A new country, a bitcoin experiment, and streaming on Twitch
22nd September, Berlin, 18:05, I came across Vice News around 2018 and admired their hardcore and realistic view on difficult issues. They had reporters in war zones around the world and one of them actually got kidnapped in Ukraine. Recently they started long reports on cryptocurrencies. In today’s report I learned that there is a group of people who are trying to claim a disputed island between Croatia and Serbia. They called it a new country and named it Liberland. They have a flag and a constitution. No other country recognises Liberland, yet.
The citizens have interesting ideas; using only cryptocurrencies for every transaction in their new country, making central institutions and parliaments obsolete by voting everything on the blockchain, and the most controversial idea is to have voting power equal to the cryptocurrency the individual holds. You may think that in reality whoever has more money has more influence on the society anyway, and may like to become a citizen of Liberland, but once you destroy a fundamental equality and bake it into the constitution, who can stop the powerful to accumulate more power and abuse the system? I wish it was that easy to solve social problems with technology. But I understand the frustration of the young and their willingness to start from scratch instead of trying to fix the old and complicated systems we have.
The other news was El Salvador’s acceptance of bitcoin as legal tender. It’s more shocking than Liberland because it’s one thing to dream about an ideal society, another to actually force 4 million people to use bitcoin for everything. Well, I guess you can only do it with a dictator on top. A massive social experiment. Some argue, “70 percent of households have no bank account and nearly 90 percent do not use mobile banking. A digital payment platform could be a way to make the economy more inclusive and accessible”. So far, the results aren’t looking good. Last week Fitch had downgraded El Salvador’s credit note.
It’s tough for a small country to be at the mercy of the fluctuations of bitcoin. What if more countries legally accept bitcoin? Would it make bitcoin more stable? Would widespread acceptance make early adopter countries like El Salvador wealthy?
I wonder if mining bitcoin is still profitable. There used to be so much talk of it in 2017. Urban legends like mining farms on top of remote mountains where the cold weather would naturally cool the servers. After a quick search the answer seems to be yes, it’s profitable, but there are many variables; the block rate, the hashrate, the price of hardware, the price of bitcoin, etc. One speculation; “In June 2022, the bitcoin hash rate fell to 5.4% when the price of Bitcoin fell below $25,000. The price of graphics processors, which provide computing power, fell by an average of 15% in May, indicating miners are offloading their chips on the secondary market.”
There seems to be another concept in the horizon of the blockchain world. Instead of miners competing to solve the puzzle of the next bitcoin, the nodes in the network would cooperate. They call it Proof-Of-Cooperation. I like the idea of optimising the energy usage, as Ethereum recently switched to Proof-Of-Stake in last week’s big merge, but the trustworthiness of the cooperative nodes is yet to be seen.
So many exciting new technologies are emerging. It’s truly fascinating to watch. I know it’s been around for a long time now, but for me Twitch is one of those thrilling technologies. In 2019, I used to watch Critical Role on Twitch, just because I couldn’t wait until Monday night when I could watch their new episode on Friday night or on the weekend. But I was never interested in other streamers or engaged in chat. It was a strict video access situation for me.
Two weeks ago, I was thinking of a young character for my story, I decided to visit Twitch and find a streamer who is similar to my fictional character and observe a real person for rich inspiration. In the end, I found myself talking to young people on one of the streams and realised that there were so many stories unfolding on this platform. We were a bunch of people from different parts of the world, at different ages, gathered around to just chat, just like people used to do at a village square when none of these technologies were around, sharing our experiences and connecting.
Then came a young guy with a heartache. Probably after seeing us gathered and talking cheerfully. He asked for help, he asked advice for his recent break up with the love of his life. He said, maybe in his second sentence, that he was contemplating suicide. I thought, “Wow! What a heavy responsibility to lay on a total stranger’s shoulders.”. My mind started racing to find approaches to shake his state of downward spiral. Luckily, with our age difference giving weight to my words and with the help of everyone in the chat, we managed to ease his pain and distract him with a better match out there somewhere. But the drama and the possibility of finding great stories to tell stayed with me.
Here I am continuing my exploration of Twitch by streaming myself, trying the perspective of the creator rather than the contributor or consumer. I must say, from this vantage point, things look even more interesting. The mindset of the performer, the race to please and attract followers, and the cold indicators of the dashboard stats that reduce your audiences to averages and achievements.
