Recommended Reading on Language, Web3, AI, and thoughts on Liminal Spaces
Thinking slow or sideways in order to move forward, or how poetic thinking can influence working in tech.
For a long time, mystery can be the place to be. Let’s not rush to the end. I’d rather we spend our time inside the astonishment. - Lauren Camp
I have always found fascination in the liminal space - in the coming-into-being, or even in the need to sit in the discomfort. This week, I have been reading a number of essays about the art of tech, or startup founders as artists, and especially language in Web3 and AI.
I thought I would be leaning this month’s newsletter into more essays on art, writing, and creativity; and then I found art, language, and creativity cropping up in the pieces I was reading about tech. The quote I opened with, by Lauren Camp, is from her essay in LitHub: The Pleasure of Taking the Long Way: On Puzzling the Route to a Poem. In this piece, she says:
"I’ve also learned that, to go forward, I may have to go sideways. Untying the creative knot is, in itself, a kind of direction. The goal is to rely on what I know only to see where it could point me, then I want to escape that. I want to redirect the writing many times, until I reach a place I don’t quite recognize. It will have vibrations of what I thought I knew, but also other influences. I want to make a new landscape of marks."
I frequently need to remind myself of the generative space of creative thinking. The going sideways, the sitting with ideas - where to go next in business, what idea to move forward with, what idea to write down. Is there space to take these lessons from writing poetry - something I *used to do* - and be contemplative? What is the relationship between poetry - revision, contemplation, time - and startup mentality? Silicon Valley’s old adage “move fast and break things”? What if there is a balance?
Revision in writing can be solitary (or it can be collaborative, such as in a workshop setting). Revision in startups is feedback from users, or customer surveys, or product-market fit, leading to those pivots or iterations or new releases.
In an essay about Web3 from 2022, Building Web3 with Radical Imagination, futurelilith writes, (March 2022) “To me, there are two ways of perceiving the world: limited (oppressed, victim mentality), and expansive (radical imagination, solidarity)… through years of deep personal healing and enlightening myself to writers like adrienne marie brown, Octavia Butler, bell hooks, Tara Brach, and Elizabeth Gilbert, I’ve been able to rewire my mind to opt out of doomerism and rather embody a limitless, imaginative, joyful, and even playful outlook when it comes to building the future.” Futurelilith talks about the role that language plays in building and participating in the new opportunities of Web3, and I was impressed to see mention of Octavia Butler and bell hooks in a Web3 essay!
Words and language - again and again - time, space, reflection. Meditation on language - brings us to poetry!
And really, let’s talk about taking things literally. Taking things literally in AI - as in, training the system. In his essay published by The Verge last month, AI Is a Lot of Work, Josh Dzieza describes the new global industry of the humans - taskers - behind the large language models (LLMs) that power AI - labeling, or annotating, image datasets for the computers to learn from. He writes, “The job of the annotator often involves putting human understanding aside and following instructions very, very literally — to think, as one annotator said, like a robot.”
Here, at least, there can be no liminal space. Robots don’t hesitate. They have no perception discomfort, or perception of discomfort - to say nothing of why that experience could be useful for creativity, or growth.
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Celebrating Pride Month means something different for everyone - for me, it meant spending time with dear friends and being a crazy cat lady, but having a mostly quiet weekend and avoiding all the hype.
For Pride this year, I want to tell you all about my friend Frankie’s gorgeous artwork and T-shirts - so that you can support a queer artist! All the T-shirts feature original artwork and are limited-edition; Frankie's artwork is outspoken, vibrant, and political.
Books! Books! Books! Two books recently published by dear friends I met in Russia, at separate times, in the same place.
A Flash of Darkness: Collected Stories of M. M. de Voe - Buy this NOW! Read it! Short stories that will reverberate in your mind.
TENDER MACHINES by J. Mae Barizo - Buy this NOW! Read it! Speaking of poetry, it doesn’t get any better than this. You need this.
The Queering of Corporate America: How Big Business Went from LGBTQ Adversary to Ally by Carlos A. Ball (I do not personally know Carlos, but I do recommend this book!)
Listening to: Tori Amos - Ocean to Ocean
Watch: To Scale: TIME On a dry lakebed in the Mojave, a group of friends build a practical scale model of time: 13.8 billion years of cosmic evolution, and our place within it.
