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This is a microblog for frequent, shorter thoughts, interesting links and shaping ideas before they become full posts. The best way to follow is via my RSS feed.

The long game

Having my feeds fill up with something other than the war was a welcome distraction.

Quoting Evan:

I believe in their long-term play. The iPhone was going to eat your blackberry, your razer, your ipod, your camera… and we laughed… and they still won.

I believe they see this eating your switch, your monitor, your tv… and I think that this product category very well could

This is what fascinates me about Apple. It feels like they are one of the few companies thinking in decades rather than weeks and months.

I certainly won’t be being this contraption, but then again I bought my first iPhone came nearly a decade after the first one was released.

I’ve worked at a few tech companies now, and it’s rare to see even the “strategic” types break out of short-term cycles. Innovation and paradigm shifting breakthroughs come from long-term thinking, not AB testing button colors for a week.

And this ties into so much of what I’ve thinking about lately. Consequences. What I do today will, in fact, matter in ten years, twenty years. And our actions will matter even beyond this life.

Alas Apple is thinking of this merely for consumerism.


Continuing from yesterday, marching for peace or professing pacifism isn’t enough. It makes more sense to promote the conditions that lead to conflicts not happening in the first place. First and foremost, this is making sure that actions have consequences.

Much of the Old Testament is an exploration of humanity’s attempt to explore causality, consequences, and trying to avoid consequences. A flagrant disregard of ethics will eventually lead to disaster, even if the exact mechanisms of causality and consequences are beyond our complete understanding.

Leaving aside Russia and the War, this same disregard for consequences is rife in the tech industry. Break things, flout rules! It’s the dream of the techno-utopians to have ChatGPT replace humans. If something goes terribly wrong, oh well, it’s just an algorithm after all.

For me, this is the starting point of my spiritual practice. My actions today have consequences, for good or for ill. Exactly how and when this will all pan out, I can’t say, nor would trying to usurp this knowledge be prudent. And that’s enough to make me think carefully about what I do.

Rethinking pacifism

It seems like most of the anti-war types in West end up becoming cheerleaders for dictators and war criminals. Screaming about the evils of the United States while befriending Assad, Putin, and the like is a morally bankrupt position.

But I do think there’s room for a more informed peace movement that can reduce the number of conflicts.

Despite a steady stream of wars and atrocities since independence, Russian elites have had no real trouble feeling at home in the West. They launder money through London real estate, dock their yachts in Europe, go on weekend shopping trips in Italy, and send their kids to school in America. Not holding them accountable for their crimes is a large reason why Russia is waging war today.

It’s hard to think of a non-Russian as culpable for today’s war as Angela Merkel. Despite the war in the Donbas and annexation of Crimea, she never failed to champion the Kremlin’s agenda in Europe. Had the response to Russia in 2014, or the 2008 war in Georgia, for that matter, been real sanctions, and Russian officials facing arrest when traveling abroad, there would be no war in Ukraine today. Thousands of lives would have been saved, including the hapless Russian recruits sent on “meat-grinder” raids in Bakhmut.

What’s got me thinking about this is a thread from Toomas Ilves:

The missile attacks on civilians, the assassination threats, the promise to ethnically cleanse Ukraine, all on my twitter feed this AM:

Russians say these things because they believe in impunity, that they will never be held responsible, that Russia will never give them up.

The problem is, they don’t know that they had better hope for trials. The legal system ultimately is to prevent the беспредел of vigilante-ism.

When you don’t have rule of law, even internationally, and justice is denied and people will take it in their own hands.

Russians should fear this. Vigiliante-ism will hit Russians everywhere, indiscriminately. HUR will take care of the worst perpetrators of war crimes – the torturers, the rapists, the missile firers, and not with jail terms.

The rest of “русский мир” will be despised, spat upon, ostracized. What saved Germans from that fate after WW2, Russians don’t realize was Nürnberg. Imperfect as it was, it more or less satisfied the need for justice. And Israel got Eichmann anyway.

But without justice, Russians will be pariahs, kept out, unwanted.

Cry “Russophobia! Russophobia!” all you want. What Russia has done in Ukraine has rendered “Russophobia” a quaint and risible term. It bothers no one.

So pray, Russia, that justice be done. Or be prepared for generations of “Russophobia”, shunned by the civilized world. End.

It’s a fair point. Germans don’t face much animosity in Poland or other countries brutally occupied by Germany during WWII. Even before the Ukrainian War, Russians were reviled in Poland, and the Baltics. The lack of any historical justice makes it hard to move on.

And to go back to my original point, the lack of consequences for serious violations of international law has led Russia to even more egregious actions. The same is true of China, which faces no real repercussions for the continuing genocide of Uyghurs, saber rattling in Taiwan, and attempts to claim territory in international waters.

My position is not that the US or NATO should be the world’s police force, nor that preemptive strikes are justified for a nebulous greater good. Instead, I’m arguing that diplomacy should have real teeth: there’s should be no red carpet for war criminals in Western Democracies.

But this isn’t the position of groups like Amnesty International and the anti-war crowd.

And despite everything that’s happening, this is an ominous thread about Wagner in the Central African Republic.

The work of writing

I often quote from Tom Johnson’s blog, and highly recommend following him.

This time about the impact of AI tools on writing:

As I’ve used AI tools to assist with content brainstorming, generation, and editing, I’ve noticed one thing: these tools make me forget how laborious writing can be. When you get used to clicking a button to generate coherent sentences, how can you find the patience to go back to manual modes, in which each step in the essay writing process requires time, thought, research, and a lot of rewriting? Students may simply grow too impatient to write.

There’s something more to this than a “the sky is falling” or “this generation” trope. Good creative output is a lot of work, and the tedium of essay writing in school helps train you to structure your thoughts, do original research, and synthesize something new.

