The proponents of technology in the 1840s were very enthusiastic about replacing workers with machines. But somehow I find no indication that they realized that while production could be carried out with few workers and still run to high outputs, buyers would be needed for those outputs. The realization that though the need for workers decreased, the need for purchasers could increase, did not seem to be part of the discourse on the machinery question. Since then, however, technology and its promoters have had to create a social institution – the consumer – in order to deal with the increasingly tricky problem that machines can produce but it is usually people who consume.
I made a prediction on Twitter on February 6th: If Millennials (b. 1980 – 2000) were the premium mediocre generation, Gen Z (b. 2000 – 2020) is going to be the domestic cozy generation.
Premium mediocre seeks to control its narrative. Domestic cozy is indifferent both to being misunderstood and being ignored.
Instagram, Tinder, kale salads, and Urban Outfitters are premium mediocre. Minecraft, YouTube, cooking at home, and knitting are domestic cozy. Steve Jobs represented the premium that premium mediocrity aspired towards. Elon Musk represents the relaxed-playfulness-amidst-weirdness at the heart of domestic cozy.
Premium mediocre looks outward with a salesman affect, edgy anxiety bubbling just below the surface. Domestic cozy looks inward with a relaxed affect. A preternaturally relaxed affect bordering on creepy. One best embodied by the rise of the ASMR-like sensory modality (which even the NYT has noticed) that has come to be known as oddly satisfying.
Premium mediocrity is the same everywhere, every patch of domestic cozy is domestic cozy in its own way.
Here in the US, we expect government and law to be our conscience. Our superego, you could say. It has something to do with liberal individualism, and something to do with capitalism, but I don't understand much of the theoretical aspect—what I see is what I live in. Americans are in a way crazy. We infantilize ourselves. We don't think of ourselves as citizens—parts of something larger to which we have profound responsibilities. We think of ourselves as citizens when it comes to our rights and privileges, but not our responsibilities. We abdicate our civic responsibilities to the government and expect the government, in effect, to legislate morality.
The Builder mindset often eschews policy completely and focuses on the macro issues, rather than the micro complexities. It is a mindset that seeks to find very elaborate, hypothetical-but-definitely-paradigm-shifting, futuristic technology to fix current problems, instead of focusing on a series of boring-sounding and modest reforms that might help people now.
…The worst version of Builder mentality is that their dreams become reality, but instead of maintaining their creations, they simply move onto the next Big Thing, leaving others to deal with the mess they’ve made.
If all evidence of civilization on Earth was destroyed, and humans had to re-build society from the ground up, what would be different? Feynman reckons that pivotal scientific moments, like the discovery of the atom, will still happen in the same way. Perhaps mathematics will be similarly rediscovered.
Someone told me once in response to this question, no artwork would ever be recreated. The art we create – music, stories, dance, film – isn’t a fundamental element of the universe, or even of humanity. It’s unique to each artist. If you choose to create art, you leave something in the world that has never had a chance to exist before, and will never again have a chance to exist. There will never be another Beatles or Studio Ghibli or Picasso. Art, in its infinite variations of originality, is cosmically unique in a way the sciences will never be. Art immortalizes human experiences that would otherwise vanish in time.
But all the civilized cities of the world were also filled with third places that people loved. Not quite private, not quite public, these third places were intimate but open to anyone. Like settling down at a table at a cafe. It felt like your space, but you were not the landlord. They were public, open spaces that you could “own” for a while.
…We need a new third category of work — something between “employee” and “not an employee”—that encompasses digital gig laborers. AirBnB is neither a hotel, nor a private resident. It is a third thing, and we need to create a new category to deal with it…This is the era of the third way.
There are two classes of problems caused by new technology. Class 1 problems are due to it not working perfectly. Class 2 problems are due to it working perfectly.
...Class 1 problems arise early and they are easy to imagine. Usually market forces will solve them. You could say, most Class 1 problems are solved along the way as they rush to become Class 2 problems. Class 2 problems are much harder to solve because they require more than just the invisible hand of the market to overcome them.
...Class 1 problems are caused by technology that is not perfect, and are solved by the marketplace. Class 2 problems are caused by technology that is perfect, and must be solved by extra-market forces such as cultural norms, regulation, and social imagination.
In 1800, if you’d said that you wanted something ‘made by hand’, that would be meaningless - everything was handmade. But half a century later, it could be a reaction against the age of the machine - of steam and coal-smoke and ‘dark satanic mills.’ The Arts and Crafts movement proposed slow, hand-made, imperfect craft in reaction to mass-produced ‘perfection’ (and a lot of other things besides). A century later this is one reason I’m fascinated by the new luxury goods platforms LVMH and Kering, or indeed Supreme. How do you mass-manufacture, mass-market and mass-retail things whose entire nature is supposedly that they’re individual?
...we keep building tools, but also we let go. That’s part of the progression - Arts and Crafts was a reaction against what became the machine age, but Bauhaus and futurism embraced it. If the ‘metaverse’ means anything, it reflects that we have all grown up with this now, and we’re looking at ways to absorb it, internalise it and reflect it in our lives and in popular culture - to take ownership of it. When software eats the world, it’s not software anymore.
The CYCLE OF GOODNESS® is the corporate philosophy established by YKK’s founder, Tadao Yoshida, who believed that “no one prospers without rendering benefit to others.” It expresses the basic belief of the YKK Group. Tadao Yoshida firmly believed that business belongs to society. As an important member of society, a company survives through coexistence. When the benefits are shared, the value of the company’s existence will be recognized by society. When pursuing his business, Mr. Yoshida was most concerned with that aspect and would find a path leading to mutual prosperity. He believed that using ingenuity and inventiveness in business activities and constantly creating new value would lead to the success of clients and business partners and make it possible to contribute to society. This type of reasoning is referred to as the CYCLE OF GOODNESS® and has always served as the foundation of our business activities.
I’ve written this before but I constantly need to remind myself of it, so, once again: A certain kind of work, lifestyle, mode of living — in and of itself — is protest. That is, work that is curious and rigorous is implicitly an antipode to didactic, shallow bombastity. It is inherently an archetype against bullshit. That to be committed to this work or life of rigor (be it rigor focused on “art” or, as they say in Japanese, sakuhin, or family or athleticism or whatever), and to share it with the world is to opt-out of being paralyzed by idiocy, and help others who may be paralyzed find a path back to whatever fecundity of life it is that they deserve.