Category: Conversations

9/11, 20 years on

9/11, 20 years on

On Tuesday, September 4, 2001, a book called Fooled by Randomness hit bookstores. In it, author Nassim Taleb wrote that we should be aware that we don’t know what’s coming, and we should be ready just in case. Just in case what? Well, who knows, maybe a plane could fly into a building I’m working in. What then?

Well, what then? It happened a week later. People asked him how he predicted it. They put him on news shows, on talk shows, on campuses, and he told them all the same story, until he got tired of it. “I didn’t predict it, and you didn’t get the point.” That’s not what he said, but it’s the gist of it.

We don’t know what’s coming, and some things aren’t predictable. Just like COVID-19 shut the world down, no one saw 9/11 coming. Except it was always a possibility, merely a not-very-likely one. For most of our lives, we don’t waste our time protecting against something that’s probably never going to happen. And then something happens, like planes flying into buildings.

If we’ve learned anything, maybe it’s vulnerability. Maybe we’re living a little more like we might die tomorrow because it showed us that we might, in fact, die tomorrow.

But we’ve shown on the larger level — large systems, like TSA and the federal government — that we’re very reactive, never proactive, and we rarely revisit our reactions.

If you are old enough to have flown before 9/11, you’ll remember that your friends and family used to be able to walk you to the gate. Yes, they had to go through security, but security was largely the x-ray machines (small bins for your keys and change, but none of the gray bins we currently put our shoes in, and our belts in, and our laptops in) and a metal detector. Sometimes you had a real metal belt buckle and the detector went off, and you got the wand. Back when we were able to wear our belts through security.

Jim Jefferies has a great bit about it. Language warning.

Humans build our greatest tributes first to our gods, then to our dead. Here in Savannah, there’s a gorgeous cathedral erected to St. John the Baptist. As a Jew, churches often make me uncomfortable — they’re simply foreign spaces with a very different feel from a synagogue, even if the activities taking place there are similar — but I really love this space. I recommend it as a stop for most people who visit, and I bring a lot of people there.

The cornerstone was laid in 1873, and the stucco and spires that completed the building were finished in 1896. In 1898, it burned down. They took what was left and immediately started to rebuild, and managed to hold a Christmas Eve Mass in 1899.

The terror attacks of 9/11 are really our national crisis, at least for the current generations. Pearl Harbor had been the previous attack that devastated the country, killing many Americans. There was the assassination of President Kennedy, which killed two people (Kennedy, of course, and Lee Harvey Oswald, shot by Jack Ruby). Apart from that, very few other things over the past century have happened to “us” as a collective.

And so it had to be remembered. I’ve never visited the 9/11 Memorial, but it looks meaningful. In fact, it’s more than that, as Malcolm Gladwell outlines in an episode of Revisionist History. It had to be completed by a certain date. It had to be a certain size. They had to build below the memorial to keep it from falling onto the subway tracks (or trains) below it.

We don’t do this for the dead, of course, the way we don’t build cathedrals and other houses of worship for God. We do both things for the living. We do it for solemnity and remembrance. To impart importance.

But maybe we do it for a more sinister reason, too. Maybe, just maybe, we build grand cathedrals to keep people in line, not necessarily before God, but before the clergy, the humans who claim the power of the space. And maybe, just maybe, we build memorials to the dead to remind us that the thing that befell them could befall us if we don’t follow new rules we’re told are designed to prevent that thing happening again.

10 Septembers, 20 Septembers »

What we did get out of 9/11, was a national story, surrounding our individual stories. Families and nations, like gods, are built on stories. America was built on George Washington’s cherry tree, on Paul Revere’s ride, on Ben Franklin’s kite. So far as we can tell, only one of those stories is actually true.

We’ve had other stories, of course. Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, Manifest Destiny, Ford, Disney, the Kennedy clan, and the bulk of the names and events mentioned in “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

And so, when I was driving from a meeting at our main office to getting set up for my week in our satellite office, I heard Dee Snider, on his syndicated radio show, tell me about the newest American story.

The national story was always going to be part of us, but it would only stir some of us. For the bulk of us, we spent a few days scared or unsure, and within a week we had air travel and baseball again. Some signed up for the armed services. And for some — a not insignificant number — our national story was wrapped up with a new family story, with thousands of family members and friends lost.

