Anxiety & Creativity

Friday, May 4th 2012

He thought that grandiosity was heroic. A heroic response to the essential pointlessness of existence.

He died of a heroin overdose in 2010. Which is pretty much according to script.

Apparently Sebastian Horsley had a tough upbringing. I wonder if all his hyperacuity, artistry, beautiful writing, outrageous hats, amusing philosophy, pithy way with words, etc, was the product of something as simple (or complex?) as a tough childhood?

Sometimes the simplest explanation is also the most vexing one. Because it usually doesn't actually tell you much once you look past the initial satisfaction of its simplicity.

Walter Isaacson, writing about Steve Jobs:

Most people have a regulator between their mind and their mouth that modulates their brutish sentiments and spikiest impulses. Not jobs. He made a point of being brutally honest. "My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it," he said. This made him charismatic and inspiring, yet also, to the use the technical term, an asshole at times.

Andy Herzfeld once told me, "The one question I'd truly love Steve to answer is, 'Why are you sometimes so mean?' "

Jobs just said it was who he was. And that was it. Isaacson expands further:

When he hurt people, it was not because he was lacking in emotional awareness. Quite the contrary: He could size people up, understand their inner thoughts, and know how to relate to them, cajole them, or hurt them at will.

(Steve Jobs Biography, p. 564)

Did Jobs behave so cruelly at times because he was adopted? Is that it? Were all the attempts at control of products, people, of the world, the product of a need to avoid being abandoned? To abandon before he was abandoned?

Okay, that's trite, too. Shallow and ill informed. I know about as much as bout these two blokes as I know about electrical engineering!

But it raises a perennial idea.

People who crave success, or produce art, or otherwise have an overwhelming urge to do something, are are often inspired to do so by a peculiar state of anxiousness - fear of being adandoned, trying to please long dead parents, and so on, etc, blah, dressed up as a fear running out of inspiration. The thing many creative people secretly fear most is losing that anxiety, which they confused for inspiration. But, really, all it does is gradually rob them of vitality.

Cynicism

Thursday, May 3rd 2012

Cynicism is nearly always right in the short term and wrong in the long term.

Getting Things Done

Wednesday, May 2nd 2012

How many ideas are truly your own? Most are composites of other peoples' ideas. If ideas become private property, the logical extension of that is that your personality is just licensed to you.

Food Table Decisions

Tuesday, May 1st 2012

There is a problem with tying survival to work.

I'm not saying there isn't a link. Of course there is.

Historically it has been an absolute link. The farmer in days of yore grew the crops he ate. If he didn't work he starved.

Hence the classic phrase:

I have to put food on the table.

But there is a problem with that link.

As the system of production and distribution becomes more sophisticated and abstract, the link between work and the food on the table becomes increasingly circuitous. Through the fungibility of money, the direct link between what you do and what you get is broken.

Once production is undertaken by machines, a great deal of porduction occurs without human intervention. Or a great deal less of it.

A great deal of human activity becomes less about working to produce things, and more about deciding what to do with the things machines produce.

A bureaucracy evolves around that decision-making process.

But the notion of "gotta put food on the table" remains as a moral, atavistic and philosophical imperative.

Despite the enormous benefit of increasing automation, the atavistic stress of putting "food on the table" - raw survival - remains part of peoples' mentality.

It makes much of what people do all day an inherently risk-averse activity. Who wants to risk depriving their nearest and dearest of food! The righteous indignation of those who subscribe to the work ethic is filled with fear.

But there is nothing particularly clever about linking survival and decision making when you don't have to.

Compelling people to do things usually takes two forms. The direct form - "do it or I'll hurt you!". Or the indirect form - "do it or find a new job". All these are food-table decisions.

People make better decisions when only their discretionary spending is at stake. They take risks. They feel like they can afford to help others. They stop doing things they think are stupid.

They stop being stupid for a pay cheque.

The same applies to businesses.

Basic income, for instance, is like health insurance for businesses.

If you're sacking a person you're just telling them : "you lose your self-worth and discretionary income"

Not: "You lose everything"

Same with universal health care.

Businesses shouldn't have to worry about people's health or their employee's basic financial needs being met.

Citizens shouldn't have to worry about food on the table.

People, and conglomerations of people operating as businesses would operate much more rationally under those circumstances.

(Thanks to Emlyn for inspiring this one)

Well that Was a Weird Civilisation Wasn't it!

Monday, April 30th 2012

What our civilisation will look like when we're an ancient culture:

Weird

More

The Island Problem and the You Get Paid What You're Worth Canard

Saturday, April 28th 2012

Imagine you are stranded on a desert island. It's just you, some palm trees, and not much else. There are some plants that you can eat. You can go fishing.

But that's about it.

You have to do everything. Gather firewood, repair the hut, make fishing rods, make a log raft to fish from ...

... you get the idea.

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