February 04, 2009

All open systems

"Self-sufficiency" is an idea which has done more harm than good. On close conceptual examination it is flawed at the root. More importantly, it works badly in practice.

Anyone who has actually tried to live in total self-sufficiency - there must now be thousands in the recent wave that we helped inspire - knows the mind-numbing labor and loneliness and frustration and real marginless hazard that goes with the attempt. A kind of hysteria...
...self-sufficiency is not to had on any terms, ever. It is a charming woodsy extension of the fatal American mania for privacy....It is a damned lie. There is no discernible self. Ever since there were two organisms life has been a matter of co-evolution, life growing ever more richly on life...
We can ask what kinds of dependency we prefer, but that's our only choice.
Stuart Brand in 1975, quoted in From Counterculture to Cyberculture, by Fred Turner, p121

Read What the Dormouse Said... over Xmas, which is a more journalistic account of about the same story - LSD and the evolution of PCs/ the Internet - with less focus on Brand and his connections. At first I thought From Counterculture was too dry, but [2/3 through] the picture that's emerging is of Brand as a master networker, turning up and being present / setting things in motion at various events that can be seen as key to how things turned out. The cybernetic side of things.

Of course, this is only one story, and very often the supposedly key event or movement could be written off as a dead end, like the move to self-sufficient communes in the Whole Earth Catalog which he's rejecting in the quote above. In the long range view of things, even dead ends have their value as the various permutations of being are played out - how not to live - but it must suck to be stuck in a bad one [e.g. N Korea].

Related post:
Haruki Murakami and a long range view of things

Related link:
The Long Now Foundation, one of Brand's current projects.

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