Why pessemism can be good for you

The Atlantic interviews Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College and author of The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking:

Olga Khazan: What is defensive pessimism?

Julie Norem: It’s a strategy for dealing with anxiety and helping to manage anxiety so that it doesn’t negatively influence performance. If you feel anxious in a situation, it doesn’t really matter if it’s realistic or not, you feel how you feel. It’s hard not to feel that particular way. If you feel anxious, you need to do something about it. Usually people try to run away from whatever situation makes you anxious. But there are other ways of dealing with it. Defensive pessimism is one way.

When people are being defensively pessimistic, they set low expectations, but then they take the next step which is to think through in concrete and vivid ways what exactly might go wrong. What we’ve seen in the research is if they do this in a specific, vivid way, it helps them plan to avoid the disaster. They end up performing better than if they didn’t use the strategy. It helps them direct their anxiety toward productive activity.

Full Story:

(via NextDraft)

See also: The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking

On telling your dreams to go fuck themselves

And on the subject of not not doing what we (think) we love, here’s Dan Hon on Hank Green‘s talk from XOXO festival last weekend:

Hank’s thing was treading the well-worn path of telling you to fuck your dreams because, hey, your dreams are unrealistic. Well, they’re not unrealistic. But they’re just suggestions. And that you don’t owe any obligation to your former self: they literally don’t exist anymore. But this is the hard part: if you’re trying to work out what it is that you *want* to do, then you kind of have to try a whole bunch of things out. Our education system and culture and economy isn’t set up to do that. We aren’t set up to let people a/b test a whole bunch of vocations or careers. We haven’t built up a society that enables and empowers people to work out what’s best, because hey, we’ve got bills to pay all the time. And if you haven’t noticed, all of this technology that empowers people and enables new forms of success *costs money*.

Full Story: Things That Have Caught My Interest: The Difficult Third Album

New Age for Nihilists

The_Road_bleak_scenery

Warren Ellis has identified and named something of a Ballardian inversion of the rather Gibsonian New Aesthetic: Extinction Aesthetic.

Extinction Symbol. Dark Extropianism. Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Dark Mountain. Uncivilisation. In The Dust Of This Planet. Health Goth. Accelerationism. After Nature/Dark Ecology/Ecognosis. Early signals: The New Nihilism, Speculative Realism, Neoreaction, Occulture. Cusp: Toxic Internet. Post-Westphalian.

Full Story: morning.computer: Extinction Aesthetic

The Morlocks/Omegas from X-Men: Last Stand

  • Amused to see healthgoth and neoreaction cited as part of the same current.
  • This brings to mind the new season of Utopia (the British conspiracy thriller, not the American reality show)
  • My imagined soundtrack: Bruxa. The Soft Moon. Burial. Zomby. Kode9. Sunn 0))). Karin Dreijer Andersson. Cult of Zir. Sister Mamie Foreskin.
  • If Minecraft is New Aesthetic, what is the Extinction Aesthetic equivalent?

See also:

Radiolab on In The Dust Of This Planet

Dark Theory

Post-Nihilism

Speculative Non-Buddhism

extinction symbol

Update: Ellis chimes in on Twitter: “Extinction Aesthetic equiv of Minecraft is A Dark Room, it suddenly & amusingly occurs to me.” (Presumably referring to this game).

Mutation Vectors: Speculative Geopolitics Edition

Status Update

I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.

Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.

Browsing

“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.

On a weirder note, China has been manufacturing islands in a bid to gain legitimate control over the South China Sea. M1k3y speculates that China could eventually become the first off-world power.

Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.

And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?

Watching

After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.

Listening

Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.

Apps

Mailpile, a web-based e-mail client that aims to balance security and usability, is now it beta. You can check out my story on them from back when they had just finished their crowdfunding here.

Why “Do What You Love” Is Terrible Advice for Creative People

Food for thought going into the weekend, from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang:

The problem with the “do what you love” mantra is in how we follow it, which is with a single-mindedness that carries unnecessary risk. We interpret “do what you love” to mean “Do only what you love and nothing else,” and the implication of that is that if you don’t practice this kind of creative monogamy, you’re being untrue to yourself. A corollary encourages, “Don’t worry about the details and practicalities.” The universe will reward your passion and belief in yourself. It also means assuming all the financial risk of a risky career move. The reality is that creative work is terribly funded, and the odds of making a steady living from it are very very small. Being fully exposed to that kind of instability can make you less creative, not more so.

Full Story: Medium: Are you creative? Then “Do What You Love” is terrible advice

See also: Quit Your Passion and Take a Boring Job

And: Our interview with Pang on Mindful Cyborgs part 1 and part 2.

Millenials Actually Read More Books Than People Over 30

Some surprising research from Pew:

Millennials are quite similar to their elders when it comes to the amount of book reading they do, but young adults are more likely to have read a book in the past 12 months. Some 43% report reading a book—in any format—on a daily basis, a rate similar to older adults. Overall, 88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older. Young adults have caught up to those in their thirties and forties in e-reading, with 37% of adults ages 18-29 reporting that they have read an e-book in the past year.

