node created 2019/09/29
The frightening coincidence of the modern population explosion with the discovery of technical devices that, through automation, will make large sections of the population 'superfluous' even in terms of labor, and that, through nuclear energy, make it possible to deal with this twofold threat by the use of instruments beside which Hitler's gassing installations look like an evil child's fumbling toys, should be enough to make us tremble.
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
The whole concept of alienation found its first expression in Western thought in the Old Testament concept of idolatry. The essence of what the prophets call "idolatry" is not that man worships many gods instead of only one. It is that the idols are the work of man's own hands -- they are things, and man bows down and worships things; worships that which he has created himself. In doing so he transforms himself into a thing. He transfers to the things of his creation the attributes of his own life, and instead of experiencing himself as the creating person, he is in touch with himself only by the worship of the idol. He has become estranged from his own life forces, from the wealth of his own potentialities, and is in touch with himself only in the indirect way of submission to life frozen in the idols. The deadness and emptiness of the idol is expressed in the Old Testament: "Eyes they have and they do not see, ears they have and they do not hear," etc. The more man transfers his own powers to the idols, the poorer he himself becomes, and the more dependent on the idols, so that they permit him to redeem a small part of what was originally his. The idols can be a godlike figure, the state, the church, a person, possessions. Idolatry changes its objects; it is by no means to be found only in those forms in which the idol has a so-called religious meaning. Idolatry is always the worship of something into which man has put his own creative powers, and to which he now submits, instead of experiencing himself in his creative act.

Among the many forms of alienation, the most frequent one is alienation in language. If I express a feeling with a word, let us say, if I say "I love you," the word is meant to be an indication of the reality which exists within myself, the power of my loving. The word "love" is meant to be a symbol of the fact love, but as soon as it is spoken it tends to assume a life of its own, it becomes a reality. I am under the illusion that the saying of the word is the equivalent of the experience, and soon I say the word and feel nothing, except the thought of love which the word expresses. The alienation of language shows the whole complexity of alienation. Language is one of the most precious human achievements; to avoid alienation by not speaking would be foolish -- yet one must be always aware of the danger of the spoken word, that it threatens to substitute itself for the living experience. The same holds true for all other achievements of man; ideas, art, any kind of man-made objects. They are man's creations; they are valuable aids for life, yet each one of them is also a trap, a temptation to confuse life with things, experience with artifacts, feeling with surrender and submission.
You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid... You refuse to do it because you want to live longer... You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid someone will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.
Seeing the Tea Party protests as oligarch theater was the easy part. What we didn't bargain for was how different the American ecosystem is from Russia's: Here, if your reporting causes some serious butt-hurt on powerful interests and they fight back with their PR machine, you can be sure that you will be abandoned by all your journalist "colleagues" and your liberal "comrades." One whiff of gunpowder, and those folks are like peasants melting into the countryside.
Well, law is a bit like a printing press - it’s kind of neutral, you can make it do anything. I mean, what lawyers are taught in law school is chicanery: how to convert words on paper into instruments of power. And depending where the power is, the law will mean different things.
Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.
The Third Notebook, December 4, 1917
The following extract shows how a messaging client's text entry could be arbitrarily restricted to a fixed number of characters, thus forcing any conversation through this medium to be terse and discouraging intelligent discourse.
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I can understand the hesitation of my generation, indeed it is no longer mere hesitation; it is the thousandth forgetting of a dream dreamt a thousand times and forgotten a thousand times; and who can damn us merely for forgetting for the thousandth time?
"Investigations of a Dog"
If you go to a desert, you will hear this mysterious voice: Be wise, protect your forests!
[George Orwell] hardly writes anything about fascism, at all. He hardly writes a single essay saying why you should be against it. He takes it for granted, that when you look down the gun barrel of Hitler and Mussolini and Franco and fascism and nazism, that you don't need to be told what's wrong with it. Here is everything you hate. Here is ever bullying father, every crushed, repressed mother, every sadistic prison warder, every exploiting capitalist, every racist and Jew-baiter, every thug and bully and sadist and exploiter that has ever been all rolled into one, and then refined and double-distilled and then re-done again so you've got the absolutely pure of everything that's hateful. We tend to sneer, or I've heard people sneer, at the use of the word "evil" by politicians. By politicians on should usually suspect the use of this word. But it's not possible, if you want to write morally, or you want to write critically, or you want to write historically, it's not possible to do without this word.
My carrier pigeon just arrived with some TCP/IP/pigeon protocol packets, and I see I've caused someone's head to explode on the Internet.
It’s im­por­tant for us to crit­i­cize tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies. And it’s not hard, be­cause they’re full of shit.
Whenever I am in a place where you have to wait a lot, like at a bus station, nearly everyone is swiping at their phone.

