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working on the black hole
The black hole is the distance between 'a nobody turning on their computer' and 'working on a planetary problem'.
113 entries
First: Dec 8, 2020
ethan
Love the diversity of type of artists, l...
gorum
@marco nice! i'm sure there are a gagg...
thedominica
whooaaa thanks for this! <3
ethan
Would be neat to see these layers and co...
ethan
Thanks for sharing these reflections and...
ethan
The little audio clips here are nice.
ethan
❤️
lucas
One after the other.
ethan
More soon! Safe travels @marco
ethan
"in the Futureland” is a fun phrase. I ...
marco
which is why maybe sharing via journals ...
ethan
Love the “Why are you sharing?” field id...
internetvin
Another note from @abubakr, the links an...
ethan
Like that upvote counts aren’t shown, ni...
ethan
This is nice, agree with weird Nike cons...
ethan
I’ve been so curious about this. Somethi...
internetvin
I'm considering changing my username her...
thedominica
Thank you for sharing this 🔥
marco
really cool. seeing a structure like thi...
ethan
Laurel just updated her site, super fun ...
thedominica
🔥
marco
Yeah absolutely seems like an obvious pl...
internetvin
Glad you’re into it in some way. I think...
ethan
Ah, this one clicked for me, lovely
ethan
Shadowing this journal, can’t wait to di...
internetvin
Super cool
internetvin
It will be cool when I can reply to an e...
ethan
Saw Paul Hawken (founder of Drawdown) sp...
internetvin
yeah this makes a lot of sense. Who are ...
internetvin
So weird, I was actually looking at this...
internetvin
Nice! As these little things organically...
marco
yo man can we use gender neutral pronoun...
marco
I'm cool with it
internetvin
yeah makes a lot of sense! Do ya think i...
internetvin
When you said "the black hole is the mor...
terms and questions
3

digging into the work of Andy Goldsworthy today (also in my tastemaking journal). the thing that's really interesting to me is that his process is kind of a proto version of FL (in terms of documentation, repetition and process).

So seeing how he shares ideas and tools in a super simple way might be a helpful place to think about how to share ideas and tools of other people.

His documentation is so simple that you can basically go out and replicate any of his artworks in the matter of a few minutes.

Been thinking a lot about personal canons as a tool for learning.

I've always believed and observed that you can't actually /teach/ anybody something they don't already know. The learning has to come from them.

A personal canon allows people to learn how other people learned. It gives them a way to forge the same mental connections in their own mind or, even more exciting, to forge entirely different outputs based on the same inputs.

Personal canons also allow people to buy into a certain part of somebody's process. like maybe I don't want to do what somebody is doing but want to learn more about a certain aspect of their practice (like yoga for example). personal canons allow me to see where to start in /that/ specific space, which makes the canon a much more valuable artifact.

1

So an interesting thing we can do is have like a section for tools but broken down in specific ways like Software, Hardware, Physical or whatever else. And we can provide the Wikipedia description when available and link to the Wikipedia article. But then what we can also do is kind of generate our own 'encyclopedic entries' for these tools perhaps starting with recurring ones. So for example with ArchiCAD, we could contact the creators and interview them as well. Then instead of linking to the Wikipedia page for ArchiCAD we can link to our own exploration into it. If the page on the ArchiCAD features really unique audio sound bites of why the tool was created and how and stuff it creates a pretty cool little world for someone to explore. I'm not sure what will happen if we do this but what might happen is it might demonstrate (in some way) that it's not just our computers that are linked but the things we make as well. The tools we make and what they end up meaning to the people who use them.

@marco, It's kind of neat to be like thinking of an interview outside the context of film in a new format. I'm super curious what will happen and how this will feel as it becomes more tangible. Like when we can click around and stuff it might give us a more direct sense of how this is or is not analogous to a documentary film interview (subject).

Experimenting with larger question boxes for larger content. Might work as just like a double width box. Perhaps we can also play with proportions depending on the significance of the question or the significance of the answer.

Just experimenting with boxes with longer questions. I need to play with this more perhaps make certain audio boxes wider than other ones. Prob the move. I think this could be really cool these almost like Wikipedia inspired pages that are interviews and like a mix of us describing a person but also giving that person the space to describe themselves. I dunno it just seems really cool to me lol

A 'zoner' is a piece of media that conjures up some kind of flow state. The term was first coined by Dave Gorum through a series of on-going experiments with video and it was later interpreted by artists like internetVin who described it as "an object that can illicit an awareness of the frequency between events".

1

Something that seems really interesting and important from @ethan's notes that really resonated with me "The idea of the personal “Canon” for the books, people, films that have influenced your work".

