In this edition, you'll learn about:
- The Web3 Trap
- An exclusive airdrop for Other Life readers, worth about $850
- How Hell is like high school, but for eternity
- An open call for papers
- How to escape the cybernetic enclosure
- Uncommon atmospheres
The Web3 Trap
One of the problems with the current “Web3” moment is that people build projects nominally dedicated to X, but then in practice the project becomes essentially “Web3 memes related to X.” This is due to funding bias and selection bias in recruitment: These Web3 projects raise money from Web3 whales, so their public messaging has to excite and impress Web3 whales, which leads to excessive self-referentiality. Then the talent they attract is also mainly from Web3, so the comparative advantage of the group is ultimately just… thinking about and talking about the greatness of Web3.
For instance, I recently encountered this project—Crypto, Culture, and Society—which aims to build Liberal Arts for Web3. I was excited by their initial call to arms, entitled Building Liberal Arts for Crypto.
Exploring further, I found a document containing some of their best snippets of content. It's intended as a public showcase. It's cool; extensive, thoughtful, impressive in certain ways.
It’s just kind of funny to note… the dearth of Liberal Arts. They set out to build Liberal Arts for Crypto, but what they’ve got is a crypto community talking about crypto. That’s the Web3 Trap.
What we really want is Web2 communities growing into Web3 rails.
This is why I'm increasingly thinking of the Other Life company as a “Web2.5 company,” stealing a meme I took from Mark Beylin when he was on the podcast recently (Other Life #157).
If you want to build Liberal Arts on Web3, I think you should start by building Liberal Arts on Web2, so your members are primarily defined by non-crypto themes. And that's precisely what has emerged around Other Life, so this is how I see our epochal opportunity as a community.
Have dozens of professors and writers and students obsessed with the Liberal Arts in one place, with authentic and enthusiastic collaboration patterns before the introduction of economic incentives and rapidly evolving tech. You'll unlock the supercharging functions of Web3 rails, but without falling into the Web3 trap.
Enrollment for the IndieThinkers Accelerator Closes Next week
IndieThinkers.org is a 6-week group program for working or aspiring writers, philosophers, scientists, and artists interested in building a long-term intellectual life on the internet.
No previous training or education is required. Our only assumption is that you have at least some ideas or some sense of a project that you want to develop. There are teenagers running successful philosophy Youtube channels and there are PhDs who have never published a blog post. Some participants may have an academic background, but on the internet frontier we're all still freshmen.
The program is medium-agnostic. The frameworks and assignments will work for bloggers, Youtubers, podcasters, newsletter authors, indie book authors, and even visual artists. We don't teach you how to write or make art or anything like that, we teach you how to port your perspective into an internet-based production system, to support a sustainable and long-term life of the mind without gatekeepers or institutions.
Request an invitation here.
Exclusive airdrop from our friends at IdeaMarket.io
Mike Elias from Other Life #124: The Market for Truth (video, audio) is rolling out a token for his IdeaMarket.io and he’s offering a generous airdrop to readers of the newsletter.
You’ll recall that they are trying to build a market that measures the value of different information sources.
We've reserved 200,000 IMO tokens for the Other Life community because I met probably a hundred of you at Based Mansion and all of you are awesome, and underrated. Beyond that, Other Life is building and becoming a new home for renegade intellectual work — something we care a lot about too.
They are giving about $850 worth of the IMO token to anyone who signs up through the link below. There's a little bit of process and you need to bridge some ETH to Arbitrum, but it's not hard.
You must submit your ETH address today (2/1/2022) and it’s capped at the first 200 people.
IdeaMarket airdrop for the Other Life community
A Call for Papers on CP Snow’s The Two Cultures
Hal Conte is organizing a private symposium within the Other Life community scheduled for May, on CP Snow’s famous essay. If you’re not familiar, it’s about the divide between science and the humanities. It's not long, here is a PDF.
There was a lot of interest inside the private community (see the replies at the link below) so I thought I would open this up to our wider circles of all readers.
You can read and reply to Hal’s call for papers here.
The Urbit Series on the Other Life podcast
Back in October, when the Urbit annual conference came to Austin, I recorded podcasts with 10 people. I spoke with CEOs, egirls, CTOs, schizzed out writers, post-everything podcasters, and very likely at least one legit alien.
We just started releasing them. The first two:
- The Beautiful Computer with Édouard Urcades (video, audio)
- The Dignified Computer with Tirrel Corporation (video, audio)
This will be the deepest dive on the Urbit culture you'll find anywhere.
"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... Staring into the blue light, being engaged with the outrage, being scared of the virus… There's all these things to be scared of. 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 the emotion from the computer."
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast player.
Hell is high school but for eternity
When I was in high school, I would occasionally go to someone’s house and sit on a couch, without really understanding why I was there, bored, mostly thinking about how the others were judging me and how great it will be when I get out of high school. It’s been many years since I can remember sitting on a couch in this way, where shared ennui and image-consciousness is stylized as an activity unto itself, but it’s such a distinct state of affairs that I know it when I see it. When I do see it, I'll either run for the door or, if there’s no door, reach for my gun.
I was therefore dumbfounded to encounter on social media, quite against my will, a nearly paradigmatic representation of this experience I had otherwise memory-holed. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw Kanye West and Floyd Mayweather sitting on a couch together just hanging out.
I never in all of my years—during high school or adulthood—would have imagined that, at the upper echelon of our great social pyramid, the grand reward for ultimate success would be to sit on a couch, for no reason one can fathom, not even talking, with people one hardly knows, bored stiff while a few zany chicks dance for a camera.
Much worldly success is achieved through Faustian bargains.
A Faustian bargain is the devil’s version of a smart contract. You think you're smart, but really you're on an irreversible gradient descent into Hell.
Hell is just high school, but for eternity.
“Academic and aristocratic people live in such an uncommon atmosphere that common sense can rarely reach them.” —Samuel Butler II