And I’m trying to imagine how young people must be feeling today, in the midst of all these powerful technologies. How do they even navigate this maelstrom of activity and noise? For example, as a shy kid, I would never be able to open up myself and my life on a channel like this, so publicly, where anyone can come and throw curveballs at you at any moment. You have to have a thick skin. Before you can read and ban a stranger’s message on your chat, your confidence can be shattered by evil intent. Ridicule is a most potent weapon.
Kickstarting a new channel is a tricky business too. Let’s say you’re a fifteen year old person, willing to go live and talk to strangers or play a game or showcase your skills or whatever you decide to present to the world. It’s been made extremely easy, almost frictionless to set up a streaming station with a professional looking layout and some music. But, when you press that button to go live for the first time, you’ll face a powerful silence and a harrowing emptiness. Except for your friends nobody will know you are on the stage to welcome and entertain them with all your heart and soul.
Then, out of an infinitely diverse selection of contents, if the viewers choose to stop by your stream and leave without saying a word, you’ll wonder what just happened by devouring, obsessing over every single statistic at your disposal, but you’ll never have the full understanding of your narrative. At the same time, you’ll see a guy or a girl the same age as you, earning hundreds of dollars in front of your eyes. The worst part is the difference between massive success and complete failure would look so ambiguous that it would be maddening.
How can my young friends handle this confusion and frustration without proper guidance?
Stream recording: https://youtu.be/rqq8JPbcPnM
My writing journey, part 1
20th September, Berlin, 18:20, this has been a wonderful year for my writing journey. It started with a fiction course in the middle of January. It was a remote class with four students from different parts of the world. We read short stories selected by our teacher, had 10 minute writing breaks with prompts, and workshopped each other’s pieces on the fifth week.
My first story of the year that I shared with others and got feedback on was a story of a boy who discovers tattooing in prehistoric times after being influenced by the paintings inside the caves. At the time I was pondering about the cave of the hands where people thousands years ago painted their hands all over the walls in a gesture of “we’ve been here”. I outlined the story thinking that his older brother would ask him to tattoo a hand on his chest and the tribesman would think the brother was touched by their deity, a blessed person, and earn a position at the hunt. At the end the hand on the brother’s chest would cost him his life. But I couldn’t finish the piece as I outlined it because while writing the story, the flow of it didn’t want to follow where I’d like to take it. So, I struggled to keep it together and tried to end the story at an interesting point.
I failed in many aspects and those failures became precious lessons. Selection of the present tense, the reader knowing the thoughts of the characters, and most importantly not following the initial plan when the story calls for a different direction. My classmates and my teacher were honest and gentle. Also reading the works of other writers who were more advanced than me and trying to analyse the decisions they made and be able to ask direct questions to them real time helped me connect the dots. For example, the power of repetition, usage of parallel metaphors and imagery to reinforce the emphasis, and the subtle issue of writer’s voice were slowly getting clearer.
Because I thought the course was a success, I decided to take another one right after it by the same teacher. This time it was a flash fiction course and was held in our teacher’s house. In between the courses we had a two week vacation to Italy where we saw a million masterpieces. Influenced by them I started reading Paradise Lost and summarily blown away by Milton’s incredible imagery of Heaven and Hell. That’s why my second story of the year was about Satan sneaking into Paradise and having a different plan than the biblical one. I made the class laugh but I couldn’t achieve much depth or find a good ending.
For the next six weeks, everyone wrote a fresh piece of flash fiction, max 900 words, and we discussed those six to seven pieces every week, giving each other constructive feedback. So, at the end of the course I had seven stories. It was hard to come up with a new idea every week and develop it and also read classmate’s stories to prepare for the gathering. It was a fast paced course but the deadlines definitely worked for me.
The war between Russia and Ukraine was at its early stages by the third week and I was obsessed with the news, watching everything and anything about the unfolding chaos, even the most gruesome details. I was mentally in the warzone which led me to my third story about children that fell through the cracks of society, scavenging destroyed buildings, carrying guns. This time the cold, almost numbed emotion of my main character and the brutal environment I pictured in my story got praised by my teacher. Although the ending was still off. When my class pointed out to me that the vibe completely changed in the last two paragraphs, I saw my mistake. I thought without action the story wouldn’t make sense, but now I know that silence or inaction or lack of things can be as loud and powerful.
