Archives for the month of: March, 2015

A question that has proved vexatious over the past few years: is it better to do as you please in life, or sacrifice yourself to help others?

Equally relevant is the side question, “does art really matter at all?”

Answers: The dichotomy in the first question — selfishness versus selflessness — is false, and art may be the only road to creating a scientifically-literate society.

There are more enough self-help gurus in the world today. Many ventures of dubious value tend to adopt the glossy show-business angle of selling a “new you”, from entreprenuerial religious figures to celebrities shilling for the pharmaceutical industry.

Everyone wants to change the world in some way, usually starting with you.

If there are so many “success” gurus and self-declared “experts” giving inspirational TED talks about your awesome brain, how is it possible that we’re not all gorgeous happy millionaires by now? Shouldn’t the privileged one-percent have edged at least somewhat closer to being the “self-made hundred percent”?

One answer is that the game is rigged to keep almost everyone at the bottom. This is obviously part of the problem.

The other part is that humans refuse to learn.

If you want to have an impact in the world, you have to effect change in the behavior of others. The fabeled “neuroplasticity” touted ad infinitum by the TED talkers is essentially fancy jargon for a very old and pragmatic word: that word is “learning”.

And learning, especially learning anything worthwhile, is hard.

It’s no surprise, then, that you can practically hear the doors of young minds closing somewhere in the early-to-middle teen years. Schools are partly to blame, as anyone who has been to school in the current system knows. The other problem is a social one, or perhaps more accurately, a psychosocial one.

Think back to when you were in your mid-teens. What was happening around that time? People around you were starting to have (lots of) sex, everyone seemed to be in a rush to create an identity and become part of some clique or other, and suddenly you realized that you were old enough to start making money. Money meant that you could get more of the things that led to sex with desirable partners. Money also could enable buying objects that could help you “fit in” better — clothes, a car, gadgets and pocket money for “cool” things like drugs and partying.

The new sexual compulsions and socially-facilitated greed eventually forms a belief system that congeals later into a nearly cultish consumerist mentality. Get rich, get laid, and get more-better-newer stuff than your peers: this is the new value system that replaces the curiosities and desires of an otherwise intelligent and inquisitive child.

By the time the average kid leaves high school, the pattern is set. Sex, greed, and the obsession for egotistical social dominance become reframed as “being a grown-up”. The rat race is mistaken for what it means to live a “normal” life.

I used to vacillate between the idea of becoming a scientist or engineer, versus an inclination toward artistic pursuits. Who made a stronger contribution to society: Einstein or Mozart? Amelia Earhart or Britney Spears (I mean, Christina Aguilera)? Alexander Graham Bell or Sidney Poitier and Jay-Z?

Again, the dichotomy is false, because the constraints arbitrarily focus on the wrong set of options.

The predominant myth of modern society is the “self-made” person. It’s a variant of the “rags to riches” story that leads poor people to dream about being filthy (as in, wealthy) in the most short-sighted and cutthroat ways. The only way to be “exceptional” is to be better than everyone else — or to steal their share in a zero-sum game. And there can only be a very small percentage gloating at the top of any given population.

Accordingly, we have fairly boilerplate mythologies spun around people like Einstein, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. The same is true for cultural icons like millionaire actors, platinum-selling rockstars and mixtape-famous rappers. Have you ever stopped and listened to the strangely similar plot points in the hagiographies of your favorite cultural superheroes? We’ve had the equivalent of Photoshopped photos long before software nipped, tucked, deleted, fuzzed and pushed pixels into pleasantly implausible shapes. The “genius” illusion is one that has inspired confused adoration and misplaced idealism (eventually giving way to cynical disillusionment) in young people for generations.

So you _still_ want to change the world…

If you want to change the world, you first have to accept the fact that you most likely will not change the world. Denial of reality leads to the distortion or willful ignorance of empirical facts. If you become some kind of persuasive zealot or denialist manic attempting to fulfill a titanic vision, the likely outcome is its opposite. Hubris leads to the de-valuing of others, which leads to ruthlessness and corruption. Even religions that emphasise pacifist ideals like “turn the other cheek” can be misused by their adherents to justify murder and genocide. The idea of a “superman” reliably creates secular religions that rationalize the displacement and destruction of anyone who is different or raises a voice of dissent.

I realize now that mobilization of a population is far more powerful and important than any individual.

Rather that one “genius” Einstein, imagine an entire society of people who are scientifically literate. Instead of one brilliant Bill Gates, imagine a culture that valued rationality and sought practical solutions for a better life both at home and abroad.

There could be thousands of young Einsteins and Gateses who never learn to care about science and technology until it’s too late — instead, they waste their professional lives building high-tech toys, privacy-destroying “social networks” and schemes to con people into clicking on ads.

