The Other Life podcast is publishing a 10-episode series all about Urbit, which I believe is the single most interesting and underrated technology project in the world right now.
I want you to listen and subscribe, so to stoke your interest I’ve collected some highlights from the first 3 episodes.
Computers don’t need to be luxury baubles, computers could be rugged objects we throw around
Édouard Urcades is a designer at Tlon, the company that first built Urbit. His goal is to design the most beautiful computer. He thinks computers are like flowers.
From The Most Beautiful Computer:
When we look at the state of computers these days it's almost explicitly the selling of these devices that are now luxury objects effectively, when I look at any of the latest sort of top brand items, these things are positioned and marketed and even imaged in a way that is akin to shiny watch or a piece of jewelry. But the thing is that, what is being sold are baubles, in a way, these little delicate trinkets that one sort of adorns oneself with.
When I think about another fork in the path for what computers could be... I like to think of rugged objects or things that children would attach, like little Tamagotchis or these little toy devices, to their backpacks, when they're younger. There are devices that you could build that are all at once accessible, hyper-durable, and just playful or fun to use. And I think that one interesting path for the way Urbit computers could be developed is to open ourselves up to the experience of something that could be thrown around.
How Urbit escapes the cybernetic enclosure
Tirrel Corporation is building payment rails on Urbit. The only company that's ever talked to me about Deleuze and Nick Land.
From The Only Dignified Computer:
Urbit is a technology for preserving human dignity. All of the technologies that we have eschew human dignity. They throw it out the window in favor of ad-based optimization, of optimizing you to be engaged and to be an adult fiend of staring into the blue light and... There's all these people to hate, there's all these things to buy. This is the cybernetic enclosure.
It's every one of these things that makes you feel an emotion from looking at a screen instead of feeling an emotion from looking at a human face. And so Urbit, to me, is a technology for removing emotion from the computer.
How to build networked personal computers that last for centuries
Galen Wolfe-Pauly is the CEO of Tlon, and co-founder with Curtis Yarvin.
From The 100-Year Computer:
Process is interesting to me. It’s probably more important how something is made, and the systems that are determining the conditions under which it is made—that's probably more important than what people think is going on when they're making it.
I always thought this was really well captured in Sol LeWitt. An abstract artist in the seventies who, a lot of his paintings are just instructions. An entire 15x8-foot wall covered with lines, all pointing different directions, not touching. And they're beautiful. What he sells is just the set of instructions. And then he has a team that will install the painting. But what you buy is just the algorithm.
When you think about, okay, you want there to exist a computing system... We'd like to have networked computers that people can control. Part of the problem there is just the technical problem. Can you produce something of that nature? And it's a design problem, maybe, that's coupled to it, right? But you also need institutions to support that. Who can support the people who are making those things and have some degree of continuity, or some ability to care for and basically produce the situation in which this thing could actually get made?
So what's interesting to me about long-standing institutions is just: How do they work? And how do you actually make something like that? The default Silicon Valley way of thinking about these things in the YC model, the IPO model? People don't think this way, really.
Subscribe to the Other Life podcast and listen to these conversations.