My friends group lost Amy, who had been setting up a presentation on a high floor. We got to keep Carol (not her real name), who was just getting a retail shop on the ground floor open when the first plane hit. She managed to run several dozen blocks north and get the last train headed her direction out of the city. We got to keep Jarod (not his real name), who had been in a building nearby when the towers came down; if the wind had blown a little bit in the other direction, his building would have taken a devastating hit and he was probably on a high enough floor that he wouldn’t have gotten out.

One family has the story of The Falling Man. Many people stuck above the impact spot either fell or jumped rather than wait for the inevitable. Esquire photographer Tom Junod was out on assignment when he heard about the first plane hitting, and he ran over to get photos.

One of the photos wound up being the famous Falling Man photo, a picture of a man mid-fall, inverted (that is, upside down), in an apparently casual pose, waiting for impact. After some reflection, it’s clear to the viewer that this “casual” pose is really just a moment in a fall. It’s not a 100-story swan dive. It’s just the luck of the camera shutter.

We don’t know who the Falling Man is. Several families believe he’s a relative, but the photo is taken from too far away to zoom in enough to get a definitive look at his face. He is all of ours, and he is none of ours. Another story.

Cal Fussman has his own special story from 9/11, one that took 10 years to tell. He wanted to learn about wine, and Esquire gave him the go-ahead to take some classes. He got so into it that he spent a night as the sommelier at Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, not long before 9/11. With the story partly written, everything changed, and his story was finally published in the September 2011 issue of the magazine.

A story interrupted, a story created.


We learned, in the days and weeks after 9/11, what Americans are made of, what we stand for. We wrote and rewrote our stories, and our myths. But we’ve learned in the ensuing years, as well, what Americans will put up with. Tell your story, tell our story, but stay vigilant.

CTRL+Z: Biden and Trump in the perspective of bad code

CTRL+Z: Biden and Trump in the perspective of bad code

When you’re iterating software and something goes amiss, you have two options: write a patch or roll it back.

If you patch the code, it’s like putting a bandage on a wound. You take something that didn’t do what you intended it to do, and you put something new you hadn’t intended to create on top of it to attempt to nullify it. It might have not have immediate unintended consequences, but three or four iterations down the road, it’s another piece of code that could get in the way.

It’s a piano top, if you will.

But unlike a wound, you have the option to just simply delete the iteration. Roll it back to what came before it, and try writing something new again.

Before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, I noted the parts of my life that were verifiably less safe under President Donald Trump’s watch than they were before. Those will take a long time to correct, if they ever do in my lifetime. I’m no particular fan of Joe Biden — who’s been running for president since 1988 — but this election seemed to be more a referendum on Trump than on Biden.

Biden isn’t a new iteration to improve on Trump, he’s a roll-back. An undo. A CTRL+Z on the keyboard of the American presidency.

People wanted a new direction, and Trump certainly offered something new. If you remember back to 2016, the Democratic Party establishment wanted Hillary Clinton in so badly that they worked to stop Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination, and there were a lot of people who were in the give-me-Bernie-or-give-me-Trump crowd, so give me Trump it was for them.

When you try something new and you don’t like it, you can either put something else new on top of it and see if you get something else you like, or you can pull back to the last thing that was minimally acceptable, even if it’s not exactly desirable.

If you don’t like your pulled pork with whipped cream, you can either take the whipped cream off it, or you can toss some clam sauce on it and hope it gets better.

In this case, we took the whipped cream off. Biden isn’t something new and improved on Trump. He’s the minimally acceptable previous step.

With the exception of the four years during Trump’s presidency, Biden’s been part of the federal government since 1973. He’s been a part of the system that led us to want something different for almost 50 years.

So what’s next? Sometimes your game needs a sequel instead of an iteration, a full overhaul that keeps the storyline moving forward but is different enough to make you want to play it instead of its predecessor.

A gratitude for today, and this moment

A gratitude for today, and this moment

There’s a catch-all prayer in Judaism for gratitude. I’ll use my own transliteration here (that is, I’m going to write the Hebrew words using English letters in a rough pronunciation), but the prayer is called the shehechiyanu. The full prayer roughly translates to, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this day.” It goes like this:

Baruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, shehechiyanu v’kiyamanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh (hear it here).

It’s said a lot. The beginning of every holiday. When friends gather for the first time. When family gathers for the first time in a while. The first time you perform a commandment in the new year (such as giving to charity or going to synagogue). The first time eating a particular food in the new year.