Then came a story related to climate change called “The Tide”, referring to the millions that would need to migrate due to weather catastrophes. I was starting to grow a taste for the most difficult, the most chaotic concepts, like war, disaster, death. So, I decided to develop an idea that was ricocheting in my mind for a long time; a dying man’s last moments. “He could see the bullet in the gun’s barrel, whirling towards him.” is the beginning. The class liked it and my teacher told me of a story in exact structure, published in the New Yorker, called “Bullet in the Brain”. Of course when compared to the published story mine feels like stick men drawing next to a Picasso. Still, I feel I was making some progress. The ending felt right and thought provoking.
The next week, my mind was dry. Actually I had a funny idea around our habit of closure, our need to find a narrative between the given information, even when they are as distant as possible. I used the voice of an impresario addressing the reader directly; “If I say “Fire, dance, shaman” you couldn’t help but see a group of men dancing in a trance around a bonfire with a shaman performing a ritual under the stars, maybe putting paint on their faces with his thumb, and I bet you can even hear the drumbeat.”. I wanted to find interesting triplets and entertain, but a week was too short to find enough to fill my quota of 900 words. My fellow writers enjoyed this magic trick more than I expected. They said it was like a puzzle game to find the familiar stories, such as; “Misfortune, pound, flesh”, “Hair, snake, stone”, “Tiger, clock, elephant”.
The last week of the course, I turned to my own memories from Istanbul. Even though I didn’t want to mentally go there, to the chaos of the city that made me feel trapped, made me flee, I knew it was a good source for interesting stories. When I started writing the piece, I immediately saw the huge difference between an imagined fiction and a fictionalised piece of real life; it’s impossible to mimic the richness of life. In the end the story gathered much applause. My big lesson was the moment I had to make up for the missing beats of the memories, I was reluctant and chose to stay true to the past. Now I had an idea of when to tell the truth and when to enrich it with fiction.
Stream recording: https://youtu.be/EwBfzUeo3fQ
Euphoria, calorie control, and DAOs
17th September, Berlin, 15:01, because we are now subscribed to a streaming service to watch House of the Dragon and because we already caught up with the last episode, we decided to check other series and found Euphoria. Zendaya is playing a young drug addict. Her character seems to be extra smart and it seems the society is having trouble handling her. The doctors label her with ADHD and bipolar disorders when she looks perfectly healthy from her point of view. We, as the viewers, don’t know whether she is an unreliable narrator or not. We are also given pictures of other young people and their various teenage problems; questions of self-worth, belonging to a group, drug abuse, porn abuse, bullying, gender confusion. It’s a really heavy show tackling many serious topics. Visually and audibly the show makes us experience the same discomfort and disorientation these young people might be feeling.
For me, the most powerful moment of the first episode was the confrontation in the kitchen in the middle of the house party, where the main bully corners the newcomer and asks whose friend she is. The complete silence of the packed house felt like she was alone, felt like everybody was looking at her, pointing fingers and whispering discontent. The rejection of the society, the ridicule is the most scary notion.
Xella_reads asks: “Are these problems of the youth all there and we just tend to ignore it?”
I believe what the TV show Euphoria is presenting us with is close to reality. It felt painfully true when the main character said, “The world is falling apart and I’m not even graduated from high school”. Climate change, wars, social decay, economical decay, the future doesn’t look good right now. We are seeing more and more protests by young people, led by young activists, who feel cheated out of their future and a pleasant planet to live in. Rue(Zendaya’s character)’s explanation for her drug addiction is that this is her way of dealing with all the problems in her life. But of course addicts would say anything to justify their behaviour.
Thinking of the future, we came across a dystopian idea of calorie control for the whole society, down to the individual level. It’s not hard to imagine a time when the food resources would be scarce and the government regulating every aspect of the food chain. The control would start from the land, with the farmers. There’s already various incentives and subsidies to increase food production. Then it would be the middlemen, the wholesaler. Then the controls would reach the restaurants.
Some real data: In Germany, around 11 million tonnes of food waste are generated every year (as of 2020). The figures do not include other material flows, such as use as animal feed, in the farms’ biogas plants, or losses that occur before and during harvests and slaughter.