Related to the post below - the idea that we are indebted to our influences, and that to understand how or why somebody thinks or does things the way they do you how or why they arrived at that collection of intersecting influences.

like a kind of /first principles for people/

Going to spend the morning going through @ethan's responses.

Super helpful working with @internetvin while he tries to imagine how this'll manifest.

I'm going to try work out the core of what this is, what we're asking, what we're talking about, and how we can make it a repeatable format that still /feels/ the way that it needs to feel.

These encyclopedic profile pages can be like modular in a way like… the questions could be in a grid so we can always add as many as we'd like. There can always be a synthesis at the top from us and screenshots could be included in components as well. We will probably have to create this manually for awhile, in that way it's kind of like a hand made zine but on the Internet.

Perhaps there's this kind of box element for answers to questions that are audio based. Perhaps you can trigger the audio by clicking the question or the playback controls. Not sure if I'm vibing with this yet but could go the trick. I wonder if it feels flat, but maybe that's fine for now.

1

One of the cool things with working on this about @ethan is that I am genuinely inspired by him so it makes it super easy to work on. That's a general vibe with working on Futureland. I find everything is easier because we're just trying to make things for people we really care about. I'm really appreciative to be able to experience that feeling.

So I'm wondering about this earlier entry which is essentially our own kind of encyclopedia that includes people we are discovering and learning from and of course other things. The design of it currently doesn't support an interview per se, but rather a synthesis of someone just like on Wikipedia. So I wonder how we might combine both. The different ways that @ethan has answered our questions ↓ is interesting. So I wonder how we might build on that in some way. I'm on limited time tonight but I want to give this a bit of attention.

Adding indented replies. I might be able to add a visual line that signals more connection between the indented comment and the parent one. Tomorrow's Monday and I'm hoping to have a solid week of creative output. I need to catch up on a bunch of work across diff journals.

Also the vertical spacing here needs a bunch of improvement. Hm. Maybe the comments in general can move up a bit or something.

Just adding a simple box here to compose comments. Again big (purposeful) HN influence. The 'Add comment' text can turn green once you start typing in that box just like on our journals. Also, it should probably say, 'Add Comment' instead. I'll change that now.

Experimenting with increasing the text size of each comment. Composition for new comments will need to be at the top. I think if comments increase over time we can reduce the text size of the comments but it won't matter for now.

Seeing these videos of how people use Futureland is super interesting. I really like the idea of sharing who you are by sharing what tools you use and how you use them. Seems like it builds on all of these ideas we are exploring here. Hm. I might start sketching something on that soon. It can be really simple to start as an experiment.

1

@lucas will be shipping some improvements to this news.futureland.tv experiment today - maybe even dropping it in the bottom right menu for fun. He will be transitioning to a stronger focus on our iOS tools after that. More on that in a bit but it will be an interesting thing to navigate and hopefully something ya dig!

@marco is working on something interesting within this space with @ethan will be cool too see whatever comes of it I'm sure. He's also thinking about onboarding and articulating what FL is a bit more. That work will be reflected in the Futureland and we can keep this journal as an experimental space.

Will share more soon :)

Adding a slight visual adjustment to links that are 'journals' or 'entries' - really not sure how I feel about this yet lol. Might be off don't know but I'm sure we will over time if this is a thing that's going to stick.

Adding in FL's logo. Can play with all this stuff later to dial it in or remove it entirely if this ends up or needs to end up becoming something different. We might be able to just use our little 'star' here but I'll need to boot up my archive hard drive to dig it up and use it in this sketch. I'll do that in a bit.

I replaced the word 'news' with the date. Feels better and brings it back into the daily context which is obviously important to us

It would be cool if on news.futureland.tv, you could still trigger the quick search shortcut if you want to navigate way from news to something on Futureland. It's not something we need to explicitly state, it can just be for users who know for now. @lucas <3

1

also I don't always share stuff that I agree with (as maybe evidenced by this journal itself sometimes) so context is helpful in a lot of cases.

but maybe I'm the outlier in that I use things other people have made in order to explain the world.

2

taking a look through the "news" tab.

finding myself agreeing with a lot of the points @internetvin is making about linking journals. I clicked on a really cool link that turned out to be a scientific paper.

one thing I always ask when somebody sends a link is "why are you sending this to me?" not because I don't think I'll find value in it, but because I want to understand what my friend is trying to communicate with me /through/ this thing.

find myself wishing that this was possible with these links. obviously the person who shared this is really smart and shared this for a really good reason. I wish I could just adopt their mythology instead of having to filter these links through my own.

