Recent inspiration

In the spirit of I Miss Your Smell and Tom MacWright’s “recently” posts, I’m going to try sharing a few links that have given me inspiration, revelation or joy. Hopefully on some semi-regular cadence, but don’t hold me to that.

The Syllabus

A content recommendation engine that uses a combination of human and AI curation to deliver a weekly list of high quality articles, academic papers, podcast episodes, videos and books that might otherwise escape the attention of the internet at large. The content is mostly left-leaning, and slightly more academic than I typically gravitate toward, but it’s been refreshing and fulfilling to fill my evening reading list with thought-provoking material that is free of clickbait and hot takes.


A podcast by experimental musicians Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst from their studio in Berlin. I’ve long been a fan of their music, so it was an easy jump when they announced a podcast interviewing experts on topics like the ethics and politics of AI, the precariat and basic income, an introduction to and perspectives on NFTs, music business and streaming, and more.

I had been just listening to the free version with abbreviated episodes, but recently upgraded by becoming a Patreon patron. No regrets.

The Internet of Landlords Makes Renters of Us All

A critique of the platform economy of Google, Amazon, and other big tech companies, and their strategy of becoming landlords of a large portion of the internet’s infrastructure and data.

In short, the Internet of Landlords is based on turning all social interactions and economic transactions into “services” that are mediated by corporate platforms. ... what this business model really means is that they enjoy all the rights of owning an asset while you pay for the limited privilege of access. In other words, we are now forced to deal with an explosion of landlords in our daily life — constantly paying rent, both in terms of money and data, for all of the different tools and services we use.

Stars of the Lid’s Boiler Room performance at St. Agnes Church in Brooklyn on September 22, 2015

An hour of swelling, droning strings and guitars (and other instruments I couldn’t see; they performed here in near darkness) from one of my favorite ambient drone bands of all time. The live performances add color, power and new dimensions of emotional depth to the already sublime studio recordings from well over a decade past.

The Serviceberry: An Economy of Abundance

A jaw-dropping essay from Braiding Sweetgrass author Robin Wall Kimmerer, a scientist, a professor, and an essential voice about indigenous wisdom in Native American cultures. In this essay, as in her book, she mixes her expert knowledge of the plant world—in this case, the serviceberry plant—with critical observations about society, economy and spirituality. She manages to lay out a proposal for a way of life that mimics how the plant world operates in an economy of abundance rather than the (often manufactured) rules of scarcity that drive capitalism.

Why then have we permitted the dominance of economic systems that commoditize everything? That create scarcity instead of abundance, that promote accumulation rather than sharing? We’ve surrendered our values to an economic system that actively harms what we love.

In a gift economy, wealth is understood as having enough to share, and the practice for dealing with abundance is to give it away. In fact, status is determined not by how much one accumulates, but by how much one gives away. The currency in a gift economy is relationship, which is expressed as gratitude, as interdependence and the ongoing cycles of reciprocity. A gift economy nurtures the community bonds which enhance mutual well-being; the economic unit is “we” rather than “I,” as all flourishing is mutual.

published 2021-03-21