Stages of the TED-era

We are entering stage two of the TED-era. The first step was one where scientist told the general public about how their personal story and how it fueled their science. By doing so, scientists mega-engaged them and got so much attention, fame, and money.

Yet scientist didn't foresee that everyone has a personal story, so we at stage two they are going to have to listen to the general public and how their experiences relate to the scientist research, including how the scientist story should be understood from the audience’s perspective (even if that interpretation has nothing to do with the scientist’s actual research).

This is not a bad thing per se, but we think scientists still want the power that comes from the inequality of attention and lack the patience necessary to listen and relate to the general public, while the later demands their eyeballs. Very soon this turn into a solipsistic situation.

Everyone will be targeted spam for everyone else.

Aspirational Ambiance

Sitting down in a low-key Spanish cafe, full of old people, I realized that it was the first time I sat in a public space and I did not feel anything emanating from the place itself. The place did not expect me to be anything more than I was, or be more humble, or stand tall, etc. It was a neutral feeling. This made me think that every single cafe or food venue or general social place in America is loaded with an aspirational feeling. Examples:

Chipotle — I feel bad about being the kind of person who’s here, I need to improve it so that I don’t come here anymore. But right now I’m going to shove a massive burrito.

Clover — I feel good about being the kind of person who comes here, yet I need to improve because I’m still not as eco-friendly as the place wants me to be. Also, I am not even close to being as cool as people working here in the kitchen so I need to go shopping kinda soon.

Darwin — this is a place where smart people come to talk or work, so I need to become smarter (take neuro-enhancers?) and more hardworking in the future if I want to be the kind of person who comes here and don’t get sneered at.

I think people open bars in Europe just because … well, they kind of made a mistake that is too expensive and too late to fix. People open cafes in America because they want to project a dream, an idea, a feeling. America is full of Aspirational Ambiance. I believe Aspirational Ambiance undermines any hope of stoicism.

Antimodernity Manifesto

  1. Antimodernity strives to transform non-places into places, arresting the ongoing exponential emptying of the human soul.

  2. Antimodernity aspires to revert back to a push model of the Internet and along the way abolish the current pull configuration. 

  3. Antimodernity opposes modernity, postmodernity, and hypermodernity as it believes these disrupt identity, space, time and narratives, living in a continuous ‘now.’

  4. Antimodernity rejects machine learning and any other technologies that generate swarms and predictable digital aggregates.

  5. Antimodernity propels people to move on, avoid platformizing, fight prestige overfit and nurture endogenous channels of satisfaction. 

  6. Antimodernity believes in intimate connections and opposes networks, flow, momentum, but also nostalgy.

  7. Antimodernity embraces the unknown, the weird, the unexpected not as something that makes you stronger, but as something that happens to you.

  8. Antimodernity actualizes legends, rituals, traditions, and general acerbic human processes into the Internet era, preserving them across multiple technological transformations.

  9. Antimodernity believes in a local Internet, with specific, local, historical, individual consequences for Internet actions. 

  10. Antimodernity recommends adhering to a low reference diet.

  11. Antimodernity attempts to stabilize history and accepts a mysterious present. 

Artificial Intelligence and Simulated Revolutions

Artificial Intelligence presents improved solutions to a given problem that humanity considers needing of improvement. If enough time passes by and enough intellectual effort is put in, AI will get closer and closer to a near perfect solution to the problem. At that stage, two options will be presented to society:

1) Humanity is forced to adopt that near-perfect AI-powered technological solution to the problem. In that case, AI is making humans chose something they may not want to accept, and thus humanity will spend energy trying to get out of such imposed technological solution keeping it away from perfection.

2) We are free to choose to ignore such near-perfect AI-powered technological solution. For that freedom to be tested and ensured, some humans will decide not to adopt that AI solution. Therefore, it will be a solution that a portion of the humanity will not want to take, and thus unable to reach perfection.

Thus, the only way a perfect AI-powered technological solution can be achieved is by making people believe that some individuals are choosing to be out of it [despite these individuals don’t exist], or by creating an imaginary set of revolutionaries that fights against the technology.

Unique Experiences

Capitalism can be nasty. As the production of goods increases in efficiency, more people can afford to have the set of essential elements that make life comfortable and pleasurable. Eventually, most people in the world would have all those crucial items for a low price, effectively stalling capitalism.

Capitalism then turns to experiences as new good to desire, which has the advantage of being ephemeral and cannot be accumulated until satiation. Yet the same process that makes products cheaper can also be used for to make experiences accessible, lowering their capitalistic value over the long term, again stalling capitalism.

And this is capitalism check-mate, the creation of UNIQUE EXPERIENCES as goods. Their uniqueness prevents their mass-production, and thus, they are goods that are wanted, yet entirely ephemeral, and never quite affordable.

For capitalism to signal the world the existence of these unique experiences, it must build and machine to broadcast a constant flux of people enjoying their unique experiences, a moving target that cannot be wholly reached. Nowcasting an individualized present that cannot be thoroughly enjoyed in the present by others.