It’s an eleven-word gratitude practice you can utilize any time you need one. Twenty words if you want to use the English translation I gave.

In case you want to go deeper:

• My Jewish Learning points out the shehechiyanu is a reminder to stay present.

• The Trust Center for Early Education at Temple Ohabei Shalom points out that the shehechiyanu is a good marker for observing otherwise overlooked events in our children’s lives; birthdays, sure, but also physical growth, science projects and recitals.

• Two rabbis at a Texas synagogue give a sermon on shehechiyanu, including the importance of being alive in regard to prayer.

• Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff takes a deep dive on when the oral tradition tells us to recite shehechiyanu — and when not to. Note: Bracha means “prayer” (some translate it as “blessing,” but the context is “a blessing over a meal,” not “the post-op nurse was a blessing”).

• Here’s more deep discussion from Rabbi Avi Zakutinsky.

Incidentally, the way rabbis Kaganoff and Zakutinsky discuss the question of when to say shehechiyanu — with reference to various texts, many of them conflicting — is how Jews discuss matters of faith throughout history. It can be very interesting. One example is the argument several rabbis have in regards to when you can say evening prayers. Some say they should be said after sundown but before midnight. Others say evening prayers can be said after midnight but not after first light. Still others argue that the prayers may be said at any time before someone goes to bed, even if it is before sundown or after first light.



That brief, fairly-well supported (I thought) piece I wrote last week on forming a more perfect union?

Facebook didn’t want it. In fact, Facebook seems to think my blog is simply not OK for their platform. And Instagram (owned by Facebook) seems to not want me at all.

This seems like a win. I mean, yeah, Facebook is a good place to share, since everybody’s there, but I’d really checked out of Facebook for the past six months, and now, other than a couple of groups I’m involved in, I suppose there’s not really a reason to go back.

And I was already finding Instagram sucking up too much time so I’d deleted it from my phone (which made it really hard to post), so I guess that’s no longer a concern.

While I do have something planned in this space next week, you may see a bit of a dropoff. You may not, but I have a couple of other writing projects I’m excited about. Hopefully they’ll see the light of day, but the risk of moving off my own publishing platform is that maybe they won’t. Onward.

In order to form a more perfect union

In order to form a more perfect union

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I barely remember writing about our divided nation in the wee hours following the election last week, so we’re going to go there. And we’re not going to touch on (or link to) the Barack Obama speech that has been dubbed “A More Perfect Union.”

It comes, of course, from the preamble to the United States Constitution. It describes the very reason for writing the document that sets up the basis for our laws, and allows for amendments: in order to form a more perfect union. That’s one of the reasons America’s founders decided to establish the Constitution — importantly, it’s the first reason listed.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s why the words we use matter: when we’re gone, we have communicated the words, but not the intent.

A union, by definition, is what you get when you combine two or more things. Unity, on the other hand, is a feeling of harmony or oneness.

We all need a regressive eduction in this topic, I think. Thankfully, the National Endowment for the Humanities offers up a pretty intense curriculum for elementary school students to practice actually forming a more perfect union.

If the genius written into the Constitution is the ability to amend it, understanding that we just can’t predict what the world will be like in the future and we don’t know what we don’t know or what we might have missed (hence the “Bill of Rights” — actually the first 10 amendments, added and ratified because the founders realized they forgot a few things), the genius of its initial creation is the compromise of all the delegates to get it done.

In a two-party system, there’s no requirement to build consensus. Whoever wins gets to make the decisions. It’s why George Washington warned us against political parties. Yes, it’s a faster process when people don’t peacock (if you watched any of the Amy Coney Barrett hearings you know what I mean: 32 hours of speeches and the vote came out exactly as predicted), but maybe when we’re writing the rules and regulations that govern over 350 million people we should spend a lot of time on ironing out the details and not so much time preaching to our respective choirs.

Let’s do better.

United we stand, untied we fall

United we stand, untied we fall

It’s after 4 a.m. here on the east coast of the United States, the morning after the 2020 election.

Lots of local races and ballot questions were decided, most of them important to somebody. Here in Georgia, we had a ballot question about requiring the government to spend money on the things they’re supposed to spend money on. No, really. When the government collects a fee for, say, tire disposal, and the fee sheet says that $1 from the disposal fee will be used on environmental cleanup, there’s nothing actually requiring the government to use that $1 on environmental cleanup.

