Traveling Blindly in 2019
If You Really Want Truth, You Need to Escape the Blackhole of Power
Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.
The other week I read a story about backpacking in Asia by Kevin Kelly. Most of us probably know Kevin as the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine. But the experiences Kevin described in the article pre-dated Wired with 20 years.
In my early twenties I went on a couple of backpacking trips myself. I remember buying my first Moleskin notebook while sitting in Copenhagen Airport before my first trip. I was anxious for what was to come. I had never traveled alone before and I knew little of what the next six weeks would bring.
I hoped that sharing my anxieties in the notebook would calm me down. This was in 2008. I already had a Facebook profile, but I did not yet have a smartphone. The last bit of communication I did was a couple of texts to a few selected friends wishing them a good summer holiday. I was more sad than happy when I wrote those text messages.
The anxiety was of course largely my own fault. Inspired by one of my favourite Donald Duck cartoons I decided to follow the Flipism, letting the flip of a coin decide my next destination as I moved around Central and Eastern Europe.
In theory it was a method to bring me to places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. In practice it was much more similar to Stefan’s realization in the recent Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror: In designing a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Game, the creator mainly presents the player with pseudo-decisions. More or less the same outcome happens no matter what the player picks.
Some of my most cherished memories are from these backpacking trips in my early twenties. Of course it was a coming-of-age thing. But it was also pushing myself into something I did not know what would be. I was anxious and excited.
Kevin Kelly’s backpacking trips didn’t happen in the 00s, but in the 70s. And while the importance and essence of the trips seem similar to mine, the setup was utterly different.
In my backpack I had the latest edition of Lonely Planet’s “Europe on a Shoestring” book. I could always find an internet café where I could book accommodation on Hostel World and read about the places on Wiki Travel. And in my hands I had a digital camera allowing me to take (unlimited) photos and upload them once in a while to Facebook.
Kevin had no internet. He shot on film that would only be developed months or years after he returned. He had to go a great length to communicate with friends and family.
Where I was traveling by the flip of a coin, Kevin was travling blindly. Kevin did not have access to information without asking locals and other travellers.
Today the world travels into 2019. The Long Now Foundation would write 02019. The Internet would write 2k19. And in China they wait until February 5 to commence the Year of the Pig.
2019, 02019, 2k19, pigs… It doesn’t really matter how you define the year. When reading this newsletter you live in a hyper-dense information age. It has numerous advantages, but traveling blindly is not one of them.
Happy Blind New Year!
Devoted readers might recognize some stories from the Joy of Missing Out edition of the newsletter
My New Year Resolutions
I’ve never fulfilled any of my New Year Resolutions and largely agree that willpower is overrated. Yet, I want to use this opportunity to devote myself to some goals I’m likely to fail.
In 2019, my overall goal is to bring rhythm to my life. In proper goal setting this means:
Thinking - Read 52 books
A few years ago I made an effort in reducing the time spent reading Twitter and Facebook and increasing my time reading articles. Launching this newsletter was part of this effort and one of the best things I’ve done for my thinking. Yet, articles quickly become repetitive and rarely goes beyond the surface. The past months I’ve increased the time spent reading books and I aim to continue this in the year to come.
Resting - Spent two evenings alone every week
I rarely stand still. I want to do that more, and do it without external stimuli.
Exercising - Run a marathon in <3:30hr
In the fall I signed up for Crossfit. In total I went 10 times over two months before late November and December distracted my habit. Crossfit is way better for my body than running, but looking myself in the mirror, I’m more likely to succeed making running a sticky habit. And while I like the idea of building muscles, at this point it is more important to keep exercising. It also provides the opportunity to beat my last marathon time.
The Web’s New Year Resolution
The critique of the current state of the Internet continued the past weeks. I’ve turned three of the readings from the past weeks into resolutions for the web.
The overall goal for the web is Post Social Media. I’m sure the web will fail too.
Conscious Consumption - End the ad-supported web
Instead of celebrating ad-based content that doesn’t charge your wallet, it is time to move forward. Julien Genestoux asks if we have got the business model of the Internet wrong in “The End of the Ad-Supported Web”.
Social Web - The new social spaces are not media
The power of Fortnite is not to entertain, but to connect. We’ve been used to our social interactions on the internet happening over social media, in 2019 we’ll get used to our social interactions happening in entirely new online spaces. Owen Williams explains this perfectly in “Fortnite isn’t a game, it’s a place”.
Independent Places - Own your thoughts and creations
In Vice, Jason Koebler argues that we should turn to email and personal websites to share about our lives. His main point is that we’ve given away too much control to the social media platforms in directing and monetizing our creations. I’d add that we should not trust companies in hosting and distributing our creations.
Few stories following up on past weeks’ issues.
Nymag argues PewDiePie is a gateway drug. (I disagree)
Thanks for Severin sending you love after last week’s issue. And extra thanks for Martin for adding a quote from my last newsletter in his own. It always makes me happy to hear from you, so please don’t forget that I’m only one reply away.