaller and smaller sliver as one continued to reside, and then a larger and larger subsidy thereafter.

He was drawn to people from their country, both in the labor camp and online. It seemed to Nadia that the farther they moved from the city of their birth, through space and through time, the more he sought to strengthen his connection to it, tying ropes to the air of an era that for her was unambiguously gone.

But in his devotions was ever more devotion, and towards her it seemed there was ever less.

It seemed to Saeed that the people who advocated this position most strongly, who claimed the rights of nativeness most forcefully, tended to be drawn from the ranks of those with light skin who looked most like the natives of Britain—and as had been the case with many of the natives of Britain, many of these people too seemed stunned by what was happening to their homeland, what had already happened in so brief a period, and some seemed angry as well.

and prayer for him became about being a man, being one of the men, a ritual that connected him to adulthood and to the notion of being a particular sort of man, a gentleman, a gentle man, a man who stood for community and faith and kindness and decency, a man, in other words, like his father. Young men pray for different things, of course, but some young men pray to honor the goodness of the men who raised them, and Saeed was very much a young man of this mold.

and so even though they spoke less and did less together, they saw each other more, although not more often.

Of this, in later years, both were glad, and both would also wonder if this meant that they had made a mistake, that if they had but waited and watched their relationship would have flowered again, and so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born.

It has been said that depression is a failure to imagine a plausible desirable future for oneself, and, not just in Marin, but in the whole region, in the Bay Area, and in many other places too, places both near and far, the apocalypse appeared to have arrived and yet it was not apocalyptic, which is to say that while the changes were jarring they were not the end, and life went on, and people found things to do and ways to be and people to be with, and plausible desirable futures began to emerge, unimaginable previously, but not unimaginable now, and the result was something not unlike relief.

How this assembly would coexist with other preexisting bodies of government was as yet undecided. It might at first have only a moral authority, but that authority could be substantial, for unlike those other entities for which some humans were not human enough to exercise suffrage, this new assembly would speak from the will of all the people, and in the face of that will, it was hoped, greater justice might be less easily denied.

the lives of cities being far more persistent and more gently cyclical than those of people

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Highlights for Sapiens https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-sapiens/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-sapiens/#respond Sat, 31 Mar 2018 22:02:18 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5964 Humankind paid for its lofty vision and industrious hands with backaches and stiff necks. But if the Interbreeding Theory is right, there might well be genetic differences between Africans, Europeans and Asians that go back hundreds of thousands of years. This is political dynamite, which could provide material for explosive racial theories. The foragers may … Continue reading Highlights for Sapiens

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Humankind paid for its lofty vision and industrious hands with backaches and stiff necks.

But if the Interbreeding Theory is right, there might well be genetic differences between Africans, Europeans and Asians that go back hundreds of thousands of years. This is political dynamite, which could provide material for explosive racial theories.

The foragers may have had their all-conquering Napoleons, who ruled empires half the size of Luxembourg; gifted Beethovens who lacked symphony orchestras but brought people to tears with the sound of their bamboo flutes; and charismatic prophets who revealed the words of a local oak tree rather than those of a universal creator god. But these are all mere guesses.

Every mammoth was a source of a vast quantity of meat (which, given the frosty temperatures, could even be frozen for later use), tasty fat, warm fur and valuable ivory. As the findings from Sungir testify, mammoth-hunters did not just survive in the frozen north – they thrived.

The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.

Back in the snail-mail era, people usually only wrote letters when they had something important to relate.

We thought we were saving time; instead we revved up the treadmill of life to ten times its former speed and made our days more anxious and agitated.

History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.

Everywhere, rulers and elites sprang up, living off the peasants’ surplus food and leaving them with only a bare subsistence.

We believe in a particular order not because it is objectively true, but because believing in it enables us to cooperate effectively and forge a better society.

First, you never admit that the order is imagined. You always insist that the order sustaining society is an objective reality created by the great gods or by the laws of nature.

Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can.

The inter-subjective is something that exists within the communication network linking the subjective consciousness of many individuals. If a single individual changes his or her beliefs, or even dies, it is of little importance. However, if most individuals in the network die or change their beliefs, the inter-subjective phenomenon will mutate or disappear. Inter-subjective phenomena are neither malevolent frauds nor insignificant charades.

Throughout history, and in almost all societies, concepts of pollution and purity have played a leading role in enforcing social and political divisions and have been exploited by numerous ruling classes to maintain their privileges.

Money comes to money, and poverty to poverty. Education comes to education, and ignorance to ignorance. Those once victimised by history are likely to be victimised yet again. And those whom history has privileged are more likely to be privileged again.

In order to ensure her own survival and the survival of her children, the woman had little choice but to agree to whatever conditions the man stipulated so that he would stick around and share some of the burden. As time went by, the feminine genes that made it to the next generation belonged to women who were submissive caretakers. Women who spent too much time fighting for power did not leave any of those powerful genes for future generations.

Nobody really knows how to solve this thorny question of cultural inheritance.

Yet, in fact, religion has been the third great unifier of humankind, alongside money and empires.

These theological disputes turned so violent that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Catholics and Protestants killed each other by the hundreds of thousands.

If a religion is a system of human norms and values that is founded on belief in a superhuman order, then Soviet Communism was no less a religion than Islam.

The existence of different human races, the superiority of the white race, and the need to protect and cultivate this superior race were widely held beliefs among most Western elites.

At the same time, a huge gulf is opening between the tenets of liberal humanism and the latest findings of the life sciences, a gulf we cannot ignore much longer.

Successful cultures are those that excel in reproducing their memes, irrespective of the costs and benefits to their human hosts.

Similar arguments are common in the social sciences, under the aegis of game theory.

This was not merely a historical achievement, but an evolutionary and even cosmic feat.

Mere observations, however, are not knowledge. In order to understand the universe, we need to connect observations into comprehensive theories.

Most scientific studies are funded because somebody believes they can help attain some political, economic or religious goal.

What made Europeans exceptional was their unparalleled and insatiable ambition to explore and conquer.

the European conquerors knew their empires very well. Far better, indeed, than any previous conquerors, or even than the native population itself.

No less important was the fact that science gave the empires ideological justification. Modern Europeans came to believe that acquiring new knowledge was always good. The fact that the empires produced a constant stream of new knowledge branded them as progressive and positive enterprises.

Banks and governments print money, but ultimately, it is the scientists who foot the bill.

A hundred years later, princes and bankers were willing to extend far more credit to Columbus’ successors, and they had more capital at their disposal, thanks to the treasures reaped from America. Equally important, princes and bankers had far more trust in the potential of exploration, and were more willing to part with their money.

The secret of Dutch success was credit. The Dutch burghers, who had little taste for combat on land, hired mercenary armies to fight the Spanish for them. The Dutch themselves meanwhile took to the sea in ever-larger fleets. Mercenary armies and cannon-brandishing fleets cost a fortune, but the Dutch were able to finance their military expeditions more easily than the mighty Spanish Empire because they secured the trust of the burgeoning European financial system at a time when the Spanish king was carelessly eroding its trust in him. Financiers extended the Dutch enough credit to set up armies and fleets, and these armies and fleets gave the Dutch control of world trade routes, which in turn yielded handsome profits. The profits allowed the Dutch to repay the loans, which strengthened the trust of the financiers. Amsterdam was fast becoming not only one of the most important ports of Europe, but also the continent’s financial Mecca.

How exactly did the Dutch win the trust of the financial system? Firstly, they were sticklers about repaying their loans on time and in full, making the extension of credit less risky for lenders. Secondly, their country’s judicial system enjoyed independence and protected private rights – in particular private property rights.

This enterprise may sound a little strange to us, but in the early modern age it was common for private companies to hire not only soldiers, but also generals and admirals, cannons and ships, and even entire off-the-shelf armies. The international community took this for granted and didn’t raise an eyebrow when a private company established an empire.

the British demanded and received control of Hong Kong, which they proceeded to use as a secure base for drug trafficking

The most important economic resource is trust in the future, and this resource is constantly threatened by thieves and charlatans.

Markets by themselves offer no protection against fraud, theft and violence. It is the job of political systems to ensure trust by legislating sanctions against cheats and to establish and support police forces, courts and jails which will enforce the law. When kings fail to do their jobs and regulate the markets properly, it leads to loss of trust, dwindling credit and economic depression.

Few of us understand how electricity does all these things, but even fewer can imagine life without it.

Our children’s books, our iconography and our TV screens are still full of giraffes, wolves and chimpanzees, but the real world has very few of them left.

Many call this process ‘the destruction of nature’. But it’s not really destruction, it’s change. Nature cannot be destroyed.

Many kingdoms and empires were in truth little more than large protection rackets.

A person who lost her family and community around 1750 was as good as dead.

Today, parental authority is in full retreat. Youngsters are increasingly excused from obeying their elders, whereas parents are blamed for anything that goes wrong in the life of their child. Mum and Dad are about as likely to be found innocent in the Freudian courtroom as were defendants in a Stalinist show trial.

The decline of violence is due largely to the rise of the state. Throughout history, most violence resulted from local feuds between families and communities.

A lot of evidence indicates that we are destroying the foundations of human prosperity in an orgy of reckless consumption.

A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.

Science fiction rarely describes such a future, because an accurate description is by definition incomprehensible.

Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven’t given it enough thought.

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Highlights for The Stone Sky https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-the-stone-sky/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-the-stone-sky/#respond Sun, 25 Mar 2018 20:46:09 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5962 Well, some worlds are built on a fault line of pain, held up by nightmares. Don’t lament when those worlds fall. Rage that they were built doomed in the first place. He has given up some of who he was, but what remains is still an artist of terror. If he has seen fit to … Continue reading Highlights for The Stone Sky

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Well, some worlds are built on a fault line of pain, held up by nightmares. Don’t lament when those worlds fall. Rage that they were built doomed in the first place.

He has given up some of who he was, but what remains is still an artist of terror. If he has seen fit to share the secrets of his artistry with them, they’re lucky. She hopes they appreciate it.

“Would’ve been nice if we could’ve all had normal, of course, but not enough people wanted to share. So now we all burn.”

The fires within the earth are nothing to what you’re feeling right now, failed mother that you are.

But there are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victims will someday do back what was done to them—even if, in truth, their victims couldn’t care less about such pettiness and have moved on. Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky.

This was what made them not the same kind of human as everyone else. Eventually: not as human as everyone else. Finally: not human at all.

Hjarka Leadership Castrima, who was taught from an early age to kill the few so the many might live, only touches her shoulder and says, “You’ll do what you have to do.”

For some crimes, there is no fitting justice—only reparation. So for every iota of life siphoned from beneath the Earth’s skin, the Earth has dragged a million human remnants into its heart.

You will do this—make her see these things, make yourself face it again, because this is the whole truth of what orogenes are. The Stillness fears your kind for good reason, true. Yet it should also revere your kind for good reason, and it has chosen to do only one of these things.

But that’s no different from what mothers have had to do since the dawn of time: sacrifice the present, in hopes of a better future. If the sacrifice this time has been harder than most … Fine. So be it.

What follows won’t be good, but it’ll be bad for everyone—rich and poor, Equatorials and commless, Sanzeds and Arctics, now they’ll all know. Every season is the Season for us. The apocalypse that never ends. They could’ve chosen a different kind of equality. We could’ve all been safe and comfortable together, surviving together, but they didn’t want that. Now nobody gets to be safe. Maybe that’s what it will take for them to finally realize things have to change.

We will have set her free … to struggle for survival along with everyone else. But that is better than the illusion of safety in a gilded cage, is it not?

Remember, too, that the Earth does not fully understand us. It looks upon human beings and sees short-lived, fragile creatures, puzzlingly detached in substance and awareness from the planet on which their lives depend, who do not understand the harm they tried to do—perhaps because they are so short-lived and fragile and detached.

“They’re not going to choose anything different.”

“They will if you make them.”

She’s wiser than you, and does not balk at the notion of forcing people to be decent to each other.

There is always loss, with change.

Then you say, “I want the world to be better.”

I have never regretted more my inability to leap into the air and whoop for joy.

Instead, I transit to you, with one hand proffered. “Then let’s go make it better.”

You look amused. It’s you. It’s truly you. “Just like that?”

“It might take some time.”

“I don’t think I’m very patient.” But you take my hand.

Don’t be patient. Don’t ever be. This is the way a new world begins.

“Neither am I,” I say. “So let’s get to it.”

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Highlights for The Obelisk Gate https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-the-obelisk-gate/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-the-obelisk-gate/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 20:11:58 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5959 That’s when you no longer need an answer to the question. There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both—taken and taken and taken, until there’s nothing left but hope, and you’ve given that up because it hurts too much. Until you would rather die, or kill, … Continue reading Highlights for The Obelisk Gate

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That’s when you no longer need an answer to the question. There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both—taken and taken and taken, until there’s nothing left but hope, and you’ve given that up because it hurts too much. Until you would rather die, or kill, or avoid attachments altogether, than lose one more thing.

Not the thought. The thought was simple and predictable: Better to die than live a slave. But what you felt in that moment was a kind of cold, monstrous love. A determination to make sure your son’s life remained the beautiful, wholesome thing that it had been up to that day, even if it meant you had to end his life early.

The arguments that you have with the other advisors are more important: Your decisions affect more than a thousand people now. But they have the same silly, pedantic feel. Silly pedantry is a luxury that you’ve rarely been able to enjoy in your life.

A girl whose mother never loved her, only refined her, and whose father will only love her again if she can do the impossible and become something she is not.

Once, as you trained Nassun, you told yourself that it did not matter if she hated you by the end of it; she would know your love by her own survival.

The children complain that he’s not very good—none of your finesse, and while he goes easier on them, they’re not learning as much. (It’s nice to be appreciated, if after the fact.)

This is a terrible thing that she is saying. It is a terrible thing that she loves herself.

Now, she needs someone to blame for the loss of that perfect love. She knows her mother can bear it.

“Oh, uncaring Earth,” you whisper.

“This is a community. You will be unified. You will fight for each other. Or I will rusting kill every last one of you.”

Even if “hasn’t yet committed genocidal slaughter” is a low bar to hop, other communities haven’t even managed that much.

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Highlights for The Fifth Season https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-the-fifth-season/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-the-fifth-season/#respond Tue, 13 Mar 2018 14:51:51 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5956 Accepted members of a comm are those who have been accorded rights of cache-share and protection, and who in turn support the comm through taxes or other contributions. And then you stop. Because, oh uncaring Earth. Look what you’ve done. Obey the lore, make the hard choices, and maybe when the Season ends there will … Continue reading Highlights for The Fifth Season

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Accepted members of a comm are those who have been accorded rights of cache-share and protection, and who in turn support the comm through taxes or other contributions.

And then you stop. Because, oh uncaring Earth. Look what you’ve done.

Obey the lore, make the hard choices, and maybe when the Season ends there will be people who remember how civilization should work.

Likewise, no one speaks of celestial objects, though the skies are as crowded and busy here as anywhere else in the universe. This is largely because so much of the people’s attention is directed toward the ground, not the sky.

“No, it won’t. And I don’t care how they feel. They don’t have to rusting like us. What matters is what they do.”

You’ll jigsaw them together however you can, caulk in the odd bits with willpower wherever they don’t quite fit, ignore the occasional sounds of grinding and cracking. As long as nothing important breaks, right? You’ll get by. You have no choice.

Nearly all affected comms were able to subsist on their own stores, thus proving the efficacy of Imperial reforms and Seasonal planning. In its aftermath, many comms of the Nomidlats and Somidlats voluntarily joined the Empire, beginning its Golden Age.

She cries because she has been inexpressibly lonely, and Schaffa… well. Schaffa loves her, in his tender and terrifying way.

The people who built those old things were weak, and died as the weak inevitably must. More damning is that they failed. The ones who built the obelisks just failed harder than most.

This is why she hates Alabaster: not because he is more powerful, not even because he is crazy, but because he refuses to allow her any of the polite fictions and unspoken truths that have kept her comfortable, and safe, for years.

“I make sure he’s taken care of.” And she does. Corundum is always clean and well fed. She never wanted a child, but now that she’s had it—him—and held him, and nursed him, and all that… she does feel a sense of accomplishment, maybe, and rueful acknowledgment, because she and Alabaster have managed to make one beautiful child between them. S

Who’s she kidding? It’s love. She loves her son. But that doesn’t mean she wants to spend every hour of every rusting day in his presence.

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Highlights for Turn the Ship Around https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-turn-the-ship-around/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-turn-the-ship-around/#respond Sun, 04 Mar 2018 21:28:04 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5952 Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential. Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. “You know, sure, maybe over time things … Continue reading Highlights for Turn the Ship Around

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Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential.

Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

“You know, sure, maybe over time things would have improved, but who wants to gamble their career—no, their life energy—on the hope of a sea change at an established, ‘successful’ company. I went on to pursue my dreams, and I’ve done so.”

The leader-leader structure is fundamentally different from the leader-follower structure. At its core is the belief that we can all be leaders and, in fact, it’s best when we all are leaders.

Rather than telling everyone what we needed to do, I would ask questions about how they thought we should approach a problem. Rather than being the central hub coordinating maintenance between two divisions, I told the division chiefs to talk to each other directly.

The twelve chiefs are the senior enlisted men. They are middle management. At our submarine schools, the instructors tell us that officers make sure we do the right things and chiefs make sure we do things right.

My unfamiliarity with the sub’s technical details was having an interesting side effect: since I couldn’t get involved with the specifics of the gear, I opened up space to focus on the people and their interactions instead, and to rely on the crew more than I normally would have.

What are the things you are hoping I don’t change?

What are the things you secretly hope I do change?

What are the good things about Santa Fe we should build on?

If you were me what would you do first?

Why isn’t the ship doing better?

What are your personal goals for your tour here on Santa Fe?

What impediments do you have to doing your job?

What will be our biggest challenge to getting Santa Fe ready for deployment?

What are your biggest frustrations about how Santa Fe is currently run?

What is the best thing I can do for you?

 

Although I cursed my lack of technical knowledge, it prevented me from falling back on bad habits. In the past when I would interview a crew member about how something worked, I only acted curious because, in reality, I knew how it worked. Now, when I talked to the men on the ship, I actually was curious.

You can’t “direct” empowerment programs. Directed empowerment programs are flawed because they are predicated on this assumption: I have the authority and ability to empower you (and you don’t). Fundamentally, that’s disempowering.

We discovered that distributing control by itself wasn’t enough. As that happened, it put requirements on the new decision makers to have a higher level of technical knowledge and clearer sense of organizational purpose than ever before.

The crew was still focusing too much on complying with regulations rather than working to make our submarine the most operationally capable warship possible. It was the same problem as focusing on avoiding mistakes instead of trying to achieve something great.

SHORT, EARLY CONVERSATIONS is a mechanism for CONTROL. It is a mechanism for control because the conversations did not consist of me telling them what to do. They were opportunities for the crew to get early feedback on how they were tackling problems. This allowed them to retain control of the solution. These early, quick discussions also provided clarity to the crew about what we wanted to accomplish. Many lasted only thirty seconds, but they saved hours of time.

Inefficiencies in my time were highly visible, especially to me. Less visible, however, were the inefficiencies of all the people throughout the organization.

What happens in a top-down culture when the leader is wrong? Everyone goes over the cliff.

In effect, by articulating their intentions, the officers and crew were acting their way into the next higher level of command. We had no need of leadership development programs; the way we ran the ship was the leadership development program.

You want more, you give more orders, and you become more controlling. It has a seductive pull on the leaders, but it is debilitating and energy sapping for the followers.

There were no shortcuts. As the level of control is divested, it becomes more and more important that the team be aligned with the goal of the organization.

This had a big effect on me. It showed me how efforts to improve the process made the organization more efficient, while efforts to monitor the process made the organization less efficient.

We worked hard on this issue of communication. It was for everyone. I would think out loud when I’d say, in general, here’s where we need to be, and here’s why. They would think out loud with worries, concerns, and thoughts. It’s not what we picture when we think of the movie image of the charismatic and confident leader, but it creates a much more resilient system.

Thinking out loud is essential for making the leap from leader-follower to leader-leader.

We had been taking actions that pushed authority down the chain of command, that empowered the officers, chiefs, and crew, but the insight that came to me was that as authority is delegated, technical knowledge at all levels takes on a greater importance. There is an extra burden for technical competence.

The personal liberty, well-being, and economic prosperity we enjoy in the United States are unique throughout the history of mankind.

The result of increased technical competence is the ability to delegate increased decision making to the employees.

The change from passive briefs to active certification changed the crew’s behavior. We found that when people know they will be asked questions they study their responsibilities ahead of time.

They hear and think they know what you mean, but they don’t. They’ve never had a picture of what you are talking about. They can’t see in their imagination how it works. They are not being intentionally deceitful; they just are not picturing what you are picturing.

SPECIFYING GOALS, NOT METHODS is a mechanism for COMPETENCE.

Have you seen evidence of “gamification” in your workplace? Perhaps it’s worth reading one of Gabe Zichermann’s blog posts and discussing it with your management team.

Since we were in a combat zone, the bonuses we awarded sailors when they reenlisted were tax-free.

I continued to see benefits of deliberate action. DELIBERATE first of all reduced errors by operators and was also a mechanism for TEAMWORK. Finally, it was a mechanism for SIGNALING INTENT.

This is the power of the leader-leader structure. Only with this model can you achieve top performance and enduring excellence and development of additional leaders.

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Highlights for Journey to the End of the Night https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-journey-to-the-end-of-the-night/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/03/highlights-for-journey-to-the-end-of-the-night/#respond Sun, 04 Mar 2018 21:25:18 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5951 Maybe our colonel knew why they were shooting, maybe the Germans knew, but I, so help me, hadn’t the vaguest idea. As far back as I could search my memory, I hadn’t done a thing to the Germans, I’d always treated them friendly and polite. All that tangled meat was bleeding profusely. The one thing … Continue reading Highlights for Journey to the End of the Night

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Maybe our colonel knew why they were shooting, maybe the Germans knew, but I, so help me, hadn’t the vaguest idea. As far back as I could search my memory, I hadn’t done a thing to the Germans, I’d always treated them friendly and polite.

All that tangled meat was bleeding profusely.

The one thing any of us really cared about was living for one more hour, one more hour is a big deal in a world where everything has reduced itself to murder.

Which proves that if you want people to think you’re normal there’s nothing like having an all-fired nerve. If you’ve got plenty of nerve, you’re all set, because then you’re entitled to do practically anything at all, you’ve got the majority on your side, and it’s the majority who decide what’s crazy and what isn’t.

In bed, though, she was superb, we came back again and again, and the pleasure she purveyed was real. She may have been a slut, but at least she was a real one. To give royal pleasure they’ve got to be. In the kitchens of love, after all, vice is like the pepper in a good sauce; it brings out the flavor, it’s indispensable.

I hadn’t found out yet that mankind consists of two very different races, the rich and the poor. It took me … and plenty of other people … twenty years and the war to learn to stick to my class and ask the price of things before touching them, let alone setting my heart on them.

A few poetic regrets, if adroitly placed, are as becoming to a woman as gossamer hair in the moonlight.

When men can hate without risk, their stupidity is easily convinced, the motives supply themselves.

The Alaskan dog teams are invaluable. Since they are always needed, they are well cared for. Whereas nobody gives a damn about immigrants, of whom there are always too many.

In that state of undress, belching and worse, gesticulating like lunatics, they settled down in the fecal grotto.

Then and there, perhaps, you’d throw off the exhausting habit of dreaming about successful people and enormous fortunes, because then you’d be able to put your hands on all that. The life of people without resources is nothing but one long rebuff and one long frenzy of desire, and a man can truly know, truly deliver himself only from what he possesses.

Lola was pacing the floor without many clothes on, and in spite of everything her body still struck me as very desirable. Where there’s a luxurious body there’s always a possibility of rape, of a direct, violent breaking and entering into the heart of wealth and luxury, with no fear of having to return the loot.

But it was too late to start being young again. I didn’t believe in it anymore. We grow old so quickly and, what’s more, irremediably. You can tell by the way you start loving your misery in spite of yourself. Nature is stronger than we are, no two ways about it. She tries us in one particular mold, and we’re never able to throw it off. I had started out as the restless type. Little by little, without realizing it, you begin to take your role and fate seriously, and before you know it, it’s too late to change. You’re a hundred-percent restless, and it’s set that way for good.

People avenge themselves for the favors done them.

We were all in the same boat now. The priest would have to learn to walk in the dark like the rest of us. He was still unsteady on his pins. He asked me what he should do to keep from falling. He didn’t have to come if he was afraid. We’d get to the end together, and then we’d know what we’d been looking for in our adventure. That’s what life is, a bit of light that ends in darkness.

No good hoping to drop off your misery somewhere on the way. Misery is like some horrible woman you’ve married. Maybe it’s better to end up loving her a little than to knock yourself out beating her all your life. Since obviously you won’t be able to bump her off.

A day that’s nothing more than a lapse of twenty-four hours is intolerable. Like it or not, a day should be one long, almost unbearable pleasure, one long coitus.

Did Jesus Christ go to the toilet in front of everybody? It seems to me his racket wouldn’t have lasted very long if he’d taken a shit in public.

I can’t deny that I felt sad as I started back to Vigny at the thought that all those people, those houses, those dirty, dingy, dismal things no longer spoke to me at all, no longer spoke straight to my heart as they had in the old days, and that, chipper as I might seem, I quite possibly didn’t have the strength to go on much further like that alone.

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Highlights for Good Strategy Bad Strategy https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/02/highlights-for-good-strategy-bad-strategy/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/02/highlights-for-good-strategy-bad-strategy/#respond Sun, 11 Feb 2018 21:22:35 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5947 The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors. Bad strategy tends to skip over pesky details such as problems. It ignores the power of choice and focus, trying instead to accommodate a multitude … Continue reading Highlights for Good Strategy Bad Strategy

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The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors.

Bad strategy tends to skip over pesky details such as problems. It ignores the power of choice and focus, trying instead to accommodate a multitude of conflicting demands and interests. Like

To make matters worse, for many people in business, education, and government, the word “strategy” has become a verbal tic.

A good strategy doesn’t just draw on existing strength; it creates strength through the coherence of its design.

An insightful reframing of a competitive situation can create whole new patterns of advantage and weakness.

A large organization may balk at adopting a new technique, but such change is manageable. But breaking with doctrine—with one’s basic philosophy—is rare absent a near-death experience.

To detect a bad strategy, look for one or more of its four major hallmarks:

  • Fluff.
  • Failure to face the challenge.
  • Mistaking goals for strategy.
  • Bad strategic objectives.

Bad strategy is long on goals and short on policy or action. It assumes that goals are all you need. It puts forward strategic objectives that are incoherent and, sometimes, totally impracticable. It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide these failings.

If you continue down the road you are on you will be counting on motivation to move the company forward. I cannot honestly recommend that as a way forward because business competition is not just a battle of strength and wills; it is also a competition over insights and competencies.

Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.

A long list of “things to do,” often mislabeled as “strategies” or “objectives,” is not a strategy. It is just a list of things to do.

The purpose of good strategy is to offer a potentially achievable way of surmounting a key challenge. If the leader’s strategic objectives are just as difficult to accomplish as the original challenge, there has been little value added by the strategy.

When a leader characterizes the challenge as underperformance, it sets the stage for bad strategy. Underperformance is a result. The true challenges are the reasons for the underperformance.

Bad strategy flourishes because it floats above analysis, logic, and choice, held aloft by the hot hope that one can avoid dealing with these tricky fundamentals and the difficulties of mastering them.

Only the prospect of choice inspires peoples’ best arguments about the pluses of their own proposals and the negatives of others’.

So they avoided the hard work of choice, set nothing aside, hurt no interest groups or individual egos, but crippled the whole.

Serious strategy work in an already successful organization may not take place until the wolf is at the door—or even until the wolf’s claws actually scratch on the floor—because good strategy is very hard work.

Strategy does not eliminate scarcity and its consequence—the necessity of choice. Strategy is scarcity’s child and to have a strategy, rather than vague aspirations, is to choose one path and eschew others.

Strategies focus resources, energy, and attention on some objectives rather than others. Unless collective ruin is imminent, a change in strategy will make some people worse off. Hence, there will be powerful forces opposed to almost any change in strategy. This is the fate of many strategy initiatives in large organizations. There may be talk about focusing on this or pushing on that, but at the end of the day no one wants to change what they are doing very much.

The transformational leader, they argued, unlocks human energy by creating a vision of a different reality and connecting that vision to people’s values and needs.

Called the New Thought movement, it combined religious sentiment with recommendations for worldly success. The theory was that thinking about success leads to success. And that thinking about failure leads to failure.

Nevertheless, the doctrine that one can impose one’s visions and desires on the world by the force of thought alone retains a powerful appeal to many people. Its acceptance displaces critical thinking and good strategy.

The kernel of a strategy contains three elements:

1. A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as critical.

2. A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge. This is an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.

3. A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy. These are steps that are coordinated with one another to work together in accomplishing the guiding policy.

A good guiding policy tackles the obstacles identified in the diagnosis by creating or drawing upon sources of advantage.

A guiding policy creates advantage by anticipating the actions and reactions of others, by reducing the complexity and ambiguity in the situation, by exploiting the leverage inherent in concentrating effort on a pivotal or decisive aspect of the situation, and by creating policies and actions that are coherent, each building on the other rather than canceling one another out.

An important duty of any leader is to absorb a large part of that complexity and ambiguity, passing on to the organization a simpler problem—one that is solvable. Many leaders fail badly at this responsibility, announcing ambitious goals without resolving a good chunk of ambiguity about the specific obstacles to be overcome. To take responsibility is more than a willingness to accept the blame. It is setting proximate objectives and handing the organization a problem it can actually solve.

When someone says “Managers are decision makers,” they are not talking about master strategists, for a master strategist is a designer.

A design-type strategy is an adroit configuration of resources and actions that yields an advantage in a challenging situation. Given a set bundle of resources, the greater the competitive challenge, the greater the need for the clever, tight integration of resources and actions. Given a set level of challenge, higher-quality resources lessen the need for the tight integration of resources and actions.

Existing resources can be the lever for the creation of new resources, but they can also be an impediment to innovation.

It is also human nature to associate current profit with recent actions, even though it should be evident that current plenty is the harvest of planting seasons long past. When the profits roll in, leaders will point to their every action with pride. Books will be written recommending that others immediately adopt the successful firm’s dress code, its vacation policy, its suggestion-box policies, and its method of allocating parking spaces. Of course, these connections are specious.

Were there such simple, direct connections between current actions and current results, strategy would be a lot easier. It would also be a lot less interesting, for it is the disconnect between current results and current action that makes the analysis of the sources of success so hard and, ultimately, so rewarding.

 

The proposition that growth itself creates value is so deeply entrenched in the rhetoric of business that it has become an article of almost unquestioned faith that growth is a good thing.

No one has an advantage at everything. Teams, organizations, and even nations have advantages in certain kinds of rivalry under particular conditions. The secret to using advantage is understanding this particularity. You must press where you have advantages and side-step situations in which you do not. You must exploit your rivals’ weaknesses and avoid leading with your own.

The forces at work were not only altering the fortunes of companies, they were shifting the very wealth of nations.

To make good bets on how a wave of change will play out you must acquire enough expertise to question the experts.

Leaders who stay “above the details” may do well in stable times, but riding a wave of change requires an intimate feel for its origins and dynamics.

Thus, software’s advantage comes from the rapidity of the software development cycle—the process of moving from concept to prototype and the process of finding and correcting errors.

What is actually surprising about the modern computer industry is not the network of relationships but the absence of the massively integrated firm doing all the systems engineering—all of the coordination—internally. The current web of “relationships” is the ghostly remnant of the old IBM’s nerve, muscle, and bone.

During the relatively stable periods between episodic transitions, it is difficult for followers to catch the leader, just as it is difficult for one of the two or three leaders to pull far ahead of the others. But in moments of transition, the old pecking order of competitors may be upset and a new order becomes possible.

The simplest form of transition is triggered by substantial increases in fixed costs, especially product development costs. This increase may force the industry to consolidate because only the largest competitors can cover these fixed charges.

Many major transitions are triggered by major changes in government policy, especially deregulation.

A third common bias is that, in a time of transition, the standard advice offered by consultants and other analysts will be to adopt the strategies of those competitors that are currently the largest, the most profitable, or showing the largest rates of stock price appreciation.

Another bias is that, faced with a wave of change, the standard forecast will be for a “battle of the titans.”

For instance, people rarely predict that a business or economic trend will peak and then decline. If sales of a product are growing rapidly, the forecast will be for continued growth, with the rate of growth gradually declining to “normal” levels. Such a prediction may be valid for a frequently purchased product, but it can be far off for a durable good.

An industry attractor state describes how the industry “should” work in the light of technological forces and the structure of demand. By saying “should,” I mean to emphasize an evolution in the direction of efficiency—meeting the needs and demands of buyers as efficiently as possible.

Inertia due to obsolete or inappropriate routines can be fixed. The barriers are the perceptions of top management.

Chief scientist David Kirk put it this way: “There is a virtually limitless demand for computational power in 3-D graphics. Given the architecture of the PC, there is only so much you can do with a more powerful CPU. But it is easy to use up one tera-flop of graphics computing power. The GPU [graphics processing unit] is going to be the center of technology and value added in consumer computing.”

The benefit of a faster cycle is that the product will be best in class more often. Compared to a competitor working on an eighteen-month cycle, Nvidia’s six-month cycle would mean that its chip would be the better product about 83 percent of the time. Plus, there is the constant buzz surrounding new product introductions, a substitute for expensive advertising. As a further plus, the faster company’s engineers will get more experience and, perhaps, learn more about the tricks of turning the technology into product.

Whenever a company succeeds greatly there is a complementary story of impeded competitive response. Sometimes the impediment is the innovator’s patent or similar protection, but more often it is an unwillingness or inability to replicate the innovator’s policies.

A surface reading of history makes it look like 3dfx did itself in with too many changes of direction. The deeper reality was that Nvidia’s carefully crafted fast-release cycle induced 3dfx’s less coordinated responses.

To generate a strategy, one must put aside the comfort and security of pure deduction and launch into the murkier waters of induction, analogy, judgment, and insight.

In praising America’s “deep and liquid” financial markets, the herd conveniently skipped over the giant bag of flammable gas keeping those markets buzzing—easy credit, overleveraging, a vast expanse of unpriceable derivative securities, long-term assets financed with overnight borrowing from trigger-happy counterparties, and huge top management bonuses for taking on hidden risks.

Although there were some voices cautioning that these new financial vehicles were new and untested, the dominant position was that the economy was growing and the finance industry was prospering, hence these new financial innovations must be doing something beneficial.