Our government is full of loopholes.

As of this moment, the Senate is 47-47, Democrats and Republicans. The House is nearly even, and the presidential race stands undecided with millions of uncounted ballots. Some of those are absentee ballots that will be segregated because they’ll be challenged in court. Some of those are absentee ballots that won’t be challenged in court, but it just got late and the states want fresh eyes to go back to counting.

North Carolina is accepting ballots postmarked before election day until late next week.

When all the ballots are counted — or at least when all the ballots that are going to be counted are counted — there will be about a difference of less than two percent. Joe Biden still has an outside shot at 300 electoral votes, but more than likely the difference in the electoral count will be no more than twenty or so.

Neither of the candidates is likely to be a gracious winner or loser, but they’ll express it very differently.

What this election has taught us, maybe even more than the 2016 election, is that there are no consensus candidates. We are divided. Period.

Let’s find a better way.

I’m just going to leave this here.



On Jan. 20, 2017, as my wife, our pup and I piled into the van to head up to celebrate my Dad’s birthday with him — at a place without a television, because he didn’t want to have to watch Donald Trump’s inauguration — my wife made a joke. I didn’t respond. I was very uneasy about a Trump presidency, what it meant for Americans, and, importantly for me, what it meant for Jewish Americans, and for American journalists.

I told her I might be uneasy for the next four years.

Donald Trump’s America has not been great for me. Before our collective quarantine, for the first time in my life, weekly services at my house of worship were strictly guarded. Armed police officer at the front door, which would open no more than 30 minutes before services, and 15 minutes after the scheduled start time, the front doors would be locked and the armed officer would move to the side door, where you need to go in.

I’d only ever seen that for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — the Jewish equivalent, from an importance standpoint, of Christmas and Easter for people of Christian, Catholic and adjacent faiths — when a large portion of the community might be at worship at the same time.

Meanwhile, while the world is getting safer for journalists, the U.S. isn’t even among the top 40 nations for press freedoms, despite that freedom being expressly designated in the Constitution. Hundreds of journalists have been attacked, arrested and had equipment damaged this year. Reporters Without Borders blames the Trump administration for this:

Much of that ire has come from President Trump and his associates in the federal government, who have demonstrated the United States is no longer a champion of press freedom at home or abroad. This dangerous anti-press sentiment has trickled down to local governments, institutions and the American public.

People ask, what about the tax break? Our accountant predicted the tax legislation would save us $200. We don’t have a good assessment, though, since we had a child and bought a house the same years the legislation kicked in.

We do know the gutting of the Affordable Care Act cost us a bunch of money; our family went from two people to three, and our health insurance costs tripled while our deductible doubled (which means not only were we spending three times as much for our insurance, we had to pay twice as much out of pocket before insurance started to pick up a significant portion of the bill).

I can unequivocally say that, in the few ways government can affect my everyday life, I’m worse off during Trump’s presidency than I was before it.

Before I sat down to write this post, I went back and read some of the stuff I wrote before and after the 2016 election.

I wrote about the two major party candidates being in the same America of the “Two Americas.” While Joe Biden is certainly not in the same category of wealthy as Donald Trump — and not even in the ballpark with Hillary Clinton, it’s still true that both major party candidates are not in the America that is worried about paying its bills.

I wrote that I was concerned about civility. In our speech, on social media, and, importantly, in our streets, it’s become much worse. It’s clear we still understand nothing about context. I wrote a long post about nuance and facts and culture and a bunch of other stuff we can just toss out the window, since we’re ignoring them, outside of a few communities that actually value conversation.

I made some predictions in the days after the election. Some of them were correct — there’s no border wall of the sort promised and Mexico did not pay for whats there; he still doesn’t seem to enjoy the work; Apple’s not making iPhones in the U.S.

I didn’t see many traditions being broken. Trump didn’t place his assets in a blind trust, and luckily for him, the courts didn’t have the balls to cause a constitutional crisis by letting emoluments lawsuits get very far. He sent federal law enforcement in to bolster local law enforcement agencies, and the “small government” Republicans looked the other way, just as they did as the national debt skyrocketed (also surprising to me, though I didn’t make a prediction on it).

Normally when I post about voting, whether it’s on the blog, Twitter, Instagram, wherever, I tell you I don’t care which candidate you vote for, so long as you vote.

But this time I care.

I asked early for my absentee ballot, and sent it in early.