Let’s assume we have tightened the supply chain and reduced food waste in farming, in wholesale and retail operations, and in restaurants and away-from-home caterings. The official numbers say 59% of the waste occurs in households. This is where our dystopian story begins; calorie limitation for individuals. What if we were only allowed to purchase 2-2.2k calories worth of food per day? And it would be less for women I suppose, perhaps 1.8-2k. The days when we could happily order a burger for lunch and a pizza for dinner would be gone. Snacking an ice cream or a pack of chips or popcorn at the movies would become a matter of precise calculation and proper planning. There are already apps to track your intake and help you lose weight. But doing it voluntarily vs by necessity are totally different things.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures” – Hippocrates
Also, the calorie numbers may be optimistic. What would stop the government from adjusting the intake limits according to the times? Summer diet, war diet, recession diet, etc.
Personal privacy regarding what we eat, what we buy would be compromised as well. We’d all have a profile the authorities have access to, watching our every move. Think of going to a market and being denied a pack of rice. Or going to a restaurant and your order being rejected due to a daily or weekly restriction. You’d sleep hungry that night.
How would people adapt to this level of control? We’re good at finding loopholes. Blackmarkets of saved up calories, of rare delicacies? Perjury of the calorie indicators on the package? Using dead relative’s accounts to buy more? Desperate times indeed.
Xella_reads suggests: “Maybe we’ll be just provided with the food, no way to choose, no options, except allergies. Everyone will be tested, some kind of check-up.. and based on this testing they’ll develop your diet.. that’s it.”
That’d be a further controlling step than calorie limitations. An even more bleak prospect. Which reminded me of the movie “Soylent Green” where the government produces only one type of food, a green tablet and it’s rationed. They don’t even care if you have allergies. Complete herd mentality. A brutal concept, a terrifying movie.
Some time ago I had an idea around developing a collective constitution through a version control tool. In software development we use a tool called “git” which we use to create changes to the main body of code and request our changes to be reviewed and approved by others. I was fantasising about everybody being literate in version control and knowledgeable of our constitution. Anybody could request changes and additions to the rules that govern us. And every change and word choice would be reviewed by millions of people.
Recently, I realised a similar concept to the collective constitution is being built in the blockchain and it’s called a DAO, a decentralised autonomous organisation. Wiki says that a DAO is “an organisation constructed by rules encoded as a computer program that is often transparent, controlled by the organisation’s members and not influenced by a central government. Governance is conducted through a series of proposals that members vote on through the blockchain, and the possession of more governance tokens often translates to greater voting power.”.
We are at the very early stages of its development and the applications of DAOs are currently limited. Although its transparency and its democratic governance are not favourable to many businesses, they are idealistic and attractive qualities for the society. It reminds me of the discussions around transparent salaries. Most companies keep it a secret and if they make the salaries known to all their employees, many would be upset and demand a raise or leave their jobs. But it would be great for equity.
A transparent business model and having all your data public would make competition difficult, but it would raise the quality of service for the rest of us. We’d probably have to consolidate certain services into a single DAO. It would keep us re-inventing the wheel over and over again. Right now every company is implementing the same or very similar machine learning algorithms to find the buying patterns of their customers, and the same algorithms to offer their products.
Maybe DAOs are the future, maybe we’ll find a middle ground between total transparency and opaqueness. And if we keep the governance model and build our organisations and institutions around an equivalent technology, the code that runs DAOs would become the law that governs our lives. Then indirectly, the changes we propose to the code would be the changes we would introduce to our collective constitution.
Stream recording: https://youtu.be/I6CPInEiKPY
An art exhibition, fear of death, and the house of dragon
15th September, Berlin, 21:29, yesterday we went to an exhibition in the garage of my previous company. The company produces electric scooters and they laid me off almost two years ago because of economic problems created by the pandemic. It was our incompetence to sell scooters really. We had it coming already. It turned out to be a blessing for me. I’m now working for a big company, earning more by doing less.
Everyone at the party was looking smart and extroverted. It was a bit weird to see old friends whom I didn’t keep in touch with. A bit of awkwardness on their part to see a laid off person, especially the HR and the CEO. But the conversations were friendly and warm.
Until the bitterness crawled out of me and I blurted out a name with resentment. I knew I was making a mistake before I did it, yet I couldn’t stop myself from indulging in a minor gossip. The energy in the group didn’t change, but I felt bad afterwards. I regret it. Every time I spoke from a point of anger or grudge or bad intent I regretted every word.
But it happens, we’re human. Like a stain, like a rupture, those words stay in the relationship. You try to repair it as much as you can, but some wounds take forever. And sometimes there’s no way but to leave, to abandon, to start fresh.
