April 22, 2017 (Saturday)

by Yule Heibel on April 21, 2018

It’s the weekend, this session of Morning Pages is coming along after the old (usual) routine (meditation first).

I almost didn’t get out of the house yesterday – the weather was so shitty and felt so confining. Finally, in the afternoon I hied myself to the Y, in a relentless drizzle that refused to shift or modulate all day. It was curious – first steam bath all week, and my feelings were deliciously conflicted. On the one hand, disgust at the state of the facility (as in, “Really? I have to use such a run-down and frankly dirty-looking place?”), on the other, pure delight at stretching out on the top bench of what is, despite its grubby, stained, disgusting appearance, a marvelously well-functioning steam room. “Ahhh…” – that feeling.

I had spent a big chunk of my morning transcribing my handwritten notes to Scrivener. I’m still not really writing the book, and that bugs me (a lot – I keep thinking, “C’mon, what’s wrong with you?”), but I also feel like I don’t yet have an outline. I’m kind of groping my way towards one, trying to understand the characters, their mannerisms and motivations. At this point, I’m still miles out.

I also felt a strong urge to connect with B. in Florence yesterday, but she’s never available it seems. I sent her an email about yesterday’s Daily Heller, profiling the guy who puts out “Liars Town USA,” which I found hilarious. It struck me that B. would share my appreciation of its zany and kinky humor, but maybe I’m wrong. I also sent an email to G. in Paris, with a link to a City Journal article about Christophe Guilluy, which was truly fascinating. Guilluy is a housing consultant in Paris and has written several books – the gist kind of reminded me of Chris Arnade’s work. I sent the link to G. with some comments. I also asked him if or when he’s going to be in Victoria or Vancouver again this summer since I might try to get there myself to visit E., and possibly get to Victoria to see friends.

In general, my sense of need (?) to connect with these friends of old was palpable yesterday. Maybe it was just nostalgia. Maybe it was a reminder of feeling that my social landscape here is barren, has no interesting people in it. I’m also reminded that I need to write to [California friends] again, even though that crowd in general puts me off politically these days. I wonder how it will all play out, continue to play out.

Yesterday I read Peter Thiel’s chapter on automation, robots, AI. It’s a mere twelve pages, but very interesting. I think Steven Mnuchin (Munchkin?) must have had it in his bowdlerizing mind when he claimed that we needn’t worry about automation for another one hundred or more years out. Typically, he ignored the political economic aspects of automation, seeing it the way every neoliberal has seen globalization and tech. What Thiel actually means and says is that we don’t have to worry about AI becoming smarter, controlling, or replacing us – that those sorts of developments are a hundred or more years out. Thiel doesn’t explicitly address the political concerns, but Munchkin really should. How we use AI and robots is a political question. Submerging it in a general Luddite fear does no one any favors, but neither does poo-pooing the political choices we should be pondering and making. Thiel argues the Luddites fear replacement by AI, but that historically tech has been about complementing human activity, ability, potential. He’s pretty optimistic about it (“replacement,” even if it were possible, is one hundred years out). But but but: complementarity is a political configuration. They’re both forgetting that part.

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