Social herding presses us to think that everything is OK (or not OK) because everyone else is saying so. The inside view presses us to ignore the lessons of other times and other places, believing that our company, our nation, our new venture, or our era is different. It is important to push back against these biases. You can do this by paying attention to real-world data that refutes the echo-chamber chanting of the crowd—and by learning the lessons taught by history and by other people in other places.

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Highlights for Altered Carbon https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-altered-carbon/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-altered-carbon/#respond Sun, 28 Jan 2018 20:37:32 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5941 Rich people do this. They have the power and they see no reason not to use it. Men and women are just merchandise, like everything else. There were no protests — you can’t argue with a robot. What had possessed Bancroft to outfit me for summer with the scrambled weather systems that Bay City had … Continue reading Highlights for Altered Carbon

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Rich people do this. They have the power and they see no reason not to use it. Men and women are just merchandise, like everything else.

There were no protests — you can’t argue with a robot.

What had possessed Bancroft to outfit me for summer with the scrambled weather systems that Bay City had so far exhibited was beyond me.

Shopping is physical interaction, exercise of decision-making capacity, sating of the desire to acquire, and an impulse to more acquisition, a scouting urge. It’s so basically flicking human when you think about it.

I spent most of the journey feeling sorry for the girl, and worrying at the Catholic madness like a dog with a bone. This woman’s stack was utterly undamaged. Financial considerations aside, she could be brought back to life on the spin of a disc. On Harlan’s World she’d be temporarily re-sleeved for the court hearing, albeit probably in a synthetic, and once the verdict came down there’d be a Victim Support supplement from the state added to whatever policy her family already held. Nine cases out of ten that was enough money to ensure re-sleeving of some sort. Death, where is thy sting?

Women are the race, Tak. No two ways about it. Male is just a mutation with more muscle and half the nerves. Fighting, fucking machines.

And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous marks the difference, the ONLY difference in their eyes, between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate.

Like Bancroft, MacIntyre had been a man of power, and like all men of power, when he talked of prices worth paying, you could be sure of one thing. Someone else was paying.

“The human eye is a wonderful device,” I quoted from Poems and Other Prevarications absently. “With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice.”

Kawahara grew up in Fission City, dealing anti-radiation drugs to the families of fuel rod workers.

All I had now was the gravity pull of mission time, the cold dawn and the sound of the waves on the shore.

See, the thing is, they’re looking for borderline psychopathic tendencies. That’s why they do most of their recruiting from the military in the first place.

The old-style yakuza were funny about that sort of thing.

‘How shall I explain the dying that was done?
Shall I say that each one did the math, and wrote
The value of his days
Against the bloody margin, in an understated hand?
They will want to know
How was the audit done?
And I shall say that it was done,
For once,
By those who knew the worth
Of what was spent that day.’

‘Told you not to go there, didn’t I pal. Now look at you. Earth.’ He spat and disappeared, leaving the echoes of his voice. ‘It’s a shithole. Got to get to the next screen.’

Get to the next screen.

It was about Jimmy de Soto, clawing his own eye out in the mud and fire at Innenin, and the millions like him throughout the Protectorate, painfully gathered assemblages of individual human potential, pissed away into the dung-heap of history. For all these, and more, someone was going to pay.

The original draft of the plan had called for the ninja copy of me to stay at Ortega’s apartment until the Ryker copy had disappeared with Miriam Bancroft.

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Highlights for From the Ruins of Empire https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-from-the-ruins-of-empire/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-from-the-ruins-of-empire/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 21:39:32 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5936 It mattered little to which class or race they belonged; the subordinate peoples of the world keenly absorbed the deeper implications – moral and psychological – of Japan’s triumph. They had failed to notice the intense desire for equality and dignity among peoples whom Europe’s most influential thinkers, from Hegel and Marx to John Stuart … Continue reading Highlights for From the Ruins of Empire

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It mattered little to which class or race they belonged; the subordinate peoples of the world keenly absorbed the deeper implications – moral and psychological – of Japan’s triumph.

They had failed to notice the intense desire for equality and dignity among peoples whom Europe’s most influential thinkers, from Hegel and Marx to John Stuart Mill, had deemed unfit for self-rule – thinkers whose ideas, ironically, would in fact prove highly potent among these ‘subject peoples’.

During their long and eventful lives the Asians discussed in the book manifested all of the three main responses to Western power: the reactionary conviction that if Asian people were truly faithful to their religious traditions, which were presumed to be superior to those of all other civilizations, they would be strong again; the moderate notion that only a few Western techniques were required by Asians whose traditions already provided a sound basis for culture and society; and the vigorous determination, embraced by radical secularists like Mao and Atatürk, that the entire old way of life had to be revolutionized in order to compete in the jungle-like conditions of the modern world.

Islam was as much a universalizing ideology as Western modernity is now, and it successfully shaped distinctive political systems, economies and cultural attitudes across a wide geographical region

Two centuries later, al-Jabarti seems to stand at the beginning of a long line of bewildered Asians: men accustomed to a divinely ordained dispensation, the mysterious workings of fate and the cyclical rise and fall of political fortunes, to whom the remarkable strength of small European nation-states would reveal that organized human energy and action, coupled with technology, amount to a power that could radically manipulate social and political environments. Resentfully

The Chinese themselves remained perplexed by the apparently unappeasable greed of the British.

The British were beginning to replace their economic and political regime of pure plunder, as had existed in Bengal, with monopoly interests in shipping, banking, insurance and trade, and administrative structures. They enlisted native collaborators, such as the middlemen who expedited the lucrative export of opium grown in India to China, but these tended to be Hindu, Sikh or Parsi rather than Muslim.

European forms of political and military mobilization (conscript armies, efficient taxation, codified laws), financial innovations (capital-raising joint-stock companies) and information-rich public cultures of enquiry and debate fed upon each other to create a formidable and decisive advantage as Europe penetrated Asia.

By 1900, a small white minority radiating out from Europe would come to control most of the world’s land surface, imposing the imperatives of a commercial economy and international trade on Asia’s mainly agrarian societies.

Secret British government reports from Kandahar and Kabul in 1868 describe al-Afghani as having arrived from India in 1866, a virulent anti-British agitator and likely Russian agent, a slender man with a pale complexion, open forehead, penetrating azure eyes and goatee, who drank tea constantly, was well-versed in geography and history, spoke Arabic, Turkish and Persian (the last language like a native of Persia), not visibly religious and with a European rather than Muslim lifestyle.

Most of Istanbul’s population was Christian, and parts of it – the western quarters of Pera and Galata – resembled, superficially at least, a more cosmopolitan version of Berlin or St Petersburg.

Many Muslim reformers in his time spoke of following the West, but it was not easy for most ordinary Muslims to follow the ways of infidel peoples whom they feared or hated or knew nothing about.

With European bondholders and moneylenders practically running the country, al-Afghani was becoming less discreet than before about the dangers of Western encroachment.

The correspondent did admit that the expulsion ‘may not seem consonant with English ideals as to the free expression of opinion’, but added that the ‘peculiar circumstances of the country must be considered’.

Modernization, it was clear, hadn’t secured the Ottomans against infidels; on the contrary, it had made them more dependent.

India had originally alerted al-Afghani to the advantages of Western science and knowledge; India also served as a warning against those advocating drastic, total Westernization.

In the same vein, he also argued that linguistic ties were more profound than religious ones (a lesson Pakistan was to learn when the Bengali-speaking Muslims in East Pakistan seceded to form Bangladesh in 1971).

The Indian visitors were keen to learn about the Mahdi, then the kind of minatory figure to Westerners that Osama bin Laden was to become later.

Renan attacked Islam in terms similar to those he and other European freethinkers deployed against Catholicism: with its claims to supernatural revelation, it was an affront to reason, and a violent persecutor of free thought.

The masses do not like reason, the teachings of which are understood only by a few select minds. Science, however fine it may be, cannot completely satisfy humanity’s thirst for the ideal, or the desire to soar in dark and distant regions that philosophers and scholars can neither see nor explore.

That Islam needed a Reformation, with himself as Luther, was gradually becoming a favourite theme of al-Afghani.

He confessed he was worried about British influence in Afghanistan; the British, he said, always crept into countries as advisers before becoming their masters. This could also, he added, be proved true in Persia, where the shah was beginning to make major concessions to the British at the expense of Russia.

Budding revolutionaries usually have one shot at success. Al-Afghani had had several, but he had nothing to show for his efforts except a wide network of friends, sympathizers and fellow conspirators across three continents.

Like many other despots, he was interested in modernization only in so far as it strengthened his apparatus of surveillance and control, and made him look enlightened to foreign investors.

The imperatives for reform and science were contained in the Koran, which was perfectly compatible with modern science, politics and economics. He stressed a clear and modern reading of the Koran; no traditionalist interpretation of the holy text, he seemed to argue, should stand in the way of Muslim unity.

‘The entire Oriental world,’ he told the German journalist who visited him in Istanbul, ‘is so entirely rotten and incapable of hearing the truth and following it that I should wish for a flood or an earthquake to devour and bury it.’

More drastic, and popular, revolutions from below were needed; and they needed to shatter the bases as well as the superstructures of oppression.

A generation of educated Japanese, some exposed to Western societies, came to occupy powerful positions in the Meiji Restoration. They recognized the futility of unfocused xenophobia, shrewdly analysed their own weaknesses vis-à-vis the West as scientific and technical backwardness, and urgently set about organizing Japan into a modern nation-state.

The brisk rout of Chinese naval and land forces not only resoundingly proved the sturdiness of Japan’s military and its industrial and infrastructural base. It also showed that, as Sohō put it, ‘civilization is not a monopoly of the white man’.

At the risk of lèse-majesté, Kang now told his fellow students that China had degenerated so much that it resembled Turkey, another once-confident and now-feeble country carefully maintained in its infirmity by exploitative foreigners.

The Chinese resisted, and in the war that ensued the French destroyed much of the Chinese navy.

Even Italy, a latecomer to Chinese affairs and expansionism in general, demanded territory (although it was successfully rebuffed).

They all faced the task of having to generate a new set of values that ensured survival in the modern era while respecting time-honoured traditions – of appearing loyal to their nation while borrowing some of the secrets of the West’s progress.

the sick men of Asia were better alive than dead, for they held chaos at bay, and could also be bullied at will.

Singh particularly blamed the Russian and French soldiers for the mass killings, arson and rape inflicted on the Chinese. Some of the soldiers tortured their victims purely for fun. ‘All these sportsmen’, Singh noted, ‘belonged to what were called “civilized nations”.’

As he saw it, corporate interests played an insidious role in American politics. Frequent elections made for policy short-sightedness and cheap populism. People entering democratic politics tended to be third-rate; far too many American presidents had been mediocre and uninspiring.

Invoking their ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, the French authorities in Vietnam had rounded up some 100,000 peasants and artisans and shipped them to the battlefields of France. In return, France was to consider self-rule for their country at some unspecified point in the future.

It is hard to exaggerate the impact of Atatürk’s success on opinion across Asia – the greatest victory of the East since the Battle of Tsushima. ‘The truth’, Muhammad Iqbal wrote, ‘is that among the Muslim nations of today, Turkey alone has shaken off its dogmatic slumber, and attained to self-consciousness.’

Indian philosophy and literature – which only Brahmans in possession of Sanskrit could read – had been a closed book to a majority of Indians; it was the European discovery, and translation into English and German, of Indian texts that introduced a new Western-educated generation of Indian intellectuals to their cultural heritage.

‘Whatever is to their interest,’ Mukhopadhyay wrote about Europeans, ‘they find consistent with their sense of what is right at all times, failing to understand how their happiness cannot be the source of universal bliss.’7

According to him, the Industrial Revolution, by turning human labour into a source of power, profit and capital, had made economic prosperity the central goal of politics, enthroning machinery over men and relegating religion and ethics to irrelevance. As Gandhi saw it, Western political philosophy obediently validated the world of industrial capitalism.

Okakura had been alerted to Japan’s cultural heritage by his American teacher Ernest Fenollosa, an art historian and philosopher who believed that it was Asia’s destiny to spiritualize the modern West.

And, he added, ‘the unbridled tyranny of the white races exists because there are no powerful people other than the white races. By breaking through this condition, we can make a positive contribution to all mankind.’

In this programme of eradication, Japan succeeded beyond the most garish militarist fantasy. In about ninety days, beginning on 8 December 1941, Japan overran the possessions of Britain, the United States and the Netherlands in East and South-east Asia, taking the Philippines, Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong, the Dutch East Indies, much of Siam and French Indochina, and Burma with bewildering swiftness to stand poised at the borders of India by early 1942. There are few examples in history of such dramatic humiliation of established powers.

The Japanese had revealed how deep the roots of anti-Westernism went, and how quickly Asians could seize power back from their European tormentors.

However, everywhere they came up against the new communal identities forged during the long war, when the Europeans were absent or slaving in prison camps.

Accustomed to deferential natives, European powers mostly underestimated the post-war nationalism that the Japanese had unwittingly or deliberately unleashed. They also misjudged their own staying power among populations unremittingly hostile to them. This led to many disastrously futile counter-insurgency operations and full-scale wars, many of which still scar nations across Asia.

The prominent Malay nationalist Mustapha Hussain spoke for many Asians when he said that, ‘Although the Japanese occupation was described as one of severe hardship and brutality, it left something positive, a sweet fruit to be plucked and enjoyed only after the surrender.’

The revolutions that succeeded in Muslim countries were launched in the name of Islam not Marx or Paine. Liberalism, defined in the broadest sense, had a tenuous hold in the Muslim world.

A further devastating blow to the reputation of the West was the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian lands in 1948

New urban elites emerged from modern educational institutions and bureaucracies, and they tended to have little time for traditional sources of authority. Many of them enriched themselves at the expense of the rural poor. A reservoir of discontent built up, especially among the people most marginalized by this process, such as the clergy, small-town merchants, provincial officials and men from semi-rural backgrounds – the kind of people who hung around al-Afghani.

Relations between the Arab world and the West were never so fraught as they were between the two world wars. Muslim intellectuals who stressed Western ideologies of nationalism, secularism and democracy felt cruelly betrayed by Europe’s refusal to support their aspirations for national independence.

In the war that followed, the Zionists defeated the combined Arab armies, expelled hundreds of thousands of Arab inhabitants of Palestine, and proclaimed an independent state. This constituted a radical defeat for Egypt in particular – the most modern of Arab nations – and Israel became, and has remained, a symbol of Arab impotence against Western power.

This was where Qutb first began to develop his larger critique of Western civilization as unhealthily obsessed with material and technological progress to the detriment of moral freedom and social justice.

He freely employed the words ‘white man’ as an epithet thereafter: ‘We must nourish in our school-age children sentiments that open their eyes to the tyranny of the white man, his civilization, and his animal hunger.’

Qutb extended a conventional critique of corrupt Middle Eastern regimes and failed modernization into an indictment of all those Western ideologies – whether nationalism, liberalism or socialism – that banished religion and morality from the realm of politics, and exalted human reason above God.

The attempt to push Iran into the twentieth century created a small middle class, but it also uprooted millions of people from their traditional rural homes and exposed them to the degradations of urban life. Inequality increased as a small urban elite prospered and acquired the symbols of a modern consumer economy.

However, a visit to the then new nation-state of Israel in 1962 impressed upon him the power of political solidarity built upon a shared religion: ‘I as an Easterner [prefer] an Israeli model over all other models of how to deal with the West,’ he wrote in his diary.

In many countries, especially in the Middle East and South Asia where modernization failed or was not even properly attempted, hundreds of millions of Muslims have long inhabited a netherworld fantasy of religious-political revenge. Trying and failing to enter the modern world defined by the West, they ended up not only uprooting themselves but also hating the West – the source of so much upheaval and trauma in their lives.

Turkey is the first Muslim country to have developed a model of indigenous modernity that not only does not depend on the original Western one but also seems to rival it. Furthermore, this Islamic modernism is rooted in lived experience rather than, as has been the case elsewhere, pure imagination. Western ideas remain important but they are now assessed on the basis of their effectiveness, rather than simply swallowed whole. And a certain abject attitude towards the West has been replaced by a renewed pride in Turkishness.

But Turkey itself shows that Atatürk’s political and cultural experiment succeeded only partially and that some selective borrowings from Western modernity cannot relegate Islam to the private sphere – let alone ensure social and economic justice for the majority of the population.

What China may well need, he said, is state socialism which controls the economy and works to diminish inequality, while making the country a serious combatant in the jungle of international competition.

This loss of the West’s moral prestige and the assertiveness of the East may appear a recent phenomenon. But, as this book has shown, the less uneven global order coming into being was outlined as early as the nineteenth century by Asian intellectuals who rejected the West’s racial and imperial hierarchies and its right to define the rules of international politics.

This can be seen most clearly today within Europe and the United States, the originators of globalization. Inequality and unemployment grow as highly mobile corporations continually move around the world in search of cheap labour and high profits, evading taxation and therefore draining much-needed investment in welfare systems for ageing populations. Economic setbacks, the prospect of long-term decline and a sense of political impotence stoke a great rage and paranoia among their populations, directed largely at non-white immigrants, particularly Muslims.

Globalization, it is clear, does not lead to a flat world marked by increasing integration, standardization and cosmopolitan openness, despite the wishful thinking of some commentators.

It took much private and public tumult, and great physical and intellectual journeys, to bring these thinkers to the point where they could make sense of themselves and their environment, and then the knowledge they achieved after so much toil was often full of pain and did not offer hope. They often seemed to change their minds and contradict themselves. As some of the first to break with tradition, they were faced with the Sisyphean task of finding their bearings in the modern world and reorienting their minds to new problems of personal and collective identity.

Many of these thinkers judged Western-style politics and economics to be inherently violent and destructive forces. They knew that borrowing technical skills through a modern system of education from Europe wasn’t enough; these borrowings brought with them a whole new way of life. They demanded an organized mass society whose basic unit was the self-reliant individual who pursues his economic self-interest while progressively liberating himself from guild rules, religious obligations and other communal solidarities – a presupposition that threatened to wreck the old moral order. These thinkers sensed that, though irresistible and often necessary, the modern industrial society and social freedoms pioneered by Europe would destroy many of their cherished cultures and traditions, just as they had in Europe itself, and leave chaos in their place.

And all this was for a process which did not lead directly, even in the West itself, to a clear destination of happiness and stability, and which despite producing mass education, cheap consumer goods, the popular press and mass entertainment had only partly relieved a widely and deeply felt rootlessness, confusion and anomie.

Indeed, as one indigenous modernizer after another in Japan, Turkey, China and India conceded, resistance to the West required urgent adaptation to Western ideas of organizing state and society.

Ryszard KapuŚciński once summed up the tragic ‘drama’ of the honest and patriotic postcolonial leader by describing the

terrible material resistance that each one encounters on taking his first, second and third steps up the summit of power. Each one wants to do something good and begins to do it and then sees, after a month, after a year, after three years, that is just isn’t happening, that it is slipping away, that it is bogged down in the sand. Everything is in the way: the centuries of backwardness, the primitive economy, the illiteracy, the religious fanaticism, the tribal blindness, the chronic hunger, the colonial past with its practice of debasing and dulling the conquered, the blackmail by the imperialists, the greed of the corrupt, the unemployment, the red ink. Progress comes with great difficulty along such a road. The politician begins to push too hard. He looks for a way out through dictatorship. The dictatorship then fathers an opposition. The opposition organizes a coup.

And the cycle begins anew.

We can see that the seemingly wholesale adoption of Western ideologies (Chinese communism, Japanese imperialism) did not work. Attempts at syntheses (India’s parliamentary democracy, Muslim Turkey’s secular state, China’s state capitalism) were more successful, and violent rejections of the West in the form of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Islamist movements continue to have an afterlife.

It is simply this: no convincingly universalist response exists today to Western ideas of politics and economy, even though these seem increasingly febrile and dangerously unsuitable in large parts of the world.

The European model of the ethnically homogenous nation-state was a poor fit in Europe itself. That it was particularly so for multi-ethnic Asian societies has been amply proved by the plight of Kashmiri Muslims, Tibetans, Uighurs, the Chinese in Malaysia, Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Kurds in Turkey and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

As India and China rise with their consumerist middle classes in a world of finite energy resources, it is easy to imagine that this century will be ravaged by the kind of economic rivalries and military conflicts that made the last century so violent.

The hope that fuels the pursuit of endless economic growth – that billions of consumers in India and China will one day enjoy the lifestyles of Europeans and Americans – is as absurd and dangerous a fantasy as anything dreamt up by al-Qaeda.

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Highlights for Kintu https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-kintu/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-kintu/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 20:51:37 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5933 Indeed, this is the challenge of the historical novel: whether or not the stories are true might be the least important thing about them. History as it’s written down in books is one thing, but history as it’s lived is another. When the Europeans left, educated Ugandans climbed out of the swamps, slaked off the … Continue reading Highlights for Kintu

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Indeed, this is the challenge of the historical novel: whether or not the stories are true might be the least important thing about them. History as it’s written down in books is one thing, but history as it’s lived is another.

When the Europeans left, educated Ugandans climbed out of the swamps, slaked off the mud, and took to the hills and raw Ugandans flooded the swamps. Up in the hills, educated Ugandans assumed the same contempt as Europeans had for them.

For those whose jobs came as rarely as a yam’s flower this was a chance to feel useful.

Tradition claimed that identical twins were one soul who, failing to resolve the primal conflict in the self, split—and two people were born.

Every time a set of twins arrived, they shook his hand, “A strong man may wake up late and still get to do as much as we who woke up with the birds.”

He knew the snare of being a man. Society heaped such expectations on manhood that in a bid to live up to them some men snapped.

He had never discussed his role in her rise in status because words not only travel, but they acquire legs and arms along the way. And by the time they get to the person talked about, they are beyond recognition.

I tell you fellow men: never negotiate with a woman. Their sense is not our sense.

Of course, when a nation has plenty and peace reigns, foreigners start to flock in. And you know with foreigners: they bring their troubles with them.

Everyone’s face turned and stared at Suubi as if her father killing his twin was written on her body.

Britain and America were the lands of humanity, the places Miisi longed to be. The real Britain took him by surprise.

She corrected herself, “These things have no place in the modern world.”

“As long as there are Africans in the world, there will always be someone seeking these things,” the woman laughed.

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Highlights for the Art of Not Being Governed https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-from-the-art-of-not-being-governed/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-from-the-art-of-not-being-governed/#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 08:20:16 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5838 This is the history of those who got away the power of the state to deploy distance-demolishing technologies—railroads, all-weather roads, telephone, telegraph, airpower, helicopters, and now information technology—so changed the strategic balance of power between self-governing peoples and nation-states, so diminished the friction of terrain, that my analysis largely ceases to be useful. In other … Continue reading Highlights for the Art of Not Being Governed

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This is the history of those who got away

the power of the state to deploy distance-demolishing technologies—railroads, all-weather roads, telephone, telegraph, airpower, helicopters, and now information technology—so changed the strategic balance of power between self-governing peoples and nation-states, so diminished the friction of terrain, that my analysis largely ceases to be useful.

In other words, living in the absence of state structures has been the standard human condition.

That frontier operated as a rough and ready homeostatic device; the more a state pressed its subjects, the fewer subjects it had.

Seen from the state center, this enclosure movement is, in part, an effort to integrate and monetize the people, lands, and resources of the periphery so that they become, to use the French term, rentable—auditable contributors to the gross national product and to foreign exchange.

More commonly, nonstate peoples found it convenient to raid the settlements of sedentary farming communities subject to the state, sometimes exacting systematic tribute from them in the manner of states.

The main, long-run threat of the ungoverned periphery, however, was that it represented a constant temptation, a constant alternative to life within the state.

For long periods people moved in and out of states, and “stateness” was, itself, often cyclical and reversible.

Much of the periphery of states became a zone of refuge or “shatter zone,” where the human shards of state formation and rivalry accumulated willy nilly, creating regions of bewildering ethnic and linguistic complexity.

Their subsistence routines, their social organization, their physical dispersal, and many elements of their culture, far from being the archaic traits of a people left behind, are purposefully crafted both to thwart incorporation into nearby states and to minimize the likelihood that statelike concentrations of power will arise among them.

They are, in other words, political adaptations of nonstate peoples to a world of states that are, at once, attractive and threatening.

The attempt to bring the periphery into line is read by representatives of the sponsoring state as providing civilization and progress—where progress is, in turn, read as the intrusive propagation of the linguistic, agricultural, and religious practices of the dominant ethnic group:

The principle behind region-making in each case is that, for the premodern world, water, especially if it is calm, joins people, whereas mountains, especially if they are high and rugged, divide people.

Zomia is thus knitted together as a region not by a political unity, which it utterly lacks, but by comparable patterns of diverse hill agriculture, dispersal and mobility, and rough egalitarianism, which, not incidentally, includes a relatively higher status for women than in the valleys.

Ibn Khaldun, who noted that “Arabs can gain control only over flat territory” and do not pursue tribes that hide in the mountains.

Hill polities are, almost invariably, redistributive, competitive feasting systems held together by the benefits they are able to disburse.

Accounts of lowland states that miss this dimension do not merely “leave out” the hills; they ignore a set of boundary conditions and exchanges that make the center what it is.

For most of its history, Southeast Asia has been marked by the relative absence even of valley states. Where they arose, they tended to be remarkably short-lived, comparatively weak outside a small and variable radius of the court center, and generally unable systematically to extract resources (including manpower) from a substantial population.

It becomes difficult, in this context, to reconstruct the life-world of nonelites, even if they are located at the court center.

State rulers find it well nigh impossible to install an effective sovereignty over people who are constantly in motion, who have no permanent pattern of organization, no permanent address, whose leadership is ephemeral, whose subsistence patterns are pliable and fugitive, who have few permanent allegiances, and who are liable, over time, to shift their linguistic practices and their ethnic identity.

Grain, then, as compared with root crops, is both legible to the state and relatively appropriable.

All the evidence points to the piecemeal elaboration of padi lands by kinship units and hamlets that built and extended the small diversion dams, sluices, and channels required for water control. Such irrigation works often predated the creation of state cores and, just as frequently, survived the collapse of many a state that had taken temporary advantage of its concentrated manpower and food supply.

Provisioning the state’s core population with grain ran up against the intractable limits of distance and harvest fluctuations, while the population sequestered to plant that grain found it all too easy to walk beyond the reach of state control.

In thirteenth-century Europe, according to one calculation, shipping costs by sea were a mere 5 percent of the cost by land.

Before the distance-demolishing technology of railroads and all-weather motor roads, land-bound polities in Southeast Asia and Europe found it extremely difficult, without navigable waterways, to concentrate and then project power.

Rulers fed major inland cities such as Berlin and Madrid only at great effort and great cost to their hinterlands. The exceptional efficiency of waterways in the Netherlands undoubtedly gave the Dutch great advantages at peace and war.

They would also, as we shall see, help demarcate the sharp difference between a geography more amenable to state control and appropriation (state space) and a geography intrinsically resistant to state control (nonstate space).

It matters little how wealthy a kingdom is if its potential surplus of manpower and grain is dispersed across a landscape that makes its collection difficult and costly.

Less reliant on volatile trade, more hierarchical, more insulated from food-supply crises, and capable of feeding quite massive armies, these agrarian states might lose a battle or even a war, but their staying power over the long haul tended to prevail.

“To have too many people [as subjects to a lord] is better than to have too much grass [uncultivated land].”

Vagrancy was discouraged and displaced people were fixed to a plot of land where they could be turned into reliable sources of taxation, corvée labour and military service.

The expansion and peopling of legible state space was intrinsically difficult, given the open frontier. If it was occasionally achieved, it was due as much to the closing off of alternatives as to the inherent attractions of state space.

Statecraft with both eyes fixed on the accumulation of manpower could hardly be particular about whom it incorporated. A “manpower state” in this sense is, in principle, the enemy of hard and fast cultural distinctions and exclusiveness. Put more accurately, such states had great incentives to incorporate whomever they could and to invent cultural, ethnic, and religious formulas that would allow them to do so.

When it came to skilled manpower as well as foot soldiers and cultivators, the need for their services precluded rigid cultural exclusion.

The manpower imperative was, everywhere, the enemy of discrimination and exclusion.

Slaves, it is fair to say, were the most important “cash crop” of precolonial Southeast Asia: the most sought-after commodity in the region’s commerce. Virtually every large trader was, simultaneously, a slave-raider or a buyer. Every military campaign, every punitive expedition was, at the same time, a campaign for captives who could be bought, sold, or held.

Knowing this, one might have expected statecraft to consist in sailing as close to the wind as they could: that is, in extracting resources just short of the point at which they would provoke flight or rebellion.

Peoples who appeared to have no fixed abode, who moved constantly and unpredictably, were beyond the pale of civilization.

In addition, to the degree that irrigated padi cultivation massively alters the landscape, while hill agriculture appears less visually obtrusive, hill peoples came to be associated with nature as against culture.

Thus, of all the commodities that the hill societies could deny the valleys, their trump card was manpower.

All those who had reason to flee state power—to escape taxes, conscription, disease, poverty, or prison, or to trade or raid—were, in a sense, tribalizing themselves.

What passes, in the eyes of valley officials, as deplorable backwardness may, for those so stigmatized, represent a political space of self-governance, mobility, and freedom from taxes.

The official invisibility of defection is encoded in the narrative itself; those who move to nonstate space, who adapt to its agro-ecology, become ethnicized barbarians who were, presumably, always there.

Those absorbed disappeared as distinctive societies, though they lent their cultural color to the amalgam that came to represent valley culture.

This reversal is an important reminder that the key to premodern state-building is the concentration of arable land and manpower, not altitude per se.

Competition among the agrarian states for conscripts led to constant sweeps for “vagrants”—virtually anyone without a fixed residence—to fulfill draconian recruitment quotas.

Gypsies, the most stigmatized and scourged of the itinerant poor, were criminalized and made the object of the notorious Zegeuner Jagt (Gypsy hunts).

This no-man’s land, this narrow zone of refuge, became known as the “outlaw corridor.” The outlaw corridor was simply a concentration of migrants “between the Palatine and Saxony, which was too far from the Prussian-Brandenburg recruitment area as well as from the Mediterranean (in the latter case, the transportation costs were higher then the price per slave).”

As Hefner observes, the overriding goal of the Tengger uplanders is to avoid “being ordered about”; an aspiration that is deliberately at odds with the elaborate hierarchies and status-coded behavior of the Javanese lowlands.

The varied timing of the many waves of migration, their location by altitude, and their mode of subsistence account, Keesing believes, for the luxuriant diversity of the mountain ethnoscape in contrast to valley uniformity.

The hills, from the valley perspective, were associated with heathenism, apostasy, primitive wildness and ferocity, and insubordination.

Having, over time, adapted to a hilly environment and, as we shall see, developed a social structure and subsistence routines to avoid incorporation, they are now seen by their lowland neighbors as impoverished, backward, tribal populations that lacked the talent for civilization.

Again and again, the compilers are told that the village was founded recently or several generations back by people who had come from elsewhere, usually to escape war or oppression.

All these options were generally preferred to the risks of open rebellion, an option confined largely to elites contending for the throne.

The expression “states make wars and wars make states,” coined by Charles Tilly

It mattered little whether the army in question was “one’s own” or that of a neighboring kingdom, the quartermaster’s requirements were the same, and so, largely, was the treatment of civilians and property.

The wet-rice valleys and the level plains of the typical valley state are not merely topographically flat; they can also be thought of as having been culturally, linguistically, and religiously flattened.

When Islam swept the area the Berbers became Muslims, but soon expressed their dissent from the inequalities of Arab Muslim rule by becoming Kharijite heretics.”

Religious identity in this case is a self-selected boundary-making device designed to emphasize political and social difference.

Most of the deadly epidemic diseases from which we suffer—smallpox, flu, tuberculosis, plague, measles, and cholera—are zoonotic diseases that have evolved from domesticated animals.

State-resistant space was therefore not a place on the map but a position vis-à-vis power;

A complete accounting of state-resistant places would have as many pages devoted to low, wet places—marshes, swamps, fens, bogs, moors, deltas, mangrove coasts, and complex waterways and archipelagoes—as to high mountain redoubts.

Self-marginalization, or “self-barbarianization” in valley terms, might have been, at times, quite common. Civilizational discourse, however, made such conduct unthinkable.

Dissimilation—not to be confused with dissimulation—refers to the more or less purposeful creation of cultural distance between societies.

These communities ranged in size from Palmares in Brazil, with perhaps twenty thousand inhabitants, and Dutch Guiana (Surinam), with that many or more, to smaller settlements of escapees throughout the Caribbean (Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, Saint-Domingue), as well as in Florida and on the Virginia-North Carolina border in the Great Dismal Swamp.

To choose swiddening or, for that matter, foraging or nomadic pastoralism is to choose to remain outside state space.

Wet rice is, to be sure, more productive per unit of land than shifting cultivation. It is, however, typically less productive per unit of labor. Which of the two systems is the more efficient depends mainly on whether land or labor represents the scarcer factor of production.

If, on the other hand, the population chooses to grow padi rice, they represent an easy target for a state (or raiders), who know where to find them and their crops, carts, plow animals, and possessions.

One Bornean specialist goes so far as to argue that the very purpose of shifting cultivation was to sustain a population of traders scouring the forest for valuable trade goods.5

Any crop that allowed people to move to hitherto inaccessible areas and to provision themselves successfully there was, by definition, a crop stigmatized by the state.

Cassava allows its planters to occupy virtually any ecological niche, roam more or less at will, and avoid a great deal of drudgery.

Ernest Gellner describes this deliberate choice among the Berbers with the slogan “Divide that ye be not ruled.” It is a brilliant aphorism, for it shows that the Roman slogan “Divide and rule” does not work past a certain point of atomization.

Social structure, in other words, is, in large measure, both a state effect and a choice; and one possible choice is a social structure that is invisible and/or illegible to state-makers.

The British in Burma, Leach noted, everywhere preferred autocratic “tribal” regimes in compact geographical concentrations with which they could negotiate; conversely, they had a distaste for anarchic, egalitarian peoples who had no discernible spokesman.

They emphasize the equality of access to feasting and status competition, refusing to allow those who were already prominent or too wealthy to conduct further sacrifices lest they aspire to chiefdom status.

At the same time, those who migrate to lowland states and assimilate—and historically there have been a great many—enter valley society at its lowest rungs.

They might be termed equality, autonomy, and mobility, all understood relatively. As a matter of practice, of course, all three are encoded in material life in the hills—in location well away from lowland states, in dispersal, in common property, in shifting cultivation, and in the choice of crops.

