Replied to Bandcamp should be Substack for musicians – Snakes and Ladders (

With Bandcamp and, in a somewhat different way, SoundCloud, we have options to do things differently — and thereby to preserve the integrity of musical creation. Bandcamp in particular is well-positioned to do for musicians what Substack is doing for journalists: offer them a way to escape a broken system full of roadblocks and perverse incentives. I’m really hoping that a musical act with a big following takes a chance on one of these options. It will definitely be better for the quality of music and in the long run, therefore, better for listeners like me. Even if it costs me a little more money.

Alan, you might be interested in Damon Krukowski’s discussion of Bandcamp.
Replied to UMaster – Snakes and Ladders (
Alan, I enjoyed your thoughts about music and mastering. It reminded me of something I wondered a few years ago:

Often when asked about predictions for the future, I wonder if there will come a time when we can quickly and easily remix music, leaving our own mark. To me, this would need some sort of audio track recognition. I wonder though whether at the same time that such technology becomes available, whether copyright will simply hold us back.

Leaves me thinking that this would probably completely change the way music is recorded in the first place? For example, not sure how Jacob Collier’s hundreds of tracks would be translated into a cleaner UI?

Bookmarked From Tech Critique to Ways of Living — The New Atlantis (The New Atlantis)

Cosmotechnics provides guidance for ordinary people and technologists alike. The application of Daoist principles is most obvious, as the above exposition suggests, for “users” who would like to graduate to the status of “non-users”: those who quietly turn their attention to more holistic and convivial technologies, or who simply sit or walk contemplatively. But in the interview I quoted from earlier, Hui says, “Some have quipped that what I am speaking about is Daoist robots or organic AI” — and this needs to be more than a quip. Peter Thiel’s longstanding attempt to make everyone a disciple of René Girard is a dead end. What we need is a Daoist culture of coders, and people devoted to “action without acting” making decisions about lithium mining.

Alan Jacobs explores a new way of living that includes technology, but is not solely focused on technology. His argument is that the standard critique of technology provided by Ivan Illich, Ursula Franklin, Albert Borgmann etc has failed, because it has not necessarily stepped back to capture the wider picture of things:

The “human industrial economy” is Kingsnorth’s term for technopoly conceived in relation to the whole of the natural order. While the proponents of the SCT tend to focus their arguments on what technopoly is doing to us, to human beings, they are not unaware of the consequences of prescriptive, manipulatory technologies for the rest of the world. By adding Kingsnorth’s insights — and those of other thinkers of similar character, especially Wendell Berry — to those of the SCT, we can see more clearly that every depredation of the human is also a depredation of the natural order, and vice versa.

Borrowing from Martin Heidegger and Mark Blitz, Jacobs suggests that a technological enframing of human life risks making standing reserve of us all. As he quotes from Blitz’s article:

Introducing the Bremen lectures, Heidegger observes that because of technology, “all distances in time and space are shrinking” and “yet the hasty setting aside of all distances brings no nearness; for nearness does not consist in a small amount of distance.” The lectures set out to examine what this nearness is that remains absent and is “even warded off by the restless removal of distances.” As we shall see, we have become almost incapable of experiencing this nearness, let alone understanding it, because all things increasingly present themselves to us as technological: we see them and treat them as what Heidegger calls a “standing reserve,” supplies in a storeroom, as it were, pieces of inventory to be ordered and conscripted, assembled and disassembled, set up and set aside. Everything approaches us merely as a source of energy or as something we must organize. We treat even human capabilities as though they were only means for technological procedures, as when a worker becomes nothing but an instrument for production. Leaders and planners, along with the rest of us, are mere human resources to be arranged, rearranged, and disposed of. Each and every thing that presents itself technologically thereby loses its distinctive independence and form. We push aside, obscure, or simply cannot see, other possibilities.

To go beyond such a standing reserve, Jacob turns to the work of Yuk Hui and his book The Question Concerning Technology in China. Hui makes the case for cosmotechnics:

A cosmotechnics is a living thing, always local in the specifics of its emergence in ways that cannot be specified in advance … It is from the ten thousand things that we learn how to live among the ten thousand things; and our choice of tools will be guided by what we have learned from that prior and foundational set of relations. This is cosmotechnics.

This theory is inspired by the Tao Te Ching, going beyond technopoly to propose a ‘cosmopolitanism of difference‘ that allows for different technological futures.

To reopen the question of technology is to refuse this homogeneous technological future that is presented to us as the only option.

It is interesting to think about this alongside other approaches, such as Actor-Network Theory and Assemblage Theory. Maybe they are all a part of a cosmopolitanism of theories? It also has me thinking about what whether the argument for interoperability is an example of the ‘Taoist culture of coders’?

Bookmarked Hate the Sin, Not the Book by Alan Jacobs (The Atlantic)

Reading those figures from the past, even when he disagreed strongly with them, gave him some perspective on his own moment, and, because they left this vale of tears, some tranquility as well. After all, the dead don’t talk back to us—unless we invite them to. We control the encounter. We decide whether to pay our ancestors attention.

When we make that payment, when we turn aside from the “dire hose” and take a few deep breaths and enter into the world of the past, we can calm our pulse a bit, take time to think. No one demands anything of us. Those figures from the past are willing to speak to us when we are willing to listen. They may sometimes speak words of offense, but they may also speak words of wisdom that we either never know or have forgotten.

In a post adapted from Alan Jacobs’s recent book, Breaking Bread With the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, he reflects upon the ability to learn from voices from the past.
Liked New Model Protest (

What’s uncanny about this, to me, is how much it echoes a model of distributed action imagined a few years ago by Adam Roberts in a novel called New Model Army — a novel I wrote about here. Roberts imagines a near-future world in which New Model Armies (NMAs) — collectivized and non-hierarchical organizations of mercenaries — have become major players on the European political scene. The novel’s protagonist associates himself with one of those NMAs, called Pantagral.

Replied to trying by ayjay ayjay (Snakes and Ladders)

As Robin wrote about Craig’s project, “Craig is always making new tools, trying new things, like the SMS experiment. Like he is really TRYING. What if 10X more people were TRYING?” I want to be one of those people who is trying, too. Trying to share things I like in unexpected ways.

Alan, I think that your description of “sharing interesting things in unexpected ways” captures the development of my blog to include various aspects of the #IndieWeb.
Bookmarked The Consecrated Heretic, Down Under (Snakes and Ladders)

An explanation of these contradictions may come from the other end of the world. The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has argued that France produces, from time to time, a peculiar kind of figure whom he calls the “consecrated heretic.” Voltaire is one example; Rousseau another; Sartre a third. The consecrated heretic is an artist or intellectual who plants his feet firmly in the riverbed and faces the social current upstream, refusing to be carried along by it. He mocks conventional wisdom; he scandalizes ordinary people by what he believes, what he says, how he acts. Of course, many people do this, but only a tiny handful are celebrated for it, are seen as indispensable threads in the social fabric. The passionate earnestness of these few is acknowledged; they are clearly dedicated in their own perverse way to the common good. Eventually the nation’s major institutions seek to bestow high honors on such heretics, who of course turn aside disdainfully, which makes them treasured all the more. Les Murray is the chief consecrated heretic of Australia.

Alan Jacobs discusses the work on the late Les Murray.