10

Perhaps a better name than ‘News’ for this little experiment is ‘Reading List’. Perhaps we can slow down the velocity of it in some way and it’s like a group curated reading list each month or something. Hm.

Will start to experiment with "Futureland News" today.
Vin took HackerNews as an example so I started to inspect the site and was able to find the ranking algorithm they were using 10 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1781417
This seemed a little too complex for now, so I simplified it like this:

function getRanking(votes, hours, gravity = 1.8) {
  return (votes - 1) / Math.pow(hours + 2, gravity)
}

Also for what it's worth, perhaps less so now but when I started reading HackerNews years ago and it actually helped me a lot in terms of my personal evolution. Mostly because there was a lot of difficult material on the website. Difficult for me. I would see links that were 'upvoted' to the top of the list and I would read them and could not understand any of the material. It pushed me to want to work on my understanding of difficult materials. It pushed me to read different and more difficult books. I use it less now but it taught me that these kinds of resources can be valuable in unexpected ways.

It's a cool way of learning what does and does not matter to people. What is important and what is not?

2

Maybe something just simple like this to start. Perhaps users can upvote or only certain trusted users can up vote but the number of upvotes is never shown. The goal would be to just create a high quality resource of links each day and see what happens.

It's been interesting to hear the feedback on @marco dropping some links here and also neat to read the discussions that came out of them. Some of you even started sharing your own links. I was chatting with @marco on the phone today and a thing we wondered about was what would happen if we created a central public place to observe and participate in an ever changing list of links. Something like our own HackerNews. Maybe it could be interesting to mock up something very simple and see what happens.

4

talking to @internetvin on the phone about creating data/info/content around an idea. made me think of the federalist papers. authored mainly by Alexander Hamilton, these essays were basically the philosophical framework for thinking about American independence.

@marco - I don’t know many other people that work on building something every single day including weekends etc. How did you and Lucas arrive at that schedule? Why have you stuck with it?

@internetvin - I think a generally misunderstood thing about a ‘daily cadence’ or ‘doing something every day’ is that in a lot of ways it’s easier than the alternative of doing things intermittently. There’s a lot of reasons for this and my take on it has come out of experiences after to 3-4 years of daily output.

Neurological:

I’m not a neuroscientist but as far as I understand this stuff; on a neurological level, when you repeat ‘something’ often your ‘brain’s wiring’ to perform that ‘something’ improves through the production of Myelin. I think the neurological expression is, “What fires together, wires together”. This Myelin is like an insulation that wraps around the ‘wires’ you need to do something and it allows your brain to send more electrical data through those wires. So repeating things often creates more Myelin and this does not cause a little improvement, but a massive one in creative performance. With ‘better wiring’ your brain can make new connections and trigger flow states faster. The book ‘Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle expands on this subject.

Identity:

I find repeating things also changes how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. When I decided to code for 365 consecutive days, it really felt like people thought I was smarter or something (lol). And as I got better I started to wonder, “well if I can do this, what else can I do?”. There would also be interesting things like people would say,

Person: “oh I heard you’re programming now? That’s way over my head man!”

Me: “yeah I am. And I’m sure you could do it! I mean I know ya could. Have you ever written any code?”

Person: “nah. Trust me it’s way over my head man”

I had a lot of experiences like this where people had not written a single line of code yet had a really clear understanding of what they could or could not achieve in the medium. I think repeating things and not thinking expands your sense of what you think is possible.

Environment:

Another kind of interesting thing is how repeating things starts to adjust and evolve your surrounding environment on every dimension. When I stated making music every day, most people had no idea what I was doing or why. I didn’t even really know why. It was this kind of nuisance initially. I would have to excuse myself after dinner to go make a song or like show up at a party late because I needed to make music. After hundreds of days my environment started to really adjust around it. We would be out and my wife would say something like, “hey we better run, you still gotta make your track and stuff too”. The next year when I started writing code, some of my family and friends started running their own experiments with daily cadence so it wasn’t just this lonely thing I was doing and now there were people to talk to. Now it’s a big part of my life, family and home. How things are organized, the design of our spaces, where our family wants to live, the kinds of discussions I have with friends and family, every thing is becoming more aligned with this daily cadence over time. It’s been interesting to observe.

The alternative of working on things intermittently creates a lot of stop and go. I find it makes things difficult if you need to keep ramping up every few days. I do not believe Futureland would be in its current state and have steady forward moving momentum (especially as a bootstrapped project) if it was not for this daily cadence.