I’ve been tired of our two-party system for a long time. George Washington warned us of the problems of such a system.

I’m mostly behind what Unity has been up to, and while things got started too late to make much of a difference this election cycle (they asked supporters to vote their consciences instead of the Unity ticket this time around), I hope they keep up their efforts, which include:

• Drafting a center-right and a center-left candidate to run for executive office, flipping the ticket every four years. For example, let’s say in 2024 their members want to see Andrew Yang and Jocko Willink run. They randomize the ticket (let’s say, flip a coin) and, let’s say Yang would be the presidential candidate and Willink the vice presidential candidate. In 2028, the ticket flips, even if they win in 2024.

• Rank-choice voting. Instead of tossing all your vote power in, say, the Trump basket and getting stuck with Biden if Trump loses, you rank order your vote, expressing your second, third, fourth, etc., preference. Maybe you’d really like Trump but would prefer to have the Libertarian Party candidate or the Conservative Party candidate in office ahead of Biden. If you’re in a swing state, you have the opportunity to really make a difference with rank-choice.

• Electronic voting. This isn’t in Unity’s stated goals, but they had only a small tech hiccup on their primary day, which caused them to extend voting by a few hours, with over 8,000 votes coming in across time zones and the rank-choice winners announced the next day. Obviously there are some shortcomings, but if we were to start building systems now for 2022 or 2024, we could go beyond only being able to vote via iPhone or Android. And obviously for those without internet access we’d have to come up with an in-person voting space, like a library.

The last two Democrats to win Georgia were Bill Clinton in 1992, with a big boost from Ross Perot, and Jimmy Carter in 1976, a Georgia native. We’re not exactly a swing state. But I really feel the safety of my family could be on the line with another Trump presidency. If we can’t worship safely and my profession becomes more perilous, it’s increasingly clear that this isn’t the America the founders intended, and it’s time to find a way to fix the system.

Fake it ’til you make it? Don’t

Fake it ’til you make it? Don’t

One of the things we talk about when dealing with impostor syndrome and in building confidence is faking it until you make it — that is, if you appear to be something you’re not long enough, you might become that thing.

The trick here is to fool yourself, but be careful when trying to fool others.

In the early days of the web, when creating a website was magic, some site builders used to go to client meetings and either inflate their skillset or inflate their team size. They could overcharge, and if they ran into something they couldn’t do, they could always contract out to someone else. This is faking it.

If you build up your skill set while you’re faking it, eventually you’re actually making it.

But if you spend too long trying to trick others into thinking you’re big enough, you risk running into something disastrous, like those “War Dogs” kids.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about excellence. One of the elements of faking it is a sense of entitlement. But people actually are good at things, and the good stuff rises to the top.

We spoke to Nick Velasquez about mastery a few months ago, and one of the things he pointed out was that we actually enjoy things more when we’re good at them.

Cal Ripken, Jr. tells Michael Gervais that most of the success in his storied Major League Baseball career came about because he was always as prepared as possible.

Gervais’ podcast, by the way, is called Finding Mastery, and, among other things, he’s the mindset coach for the Seattle Seahawks. He tells Steven Kotler that faking it ’til you make it means you’re faking it, and you can’t be truly you or authentic if you’re faking it.

Ripken said in that same interview that he holds himself to a standard. He didn’t miss a game in 16 seasons — no aches, no sickness, no funerals, no nothing. 162 games in a six-month season, every year, for 16 seasons (some of those seasons were strike-shortened, some were 161 games because of a rainout not made up, but he played all the games available). He never pressured his managers (and he played for nine of them in his 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles) to play him — if he was the best player at his position that day, put him in; if he wasn’t, slot someone else.

He voluntarily sat out that first game, by the way, and it was the only game he missed that season.

Do you have an honest assessment of your skills? Are you actually doing people a service by continuing on your path, or are you trying to trick them? If it turns out you’re trying to trick them, does that align with your moral code?

Game B

Game B

In a lot of ways, 2020 has felt like a giant shift in the world. It’s not just our COVID-19 quarantine and masking, during which a a lot of (mostly small) businesses closed, more (often large) businesses declared bankruptcy and suicide rates rose.

Sports schedules changed, with the NBA and NHL taking off months between not-quite-finishing their regular seasons and coming up with a modified ployoff. MLB shortened its season and modified its travel schedule.