This is part of a long, subtle shift from creation to consumption as a societal value.

A classic less is more story

Here’s an interesting Twitter thread about how IBM deleted about 80% of their marketing pages while improving all of their overall metrics.

This is hard to achieve. Leaving up a useless and hopelessly outdated page is zero friction. Deleting that same page is tough fight against the status quo bias of an organization.

You’ll never get blamed for a page sitting and festering. Deleting something puts a huge target on your back.

What’s often not talked about in the information architecture industry is content maintenance. People look at me like I’m crazy when I argue we should create far less content, but devote more time to maintaining it.

TikTok on the menu

Here’s an a slightly amusing take on how TikTok and Instagram are transforming restaurant menus.

I think this is meant to be a piece in the moral crisis genre, but this is something that I find more interesting than problematic. Now that everyone has a camera on them all the time, and most people like sharing images, we’re going to start reshaping our physical world accordingly.

This process of technology causing changes to how we think and then the physical world is ancient. I was reading a theory that the invention of writing is what created the abhidhamma (a sort of Buddhist logic that tried to systematize the vast oral literature of the earliest strands of Buddhism). Similarly, it’s hard to imagine Protestantism without the printing press — sola scripture doesn’t really work without access to cheap Bibles.

I live on and island that was a giant fresh-water lake a mere quarter century ago. A century before that, the freshwater lake was a saltwater bay.

I’m fascinated by how our minds are shaped by our physical environment but then how are environment is shaped by our minds, and then the tools we make to tame our environments end up affecting us in unforeseen ways.

The closing of the canon

The overly simplistic, middle-school version of European history is that during the “dark ages”, the canon of knowledge was closed. Everything that needed to be known was already contained in the Bible and classical philosophers. And thus Europe was condemned to a millennium of stagnation in which no new knowledge was created or sought.

This is, of course, a vast oversimplification to the point of being outright wrong. But it’s useful as a fable.

I wonder if we’re not close to “closing the canon” now, if we’re not on the precipice of an era of deep intellectual stagnation.

Something that did got me thinking is What’s missing from the AI workflow: incentives for content creators to provide training data:

  • AI bots require training data to be effective. Content creators generate part of the training data source.
  • Content creators require ROI (e.g., recognition, attention, revenue) for the content they supply.
  • AI bots will need to provide ROI to content creators to sustain a long-term content source in the future.
  • Since backlinks to creator sites aren’t possible, content creators might create logins and paywalls for content access. In the best scenario, AI will force writers to raise their content to inimitable levels.

I went and had a look at some of the rather niche topics that I write about and are at or near the top of Google results. Lo and behold, I can get ChatGPT to spit out regurgitated forms of my blog posts. No citation. No backlink. Nothing.

On some level, I don’t care. I write primarily for myself as a way to organize my thoughts on topics I’m interested in. The fact that others find it useful or entertaining is a bonus.

But I don’t think this bodes well for the creation of new content. My guess is that we’re going to be stewing in online information written in the past five years for the next few decades.


Today is King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands’ birthday, which is a national holiday.

The more I watch American and other politics from afar, the more I like the idea of a mostly powerless and ceremonial monarchy. People love national symbols and a bit of pomp, why not put those into a non-political figure? This is arguably better than the American system of electing a de-facto monarch for four years.

And a fact that says a lot about Netherlands and its values: the country has donated more tanks to Ukraine than the Dutch army has, by purchasing tanks and sending them straight to Ukraine (source).

Long Havana

While I’m linking together things, this bit of news caught my attention: No evidence of brain damage caused by severe Covid-19.

And so much of the “long covid” thing has zero clinical basis as the effects of a viral illness. Not surprisingly there’s a strong overlap with the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

This is reminiscent of Havana Syndrome, which is far more likely to be a mass psychogenic illness than some futuristic microwave weapon.

These bouts of psychogenic illnesses — long covid, Havana Syndrome, etc., are the symptoms of our age of ubiquitous social isolation, mass hypochondria, and self-diagnosed “mental-health problems”.

To be clear, I don’t doubt that the people involved here are suffering very real pain. But I’m guessing that future historians will judge all of this about the same way look at other historical mass psychogenic illnesses.

True crime and isolation

I’m still processing some of the main things from my trip to the US earlier this year. I feel that something has fundamentally changed in American culture, but I haven’t fully fleshed it out.

I’ve talked about it with a number of people lately, both with stronger and weaker ties to America, and everyone outsides of the US agrees that something is different.

It comes down to middle class white people being afraid to leave their houses. Compared to my trip to the US in early 2020, public spaces are dead. Small businesses are gone. It’s either big box stores or online shopping.

There really aren’t that many places to routinely interact with people, and it feels like most interactions are filled with apprehension.

This is likely more of a symptom than a cause, but a friend mentioned the insane popularity of the true crime genre. If you’re constantly listening to podcasts about murder, rape, and great heists, it starts to color how you view the world. Add to that the popularity of all of the Law & Order and CIS type shows. And thus the average suburbanite is never leaving the house — work from home, delivery apps, online shopping — while growing increasing paranoid in a media environment obsessed with making random and incredibly rare crime seem like an everyday occurrence.

And to not take this too seriously, True Crime: Poisoning The Minds Of White Women Everywhere.

But to take this seriously: something in the environment of the US has brought anxiety, paranoia, hypochondria to the fore and squashed voices of reason.

On the one hand, why should I care? I happily live in Holland and spend, at most, a couple weeks a year visiting relatives in America. But the dominance of US media around the world means that this powerful pessimism is bound to spread.

You’ve reached the end, kind of

Notes are meant to be fleeting, so I only display the last 10 of them. Older notes are still accessible either via their respective permalink or the random note link.