So by working on Futureland at a daily cadence (and at any degree of quality), our minds, identities and environments are better suited for the task of serving the people who use our tools. And that ultimately makes things easier instead of harder. :)

@marco - why build it publicly in an open journal?

@internetvin - I think there’s a lot of good reasons to ‘store process’ publicly. If your experiment fails or succeeds by sharing publicly the whole thing can become a contribution to others because everyone can learn from what happens and use that to inform their own work and lives.

There’s so many little details you can pick up on by seeing how someone works, how they imagine something and then bring it into reality or how they solve a problem or run an experiment. And I think seeing how things can incrementally evolve over time can be very inspiring.

By building Futureland in a public journal we are exploring all of those things and also demonstrating what’s possible with these kinds of tools in our own way.

@marco - of all the things to work on, why futureland?

@internetvin - I’m still learning what Futureland is. Even in its current form there’s a lot of aspects I never imagined. And a lot of what’s built now is guided by users. For me personally, I’m really curious about the extent of what’s independently possible as an individual or a small team with just a computer and an internet connection. My own ideas for tools come out of that curiosity. I push myself to independently work on difficult things (for me) and then use that experience to make tools that would make those difficult things a little easier for anyone else (and for me) in the future. Futureland started out of that process. It’s slowly gotten a lot better than anything I could make on my own because of @lucas joining and now community guiding us. I keep pushing myself to run new independent experiments and measure the quality of FL’s tools or how they could be better by how useful they are in those independent experiments.

Thinking about resource building and how to gather and share information about what people are working on.

Going to run and experiment where I chat with @internetvin over iMessage and post the questions and answers here.

1

Here are the tools that I use daily:

Piezo - record any audio source on your mac with the click of a button. This is always open on my computer. Incredibly easy to record and to choose input sources.

Descript - edit audio as a text document. This is an app that works the way I always have. It automatically transcribes audio into a text document. Any changes you make to the text apply to the audio. Basically cut and paste audio editing. This is maybe my favourite app I've ever used.

Mindful (chrome extension) - A word document that lives on the "new tab" in Chrome. It's where all my ideas are. Other people use it for to-do lists and organization. I use it for little bits of text (ideas and sentences) that are still marinating.

18

Playing around with a potential consistent format to get key information about a person's process and tools. Obvious Wikipedia influence here.

2

Things I’m curious about in terms of interviews:

- What are people working on and why?
- What computers and tools do people use and why?
- What are important attributes of a person’s process and why?
- What do people ‘repeat’ within their process and why?
- What are some of the interfaces these people see while they are working? Jpgs or gifs from process.
- What are some films tools books software video games places experience or whatever else that were influential to this person that I can check out?

I’ll add more to this if anything comes to mind.

Had a little idea so just noting it quickly. Stripping this down to give it a broader focus while we are experimenting through this. 'Computer people'. I'll add more to this today.

2

okay things are much more clear to me now that I can physically visualize a v1.

Focus is on starting to ship ASAP at any degree of quality.

Since reach out is (and always has been) a process that takes a while to ramp up, I'm working out what I can ship this weekend.

Looking forward to syncing with @internetvin

The other note is that perhaps it makes sense that each square links to various entries in this journal. I'm not sure how I feel about that though. Might not be correct.

This format might make the most sense for now because we need to learn more about the general problem set of going from a 'nobody turning on their computer' to 'working on a planetary problem'.

Since we need to learn more about that general problem set, we will need to talk to a bunch of people.

Since we need to talk to a bunch of people, we can share that research and discussion with others to see what happens. Hence the format.

We could talk to hundreds of people. And then we can expand from there based on what we learn.

So what might happen is when you click into one of these squares it takes you into an interview that explores the individual's work, process and tools. The hope of each interview is to expand your sense of possibility. Expand your sense of how you can use your computer.

Just making random stuff right now to see what happens. 'The Critical Path' is a book that's super important to me. I really dig the typeface of the chapter headings in it. It's just a simple serif font called Americana SB Black. I don't want to pay for that right now (lol) since I'm just experimenting but using a serif font here for a title just to see what happens.

1

Make cycles

I'm digging the momentum and progression so far. I think something to consider is our 'make cycle'. How often are we producing an output at any degree of quality?

I think the make cycle should be 1 week and I think the first output should be this Sunday and then every subsequent Sunday for the remainder of the experiment.

Worth noting we started on Tuesday. Feels like we have been working on this for awhile already lol

1

Excerpt from a paper by a CS prof at University of Toronto (from 2010) discussing some obvious, direct ways that people with coding skills etc. can contribute to climate science:

Software quality is a particular concern. Climate scientists build a variety of software tools to support their work.