They all look like crack addicts scratching for rocks in an alleyway.
Thomas Jefferson, the leading Enlightenment figure in the United States, along with Benjamin Franklin, who took exactly the same view, argued that dependence will lead to "subservience and venality", and will "suffocate[s] the germs of virtue". And remember, by dependence he meant wage labor, which was considered an abomination under classical liberal principles. There's a modern perversion of conservatism and libertarianism, which has changed the meanings of words, pretty much the way Orwell discussed. So nowadays, dependence refers to something else. When you listen to what's going in Congress, and people talk about dependence, what they mean by dependence is public support for hungry children, not wage labor. Dependence is support for hungry children and mothers who are caring for them.

[..]

We see this very dramatically right at this moment in Congress, under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, who quite demonstrably is the leading welfare freak in the country. He is the most avid advocate of welfare in the country, except he wants it to go to the rich. His own district in Cobb County Georgia gets more federal subsidies than any suburban county in the country, outside of the federal system itself... And it's supposed to continue, because this kind of welfare dependency is good. Dependent children, that's bad. But dependent executives, that's good. You gotta make sure they keep feeding at the public trough.

[..]

the nation is not an entity, it's divided into economic classes, and the architects of policy are those who have the economic power. In his days, he said, the merchants and manufacturers of England, who make sure that their interests are "most peculiarly attended to", like Gingrich. Whatever the effect on others, including the people of England. To Adam Smith, that was a truism. To James Madison, that was a truism. Nowadays, you're supposed to recoil in horror and call it vulgar Marxism or something, meaning that Adam Smith and James Madison must have been disciples of Marx. And if you believe the rest of the story, you might as well believe that. But those are facts which you can easily discover if you bothered reading the sacred texts, that you're supposed to worship, but not read.
talk titled "Education and Democracy" at Michigan State University, March 28, 1995
Utilitarianism aspires to be a benign philosophy but its proponents tend to overestimate their capacity for foresight and moral reasoning and end up creating deeply inhumane systems which are arguably worse than the problems they set out to solve.
But cast away the thirst after books, that thou mayest not die murmuring, but cheerfully, truly, and from thy heart thankful to the gods.

Remember how long thou hast been putting off these things, and how often thou hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet dost not use it. Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art a part, and of what administrator of the universe thy existence is an efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for thee, which if thou dost not use for clearing away the clouds from thy mind, it will go and thou wilt go, and it will never return.
The last few evenings I've coded a CMS so I can write some coding articles when the fancy strikes me.
If you think for a second that detention of associates of political enemies matters to an electorate far more interested in the minutiae of Kanye West's baby, you're living in a fairy land of your own making.
Thanks, but I'll stay with Email 1.0 for as long as I can. It is one of the last remaining corners of the internet that is not infested with all the human-hostile behaviors you call "features".

Centralized walled garden, bound to fail, or worse, acquired by some super-evil corp at any moment ("our wonderful journey"), packed with emojis, real-time information on who is looking at what worse than the Stasi and loss of control of your timeline is what EVERYONE ELSE ALREADY PEDDLES. These things are part of the problem, not part of the solution. For fuck's sake, leave email alone.
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.