To change the world, young children are really the only ones who can be trusted to learn anything at all. Adults are almost invariably trapped in the so-called “grown-up” world of sexual obsession (prudes and perverts alike), tribalistic religiosity (from organized religion to mass consumerism) and twisted irrational thinking (from lionizing corporate greed to normalizing the “fat acceptance” movement).

The only real hope may be to use art — music, films, novels, video games and other storytelling media — inviting and seducing the audience to seek a different path. Replace the dysfunctional melodrama of narcissistic self-indulgence with the lifelong beauty of seeking truth in the real Universe.

Forget the idolatry of Einstein and the pseudo-prophetic proclamations by clever self-promoters like Elon Musk. To massively change the world, society can shift in relatively small ways. Waiting for a benevolent billionaire to hand us our future is undoubtedly the worst of all possible capitalist worlds. Trying to re-make the world in our image is not only futile, it’s a power fantasy that leads to immorality and murder.

What’s most amazing is that nearly no one seems to have tried this truly revolutionary idea: use art as a means of seducing society to become more rationally-minded and scientifically inclined rather than less.

What if you wanted to become the best in the world?

0. Throw away the idea of “analysis paralysis” and face your fear of being wrong.

You’ve heard the expression before. Especially in the corporate world, many people who loathe unnecessary meetings and red-tape regulations will react to any sign of hesitation with well-practiced disdain. “What you’re doing smells like analysis paralysis. Do something! Move! Faster, faster!”

Many people confuse the concept of procrastination with the notion of “analysis paralysis”. If you’re using the idea of “weighing all the options” as an excuse to avoid taking action, the problem is not that you’re thinking too much.

Thinking is never a bad thing.
Thinking about the wrong ideas can be a very bad thing.
Charging into a topic without thinking is almost equally as bad.

Don’t Wait, Don’t Rush

The real question is, “are you afraid of making mistakes or being wrong?”

If you’re afraid, then charging in won’t help because you’ll tend to use cynical “positive thinking” to ignore mistakes rather than learn from them. This will become a stumbling block, and then a fatal flaw on the path to learning. There are a million ways to make mistakes, and an infinity of excuses to hide behind.

Sitting on the fence and “analyzing” forever (i.e. procrastinating) is also not useful because it prevents the experiences and inevitable mistakes that will ultimately lead to skill.

In essence, this article is about learning to think better in order to do better. The first, critical point is to accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and dedicate yourself to improving one step at a time. Your goals will draw near with accelerating speed when you see mistakes as lessons to learn, not shameful evidence of inherent incompetence. To put it plainly, you’ll get better faster after you get over yourself. More about this farther down.

Onward.

1. Name your skill.

Pick an area and be specific. Do you want to be the best jazz musician, the best 3D graffiti artist, or the best maker of boutique designs for stylish artificial limbs?

Your area of expertise can be anything. Even better if you have some sense of aptitude, or general inclination in that area — and can find a niche that may not be the first one that comes to mind. Give yourself time to think, explore and try new options until you’re comfortable enough to know whether or not a particular field or domain is the right one for you.

2. Define A Worthwhile Goal.

Your chances of reaching a worthwhile goal are higher if you make the goal specific.

Do you really want to be the best in the world?

The less ego-driven you are, the better — “the best in the world” is both meaningless and empty.

– How would you know that you were “the best”? More likely, you’ll merely join a club of hypercompetitive narcissists who thrive on the idea of oneupmanship and short-sighted triumph over others.

– What if you became the best? You’d drop dead out of ecstasy at being a “Winner”, or realize that your goal was just egotistical obsession over other peoples’ opinions of your work?

The deepest values lead to the most meaningful goals.

Instead, define your goal in terms of your deepest values. Do you care about other people, or only yourself? One important aspect of real creativity is that creative work is inherently an act of communication. The more you can take the perspective of your audience and care about them in the ways that they care about themselves, the more likely you are to connect to their desires and values. You’ll be able to see the commonalities between what the audience wants, and what you already love to do.

By contrast, a selfish egotist is trapped gazing at his or her own reflection and can only haphazardly assume that the world will think that his or her work is “the best”. Bluster and bluffing can sometimes win in the short-term. Attuning your creative impulses to the desires of your audience will ensure that you never fall too far out of touch.

3. Reduce all distractions.

The impetus for this entry was the question, “how am I better than I was last year around this time?”

Actually, I ask myself this question all the time.

The answer is that I’ve done the reverse of the typical approach. Instead of trying to shoehorn more time into my life, I’ve reduced the amount of time wasted on non-useful activities. One obvious point that everyone strenuously overlooks: use television, movies and other passive media (including aimless web browsing) as treats to be enjoyed only on special occasions. They are mental junk food unless they directly contribute to your creative work; all forms of “junk” (physical, mental, emotional, financial and time-wise) are perfect opportunities to troubleshoot and “take out the trash”, as it were.