The gumlao Kachin, as we have seen, have a history of enforcing egalitarian social relations by deposing or assassinating overreaching chiefs. One imagines that this history and the narratives that accompany it operate as a chilling cautionary tale for lineage chiefs with autocratic ambitions.

then, by the same token, the absence of writing and texts provides a freedom of maneuver in history, genealogy, and legibility that frustrates state routines.

Such legends are, like ethnic identity itself, a strategic positioning vis-à-vis other groups. We have every reason to imagine that such legends, like ethnic identity, will be adjusted if the circumstances shift appreciably.

Second, those who were literate in the script of the lowland state would have almost certainly have been elites whose bicultural skills fitted them best to become allies and administrators of the lowland state and, if they so chose, to take the path of assimilation.

Lowland padi states were centers of literacy not merely because they were cult centers for world religions but also because writing is a crucial technology of administration and statecraft.

In an oral culture, there cannot be a single authoritative genealogy or history that can serve as the gold standard of orthodoxy. In the case of two or more renditions, which one is given credence depends largely on the standing of the “bard” in question and on how closely the account conforms to the interests and tastes of the audience.

Oral culture exists and is sustained only through each unique performance at a particular time and place for an interested audience. These performances are, of course, far more than the transcript of the words spoken; each includes the setting, the gestures, and the expression of the performer(s), the audience reaction, and the nature of the occasion itself.

Oral traditions, then, appear to provide, under certain circumstances, something of the word-for-word constancy of a fixed, written text, together with the potential flexibility of strategic adjustment and change. They can, as it were, have it both ways; they can claim to be precise ur-texts while in fact being substantially novel—and there is no easy way of evaluating this claim.

Elaborate genealogies are, in this respect, a vast portfolio of possible connections, most of which remain in the shadows but could, if necessary, be summoned.

By denying their history—by not carrying the shared history and genealogy that define group identity—the Lisu negate virtually any unit of cultural identity beyond the individual household.

Ernest Renan was right when he wrote over a century ago: “Forgetting, and I would even say historical error, are an essential factor in the creation of a nation, and so it is that progress in historical studies is often a danger to nationality.” That is, I believe, a fine task for historians: to be a danger to national myths. —Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780

The confusion was genuine and four-barreled. First, any particular trait was likely to be a gradient and occasionally a seamless continuum from one village or group to another. Lacking sharp, discontinuous changes in ritual, dress, building styles, or even language, any line of demarcation was arbitrary. Second, if one did in fact meticulously chart small variations and then try, conscientiously, to justify a particular trait boundary, another nearly insurmountable problem arose. The boundaries for trait A, B, and C did not map onto one another; each yielded a different line of demarcation, a different classification of “ethnicities.” The third and fatal difficulty was that any such trait-mapped ethnicities were unlikely to coincide with the phenomenological understandings of the tribal people whose life-world was being mapped. The colonial ethnographers’ map said they were A, but they said they were B and had always been. How could that not matter? And if the classification exercise somehow survived these blows, a fourth difficulty, time, would surely be the coup de grâce. Those with some sense of historical change understood that in terms of traits or in terms of self-identification, the A had, not so long ago, been B and seemed, alarmingly, now on their way to becoming C. How could an ethnic group, a tribe, be so radically unstable over time and still be a people?

Zomia is and has been what might be called a “fracture zone” of state-making, much like the Caucasus and the Balkans.

Such powerful identities are, in this respect, no less fictitious and constructed than most national identities in the modern world.

The perspective adopted and elaborated here is a radical constructionist one: that ethnic identities in the hills are politically crafted and designed to position a group vis-à-vis others in competition for power and resources. In a world crowded with other actors, most of whom, like modern states, are more powerful than they, their freedom of invention is severely constricted. They craft identities, but not in circumstances of their own choosing, to paraphrase Marx.

But what is novel and noteworthy for most of this long history in the hills is that ethnic and tribal identities have been put to the service not merely of autonomy but of statelessness.

The formula for full incorporation was minimal: becoming a retainer of a Malay chief, professing Islam, and speaking Malay, the lingua franca of trade in the archipelago. A negeri was less an ethnicity than a political formula for membership in the polity.

As suggested earlier, the Burmese and Siamese were to the numerous and varied populations they incorporated as the two thousand conquering Norman families were to the indigenous peoples of Britain.

The keystone, of course, is the technique of irrigated rice cultivation that makes possible a padi core in the first place. It was not, however, a technique exclusive to the Burmese and Tai, inasmuch as it had been the basis of the Khmer, Pyu, and Mon courts earlier. The cosmology and architecture of the Indic court center is, as it were, the ideological superstructure of the divine monarchy and was adapted for that purpose. Theravada Buddhism, another import, served as a universal domain, to assemble “ethnic deities and spirits” under a new hegemon, much as the padi state’s subjects were gathered around the court. Local spirits (nat, phi) were accommodated as subsidiary deities much as Catholicism accommodated pagan deities under the rubric of the saints. Even the languages of the state-builders, Burmese and Thai, were, in their written form (from Sanskrit via Pali), linked to the legitimating cosmology of Buddhism and the Indic state.

While the historical process of ingathering was a cosmopolitan enterprise, the population thus assembled came to share a set of common cultural practices and institutions.

Before the advent of modern statecraft, with its practices of territorial administration and mutually exclusive sovereignties and ethnicities, such ambiguities were common.

A person’s ethnic identity in this sense would be the repertoire of possible performances and the contexts in which they are exhibited.

The first is that powerful outsiders, especially states, constrain the identity choices of most actors. Second, movement toward one of an array of identities does not exclude the possibility that, should circumstances change, that movement might be reversed. Finally, and surely most important, we must never confuse what an outsider might perceive as a momentous shift in identity with the lived experience of the actors involved.

Peoples whose vernacular order was egalitarian lacked the institutional handles by which they could be governed. Those institutions would have to be provided, if necessary, by force.

In Batavia, the Dutch discerned, according to their preconception, a Chinese minority. This mixed group did not consider itself Chinese; its boundaries merged seamlessly with those of other Batavians, with whom they freely intermarried. Once the Dutch discerned this ethnicity, however, they institutionalized their administrative fiction. They set about territorializing the “Chinese” quarter, selected “Chinese” officials, set up local courts for customary Chinese law as they saw it, instituted Chinese schools, and in general made sure that all those falling within this classification approached the colonial regime as Batavian “Chinese.” What began as something of a figment of the Dutch imperial imagination took on real sociological substance through the traffic patterns of institutions. And voilà!—after sixty years or so there was indeed a self-conscious Chinese community.

The point is that once created, an institutional identity acquires its own history. The longer and deeper this history is, the more it will resemble the mythmaking and forgetting of nationalism. Over time such an identity, however fabricated its origin, will take on essentialist features and may well inspire passionate loyalty.

The Lisu are without history not because they are incapable of history but because they choose to avoid its inconveniences.

By 1800 a kind of cultural template had been established for Lahu rebellions, which were innumerable. They were almost always led by holy men seen by the Lahu as god-kings who could cure illnesses, purify the community, and constitute a Buddhist “field of merit.”

The frequency of Lahu prophetic movements allows us to identify something of a “career trajectory,” even for an activity so decidedly unroutine as becoming a god-man. A local village priest has a mystical experience—perhaps as the result of an illness—and claims healing powers through the use of trance or possession. If his claim is accepted and he gains a substantial extravillage following for his curing powers, he may claim (or his followers may claim) that he has Gui-sha’s divine nature. He is then likely to insist on ritual and doctrinal reforms (diet, prayer, taboos) to cleanse the community and prepare for a new order. A final step, one that will invariably catapult him into the archives of his lowland neighbors and perhaps sign his death warrant, is when, as god-man, he proclaims a new order and unites his followers in defiance of the lowland state.

Nonetheless, the analogy does illustrate the way in which the cultural expectations and historical understanding of a charismatic public—often misunderstood as mere putty in his hands—can play a decisive role in influencing the script of a successful prophet. This stochastic process of successive adjustment is familiar enough; it is the stock in trade of most successful politicians and preachers.

Among others, Weber pointed to the Donatist sects of Roman North Africa, the Taborites (aka Hussites) of early-fifteenth-century Bohemia, the Diggers of the English Civil Wars, and Russian peasant sectarians as examples of the prophetic tradition of agrarian radicalism.

That is, it was not so much penury that led peasants to radical religious sects as the imminent prospect of losing their status as independent smallholders and falling into abject dependence as landless laborers or, worse, someone’s serf.

Virtually all states were monarchies, and the remedy for a bad king was a better king.

In the great Taiping Rebellion, in the hundreds of cargo-cult uprisings in the Pacific Islands, in the rebellions of New World prophets against Europeans, the key figures are often culturally amphibious translators who move relatively easily between the worlds they inhabit.

The shaman or traditional healer treats patients who are troubled or ill, typically through trance and/or possession. The shaman identifies what is out of whack and then conducts rituals to persuade the spirit troubling the patient to withdraw. In the case of the prophet, however, it is the entire community that is, as it were, out of whack. Often the crisis and threat are such that the normal cultural paths to dignity and respect—diligence as a cultivator, bravery, successful feasting, good hunting, marriage and children, and locally honorable behavior generally—are no longer adequate to an exceptional situation.

For every would-be prophet who manages to lead his followers to a zone of relative peace and stability—and subsistence—many others fail. But the coincidence of such movements with economic, political, and military crises suggests that they can be seen as desperate social experiments, a throw of the dice in a setting where the odds of a very favorable outcome are long.

Faced with slave raids, demands for tribute, invading armies, epidemics, and occasional crop failures, they appear to have developed not just the subsistence routines to keep the state at arm’s length but a shape-shifting social and religious organization admirably adapted to cope with a turbulent environment. The concentration of heterodox sects, hermit monks, pretenders, and would-be prophets in most hill societies has provided, in effect, the agency that allows many of them to substantially reinvent themselves when the situation requires it.

To stand back and take all this in, to wonder at the capacity of hill peoples to strike out, almost overnight, for new territory—socially, religiously, ethnically—is to appreciate the mind-boggling cosmopolitanism of relatively marginal and powerless people.

In light of this history it is perhaps not so surprising that they have been so adept at moving at the drop of a hat, reshuffling their social organization, and shape-shifting between various forms of millenarian dreams and revolt. These are, in a sense, high-stakes experiments in social identity by a people hoping to change their luck. As their situation has worsened, they have developed escape social structure into something of an art form.

Nevertheless, such movements have created new social groups, reshuffled and amalgamated ethnicities, assisted the founding of new villages and new states, provoked radical shifts in subsistence routines and customs, set off long-distance moves, and, not trivially, kept alive a reservoir of hope for a life of dignity, peace, and plenty in the teeth of very long odds.

Most hill cultures have, as it were, their bags already packed for travel across space, across identities, or across both. Their broad repertoires of languages and ethnic affiliations, their capacity for prophetic reinvention, their short and/or oral genealogies, and their talent for fragmentation all form elements in their formidable travel kit.

It is in their interest to keep as many of their options open as possible, and what kind of history to have is one of those options. They have just as much history as they require.

In periods of dynastic consolidation, peace, and buoyant trade, Skinner explains, the local community opens and adapts to the opportunities these conditions afford. Economic specialization, trade, and administrative and political links flourish as the community takes advantage of the opportunities in the wider world. By contrast, in periods of dynastic collapse, economic depression, and civil strife and banditry, the local community withdraws increasingly into its own shell as a self-protective measure. The withdrawal was patterned, according to Skinner: first a normative withdrawal, then an economic closure, and, finally, a defensive military closure. Specialists and traders returned home, economic specialization diminished, the local food supply was guarded, outsiders were expelled, crop-watching societies were formed, stockades built, and local militias created.

Such adjustments can take place along one or several dimensions not easily available to the core peasantry. The first of these dimensions is location; the higher and more remote their dwelling, the farther they generally are from state centers, slave raids, and taxes. A second dimension is scale and dispersal; the smaller and more dispersed their settlements the less tempting a target they represent for raiders and states. Finally, they can and do modulate their subsistence techniques, each of which embodies a position vis-à-vis states, hierarchy, and political incorporation.

What is most striking here, of course, is how closely the ideal of a civilized landscape and demography coincides with a landscape and demography most suitable for state-making and how closely a landscape unsuitable for state appropriation, as well as the people who inhabit it, is understood as uncivilized and barbaric.

Dwelling in inaccessible forests and on hilltops codes as uncivilized. Foraging, forest collecting—even for commercial gain—and swiddening also code as backward. Scattered living and small settlements are, by definition, archaic. Physical mobility and transient, negotiable identities are both primitive and dangerous. Not following the great valley religions or not being the tax- and tithe-bearing subjects of monarchs and clergy places one outside the pale of civilization.

The ruler of Palembang in 1747 observed: “It is very easy for a subject to find a lord, but it is much more difficult for a lord to find a subject.”

One of the most inspiring things I have ever seen was a large papiermâché statue of a running figure, a “Monument to the Deserters of Both World Wars” (Denkmal an den Unbekannten Deserteurs der Beiden Weltkriegen) assembled by German anarchists shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and taken, via flatbed truck, to the cities of the former German Democratic Republic. It was chased from city to city by the local authorities until it came to rest, briefly, in Bonn.

Military portering is especially dreaded. It has been common for porters to be worked to exhaustion on maneuvers and then executed so that they cannot return home, to be forced to walk ahead of Burmese troops through suspected minefields, and, occasionally, to be forced to wear uniforms and precede the troops in order to draw insurgent fire.

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Highlights for The Coaching Habit https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-the-coaching-habit/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-the-coaching-habit/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 21:44:46 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5927 When you use “And what else?” you’ll get more options and often better options. Better options lead to better decisions. Better decisions lead to greater success. There’s a place for giving advice, of course. This book isn’t suggesting that you never give anyone an answer ever again. But it’s an overused and often ineffective response. … Continue reading Highlights for The Coaching Habit

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When you use “And what else?” you’ll get more options and often better options. Better options lead to better decisions. Better decisions lead to greater success.

There’s a place for giving advice, of course. This book isn’t suggesting that you never give anyone an answer ever again. But it’s an overused and often ineffective response.

Which is why people in organizations like yours around the world are working very hard and coming up with decent solutions to problems that just don’t matter, and why the real challenges often go unaddressed.

The simple act of adding “for you” to the end of as many questions as possible is an everyday technique for making conversations more development- than performance-oriented.

Stick to questions starting with “What” and avoid questions starting with “Why.”

We often don’t know what we actually want. Even if there’s a first, fast answer, the question “But what do you really want?” will typically stop people in their tracks.

I was not a successful law student. I remember almost nothing from my classes, and I ended my studies by being sued by one of my lecturers for defamation. It’s a long story.

“Are you more important or less important than I am?” is the question the brain is asking, and if you’ve diminished my status, the situation feels less secure.

T is for tribe. The brain is asking, “Are you with me, or are you against me?”

E is for expectation. The brain is figuring out, “Do I know the future or don’t I?”

A is for autonomy.

If you believe you do have a choice, then this environment is more likely to be a place of reward and therefore engagement.

A way to soften this question, as with all questions, is to use the phrase “Out of curiosity.”

Other phrases that can have a similar softening effect on the question being asked are “Just so I know…” or “To help me understand better…” or even “To make sure that I’m clear…”

You’re giving the solution, you’re providing the answer, you’re adding something to your to-do list. You’re assuming you know what the request is, even though the request hasn’t been clearly made. In short, you’re taking responsibility.

The more direct version of “How can I help?” is “What do you want from me?”

the wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead.

In fact, “strategic” has become an overused qualifier, something we add to anything that we want to sound more important, more useful, more thoughtful, more… good.

Why are you asking me?

Whom else have you asked?

When you say this is urgent, what do you mean?

According to what standard does this need to be completed? By when?

If I couldn’t do all of this, but could do just a part, what part would you have me do?

What do you want me to take off my plate so I can do this?

What is our winning aspiration?

Where will we play?

How will we win?

What capabilities must be in place?

What management systems are required?

You want them to learn so that they become more competent, more self-sufficient and more successful.

Academic Chris Argyris coined the term for this “double-loop learning” more than forty years ago.

But “What was most useful for you?” is like a superfood—kale perhaps—compared with the mere iceberg-lettuce goodness of the other questions.

“Is my manager useful?” the question asks. And thinking back over the last year, he’s struck by the fact that every single conversation with you has proven to be useful.

Answering that question extracts what was useful, shares the wisdom and embeds the learning. If you want to enrich the conversation even further—and build a stronger relationship, too—tell people what you found to be most useful about the exchange.

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Highlights for Pedagogy of the Oppressed https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-pedagogy-of-the-oppressed/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2018/01/highlights-for-pedagogy-of-the-oppressed/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 21:41:34 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5926 Critical consciousness, they say, is anarchic. Others add that critical consciousness may lead to disorder. This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require … Continue reading Highlights for Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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Critical consciousness, they say, is anarchic. Others add that critical consciousness may lead to disorder.

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.

The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility.

Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is solidary; it is a radical posture.

No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors.

Any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression. Such a situation in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by false generosity, because it interferes with the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human.

Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression.

The oppressed, as objects, as “things,” have no purposes except those their oppressors prescribe for them.

Submerged in reality, the oppressed cannot perceive clearly the “order” which serves the interests of the oppressors whose image they have internalized. Chafing under the restrictions of this order, they often manifest a type of horizontal violence, striking out at their own comrades for the pettiest reasons.

This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection: only then will it be a praxis.

Accordingly, while no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone, neither is he liberated by others.

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

The dominant elites consider the remedy to be more domination and repression, carried out in the name of freedom, order, and social peace (that is, the peace of the elites).

Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.

The role of the problem-posing educator is to create; together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos.

Education as the practice of freedom—as opposed to education as the practice of domination—denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relations with the world.

Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is not the privilege of an elite, but the birthright of all).

Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education.

We simply cannot go to the laborers—urban or peasant9—in the banking style, to give them “knowledge” or to impose upon them the model of the “good man” contained in a program whose content we have ourselves organized.

They forget that their fundamental objective is to fight alongside the people for the recovery of the people’s stolen humanity, not to “win the people over” to their side. Such a phrase does not belong in the vocabulary of revolutionary leaders, but in that of the oppressor. The revolutionary’s role is to liberate, and be liberated, with the people—not to win them over.

Educational and political action which is not critically aware of this situation runs the risk either of “banking” or of preaching in the desert.

Meanwhile, the significant dimensions, which in their turn are constituted of parts in interaction, should be perceived as dimensions of total reality.

If the oppressed do not become aware of this ambiguity during the course of the revolutionary process, they may participate in that process with a spirit more revanchist than revolutionary.3 They may aspire to revolution as a means of domination, rather than as a road to liberation.

One is the thinking of the master; the other is the thinking of the comrade.

In order to present for the consideration of the oppressed and subjugated a world of deceit designed to increase their alienation and passivity, the oppressors develop a series of methods precluding any presentation of the world as a problem and showing it rather as a fixed entity, as something given—something to which people, as mere spectators, must adapt.

These courses are based on the naïve assumption that one can promote the community by training its leaders—as if it were the parts that promote the whole and not the whole which, in being promoted, promotes the parts.

If children reared in an atmosphere of lovelessness and oppression, children whose potency has been frustrated, do not manage during their youth to take the path of authentic rebellion, they will either drift into total indifference, alienated from reality by the authorities and the myths the latter have used to “shape” them; or they may engage in forms of destructive action.

What Guevara did not say, perhaps due to humility, is that it was his own humility and capacity to love that made possible his communion with the people.

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Reading 2017 https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/reading-2017/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/reading-2017/#respond Sun, 31 Dec 2017 20:38:00 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5917 Most unexpectedly I read 52 books in 2017. These last couple of months I’d been gunning for it but nothing about the first half of this year indicated that I would even hit my challenge of 26 books. The first half of the year was marked by some decidedly slow reading as well as becoming … Continue reading Reading 2017

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Most unexpectedly I read 52 books in 2017. These last couple of months I’d been gunning for it but nothing about the first half of this year indicated that I would even hit my challenge of 26 books.

The first half of the year was marked by some decidedly slow reading as well as becoming a twin dad. The long and regular naps of young babies along with my parental leave made that a period where I caught up on watching a lot of movies (see the 50 movies in my Letterboxd diary).

Then halfway through the year, a shift happened where the kids underwent sleep regressions and we went through figurative hell. Watching video became impossible. The sleepless nights sitting up for 30-45 minutes at a stretch with a baby falling into deep sleep turned out to be a catalyst for reading.

I wanted to see how dramatic this shift was so I retrieved my year’s reading from Goodreads, filled in the page counts and made a bar chart of pages racked up per month.

That is indeed more or less where the kids started to become difficult sleepers (month 4-5) where my first peak starts and from there on it’s a steady pace until the end of the year bang.

What this has taught me more than anything is how relative reading velocity is and how with a bit of time and a slight change in attitude you can easily read 2-5x more than you normally thought possible. One of my tricks is to read about five books simultaneously and to cycle through those to keep up the energy.

For a normal month 1500 pages seems sustainable which would be about five books per month or sixty a year if I’d kept that up from the start. And 1500 pages per month is only 50 a day something that anybody with a bit of dedicated time should be able to do.

The books are listed per category below and the recommended ones are marked bold.

Engineering

A meagre year but I feel that in my current engineering practice I know mostly what I want to know and I’m looking more to branch out. I’m still open to reading books about engineering, but the bar is rather high since both of the UX books below did not add much to my knowledge. Alexander’s Notes… is seminal and should be a required exercise for anybody designing anything.

  • Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience
  • Notes on the Synthesis of Form, Christopher W. Alexander
  • Advanced Swift
  • UX for Lean Startups

Leadership

This has been one area where I branched out and tore through a decent stack of standard works. I’ve enjoyed most of the things I read here a lot. Some books did not teach me that much as much as reinforce and recontextualize things that I already knew. It’s nice to be confirmed about things you found out yourself, but let’s hope my reading prevents me from making as many mistakes as well.

Jocko Willink’s Extreme Ownership is simple but extremely (!) effective. Reinertsen’s is a seminal tome that formalizes a lot of (what I think to be) common sense when it comes to product development and project management. Never split the Difference is a thrilling read and I’m already looking forward to applying the haggling it taught. The Coaching Habit is a laser precision book that teaches you exactly what you need to know and when/how to apply it. More books should do that.

  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink
  • Personal Kanban: Mapping Work Navigating Life
  • The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development, Donald G. Reinertsen
  • Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager
  • Developer Hegemony: The Future of Labor
  • Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness
  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
  • Financial Strategy for Public Managers
  • Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss
  • The Coaching Habit, Michael Bungay Stanier

Literature

Seven out of nine (78%) of these authors are non-white/non-male and that is a worse score than I was hoping for. Toer’s book on life in the Dutch East Indies should be essential reading for all Dutch people. Nelson has shown me parenting from a non-cis/-male perspective and for that I’m grateful.

  • Água Viva
  • Open City
  • The Name Of The Rose
  • Aarde der Mensen, Pramoedya Ananta Toer
  • The Goldfinch
  • The God of Small Things
  • The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
  • Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West
  • The Underground Railroad

Genre fiction

Five out of nine (56%) books here are by non-white/non-males which is somewhat better than one could hope for in speculative fiction. Blue Mars was a lovely end to a huge journey and both the trilogy and the planet did grow on me. The second Inheritance book was the best of the lot which does not mean the series is bad in any way.

  • The Lathe of Heaven
  • Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy, #3), Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy, #1)
  • The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2), N.K. Jemisin
  • The Kingdom of Gods (Inheritance, #3)
  • The Forever War (The Forever War, #1)
  • The Dispossessed
  • Blindsight (Firefall, #1)
  • Echopraxia (Firefall, #2)

Non-fiction

Not that much outstanding here other than Scott’s book about Zomia. Reading a lot of the other books here felt like work even if they were short.

  • The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
  • We Have Never Been Modern
  • The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott
  • Homage to Catalonia
  • Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals
  • Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
  • Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built
  • Metaphors We Live By
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Kids

Kids’ books are terrible and Karp’s book on kids was one of the few I read that wasn’t totally useless.

  • Mann Und Vater Sein
  • Babys brauchen Väter
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block 2-Book Bundle, Dr. Harvey Karp
  • The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding, and Behavior–Beyond the Basics from Infancy Through Toddlerhood
  • Was machst du kleiner Bagger?
  • Wie kleine Tiere schlafen gehen
  • Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt
  • Mein erstes Buch vom Körper
  • Schlaf gut, Baby

Poetry

A very slim year with Darwish the sole representant of this category, lovely but overly long in this selection.

  • Unfortunately, It Was Paradise: Selected Poems, Mahmoud Darwish

Spirituality

Trungpa’s style is highly accessible while maintaining a lot of jargon. This is one of the first times things have clicked for me.

  • The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, Chögyam Trungpa

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XiR – Angela Merkel https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/xir-angela-merkel/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/xir-angela-merkel/#respond Thu, 28 Dec 2017 22:06:05 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5903 Turkish MC XiR has a new trap song out with the noteworthy title Angela Merkel. There is even somebody with a Merkel mask in the video. The video has a quick and dirty German subtitle bundled with it which you can turn on and read. In the spirit of international relations, I will translate to … Continue reading XiR – Angela Merkel

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Turkish MC XiR has a new trap song out with the noteworthy title Angela Merkel. There is even somebody with a Merkel mask in the video.

The video has a quick and dirty German subtitle bundled with it which you can turn on and read.

In the spirit of international relations, I will translate to English the hook of the song (lyrics on Genius). The rest of the song is either not that interesting or I’m missing out on a lot of inside baseball. Either way, I won’t try it.

Angela Merkel
Schengen yok
Karaköy’e sen gel

Bozulur dengen
Yol aldı yengen
Karaköy’e sen gel
Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel
There is no Schengen
You come down to Karaköy

You’ll lose your senses
Your woman’s gone
You come down to Karaköy
Angela Merkel

I can’t make much more of it other than that the mythologization of Angela Merkel continues. I’m curious what the German foreign office thinks about that.

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Highlights for Metaphors We Live By https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-metaphors-we-live-by/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-metaphors-we-live-by/#respond Thu, 28 Dec 2017 21:22:29 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5908 Madness and journeys give us handles on the concept of love, and food gives us a handle on the concept of an idea. We are proposing that the concepts that occur in metaphorical definitions are those that correspond to natural kinds of experience. Examples are PHYSICAL ORIENTATIONS, OBJECTS, SUBSTANCES, SEEING, JOURNEYS, WAR, MADNESS, FOOD, BUILDINGS, … Continue reading Highlights for Metaphors We Live By

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Madness and journeys give us handles on the concept of love, and food gives us a handle on the concept of an idea.

We are proposing that the concepts that occur in metaphorical definitions are those that correspond to natural kinds of experience.

Examples are PHYSICAL ORIENTATIONS, OBJECTS, SUBSTANCES, SEEING, JOURNEYS, WAR, MADNESS, FOOD, BUILDINGS, etc. These concepts for natural kinds of experience and objects are structured clearly enough and with enough of the right kind of internal structure to do the job of defining other concepts.

What is real for an individual as a member of a culture is a product both of his social reality and of the way in which that shapes his experience of the physical world.

New metaphors, like conventional metaphors, can have the power to define reality. They do this through a coherent network of entailments that highlight some features of reality and hide others. The acceptance of the metaphor, which forces us to focus only on those aspects of our experience that it highlights, leads us to view the entailments of the metaphor as being true. Such “truths” may be true, of course, only relative to the reality defined by the metaphor.

A statement can be true only relative to some understanding of it.

It is because we understand situations in terms of our conceptual system that we can understand statements using that system of concepts as being true, that is, as fitting or not fitting the situation as we understand it. Truth is therefore a function of our conceptual system. It is because many of our concepts are metaphorical in nature, and because we understand situations in terms of those concepts, that metaphors can be true or false.

The reason we have focused so much on metaphor is that it unites reason and imagination. Reason, at the very least, involves categorization, entailment, and inference. Imagination, in one of its many aspects, involves seeing one kind of thing in terms of another kind of thing—what we have called metaphorical thought.

The reason is, simply, that if we can do this, we can draw inferences about the situation that will not conflict with one another. That is, we will be able to infer nonconflicting expectations and suggestions for behavior. And it is comforting—extremely comforting—to have a consistent view of the world, a clear set of expectations and no conflicts about what you should do. Objectivist models have a real appeal—and for the most human of reasons.

A general realization that science does not yield absolute truth would no doubt change the power and prestige of the scientific community as well as the funding practices of the federal government. The result would be a more reasonable assessment of what scientific knowledge is and what its limitations are.

Within the experientialist myth, understanding emerges from interaction, from constant negotiation with the environment and other people.

Each art medium picks out certain dimensions of our experience and excludes others. Artworks provide new ways of structuring our experience in terms of these natural dimensions. Works of art provide new experiential gestalts and, therefore, new coherences.

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Highlights for Blindsight and Echopraxia https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-blindsight-and-echopraxia/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-blindsight-and-echopraxia/#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 21:51:15 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5896 In a world in which Humanity had become redundant in unprecedented numbers, we’d both retained the status of another age: working professional. The Unknown was technologically advanced—and there were some who claimed that that made them hostile by definition. Technology Implies Belligerence, they said. Humans didn’t really fight over skin tone or ideology; those were … Continue reading Highlights for Blindsight and Echopraxia

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In a world in which Humanity had become redundant in unprecedented numbers, we’d both retained the status of another age: working professional.

The Unknown was technologically advanced—and there were some who claimed that that made them hostile by definition. Technology Implies Belligerence, they said.

Humans didn’t really fight over skin tone or ideology; those were just handy cues for kin-selection purposes. Ultimately it always came down to bloodlines and limited resources.

So the therapists and psychiatrists poked at their victims and invented names for things they didn’t understand, and argued over the shrines of Freud and Klein and the old Astrologers. Doing their very best to sound like practitioners of Science.

Since you don’t actually see it, there’s no messy eyeball optics to limit resolution.

Luddites love to go on about computer malfunctions, and how many accidental wars we might have prevented because a human had the final say. But funny thing, commissar; nobody talks about how many intentional wars got started for the same reason.

“What relationship? According to you there’s no such thing. This is just—mutual rape, or something.”

“You use your Chinese room the way they used vision. You’ve reinvented empathy, almost from scratch, and in some ways—not all obviously, or I wouldn’t have to tell you this—but in some ways yours is better than the original. It’s why you’re so good at synthesis.”

When asked for your perspective, you serve it straight up and unvarnished— until the decision is made, and the orders handed down. Then you do your job without question.

I was good at what I did. I was so damned good, I did it without even meaning to.

People were starting to weigh costs against benefits, opt for a day or two outside the panopticon even in the face of the inevitable fines and detentions.

“Then it’s not your brain anymore. It’s something else. You’re something else.”

“That’s kinda the point. Transcendence is transformation.”

He shook his head, unconvinced. “Sounds more like suicide to me.”

the Anarres colony

“Have a drink,” he said. “Helps the future go down easier.”

“Dan, you gotta let go of this whole self thing. Identity changes by the second, you turn into someone else every time a new thought rewires your brain. You’re already a different person than you were ten minutes ago.”

She’d hadn’t even been in the kill zone; she’d been on the other side of the world, growing freelance code next to the girl of her dreams. Those weren’t as rare as they’d once been. In fact they’d grown pretty common ever since Humanity had learned to edit the dream as well as the girl. Soul mates could be made to order now: monogamous, devoted, fiercely passionate

I know how bad the optics are. I know how tough it is to sell an alliance with a regime whose neuropolitics are rooted in the Middle Ages. But we’re just going to have to take this dick in our mouths and swallow whatever comes out.

I’ve told you before, Daniel: roach isn’t an insult. We’re the ones still standing after the mammals build their nukes, we’re the ones with the stripped-down OS’s so damned simple they work under almost any circumstances. We’re the goddamned Kalashnikovs of thinking meat.

It frightened him, at first—the way new thoughts spilled from his mouth before he could check them for veracity, before he could even parse their meaning.

It’s a hack, in other words; your brain has learned how to get the reward without actually earning it through increased fitness. It feels good, and it fulfills us, and it makes life worth living. But it also turns us inward and distracts us.

Because natural selection takes time, and luck plays a role. The biggest boys on the block at any given time aren’t necessarily the fittest, or the most efficient, and the game isn’t over. The game is never over; there’s no finish line this side of heat death. And so, neither can there be any winners. There are only those who haven’t yet lost.

In hindsight, it is apparent that describing the Bicamerals as a religious order is a little misleading: the parts of the brain they’ve souped up simply overlap with the parts that kick in during religious neurobehavioral events, so the manifestations are similar. Whether that’s a distinction that makes a difference is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Highlights for Never Split the Difference https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-never-split-the-difference/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-never-split-the-difference/#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 21:51:12 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5898 In every negotiation, in every agreement, the result comes from someone else’s decision. And sadly, if we believe that we can control or manage others’ decisions with compromise and logic, we’re leaving millions on the table. But while we can’t control others’ decisions, we can influence them by inhabiting their world and seeing and hearing … Continue reading Highlights for Never Split the Difference

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In every negotiation, in every agreement, the result comes from someone else’s decision. And sadly, if we believe that we can control or manage others’ decisions with compromise and logic, we’re leaving millions on the table. But while we can’t control others’ decisions, we can influence them by inhabiting their world and seeing and hearing exactly what they want.

So don’t settle and—here’s a simple rule—never split the difference. Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict. Accommodation and compromise produce none of that. You’ve got to embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the great deals are.

BE PLEASANTLY PERSISTENT ON NONSALARY TERMS

SALARY TERMS WITHOUT SUCCESS TERMS IS RUSSIAN ROULETTE

SPARK THEIR INTEREST IN YOUR SUCCESS AND GAIN AN UNOFFICIAL MENTOR

Ask: “What does it take to be successful here?”

We are emotional, irrational beasts who are emotional and irrational in predictable, pattern-filled ways. Using that knowledge is only, well, rational.

Having just two words to start with might not seem like a lot of ammunition, but trust me, you can use “what” and “how” to calibrate nearly any question.

The trick to “How” questions is that, correctly used, they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution—your solution.

When implementation happens by committee, the support of that committee is key. You always have to identify and unearth their motivations, even if you haven’t yet identified each individual on that committee.

Humanize yourself. Use your name to introduce yourself. Say it in a fun, friendly way. Let them enjoy the interaction, too. And get your own special price.

And if the other side pushes you to go first, wriggle from his grip. Instead of naming a price, allude to an incredibly high number that someone else might charge.

Sometimes a situation simply calls for you to be the aggressor and punch the other side in the face.

