Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

“The Phites who’d invented the boost had had one big advantage as they’d tinkered with each other’s brains: it had not been a purely theoretical exercise for them. They hadn’t gazed at anatomical diagrams and then reasoned their way to a better design. They had experienced the effects of thousands of small experimental changes, and the results had shaped their intuition for the process. Very little of that intuition had been spoken aloud, let alone written down and formalised. And the process of decoding those insights from a purely structural view of their brains was every bit as difficult as decoding the language itself.”

—Greg Egan, “Crystal Nights.”

Struck me as an interesting example of how lived experience cannot be reduced to language and abstraction.

The Limits of Growth

“Whether we find ourselves amidst the vast terrain of the commercial internet; in our libraries, archives and museums; or between the parks, public housing facilities and utility infrastructures of our cities, thinking beyond growth as an end in itself requires attending to maintenance and care: who deserves it, who performs it, and to what end. This new world is one that we can choose to build deliberately and in incremental steps—at a Triennale or a brainstorm at a conference–or it could be forced upon us, necessitating triage and reactionary care. We should start planning for the former.”

—Shannon Mattern, “Minimal Maintenance.” Lapsus Lima. October 2, 2019.

Words We Don’t Have

“Language and culture are inextricably linked. The words that exist (or that we make) form our language, and hence, are definitive of our culture. This place explores words that are unique to dialects or non-English languages, with an aim to examine what these words might illuminate about their cultures (and ours).”

WordsWeDontHave.com

Champagne Taste, Kool-Aid Money

“…all who want to get rich manage to do so. That scandalizes people who have dreamed of having money, and who do not have any. They looked at the mountain; but it just waited for them. Money, like every other advantage, demands fidelity above all else. Many people imagine that they want money simply because they must. But money eludes thoses who pursue it simply out of need. People who have made their fortune have done so by striving to dominate something.”

—Emile-Auguste Chartier, “The Ambitious,” in Alain on Happiness. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

The Bible puts in more succinctly:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

—Matthew 6:24

And there is the classic Reddit post, regarding winning the lottery. Long story short, winning the lottery will also significantly increase your chances of being a victim of homicide (particularly by a family member), having a drug overdose, going bankrupt, being kidnapped, being convicted of drunk driving, and being a defendant in a civil law suit or in felony criminal proceedings.

All of this suggests that the pursuit of power, fame and money beyond certain minimum thresholds is self-destructive, or at the very least requires hyper-vigilance to the point that it consumes a lot of time and energy. Better to develop Kool-Aid taste and get by with less.