Occupy Long-term Thinking

...we can't afford to simply indulge the passion of our differences. Not anymore.

- Lawrence Lessig

I was planning on writing a well thought out post about the Occupy movement, American polarization, and the necessity of thinking long term. Instead, I've been drinking wine with my wife and refreshing Twitter to see what's happening in Oakland. So here's what I've decided to pound out.
I like the passion of the Occupy movement. The majority of its participants stand much closer to my cultural comfort zone than do Tea Partiers. So I root for the political engagement that Occupy is stimulating. Unfortunately, I also recognize that passion is almost inevitably short-sighted. At least one  major supporter of the Occupy movement is proving as much through a conversation with Lawrence Lessig.

In Something More Than Polarization, Lessig reviews an online conversation he's been drawn into with David Zirin of The Nation. The whole conversation is worth a read, but my summary is this: Zirin thinks that the Tea Party is the enemy and can not be engaged while Lessig asserts that all Americans should come together to demand political reforms that will free our government to listen to the People.

Ok, I just deleted a paragraph of ranting. It concerned my abhorrence of solidarity built on a foundation of Us v Them talk (no, I was not referring to the Tea Party). Anyway, I recommend the article. That is all.

Where Do Ideas Have Sex?

Chance favors the connected mind
- Steven Johnson
I just watched a Steven Johnson TED talk about ideas. He's recently written a book titled, Where Good Ideas Come From. I haven't read it yet. And no, I won't once again recommend a book I haven't finished. I will recommend Johnson's talk itself, but his point of view is simply a catalyst for this post, not the main topic.

 I want my ideas to have sex. That's what I took from the talk. Specifically, I want my ideas to have crazy unprotected sex that leads to unexpected bundles of joy. Don't blame me for the metaphor, Johnson attributes it to Matt Ridley. In his presentation, Johnson brings up the coffeehouse as a "conjugal bed" for ideas. At least, it was that in 18th century England. At that time the coffeehouse was the perfect mix of stimulants and stimulating conversations.  Great ideas were born as people from various walks of life intermingled.

I'm not positive I have a coffeehouse. Not in that sense. My frequent visits to actual coffeehouses are solitary episodes. I do good work. I'm creative. But San Diego cafes are not built for mingling. I don't blame them for this, American society isn't really built for mingling either. Even at San Diego Red Cross headquarters, where I am privileged to serve with some very talented and creative people, the environment doesn't favor serendipitous idea-liaisons. Sometimes good things come out of meetings but, in general, meeting agendas don't promote the free atmosphere necessary for truly innovative thinking.

I want to find an idea brothel. Or found an idea brothel. I'm betting that my dealings on the internet will facilitate this goal, but I'm still looking for the right collaborative environments. Presently, I'm really good at sifting interesting tidbits out of the info-dump that is the web. Info-curation is an important modern skill, but it's not a substitute for collaboration. I'm lucky to have a large social network of smart, willing-to-chat-it-up people, but our worlds are so closely related that chances for out of the box input are reduced. The Trustocracy blog/twitter feed is partly an attempt to tap into a network of individuals that I don't know personally (yet). I'm also trying to use Google+ in a collaborative way. I've been playing around with Hangouts and such. G+ is definitely more useful to me than Facebook ever was, but that isn't saying much.

So that's that. I'm not ending this anywhere because I haven't ended my search for an idea brothel. Idea brothel, I'm going to drop that into a few conversations just to see the looks on people's faces. If anyone would like to recommend a modern equivalent of the 18th century coffeehouse, by all means comment. Or tweet it with #ideabrothel so I can laugh out loud when I see it.



To make my Friday fun, I made a t-shirt. 30th Street is my favorite strip of pavement in San Diego, mainly because it hosts some of the best pubs in the world. Toronado, Hamilton's, The Ritual, The Station...there are a lot. I get some of my best thinking done on 30th, at least during the first few hours I'm there.

I'm off to practice the politics of the public house. I hope you all have an amazing weekend.

Daily Stoic Ritual

Every morning for the last month I've begun the day with these words from Marcus Aurelius.

Today I will be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness--all of them due to the offender's ignorance of what is good and what is evil.