RECOMMENDED READING - Top of Mind
The Pleasure of Taking the Long Way: On Puzzling the Route to a Poem - Lauren Camp (June 2023)
I had the following 3 long-form essays open in my tabs for - MONTHS - and finally read them all the way through. HIGHLY recommended reading for those of you in startups/investing/VC/tech. They are long. They complement each other:
Big Tech’s Biggest Bets (Or What It Takes to Build a Billion-User Platform) - Matthew Ball (May 2023)
Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System - Donella Meadows (1999)
AI Is a Lot of Work As the technology becomes ubiquitous, a vast tasker underclass is emerging — and not going anywhere. (June 2023)
The errors of efficiency - Alex Murrell (Oct. 2021)
“You’ve Never Had An Abortion, Have You?” (June 2023)
NEWS / LONG-FORM JOURNALISM
Lesbian bars have endured — with community, grit and a little reinvention The more than two dozen lesbian bars that remain across the United States are spaces of “hope” catering to all LGBTQ+ people in a political climate that seeks to silence them. (June 2023)
How the right’s defeats gave us the anti-LGBTQ moment The American right is returning to its homophobic roots. (June 2023)
A Star Reporter’s Break With Reality - Elaina Plott Calabro (June 2023)
Have You Been to the Library Lately? (June 2023) Librarians once worried about shushing patrons. Now they have to deal with mental health episodes, the homelessness crisis, and random violence
The Free Soloist Who Fell to Earth (June 2023)
‘Why I might have done what I did’: conversations with Ireland’s most notorious murderer Malcolm Macarthur was the wealthy, bookish socialite who shocked Ireland with a brutal double killing in 1982, and caused a major political scandal. I tracked him down and heard, for the first time, the tale he told about himself. (June 2023)
Corporate America Scrambles as Pride Month Collides With Boycotts Anti-LGBTQ sentiment has grown louder and more violent this year. (June 2023)
How Often Do Health Insurers Say No to Patients? No One Knows. Insurers’ denial rates — a critical measure of how reliably they pay for customers’ care — remain mostly secret to the public. Federal and state regulators have done little to change that. (June 2023)
When Dying Patients Want Unproven Drugs (June 2023)
Life on Social Media Platforms, in Users’ Own Words (June 2023) In focus groups, highly engaged social media users describe the purposes that different platforms serve for them, their choices about what to reveal and how they try to anticipate any hostile reactions that could be lurking
Instagram Connects Vast Pedophile Network The Meta unit’s systems for fostering communities have guided users to child-sex content; company says it is improving internal controls (June 2023)
Sebastian Maniscalco’s Straw Men “The hottest comic in America” is also a reactionary hack. (June 2023)
BUSINESS / STARTUPS / INVESTING
Investing in Artists of a Company Why Founders are Artists in Their Own Right (June 2023)
4 Fortune 500 companies are led by openly LGBTQ CEOs. Here’s what they’ve said about their experience in corporate America (June 2023)
The Millennial myth - Alex Murrell (March 2018)
Hierarchy of Engagement, Expanded - Sarah Tavel (2017)
WEB 3 / CRYPTO
Building Web3 with Radical Imagination (March 2022)
Explain like I am 5, what is Web 3.0? (June 2023)
Why Web3 Matters (2021)
BRAIN / MIND / HEALTH
How much social interaction do you actually need? You don’t need to make new friends to have a fulfilling social life. (June 2023)
How the Brain Protects Itself From Blood-Borne Threats To buffer the brain against menaces in the blood, a dynamic, multi-tiered system of protection is built into the brain’s blood vessels. (June 2023)
Can we train our taste buds for health? A neuroscientist explains how genes and diet shape taste (June 2023)
ART / LITERATURE
Poets Can’t Write Novels, and Other Baseless Fears If your book doesn't fit into the genre box, create something new and beautifully monstrous (June 2023)
Adventures in Memory: On Searching for Truth by Writing Fiction Boo Trundle Considers the Lessons of Memoir in Novel Writing (June 2023)
The Ethics of Writing Hard Things in Family Memoir Kelly McMasters Wonders What is Enough When Revealing Hard Truths (May 2023)
The Screen Legend That Inspired Cate Blanchett and Jessica Chastain New docuseries Liv Ullmann — A Road Less Travelled gives the Norwegian acting dynamo, Ingmar Bergman muse, and ace director her due (June 2023)
OTHER / PERSONAL INTEREST / RANDOM
Hunter-gatherer lifestyle fosters thriving gut microbiome Samples from the Tanzanian Hadza group included species previously unknown to science. (June 2023)
The Ultimate American Road Trip Maze (June 2023)