#HungryGhostTech

Unskillful human nature can be like a hungry ghost, a being always looking to what is next or lamenting what was. A being not present enough to say, enough.

The hungry ghost is a metaphor in Buddhism often depicted as a gnarled sickly creature with a very thin throat and full belly. It’s a metaphor about when we foolishly attempt to satisfy our desires without realizing that it’s an endless task. How may illusions does it take to feel satisfied once and for all? Like any addict, the answer is at least: one more, that next great illusion.

In today’s context we must also think about our information diets, which Clay Johnson has written much about (check out his book.) Social media and other digital networks, as extensions of humanity’s social nature, amplifies almost all human trappings and inspirations. This media saturation was initially embraced like a new toy at your 5 year old birthday, and then discarded. Many of us now need to detox or drop out on sabbaticals or entirely, until… We often swing between these extremes. Neither offering much solace if the focus is on stuff, or lack of stuff.

Can we learn to say enough with this focus on our objects, goals, feelings, all the stuff? Can we make tech that helps tame human nature instead of playing to its base hungry ghost modes as if that is the only “real” nature we have?

The way around this to me is about shifting focus to our collective reality, to our inter-relationships with each other and our world. Let this happen in whatever way that feels right as long as it’s authentic, as long as you can really show up in the relationship. Not in your head. We are far too addicted to our self. To ideas. So much so that we can’t even see what is going on right in front of us. So many are feeling what you are feeling in any given moment, you are never alone. Let’s learn to feed on this sense of solidarity. Self-satisfactions, and self-lacerations, are like trolls. Don’t feed them.

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30 days of blogging note: after my last post, written while sick, I finished my work in Moscow and traveled home to Brooklyn and promptly allowed myself to be fully sick. Personal resilience is an issue especially in socially engaged work. I’m actually working on app that touches on this. So I took the time to just be as I was, a healing and sleep needing person. I’ll now resume this challenge, with an added focus on personal resilience topics. You must work from where you are. Where else are you?


(Image: Scene from the Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts (Late-12th Century). Kyoto Museum.)

Embrace The Mayoral Shift, The Two Decade Old NYC Tech Boom Has Always Been About Bottom-Up Tech Diffusion & Urbanization

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Photo via de Blasio’s facebook page

Like the right-wing myth of the broken windows theory, some people who make the FUD-inducing pro-Bloomberg warnings that the NYC tech industry should be wary of not having a cheerleader in mayor-elect de Blasio basically ignore the general social & tech paradigm shifts going on: in this case, since the 1990s, the move to a mostly urban digital networked world.

NYC as a global capital has the tech industry it does because it is famously a socially dense heterogeneous human network, a center of culture, media, and finance. NYC’s tech success is not a result of being governed by Bloomberg, an oligarch, the 13th richest person in the world, and the 7th richest person in the US.

New York’s digital boom coincided with Giuliani’s term and he didn’t claim credit for the force of history but Bloomberg jumped on the bandwagon and with a few welcome tokens tech-washed his way into it according to some ahistorical eyes. Bloomberg didn’t invent the boom and it’s happening regardless of who is in office.

Aside from the global paradigm shift’s fueling by government funded programs that created protocols like IP, TCP, HTTP, and crucial private sector hardware innovations, the real credit goes to NYC’s existing urban culture and architecture that is social by nature of its active free expression, density, mass transit and walkabilty, and the industries already present.

Tech is an easy and important bandwagon for politicians to jump on, just ask Al Gore. All elected officials would be welcomed to support the tech paradigm shift and more importantly guide the wise use of technology in our society… after all we still face the choice of creating a closed libertarian hell or an Open socially responsible tech enabled world.

The various NYC tech subcultures need to talk more about tech ethics, about the value of digital and public commons, about privacy, about enabling more bottom-up civic participation, and about the requisite universal Net access for a 21st Century democracy. With his progressive-tilted ethics de Balsio is oriented more closely to these ideals than we have seen in decades.

How tech diffuses, for who, for what, is largely up to us, emerging from our values and practices. Take this time to reflect on what we’ve considered normal. If you think it’s about the mayor then you’ve been too accustomed to the top-down technocratic culture of the past 20 years of NYC mayorship. In a markedly more open administration NYC is what we demand and organize for. There’s wider input-ouput bandwidth in the system. More nodes in the system are included in the calculations.

NYC is us. Let’s move on. Let’s push the new administration on socially responsible tech policy, that would be truly innovative.