Instead of being a good consumerist herd animal and trying to “have it all”, be a smart creative person and learn to do more with less. Life is already too short; train yourself to always strive to do more in less time. Paradoxically, this is the opposite of “multitasking”. This means you may need to get better at doing nothing at all.

4. When you’re “doing nothing”, actually do nothing.

This operationalizes the previous point at its most extreme level.

The essence of distraction is an attempt to get away from something. You might have watched TV and movies to escape from yourself for a while. Drink and drugs often — but not always — have similar purposes, especially in a social context (alcohol is called a “social lubricant” for a reason; it distracts from social anxiety by dampening the stress response).

Creativity: escape or immersion?

Creativity is, in some ways, the perfect escape, in that you’re building a world that doesn’t exist in realty. Creativity is also the opposite of escape, in that you have to focus one-hundred percent of yourself and your energy in order to do your best work. This means that it’s all too easy to almost reach the zone of creativity — and get distracted because your mind wants to escape the necessary intensity of attentional absorption.

Question: How can you reach that intense “flow” state more often?
Answer: Allow yourself to be bored.

Trust that you’re never “doing nothing”. Your so-called “unconscious” mind is always working, even when you consciously draw a blank. While you sleep, you dream. And when you’re bored, your mind is wandering in ways that will lead to your next creative idea.

If you distract yourself with television, movies or other passive media (like most of social media), those quiet whispers of new thoughts are easily drowned out, much like junk food may give you the feeling of being full while leaving you malnourished.

Focus on your creative fascinations when your mind is ready to operate intensely, and be bored while waiting for the next idea.

4. Get better by operationalizing your goals.

This is the most important part of this set of principles.

Do you remember when you just started out? You probably defaulted to the old “I wanna be the best ever” idea.

Then you learned a little more and realized that being the best will take years. There are a lot of fanatically creative people (more likely: desperately insecure people) out there. Contrary to stereotypes, many artists and creatives are willing to work really, really hard, practically all the time.

That’s the ego trap at work.

How do you escape from becoming a slave to the things you love?

One way is to think more about how to get better.

If you want to draw or paint better, you could just draw and paint all the time. Immersion definitely has its value. Jump into the water if you want to learn how to swim.

Or you could ask, “if I wanted to paint on the level of Leonardo da Vinci, what are the most basic skills that I could use to reduce the mistakes I make with every new piece?” The human body, for example, isn’t just a thing of beauty. It’s an object of scientific study. Did you know that you can learn exactly where every bone, muscle, joint, wrinkle and shadow is supposed to be? This is a subject called anatomy. Without in-depth anatomical study, all you have is hours spent guessing. In a fraction of the time, anatomical knowledge can bring precision to every human figure that you draw or paint for the rest of your life.

If you want to learn a language, the same principles are at work. Do you want to learn slowly and painfully as you’re forced to do at school? Or do you want to become a fluent communicator with real people in that language, which involves a completely different combination of structure, rote learning and cultural immersion?

Think of other areas of life where these ideas might apply.

Recap

Remember that creativity is, at its core, about continually getting better at making things that communicate to other people in a valuable way.

Here’s a more concise version that also elaborates on the previous points. Quiz yourself by seeing if you detect the differences:

1. Start from your values.

Why do you want to make these things?
In what ways do your creative impulses communicate something valuable to others?

2. Move beyond egotistical goals.

Instead of racing to be “the best” like a starving rat in pursuit of cheese, create goals that can continue to grow with your skills — always anchored by the intrinsic values that you discovered in step 1. Your skills and goals will self-sustain, getting better and better at an accelerating pace.

Learn to cultivate the “audience mind” without pandering to what’s hot right now or becoming trapped in pop-culture trends and soon-to-be discarded “cool” cliches.

3. Instead of chasing distractions, embrace boredom.

Boredom leads to frustration. Frustration leads to expression. Be ready for your best ideas to tumble out when you least expected them to arrive. Be prepared by keeping your mind open. Being bored will quickly become the most fascinating part of your day, when you realize how hard your mind is working all the time. Give yourself room to work inside the nascent imagined reality that your creativity will soon bring forth in full form for the world outside to enjoy.

4. Operationalze your goals.

Get better at getting better by always looking to learn more about “the skill of skill”. The more you refine your approach, the fewer mistakes you’ll repeat. As you deepen your comprehension and fluency in the fundamentals (which may in themselves be different from what you first assumed), the more possibilities you’ll open in the long term. Be meticulous in refining your grasp of the basics and be creative in giving yourself restrictions in order to force your mind into new ways of seeing, thinking and constructing the questions that you ask about your subject. The answers will soon begin to surprise you in delightfully unexpected ways — and may be your best hope for delighting your audience every time, whoever they may be.