At the heart of the field are the Global Circulation Models (GCMs) that simulate the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere, to study the processes of climate change on a global scale, and generate future projections used in the IPCC assessments [14].

Less glamourous, but equally important, a large number of data handling and analysis tools are used for processing the raw observational data and the results of simulation runs, and for sharing climate data with the broader scientific community.

Most of this software is built by the climate scientists themselves, who have little or no training in software engineering.

As a result the quality of this software varies tremendously: The GCMs tend to be exceptionally well engineered [5], while some data processing tools are barely even tested.

8

The knowledge gap exists not on the side of what to do (or what problems to solve) but rather on how to solve them.

Programs like drawdown

Programs like drawdown clearly outline the problems to be solved, and even suggest what the direct solution to them might be.

The lack of data and documentation is on the side of how people have either attempted to, or succeeded in, solving them.

Another issue seems to be funding. There's no shortage of good ideas to solve massive planetary problems. (Here's an example from MIT)

Again there doesn't seem to be any obvious answer for how the everyday person, with only their skills and a computer, can contribute to these problems.

Which makes me wonder, what are the characteristics of the kind of problem that can be solved that way?

1

on the black hole

went through a long list of "environmental awards" (lol) to try get a broad idea on what people are doing to solve planetary problems.

seems like most "innovation" still happens within the context of the market. which is to say that they are possible, future, solutions that require massive collective action.

I guess the question I'm wondering is does something like something like reforestation, conservation, clean drinking water etc. have to be a collective action problem? surely this isn't true.

which is not to say that individual action should replace collective action. just that surely there's space for both?

for example if somebody right now wants to donate their time and skills to these problems, what can they do.

is it possible that one day the answer to this question will become as straightforward and widely performed as something like mining bitcoin, for example?

3

https://sfpc.io/mission/

"…This is also a school for teaching. Every student who comes here will be asked to share their expertise with their classmates in the form of workshops and outreach.

The goal of the school is to promote completely strange, whimsical, and beautiful work – not the sorts of things useful for building a portfolio for finding a job, but the sort of things that will surprise and delight people and help you to keep creating without a job. However, employers tell us they appreciate this kind of work as well.

This is not a program to get a degree, there are large programs for that. This is not a program to go for vocational skills, there are programs for that. This is a program for self-initiated learners who want to explore new possibilities. This is a program for thinkers in search of a community to realize greater dreams."

2

'What is the extent to which a person and a computer can change reality?'

The black hole is the distance between 'a nobody turning on their computer' and 'working on a planetary problem'

2

Starting to think it makes sense to make this journal publicly viewable and see what happens. There might be things that others find useful here. @marco, @lucas let me know what you guys think.

8

Reached out to the people at http://photorequestsfromsolitary.org/.

It's a project that uses technology + community to do two things:
1. Improve the lives of people in solitary confinement
2. Raise awareness about eliminating solitary confinement in prisons

It's a beautiful intersection of art, artistry, technology, community, and impact. They actually shut down the prison that the project was initially started to protest.

Feels like a step in the right direction. Not thinking about it too much just felt like the right thing to do.

5

Some quick thoughts I had on the way here:

There are two problems we are trying to solve. One of mythology and one of technology.

The mythology we're trying to perpetuate breaks down into two areas:
1. A person and a computer can change reality
2. With that knowledge (that a person and a computer can change reality), choosing to put those skills to something other than changing the world (i.e. working on planetary problems) is a weird decision to make

Given that the musers already believe the above, the only thing they need to work on planetary problems are:
1. Exposure
2. Information
3. Tools

@vin and I talked a lot yesterday about a concept he called "the black hole", which is the distance between knowing how to code (or being any kind of artist) and knowing how to apply those skills towards a planetary problem.

An example he used often was "how do you go from learning how to code to cleaning up the ocean?"

Of course, mythology is an important part of the puzzle. But if we're talking about musers, then the black hole is the more generous act.

10:57AM here in Lisbon. Just did a 2km walk (up 21 flights of elevation lol)

About to dig into Exit to Community

I chose any gif that caught my eye for the icon, just wanted something moving on the screen as I type. Also just added this journal to my daily

Chatted with @marco for the first time today for this little experiment. A lot of interesting themes including repetition, the muser principle, over-access to information, under-access to information, tools for working on planetary problems, labelling things, not labelling things, thinking and not thinking and the result of optimizations in general. Also sci-hub!

The most immediate thing to do is select a 'tangible' direction to move in which I think will come up organically soon.

00:00
internetvin
internetvin working on the black hole