The person across the table is never the problem. The unsolved issue is. So focus on the issue. This is one of the most basic tactics for avoiding emotional escalations.

The systematized and easy-to-remember process has only four steps:

1.Set your target price (your goal).

2.Set your first offer at 65 percent of your target price.

3.Calculate three raises of decreasing increments (to 85, 95, and 100 percent).

4.Use lots of empathy and different ways of saying “No” to get the other side to counter before you increase your offer.

5.When calculating the final amount, use precise, nonround numbers like, say, $37,893 rather than $38,000. It gives the number credibility and weight.

6.On your final number, throw in a nonmonetary item (that they probably don’t want) to show you’re at your limit.

The shock of an extreme anchor will induce a fight-or-flight reaction in all but the most experienced negotiators, limiting their cognitive abilities and pushing them into rash action.

If you can show inconsistencies between their beliefs and their actions, you have normative leverage. No one likes to look like a hypocrite.

But when someone displays a passion for what we’ve always wanted and conveys a purposeful plan of how to get there, we allow our perceptions of what’s possible to change. We’re all hungry for a map to joy, and when someone is courageous enough to draw it for us, we naturally follow.

The alternative we’ve chosen is to not understand their religion, their fanaticism, and their delusions. Instead of negotiations that don’t go well, we shrug our shoulders and say, “They’re crazy!”

Whatever the specifics of the situation, these people are not acting irrationally. They are simply complying with needs and desires that you don’t yet understand, what the world looks like to them based on their own set of rules.

If this book accomplishes only one thing, I hope it gets you over that fear of conflict and encourages you to navigate it with empathy. If you’re going to be great at anything—a great negotiator, a great manager, a great husband, a great wife—you’re going to have to do that.

One can only be an exceptional negotiator, and a great person, by both listening and speaking clearly and empathetically; by treating counterparts—and oneself—with dignity and respect; and most of all by being honest about what one wants and what one can—and cannot—do.

When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion—you fall to your highest level of preparation.

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Highlights for Financial Strategy for Public Managers https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-financial-strategy-for-public-managers/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-financial-strategy-for-public-managers/#respond Wed, 27 Dec 2017 21:48:16 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5894 Boeing’s executives expect their managers to know this information, in real time, if the company is to remain profitable. Managers need good information about costs to set prices, determine how much of a good or service to deliver, and to manage costs in ways that make their organization more likely to achieve its mission. Public financial … Continue reading Highlights for Financial Strategy for Public Managers

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Boeing’s executives expect their managers to know this information, in real time, if the company is to remain profitable.

Managers need good information about costs to set prices, determine how much of a good or service to deliver, and to manage costs in ways that make their organization more likely to achieve its mission.

Public financial resources are finite, scarce, and becoming scarcer.

CVP is a powerful tool that can directly illuminate many important management decisions.

For most public organizations personnel costs are the largest and most visible budget inputs. That’s why effective budgeting for public organizations starts, and often ends, with careful attention to budgeting for personnel.

Public managers must know what portion of the costs for which they’re responsible are fixed, variable, and step-fixed. They must also understand how different cost items connect to service delivery outputs, and how their cost center is assigned indirect costs. And perhaps most important, they must understand how their program’s cost structure and cost behavior will change under different performance scenarios.

For instance, for organizations with mostly fixed costs one of the best approaches to manage costs and bolster profitability is to “scale up.” Since fixed costs are fixed, one way to manage them is to spread them across the largest possible volume of service. However, for organizations with mostly variable costs, scaling up will simply increase variable costs. The better approach in that circumstance is to invest in new technology, procurement processes, or other strategies that can drive down variable costs.

The best we can do is understand these trends, forecast them to the best of our ability, and help policymakers understand the trade-offs these trends put in play.

But fundamentally, budgeting is a form of politics. Resources are scarce, and budgeting is the process by which organizations allocate those scarce resources. As such, budgeting is about managing conflict.

For budget policymakers, conflict and compromise is often around that annual percentage change, or increment. This assumes, of course, that last year’s budget – or base budget – was a fair representation of the organization’s goals and priorities. If this is not true, then debating incremental change will only amplify that disconnect between resources and priorities. In fact, for most public organizations, that disconnect is persistent and pervasive.

Legislators and board members are generally willing to appropriate small amounts of money to try “innovative” approaches. With time, many of those small experiments morph into large-scale programs.

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Highlights for Blood Meridian https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-blood-meridian/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/12/highlights-for-blood-meridian/#respond Sun, 10 Dec 2017 17:51:37 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5891 “We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That’s right. Others come in to govern for them.” There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto, said the Mennonite. Sproule sat without moving. The kid looked … Continue reading Highlights for Blood Meridian

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“We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That’s right. Others come in to govern for them.”

There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto, said the Mennonite.

Sproule sat without moving. The kid looked at him but he would look away. He was wounded in an enemy country far from home and although his eyes took in the alien stones about yet the greater void beyond seemed to swallow up his soul.

But the kid only spat into the darkness of the space between them. I know your kind, he said. What’s wrong with you is wrong all the way through you.

And so these parties divided upon that midnight plain, each passing back the way the other had come, pursuing as all travelers must inversions without end upon other men’s journeys.

They’d been skinned and I can tell ye it does very little for a man’s appearance.

The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day.

Their arms aloft pulling at their clothes were luminous and each obscure soul was enveloped in audible shapes of light as if it had always been so.

The horse screamed and kicked but the bull had planted its feet and it lifted the animal rider and all clear of the ground before Miller could get his pistol free and when he put the muzzle to the bull’s forehead and fired and the whole grotesque assembly collapsed he stepped clear of the wreckage and walked off in disgust with the smoking gun dangling in his hand.

Each man scanned the terrain and the movements of the least of creatures were logged into their collective cognizance until they were federated with invisible wires of vigilance and advanced upon that landscape with a single resonance.

Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak.

Of such corporal histories even as these he bore no tidings and although it was the custom in that wilderness to stop with any traveler and exchange the news he seemed to travel with no news at all, as if the doings of the world were too slanderous for him to truck with, or perhaps too trivial.

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Highlights for the Argonauts https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-for-the-argonauts/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-for-the-argonauts/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 14:53:59 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5878 “I was so happy renting in New York City for so long because renting—or at least the way I rented, which involved never lifting a finger to better my surroundings—allows you to let things literally fall apart all around you. Then, when it gets to be too much, you just move on. But any fixed … Continue reading Highlights for the Argonauts

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“I was so happy renting in New York City for so long because renting—or at least the way I rented, which involved never lifting a finger to better my surroundings—allows you to let things literally fall apart all around you. Then, when it gets to be too much, you just move on.

But any fixed claim on realness, especially when it is tied to an identity, also has a finger in psychosis. If a man who thinks he is a king is mad, a king who thinks he is a king is no less so.

This slice of truth, offered in the final hour, ended up beginning a new chapter of my adulthood, the one in which I realized that age doesn’t necessarily bring anything with it, save itself. The rest is optional.

To devote yourself to someone else’s pussy can be a means of devoting yourself to your own. But whatever sameness I’ve noted in my relationships with women is not the sameness of Woman, and certainly not the sameness of parts. Rather, it is the shared, crushing understanding of what it means to live in a patriarchy.

In fact I have come to understand revolutionary language as a sort of fetish—in which case, one response to the above might be, Our diagnosis is similar, but our perversities are not compatible.

We haven’t yet stopped trying to explain to each other what these words mean to us; perhaps we never will.

Over time, I have come to suspect that my affection for Bubbles may have less to do with its endorsement of the rule of negative gynecology, and more to do with its ridiculous title, which it shares with Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee.

But the tacit undercurrent of her argument, as I felt it, was that Gallop’s maternity had rotted her mind—besotted it with the narcissism that makes one think that an utterly ordinary experience shared by countless others is somehow unique, or uniquely interesting.

It reminds us that any bodily experience can be made new and strange, that nothing we do in this life need have a lid crammed on it, that no one set of practices or relations has the monopoly on the so-called radical, or the so-called normative.

These are the voices that pass for radicality in our times. Let us leave them to their love, their event proper.

Leave it to the old patrician white guy to call the lady speaker back to her body, so that no one misses the spectacle of that wild oxymoron, the pregnant woman who thinks. Which is really just a pumped-up version of that more general oxymoron, a woman who thinks.

Who cares what SHE feels like doing? It’s her conjugal duty to get over a massive physical event that has literally rearranged her organs and stretched her parts beyond comprehension and brought her through a life-or-death portal as soon as humanly possible.

These are solid guidelines to which I have long aspired. But now I think we have a right to our kink and our fatigue, both.

If all goes well, the baby will make it out alive, and so will you. Nonetheless, you will have touched death along the way. You will have realized that death will do you too, without fail and without mercy. It will do you even if you don’t believe it will do you, and it will do you in its own way. There’s never been a human that it didn’t.

Once he came to, he called her collect; she didn’t accept the charge. She threw up her hands as she told us this story, saying, I didn’t have the money! But we also heard her saying, I can’t carry him anymore.

The mother of an adult child sees her work completed and undone at the same time.

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Highlights for UX for Lean Startups https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-for-ux-for-lean-startups/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-for-ux-for-lean-startups/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 14:47:14 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5879 Nothing will bias a session faster than you trying to sell him on your ideas. You’re not there to talk. You are there to listen. Nobody in the world can possibly tell you whether some abstract concept you just explained will solve a problem that they have. Even if they could somehow understand the wild … Continue reading Highlights for UX for Lean Startups

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Nothing will bias a session faster than you trying to sell him on your ideas. You’re not there to talk. You are there to listen.

Nobody in the world can possibly tell you whether some abstract concept you just explained will solve a problem that they have. Even if they could somehow understand the wild abstractions you’re presenting them with, they couldn’t honestly tell you whether they would pay money for your solution.

They hear “listen to your customer” and think that we want them to blindly accept every ridiculous feature request made by somebody with a credit card and an opinion.

The point was, whatever changes we made, we had an objective way of determining whether or not the design was a success.

You see, if you’re designing something interactive, you need to design it to be…well…interactive.

One of the most common problems, and possibly the toughest one to overcome, is the tendency to accept solutions from users without understanding the underlying problem.

If you trust your engineering team to make some interaction design decisions, then you can present them with lower fidelity mocks and work through things like corner cases with them as they build.

I’ll just mention that, if you’re working with an outside agency of any sort, it is almost certainly spending time making its deliverables attractive. I

It may not be immediately clear how that relates to UX, but in my experience, Agile, iterative, efficient teams create better user experiences every time.

Design is not art. If you think that there’s some ideal design that is completely divorced from the effect it’s having on your company’s bottom line, then you’re an artist, not a designer. Design has a purpose and a goal, and those things can be measured.

The best alternative is the cross-functional team.This can be a tough change for people who are used to working in their own little silos, but combining people into one product team lets you go much faster.

The reason this works is that everybody is working on the same thing at the same time, which means that there are no handoffs where information gets garbled or lost.

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Highlights from Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-from-alibaba-the-house-that-jack-ma-built/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-from-alibaba-the-house-that-jack-ma-built/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 14:41:58 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5880 The idea is that by sharing orders, delivery status, and customer feedback each member company can improve efficiency and service quality, while remaining separately owned. Alibaba encourages a sense of informality at work. Every employee is asked to adopt a nickname. With its constant emphasis on culture and ideology, people at Alibaba refer to HR … Continue reading Highlights from Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built

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The idea is that by sharing orders, delivery status, and customer feedback each member company can improve efficiency and service quality, while remaining separately owned.

Alibaba encourages a sense of informality at work. Every employee is asked to adopt a nickname.

With its constant emphasis on culture and ideology, people at Alibaba refer to HR informally as the “Political Commissar” (zheng wei).

reducing “time to market,” launching products that they can perfect later, an approach some refer to as “running with short steps.”

“English helps me a lot. It makes me understand the world better, helps me to meet the best CEOs and leaders in the world, and makes me understand the distance between China and the world.”

Then trotting out one of his favorite sayings: “Today is brutal, tomorrow is more brutal, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful. However, the majority of people will die tomorrow night. They won’t be able to see the sunshine the day after tomorrow. Aliren must see the sunshine the day after tomorrow.”

Because schools teach knowledge, while starting businesses requires wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through experience. Knowledge can be acquired through hard work.”

Taobao.com’s tagline was “There is no treasure that cannot be hunted out, and there is no treasure that cannot be sold.”

But this contrarian stance is vintage Jack.

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A small contribution to apple/swift https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/a-small-contribution-to-appleswift/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/a-small-contribution-to-appleswift/#respond Thu, 23 Nov 2017 22:00:51 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5874 I saw a starter task fly by in the Swift Weekly Brief and jumped on it. Now it turns out that the Swift project has a util directory full of various Python scripts that perform various tasks including cloning and building the project. One of those python scripts needed to print out a message if … Continue reading A small contribution to apple/swift

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I saw a starter task fly by in the Swift Weekly Brief and jumped on it. Now it turns out that the Swift project has a util directory full of various Python scripts that perform various tasks including cloning and building the project.

One of those python scripts needed to print out a message if somebody calls it without the –clone parameter. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t clone all the repositories that you need to be able to build the project. I did some path fiddling and testing against a sample of directories that should be present and there is PR #12856 that got merged into the project (and got mentioned in the next Brief).

I had to run the thing by the people who have testing/merging privileges a couple of times mostly because of how stringent Python linting is these days. Writing code that adheres to PEP8 is no joke but I’m glad that people have set such a high standard for themselves and the community. I got commit access to another project and figured out how to run the linter there until it was happy with the code on my machine.

There is also lots to do even just in the python part of the Swift codebase without me even having to dive into C++. I also have 15+ years of python experience to draw from vs. two months or so of C++. I’ve been looking around for some other python starter tasks to contribute some more stuff but still have to find the time to do them. Whether I’ll get around to ever contribute to the core project is still open, but knowing how to build and run Swift is useful if I want to try out some of the interesting new proposals.

I’m very glad too that the Swift project itself has chosen for python as its scripting language. Too many iOS tools to my taste are written in ruby a language I have zero inclination to learn. I taught myself a bit to be able to get a plugin into fastlane, but that was more than enough. But it looks like we may be able to get rid of ruby in the future since more and more functionality of fastlane is being rolled into Xcode and cocoapods is being superseded by the Swift Package Manager. SPM especially is a project where there is still a lot of rather accessible work to be done which will yield huge improvements in the quality of life of lots of developers.

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Highlights from The Dispossessed https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-from-the-dispossessed/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-from-the-dispossessed/#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 10:11:36 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5866 There were walls around all his thoughts. You know how it is, what women call thinking is done with the uterus! Of course, there’s always a few exceptions, God-awful brainy women with vaginal atrophy. “Entirely on your own initiative,” said Oiie. “It is the only initiative I acknowledge,” Shevek said, smiling, in dead earnest. All … Continue reading Highlights from The Dispossessed

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There were walls around all his thoughts.

You know how it is, what women call thinking is done with the uterus! Of course, there’s always a few exceptions, God-awful brainy women with vaginal atrophy.

“Entirely on your own initiative,” said Oiie. “It is the only initiative I acknowledge,” Shevek said, smiling, in dead earnest.

All such luxuries which if freely allowed to the public would tend to drain irreplaceable natural resources or to foul the environment with waste products were strictly controlled by regulation and taxation.

The meetings of such groups, the vehicles of both social action and sociability, were the framework of life in any small community, but here in the city they seemed much less important.

Even from the brother there is no comfort in the bad hour, in the dark at the foot of the wall.

In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal.

figurines and souvenirs and kickshaws and mementos and gewgaws and bric-a-brac, everything either useless to begin with or ornamented so as to disguise its use

After all, work is done for the work’s sake. It is the lasting pleasure of life. The private conscience knows that. And also the social conscience, the opinion of one’s neighbors.

“It’s always easier not to think for oneself. Find a nice safe hierarchy and settle in. Don’t make changes, don’t risk disapproval, don’t upset your syndics. It’s always easiest to let yourself be governed.”

Oiie was an ethical man, but his private insecurities, his anxieties as a property owner, made him cling to rigid notions of law and order.

You’re thirty, aren’t you? By that age a man should know not only his cellular function but his organic function—what his optimum role is the social organism is.

The individual cannot bargain with the State. The State recognizes no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself.

The thing about working with time, instead of against it, he thought, is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.

We left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. We took nothing. Because there is nothing here but States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a clear heart, on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into, and fear of loss, and the wish for power. You cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is ‘superior’ to

Somebody had told Bedap that Rulag was an engineer, and he had found in her the engineer’s clarity and pragmatism of mind, plus the mechanist’s hatred of complexity and irregularity.

The only security we have is our neighbors’ approval. An archist can break a law and hope to get away unpunished, but you can’t ‘break’ a custom; it’s the framework of your life with other people.

What’s the good of an anarchist society that’s afraid of anarchists?

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The Good, the Bad and the Interesting https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/the-good-the-bad-and-the-interesting/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/the-good-the-bad-and-the-interesting/#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 10:08:42 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5870 Ik ben een trouwe luisteraar van GBI en het was leuk dat Vasilis toen hij in Berlijn was de tijd nam om ook eens met mij te praten. Volgens mij is het een leuk gesprek geworden. Alper Çuğun in gesprek met Vasilis van Gemert

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Ik ben een trouwe luisteraar van GBI en het was leuk dat Vasilis toen hij in Berlijn was de tijd nam om ook eens met mij te praten. Volgens mij is het een leuk gesprek geworden.

Alper Çuğun in gesprek met Vasilis van Gemert

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Highlights from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-from-what-got-you-here-wont-get-you-there/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/11/highlights-from-what-got-you-here-wont-get-you-there/#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:17:26 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5861 Successful people consistently compare themselves favorably to their peers. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats. They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity. They embrace it. They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves. Successful people have a unique … Continue reading Highlights from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

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Successful people consistently compare themselves favorably to their peers.

People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats. They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity. They embrace it. They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves.

Successful people have a unique distaste for feeling controlled or manipulated.

If you press people to identify the motives behind their self-interest it usually boils down to four items: money, power, status, and popularity.

That’s the fallacy of added value. Whatever we gain in the form of a better idea is lost many times over in our employees’ diminished commitment to the concept.

It’s obvious that the best course of action for dealing with people like this is to not let them make us angry. Getting angry doesn’t improve the situation and life’s too short to waste on feeling bad.

But once you appreciate the payoff of saying nothing—that if you’re silent, you cannot make an ass out of yourself or make an enemy out of someone else—then you might have a chance of getting better.

I also suspect that’s a big reason why so many of us withhold information. It’s not that we want to keep people in the dark. It’s simply that we’re too busy. We mean well. We have good intentions. But we fail to get around to it.

If the answer was “yes” he gave them some very quick recognition, either by phone, e-mail, voice mail, or a note.

Stop blaming others for the choices you made—and that goes with double emphasis for the choices that turned out well.

No one expects us to be right all the time. But when we’re wrong, they certainly expect us to own up to it.

It’s not about you. It’s about what other people think of you.

Basically, we accept feedback that is consistent with our self-image and reject feedback that is inconsistent.

1. Let go of the past.  2. Tell the truth.  3. Be supportive and helpful—not cynical or negative.  4. Pick something to improve yourself—so everyone is focused more on “improving” than “judging.”

It’s my contention—and it’s the bedrock thesis of this book—that interpersonal behavior is the difference-maker between being great and near-great, between getting the gold and settling for the bronze.

Even though we may be able to deny our problems to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who are observing us.

Some of the best feedback comes from what you observe. If you accept it and act on it, it’s no less valid than people telling you the same thing at point-blank range.

In each phase you must target a different constituency. In phase 4, you woo up—to get your superiors to approve. In phase 5, you woo laterally—to get your peers to agree. In phase 6, you woo down—to get your direct reports to accept.

All I’m saying is that you cannot rely on other people to read your mind or take note of the changed behavior you’re displaying. It may be patently obvious to you, but it takes a lot more than a few weeks of behavioral modification for people to notice the new you.

There’s the part where we actually listen. And there’s the part where we speak. Speaking establishes how we are perceived as a listener. What we say is proof of how well we listen. They are two sides of the same coin.

Asking, “Is it worth it?” engages you in thinking beyond the discussion to consider (a) how the other person regards you, (b) what that person will do afterwards, and (c) how that person will behave the next time you talk.

The ability to make a person feel that, when you’re with that person, he or she is the most important (and the only) person in the room is the skill that separates the great from the near-great.

Eventually, you’ll come to see that expressing gratitude is a talent—a talent that goes hand in hand with wisdom and self-knowledge and maturity.

But injecting Jim into the mix—a friendly sympathetic human being whom, on the one hand, I do not want to disappoint (that’s human nature) and who, on the other hand, provides constant encouragement and input—brings it more in line with the follow-up process I’ve been describing here

Successful people have a high need for self-determination and will tend to accept ideas about concerns that they “own” while rejecting ideas that feel “forced” upon them.

What’s interesting (and reassuring) about this story is that it’s an example of a boss accurately assessing his shortcomings and his employee agreeing with him. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes the gap between what a boss says about himself and what the staff believes is wide, very wide.

Your memo has to be brutally honest. Your employees have to believe it is accurate. And most important, they must believe it matters.

Let them figure out what they should be doing on their own. Let them tell you where you’re not needed.

If you manage your people the way you’d want to be managed, you’re forgetting one thing: You’re not managing you.

Most leadership development revolves around one huge false assumption—that if people understand then they will do. That’s not true. Most of us understand, we just don’t do.

I tell people that change is a simple equation: Stop the annoying behavior and you’ll stop being perceived as an annoyance.

The smart ones believed that their corporation would “drop them in a flash” when they no longer met the company’s needs, so they in turn were willing to “drop the company” when it no longer met their needs.

As a general rule, people in their 20s want to learn on the job. In their 30s they want to advance. And in their 40s they want to rule.

Let that be your model for dealing with needy, demanding, allegedly “selfish” employees. To ignore them and resent them is to misunderstand them—and eventually lose them. You’re committing the corporate equivalent of a hate crime.

Managers at smart companies are catching on. They’re beginning to see that their relationship with top talent resembles a strategic alliance rather than a traditional employment contract.

Stop trying to change people who don’t think they have a problem.

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Highlights from Discontent and its Civilizations https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/notes-from-discontent-and-its-civilizations/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/notes-from-discontent-and-its-civilizations/#respond Sun, 29 Oct 2017 10:25:47 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5856 But if globalization is capable of holding out any fundamental promise to us, any temptation to go along with its havoc, then surely that promise ought to be this: we will be more free to invent ourselves. What distinguishes the “war on terror” is that it is a war against a concept, not a nation. … Continue reading Highlights from Discontent and its Civilizations

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But if globalization is capable of holding out any fundamental promise to us, any temptation to go along with its havoc, then surely that promise ought to be this: we will be more free to invent ourselves.

What distinguishes the “war on terror” is that it is a war against a concept, not a nation. And the enemy concept, it seems to me, is pluralism.

Civilizations are illusions, but these illusions are pervasive, dangerous, and powerful.

On our globalizing planet, where the pace of change keeps accelerating, many of us are coming to feel at least a bit foreign, because all of us, whether we travel far afield or not, are migrants through time.

It’s a funny thing to lose your first language.

Yes, babies could look cute. But I’d been in enough relationships to know looks only go so far, particularly when they’re packaged with a high-maintenance need for constant attention.

Ours is a large extended family: my mother is one of nine, my father one of four.

And there will be people like me, with our powered exoskeletons left often in the closet, able to leap over buildings when the mood strikes us, but also prone to wandering naked and feeling the sand of a beach between our puny toes.

But a crisis can be an opportunity. It incites change. And the novel needs to keep changing if it is to remain novel.

Civilizations are illusory. But they are useful illusions. They allow us to deny our common humanity, to allocate power, resources, and rights in ways repugnantly discriminatory.

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Highlights from Reinventing Organizations https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/notes-from-reinventing-organizations/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/notes-from-reinventing-organizations/#respond Sun, 29 Oct 2017 09:02:05 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5853 I believe it has to do with the belief system of our times: in a hierarchical worldview, there can be only one brain in command, just as there must be a single boss at the head of every organization. Then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, modernity has brought us unprecedented wealth and life expectancy in … Continue reading Highlights from Reinventing Organizations

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I believe it has to do with the belief system of our times: in a hierarchical worldview, there can be only one brain in command, just as there must be a single boss at the head of every organization.

Then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, modernity has brought us unprecedented wealth and life expectancy in the last two centuries.

It is probably no exaggeration, but sad reality, that the very survival of many species, ecosystems, and perhaps the human race itself hinges on our ability to move to higher forms of consciousness and from there collaborate in new ways to heal our relationship with the world and the damage we’ve caused.

It turns out that, throughout history, the types of organizations we have invented were tied to the prevailing worldview and consciousness.

Every transition to a new stage of consciousness has ushered in a whole new era in human history.

While Red Organizations can be extremely powerful (especially in hostile environments where later stages of organizations tend to break down), they are inherently fragile, due to the impulsive nature of people’s way of operating (I want it so I take it).

Size and stability become possible because people in Conformist-Amber are content to stay in their box and not vie for a higher prize. People operating from this stage identify with their roles, with their particular place in the organization.

Where Red’s perspective was egocentric and Amber’s ethnocentric, Orange brought about the possibility of a worldcentric perspective.

The fears of the ego often undermine good intentions.

Bringing about consensus among large groups of people is inherently difficult. It almost invariably ends up in grueling talk sessions and eventual stalemate. In response, power games break out behind the scenes to try to get things moving again.

Consciously or unconsciously, leaders put in place organizational structures, practices, and cultures that make sense to them, that correspond to their way of dealing with the world.

The shift to Evolutionary-Teal happens when we learn to disidentify from our own ego. By looking at our ego from a distance, we can suddenly see how its fears, ambitions, and desires often run our life. We can learn to minimize our need to control, to look good, to fit in.

We are ready to let go of anger, shame, and blame, which are useful shields for the ego but poor teachers for the soul. We embrace the possibility that we played a part in creating the problem, and inquire what we can learn so as to grow from it.

As a result, there are very, very few people working in staff functions in Teal Organizations. And those that do typically have no decision-making authority. They can provide guidelines but cannot impose a rule or a decision.

The higher you go, the more lines converge. It is only at the very top that the different departments such as sales, marketing, R&D, production, HR, and finance meet. Decisions are naturally pushed up to the top, as it’s the only place where decisions and trade-offs can be informed from the various angles involved. It’s almost deterministic: with a pyramidal shape, people at the top of organizations will complain about meeting overload, while people below feel disempowered.

The general philosophy is one of reverse delegation. The expectation is that the frontline teams do everything, except for the things they choose to push upward.

The heart of the matter is that workers and employees are seen as reasonable people that can be trusted to do the right thing. With that premise, very few rules and control mechanisms are needed.

A huge amount of time is freed by dropping all the formalities of project planning—writing the plan, getting approval, reporting on progress, explaining variations, rescheduling, and re-estimating, not to mention the politics that go into securing resources for one’s project or to find someone to blame when projects are over time or over budget.

using voluntary task forces instead of fixed staff functions has multiple benefits. Employees find avenues to express talents and gifts that their primary role might not call for. They develop a true sense of ownership and responsibility when they see they have real power to shape their company.

Teal Organizations reverse the premise: people are not made to fit pre-defined jobs; their job emerges from a multitude of roles and responsibilities they pick up based on their interests, talents, and the needs of the organization.

Without boxes to put people into, the organization chart disappears and it’s not always easy to know who is responsible for what.

Every role people take on is a commitment they make to their peers. They are not accountable to one boss; every one of their peers is a boss in respect to the commitments they made.

Through these weekly one-on-one discussions, teachers and students know each other on a much deeper level than in traditional schools.

The advice process transcends this opposition beautifully: the agony of putting all decisions to consensus is avoided, and yet everybody with a stake has been given a voice; people have the freedom to seize opportunities and make decisions and yet must take into account other people’s voices.

I have noticed that for some reason, many people naturally assume that in the absence of bosses, decisions in self-management organizations will be made by consensus. And because they have been scarred by the paralysis and endless discussions that often come when people seek consensus, they are quick to dismiss self-management as a viable way to run organizations.

Consensus comes with another flaw. It dilutes responsibility. In many cases, nobody feels responsible for the final decision. The original proposer is often frustrated that the group watered down her idea beyond recognition; she might well be the last one to champion the decision made by the group. For that reason, many decisions never get implemented, or are done so only half-heartedly.

If traditional companies rarely hold all-hands meetings, it is precisely because they can be unpredictable and risky. But in that very risk lies their power to reaffirm an organization’s basic assumptions and to strengthen the community of trust.

Things would change under you: one day we are doing it this way, the next day we’d completely change something core, and the next day it’s yet different and we’re always running to catch up.

Self-management, just like the traditional pyramidal model it replaces, works with an interlocking set of structures, processes, and practices; these inform how teams are set up, how decisions get made, how roles are defined and distributed, how salaries are set, how people are recruited or dismissed, and so on.

The tasks of management—setting direction and objectives, planning, directing, controlling, and evaluating—haven’t disappeared. They are simply no longer concentrated in dedicated management roles. Because they are spread widely, not narrowly, it can be argued that there is more management and leadership happening at any time in Teal Organizations despite, or rather precisely because of, the absence of fulltime managers.

Power is not viewed as a zero-sum game, where the power I have is necessarily power taken away from you. Instead, if we acknowledge that we are all interconnected, the more powerful you are, the more powerful I can become. The more powerfully you advance the organization’s purpose, the more opportunities will open up for me to make contributions of my own.

With freedom comes responsibility: you can no longer throw problems, harsh decisions, or difficult calls up the hierarchy and let your bosses take care of it. You can’t take refuge in blame, apathy, or resentfulness. Everybody needs to grow up and take full responsibility for their thoughts and actions—a steep learning curve for some people.

At check-in, participants are invited to share how they feel in the moment, as they enter the meeting. The practice brings participants to listen within, to reconnect with their body and sensations, and to grow the capacity for awareness in the moment. Naming an emotion is often all it takes to leave it behind and not carry it over into the meeting.

all colleagues have the opportunity to learn a simple three-step process for difficult conversation: Step 1: Here is how I feel. Step 2: Here is what I need. Step 3: What do you need?

Many blue-collar workers join FAVI scarred from past experience of mistrust and command and control. Joining an environment where they are considered trustworthy and where their voice counts is often a groundbreaking experience.

You have full liberty to find a solution, but until you have found one, you are bound to your previous commitments.

four simple statements for the yearly appraisal discussions: State an admirable feature about the employee. Ask what contributions they have made to Sun. Ask what contributions they would like to make at Sun. Ask how Sun can help them.

But such feedback should be given on the spot, all year round, and not left unsaid, waiting for the appraisal discussion at the end of the year.

Instead, people in these companies have a very clear, keen sense of the organization’s purpose and a broad sense of the direction the organization might be called to go. A more detailed map is not needed. It would limit possibilities to a narrow, pre-charted course.

Predictions are valuable in a complicated world, but they lose all relevance in a complex world.

The decision can be reviewed at any time if new data comes up or someone stumbles on a better idea.

In both cases, if there is a workable solution on the table—”workable” meaning a solution that nobody believes will make things worse—it will be adopted.

Is my heart at work? Do I sense that I am at the right place?

We each have full responsibility for the organization. If we sense that something needs to happen, we have a duty to address it. It’s not acceptable to limit our concern to the remit of our roles.

Put supportive structures, practices, and processes in place (lower-right quadrant) Ensure that people with moral authority in the company role-model the behavior associated with the culture (upper-right quadrant) Invite people to explore how their personal belief system supports or undermines the new culture (upper-left quadrant)

There are three ways to help put new cultural elements in place: through practices that support corresponding behavior, through role-modeling by colleagues with moral authority, and by creating a space where people can explore how their belief system supports or undermines the new culture.

Over and over again, the CEO must ensure that trust prevails and that traditional management practices don’t creep in through the back door.

That is the magic of organizations: their processes can lift up employees to adopt behaviors from later stages of consciousness that they might not yet have integrated at an individual level.

Fighting the inner urge to control is probably the hardest challenge for founders and CEOs in self-managing organizations. Over and over again, they must remember to trust.

CEOs that role-model virtues such as humility, trust, courage, candor, vulnerability, and authenticity invite colleagues to take the same risks.

Every time a team presents, a new picture of a desirable future is woven into the collective consciousness.

Through purpose: Individual energies are boosted when people identify with a purpose greater than themselves.
Through distribution of power: Self-management creates enormous motivation and energy. We stop working for a boss and start working to meet our inner standards, which tend to be much higher and more demanding.
Through learning: Self-management provides a strong incentive for continuous learning. And the definition of learning is broadened to include not only skills but the whole realm of inner development and personal growth.
Through better use of talent: People are no longer forced to take management roles that might not fit their talents in order to make progress in their careers. The fluid arrangement of roles (instead of predefined job descriptions) also allows for a better matching of talent with roles.
Less energy wasted in propping up the ego: Less time and energy goes into trying to please a boss, elbowing rivals for a promotion, defending silos, fighting turf battles, trying to be right and look good, blaming problems on others, and so on.
Less energy wasted in compliance: Bosses’ and staff’s uncanny ability to create policies generates wasteful control mechanisms and reporting requirements that disappear almost completely with the self-management.
Less energy wasted in meetings: In a pyramid structure, meetings are needed at every level to gather, package, filter, and transmit information as it flows up and down the chain of command. In self-managing structures, the need for these meetings falls away almost entirely.

Through better sensing: With self-management, every colleague can sense the surrounding reality and act upon that knowledge. Information doesn’t get lost or filtered on its way up the hierarchy before it reaches a decision maker.
Through better decision-making: With the advice process, the right people make decisions at the right level with the input from relevant and knowledgeable colleagues. Decisions are informed not only by the rational mind, but also by the wisdom of emotions, intuition, and aesthetics.
Through more decision-making: In traditional organizations, there is a bottleneck at the top to make decisions. In self-managing structures, thousands of decisions are made everywhere, all the time.
Through timely decision-making: As the saying goes, when a fisherman senses a fish in a particular spot, by the time his boss gives his approval to cast the fly, the fish has long moved on.
Through alignment with evolutionary purpose: If we believe that an organization has its own sense of direction, its own evolutionary purpose, then people who align their decisions with that purpose will sail with the wind of evolution at their back.

People might not just reduce or increase the number of hours they work as employees. They might switch between employment (fulltime and/or part-time) and freelance work; they might at others times choose to volunteer, donate money, or temporarily have no involvement at all with an organization, only to come back later.

Many of us sense that the current way we run organizations is deeply limiting.