Full Story: Pew Research: Younger Americans and Public Libraries

Plus: “The number of independent bookstores in the US rose by more than 20% between 2009 and 2014, according to the American Booksellers Association,” Quartz reports.

(both links via NextDraft)

Previously:

Debunking The Millennials’ Work Ethic “Problem”

New Survey “Proves” There’s a Generation Gap Between Workers

Why “digital natives” don’t exist

R.U. Sirius Tells Mindful Cyborgs About Transhumanism and What He Misses About the 90s

Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

Here’s the second half of our conversation with R.U. Sirius, editor of the late great Mondo 2000 magazine and the co-author of the forthcoming Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.. This time around R.U. tells us about the state of the Transhumanist movement and what he misses about the 90s, and Chris and I go off on a tangent about algorithms and an app store for identity.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Counterculture, The Singularity, and the Amish with R. U. Sirius pt 2

The first half is here.

See also: my interviews with R.U. from 2002 and 2011.

Mutation Vectors: Tech Hell Edition

office-space

Status Update

Up is down and down is up. That’s the default “natural” setting on my new MacBook Pro’s trackpad. As a long-time Windows and Linux user, I find that this perfectly sums up the entirety of the Apple experience for me thus far.

See below for my Apple and Linux rants for more on my current experience of tech-hell. But first, a run down of why Twitter has started to suck for many people.

Browsing

I’ve got a ton of stuff in Pocket for reading, perhaps over the weekend, but I don’t have much for you today. But I did really enjoy’s Alan Jacob’s sequence of posts on the state of Twitter, which hits many of my own issues with the Twitter right now, and a few others besides:

I’m not so famous or female that I get inundated with harassment on my timeline, but I do find myself yearning for more granularity in terms of what I see and share.

Many of my friends are nostalgic for Live Journal, which did indeed do a good job of providing that granularity. But I’d hazard a guess that most of us have far more connections on Twitter and Facebook today than we did on LiveJournal in, say, 2005. That makes trying to deal with grouping friends a much more daunting task, especially if you’re starting with a big list of basically everyone you know and need to figure out which groups to put each person in.

Today Google Plus and Facebook offer similar features for publishing posts visible only to only pre-defined groups of people, but I don’t know how widely used they are. And the hassle of trying to categorize a couple-few hundred people into neat groups is a big part of what keeps me from bothering with those features.

Still, if we were able to share stuff on Twitter based on Lists (remember those?), maybe that would be something. Though I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend the time to make a bunch of new lists — I pretty much gave up on that idea back in 2010 or 2011 when Twitter hid that functionality and us worry that it would go away entirely.

Which is another part of the problem: we have no idea which new Facebook or Twitter features will stick around more than a couple months. Why spend time getting used to something when some A/B tester might say “hey, this feature isn’t getting enough traction, let’s hide it to stream line the interface and move those engineering resources elsewhere”?

The indie web can potentially help solve the disappearing feature problem (though most of us will still be at the mercy of what the developers of the software we depend on decide to do). But it could also make granularity more difficult, at least without some widely adopted decentralized authentication system.

(Or we could all just start multiple different e-mail newsletters…)

Watching

On brighter note: season 8 of The Trailer Park Boys just hit Netflix!

Listening

On a darker note, in a good way: Earth’s new album Primitive and Deadly is out!

Continue reading

The Next Stage for Google’s Quantum Computing Efforts

New from me at Wired:

Google launched its Quantum A.I. Lab last year to test a machine called the D-Wave Two, an intriguing but controversial system that its makers bill as a quantum computer, and it believes quantum computing could play a key role in so many of its future ambitions, from self-driving cars and other robots to better predictive analytics systems for products like Google Now to things we haven’t even dreamed up yet. Thanks to what’s called the superposition principle of quantum mechanics, it could process data for such projects at speeds that are exponentially faster than what you get from today’s machines.

But the scientific community has greeted the D-Wave machine with skepticism, questioning whether the machine is actually a quantum computer at all, and whether it can actually provide something you can’t get from conventional machines. In joining Google, Martinis lends new weight to the company’s quantum ambitions.

Full Story: Wired: The Man Who Will Build Google’s Elusive Quantum Computer

Mindful Cyborgs: R.U. Sirius on Counter Culture, Quantified Self and More

R.U. Sirius

This week Chris Dancy and I talked with former Mondo 2000 editor and Counter Culture Through the Ages co-author R.U. Sirius about counter culture, quantified self and his forthcoming book Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.

Next week we’ll post the second part of our conversation, where we dive a bit deeper into the state of Transhumanism, plus gab about identity and 90s nostalgia.

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Counterculture, The Singularity, and the Amish with R. U. Sirius pt 1

Previously

My interview with R.U. from 2002

My interview with R.U. and Disinfo founder Richard Metzger from 2011

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