I came to modern Stoicism a few months ago, through the book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. In it, author William Irvine makes a strong case that stoicism has much to offer the modern world. I don't believe the practice is for everyone. It fits best in an analytical mind and, in my opinion, particularly benefits those who have a touch of social anxiety. Stoicism is concerned with the internal and dismisses the external. Its central message may have best been described by Descartes, who must have cribbed heavily from the Stoic masters.

Always to seek to conquer myself rather than fortune, to change my desires rather than the established order, and generally believe that nothing except our thoughts is wholly under our control, so that after we have done our best in external matters, what remains to be done is absolutely impossible, at least as far as we are concerned.

I remember reading that quote over a decade ago and being upset by the phrase, to change my desires rather than the established order. At the time I could only imagine the worst forms of passivity deriving from such a creed. That is no longer a fear of mine. Stoics were passionate, world-changing types. When you are free from anxiety about the external world you are free to live out the world you want.

I've been reading the Stoic essentials, mainly The Enchiridion and Meditations. I've enjoyed arguing with Epictetus, Aurelius, and Seneca. I've been looking for fellow stoics. I'm noticing that stoic teachings spring up a lot on the web. Unfortunately, stoicism tends to be one ingredient in most peoples' larger philosophy of life. I have found few people who use it as the core of their value system. No matter, stoicism delivers for me.

I'll be posting about stoicism from time to time. I feel a bit duty-bound to share. There's just so little out there. I'd love to engage in dialogue concerning the practice. I'm on G+, Twitter and, of course, this very site. Also, if anyone knows the secret stoic handshake, teach it to me please.


Bruce Sterling on Wikileaks

Wikileaks is a manifestation of something that has been growing all around us, for decades, with volcanic inexorability.

-Bruce Sterling

 Bruce Sterling's December 22nd commentary on Wikileaks is gold. I've read about twenty of the hundreds of editorials covering Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Cablegate and the rest; only Bruce has found the proper vantage point from which to describe the chaos. Unlike the pundits, Sterling has the benefit of a historical perspective. He knows hackers, he has chronicled the rise of cyberculture (helped birth the unfortunate trend of affixing "cyber" on anything new and tech related, actually) and he understands what Wikileaks represents. Bruce's perspective allows him to relate to Assange and pity his plight. Conversely, Sterling's maturity, and perhaps a bit of aged based conservatism, allows him to simultaneously groan for the State as it attempts to adapt to the the emerging world.

This knotty situation is not gonna “blow over,” because it’s been building since 1993 and maybe even 1947. “Transparency” and “discretion” are virtues, but they are virtues that clash. The international order and the global Internet are not best pals. They never were, and now that's obvious.

The data held by states is gonna get easier to steal, not harder to steal; the Chinese are all over Indian computers, the Indians are all over Pakistani computers, and the Russian cybermafia is brazenly hosting wikileaks.info because that’s where the underground goes to the mattresses. It is a godawful mess. This is gonna get worse before it gets better, and it’s gonna get worse for a long time. Like leaks in a house where the pipes froze.

Sterling isn't picking sides, he's offering perspective. In the end, I think we all have to agree. It is truly a godawful mess.

Time is On My Side

An A-filled semester is over and I have time to think my own thoughts. I'm hoping that this winter will get me in the habit of posting. Unfortunately the only habits that I tend to form are vices. If I can figure out a way to make this project unhealthy, it should thrive...no matter how contradictory that sounds.

Well, I was mainly posting so that the next bit won't have an "I'm back" note spoiling the theme. However, I would like to point out the availability of the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2025 report. I have yet to finish it, but so far it is enjoyable. If reading projections about the future of world power interests you, then be sure to check it out.

By Way of Introduction

Trustocracy covers the amorphous, but more and more recognizable, zone where politics, economics and social technologies converge. I don’t believe that’s my mission statement. I’d like to give this site some time to gel before I lay out something so very formal. In any case, my projects tend towards the eclectic. I expect the items I post and ideas I develop will often seem disjointed. However, I do hope that at least two things will be apparent from Trustocracy’s content. First, that modern technology is creating spaces and means whereby individuals can pool their power and effect real change. And second, that I am overwhelmingly excited about the possibilities.

Thank you for checking in. I’d love for this to be a conversation. Let me know what I'm missing out on. The internet is a vast place and the view I have of it is much to small.