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Highlights from The Principles of Product Development Flow https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/notes-from-the-principles-of-product-development-flow/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/notes-from-the-principles-of-product-development-flow/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 08:56:53 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5823 “I believe that the dominant paradigm for managing product development is fundamentally wrong.” In practice, sensible behavior prevails, despite the presence of a dysfunctional formal procedure. Third, with a little help from option pricing theory, we will discover that we can actually design development processes such that increases in variability will improve, rather than worsen, … Continue reading Highlights from The Principles of Product Development Flow

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“I believe that the dominant paradigm for managing product development is fundamentally wrong.”

In practice, sensible behavior prevails, despite the presence of a dysfunctional formal procedure.

Third, with a little help from option pricing theory, we will discover that we can actually design development processes such that increases in variability will improve, rather than worsen, our economic performance.

We favor highly granular planning because we don’t understand the statistics of variability.

We value flexibility, and we pay for it. In contrast, most product development organizations exclusively reward specialization.

One of the most interesting examples of decentralizing control without losing alignment is the way the military deals with the uncertainty of warfare.

If you only quantify one thing, quantify the cost of delay.

As this book progresses, you will see that the economics of flow is almost always dominated by the cost of queues. If we cannot quantify the cost of a queue on the critical path, then we cannot quantify the benefit of reducing this queue. If we cannot quantify the benefit, we can’t generate support for major changes.

Reducing risk, which is the primary mission of testing, clearly creates economic value for product developers. In fact, reducing risk is so centrally important to product development that it is indispensable for us to quantify its economic impact.

In product development, our greatest waste is not unproductive engineers, but work products sitting idle in process queues.

In product development, our problem is virtually never motionless engineers. It is almost always motionless work products.

We can create enormous improvements in decision making with surprisingly imperfect answers. Do not let fear of inaccuracy prevent you from creating economic frameworks.

This leads to what we might call the Pareto Paradox: There is usually more actual opportunity in the undermanaged 80 percent than the overmanaged 20 percent.

Some product developers aspire to use the same approach in product development. They prepare a minutely detailed plan at the beginning of the project and measure performance against this plan. When they deviate from this plan, they take corrective action. They aspire to front-load their decisions. While this is a superb strategy in repetitive environments like manufacturing, it is a terrible one in product development.

Not only do these emergent opportunities arrive continuously and randomly, but they are also quite perishable. Opportunities get smaller with time, and obstacles get larger.

It is always useful to look for a way to reshape a bad choice into a better one. Decompose the choice into its pieces and keep the good parts.

The general principle is that we should make each decision at the point where further delay no longer increases the expected economic outcome.

The value of information is its expected economic value.

Low-cost activities that remove a lot of risk should occur before high-cost activities that remove very little risk.

Such aggressive filtering, before acquiring sufficient information to make a good economic choice, would eliminate all uncertain and poorly understood opportunities. However, it is precisely these uncertain opportunities that have large payoff asymmetries, making them the best sources of new drugs. Opening the filter to pass these asymmetric opportunities actually increases economic value.

In my experience, most managers make amazingly fast decisions when they are presented with compelling economic arguments.

Product development inventory is observable through its effects: increased cycle time, delayed feedback, constantly shifting priorities, and status reporting.

The more projects we have in process, the more projects we have to track and report status on.

This is actually a more serious problem than most developers realize because the waste created by following a bad path typically increases exponentially, not linearly, as we progress down the path.

Widespread queues demotivate workers and undermine initiative.

Managing the process upstream of the bottleneck is a valuable tool for improving flow at the bottleneck.

We simply cannot rely on randomness to correct the problems that randomness creates.

Waiting for complete information improves efficiency, but it leads to queueing.

Product development creates economic value by producing the recipes for products, information, not by creating physical products.

Risk-taking is central to value creation in product development.

We frequently encounter strongly asymmetric payoffs in product development. The value of a success can be much higher than the cost of a failure.

Either excessive or insufficient probability of failure reduces the efficiency with which we generate information.

Repeating the same failures is waste, because it generates no new information. Only new failures generate information.

Product developers should clearly distinguish exploratory testing, which should be optimized for information generation, and validation testing, which should be optimized for high success rates.

When our task list becomes very granular, the noise in each estimate is very high compared to the signal. Granular estimates produce good estimates of aggregate scope, but we should never schedule tasks at this level of detail. Instead, it makes more sense to aggregate many small tasks and to schedule them as a group.

The irony of this is that many companies try to reduce the risk of poor forecasts by taking more time to do a careful forecast.

A buffer converts uncertain earliness to certain lateness.

In product development, “left side” outcomes represent bad variability, but “right side” outcomes represent good variability.

Each engineering decision acts as a predecessor for many subsequent decisions. The number of dependent decisions generally grows geometrically with time. Consequently, a single incorrect assumption can force us to change hundreds of later decisions. When we delay feedback, rework becomes exponentially more expensive.

When engineers are experimenting with a new idea, rapid feedback is enormously energizing. Rapid feedback quickly supplies the positive reinforcement of success, and fast positive reinforcement always increases motivation.

It is generally safe to assume that we really don’t know where the optimum point is on the batch size response surface. As a result, we must test the response of the product development process to batch size reduction by reducing batch size and measuring the results.

Sequence activities to create maximum value for minimum cost, and remember that removing risk from a project is a key way to increase the expected value of the project.

Since it takes almost equal effort to ask for a big bag of money as a small one, people prefer to ask for big bags of money.

the practice of working in one phase at a time is so devoid of common sense that engineers seldom follow it, even when it is required by their procedures.

If a simple kanban system was trying to limit the WIP between two processes to 30 items, it might use six pallets that could each hold five parts as physical kanbans. The downstream process would take parts off a pallet and when it was empty, send it back to the upstream process. This empty pallet would signal the upstream process to make more parts. The upstream process is not allowed to make parts unless it has an empty pallet to put them on. This sets an upper limit on the amount of WIP between the two processes.

Toyota further enhances the effectiveness of this WIP constraint by cross-training workers at adjacent work stations.

A smaller batch size approach to WIP purging is to shed requirements during periods of congestion.

It is best to identify in advance which requirements we would consider eliminating or relaxing. We do this for two reasons. First, we can make a more well-reasoned decision before the pressure of a congestion crisis occurs. Second, if we preplan which requirements might be jettisoned, we can structure our product architecture to make it easy to jettison them. We do so by loosely coupling these elements to the rest of the system, so that we can cut them loose quickly.

A simple way to do this is for the development team to pay for variances during manufacturing ramp. Once the product has been in manufacturing for a fixed amount of time, responsibility for these variances can be transferred to manufacturing.

Which project activities are most suited for part-time resources? Those that are most prone to expensive congestion. These are high-variability tasks on the critical path. Activities that are more predictable can be handled with full-time resources, since such activities experience less congestion.

Unfortunately, most organizations love to load these highly productive resources to very high utilization rates. We need to change this mind-set. The big guns are not most valuable as an efficient substitute for small guns, they are most valuable for handling situations that the small guns cannot handle.

Experts allow us to apply tremendous problem-solving power to a bottleneck. Generalists can be easily shifted to any place they are needed. Is there a way to get both these benefits from the same person? Some organizations believe this is possible, and they characterize the people they are trying to create as T-shaped resources.

The ideal resource is a jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-one.

It takes advanced planning to do cross-training and to create T-shaped resources. It takes discipline to load experts to less-than-full utilization. The decision to use part-timers must be made early.

Detailed planning is very perishable, and this perishability increases with the distance to the planning horizon.

When we cram too many projects into the product development pipeline, we create queues. These queues create a frictional drag on throughput as developers spend more time expediting and less time adding value. The added load reduces output instead of increasing it.

Whenever we have any flexible customers, we can use pricing to reduce congestion. Because of the steepness of the queueing curve, even a small shift in demand can make a big difference in flow time.

We monitor the queue and intervene to restore it to the center of its target range, not to simply bring it back within bounds.

Cadence inherently makes activities automatic and routine. This lowers transaction overhead and makes it economical to use smaller batches.

This is an interesting case where the heirs of a brilliantly designed system failed to understand the underlying logic of the system.

When all jobs have the same delay cost, the preferred scheduling strategy is to do the shortest job first (SJF).

Projects should only visit nodes that add economic value. They should visit these nodes in the specific sequence that adds economic value most cost-effectively.

As a general rule, any inexpensive step that eliminates a lot of risk should occur early.

Instead, it is usually better to maintain a trickle flow of work through the alternate route, even when the primary route is under-utilized.

Decisions are made at a synchronous, cadenced meeting where people from adjacent processes can easily interact.

The curtain between adjacent processes does not have to be completely opaque. As work nears completion, we should make its character visible to downstream resources.

They assume that the plan is correct, and a deviation is always bad. Therefore, they try to close the gap between the two by making results closer to the plan. They often discover it is cheaper to prevent deviations than it is to correct them, so they also emphasize preventing deviations.

When goals are dynamic, we need different control systems. If we have stable goals, we try to prevent deviations, often by increasing inertia and avoiding risk. If we have dynamic goals, we try to quickly correct deviations, often by decreasing inertia.

Not all deviations have negative economic consequences.

By accelerating feedback, we can design processes with less WIP, thereby lowering delay times.

Whenever we have a short turning radius and a quick reaction time, we can proceed safely at a higher speed.

This develops a culture of magical decision making, where everybody feels they can make great decisions unencumbered by either analysis or facts.

When people see that their actions cause consequences, it changes their behavior. They feel a sense of control, and this causes them to take even more control of the system.

Under dynamic conditions, we need to pay attention to the timing of the revenue associated with the inventory. When revenue is growing rapidly, we may need more DIP to support this growth.

The Marines believe orders are incomplete without this information. They believe that intent needs to be understood deeply through the organization. They believe that when intent is clear, Marines will be able to select the right course of action.

In product development, we can change direction more quickly when we have a small team of highly skilled people instead of a large team. We can change direction more quickly when we have a product with a streamlined feature set, instead of one that is bloated with minor features. We can change direction more quickly when we have reserve capacity in our resources.

Since the Marines expect plans to change, they focus on simple, modular, and flexible plans. Simplicity leads to fast adaptation. Modularity solves the problem of adaptation because different modules can be configured many different ways. Flexibility is achieved by preplanning “branches” and “sequels.”

There is no substitute for moving to a quick proof-of-concept. There is no substitute for early market feedback.

They believe that one of the biggest mistakes a leader could make is to stifle initiative.

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Highlights from Homage to Catalonia https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/highlights-from-homage-to-catalonia/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/highlights-from-homage-to-catalonia/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 20:26:54 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5845 The Spaniards are good at many things, but not at making war. All foreigners alike are appalled by their inefficiency, above all their maddening unpunctuality. for some reason all the best matadors were Fascists. When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in … Continue reading Highlights from Homage to Catalonia

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The Spaniards are good at many things, but not at making war. All foreigners alike are appalled by their inefficiency, above all their maddening unpunctuality.

for some reason all the best matadors were Fascists.

When a man refused to obey an order you did not immediately get him punished; you first appealed to him in the name of comradeship. Cynical people with no experience of handling men will say instantly that this would never ‘work’, but as a matter of fact it does ‘work’ in the long run.

It was not till late March that I saw a bomb worth throwing.

I admit I was amazed and scandalized when I first saw it done. The idea of trying to convert your enemy instead of shooting him! I now think that from any point of view it was a legitimate manoeuvre.

Actually churches were pillaged everywhere and as a matter of course, because it was perfectly well understood that the Spanish Church was part of the capitalist racket.

This alliance, known as the Popular Front, is in essential an alliance of enemies, and it seems probable that it must always end by one partner swallowing the other.

The Anarchists were the opposite of the majority of so-called revolutionaries in so much that though their principles were rather vague their hatred of privilege and injustice was perfectly genuine.

The Communist’s emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency, the Anarchist’s on liberty and equality.

When I joined the militia I had promised myself to kill one Fascist–after all, if each of us killed one they would soon be extinct–and I had killed nobody yet, had hardly had the chance to do so.

If there is one thing I hate more than another it is a rat running over me in the darkness.

I have felt exactly the same thing when stalking a wild animal; the same agonized desire to get within range, the same dreamlike certainty that it is impossible.

Many of the normal motives of civilized life–snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.–had simply ceased to exist.

And, after all, instead of disillusioning me it deeply attracted me. The effect was to make my desire to see Socialism established much more actual than it had been before. Partly, perhaps, this was due to the good luck of being among Spaniards, who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance.

A fat man eating quails while children are begging for bread is a disgusting sight, but you are less likely to see it when you are within sound of the guns.

It is a horrible thing to have to enter into the details of inter-party polemics; it is like diving into a cesspool.

There are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all.

Anyone who has served in Spain knows that the one operation of war that Spaniards really perform really well is that of feeding their troops.

Since 1930 the Fascists had won all the victories; it was time they got a beating, it hardly mattered from whom.

My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and done, suits me so well.

To be killed in battle– yes, that is what one expects; but to be flung into jail, not even for any imaginary offence, but simply owing to dull blind spite, and then left to die in solitude–that is a different matter.

I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards. I only twice remember even being seriously angry with a Spaniard, and on each occasion, when I look back, I believe I was in the wrong myself.

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Highlights from Rules for Radicals https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/highlights-from-rules-for-radicals/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/10/highlights-from-rules-for-radicals/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 20:24:50 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5846 “The establishment in many ways is as suicidal as some of the far left If we fail to communicate with them, if we don’t encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be. … Continue reading Highlights from Rules for Radicals

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“The establishment in many ways is as suicidal as some of the far left

If we fail to communicate with them, if we don’t encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right.

We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be.

Political realists see the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest.

The pursuit of happiness is never-ending; happiness lies in the pursuit.

Concern for our private, material well-being with disregard for the well-being of others is immoral according to the precepts of our Judaeo-Christian civilization, but worse, it is stupidity worthy of the lower animals.

In short, ethics are determined by whether one is losing or winning.

The ninth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.

To oversimplify, what Gandhi did was to say, “Look, you are all sitting there anyway—so instead of sitting there, why don’t you sit over here and while you’re sitting, say Independence Now!'”

The Haves develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo.

and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.

To pander to those who have no stomach for straight language, and insist upon bland, non controversial sauces, is a waste of time.

he knows that worn-out words like “white racist,” “fascist pig,” and “motherfucker” have been so spewed about that using them is now within the negative experience of the local people

They knew not only of my concern about their plight but that I liked them as people. I felt their response in friendship, and we were together. It is in this totality of the situation that I did what, otherwise, would have been offensive.

With very rare exceptions, the right things are done for the wrong reasons. It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason—this is a fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved, although it may have been achieved for the wrong reason—therefore he should search for and use the wrong reasons to achieve the right goals.

Communication on a general basis without being fractured into the specifics of experience becomes rhetoric and it carries a very limited meaning.

Organizations are built on issues that are specific, immediate, and realizable.

It is impossible to maintain constant action on a single issue. A single issue is a fatal strait jacket that will stifle the life of an organization.

We learn, when we respect the dignity of the people, that they cannot be denied the elementary right to participate fully in the solutions to their own problems. Self-respect arises only out of people who play an active role in solving their own crises and who are not helpless, passive, puppet-like recipients of private or public services.

One big problem is a constant shifting of responsibility from one jurisdiction to another—individuals and bureaus one after another disclaim responsibility for particular conditions, attributing the authority for any change to some other force.

You can insult and annoy him, but the one thing that is unforgivable and that is certain to get him to react is to laugh at him. This causes an irrational anger.

They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority.

They see the poor going to colleges with the waiving of admission requirements and given special financial aid. In many cases the lower middle class were denied the opportunity of college by these very circumstances.

People must be “reformed”—so they cannot be deformed into dependency and driven through desperation to dictatorship and the death of freedom. The “silent majority,” now, are hurt, bitter, suspicious, feeling rejected and at bay. This sick condition in many ways is as explosive as the current race crisis. Their fears and frustrations at their helplessness are mounting to a point of a political paranoia which can demonize people to turn to the law of survival in the narrowest sense.

The frenetic scene around them is so bewildering as to induce them to either drop out into a private world, the nonexistent past, sick with its own form of social schizophrenia—or to face it and move into action.

The middle classes are numb, bewildered, scared into silence. They don’t know what, if anything, they can do. This is the job for today’s radical—to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight.

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Highlights from the God of Small Things https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/09/highlights-from-the-god-of-small-things/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/09/highlights-from-the-god-of-small-things/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 21:41:04 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5839 “Inspector Thomas Mathew seemed to know whom he could pick on and whom he couldn’t. Policemen have that instinct.” Some days he walked along the banks of the river that smelled of shit and pesticides bought with World Bank loans. He oiled himself with warm, peppered coconut oil, kneading his old, loose flesh that stretched … Continue reading Highlights from the God of Small Things

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“Inspector Thomas Mathew seemed to know whom he could pick on and whom he couldn’t. Policemen have that instinct.”

Some days he walked along the banks of the river that smelled of shit and pesticides bought with World Bank loans.

He oiled himself with warm, peppered coconut oil, kneading his old, loose flesh that stretched willingly off his bones like chewing gum.

the Loss of Sophie Mol grew robust and alive. It was always there. Like a fruit in season. Every season. As permanent as a government job.

savoring their teacherly disapproval, touching it with their tongues, sucking it like a sweet

It was as though the window through which their father disappeared had been kept open for anyone to walk in and be welcomed.

not of the wedding itself so much as the fact that she had permitted herself to be so painstakingly decorated before being led to the gallows. It seemed so absurd. So futile. Like polishing firewood.

Ammu said that human beings were creatures of habit, and it was amazing the kind of things they could get used to.

The nodder nodded as Rahel’s ancestral lineage fell into place for him.

When she looked at him now, she couldn’t help thinking that the man he had become bore so little resemblance to the boy he had been. His smile was the only piece of baggage he had carried with him from boyhood into manhood.

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Name of the Game https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/09/name-of-the-game/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/09/name-of-the-game/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 21:15:00 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5836 I’m putting this here so I don’t have to keep looking it up. The name of the game by John Boyd is moral leverage for grand strategy: Preserve or build up our moral authority while compromising that of our adversaries in order to pump up our resolve, drain away adversaries’ resolve, and attract them as … Continue reading Name of the Game

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I’m putting this here so I don’t have to keep looking it up.

The name of the game by John Boyd is moral leverage for grand strategy:

Preserve or build up our moral authority while compromising that of our adversaries in order to pump up our resolve, drain away adversaries’ resolve, and attract them as well as others to our cause and way of life.

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Highlights from The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/09/highlights-from-the-truth-of-suffering-and-the-path-of-liberation/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/09/highlights-from-the-truth-of-suffering-and-the-path-of-liberation/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 21:57:34 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5831 ”Association with those you hate is suffering.” It is very hard. It turns out to be quite a handful, quite a project, for us to keep everything at the ideal level. The conclusion is that everybody is neurotic, that neurosis creates discomfort and anxiety, and that basic anxiety is happening all the time. We can’t … Continue reading Highlights from The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation

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”Association with those you hate is suffering.”

It is very hard. It turns out to be quite a handful, quite a project, for us to keep everything at the ideal level.

The conclusion is that everybody is neurotic, that neurosis creates discomfort and anxiety, and that basic anxiety is happening all the time.

We can’t just practice passion, aggression, and ignorance on ourselves alone; we do it to somebody else as well, and someone always gets hurt.

We generate their anxiety, and they also generate it themselves; and we end up with what is known as “the vicious circle of samsara.” Everybody is constantly making everybody else feel bad.

We would like to watch the birth of our child and its growth, so that finally we will have a child who is competent and good because of our training.

The torturing process we impose on ourselves is a habitual pattern, or ape instinct.

You don’t want to be born into the next world, but unfortunately, the situation is such that you are born into the next world.

As we get older, we are not getting the entertainment we used to get out of things. We have already experienced practically everything that exists in our world.

We want our own particular habits to keep happening, and we do not want to give anything up, viewing that as a sign of weakness.

Then, quite conveniently, they blame somebody else, if they have a scheming enough style of thinking; and if they don’t, they just freak out with their mouths open.

Nothing will satisfy you. Nothing will be wish-fulfilling at all, absolutely not. Something is not quite working. Whether you are smart or dumb, it doesn’t make much difference: things don’t quite work.

Since you carry your burden of suffering with you all the time, you have grown accustomed to it. You have learned to live with it.

Therefore, with greater clarity, pain is experienced more harshly, more precisely and directly

The original problem began because you lost your awareness. You cannot lay that on someone else.

There doesn’t have to be a second meaning all the time, and you don’t have to philosophize everything. There could be pure motivation.

Basically, both eternalism and nihilism are ways of trying to nourish one’s existence and one’s ego. They are extreme views in the sense that either you couldn’t care less and nothing is a problem, or there is a problem, so you have to be on the right side of it.

Simply perceiving it through your mind and seeing the futility of it, realizing it is just a game, is the saving grace. That seems to be the point of the practice of meditation.

This ignorance is a different sort of ignorance than the initial triggering process. It is not basic bewilderment but rather simply boycotting situations, ignoring things, refusing to see things in an intelligent way.

Taking life, stealing, and sexual misconduct are regulated by social norms. Some forms of these actions are approved by law because they go along with the basic scheme of society; others are not approved by law because they interfere with that scheme.

You hope that if you speak your harsh words loudly and clearly, they will be a kind of weapon or bomb that you can throw into the midst of society, into the midst of your friends, or into the midst of your enemies.

As the creator of harsh, destructive words, you hope that you can destroy society, concepts, ideas, feelings, and theories of all kinds.

Because you feel so rugged and primitive, you are afraid that you might be excluded from that vision, so you stick to your particular logic, your jumbled-up confusion, your poverty mentality.

First we have to interrupt our ignorance, and second we also have to interrupt our passion. By interrupting both our ignorance and our passion, we have nothing happening in terms of the samsaric world. We have already unplugged the refrigerator.

A person experiences a glimpse of cessation as a kind of appetizer. If the appetizer is good, you have a sense of how the main course will be.

The Buddha said that cessation could be experienced. He said that suffering should be known; the origin of suffering should be renounced; the cessation of suffering should be realized; and the path should be regarded as the truth to resolution. That’s almost word for word.

We begin to feel that we could prevent such problems by being highly disciplined and by having a genuine connection with our own mind and thought patterns, which could be good or bad, virtuous or otherwise.

You practice due to your own inspiration. Nobody can make you do it if you don’t want to.

The only possibility is that at one and the same time, the simplicity of the practice can be developed with respect to the tradition and discipline, and your intuition can be developed according to your own basic understanding of life. That is the point of profundity.

Beyond that, you are becoming highly disciplined. You are realistic, proper, and industrious; you have self-discipline and project dignity. Such ordinary decency is recognized as a token of cessation.

You begin to see the value of the intellect, which in this case means sharpened clarity rather than theory. Instead of resorting to Jungian or Freudian styles of psychologizing everything, you are simply experiencing your life and understanding how it works.

“Because everything is impermanent, everything is always painful and subject to suffering.”

On the path of accumulation we are working with ourselves and we are inspired to make sacrifices. We accumulate good merit by developing a good attitude and performing good deeds. We cultivate simplicity and sacrifice.

There is a tremendous sense of humor and relaxation, and a sense of openness, gentleness, and goodness. You are beginning to feel the effect of your practice. It is beginning to work, and you feel positive. It is like coming out of a steam bath: your muscles have relaxed; you feel so healthy.

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Highlights from Managing Humans https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/08/notes-from-managing-humans/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/08/notes-from-managing-humans/#respond Sun, 06 Aug 2017 21:26:38 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5822 ”You must see the people who work with you.” The presence of rigid, e-mail-based status reports comes down to control, a lack of imagination, and a lack of trust in the organization. The courage it takes to stop this meeting five minutes into the scheduled hour because there is no discernible way to make progress. … Continue reading Highlights from Managing Humans

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”You must see the people who work with you.”

The presence of rigid, e-mail-based status reports comes down to control, a lack of imagination, and a lack of trust in the organization.

The courage it takes to stop this meeting five minutes into the scheduled hour because there is no discernible way to make progress.

It’s great that your freak has chosen to freak out. The alternative is that they’re not saying a thing and have decided to leave the company.

A meeting agenda would help, but as most meetings proceed without one, you’re on your own.

It’s a noble act, speaking your mind in front of all your peers. But it’s also a waste of time.

Roles and agendas in these meetings are simple. Talkers are talking and listeners are listening. Get it? There is no problem to be solved other than the transmission of information. The quicker it happens, the sooner everyone is back to work.

Exhibiting your power and knowledge as a manager isn’t always the best method of communicating.

Blindly landing process without considering the culture it needs to support it is a recipe for disaster.

Each additional person levies a communication tax, and unless we figure out how to constantly improve our communication, we’re just going to get slower.

Bright-and-shiny inflection points are full of energy, but unless that energy is carefully channeled back into the building and immediately acted upon, all an off-site represents is a frustrating opportunity to dream, but not to act.

Use the development environment to build the product. This means you must be familiar with your team’s tools, including the build system, version control, and programming language.

Process is the means by which your team communicates.

What I am saying is that any big decision, any big problem, deserves time and consideration.

I know there is no controlling the world, but I will fluidly surf the entropy by constantly changing myself.

The game here isn’t just overcommunication and Grapevine eradication; I’m still worried I missed something in the plan, and the status spamming is another means of vetting both the plan and the progress.

These people, called managers, don’t create product. They create process.

We all get shit work, but it’s the responsibility of the guy or gal in charge to dole this work out fairly and consistently.

Each week that passes where you don’t share the joy, despair, and discovery of software development is a week when you slowly forget what it means to be a software developer.

A strategic hire is someone who is going to push their agenda, their opinion.

A tactical hire is a person who is filling a well-defined need.

Your job interview isn’t over until you’ve changed to become part of a new team.

There are chronically negative nerds out there, but in my experience with nerd management, it’s more often the case that the nerd is bitter because they’ve seen this situation before four times, and it has played out exactly the same way.

Yeah, they’re going to argue, but it’s the argument you want your teams to have. It’s not a fear-based “Should we or shouldn’t we?” it’s “Let’s do this thing, let’s make sure it gets done, and let’s make sure it gets done right.”

As an aside, let me stress how bad of a career move it is to not know who you are going to be working for when you arrive. The 30-minute interview you have with your future manager is a critical piece of information when you decide whether or not to make a move.

My personal favorites are mechanical organics. These folks have all the slick tricks of organic information gathering, but they’ve got the astounding organization skills of the mechanic. They know everything and never forget a bit. I mean it. Organic mechanics are frightening. They have extreme depth of knowledge, but there is no obvious organic thread that ties it all together. Here’s the scary part. There is a thread. There is a purpose. They just aren’t letting you see it. Organic mechanics will keep you on your heels and just when you think you’ve figured them out, they’ll change everything. I hate that. I mean, I love that.

Wait, don’t these holistics have product to ship? No, they have multiple products, but they’ve hired rock-star inwards to get the products built to specification and on time so they can focus on figuring out what to build next and who they’re going to need to build it.

I’m not suggesting that outwards don’t care about the daily professional shenanigans within the company; they do, but they’ve also hired a group of rock-star holistics to run their company. The rub is this: while it’s not their job to run the company on a daily basis, they are accountable for it.

What you need to know about your manager is how much he cares about this growth and, more importantly whether he sees this as his growth opportunity or the team’s.

You are not that person, because once you are rewarded for releasing crap, you begin a blind walk down a path of mediocrity that ends up with you working at Computer Associates on a product no one has heard of and that no one cares about.

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Thingscon Amsterdam 2016 Talk on Conversational Interfaces https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/07/thingscon-amsterdam-2016-talk-on-conversational-interfaces/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/07/thingscon-amsterdam-2016-talk-on-conversational-interfaces/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 20:18:15 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5818 For my personal archive, here is the talk I gave at Thingscon Amsterdam last year. ThingsCon Amsterdam 2016: Alper Cugun from ThingsConAMS on Vimeo.

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For my personal archive, here is the talk I gave at Thingscon Amsterdam last year.

ThingsCon Amsterdam 2016: Alper Cugun from ThingsConAMS on Vimeo.

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Highlights from Unfortunately, It Was Paradise https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/highlights-from-unfortunately-it-was-paradise/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/highlights-from-unfortunately-it-was-paradise/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:36:38 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5809 Here or there, our blood will plant olive trees. Ours is a country of words: Talk. Talk. I ask: Is it true, good ladies and gentlemen, that the earth of Man is for all human beings as you say? In that case, where is my little cottage, and where am I? Can a people be … Continue reading Highlights from Unfortunately, It Was Paradise

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Here or there, our blood will plant olive trees.

Ours is a country of words: Talk. Talk.

I ask: Is it true, good ladies and gentlemen, that the earth of Man is for all human beings as you say? In that case, where is my little cottage, and where am I?

Can a people be born on a guillotine? We have the right to die any way we wish.

In this hymn we lay a dream, we raise a victory sign, we hold a key to the last door, to lock ourselves in a dream.

I gaze upon trees guarding the night from the night and the sleep of those who would wish me death.

The stars had only one task: they taught me how to read. They taught me I had a language in heaven and another language on earth.

I will come out of these walls a free man, like a ghost when he floats freely out of himself. I will go to Aleppo. Dove, fly with my Byzantine ode to my kinsman, and take him this greeting of dew.

Who am I after your two almond eyes? the male stranger asks. Who am I after your exile in me? the female stranger asks.

Every time she hits a certain note, her jinn casts its spell on us. And we are transported to another time.

Nothing causes us pain— not the final parting of the doves nor the cold in our hands nor the wind around the church.

Do not glance at the twin partridges sleeping on her chest.

I saw three of my friends crying, sewing my burial shroud with golden threads.

I was born in spring to keep the orators from endlessly speaking about this heartbreaking country, about the immortality of fig and olive trees in the face of time and its armies.

Homeland for him, he tells me, is to drink my mother’s coffee, to return at nightfall.

He used to arrive like a sword dipped in wine, and leave like the end of a prayer.

And I died, I died utterly. How tranquil and peaceful is death without your crying? How tranquil and peaceful is death without your hands pounding on my chest to bring me back? Before and after death I loved you, and between I saw nothing but my mother’s face.

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The UX and Messaging of Chatbots https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/the-ux-and-messaging-of-chatbots/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/the-ux-and-messaging-of-chatbots/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 16:05:56 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5806 One for the archives, this a talk I gave last summer that I thought went pretty well.

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One for the archives, this a talk I gave last summer that I thought went pretty well.

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Highlights from This Earth of Mankind https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/highlights-from-this-earth-of-mankind/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/highlights-from-this-earth-of-mankind/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 20:53:39 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5797 Modern! How quickly that word had surged forward and multiplied itself like bacteria throughout the world. Thomas Aquinas, she said, once saw two people who were born in the same year, in the same month, on the same day and at the same hour, even in the same place. The joke played by astrology was … Continue reading Highlights from This Earth of Mankind

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Modern! How quickly that word had surged forward and multiplied itself like bacteria throughout the world.

Thomas Aquinas, she said, once saw two people who were born in the same year, in the same month, on the same day and at the same hour, even in the same place. The joke played by astrology was that one became a great landowner and the other his slave.

In his body ran some Native blood. Who knows how many drops or clots.

Under the illusion he was actually a Dutch citizen he strove to act as one for the sake of his grandchildren’s future.

She is just a nyai, living in sin, giving birth to illegitimate children, low in moral character, selling honor to live easily and in luxury.

Her attitude toward her daughter was refined and wise and open, not like that of Native mothers.

The Dutch generals almost gave up. The Dutch were only ever able to destroy the children, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the ill, the pregnant women.

Once in their lives people must take a stand. If not, they will never become anything.

My world was not rank and position, wages and embezzlement. My world was this earth of mankind and its problems.

I felt so totally Javanese. But when the ignorance and stupidity of Java was mentioned, I felt European.

So don’t indulge yourself. Strengthen your heart.

You are among the first of the educated Natives. Much is demanded of you.

“May I ask why Mr. Mellema did not like Dutch literature?” “I don’t really know, miss. But he used to say that it was dominated by triviality, had no spirit, no fire.”

If that vengefulness was missing, she’d be truly, brilliantly outstanding, Minke.

“Shame is not a concern of European civilization.”

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Talk at Emerce Tech Live in Amsterdam https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/talk-at-emerce-tech-live-in-amsterdam/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/06/talk-at-emerce-tech-live-in-amsterdam/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 20:01:40 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5792 Last Tuesday I gave a talk at EMERCE Tech Live on the main stage of the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. It was a lovely event and it was fun being back in Amsterdam however briefly. It was a business focussed practical riff on my ‘Designing Conversational Interfaces’ talk that may have blown some people’s … Continue reading Talk at Emerce Tech Live in Amsterdam

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Last Tuesday I gave a talk at EMERCE Tech Live on the main stage of the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. It was a lovely event and it was fun being back in Amsterdam however briefly.

It was a business focussed practical riff on my ‘Designing Conversational Interfaces’ talk that may have blown some people’s minds. So it goes!

Tech Live! 22

Tech Live! 24

A post shared by Alper Cugun (@alper) on

Now on stage @alper on conv interfaces. The good and bad. The power of simplicity #tel17

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Kritiek naar aanleiding van Hallo Witte Mensen https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/05/kritiek-naar-aanleiding-van-hallo-witte-mensen/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/05/kritiek-naar-aanleiding-van-hallo-witte-mensen/#respond Fri, 05 May 2017 14:42:48 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5780 Ik heb me de afgelopen weken geërgerd aan en gegeneerd voor de domme venijnige kritieken die het boek ‘Hallo Witte Mensen’ van Anousha Nzume kreeg. Zoals de uitgever van het boek Ebissé Rouw zegt: Nederland is een intellectual wasteland. We zijn nu eenmaal een klein taalgebied waar iedereen zich heel slim en onschuldig kan voelen door … Continue reading Kritiek naar aanleiding van Hallo Witte Mensen

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Ik heb me de afgelopen weken geërgerd aan en gegeneerd voor de domme venijnige kritieken die het boek ‘Hallo Witte Mensen’ van Anousha Nzume kreeg. Zoals de uitgever van het boek Ebissé Rouw zegt: Nederland is een intellectual wasteland. We zijn nu eenmaal een klein taalgebied waar iedereen zich heel slim en onschuldig kan voelen door het Engelstalige debat over een onderwerp compleet te missen en zelf wat bij elkaar te verzinnen.

