Weekend Reading

May 30th 2021

Justin Murphy on the telos of the creative economy

Justin interviewed me a long time ago and we spoke on a few occasions but at the time I was too much in mourning over the state of every great institution to be open to his hopeful message. Lately I’m becoming convinced that he could be right and that there’s even an inevitability to it. Recently the process of writers exiting the institutions to come to places like this is just the latest example of what he means. In a fascinating piece called Barbarians Past The Gates he explained using a kind of class analysis where he thought things were going, including the creation of new aristocrats and polities. It begins:

Legacy institutions are at war with distributed collective intelligence, but the legacy institutions are losing—badly.

2 million full-time “content creators,” outside any professional sanction; the election of Donald Trump against an airtight media consensus certain of its impossibility; mass, hysterical preference falsification due to a normalization of political correctness, with silent mass migration into countless private communities; Big Tech’s capitulation to censorship on all major social platforms; the resilient rise in the price of Bitcoin and a proliferation of durable social currencies on Ethereum; and most recently, an unprecedented execution of decentralized social intelligence, which minted more than a few millionaires out of thin air, by a niche internet community hacking the source code of finance capitalism.

Now he’s written a related follow up piece arguing how and why Urbit is the future of this process. I admit I know very little about Urbit but given his good judgement in the past, it’s worth listening to any advice and predictions he makes, especially if you’re naturally not receptive to it. Please read with an open mind.

The NGO post-democracy

Another great Mary Harrington piece this week. People are beginning to realize the extent to which the NGO sector has been allowed to swallow up everything around it, including all of politics, public life, scholarship, organizations of all kinds and just about everything that will influence the future…

For a long time, protest focused on public debate, and the related issue of free speech, in the hope that reasoned discussion would drive a sensible political settlement. But all the institutional structures still seemed skewed in favour of gender identity and for a while no one could work out why.

Over time it’s become apparent that many such changes emanate from activism by NGOs, via outreach that seeks to reshape school curricula, HR policiescensus data design and other extra-legal social structures. With this revelation, the battlefield has shifted. While public debate in the media remains important, ‘gender critical’ activism has refocused on trench warfare within institutions and NGOs, usually via crowdfunded court cases.

Read the full article here