I did run after my divorce. I changed my job, changed my house, changed my clothes, changed my language.
Yesterday, when I did make the old mistakes, I felt like I undid the last two year’s progress towards being a more mature man. I felt like running away from the party, running from my old self, running from the environment that brought out the lesser me.
How to run away from your mistakes against your parents? I still regret all the times I scared my mother or the vile words I spoke when I was a spoiled kid.
The other interesting thing that happened in the party was the word got out that I’m now a writer, or writing, wanting to write a book. There is a powerful motivation in openly committing to a goal. I feel the pressure cranked up a notch.
What was the last time I was scared of dying?
A few months ago, I woke up feeling sick, feeling terrible. I was ok going to bed, so this sudden drop in health sent me into a panic with a sequence of thoughts passing through my mind in the blink of an eye; Was I covid? But I had a vaccination. If that’s the case, will I be able to survive it? I remembered in a flash all the bad news about how unpredictable the recovery is, how the young are now being affected, etc. Right or wrong, my mind compiled a calamity report in the face of the unknown and presented it to me and sent me spinning.
I weighed the possibility of dying. It’s such a heavy reality. It’s impossible to reconcile. So, in my panic and in the belief of my impending doom, I reached for my girlfriend sleeping like a baby next to me. I must’ve looked like an unreasonable old man, crying for help. In that frenetic moment I knew I was unreasonable but I couldn’t shake the fear. I also knew this was a precious moment, an insight into the millions of people struggled and struggling with the sickness, waking up to a mortal fear and waiting for the final judgement. This must’ve been the exact feeling of a soldier cornered in a broken building, waiting for the bomb to drop and the dice to be rolled.
Talking about death… we started watching House of the Dragon and already finished four episodes. It starts in King’s Landing, in halls and gardens we know from the original series. The council members resemble the characters we are familiar with but slightly different. After all they are the great great grandfathers and grandmothers of the people of the long winter we watched. If you watched all the eight seasons, you’ll be hard to surprise in the complicated chess game of R.R.Martins’, but here we are again, the board is being set up, the pieces are slowly presented, the pieces that would be destroyed in some glorious fashion. After four episodes my favourite is by far Daemon, a great villain, the only unpredictable one, and I can’t wait for him to be eliminated. Because if there is one thing I learned from the Game of Thrones, that is the certain death of the characters we root for.
Writing prompt: A mysterious recurring event
13th September, Berlin, 19:13, today I’d like to do some writing prompts.
Prompt: Write about a recurring event: strange, sad, cryptic, or mysterious.
I woke up at 4:15. There have been many times I woke up at my parent’s house, my teenage bed, because of an earthquake. When your bed is shaking you go from a dreamland to a hyper functioning human being in less than a second. This time it wasn’t an earthquake. I listened for a possible sound that may have woke me up, but it was perfectly quiet. I noted the time and went back to sleep.
I had an idea in those days. I believed in that idea and was working my ass off to make it real. A website about the stock market. With all my money I bought 15-minute-delayed data and started building a site where people would dig into the market with the amazing tools I created, then talk about their findings, socialise, share, all the shenanigans you find in any stock market related website today. This was ten years ago.
I was working day and night, doing everything by myself. After seven months I started to find comments in the code saying “you’ll probably forget that you already built this feature, and will try to fix it by thinking it’s a bug, but it is not..”. I was talking to myself but not out loud. It started to feel like crossing the desert. The data was as plenty as the sands and multiplying fast.
Then it happened again. 4:15. This time my father was in the bathroom. Maybe that was him the first time. I’d know the reason next time I thought and fell asleep. But it kept happening again and again without a seeming reason. I came up with all sorts of hypotheses and each got shut down the next time. Was it food? Was it overworking? Was it dehydration? None of the excuses held up and I kept waking up at 4:15.
I started to think that it was my subconsciousness, trying to tell me something, not letting me go until I get it, act on it. I kept a notepad and a pen ready next to my bed and tried to record my dreams, whatever I could remember, to see if I could piece together a message. Some days I was flying, some days running from tigers, some mundane, jumbled dialogs, transition from one place to another as easy as walking to the next room, people changing faces from an uncle to a friend, and my favourite, finding rooms in my parent’s house where I didn’t notice they were there before. I couldn’t find the main narrative however hard I tried.