Ik probeerde bij te houden wat voor onzin er gepubliceerd werd in de mediahype rondom het boek maar op een gegeven moment was dat ook geen doen meer. Morad van FunX vond dat Nzume dit boek niet had moeten schrijven, Pieter van der Wielen ventileerde in Nooit Meer Slapen al zijn persoonlijke frustraties eventjes, de Volkskrant liet een radicaal een totaal onleesbaar stuk schrijven (niet gelinkt) en Sylvain Ephimenco liet in Trouw zijn gebruikelijke ding uithangen (direct weerlegd in diezelfde krant door Seada Nourhussen).

Ik heb het boek wel maar ik heb het net zoals Morad ook nog niet gelezen. Ik vind niet dat je een cultureel product geconsumeerd moet hebben om erover te kunnen praten, zeker niet als het zo uitgebreid behandeld is in de media. Ik ga het daarom ook niet hebben over de letterlijke inhoud van ‘Hallo Witte Mensen’ (Waarvan ik wel geloof dat het snor zit. Koop dat boek!) maar over het debat.

Ik ben zelf redelijk bij in dat debat al weet ik zeker niet alles en ben ik ook niet overal mee eens. We hebben allemaal nog veel te leren dus laten we blij zijn dat zo’n handleiding anti-racisme nu bestaat.

Maar niemand lijkt in staat tot een kritische benadering. De ene kant doet het niet omdat een afwijkende mening hebben wordt gezien als overlopen. De andere kant doet het niet omdat ze (zie de voorbeelden boven) zo vastzitten in hun eigen hangups dat ze niet meer na kunnen denken.

Ik denk dat kritiek kan én moet. Hier drie voorzetjes.

  1. Meepraten

Nzume zegt dat ze dacht dat ze op een gegeven moment ook zou kunnen meepraten bijvoorbeeld over racisme. Dat lijkt me erg goed. Je hoeft niet zwart te zijn om te zien dat racisme nog steeds een groot probleem is.

Ik vraag me dan wel af waarom zwart Nederland er niet voor zorgt dat ze politiek vertegenwoordigd worden. In de afgelopen Tweede Kamer verkiezingen stonden er geen Afrikaanse-Nederlanders op een verkiesbare plek (zie Kiza Magendane). Artikel 1, een politieke partij aangevoerd door een prominente zwarte vrouw met een krachtig verhaal, slaagde er niet in om ook maar één zetel te halen.

Turkse-Nederlanders bijvoorbeeld die ook van ver moeten komen zijn erg goed vertegenwoordigd met een handjevol kamerleden en zelfs een eigen politieke partij.

Wat mij betreft zijn dit vier verloren jaren niet alleen voor zwart Nederland maar voor ons allemaal. Waarom is dit niet gelukt en waarom waren Nzume &co. tijdens hun gesprek met Sylvana Simons in Dipsaus zo terughoudend?

2. Intersectionaliteit

Zoals ik het concept intersectionaliteit begrijp gaat het erom dat we allemaal meerdere identiteiten hebben die elkaar voeden, raken en soms met elkaar botsen. Dat betekent dat iemand die zwart en rijk is en iemand die wit en arm is allebei lijden aan onderdrukking. Het is dan ook beter om ze allebei serieus te nemen dan ze met elkaar te willen vergelijken.

Dat vergelijken wordt ook wel ‘Oppression Olympics’ genoemd, een wedstrijdje wie het meest onderdrukt wordt. Het beste doen we niet aan dat soort wedstrijdjes omdat ze veel leed en geen winnaars opleveren.

Nzume zegt dat ze in het boek opzettelijk de tegenstelling wit/zwart heeft benadrukt. Zo’n harde scheidslijn doet geen recht aan de echte levens van mensen en zorgt ervoor dat witte mensen aanslaan. Dat aanslaan is onterecht maar ik vraag me dan wel af: Waarom zouden witte mensen mee willen doen aan een ‘Oppression Olympics’ waar ze toch altijd als verliezer uit de bus komen?

3. Globalisering

Verreweg de meeste weerstand in het racisme-debat komt van boerse Nederlanders (Hallo mensen buiten de Randstad!) die niet zoveel van de wereld hebben gezien. Hadden ze dat gedaan dan waren ze erachter gekomen dat witte mensen wereldwijd verreweg in de minderheid zijn. Discriminatie op basis van huidskleur is in een geglobaliseerde wereld achterlijk, onhoudbaar en onproductief.

Deze mensen zijn verliezers van de globalisering en ze zitten vast in het verleden. De toekomst wordt gemaakt in Afrika, China en de Golfstaten, allemaal plaatsen waar weinig witte mensen wonen.

Op lokaal niveau binnen Nederland zijn witte mensen in de meerderheid en houden er nog te vaak racistische ideeën op na. Maar zelfs daar is er meer wat zwarte en witte Nederlanders economisch met elkaar gemeen hebben dan dat ze van elkaar scheidt.

Is het racisme-debat zoals het nu gevoerd wordt (wij-tegen-zij) geen kadootje voor de financiële elites die ons willen laten geloven dat sociale voorzieningen een beperkte taart zijn waar om gevochten moet worden?

 

Hasan Bahara wilde graag dat mensen het racisme debat naar een hoger plan tillen. Misschien kan hij hier wat mee.

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Highlights from We Have Never Been Modern https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/04/highlights-from-we-have-never-been-modern/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/04/highlights-from-we-have-never-been-modern/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 09:36:50 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5777 “Let us not mix up heaven and earth In works produced by anthropologists abroad, you will not find a single trait that is not simultaneously real, social and narrated. The ethnologist will certainly not write three separate books: one dealing with knowledge, another with power, yet another with practices. the representation of nonhumans belongs to … Continue reading Highlights from We Have Never Been Modern

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“Let us not mix up heaven and earth

In works produced by anthropologists abroad, you will not find a single trait that is not simultaneously real, social and narrated.

The ethnologist will certainly not write three separate books: one dealing with knowledge, another with power, yet another with practices.

the representation of nonhumans belongs to science, but science is not allowed to appeal to politics; the representation of citizens belongs to politics, but politics is not allowed to have any relation to the nonhumans produced and mobilized by science and technology.

Hobbes’s and Boyle’s followers succeeded in carrying out this task – the former by ridding Nature of any divine presence, the latter by ridding Society of any divine origin.

By playing three times in a row on the same alternation between transcendence and immanence, the moderns can mobilize Nature, objectify the social, and feel the spiritual presence of God, even while firmly maintaining that Nature escapes us, that Society is our own work, and that God no longer intervenes.

The critical power of the moderns lies in this double language: they can mobilize Nature at the heart of social relationships, even as they leave Nature infinitely remote from human beings; they are free to make and unmake their society, even as they render its laws ineluctable, necessary and absolute.

By separating the relations of political power from the relations of scientific reasoning while continuing to shore up power with reason and reason with power, the moderns have always had two irons in the fire. They have become invincible.

It is the impossibility of changing the social order without modifying the natural order – and vice versa – that has obliged the premoderns to exercise the greatest prudence.

By rendering mixtures unthinkable, by emptying, sweeping, cleaning and purifying the arena that is opened in the central space defined by their three sources of power, the moderns allowed the practice of mediation to recombine all possible monsters without letting them have any effect on the social fabric, or even any contact with it.

Seen as networks, however, the modern world, like revolutions, permits scarcely anything more than small extensions of practices, slight accelerations in the circulation of knowledge, a tiny extension of societies, minuscule increases in the number of actors, small modifications of old beliefs.

With the postmoderns, the abandonment of the modern project is consummated. I have not found words ugly enough to designate this intellectual movement – or rather, this intellectual immobility through which humans and nonhumans are left to drift.

A single modern example will illustrate the abdication of thought as well as the self-inflicted defeat of the postmodern project.

It is the double contradiction that is modern, the contradiction between the two constitutional guarantees of Nature and Society on the one hand, and between the practice of purification and the practice of mediation on the other.

There is only one positive thing to be said about the postmoderns: after them, there is nothing.

They are simply stuck in the impasse of all avant-gardes that have no more troops behind them. Let them sleep till the end of the millennium, as Baudrillard advocates, and let us move on to other things. Or rather, let us retrace our steps. Let us stop moving on.

As Lévi-Strauss says, ‘the barbarian is first and foremost the man who believes in barbarism.’

Nature and Society are no longer explanatory terms but rather something that requires a conjoined explanation.

We want to gain access to things themselves, not only to their phenomena. The real is not remote; rather, it is accessible in all the objects mobilized throughout the world.

The collectives we live in are more active, more productive, more socialized than the tiresome things-in-themselves led us to expect.

Our collectives are more real, more naturalized, more discursive than the tiresome humans-among-themselves led us to expect.

Real as Nature, narrated as Discourse, collective as Society, existential as Being: such are the quasi-objects that the moderns have caused to proliferate.

Everything changes if the staunch discipline of the principle of symmetry forces us to retain only the causes that could serve both truth and falsehood, belief and knowledge, science and parascience.

Marc Augé when he resided among the lagoon-dwellers of the Ivory Coast, sought to understand the entire social phenomenon revealed by sorcery

A symmetrical Marc Augé would have studied the sociotechnological network of the metro itself: its engineers as well as its drivers, its directors and its clients, the employer-State, the whole shebang – simply doing at home what he had always done elsewhere.

Western ethnologists cannot limit themselves to the periphery; otherwise, still asymmetrical, they would show boldness toward others, timidity toward themselves. Back home anthropology need not become the marginal discipline of the margins, picking up the crumbs that fall from the other disciplines’ banquet table.

Her tribe of scientists claims that in the end they are completely separating their knowledge of the world from the necessities of politics and morality (Traweek, 1988). In the observer’s eyes, however, this separation is never very visible, or is itself only the byproduct of a much more mixed activity, some tinkering in and out of the laboratory. Her informers claim that they have access to Nature, but the ethnographer sees perfectly well that they have access only to a vision, a representation of Nature that she herself cannot distinguish neatly from politics and social interests (Pickering, 1980). This tribe, like the earlier one, projects its own social categories on to Nature; what is new is that it pretends it has not done so. When the ethnologist explains to her informers that they cannot separate Nature from the social representation they have formed of it, they are scandalized or nonplussed.

This is the stance that makes it possible to respect the differences (the dimensions of the helixes do vary) while at the same time respecting the similarities (all collectives mix human and nonhuman entities together in the same way).

Modern knowledge and power are different not in that they would escape at last the tyranny of the social, but in that they add many more hybrids in order to recompose the social link and extend its scale.

Yes, science is indeed politics pursued by other means, means that are powerful only because they remain radically other (Latour, 1990b).

Nothing is, by itself, either reducible or irreducible to anything else. Never by itself, but always through the mediation of another.

The past was a barbarian medley; the future, a civilizing distinction.

But before long they will have achieved modernization, they will have liquidated those islands, and we shall all inhabit the same planet; we shall all be equally modern, all equally capable of profiting from what, alone, forever escapes the tyranny of social interest: economic rationality, scientific truth, technological efficiency.

Having been slapped in the face with modern reality, poor populations now have to submit to postmodern hyperreality. Nothing has value; everything is a reflection, a simulacrum, a floating sign; and that very weakness, they say, may save us from the invasion of technologies, sciences, reasons.

The moderns’ greatness stems from their proliferation of hybrids, their lengthening of a certain type of network, their acceleration of the production of traces, their multiplication of delegates, their groping production of relative universals. Their daring, their research, their innovativeness, their tinkering, their youthful excesses, the ever-increasing scale of their action, the creation of stabilized objects independent of society, the freedom of a society liberated from objects – all these are features we want to keep.

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Applying selectorate theory to current Dutch and German governments https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/04/applying-selectorate-theory-to-current-dutch-and-german-governments/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/04/applying-selectorate-theory-to-current-dutch-and-german-governments/#respond Mon, 10 Apr 2017 12:45:31 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5767 I don’t think you can draw a lot of conclusions from this bit of selectorate theory but it’s interesting to get a feel for the numbers. The German federal election of 2013 German population in 2013: 80’620’000 Interchangeables (registered to vote): 61’946’900 (76.8%) Influentials (turnout): 44’309’925 (55.0%) Votes for CDU: 16’233’642 Votes for SPD: 12’843’458 Votes for CSU: 3’544’079 Winning coalition (votes … Continue reading Applying selectorate theory to current Dutch and German governments

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I don’t think you can draw a lot of conclusions from this bit of selectorate theory but it’s interesting to get a feel for the numbers.

The German federal election of 2013

German population in 2013: 80’620’000
Interchangeables (registered to vote): 61’946’900 (76.8%)
Influentials (turnout): 44’309’925 (55.0%)
Votes for CDU: 16’233’642
Votes for SPD: 12’843’458
Votes for CSU: 3’544’079
Winning coalition (votes for CDU + SPD + CSU): 32,621,179 (40.5%)

The Dutch general election of 2012

Dutch population in 2012: 16’800’000
Interchangeables (registered to vote): 12.689.810 (75.5%)
Influentials (turnout): 9.462.223 (56.3%)
Votes for VVD: 2.504.948
Votes for PvdA: 2.340.750
Winning coalition (votes for VVD + PvdA): 4,845,698 (28.8%)

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A possible agenda for a tech workers solidarity movement https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/03/a-possible-agenda-for-a-tech-workers-solidarity-movement/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/03/a-possible-agenda-for-a-tech-workers-solidarity-movement/#respond Thu, 30 Mar 2017 10:32:25 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5746 The USA example of resistance against Trump in the form of Tech Solidarity quickly gained a following in the Netherlands with TechSolidarity.nl and here in Berlin with some Tech-Solidarity-Berlin. I’ve had a small role in both of those groups’ creation but I’m currently not an active participant. Tech Solidarity’s success is of course unique to the … Continue reading A possible agenda for a tech workers solidarity movement

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The USA example of resistance against Trump in the form of Tech Solidarity quickly gained a following in the Netherlands with TechSolidarity.nl and here in Berlin with some Tech-Solidarity-Berlin. I’ve had a small role in both of those groups’ creation but I’m currently not an active participant.

Tech Solidarity’s success is of course unique to the local environment and Pinboard’s prior activism in tech. That said there are a lot of similarities that make similar movements over here possible and necessary. The Netherlands and Germany have elections this year and are faced with similar populist disruptions. The technology industries here are also very heavily dependent on expat workers who have specific issues and interests. The time seems ripe for people in technology to organize themselves.

The idea of the Berlin organization is not to duplicate efforts. There are already lots of initiatives in Berlin that address most parts of this agenda. What tech solidarity should do here is 1. posit an encompassing vision of what we want to achieve and that it is possible to achieve that together 2. function as a switching board to match people who want to do things with things that need people.

I’m associated with the Berlin meetup but I haven’t attended any of the American events so we had to piece together what we thought would be an agenda for our local context. I suggested these five points that I personally think are relevant and critical right now.

  1. Maintain the freedom of movement and other liberal values that make Berlin and Europe an amazing place to live and work.
    Europe is an unique place in the world—increasingly so, though not as unique as we might like to think. The high standard of living and freedom enjoyed here attract people from all over the world.
    Those positive qualities and the new people they attract are not seen as positive by all Europeans alike. Populist movements want to close borders, go back in time and tear down the institutions of our liberal open societies. These measures will affect foreign workers and immigrants much more than they will local residents.
    What can we do to maintain and strengthen our local social democracies, the institutions that make up Europe and how can we scale out these values?
  2. Make it so that foreigners in Berlin can and do participate in local civil society.
    This is not just a problem for foreigners but they suffer from much higher hurdles when it comes to this. Foreigners are often here temporarily, usually do not speak German and do not get to vote. It is harmful to both residents and to society as a whole for people to be disenfranchised.
    What can be done right now to circumvent those limitations and what needs to be done in the future to create a more vibrant and inclusive civil society?
  3. Support diversity initiatives of all kinds in the workplace.
    In most tech companies in Berlin diversity is neither valued or practiced. Diversity has proven benefits to everybody involved. Also by not starting to practice this now the industry is putting themselves on the back foot when it comes to the future.
    What can we do to increase the awareness and practice of diversity?
  4. Use our skills and resources to help local immigrants and refugees.
    People working in technology have access to an immense amount of economic and social opportunities. People who are new to Berlin or who have already lived here for a while should have access to the same opportunities and be able to contribute their efforts and perspectives.
    How can we educate and include people without traditional paths into technology and make the sector as a whole more open and inclusive?
  5. Formulate actionable positions on professional ethics (data retention, car exhausts etc.).
    We need to formulate ethical standards for people working in technology and back them up when they need to abide by them. The potential to do things that are unethical and harmful is increasing just as quickly as technology’s influence but not everything that is possible should be economically determined. Laws are not a sufficient protection since they can be weakened or removed due to changing political circumstances.
    What are ethical red lines that we can agree upon and what is practical support we can offer people?

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Highlights from The Name of the Rose https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/03/highlights-from-the-name-of-the-rose/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/03/highlights-from-the-name-of-the-rose/#respond Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:53:57 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5743 ”there are also visions of books as yet unwritten.” He seemed unable to think save with his hands, an attribute I considered then worthier of a mechanic. Such is the power of the truth that, like good, it is its own propagator. It does not seem to me that they were preaching things contrary to … Continue reading Highlights from The Name of the Rose

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”there are also visions of books as yet unwritten.”

He seemed unable to think save with his hands, an attribute I considered then worthier of a mechanic.

Such is the power of the truth that, like good, it is its own propagator.

It does not seem to me that they were preaching things contrary to the Gospel, but when the session of earthly things is in question, it is difficult for men to reason justly.

When female nature, naturally so perverse, becomes sublime through holiness, then it can be the noblest vehicle of grace.

In the Italian city, on the contrary, you must have noticed that goods serve to procure money. And even priests, bishops, even religious orders have to take money into account. This is why, naturally, rebellion against power takes the form of a call to poverty. The rebels against power are those denied any connection with money, and so every call to poverty provokes great tension and argument, and the whole city, from bishop to magistrate, considers a personal enemy the one who preaches poverty too much.

The simple are meat for slaughter, to be used when they are useful in causing trouble for the opposing power, and to be sacrificed when they are no longer of use.

He replied that when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies.

“But why do some people support them?” “Because it serves their purposes, which concern the faith rarely, and more often the conquest of power.”

I was upset. I had always believed logic was a universal weapon, and now I realized how its validity depended on the way it was employed.

Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.

I was told that in that period, for fifteen days and fifteen nights, the rhetoricians Gabundus and Terentius argued on the vocative of ‘ego,’ and in the end they attacked each other, with weapons.

Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means, a precept that the commentators of the holy books had very clearly in mind.

Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.

Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

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Europe Was Left #7 – Geert Wilders and PVV’s Decisive Moment https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/03/europe-was-left-7-geert-wilders-and-pvvs-decisive-moment/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/03/europe-was-left-7-geert-wilders-and-pvvs-decisive-moment/#respond Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:06:53 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5740 It’s Monday, February 20th and coming to you from Berlin I’m Alper for episode 7 of ‘Europe Was Left’. The coming Dutch elections are dominated by the specter of Geert Wilders’s far right PVV (the Dutch Freedom Party). The PVV has been on the stage for about a decade now but this is the first … Continue reading Europe Was Left #7 – Geert Wilders and PVV’s Decisive Moment

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It’s Monday, February 20th and coming to you from Berlin I’m Alper for episode 7 of ‘Europe Was Left’.
The coming Dutch elections are dominated by the specter of Geert Wilders’s far right PVV (the Dutch Freedom Party). The PVV has been on the stage for about a decade now but this is the first election where they are leading in the polls.

Things should be looking up for them, but not everything is going as smoothly as it should.

Some repositioning from their direct competitor the ruling right-wing VVD and other parties has deflated Wilders’s poll lead from its all-time high of 35 to some 25 seats for our parliament of 150. Still huge but no longer unassailable by our current prime minister Mark Rutte.

Not having the electoral stamina to cash in on this early lead was to be expected but there are some other signs that Wilders is stumbling.
He bowed out of the first major television debate with the flimsiest of excuses. Additional parties had been invited to the debate than had been initially agreed upon because the field had narrowed. That change proved too much for Wilders and he refused to participate.

Then he bowed out of another debate by the same television channel because they had interviewed Wilders’s brother about his politics and their family ties. Wilders said this was a disgrace and again refused participation.

His brother does not much approve of Wilders’s extremist politics and has said so occasionally on Twitter over the past years. In the interview he said he’d like their family ties to be reinstated and told that he himself has been the target of threats from Wilders supporters. This is ironic since it is Wilders himself who is always paraded as the imperiled politician.

Two debates down, we are in a situation where he will be only in two major debates before we get to vote. One debate the day before the elections and the other two days before the elections. You would almost think that Wilders’s positions don’t hold up to scrutiny by his political opponents.
Wilders also had his official campaign start last Saturday in Spijkenisse, a town that is the epitome of the beleaguered white working class. For being the candidate who leads in the polls he didn’t manage to draw a huge audience of rapt supporters. Somewhere between 80 and 200 people showed up, about as many as the number of people from news organizations present to cover the event.

Dutch state broadcaster NOS tried to play up his support and opened the eight o’clock news saying that ‘unbelievable crowds of people’ were present. They were supposed to say ‘unbelievably small’ but found themselves too beholden to Wilders to be able to say the truth.

Flanked by his protection detail Wilders attempted to hand out fliers barely able to reach beyond the thicket of domestic and international press.
Wilders is under protection because he offended a bunch of dudes with small dicks ages ago but that doesn’t matter that much anymore. The protection itself has become inseparable from the entity that is Wilders. It is the source of his moral high-horse and his electoral appeal. He has admitted in private that his visible security detail nets him several parliament seats at least.

But threats to ethnically cleanse the Netherlands, such as Wilders has expressed, are not speech that deserves protection. During his last interview Wilders pedaled back from this position but even then: threatening to ethnically cleanse the Netherlands publicly and then backing off when pressed, is also not a speech act that deserves protection.
Yesterday world famous comedian Arjen Lubach aired a long segment exposing the emptiness of Wilders’s where none of his extremist statements are grounded in any kind of reality or backed by even an inkling of a plan.

Lubach’s segment was necessary. Dutch journalists, too afraid to estrange the angry old white man still buying their newspapers, have been lax and mostly absent when it comes to rebuking Wilders. A clear history and overview of the absurdity of Wilders’s position is useful both as a reference and to obliterate any votes he might get from people still susceptible to reason.

What Lubach doesn’t get though is that—well of course Wilders voters don’t watch his show—but more than that it is exactly the impossibility and unreasonableness of Wilders’s positions that makes him so attractive to a certain kind of voters. This is the quality that most makes him a fascist. Wilders’s positions do not need to be practical, or reasonable or anything else, the only thing they need to be is extreme, broad and damaging to elites, foreigners and other undesirables.

Fascists do not care that lots of treaties will have to be rescinded or the constitution will have to be cut up. The one in the White House doesn’t and Wilders won’t either.
I think Wilders is recusing himself from debates and interviews and any other kinds of public exposure that he can’t control because he is getting nervous. The coming elections are his last and best opportunity to seize power and become prime minister of the Netherlands. But even this best opportunity is still pretty uncertain.

If he doesn’t succeed this time and we manage to keep him out, he’ll have to while away another four years in opposition while people better than him govern the country. He can stand on the sidelines and shout things that are even more extreme—or try it, I’m not sure more extreme is physically possible anymore at this point—and spend the rest of his time collaborating with foreign powers and media.

What will be left of him after another four years? Not much I reckon. A decisive electoral defeat come March 15th will stop Wilders and after that we’ll be rid of him.
That’s all for this episode. Like Europe Was Left where you find it, keep the comments coming and talk to you soon.

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Highlights from Open City https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/02/highlights-from-open-city/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/02/highlights-from-open-city/#respond Sun, 19 Feb 2017 18:51:58 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5733 A grouch through and through, but it was he who first taught me the value of memory, and how to think of it as mental music, a setting to iambs and trochees. We were all confused about what was happening; we were American, had always thought ourselves so, and not Japanese. It was I, no … Continue reading Highlights from Open City

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A grouch through and through, but it was he who first taught me the value of memory, and how to think of it as mental music, a setting to iambs and trochees.

We were all confused about what was happening; we were American, had always thought ourselves so, and not Japanese.

It was I, no less solitary than he but having made the lesser use of the morning, who was to be pitied.

But I was touched not only at the passage of these fixtures in my mental landscape, but also at the swiftness and dispassion with which the market swallowed even the most resilient enterprises.

This was part of my suspicion that there was a mood in the society that pushed people more toward snap judgments and unexamined opinions, an antiscientific mood; to the old problem of mass innumeracy, it seemed to me, was being added a more general inability to assess evidence.

Africa was always waiting, a substrate for the white man’s will, a backdrop for his activities.

It was the art of a country that had an aristocracy but did not have the patronage of courts: a simple, open-faced, and awkward art.

But atrocity is nothing new, not to humans, not to animals.

We had to leave because the future was uncertain. We would have been targeted, that was almost certain, and who knows what else might have happened.

It was only years later, when I became interested in these things for my own sake, that I surmised that my oma, heavily pregnant, had likely been one of the countless women raped by the men of the Red Army that year in Berlin, that so extensive and thorough was that particular atrocity, she could hardly have escaped it.

Not that I liked labor for its own sake—far from it—but I found something true in the work, found something of myself in it.

And the French are lazy, she said, they hate working and are envious of the Flemish. I’ll tell you this in case you don’t hear it from anyone else.

Had Brussels’s rulers not opted to declare it an open city and thereby exempt it from bombardment during the Second World War, it might have been reduced to rubble.

Islam, in its conservative form, was on constant view, though it was not clear to me why this should be so: Belgium had not had a strong colonial relationship with any country in North Africa.

He knew then that difference is never accepted. You are different, okay, but that difference is never seen as containing its own value. Difference as orientalist entertainment is allowed, but difference with its own intrinsic value, no. You can wait forever, and no one will give you that value.

There’s always the expectation that the victimized Other is the one that covers the distance, that has the noble ideas; I disagree with this expectation. It’s an expectation that works sometimes, I said, but only if your enemy is not a psychopath. You need an enemy with a capacity for shame.

It seemed as if the only way this lure of violence could be avoided was by having no causes, by being magnificently isolated from all loyalties. But was that not an ethical lapse graver than rage itself?

It’s a test case of what I believe; people can live together but still keep their own values intact.

But I have been disappointed. Europe only looks free. The dream was an apparition.

If we try to speak to the Palestinian situation, we hear six million.

He had brought me too close to his pain, and I no longer saw him.

That doubt that said, these, too, could have killed and killed and only later learned how to look innocent.

For people to feel that they alone have suffered, it is very dangerous. Having such a degree of resentment is a recipe for trouble. Our society has made itself open for such people, but when they come in, all you hear is complaints.

We’d used up our common ground, and there seemed nothing left to chat about.

It has been much too difficult to pass legislation of this kind. Future generations will perhaps wonder what took us so long.

I am used to it, but it never ceases to surprise me how easy it is to leave the hybridity of the city, and enter into all-white spaces, the homogeneity of which, as far as I can tell, causes no discomfort to the whites in them.

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Dutch Public Broadcasting Goes Fake News https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/02/dutch-public-broadcasting-goes-fake-news/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/02/dutch-public-broadcasting-goes-fake-news/#respond Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:34:48 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5724 Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV —the far right Dutch Freedom Party— had his campaign start today for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Spijkenisse, one of his traditional strongholds. The eight o’clock news of the NOS (the Netherlands’ state broadcaster) opened with this and their reporter Michiel Breedveld on the scene in the video below … Continue reading Dutch Public Broadcasting Goes Fake News

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Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV —the far right Dutch Freedom Party— had his campaign start today for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Spijkenisse, one of his traditional strongholds.

The eight o’clock news of the NOS (the Netherlands’ state broadcaster) opened with this and their reporter Michiel Breedveld on the scene in the video below said it had attracted ‘an unbelievable crowd of people’.

Other reporters who were on the scene today (1, 2) said the number of people Wilders had attracted was somewhere between 80 to 200 and that the ratio of supporters and press was about 1:1.

Salima Bouchtaoui: ‘Spijkenisse this Saturday morning. Lots of press. And lots of police. Few people.’

Haro Kraak: ‘There were at most 150 supporters of the PVV, probably fewer. And at least as much press, probably more.’

There seems to have been so much press that this was what it looked like most of the time.

This incident is oddly reminiscent of Trump’s inauguration where the actual number of people present was much lower than was claimed by the administration.

But the crucial difference is that Trump was the liar. Wilders could spread the lie that his campaign start ‘had the most people ever’ but why should he if the state broadcaster does it for him?

Update: Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant (a newspaper I’ve given some grief before) calls the NOS’s coverage bad and harmful.

Update: De NOS have posted a rectification on their single page hard to link they use for this.

It’s not the opening of the evening news, but it will have to do. Notably they say they have used ‘wrong words’ to describe the event and they still put the number of supporters at several hundred.

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Dutch newspapers should do their jobs https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/02/dutch-newspapers-dont-do-their-jobs/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/02/dutch-newspapers-dont-do-their-jobs/#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2017 22:56:58 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5710 Just another day in the Dutch election campaign. Geert Wilders posts a photoshopped image (tweet) of Alexander Pechtold his most direct opponent and says ‘Pechtold is protesting alongside Hamas terrorists.’ This is in reaction to the statement by Simone Kukenheim, Alderman of Amsterdam, who said Amsterdam would not recognize fascist policies under a possible Wilders … Continue reading Dutch newspapers should do their jobs

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Just another day in the Dutch election campaign.

Geert Wilders posts a photoshopped image (tweet) of Alexander Pechtold his most direct opponent and says ‘Pechtold is protesting alongside Hamas terrorists.’

This is in reaction to the statement by Simone Kukenheim, Alderman of Amsterdam, who said Amsterdam would not recognize fascist policies under a possible Wilders government and could look to secede.

Alexander Pechtold was not amused since he has had to defend himself from death threats caused by these kind of insinuations before. Unlike Wilders Pechtold does not gain that much electorally from having his life put in danger.

This seems to have gotten really under Wilders’s skin (I talk a bit about it at the end of Europe Was Left #4), maybe because a sovereignty move from Amsterdam would effectively make him a foreigner again.

I inquire whether there is a Dutch newspaper that will do their jobs and take him to task for spreading a false image. Margriet Oostveen posting the original tweet works at the Volkskrant. The Volkskrant is what some people in the Netherlands consider to be a quality newspaper.

I don’t get a reply from her but a question back: ‘Which paper are you subscribed to?’ The answer is that I just subscribed to the New York Times. I am actually looking for a Dutch publication right now and can’t find anything suitable.

I offer to buy any article of theirs that is critical of Geert Wilders. I am told I am lazy and I should get lost. I then remember @Disruptia had pointed out that Margriet Oostveen just wrote a fairly neutral piece about Pegida.

Then later that afternoon former politician Tofik Dibi tweets a quote from the same Volkskrant where the political editor of that newspaper Frank Hendrickx in his coverage seems to have written that ‘It is unclear whether the PVV (the political party of which Geert Wilders is the dictator) knew the image was doctored.’

The second tweet is him saying that sentence was removed. I found and purchased the piece on their site using Blendle and I couldn’t find that sentence in it. The article isn’t even that bad but that makes it all the more difficult to understand how something that stupid could end up in there.

This is one case, the above mentioned nuancing of right-wing extremist group Pegida is another and the list goes on and on. The only thing you could say is that the Volkskrant is not as bad as some other Dutch newspapers. But at this point I don’t have much use for effectively slanted, pretending to be fair and balanced reporting.

Finally I said ‘Volkskrant more like Völkische Krant’ which is not fair. I take that back. But they definitely aren’t a Münchener Post either.

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Highlights from Blue Mars https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-blue-mars/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-blue-mars/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2017 11:21:44 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5706 it might have been only a temporary confluence of interests, but everything was temporary now— with so many traditions broken or vanished, it left what John used to call the necessity of creation; They were apolitical, supposedly, like civil servants— empiricists, who only wanted things managed in a rational scientific style, the greatest good for … Continue reading Highlights from Blue Mars

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it might have been only a temporary confluence of interests, but everything was temporary now— with so many traditions broken or vanished, it left what John used to call the necessity of creation;

They were apolitical, supposedly, like civil servants— empiricists, who only wanted things managed in a rational scientific style, the greatest good for the greatest number, which ought to be fairly simple to arrange, if people were not so trapped in emotions, religions, governments, and other mass delusional systems of that sort.

For the adepts, the walk from Sabishii up onto the massif must have been an aesthetic journey, filled with allusions and subtle variants of tradition that were invisible to him. Hiroko would have called it areoformation, or the areophany.

To see the landscape in its history, to read it like a text, written by its own long past;

Less obviously visionary, perhaps, less spectacular, less active; an acceptance of what was there; love of rock, for rock’s sake. For Mars’s sake.

That must be why they’re killing each other— they know what they’re thinking themselves, and so they suspect all the others. How ugly. How sad.

“The so-called risk of the capitalist is merely one of the privileges of capital.”

You don’t know about this partly because you are ignorant, and partly because metanationalism itself steadfastly ignored and denied all alternatives to it.

And justice and freedom do not contradict each other as much as has been claimed, because freedom in an injust system is no freedom at all.

In your mental traveling you can journey back into the past, retrace your steps, see where you turned and why, then proceed onward in a direction that is different because it includes these loops of understanding.

It was power politics and hierarchy to these people now, they had forgotten the real issues involved.

What mattered to them was not the result of any single disagreement, but the successful use of the process.

Of course her reading of Bogdanovism was relatively simple: things should be just, Arkady had insisted, and everyone free and equal; the past didn’t matter; they needed to invent new forms whenever the old ones looked unfair or impractical, which was often; Mars was the only reality that counted, at least to them.

She was a power; and people knew it; and power was corrosive. Power was powerful, in more ways than one.

If millions and millions of Terrans began to pour up onto Mars, they all argued, what then of Mars— not just of the landscape itself, but of the Martian culture that had been forming over the m-years? Wouldn’t that be drowned in the old ways brought up by the new influx, which might quickly outnumber the native population?

We have a lot of time to fill. And the only work really interesting enough to pursue over the long haul would be raising a kid, don’t you think?

It was hard to give up being a revolutionary. Nothing seemed to follow from it, either logically or emotionally.

in an expanding universe, Spencer had said, order was not really order, but merely the difference between the actual entropy exhibited and the maximum entropy possible. This difference was what humans perceived as order.

“And the land is in the shared stewardship of everyone. We still own personal items as property, but land as property has never happened here. That’s a new social reality, we struggle with it every day.”

What now was lacking? Peace of mind? Nanao would have laughed. The presence of other old friends? Well, there would be other days for that. Now, in this moment, they were two old brothers in arms, sitting on a sea cliff. After all the years of struggle they could sit out there all afternoon if they liked, flying a kite and talking. Discussing their old friends and the weather. There had been trouble before, there would be trouble again; but here they were.

