[FRIAM] "What Work Means"

David Eric Smith desmith at santafe.edu
Sun Oct 29 06:04:15 EDT 2023

Yes — more material here than I would know how to recruit, and nothing useful I can see to do with it:

I too was thinking that the Harvard kid is probably a nice kid, but he should probably room for a semester with somebody his age from Ukraine whose whole life just got razed — maybe do all this in a bunker -- to learn that the capacity for strength in people is probably a good bit higher than he currently imagines.  Same goodness could be retained, but given perhaps a different grounding.

I am in fairly frequent conversation with a just-minted philosophy PhD in southern Poland (the connection is because she wants to do work related to Origins), who has had to postpone all this to age 40, and makes a living teaching math to elementary-school-age kids.  Poles, many displaced kids from Ukraine, lots of kids from homes that sound pretty messed-up just because that is what the social situation around them makes available.  To hear the rundown of “a day in the life” makes this most-ordinary thing sound completely overwhelming.  Yet she keeps stepping up, far into sleep deprivation, giving individual lessons to some kids who are terrible at it and have no future in math, because she sees them in a store somewhere and they ask her to.  It’s David Foster Wallace’s This is Water, only without any of the style; just the struggle.

> On Oct 27, 2023, at 1:44 PM, glen <gepropella at gmail.com> wrote:

Glen sed:

> But similar to Eric's local deconstruction of Elliott's bullshit about bimodal distributions, what's a hyper-privileged Presty to do? What options are there other than going with the flow? What? Should Aden quit college and ... walk the earth? https://youtu.be/dLdRsofkCVs?si=quzxQt7wOUZT375g Nah. He should stay in the game and propel the criminal enterprise until he finds his golden parachute. If he can't suppress his appetite for "meaning", he can snack on some Greenwashing and, say, support the paper straw initiative at the local county commissioner meetings.

Here was a point I liked in Wendy Brown’s book and lectures (Roger, thank you for links; much more material from her on Youtube, which I did lose some time in), which I think she ascribes to Weber and does not claim as her own original insight.  Most of us would approach a term like nihilism and parse it as an attitude in a person or people.  She says Weber wanted to approach it as a condition of living, which surrounds people on all sides, offers a structure of universally bad options, and constructs a certain frame around them.  Their attitudes may be many things, but this setting is the sufficient statistic.

To picture this I think: the Consultants (McKinsey, BCG, Blaine, etc.), Private Equity, Crypto.  There is more, but you can put together a pretty good police sketch of the villain starting from these three.  I think I want to call them the saprophyte economy.  

John Oliver did a helpful (as usual) piece on the Consultants, just recently:
McKinsey: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Where do these Harvard kids get their education and news?

And of course, a fair amount of SFI’s early money came from McKinsey, about whom I knew nothing at the time.  Maybe they also solve helpful problems; it is a big company.

I don’t know what I should be doing with any of this.


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