Over time, because of a cleaning schedule, because of a happy news, a sad mom entering into my study to share her burdens, an excited dad who wants to watch a football match together, because of an unproductive evening due to food coma, and mostly because of my burning desire to finish the minimum viable damn product and have people use the site I’ve been building forever, my working hours shifted slowly towards the night. First 2, then 3, then 4. At 4:15, I was filled with a foreboding that turned my insides out. It was an ever so subtle feeling and barely perceptible, but experiencing it day after day was like that drip of the broken tap, growing louder and louder. What was I missing? Was I sick? Was something coming? The dread was unbearable.
Then I burned out. The constant grind, living with my parents as a grown man for too long, and this sourceless nudge, this ghostly anxiety, broke me.
I learned many lessons in those days. The value of a business partner was one. I learned what “runway” means for a startup. I learned not to get angry at the smallest words of my mom. I learned to appreciate the cosy silence of my parent’s living room while all of us read our books. I learned the important relationship between salt and water and sleep. And many years later, while visiting my parents, I learned that a very old garbage truck that had a heavy engine to climb the hills of my hometown, was the cause of that deep, silent vibration which was waking me up at 4:15.
Prompt for the next time: Make a list of your favourite words or phrases, magic words, ones that have power for you. Use the one that most calls out to you in the moment as your title, then begin to write.
Mobility, future tech, and an artificial nose
11th September, Berlin, 2:24pm, today I’d like to write down some of the thoughts circling in my head for a while. Let’s see if I can bring them together in a meaningful narrative.
I’ve been reading the book “Move” by Parag Khanna which talks about mobility in general and why it’s our destiny. He argues that “there are countries with 300 million ageing people and decaying infrastructure while roughly 2 billion young people are sitting idle in Latin America and the Middle East, and Asia. We have countless hectares of arable farmland across depopulated Canada and Russia, while millions of African farmers are driven from their lands by drought. There are countries with sterling political systems yet few citizens, but also hundreds of millions suffering under despotic regimes or living in refugee camps.”. His arguments resonate with me as a person who moved from Turkey to Germany. The book is full of data about the current state of almost all countries and regions. Who is ready to receive immigrants, who has fresh water sources, who would suffer most when water levels rise, temperatures rise, etc. But what intrigued me most is the idea of a streamlined passport system which would help us move easier, carrying our data across borders, reducing the burden of paperwork, and help us keep our rights wherever we go. As a software engineer this idea makes me wonder how to solve this technical problem. Our personal data is already there, we willingly record and log everything. The problem is the integration between countries. The problem is the willingness of countries to share the data with each other. It’s an issue of security and trust. Every country has a bit of information about the individual, a piece of the puzzle. No one would agree to centralise this valuable information in a single country’s borders. So, the data will stay decentralised. The integrations between countries has to be uniform? Can it be an open source code? It would make it a big target for hackers. We actually have a technology that can cross borders; blockchain. Can we use Ethereum to build a global password system? So, this is the first idea that’s been running in my mind.
Second idea is about the recent news of the iPhone 14 which has a satellite connection now. SpaceX and StarLink have been working on a satellite constellation to build a network in orbit, to achieve internet connection anywhere around the world. Apple seems to be slowly tapping into that idea.
The third idea is about quantum computers. They are already available in cloud providers like AWS or Google, but the usage is so far limited. I have no doubt that we’ll figure out how to utilise them and will soon break the internet. We’ll have to rethink all the security protocols.
We can throw the metaverse in the mix too. There are so many branches of technological development going on that it’s dizzying to watch and speculate.
Here is my speculation; a satellite constellation of quantum computers that runs the blockchain which has the global passport and metaverse is built on. Since quantum computers require a very cold environment to operate, space is the best place to run them. And they won’t be easily reachable by any country, adding another layer of security to the overall system. I forgot to mention the DAOs which are at the core of this concept. Basically, they are systems where “code is law”. You can only change the code by voting in a democratic way. There is nothing stopping us building all our infrastructure in the manner of a DAO.