And as the process continued, and a hundred and then a thousand asteroids and moonlets were given a local habitation and a name, the process took fire, becoming what some called the explosive diaspora, others simply the accelerando.

People now ordinarily understood capitalism to have been the clash of feudalism and democracy, and the present to be the democratic age, the clash of capitalism and harmony.

In this pressured situation, history was little comfort; so far they had dealt with it well, but never before had humanity responded to a crisis of need with any longterm consistent sensible sanity; mass madness had erupted before; and they were the exact same animals that in previous centuries, faced with matters of subsistence and survival, had slaughtered each other indiscriminately.

They did not fully understand that patriarchy no longer mattered, and perhaps never had— that it had always been caught in the Kegel grip of uterine law, which operated outside patriarchy with a biological power that could not be controlled by any mere politics.

“It’s like a rainbow. Without an observer at a twenty-three-degree angle to the light reflecting off a cloud of spherical droplets, there is no rainbow. The whole universe is like that. Our spirits stand at a twenty-three-degree angle to the universe. There is some new thing created at the contact of photon and retina, some space created between rock and mind. Without mind there is no intrinsic worth.”

The Chinese are still jammed into their country like sardines, and they don’t give a damn about the intrinsic worth of China itself, much less a barren moonlet on the edge of the solar system.

You can try sabotage like the Reds did on Mars, but they can blow you off the moons here just as easy as you can them, and they’ve got a million replacements for every colonist they lose.

Their attitude was deeply hypocritical, as most of those applauding made their living from Terran tourists, and all of them were immigrants or the children of immigrants; but they cheered anyway.

And so the newcomers can’t cope. They cluster in immigrant ghettos, or new towns entire, and keep their traditions and their ties to home, and hate everything here, and all the xenophobia and misogyny in those old cultures breaks out again, against both their own women and the native girls.”

We’ve tried to integrate newcomers every way we know, but they clump, naturally, and you can’t just break them up.

But so many problems are rising— cases of sharia, family abuse, ethnic gangs getting in fights, immigrants attacking natives— usually men attacking women, but not always. And young native gangs are retaliating, harassing the new settlements and so on.

Mars right now is the battleground of past and future, and the past has its power, but the future is where we’re all going. There’s a kind of inexorable power in it, like a vacuum pull forward.

Science was a social construct, but it was also and most importantly its own space, conforming to reality only; that was its beauty

If nothing was real but this moment, Planck instant after Planck instant, an unimaginably thin membrane of becoming between past and future.

People in the streets, that’s the only thing governments are afraid of. Well, or term limits. Or free elections! Or assassination. Or being laughed at, ah, ha-ha-ha!

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Highlights from Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-extreme-ownership-how-u-s-navy-seals-lead-and-win/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-extreme-ownership-how-u-s-navy-seals-lead-and-win/#respond Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:15:10 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5704 The right decision, even when all seems lost, can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The wrong decision, even when a victorious outcome seems all but certain, can result in deadly, catastrophic failure. They must literally risk life and limb to accomplish the mission. For this reason, they must believe in the cause for … Continue reading Highlights from Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

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The right decision, even when all seems lost, can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The wrong decision, even when a victorious outcome seems all but certain, can result in deadly, catastrophic failure.

They must literally risk life and limb to accomplish the mission. For this reason, they must believe in the cause for which they are fighting. They must believe in the plan they are asked to execute, and most important, they must believe in and trust the leader they are asked to follow.

Such concepts are simple, but not easy

These principles empower those teams to dominate their battlefields by enabling leaders to fulfill their purpose: lead and win.

No doubt, as an outstanding leader himself, he felt somewhat responsible.

I was the leader. I was in charge and I was responsible. Thus, I had to take ownership of everything that went wrong.

They must first look in the mirror at themselves. The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team to properly and successfully execute.

Every mistake, every failure or shortfall—those leaders would own it.

The best leaders checked their egos, accepted blame, sought out constructive criticism, and took detailed notes for improvement.

there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

Consequences for failing need not be immediately severe, but leaders must ensure that tasks are repeated until the higher expected standard is achieved.

Leaders should never be satisfied. They must always strive to improve, and they must build that mind-set into the team.

His attitude reflected victimization: life dealt him and his boat crew members a disadvantage, which justified poor performance.

“We may not be winning,” said the CTO resolutely, “but we’re making the right decisions.” “If you aren’t winning,” I responded, “then you aren’t making the right decisions.”

When it comes to performance standards, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

As a critical part of our culture, we constantly challenged each other to tests of physical strength.

I didn’t believe that this mission made sense. I didn’t believe it was smart. I didn’t believe it would be successful.

But once I understood and believed, I then passed that understanding and belief on, clearly and succinctly, to my troops so that they believed in it themselves. When they understood why, they would commit to the mission, persevere through the inevitable challenges in store, and accomplish the task set before us.

Even when others doubt and question the amount of risk, asking, “Is it worth it?” the leader must believe in the greater cause. If a leader does not believe, he or she will not take the risks required to overcome the inevitable challenges necessary to win.

Every leader must be able to detach from the immediate tactical mission and understand how it fits into strategic goals.

But in the minds of her sales managers, she was still The Boss: experienced, smart, and most important, powerful. That position demanded a high level of reverence—so high, in fact, that for an employee to question her ideas seemed disrespectful.

Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead. If you are on your own, I don’t care how good you are, you won’t be able to handle it.

It was immaterial which units did what or who conducted the most operations. It was about the mission and how we could best accomplish it and win.

Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.

This isn’t his fault, it’s yours. You are in charge, so the fact that he didn’t follow procedure is your fault. And you have to believe that, because it’s true.

If you approached it as he did something wrong, and he needs to fix something, and he is at fault, it becomes a clash of egos and you two will be at odds. That’s human nature. But, if you put your own ego in check, meaning you take the blame, that will allow him to actually see the problem without his vision clouded by ego.

When plans and orders are too complicated, people may not understand them. And when things go wrong, and they inevitably do go wrong, complexity compounds issues that can spiral out of control into total disaster.

He fearlessly stood in the window braving incoming enemy rounds as he unleashed three to five round bursts of his own into insurgent positions.

Even the greatest of battlefield leaders could not handle an array of challenges simultaneously without being overwhelmed. That risked failing at them all. I had to remain calm, step back from my immediate emotional reaction, and determine the greatest priority for the team. Then, rapidly direct the team to attack that priority.

It is crucial, particularly for leaders at the top of the organization, to “pull themselves off the firing line,” step back, and maintain the strategic picture.

I trusted them to lead. My ego took no offense to my subordinate leaders on the frontlines calling the shots. In fact, I was proud to follow their lead and support them.

Every time we called for help, the company commander fearlessly placed himself and his men at great risk. He personally saddled up and drove out in his tank to bring the thunder on our behalf and beat back enemy attacks on SEAL positions.

Teams must be broken down into manageable elements of four to five operators, with a clearly designated leader. Those leaders must understand the overall mission, and the ultimate goal of that mission—the Commander’s Intent. Junior leaders must be empowered to make decisions on key tasks necessary to accomplish that mission in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

Leaders must be free to move to where they are most needed, which changes throughout the course of an operation.

Situations will sometimes require that the boss walk away from a problem and let junior leaders solve it, even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently.

If frontline troops are unclear about the plan and yet are too intimidated to ask questions, the team’s ability to effectively execute the plan radically decreases.

No matter how exhausted from an operation or how busy planning for the next mission, time is made for this debrief because lives and future mission success depend on it.

It was a realization for him that even when a leader thinks his troops understand the bigger picture, they very often have difficulty connecting the dots between the tactical mission they are immersed in with the greater overarching goal.

Leaders must routinely communicate with their team members to help them understand their role in the overall mission.

I needed to check my negative attitude, which was corrosive and ultimately only hampered our ability to operate.

Leading up the chain takes much more savvy and skill than leading down the chain. Leading up, the leader cannot fall back on his or her positional authority. Instead, the subordinate leader must use influence, experience, knowledge, communication, and maintain the highest professionalism.

Don’t ask your leader what you should do, tell them what you are going to do.

Take responsibility for leading everyone in your world, subordinates and superiors alike.

If someone isn’t doing what you want or need them to do, look in the mirror first and determine what you can do to better enable this.

Regardless, leaders cannot be paralyzed by fear. That results in inaction. It is critical for leaders to act decisively amid uncertainty; to make the best decisions they can based on only the immediate information available.

Instead of letting the situation dictate our decisions, we must dictate the situation. But for many leaders, this mind-set was not intuitive. Many operated with a “wait and see” approach.

Discipline equals freedom.

The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail.

Instead of making us more rigid and unable to improvise, this discipline actually made us more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient. It allowed us to be creative.

If frontline leaders and troops executing the mission lack the ability to adapt, this becomes detrimental to the team’s performance.

A true leader is not intimidated when others step up and take charge. Leaders that lack confidence in themselves fear being outshined by someone else.

It is a leader’s job to always mitigate as much as possible those risks that can be controlled to accomplish the mission without sacrificing the team or excessively expending critical resources.

Leaders must never get so close that the team forgets who is in charge.

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Highlights from The Lathe of Heaven https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-the-lathe-of-heaven/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-the-lathe-of-heaven/#respond Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:03:33 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5701 “The insistent permissiveness of the late Twentieth Century had produced fully as much sex-guilt and sex-fear in its heirs as had the insistent repressiveness of the late Nineteenth Century.” There was an acceptant, passive quality about him that seemed feminine, or even childish. No doubt Haber had a lot of ambition and found it hard … Continue reading Highlights from The Lathe of Heaven

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“The insistent permissiveness of the late Twentieth Century had produced fully as much sex-guilt and sex-fear in its heirs as had the insistent repressiveness of the late Nineteenth Century.”

There was an acceptant, passive quality about him that seemed feminine, or even childish.

No doubt Haber had a lot of ambition and found it hard to believe that a man could be without it.

He arrived at ideas the slow way, never skating over the clear, hard ice of logic, nor soaring on the slipstreams of imagination, but slogging, plodding along on the heavy ground of existence.

That one worked but didn’t get approved, it came under the brainwashing laws, we decided.

That reality’s being changed out from under us, replaced, renewed, all the tune—only we don’t know it? Only the dreamer knows it, and those who know his dream. If that’s true, I guess we’re lucky not knowing it.

But the big man was like an onion, slip off layer after layer of personality, belief, response, infinite layers, no end to them, no center to him.

The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.

Refugees from southwest Portland had to walk through it; women carried their children and walked weeping with pain, in thin shoes full of broken glass.

To be, the will to power must increase with each fulfillment, making the fulfillment only a step to a further one.

But change need not unbalance you; life’s not a static object, after all.

Every step forward that I force you to take, you cancel, you cripple with the deviousness or stupidity of the means your dream takes to realize it. You try, each time, to take a step backward.

There were still gray people now, it was said, particularly in the Middle West and Germany, but most of the rest had gone back to white, brown, black, red, yellow, and mixtures

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Books and movies of 2016 https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/books-and-movies-of-2016/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/books-and-movies-of-2016/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 13:16:08 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5691 Like every year the books I read and the movies I watched. Recommended ones are in bold. Books The book situation was shameful but instead of reading a lot of books, I wrote “Designing Conversational Interfaces”, so I’ll call that even. “PACE: A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Complete Cash Flow Clarity” Jesse Mecham “Agile … Continue reading Books and movies of 2016

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Like every year the books I read and the movies I watched. Recommended ones are in bold.

Books

The book situation was shameful but instead of reading a lot of books, I wrote “Designing Conversational Interfaces”, so I’ll call that even.

  • “PACE: A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Complete Cash Flow Clarity” Jesse Mecham
  • “Agile Game Development with Scrum” by Keith Clinton
  • “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “The $1 Prototype: A Modern Approach to Mobile UX Design and Rapid Innovation” by Greg Nudelman
  • “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion
  • “The iPhone App Design Manual: Create Perfect Designs for Effortless Coding and App Store Success”
  • “Mobile Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide to Trends, Themes and Styles in Mobile Web Design”
  • “Factotum” by Charles Bukowski
  • “Mobile Design Pattern Gallery: UI Patterns for Smartphone Apps”
  • “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • “Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd” by Frans Osinga
  • “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” by Cal Newport
  • “Green Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • “The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics” by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Movies

This went a lot better with 72 if you count the individual installments of the Decalogue.

  • Inside Out
  • Princes Mononoke
  • Kingsman
  • Dekalog IV
  • District 9
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Persona
  • Her
  • Dekalog V
  • Into the Wild
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Code Inconnu
  • The Hateful Eight in 70mm Roadshow at Zoo Palast
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Relatos Salvajes
  • Dekalog VI
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Sicario
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
  • Knock Knock
  • Dogville
  • Tropa de Elite
  • Prelude to Axanar
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • Addicted to Sheep
  • Paths of Glory
  • Spirited Away
  • Decalogue VII
  • Fast Five
  • The Martian
  • Django Unchained
  • Annie Hall
  • Dekalog VIII
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
  • The Assassin
  • Amy
  • Toy Story 3
  • Whiplash
  • Dekalog IX
  • Lammbock
  • A Scanner Darkly
  • Pusher
  • Like Father Like Son
  • Ex Machina
  • The Revenant
  • Burn After Reading
  • Dekalog X
  • Pusher II
  • RoboCop by José Padilha
  • Johnny Mnemonic
  • Der siebente Kontinent
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Spectre
  • Easy Rider
  • Dredd
  • Show Me A Hero
  • Pusher III
  • Wild Strawberries
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Wall Street
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • The Wind Rises
  • Aeon Flux
  • Copie Conforme
  • Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky
  • The Neon Demon
  • The Wailing
  • İklimler
  • World War Z
  • Thor
  • The Physician

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Highlights from Lean UX https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-lean-ux/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-lean-ux/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 12:00:35 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5683 We went over to the client’s office and spent an entire eight-hour day going over each and every pixel and word in that deck. When it was over, the client clapped (really). They loved it. We were relieved. And we never looked at that deck again. Six months after that meeting, nothing had changed on … Continue reading Highlights from Lean UX

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We went over to the client’s office and spent an entire eight-hour day going over each and every pixel and word in that deck. When it was over, the client clapped (really). They loved it. We were relieved. And we never looked at that deck again. Six months after that meeting, nothing had changed on the client’s site. I don’t think they ever looked at that deck again, either.

It’s also for developers who understand that a collaborative team environment leads to better code and more meaningful work.

each principle detailed here will help you build a product design organization that is more collaborative, more cross-functional, and a more useful fit for today’s reality.

Insight on each idea is brought in from all relevant disciplines earlier in the process.

Translated to Lean UX, this concept means creating only the design that is necessary to move the team forward and avoiding a big “inventory” of untested and unimplemented design ideas.

It’s worth noting that there’s been a lot of backlash in the design world against measurement-driven design.

The most effective way I’ve found to rally a team around a design direction is through collaboration.

These conversations may seem awkward at first; after all, you’re breaking down time-tested walls between disciplines.

That’s why you should include a researcher on your team if you can. Just don’t outsource the work to that person. Instead, use the researcher as a coach to help your team plan and execute your activities.

Here’s why: it becomes very easy to create a situation in which the entire team is never working on the same thing at the same time.

The people on the team generally performed in their area of expertise/strength but were supportive of other specialties and interested in learning new skills.

I looked for opportunities to work in real time with other people on the team (such as developers and the product manager) and rough things out as quickly as possible at the lowest responsible level of fidelity.

At most, these teams plan an iteration or two ahead. This perceived “short-sightedness” tends not to satisfy most high-level managers.

Keep the conversations focused on outcomes (how you’re trending towards your goal), not feature sets.

The more discrete a person’s job is, the easier it becomes to retreat to the safe confines of that discipline.

Too often, people in organizations discourage others from working outside the confines of their job descriptions.

Every team member possesses a core competency—design, software development, research, etc.—and must deliver on that skill set. However, he or she may also possess secondary competencies that make the team work more efficiently.

Designers must open up the design process.

The entire concept of design as hypothesis immediately dethrones notions of heroism; as a designer you must expect that many of the your ideas will fail in testing.

Don’t waste time debating which type of artifact to create, and don’t waste time polishing them to perfection. Instead, use the one that will take the least amount of time to create and communicate to your team.

Designers can demonstrate their problem solving skills by illustrating the path they took to get from idea to validated learning to experience. In doing so, they’ll demonstrate their deep worth as designers.

To use the concept of UX debt, write stories to capture a gap analysis between where the experience is today and where you’d like it to be.

Instead, their engagements are based on simple time-and materials agreements, or, more radically, on outcome-based contracts.

Some managers may be threatened by proposals to work in a new way, which could result negative consequences for you.

If your manager still doesn’t see the value in working this way and you believe your organization is progressing down a path of continued “blind design,” perhaps it’s time to consider alternative employment.

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Highlights from Green Mars https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-green-mars/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/highlights-from-green-mars/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 11:58:24 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5681 Kuhn had written about Priestley— that a scientist who continued to resist after his whole profession had been converted to a new paradigm might be perfectly logical and reasonable, but had ipso facto ceased to be a scientist. He won every argument but never got anywhere. So in the current political situation, information technology was … Continue reading Highlights from Green Mars

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Kuhn had written about Priestley— that a scientist who continued to resist after his whole profession had been converted to a new paradigm might be perfectly logical and reasonable, but had ipso facto ceased to be a scientist.

He won every argument but never got anywhere.

So in the current political situation, information technology was creating not totalization but balkanization.

It was fairly humorous to see how responsive mood was to chemical manipulation, despite what it implied about the precarious balance of one’s emotional equanimity, even sanity itself.

Certainly the common wisdom was correct; the emergence of the transnationals in the 2040s had set the stage, and was the ultimate cause of the war.

For the record showed that the industrial nations had prospered under the transnats, while the developing nations had had no recourse but to fight each other for flag-of-convenience status.

Well, you know, this particular division of Subarashii is run by Georgians, and they’re in the grip of a big Stalin revival there. It’s a patriotic gesture to run their country as stupidly as possible.

What was personal gain but the freedom to do what you wanted to do? And what was power but the freedom to do what you wanted to do? And once you had that freedom, any more wealth or power actually began to restrict one’s options, and reduce one’s freedom. One became a servant of one’s wealth or power, constrained to spend all one’s time protecting it.

“The resistance begins fighting itself, because that’s the only thing it can beat. Happens every time. You can’t get any movement larger than five people without including at least one fucking idiot.”

Especially since most minimalists want to keep exactly the economic and police system that keeps them privileged. That’s libertarians for you— anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.

At Praxis we believe nations were never truly sovereign, but were always semiautonomous in relation to the rest of the world.

If only the rich would behave decently, then the system would be okay. That’s crap. The system overdetermines everything, and it’s the system that has to change.

In these arrangements the client government becomes the enforcement agency of the metanational’s economic policies. In general they enforce what are called austerity measures, but all government employees are paid much more than they were before, including the army and police and intelligence operations.

But either way, the scientist’s job is to explore everything. No matter the difficulties! To stay open, to accept ambiguity. To attempt to fuse with the object of knowledge. To admit that there are values shot through the whole enterprise. To love it. To work toward discovering the values by which we should live. To work to enact those values in the world. To explore— and more than that— to create!

“That is the great pleasure of conspiracy theory— not explanation, but narrative. It is like Scheherazade.”

What use was utopia without joy, after all? What was the point of all their striving if it did not include the laughter of the young?

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Highlights from The Dictator’s Handbook https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/notes-from-the-dictators-handbook/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2017/01/notes-from-the-dictators-handbook/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 00:39:53 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5676 “In fact, bad behavior is more often than not good politics.” “It is hard to imagine that anyone, including ourselves, cares much about what we think ought to be. Neither do we exhort others to be better than they are.” “Why do leaders do what they do? To come to power, to stay in power … Continue reading Highlights from The Dictator’s Handbook

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“In fact, bad behavior is more often than not good politics.”

“It is hard to imagine that anyone, including ourselves, cares much about what we think ought to be. Neither do we exhort others to be better than they are.”

“Why do leaders do what they do? To come to power, to stay in power and, to the extent that they can, to keep control over money.”

“If we are going to play the game of politics, and we all must from time to time, then we ought to learn how to win the game.”

“No one rules alone; no one has absolute authority. All that varies is how many backs have to be scratched and how big the supply of backs available for scratching.”

“Managing the interchangeables, influentials, and essentials to that end is the act, art, and science of governing.”

“This support is only forthcoming if a leader provides his essentials with more benefits than they might expect to receive under alternative leadership or government.”

“It’s always better for a ruler to determine who eats than it is to have a larger pie from which the people can feed themselves.”

“The most effective cash flow for leaders is one that makes lots of people poor and redistributes money to keep select people—their supporters—wealthy.”

“Why do some political parties favor immigration? Rule 2: Expand the set of interchangeables.”

“The problem for democrats is that they face different constraints and have to be a little more creative than their autocratic counterparts.”

“Anyone who thinks leaders do what they ought to do—that is, do what is best for their nation of subjects—ought to become an academic rather than enter political life.”

“When democratic politicians lament “mortgaging our children’s future,” they’re really regretting that it was not them who came up with the popular policy that voters actually want.”

“To achieve power means recognizing the moment of opportunity, moving fast, and moving decisively to seize the day.”

“Unless such a purge can be accomplished in the dark, presented as a fait accompli to the old group of influentials, the risk of failure is real.”

“This is the essential lesson of politics: in the end ruling is the objective, not ruling well.”

“Both leaders knew that it is better to have loyal incompetents than competent rivals.”

“Any action he took—say, sending so-and-so to Siberia—was the will of the people, and any of the people in the replacement pool had a chance, albeit a slight one, of being called up to serve as an influential or maybe even an essential somewhere down the line.”

“The real decisions are made by the group leaders who deliver blocs of votes. They are the true influentials. It is therefore unsurprising that it is common for the rewards to flow through them, so that they can take their cut, rather than go directly to the people.”

“Leaders, however, are rather fond of taxes—as long as they don’t have to pay them.”

“Ruling is about staying in power, not about good governance.”

“In autocracies, it is unwise to be rich unless it is the government that made you rich. And if this is the case, it is important to be loyal beyond all else.”

“It is ironic that while oil revenues provide the resources to fix societal problems, it creates political incentives to make them far worse.”

“Of course, borrowing more today means higher indebtedness and a smaller ability to borrow tomorrow. But such arguments are rarely persuasive to a leader.”

“This makes the current leader vulnerable. Incurring debt today is attractive because, after all, the debt will be inherited by the next administration. That way, it also ties the hands of any future challenger.”

“They resist the cry of people like us who demand improved governance before any bailout money is offered up to rescue a troubled autocratic economy.”

“That this uneven distribution of top-notch universities favors large-coalition locales is no accident.”

“To know what the people need, governments need to make it easy for the public to make clear what basket of public goodies they desire. That is best done by allowing the least costly and most precious public good of all: freedom.”

“The causal ties run both ways: power leads to corruption and corruption leads to power.”

“Anyone unwilling to undertake the dirty work that so many leaders are called on to do should not pursue becoming a leader.”

“Most of us would like to believe that foreign aid is about helping impoverished people.”

“Yes, it is true that a lot of aid is given to corrupt governments but that is by design, not by accident or out of ignorance. Rather, aid is given to thieving governments exactly because they will sell out their people for their own political security.”

“This is all just the dance of the donors and the takers, the recipients looking for as much money as possible and the donors looking for a highly salient, costly political concession.”

“A UNSC seat gives leaders valuable favors to sell in the form of their vote on the Security Council, and the aid they receive results in worse performance for their economy.”

“It is perhaps ironic that while aid affords the resources to alleviate poverty and promote economic growth, it creates the political incentives to do just the opposite.”

“A common argument is that the locals know much better how to address their problems than do far-away donors. That’s probably true, but knowing how to fix local problems and having the will or interest to do so is quite another matter.”

“Dictators are cheap to buy. They deliver policies that democratic leaders and their constituents want, and being beholden to relatively few essential backers, autocrats can be bought cheaply.”

“Buying democrats is much more expensive.”

“However, as long as we the people want cheap gasoline and an abundance of markets in which to dump agricultural products, and we want that more than we want to see genuine development in poor countries, then our leaders are going to carry out our wishes.”

“A prudent dictator nips rebellion in the bud. That is why we have reiterated the claim that only people willing to engage in really nasty behavior should contemplate becoming dictators. The softhearted will find themselves ousted in the blink of an eye.”

“Effectively the government told these survivors to go away and die quietly: inhumane in the extreme, but good small-coalition politics. Dead people cannot protest.”

“Allowing people to die reveals serious policy failure.”

“The willingness of democracies to try harder goes a long way to explaining why seemingly weaker democracies often overcome seemingly stronger autocracies.”

“Democrats more often than autocrats fight when all other means of gaining policy concessions from foreign foes fail. In contrast, autocrats are more likely to fight casually, in the pursuit of land, slaves, and treasure.”

“Democracies don’t fight with each other, true. Rather, big democracies pick on little opponents whether they are democratic or not, with the expectation that they won’t fight back or won’t put up much of a fight.”

“Democracy overseas is a nice thing to believe in, in the abstract. In practice it’s probably not what we, the people want.”

“It is precisely this predictability and normality of war that makes it, like all the pathologies of politics we have discussed, susceptible to being understood and fixed.”

“Pursuing the perfect world for everyone is a waste of time and an excuse for not doing the hard work of making the world better for many.”

“Think about what is good for interchangeables, influentials, and essentials, the three dimensions of political life:”

“The essential facts of political life are that people do what is best for them.”

“At the beginning and the end of an incumbent’s reign the danger of being purged is greatest and so, at these times, coalition members should be most receptive to reform.”

“Effective reform means expanding the coalition and that means that everyone, including the current essentials, has a good chance of being needed by tomorrow’s new leader.”

“Outsiders would be wise to take cues from the same lessons: the time for outside intervention to facilitate democratic change or improved corporate responsibility is when a leader has just come to power or when a leader is near the end of his life.”

“As the rules to rule by lead us to expect, states in which leaders required support from a larger proportion of the population developed faster.”

“The rules of the electoral college make it possible in a two-candidate race for one candidate to win a majority of the popular vote and the other candidate to be elected president of the United States.”

“Expanding immigrant access and rights, then, can boost the required size of the winning coalition and, in the process, improve the quality of public policy.”

“Give us your poor and let’s see if they can make a better life. Give us your tired and let’s see if they can be energized by participating in making a more public-goods oriented government work better. Give us your huddled masses longing to be free and let’s see if their children don’t grow up to be the foundation of a stronger, more peaceful, and more prosperous society than they first came to.”

“Using foreign aid to set up nationwide wireless access to the Internet and to provide the poor with mobile phones could be a win-win-win-win among the four constituencies affected by aid.”

“Offering such deals might prove self-fulfilling. Once essential supporters believe their leader might take such a deal, they themselves start looking for his replacement, so even if the leader had wanted to stay and fight he might no longer have the support to do so. “

“Leaders want to survive in office and maximize their control over money. But what if their choice is to trade the power of office in exchange for the right to the money?”

“Our individual concerns about protecting ourselves from unfriendly democracies elsewhere typically trump our longer term belief in the benefits of democracy.”

“Democracy overseas is a great thing for us if, and only if, the people of a democratizing nation happen to want policies that we like. When a foreign people are aligned against our best interest, our best chance of getting what we want is to keep them under the yoke of an oppressor who is willing to do what we, the people, want.”

“Every government and every organization that relies on a small coalition eventually erodes its own productivity and entrepreneurial spirit so much that it faces the risk of collapsing under the weight of its own corruption and inefficiency.”

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ThingsCon Amsterdam 2016 Talk https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/12/thingscon-amsterdam-2016-talk/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/12/thingscon-amsterdam-2016-talk/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:51:51 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5668 Next up, @alper talking about conversational interfaces. Join the livestream at https://t.co/mdVhV45tsg — Peter Bihr 🚀 (@peterbihr) December 2, 2016 Up now #thingsconams Designing Conversational Interfaces with @alper. Here we go: chatbots! "Why isn't this presentation given by a bot?" pic.twitter.com/62AGWjAxle — TIStv (@TIStv) December 2, 2016 Conversational interfaces at Thingscon (at @Volkshotel in Amsterdam … Continue reading ThingsCon Amsterdam 2016 Talk

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Next up, @alper talking about conversational interfaces. Join the livestream at https://t.co/mdVhV45tsg

— Peter Bihr 🚀 (@peterbihr) December 2, 2016

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Local politics in Berlin https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/11/local-politics-in-german/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/11/local-politics-in-german/#comments Wed, 02 Nov 2016 14:22:43 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5633 Somewhere between language proficiency levels C1 and C2 lies a plateau that I’m finding difficult to cross in German. Living in Berlin I’m simply not exposed to enough of the language on a day to day basis. The usual advice would be to join a Verein and hang out with Germans. That sounds fun but … Continue reading Local politics in Berlin

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Somewhere between language proficiency levels C1 and C2 lies a plateau that I’m finding difficult to cross in German. Living in Berlin I’m simply not exposed to enough of the language on a day to day basis. The usual advice would be to join a Verein and hang out with Germans. That sounds fun but I’m not in the market for a new hobby.

I’m going to approach it from another direction by becoming kind of politically active. I don’t think people of my generation will become members of political parties much again. I also don’t have much of an interest in political work. I do want to figure out why things work the way they do. If nothing else I hope it makes me a better citizen and improves my German.

To do this I’m going to attend events of the two major progressive parties around: die Grüne (the Greens) and die Linke (the Left). There have been local elections last month and both parties are likely to enter in a coalition with the SPD and rule, so it is an exciting time to dive in.

I’ve now attended one event by each and here’s a quick write-up.

die Grüne

A while back just after the September election I attended an event by my local Green chapter. It was fun to see all the people I knew from the campaign posters gathered in one place. In general they’re nice people of the kind that I would normally hang out with anyway.

The Greens were peeved that they’d suffered a loss but not super peeved. They are still the biggest party in Friedrichshain/Kreuzberg and they will likely get to govern Berlin as a whole as well.

I’d attribute that loss to a campaign that felt complacent and did not have a strong narrative to address economic justice issues. Rent and income disparities in Berlin are on the rise which makes them the most important political issue here. I see the Greens focused more on social justice, environmental and quality life issues.

The Greens may really not have to worry since the more an area gentrifies, the more it seems to vote green. Berlin as a whole will definitely continue to gentrify.

die Linke

Last Saturday I finally found a Linke event that I could attend which happened to be the education session for their locally elected representatives. Each borough in Berlin is governed by a BVV (Bezirksverordnetenversammlung) which is the lowest level of representation and the only one I am allowed to vote for in Germany. This event was meant to give the newly elected legal and administrative foundations to help them through the next five years.

I showed up this Saturday morning at 09:00 for a four hour lecture. Some thirty people, mostly newly elected Linke BVV representatives but also some stray SPD/Grüne members, were there. I wouldn’t say the Linke is a more representative cross-section of Berlin but it seems somewhat more social-economically diverse.

A session like this is not the recommended way to get acquainted with a party, but it proved to be very educational if you enjoy twisted, complicated things. I had some rough ideas of what the BVV can and cannot do and this lecture filled in the blanks. My preconceived notions notions were confirmed (as they too often are).

The main problems are as follows:

The BVV is not authorized to do anything. From the handout I got: the boroughs are not a legal entity and they have no rights to set budgets or to create statutes. This means they have no actual responsibilities and cannot determine anything. They are fully beholden to the state of Berlin (every borough has the suffix ‘von Berlin’). BVV work seems to revolve around applying whatever little agency you can find or whip up.

The BVV is a huge amount of work. What I gathered from the Grüne meeting as well is that the workload for local representatives is ridiculous even by German standards. Just the committee meetings on weekday evenings take a lot of time. Add to that the various other meetings and all the preparation that goes into them and it looks like a full-time job (but it isn’t). Being a BVV member is a voluntary position that is nominally compensated (with some €500/month). I have no clue why people would volunteer to do this.

The BVV is a democratic distraction. I got the idea that the various levels of government do not communicate with each other that much. As said the BVV is the lowest level and has near zero power but it is the place where democracy connects with citizen’s lives. If you interrogate the BVV about something in the city not working properly, they’ll usually answer that they’re not zuständig (not competent). Both hearing that things are the fault of the senate and having to tell people that, get really annoying really fast for everybody. The BVV functions as a democratic pretense that allows the state government to do its thing without being bothered by people.

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Highlights from Science, Strategy and War by Frans Osinga https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-science-strategy-and-war-by-frans-osinga/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-science-strategy-and-war-by-frans-osinga/#respond Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:41:20 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5624 This network is the seat of scientific opinion; it is split into thousands of fragments, held by a multitude of individuals, each of whom endorses the others’ opinion at second hand, by relying on the consensual chains which link him to all the others through a sequence of overlapping neighborhoods. The practice of science/engineering and … Continue reading Highlights from Science, Strategy and War by Frans Osinga

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This network is the seat of scientific opinion; it is split into thousands of fragments, held by a multitude of individuals, each of whom endorses the others’ opinion at second hand, by relying on the consensual chains which link him to all the others through a sequence of overlapping neighborhoods.

The practice of science/engineering and the pursuit of technology permit us to continually rematch our mental/physical orientation with that of the changing world so that we can continue to thrive and grow in it.

Analysis means taking something apart to understand it; systems thinking means putting it into the context of the larger whole.

The goal, again, is to survive, and to survive on one’s own terms, or improve one’s capacity for independent action.

Orientation shapes the character of present observations-orientation-decision-action loops – while these present loops shape the character of future orientation.

Enmesh adversary in an amorphous, menacing, and unpredictable world of uncertainty, doubt, mistrust, confusion, disorder, fear, panic, chaos.

Boyd finds fault with the separation of inductive and deductive approaches.

Armed forces are like autopoietic systems, continually making efforts to maintain their distinctive character despite the turbulent environment.

War is like the non-linear clash of two Complex Adaptive Systems.

An armed force is by design a fairly robust system. It is designed to cause change within an opponent’s system and oppose the need to do so itself.

Because an error in response or a slower response will magnify in impact over time through the feedback loops, it is basically only necessary to create an initial advantage and prevent the opponent from compensating for it.

Fortunately, there is a way out. Remember, as previously shown, we can forge a new concept by applying the destructive deduction and creative induction mental operations.

It may be advantageous to possess a variety of responses that can be applied rapidly to gain sustenance, avoid danger and diminish an adversary’s capacity for independent action.

All revolve around maintaining cohesion among one’s own units, creating confusion and disrupting cohesion in the enemy camp.