Riots and demonstrations took place all over the U.S. for months in many cities in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and later the shooting of Jacob Blake.

California burned. Oregon burned. So did New Mexico. Louisiana flooded (again).

The world learned about a bat with an almost human-sized wingspan.

And about the murder hornet, which invades beehives and cuts the heads off a bunch of bees.

And about mutant ticks that took over Siberia.

A dust storm from the Sahara crossed the Atlantic and affected U.S. skies.

For those who didn’t want to leave their houses, they could just sit on Twitter and battle like unreasonable people fighting wars not worth fighting.

I’ve always known there’s hope, but I’ve never quite been sure where to look. So many “solutions” seem like they’re meant to move individuals or very small groups of people off the grid entirely, rather than create a blueprint for society.

Even what I consider realistic blueprints cover only pieces of what needs to change. I wrote a little while ago about Bret Weinstein’s Articles of Unity, which is a sound enough plan to appeal to the mainstream, though they hit some hiccups when Twitter decided disrupting the status quo was bad.

But then I heard Jim Rutt talk about Game B on Douglas Rushkoff’s Team Human podcast. Rutt describes himself as something like a prepper, not for himself and family, but for a community.

He figures if it comes down to something like a zombie apocalypse, you don’t need a bunch of people hunkering down in their own bunkers with enough food and toilet paper for themselves, you need a community that can farm and build and trade.

But more than that, he figures there’s no reason to wait for an apocalypse. The system we’re living — which he calls “Game A” — isn’t sustainable. Even if you believe consumption rates, fossil fuels, climate change, etc. aren’t existential problems, isolation, tribal behavior, zero-sum lives and the effects of busyness certainly are, whether it comes to chronic individual illness or growth into full-fledged war.

Rutt has a long piece on Medium outlining the path to Game B. It’s a very detailed read, so I won’t try to either summarize it or pull out the dozen or so big points, but note that Rutt considers Game B a “civilization-level operating system,” which will require people to have skills and a bias toward action, and it will require many small groups transitioning from Game A to Game B in parallel, independently of each other, with or without each other’s knowledge.

More: Facebook group | Library (including a glossary of terms) | Wiki

There are, of course, other groups doing Game B work, whether they call it that or not. The Liminal Learning Portal is attempting to bring together many of the writings and much of the content and personalities in one place for easy discovery.

Articles of Unity is working on helping the U.S. exit the two-party system.

Steward Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog was an early aid for the urban permaculture movement and really targeted people who wanted to take responsibility for much of their lives, including growing their own food and building their own homes. He more recently started the Long Now Foundation, a group aiming to make sure we’re still here for thousands of years. If the name doesn’t mean anything to you, consider that their publications mark the date with a five-digit year — currently 02020 — so that the digit jumps in almost 98,000 years instead of only 8,000.

There are lots of local groups — and this seems right on with Rutt’s vision — like Central New York’s Alchemical Nursery, which has a focus on urban farming, but also gives workshops in things like rehabbing homes and that sort of thing.

Personal responsibility is an important takeaway here. While I believe I have the work ethic and community ethos it takes to make it in a Game B world, my skill set is sadly lacking. I take instruction well, which, combined with work ethic, may make me a desirable member of a Game B society, but the bias toward action Rutt values takes a back seat when you’re waiting for people to show you what to do.

I suppose I should develop a better understanding of how things work, and how to actually do things.

Replication and interpretation

Replication and interpretation

In his manifesto Team Human (serialized on Medium), Douglas Rushkoff discusses, among many other things, musical notation.

Musical notation, he writes, is meant to let other people play an approximation of the written work, not to replicate it.

To hear what he means, listen to these four pros play the same Bach piece.

All four learned from replicated — mass printed — versions of the same written work, but each put his or her own touch on the piece.

Interpretations. Approximations.

Digital platforms, he writes, don’t interpret the written work. They replicate it. There’s actually software that puts human error into the perfect replications. When something’s too perfect, it seems fake to us.

Humans are good at pattern recognition. It’s why we know that a person we’ve never met before is a person, and a dog whose breed we’ve never seen before is a dog.

We’re also very good at figuring out when something’s not quite natural. The too-perfect beat of early drum machines, before they had error built in. Some facial augmentations. Wax fruit.

We’re not here to replicate other peoples’ work. We’re here to interpret, to put our own spin on things, to own what we do. To be perfectly imperfect. To be original.