This leads me to another thought experiment. A dystopian world, a Black Mirror episode. Imagine everything we do is logged at all times and is public information. What we ate, how many times we went to the bathroom, what we talked about in our bedroom, where we looked, everything. Consent is implicitly given during birth and is irrevocable. It’s hard to imagine right now, but it’s no different than the state of nature, or where everybody would be naked and wouldn’t know that it’s a shame. Perfect openness, nothing is hidden. If there would be chips in our brains, even our thoughts can be logged too. The upside is we wouldn’t spend much time finding unwanted behaviour, finding criminals, solving disputes, detecting illnesses, thus preventing pandemics. By using the tremendous amount of data, we can detect even the most subtle patterns in the populace. We can measure the progress or the decay in any society. The downside is if you make a mistake, perhaps as a child, or are born with a defect, born with an illness, or involved in an accident that would leave you disabled, then it’s public knowledge too. Will we be mature enough to be able to accept those differences? Or will we have prejudice? Will the civilisation divide into perfects and imperfects?
A story idea based on the fully transparent society; a guy with a very mild autism, working as a chaos engineer, gets a call from a crime syndicate which is located in the Sahel desert. They say we’ve been watching your data and we realised that you have a tendency for crime and your skillset is a perfect match for our organisation. Come join us, you’ll live a life of anonymity and endless adventure. I guess it would be the same promises every crime organisation uses to lure recruits today. The difference would be security forces would call him immediately and would try to stop him from converting. They would say look here is the number of people they reach out to every year, here are the number of people who joined them, very few, how short is the life expectancy of those joiners, etc. They would add how those criminal tendencies wouldn’t matter until he does something wrong, and how valuable he is to the true society. The criminal syndicate would call right after the security forces, because they would’ve access to the public information about him and would know every word that was uttered in that call. Syndicate would reject the arguments by saying the security forces cannot approach a thousand miles to Sahel without the syndicate knowing it. And tell him that he is given his current job, as far away from Sahel as possible, because the true society already detected his tendency for crime, and he already hit the ceiling in his career. I guess these calls would continue back and forth a few times more, while the character and the readers would swing between the decision to stay in the grid vs leaving it without an option to come back.
I’ve been thinking about metaverse and the VR headsets and I thought it manipulates us visually and with sounds, but the sense of smell is missing from a deeper immersion. How different our lives would be if there was a device that can reproduce the smells of nature? It would be missing without a device that can capture the smells in nature; an artificial nose. Then if these devices can be installed in a mobile phone, we would have a smellgram. Like the camera, we would go around capturing every smell around us; roses, mouth watering food smells, rainy day earth smell, various perfumes, bodily smells too. We would need filters for foul smell. We would catalogue the smell of every flower, every tree, every spice, every fruit. Parents would post the smell of their children. New car owners would post that fresh interior smell. Match making apps would use the bodily odours in their algorithms. Algorithms can detect illnesses. And there would be unique smells, like a festival, would include the smell of the crowd, or your childhood blanket which can take you to your past in a single whiff. We can use the perfumes directly from the phone, replacing the bottle, and pay per usage. Mass protests could involve spraying bad smells on a busy square, making the place unusable for a while. Art exhibitions would enhance each piece with a companion smell. There would be health issues related to too much smelling, just like spending too much time on social media today. Temporarily losing our sense of smell? Becoming addicted to certain smells? After a while we’ll have interesting statistics of which country uses which spice in their food, what kind of flavour they prefer in their soap, in their perfume, or who prefers natural body odour, etc.
Stream Recording: https://youtu.be/OS7E83Q0SiI
A revelation, a drama next door, and a disturbing movie
10th September, Berlin, 6:09pm, it’s been an active week. Wednesday it was the literature event with Jamaica Kincaid. Thursday it was opera Carmen. And Friday it was watching the concert of Poets of The Fall at Columbia Theatre. We had a good elevated position during the concert, no tall people obstructing our view. And for the first time in my life I could clearly see what’s going on on the stage. I could see each band member’s energy levels, their attitudes towards the event, how they are interacting and moving into each other’s space, how the keyboard player and the drummer were too far in the shadows of the stage, etc. I was experiencing a clarity I never had before. I was seeing dust particles hanging in the air, strings of light being reflected from the metallic ears of the bass guitar, and every little gesture of the lead singer. After a while I was surprised by my own power of perception. How come everything was so crystal clear? What was going on? Then I realised that it was the ear plugs! I’ve been to countless concerts. I’ve watched Elton John, Katy Perry, Linkin Park, Metallica, Ricky Martin (I know it’s a wild range) but I’ve never known that I needed ear plugs to enjoy a performance. I guess the loud sounds were overwhelming all the other senses and I was just tolerating all this time. The body never ceases to amaze me. And I keep surprising myself with my lack of self awareness.