The defense should have better intelligence, operate faster, be more mobile, move even more inconspicuously.

Diminish adversary’s capacity while improving our capacity to adapt as an organic whole, so that our adversary cannot cope while we can cope with events/efforts as they unfold.

This, combined with shattered cohesion, paralysis, and rapid collapse demonstrated by the existing adversary regime, makes it appear corrupt, incompetent, and unfit to govern.

Consequently, the name of the game becomes one of consciously shaping the opponent’s perception of the pattern of operations unfolding before him, while hiding the real picture.

He who is willing and able to take the initiative to exploit variety, rapidity, and harmony – as basis to create as well as adapt to the more indistinct – more irregular – quicker changes of rhythm and pattern, yet shape focus and direction of effort – survives and dominates.

Get inside adversary observation-orientation-decision-action loops (at all levels) by being more subtle, more indistinct, more irregular, and quicker – yet appear to be otherwise.

The Art of Success Appear to be an unsolvable cryptogram while operating in a directed way to penetrate adversary vulnerabilities and weaknesses in order to isolate him from his allies, pull him apart, and collapse his will to resist; yet Shape or influence events so that we not only magnify our spirit and strength but also influence potential adversaries as well as the uncommitted so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward our success.

Orientation, seen as a result, represents images, views, or impressions of the world shaped by genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, and unfolding circumstances.

Orientation is the Schwerpunkt. It shapes the way we interact with the environment – hence orientation shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.

The pay-off is ‘a command and control system, whose secret lies in what’s unstated or not communicated to one another (in an explicit sense) – in order to exploit lower-level initiative yet realize higher-level intent, thereby diminish friction and compress time, hence gain both quickness and security.’

Leadership Implies the art of inspiring people to cooperate and enthusiastically take action toward the achievement of uncommon goals.

Survive, survive on own terms, or improve our capacity for independent action.

That is what strategy is about. It is: ‘a game in which we must be able to diminish an adversary’s ability to communicate or interact with his environment while sustaining or improving ours’

Morally our adversaries isolate themselves [!] when they visibly improve their well being to the detriment of others (allies, the uncommitted), by violating codes of conduct or behavior patterns that they profess to uphold or others expect them to uphold.

Here the expected pay-off is: vitality and growth, with the opportunity to shape and adapt to unfolding events thereby influence the ideas and actions of others.

Put another way, ‘one should preserve or build-up moral authority while compromising that of our adversaries in order to pump-up our resolve, drain away adversaries’ resolve, and attract them as well as others to our cause and way of life’.

The central theme is one of interaction/isolation while the key ideas are the moral-mental-physical means towards realizing this interaction/isolation.

In this sense the practice of science/engineering and the pursuit of technology permit us to continually rematch our mental/physical orientation with that changing world so that we can continue to thrive and grow in it.

Furthermore, novelty is produced continuously, if somewhat erratically or haphazardly. Now, in order to thrive and grow in such a world we must match our thinking and doing, hence our orientation, with that emerging novelty.

Uncertainty associated with the unconfinement, undecidability, incompleteness theorems of mathematics and logic. Numerical imprecision associated with using the rational and irrational numbers in the calculation and measurement processes. Quantum uncertainty associated with Planck’s Constant and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Entropy increase associated with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Irregular and erratic behavior associated with far from equilibrium open non-linear processes or systems with feedback Incomprehensibility associated with the inability to completely screen, filter, or otherwise consider the spaghetti-like influences from a plethora of ever-changing, erratic, or unknown outside events. Mutations associated with environmental pressure, replication errors, or unknown influences in molecular and evolutionary biology. Ambiguity associated with natural languages as they are used and interact with one another. Novelty generated by the thinking and actions of unique individuals and their many-sided interactions with each other.

The hidden message for his audience is that, if organizations want to survive in a highly dynamic environment, in peace-time as much as in war, they need to embrace uncertainty and novelty.

To that end we must effectively and efficiently orient ourselves; that is, we must quickly and accurately develop mental images, or schema, to help comprehend and cope with the vast array of threatening and non-threatening events we face.

Significantly, whereas the D and A of the OODA loop generally are seen to stand for Decision and Action, in this model Boyd offers his own view on the meaning of both words by tying Decision to Hypothesis and Action to Test.

The OODA loop is much less a model of decision-making than a model of individual and organizational learning and adaptation in which the element of orientation – made up of genetics, experience, culture – plays the dominant role in the game of hypothesis and test, of analysis and synthesis, of destruction and creation.

Boyd instead argues that the aim is to create and perpetuate a highly fluid and menacing state of affairs for the enemy, and to disrupt or incapacitate his ability to adapt to such an environment.

Moreover, Boyd emphasizes the capability to validate the schemata before and during operations and the capability to devise and incorporate new ones, if one is to survive in a rapidly changing environment.

At the strategic level adaptation is more indirect and takes longer time intervals. It revolves around adjusting doctrines and force structures and disorienting the opponent’s orientation patterns, or mental images. At the grand-strategic level it revolves around shaping the political and societal environment, including an attractive ideology, and selecting a form of warfare.

Boyd advocates an agile cellular organization – networked through ideology, experience, trust, aim and orientation pattern – that thrives in uncertainty and fosters innovation, creativity and initiative.

Higher command levels must restrain themselves in their desire to know all that is going on at lower levels and to interfere. Higher commands must shape the ‘decision space’ of subordinate commanders. They must trust and coach. They must encourage cooperation and consultation among lower levels. They must accept bad news and be open for suggestions, lower-level initiatives and critique.

In an abstract sense, Boyd regards these schools of thought as alternative modes of behavior, and the theories as orientation patterns. He regards strategic theories and strategic concepts, like doctrines, as part of the repertoire of a strategist’s orientation pattern, integrating them in the cognitive dimension and in the discovery of fundamental similarities when he strips the theories to their bare essentials and expresses them in systems-theoretical/neo-Darwinist terms.

His very starting premise is that the world is fundamentally uncertain, truth is an arena of combat, knowledge is a weapon, as is the capability to evolve one’s knowledge base.

In the ‘Information domain’ the force must have the ‘capability to collect, share, access, and protect information’, as well as ‘the capability to collaborate in the information domain, which enables a force to improve its information position through processes of correlation, fusion, and analysis’.

Also the reasons for fighting cannot be understood within the nation-state framework: ‘more fundamental is the clash over different conceptions of community and how these conceptions should be reflected in political arrangements and organizations’.

The distinction between combatant and non-combatant is irrelevant. Deliberately ignoring and destroying this distinction is an explicit part of strategy in these conflicts.

Thus, academically they open the possibility of being engaged in a war, employing non-military methods to achieve their aim, while the West would not recognize that it was engaged in one.

Regarding war not as a military but as a political struggle, they focus on the political will of western politicians and polities; exploit their impatience and casualty-sensitivity.

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Highlights from Master and Margarita by Mikhaíl Afanasyevich Bulgakov https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-master-and-margarita-by-mikhail-afanasyevich-bulgakov/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-master-and-margarita-by-mikhail-afanasyevich-bulgakov/#respond Wed, 07 Sep 2016 14:30:05 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5622 Riukhin sat in complete solitude, hunched over his bream, drinking glass after glass, understanding and recognizing that it was no longer possible to set anything right in his life, that it was only possible to forget. ‘Yesterday, in your office, I saw this individuum briefly, but it only takes a fleeting glance at his face … Continue reading Highlights from Master and Margarita by Mikhaíl Afanasyevich Bulgakov

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Riukhin sat in complete solitude, hunched over his bream, drinking glass after glass, understanding and recognizing that it was no longer possible to set anything right in his life, that it was only possible to forget.

‘Yesterday, in your office, I saw this individuum briefly, but it only takes a fleeting glance at his face to understand that he is a bastard, a squabbler, a trimmer and a toady.’

Today I’m an unofficial person, and tomorrow, lo and behold, I’m an official one! And it also happens the other way round — oh, how it does!’

The counting-up took place, interspersed with Koroviev’s quips and quiddities, such as ‘Cash loves counting’, ‘Your own eye won’t lie’, and others of the same sort.

It was necessary at once, right on the spot, to invent ordinary explanations for extraordinary phenomena.

Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once.

‘Can they be crooks?’ the magician asked worriedly of his visitor. ‘Can there be crooks among the Muscovites?’

Never ask for anything! Never for anything, and especially from those who are stronger than you. They’ll make the offer themselves, and give everything themselves.

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Highlights from Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-slouching-towards-bethlehem-by-joan-didion/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-slouching-towards-bethlehem-by-joan-didion/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 21:48:56 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5620 That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out. The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past. a place where little is bright or graceful, where it is routine to misplace the future and easy to start looking for it in bed. Joan Baez … Continue reading Highlights from Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

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That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.

The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.

a place where little is bright or graceful, where it is routine to misplace the future and easy to start looking for it in bed.

Joan Baez was a personality before she was entirely a person, and, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not to be.

Now, at an age when the wounds begin to heal whether one wants them to or not,

As it happens I am comfortable with the Michael Laskis of this world, with those who live outside rather than in, those in whom the sense of dread is so acute that they turn to extreme and doomed commitments; I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people manage to fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.

Our favorite people and our favorite stories become so not by any inherent virtue, but because they illustrate something deep in the grain, something unadmitted.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.

The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others—who are, after all, deceived easily enough;

However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.

If we have been taught to keep our promises—if, in the simplest terms, our upbringing is good enough—we stay with the body, or have bad dreams.

Of course we would all like to “believe” in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves; like, perhaps, to transform the white flag of defeat at home into the brave white banner of battle away from home. And of course it is all right to do that; that is how, immemorially, things have gotten done.

Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.

She is an open and trusting child, unprepared for and unaccustomed to the ambushes of family life, and perhaps it is just as well that I can offer her little of that life.

It is hard to find California now, unsettling to wonder how much of it was merely imagined or improvised; melancholy to realize how much of anyone’s memory is no true memory at all but only the traces of someone else’s memory, stories handed down on the family network.

Misinformation about rattlesnakes is a leitmotiv of the insomniac imagination in Los Angeles.

That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.

the canker, you see, was already in the rose

Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen.

All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young any more.

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Highlights from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-americanah-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-americanah-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 21:36:43 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5617 There was something immodest about her modesty: it announced itself. But Ifemelu had always sensed, in Sister Ibinabo, a deep-sown, simmering hostility to young girls. Sister Ibinabo did not like them, she merely watched them and warned them, as though offended by what in them was still fresh and in her was long dried up. … Continue reading Highlights from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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There was something immodest about her modesty: it announced itself.

But Ifemelu had always sensed, in Sister Ibinabo, a deep-sown, simmering hostility to young girls. Sister Ibinabo did not like them, she merely watched them and warned them, as though offended by what in them was still fresh and in her was long dried up.

the easy relationship between two people who carefully avoided conversations of any depth.

He was tall and rangy, with the easy manner of the entitled.

She had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe.

With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.

If you are not careful in this country, your children become what you don’t know.

Afterwards they would return to America to fight on the Internet over their mythologies of home, because home was now a blurred place between here and there, and at least online they could ignore the awareness of how inconsequential they had become.

It had to be that Americans were taught, from elementary school, to always say something in class, no matter what.

The wind blowing across the British Isles was odorous with fear of asylum seekers, infecting everybody with the panic of impending doom, and so articles were written and read, simply and stridently, as though the writers lived in a world in which the present was unconnected to the past, and they had never considered this to be the normal course of history: the influx into Britain of black and brown people from countries created by Britain.

They would not understand why people like him, who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty.

She wished she believed in the devil, in a being outside of yourself that invaded your mind and caused you to destroy that which you cared about.

He was left-leaning and well-meaning, crippled by his acknowledgment of his own many privileges.

They were the sanctified, the returnees, back home with an extra gleaming layer.

The best thing about America is that it gives you space. I like that. I like that you buy into the dream, it’s a lie but you buy into it and that’s all that matters.

But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward-looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of that past.

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Highlights from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-ancillary-justice-by-ann-leckie/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-from-ancillary-justice-by-ann-leckie/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 21:32:08 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5615 When you shoot a person, you say why and do it, without excuse. This is how the Radchaai are. She was old enough to know firsthand that we had, indeed, shot people in the past. She could hardly be blamed for fearing we might do so in the future. There had been a time when … Continue reading Highlights from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

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When you shoot a person, you say why and do it, without excuse. This is how the Radchaai are.

She was old enough to know firsthand that we had, indeed, shot people in the past. She could hardly be blamed for fearing we might do so in the future.

There had been a time when a property owner like her would have been shot early on, so someone’s client could take over her plantation.

And within the gravity well of the planet Shis’urna itself—or for that matter any planet—lay the Underworld, the land of the dead from which humanity had had to escape in order to become fully free of its demonic influence.

And you don’t like my saying that, but here’s the truth: luxury always comes at someone else’s expense. One of the many advantages of civilization is that one doesn’t generally have to see that, if one doesn’t wish. You’re free to enjoy its benefits without troubling your conscience.”

Human bodies to make into ancillaries weren’t exactly a scarce resource.

Among the wealthy, clientage was a very hierarchical relationship—a patron promised certain sorts of assistance to her client, both financial and social, and a client provided support and services to her patron. These were promises that could last generations. In the oldest, most prestigious houses the servants were nearly all the descendants of clients, for instance, and many businesses owned by wealthy houses were staffed by client branches of lower ones.

“Only criminals, or people who aren’t functioning well, are reeducated. Nobody really cares what you think, as long as you do what you’re supposed to.”

Others took longer to leave, testing my authority, perhaps, though not far—anyone with the stomach to do such a thing had been shot sometime in the last five years, or at least had learned to restrain such a near-suicidal impulse.

You see murder and destruction on an unimaginable scale, but they see the spread of civilization, of Justice and Propriety, of Benefit for the universe. The death and destruction, these are unavoidable by-products of this one, supreme good.

To noncitizens, who only ever see Radchaai in melodramatic entertainments, who know nothing of the Radch besides ancillaries and annexations and what they think of as brainwashing, such an order might be appalling, but hardly surprising. But the idea of shooting citizens was, in fact, extremely shocking and upsetting. What, after all, was the point of civilization if not the well-being of citizens? And these people were citizens now.

Justice, propriety, and benefit, isn’t it? Let every act be just, and proper, and beneficial.

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Highlights for Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-for-invisible-cities-by-italo-calvino/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/highlights-for-invisible-cities-by-italo-calvino/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:39:13 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5613 Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist. Perhaps, Kublai thought, the empire is nothing but a zodiac of the mind’s phantasms. the emperor is he who is a foreigner to each of his subjects, that the more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more … Continue reading Highlights for Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

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Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist.

Perhaps, Kublai thought, the empire is nothing but a zodiac of the mind’s phantasms.

the emperor is he who is a foreigner to each of his subjects,

that the more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more one understood the other cities he had crossed to arrive there;

By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else’s present.

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,”

“You return from your voyages with a cargo of regrets!”

Kublai reflected on the invisible order that sustains cities, on the rules that decreed how they rise, take shape and prosper, adapting themselves to the seasons, and then how they sadden and fall in ruins.

There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return.

“I speak and speak,” Marco says, “but the listener retains only the words he is expecting.”

Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents.

The catalogue of forms is endless: until every shape has found its city, new cities will continue to be born.

Convinced that every innovation in the city influences the sky’s pattern, before taking any decision they calculate the risks and advantages for themselves and for the city and for all worlds.

I recognize only cities and cannot distinguish what is outside them. In uninhabited places each stone and each clump of grass mingles, in my eyes, with every other stone and clump.

If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop.

The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

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Highlights for Certain to Win by Chet Richards https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/notes-for-certain-to-win-by-chet-richards/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/notes-for-certain-to-win-by-chet-richards/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:54:58 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5608 War strategies, however, rest on a deeper foundation of people working together under stress and uncertainty, and good ones shape the terms of the conflict to their liking before combat begins. What the commanders had, at best, was information about the enemy within a few miles of them. Rather than dig in and “consolidate his … Continue reading Highlights for Certain to Win by Chet Richards

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War strategies, however, rest on a deeper foundation of people working together under stress and uncertainty, and good ones shape the terms of the conflict to their liking before combat begins.

What the commanders had, at best, was information about the enemy within a few miles of them.

Rather than dig in and “consolidate his position,” or otherwise savor the fruits of victory, he proceeded to use his advantage in time to neutralize his opponents’ forces and weapons.

Your other choice, if you believe that you do not have the resources to carry out the order, or that it is just plain dumb, is to challenge it. The German system encouraged this, but once agreement was reached, the superior could assume that the mission would be accomplished.

the greater risk is the loss of time that comes from always trying to be explicit.

He must observe the environment, which includes himself, his opponent, the physical, mental, and moral situation, and potential allies and opponents.

The idea behind strategy is to create chaos in the opponent, not in ourselves.

Strategy is a mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

He starts blaming the customer, or insisting that his sales force “educate the customer.”

Basic Rule of All Competition (BRAC): You are not smarter than either the customer or the competition.

Another, and more insidious strategic effect of complex methodologies is that they can turn the attention of the company inwards. Most of them, for example, require extensive input.

As Musashi summarized it, in the translation by Hanshi Steve Kaufman, which was Boyd’s favorite:Practice is the only way that you will ever come to understand what the Way of the warrior is about . . . Words can only bring you to the foot of the path . . .”

Deming rails against organizations that don’t understand the importance of requiring first-line supervisors to have expertise in the jobs they manage. How can a supervisor have a “feel” for how his operation is going if he’s never done it?

Communications is the bottoms-up aspect of command and control, and the Marines define “control,” to be this stream of information.

Obviously it takes a lot of mutual trust to know whom to appoint to which missions and especially to admit and quickly communicate mistakes.

Concentrate instead on the essence of the concept, which is to devolve maximum responsibility onto the subordinate, in return for his or her pledge to use his/her initiative and creativity to accomplish the task, consistent with your ground rules.

You must try these concepts, practice them, create mechanisms for sharing experiences, develop common outlooks and orientations, and manage by them.

No probabilities here; you’ve made yourself certain to win.

Because you never know what will prod your creativity and the more widely you prospect, the more likely you are to find that something to set your offerings apart from all of your competitors.

Studies of innovation reveal that practically everything new consists of bits and pieces of other concepts, often from fields that appeared to be unrelated, that somebody had the genius to reassemble to form something new and exciting.

As Boyd pointed out, a plan is only an intention, and a strategy is merely a scheme for creating and managing plans.

If you want your system to run faster, what you have to do is change it in ways that decrease the time it takes to do the most important things you do, those that affect the customer.

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Highlights for Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/notes-for-red-mars-by-kim-stanley-robinson/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/09/notes-for-red-mars-by-kim-stanley-robinson/#respond Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:42:11 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5606 “Whenever scientists say they’re Christian,” Sax said, “I take it to be an aesthetic statement.” “You Americans would like to end politics and history, so you can stay in a world you dominate!” Evolution is a matter of environment and chance, acting over millions of years. But history is a matter of environment and choice, … Continue reading Highlights for Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

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“Whenever scientists say they’re Christian,” Sax said, “I take it to be an aesthetic statement.”

“You Americans would like to end politics and history, so you can stay in a world you dominate!”

Evolution is a matter of environment and chance, acting over millions of years. But history is a matter of environment and choice, acting within lifetimes, and sometimes within years, or months, or days!

Mutual professional respect, a great maker of friendships. And so nice to talk nothing but business.

It means rather fitting into it as it is, and worshiping it with our attention.

Beauty is power and elegance, right action, form fitting function, intelligence, and reasonability.

Only three who could even try, and Frank’s French was worse than no French at all, like listening to someone attack the language with a hatchet.

In practice, as last night had made clear, it had the U.N.’s usual toothlessness before national armies and transnational money.

Economics is like astrology in that sense, except that economics serves to justify the current power structure, and so it has a lot of fervent believers among the powerful.

They are richer than us. And in this system, richer is more powerful.

If any men in the world were treated like you treat your women, the U.N. would ostracize that nation. But because it is a matter of women, the men in power look away. They say it is a cultural matter, a religious matter, not to be interfered with. Or it is not called slavery because it is only an exaggeration of how women are treated elsewhere.

Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, just like always.

Some of them defined ideology as an imaginary relationship to a real situation.

And as she cleaned the dishes, she felt her stiff throat move; she croaked out her part of the conversation, and helped, with her little strand, to weave the human illusion.

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Welt am Draht https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/06/welt-am-draht/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/06/welt-am-draht/#respond Mon, 27 Jun 2016 08:41:39 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5587 I strolled through the massive exhibition ‘Welt am Draht’ at Leipziger Strasse this weekend. This is a selection of video art from the massive Julia Stoschek Collection exhibited in the former Czech Cultural center. Like everybody says the quality of video art in general is extremely inconsistent. That is true in this exhibit as well. … Continue reading Welt am Draht

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I strolled through the massive exhibition ‘Welt am Draht’ at Leipziger Strasse this weekend. This is a selection of video art from the massive Julia Stoschek Collection exhibited in the former Czech Cultural center.

Like everybody says the quality of video art in general is extremely inconsistent. That is true in this exhibit as well. There are a bunch of works where it is not at all obvious why somebody finished it, somebody approved it and somebody paid money for it.

The works that were most interesting in this exhibition consistently were not the video ones but those created with a game engine. That may be my own novelty bias at work, but a fully digital workflow like that allows: 1. more and faster iteration 2. fully dynamic products, the combination of which leads to totally new kinds of things that can be produced.

Some examples:

I forget what this was, but despite the concept being more or less ridiculous it has a compelling internal consistency.

RMB City by Cao Fei is a rich and spectacular playground of randomness.

I can’t really argue with any of Ed Atkins’s work which stands out for the pure skill of the renderings combined with spoken word that is not trite (so rare).

Ian Cheng’s Emissary Forks at Perfection is an ongoing collage of elements in a dynamic simulation that looks like an edgy version of the large scale installations Theo Watson makes.

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New book “Designing Conversational Interfaces” https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/06/writing-a-book-on-conversational-interfaces/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/06/writing-a-book-on-conversational-interfaces/#respond Tue, 07 Jun 2016 16:28:00 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5581 I’ve spent June until October writing a brief but comprehensive book called “Designing Conversational Interfaces” introducing the creation of messaging applications and chatbots to a non-technical audience. You can purchase the book on Gumroad or review it on GoodReads. Loading…

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I’ve spent June until October writing a brief but comprehensive book called “Designing Conversational Interfaces” introducing the creation of messaging applications and chatbots to a non-technical audience.

You can purchase the book on Gumroad or review it on GoodReads.

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Why Käthe Kollwitz is one of Germany’s most important figurative artists https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/05/kathe-kollwitz-museum-berlin/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/05/kathe-kollwitz-museum-berlin/#respond Sun, 01 May 2016 16:58:41 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5567 Today I got a tour of the Käthe Kollwitz museum in Berlin. I had wanted to visit this museum for a while but this proved the concrete reason to finally go (though the café next door makes some mean pancakes if you find yourself in the area). I was recently attended to her existence by MacGregor’s … Continue reading Why Käthe Kollwitz is one of Germany’s most important figurative artists

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Today I got a tour of the Käthe Kollwitz museum in Berlin. I had wanted to visit this museum for a while but this proved the concrete reason to finally go (though the café next door makes some mean pancakes if you find yourself in the area).

I was recently attended to her existence by MacGregor’s series on German history (episode). I now believe that she is one of the most important German artists of the past couple of centuries. If there are any other significant candidates, I would like to hear about them.

What makes her stand out as an artist are:

  • Her mastery of both drawing and sculpture.
  • That she depicts ‘common’ people and social themes prominently. She thought these people were beautiful in their own way and that their plight was one that merited attention. For me this is a stark contrast with how current (artistic) elites try to ignore the ‘common and stupid’ people (like Trump voters).
  • The loss of her son and how that permeates her later work.

Our tour guide didn’t make the connection but I find it more than fitting that on May 1st we would be looking at for instance the Weavers cycle (one of which I have pasted below).

Kollwitz_Riot_Best

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Tweet coverage of the 2016 Bot Summit at the V&A in London https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/tweet-coverage-of-the-2016-bot-summit-at-the-va-in-london/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/tweet-coverage-of-the-2016-bot-summit-at-the-va-in-london/#respond Sun, 24 Apr 2016 13:09:42 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5563 I was at the 2016 Bot Summit in London a couple of weeks ago. I did my best to capture salient points from every talk in a tweet. Here are all of them in order. Now @v21 who made https://t.co/46XYTViILi about creating tools to enable people to play with technology. #botsummit — Alper Çuğun (@alper) … Continue reading Tweet coverage of the 2016 Bot Summit at the V&A in London

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I was at the 2016 Bot Summit in London a couple of weeks ago. I did my best to capture salient points from every talk in a tweet. Here are all of them in order.

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Talk at Interaction16 https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/talk-at-interaction16-2/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/talk-at-interaction16-2/#respond Mon, 18 Apr 2016 20:17:04 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5560 The video of my talk “Conversations are the New Interfaces” at Interaction16 Helsinki has been posted. I am yet to watch it, but here it is for my archive. Alper Cugun: Conversations are the new Interfaces from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

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The video of my talk “Conversations are the New Interfaces” at Interaction16 Helsinki has been posted. I am yet to watch it, but here it is for my archive.

Alper Cugun: Conversations are the new Interfaces from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

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That spread in Elsevier https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/that-spread-in-elsevier/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/that-spread-in-elsevier/#respond Tue, 05 Apr 2016 07:35:17 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5557 I shared it elsewhere but to briefly clip it here as well. I took a bunch more pictures with the photographer that were a lot of fun but of course this is the one they chose.

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I shared it elsewhere but to briefly clip it here as well. I took a bunch more pictures with the photographer that were a lot of fun but of course this is the one they chose.

Spread with me in Elsevier

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Packing List https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/packing-list/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/04/packing-list/#respond Sat, 02 Apr 2016 14:32:50 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5547 I used to travel between the Netherlands and Germany at least once a month and pretty quickly I grew tired of forgetting things. That’s why I made a list (in bold, comments added) with the things that I should take or at least consider taking. Whenever I pack my bag, I quickly scan the list and … Continue reading Packing List

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I used to travel between the Netherlands and Germany at least once a month and pretty quickly I grew tired of forgetting things. That’s why I made a list (in bold, comments added) with the things that I should take or at least consider taking. Whenever I pack my bag, I quickly scan the list and make sure I’ve covered the bases. Maybe it’ll be helpful to you as well.

This and clothes go into a Patagonia MLC bag.

Take knife off keychain

I’ve forgotten to do this more than a couple of times. What makes it weirder still is that TXL/SXF will allow me to fly out with a Swiss army knife but most other airports will not allow me to fly back with one.

Essentials

These are things that are irreplaceable and without which a trip usually cannot happen.

  • Laptop
    Obvious. Macbook Pro 13″.
  • Power cable
    Without this the laptop is pretty worthless. Replacements if you can find them in a local store are upwards of €100.
  • Passport
    Without this traveling isn’t really possible.
  • Boarding cards / tickets
    You could get these from the airport but I print out everything I can at home.

Toiletries

  • Sunblock
    At some point it becomes silly to buy new sunblock at every sunny destination.
  • Toothbrush, paste
    Sometimes I don’t bother to bring any and buy them at the destination airport but it’s more reliable to pack. Often I also take the head of my electric tooth brush.
  • Lipbalm
    I put this on there after I once needed it and paid €11 for a stick at ZRH.
  • Assorted other toiletries
    This is a pain with only a carry-on. I try to usually depend as much as possible on what is available at my destination.

Getting around

These are particularly essential for the Netherlands where you need to bring a card to be able to prove your identity to the various transit systems around.

  • Foreign SIM
    Often this means just my Dutch T-Mobile SIM. I often have SIMs for destinations outside of Europe but those are so short lived that they aren’t reusable.
  • Foreign money / transit cards
    I have ziploc bags per country with the currency leftovers as well as any transit card (Oyster, Suica) or SIM that may still be usable.
  • Power converters
    The US and the UK account for most of my trips where these are necessary. I put these in the ziploc bags with the currency.
  • Paperclip
    I used to need one of these to do the SIM swap. Now I have an Apple SIM pin in the box with all my SIM cards.
  • Keys
    Keys to my parents place in the Netherlands or any other home/office at the destination.
  • Small backpack
    The MLC isn’t very practical to haul around town. I have a tiny Bach day pack that is super basic but fits everything you could need during a day.
  • Canteen
    I usually don’t bother taking this because of weight and bulk, but it is useful for longer trips.

Office

  • VGA dongle
    Trips usually involve some kind of public speaking and as a speaker you should be self-sufficient. Don’t leave this at the venue where you’re speaking.
  • Pens
    I need to carry some quality pens with me. I usually have a four color box of Staedtler fineliners and a couple of Japanese gel pens.
  • Index cards
    Always useful but don’t bring too many because paper is heavy.
  • Business cards
    Trips are usually for business and people appreciate a nicely designed business card.
  • Headphones with microphone
    The standard Apple ones will do for most calls.
  • Noise cancelling headphones
    You need headphones with some noise cancelling effect for during flights. I used to travel with my Sony MDR-7506. They are bulky but if you fly an easyJet to Berlin with those on your head, everybody thinks you’re a DJ. Now I prefer to take my Sennheiser CX-300 II in-ears.

Special wardrobe

  • Havaianas
    Bring if the destination is hot.
  • Running shoes, pants
    Nice to be able to do some sports while traveling.
  • Swimming trunks
    Always bring these.
  • Sunglasses
    I always take my Moscot Lemtosh with me.
  • Hiking shoes
    Whether to bring my decade old pair of Meindls is heavily dependent on the type of trip and the environment.
  • Climbing shoes
    If there are climbing halls nearby, I’ll take these instead of/in addition to running shoes.

Things to check at home

  • Washing machine faucet shut
  • Gas turned off
  • Lock door
  • Fridge empty, leave door open

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Sleep by Max Richter https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/03/sleep-by-max-richter/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/03/sleep-by-max-richter/#respond Fri, 18 Mar 2016 07:33:51 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5513 Kevin posted yesterday that he had an extra ticket for Max Richter’s Sleep at Kraftwerk Berlin yesterday. Without a moment’s hesitation I packed my sleeping bag and cycled there with him. Kraftwerk Mitte is a disused power plant in the middle (Mitte) of the city that is now a club venue and host to a variety … Continue reading Sleep by Max Richter

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Kevin posted yesterday that he had an extra ticket for Max Richter’s Sleep at Kraftwerk Berlin yesterday. Without a moment’s hesitation I packed my sleeping bag and cycled there with him.

Kraftwerk Mitte is a disused power plant in the middle (Mitte) of the city that is now a club venue and host to a variety of events. The most striking features of it are large open spaces and lots of exposed concrete everywhere.

Max Richter I didn’t know before but I quickly confirmed that I would agree with his music. It had been one of my desires to attend a classical music concert while lying down being able to doze in and out of sleep as your mind and body dictate. Classical concerts tend to be long and uncomfortable affairs.

I hadn’t imagined I would get the chance to do this during an 8 hour overnight concert.

Preparing to spend the night here listening to music by Max Richter

The music is very smooth to listen to and it is a kind of music that Richter is known for (read this interview). I’m listening to From Sleep now as I write this. I listened to the first couple of hours and then fell into a fitful sleep until I woke up again at 07:30 to catch the end.

Sleeping on stretcher beds at a power station 15 minutes cycling away from home with a couple of hundred other people was a strange experience. It was for one one of the lowest key camping trips I have ever undertaken. Though I’m used to the occasional communal sleeping arrangement, those are totally different situations. Berlin’s club spaces facilitate experiences in between the intimate and transgressive but even then this is an odd one out.

I probably also wasn’t the only person in the room who considered it wry that we would pay €48 to sleep in circumstances similar to thousands of others in Germany right now.

I’m still not sure what to make of the event but it is a memorable experience that will stay with me for a while like a dream but more powerful.

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Notes from Interaction16 https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/03/notes-from-interaction16/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/03/notes-from-interaction16/#respond Mon, 14 Mar 2016 22:15:01 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5501 I’m still waiting for the pictures of Friday to air on the IxDA Flickr and for the video of my talk to be posted, but here are some notes I found around the web about my talk (for my personal notebook). Eigenlijk veel interessanter om 14:00 is ‘Conversations are the new interfaces‘, van Alper Çuğun (nog een … Continue reading Notes from Interaction16

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I’m still waiting for the pictures of Friday to air on the IxDA Flickr and for the video of my talk to be posted, but here are some notes I found around the web about my talk (for my personal notebook).

Eigenlijk veel interessanter om 14:00 is ‘Conversations are the new interfaces‘, van Alper Çuğun (nog een Nederlander!). Als de mensen van Hubbub iets doen rondom experimentele interfaces, dan let ik op. —Vormfout.nl

Today Alper Çuğun will lead a session about ‘Conversations are the new interfaces’ and Marcel Schouwenaar will talk about ‘Trade-offs & Sharing’. —Embassy of the Netherlands in Finland

Alper Çuğun (@alper), who used to co-run a gaming company called Hubbub, talked about conversational interfaces. I’ve been really interested in these lately so I found it very helpful. He showed an example of a conversational UI that they developed and gave a rundown of do’s and dont’s when designing for them. One interesting insight was that they found that kids will read a lot of text if they get it in SMS-sized chunks. He smartly called conversational UIs the “UI for AI” and cautioned that they are not perfect for every use case. —Aaron Ganci

Another fantastic talk was from Alper Çuğun. He gave an overview of conversational user interfaces. It was based on his own experience making mobile games that use conversations and messaging as the main mechanic. He also shared an analysis of the tools out there to make conversational UIs and a prediction of where the scene is heading.

In particular, I was struck by how conversations, like the messaging apps we’re all familiar with on our phones, can lower the barrier to people using technology. It now feels very natural to text back and forth with friends. When machines can text with us, that might give us a sense of accessibility and agency in our interaction with them. — Michelle Thorne

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Talk at Interaction16 https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/03/talk-at-interaction16/ https://alper.nl/dingen/2016/03/talk-at-interaction16/#respond Sun, 06 Mar 2016 22:21:19 +0000 http://alper.nl/dingen/?p=5494 I just got back from Interaction in Helsinki having given my talk about how Conversations are the New Interfaces. I have been blown away by the response to and kind words about my talk. I think this is a conversation (!) worth continuing. Stay tuned for details on that. Here now is a collection of photos … Continue reading Talk at Interaction16

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I just got back from Interaction in Helsinki having given my talk about how Conversations are the New Interfaces.

I have been blown away by the response to and kind words about my talk. I think this is a conversation (!) worth continuing. Stay tuned for details on that.

Here now is a collection of photos I found of my talk (for my personal archive):

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