For capitalism to signal the world the existence of these unique experiences, it must built and machine to broadcast a constant flux of people enjoying their unique experiences, a moving target that cannot be wholly reached. Nowcasting an individualized present that cannot be thoroughly enjoyed in the present by others.

Reference Diet

reference diet aims to keep conversations low in references to people, articles, or situations — past or present, fictional or real — related to the subject of discussion, prescribed for maintaining conversations exciting and grounded.

Example of situations a reference diet tries to avoid are:

“John is chatting with Ann about his Ph.D. research project. Anna brings up a scientist she recently met at an international conference who’s also working on the same subject, and vividly recommends John to check his work out. John feels deflated and starts fantasizing about his Uber ride home.”

“Marissa meets with Julian to have a drink upon her return from a recent trip to Madrid. She shares her excitement about the Antonio Lopez’s paintings she enjoyed seeing at the Prado Museum. Julian interrupts Marissa to refer to a NY Times article he read precisely that same morning about European Painters being overrated. Then, he describes his encounter with a Williamsburg-based Chilean-origin artist who he met last Saturday at a local farmer’s market. Julian does not quite remember if his name was “Pedro” or “Pablo.”"

“Reena calls Yuki to check if she left her wallet in her car. Yuki response “No, Dear, it’s not here.” Reena’s is truly upset as all her government-issued ID documents were in that wallet. She’s on the verge of crying. Yuki tries to make Reena feel better by sharing the time where she lost hers while hiking through São Paulo; how that gave her a genuine connection with how locals lived their life; and how that prompted one of her many personal growth periods. The conversation finishes with Yuki paraphrasing an old Portuguese proverb.”

No Access

A condition that makes a person have probability zero of being noticed by a love interest. More formally, the set of people who are interested in an individual with no access is the Smith–Volterra–Cantor set with topological dimension zero and zero-dimensional Lebesgue measure. The condition was first reported on November 2015, in London, UK, and is considered incurable and irreversible.

The condition is associated in popular culture with the poem:


Rain or shine
The weather is never fine
When your face makes
Your date turn on a dime

Global warming is on
Aliens on their way
But for the ones with no access
The world remains the same

Thrown overboard
The crew is lost at sea
Straws were never drawn
For they knew it would always be
The person with no access
And that person is … me

Network Power Paradox

  1. The use of networked media platforms produces individual digital footprints (individual mobility, social ties, personal health, consumption, etc.).

  2. These digital footprints can be used to understand individual problems better (urban planning, epidemiology, poverty, etc.) from previously a purely conceptual understanding of those problems.

  3. At the same time, the participatory nature of networked social media platforms removes power from top-down control structures and spreads it around the network.

  4. Without these top-down structures, it is very hard to execute the (improved) solutions to the newly (better) identified problems.

So, on the one hand, we know WHAT TO DO BETTER (through data analysis) but we do not HAVE ENOUGH POWER TO DO IT (power structures are gone.)

Furthermore, this is a self-reinforcing dynamic. As the top-down structures are unable to solve those newly identified problems, society would demand more power being given back to the network, less left in the top-down control structures.

The strategic calculus of social media

On the topic of understanding the growth dynamics of social companies (FB, LinkedIn, Quora, etc.). I think these companies are best understood as “decentralized long-term growth optimizing machines with limited resources” subject to some light constraints around the declared mission which influence what type of growth, or what long-term end-point is desired.

Breaking that down:

  • decentralized — decisions are made throughout the organization based on metrics and strategies; they are not made at the top by a product vision (the vision at the top shapes the cultural and product values, which influences local decisions about where to focus resources; but the decisions themselves on what changes to make at the product level are almost entirely decentralized)

  • long-term growth — The strategy focus is becoming as big as possible in the long-term as soon as possible. That lens can explain many decisions and where the lever points are to not follow local short-term optimizations.

  • optimizing machines — Every decision, as with evolutionary theory, is a local incremental change that makes the whole more resilient than it was before. That usually means incrementally growing in some way (along some dimension). Product teams explore thousands of possible functionality changes, and the 25% that improve some metric are the ones that are published. This process repeats indefinitely, avoiding local minima via the analytical and strategic focus on long-term growth.

  • with limited resources — Despite the size of these companies, there are always 3x — 10x more things that they would like to do than they have resources for. Resource constraints come primarily from people: how many can they hire, and fighting against the communication inefficiency of large teams. This means that of 100 “good ideas” that would make the product better in some way, only the 20 that will have the largest demonstrable immediate gains will be implemented. This is why something like “fake news” or privacy doesn’t get attention until public backlash forces the company’s hand. Sure, it’s important, but other things are paying off better and faster right now, so attention to it is postponed until it becomes the most important thing for the company to be doing.

If you put all this together, you can predict how these companies will respond to different situations and why; and you can explain why they do or don’t do things that seem “morally obvious” (for example). It is also why these companies don’t engage in much pure research, since that will take time, money, and attention away from the biggest levers of the company’s long-term viability; and these companies always feel perpetually at risk (because they are! because the same low barriers to entry that allowed them to rise up are also available to others).