Last session we had a wholesome conversation with Tanatsuko. Towards the end of the stream they shared a good story that happened to them. Their screaming and fighting neighbours, Tanatsuko calling the police, then the woman who’s being beaten by her boyfriend unwilling to testify, and Tanatsuko losing their peace of mind and deciding to live with their parents for a while. The first striking element of this story is the victim not testifying to the police and not protecting herself. Why! On a small level I can understand continuing an uncomfortable relationship, but the moment violence is introduced she should’ve been out of the house. Doesn’t she have anywhere else to go? Was she afraid that he would follow her? Doesn’t she trust the police to be able to protect her? Does she think the upside of the relationship can tolerate a bit of abuse? Is there some sort of perversity involved? I recently read Crash from J.G.Ballard where people enjoyed car accidents and cheating each other and telling each other their lovers names during intercource. Of course it’s an exaggeration but these kinds of weird psychological associations are possible. Tanatsuko suggested Stockholm syndrome may be the case which is a difficult phenomenon to wrap your head around. There is another interesting part to the story and that’s the upright neighbour being sucked into the fighting couple’s chaotic vortex. Tanatsuko’s life is altered the moment they decided to care and act like a responsible citizen. The moment the beaten woman didn’t testify she dragged Tanatsuko to her losing side. Because if the abusive boyfriend learns that Tanatsuko called the police, he may target them too. This is a great story that is full of tension and open questions regarding the state of minds of all the actors with a powerful conflict in the centre. What are the other neighbours doing meanwhile? Just being bystanders? Can you record the sounds and report it to the police as the proof? Can law and order protect you even if you don’t want to be protected? But then what would stop governments to step into our personal boundaries and become autocratic in the name of protection? We can talk about what kind of situations or a culture that created the aggressors, but that would be an endless conversation about a wild mixture of education, religion, and economy. In some countries domestic violence is even the norm, not the edge case. I hope in Germany we won’t let this fester. I’m curious how the story will continue.
Tonight we watched “Speak No Evil” at the Berlin Fantasy Film Festival. At the beginning of the movie, the director said he wanted to shoot the most disturbing Danish movie ever made. You can tell that every decision was made to create an uncomfortable experience. The usage of eerie music for no apparent reason in the most mundane scenes, behaviour that is slightly off, like a smile that is a bit too eager, or a pause or a stare that is a bit too long. As the slight disturbances accumulate ever so slowly, you find yourself almost ready to ignore most of them, but the foreboding grows every minute. Like a dream that starts to go wrong but one you’re not ready to wake up yet. The end escalates rather quickly, compared to the slow buildup of the rest of the movie. For me the most powerful moment was the little girl being scared in the car. It’s really alarming when a child picks up subtle clues of a situation and realises danger before the grown ups or the viewers. It felt like watching a scream and being viscerally affected by what they are scared of.
Carmen from Deutsche Oper Berlin
8th Sep, Berlin, 11:14pm, we just watched opera Carmen at the parking deck of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. I’m 41 and I have to admit I didn’t know the story of Carmen until the very beginning of the show. I quickly read the synopsis from wikipedia. So, there is the factory guard Jose who has to tie Carmen for attacking another worker. Carmen seduces him to let her go. In turn, Jose is prisoned. The parking deck is a giant concrete hall decorated with colourful paintings and good dramatic lighting and made soft. The singers were great actors as well. I read somewhere that it takes 10 years to be able to sing opera. The first time you watch Carmen, you’d realise you already know all the music. We watched Carmen seduce and make puppets out of Jose and his lieutenant Zuniga with her song “tra la la la”. It’s hard not to respect a driven and manipulative woman. Before reading the rest I knew Jose would be dragged in her powerful current. Indeed he finds himself following her first into her hideout, then into a wild spot in the mountains. As it happens to every meek man, she loses interest. She reminded me of the Dean character in the book On The Road, who is also very passionate about life, restless, dragging his friends into a new adventure by the hour, who are more than willing to follow him, mesmerised by his energy, by Dean’s hunger for life. Carmen doesn’t have the same urgency but definitely has the same burning passion, same boldness, which makes her endearing. I really liked the actor playing Toreador Escamillo who portrayed him as a peacock, an ostentatious act that was hilarious, which reminded me of beetlejuice. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see more of Escamillo, because it was an abridged version of the play.
Stream recording: https://youtu.be/730g48znF30