Anyone who has spent considerable time online has probably heard the trusty old phrase, “Information wants to be free”.

People have used that phrase as justification for any number of diverse causes — from the John Draper and the original phone phreaks of the `70s, to Julian Assange and Wikileaks decades later. The United States’ Freedom of Information Act can (in theory) be used by citizens as a means of pressuring the government to disclose data that it might prefer to keep secret. Public records, and now, public data, can be obtained in order to hold police and politicians accountable and pull the balance of power away from totalitarian secrecy. In theory, anyway.

The modern-day idea of information freedom took shape back when the Internet was mainly the domain of nerds sharing technical information. Dial-up modems chirped and squealed across copper phone lines, granting nerds the power to make things that other nerds would think of as ingenious or cool. This was the kind of digital place that people like Steve Wozniack, Alan Kay, Bill Joy and even Aaron Swartz could call home, despite being generations apart in chronological age.

Freedom to make cool stuff was the reason why the Internet (in its post-ARPANET days) evolved the way it did — at least, until it became a platform for the mass surveillance we affectionately call “branding” or “advertising”. The fact that the Internet required technical savvy just to get online (much less to find or do anything interesting) filtered out anyone but those dedicated enough to brave the steep learning curve.

What happens when ordinary people get hold of this “urge for information freedom”? What does it mean to the Average Jane Doe or John Q. Unknown, as can be discerned from the ways that the general public make use of the phrase “information wants to be free”?

After approximately a year of being the moderator of a community on Reddit, here is what I’ve learned.

I allowed my Reddit community to be destroyed by trolls, because honestly, I was bored with it and had amassed enough new ideas to start over. These are my notes, and they may benefit you, too, if you ever contemplate starting an Internet-based hangout, meeting place or network.

Note that my niche on Reddit was science fiction. The people in your chosen subculture may be a little bit different, although I doubt it. You can pretend that you and your readers don’t fit into the categories below. Maybe non-scifi people are a special human breed who are better than the ones I encountered practically everywhere on Reddit.

Reddit 101

In case you know nothing about Reddit, here are the basics. Reddit is basically a superset of popularity-based bulletin boards. The Reddit homepage is a massive board that showcases the most popular topics from all of the smaller boards. The smaller ones are appropriately called “sub-reddits”.

In subreddits, anyone can post a new topic. The readers, called “subscribers”, can click one of a pair of arrows to vote “up” or “down”. Topics that receive more “up” arrows rise to the top of the list for a while until newer/popular topics replace them. “Downvoted” topics are pushed down the listings until they disappear from the front page. Each page of listings holds up to twenty topics; a topic can be a link to another website, or a relatively short posting that operates like a blog entry, in that you can write anything you want others in your subreddit to read.

Below you’ll find out what I learned the hard way over the past year or so as a Reddit community moderator.

Misuse Is The Norm, Because People Hate Learning

The RTFM Principle: The average person is completely thoughtless 99% of the time, and would rather misuse technology than take a moment to figure out how it works.

Reddit’s upvote/downvote arrows are completely misused much of the time. People use the arrows to express whether or not they agree with a topic, which is actually the purpose of being able add comments. Adding comments, however, requires more thought than clicking or tapping a button. Hence, button-tapping wins ninety-nine percent of the time, even though it’s the wrong thing to do.

Whiners, Whiners Everywhere

Principle: The average person loves whining, and will do anything to defend their right to whine and complain while contributing nothing of any value.

This is the most bizarre aspect of the whole Reddit affair. Across subreddit after subreddit, the phenomenon repeated itself: the vast majority of conversations would dwell more on what people didn’t like rather than what they found beautiful, inspiring or fascinating. The most popular science fiction subreddit contains topic after topic of people complaining vociferously about the flaws of Star Wars. The flaws of Battle Star Galactica. The evils of renaming the Sci-Fi Network to be the “Syfy” Network.

It’s basically a kielbasa festival of bitching and moaning about everything in mainstream movies and television. Heaven help you if you post an original piece of work there; Downvote Hell awaits.

On my own subreddit, it was amazing to see this “whining=freedom of speech” dynamic at work. Here’s an example:

There were well over one hundred posts on the subreddit at the time. Most had one or two upvotes, maybe eight at most. Then one day, in a fit of random curiosity, I posted a topic that lampooned the oblivious popstar Iggy Azalea. The post title poked fun at her idiotic blather about how the Internet was pure evil because people dislike her (for good reason) and hence troll her mercilessly on Twitter.

Needless to say, “idiot” is a word that applies perfectly to anyone who blames the Internet itself for the actions of trolls.

Azalea’s tweet reached me via a retweet from Taylor Swift. I absolutely adore Ms. Swift (no, not that Taylor Swift, although she’s not so bad, either). And so I created a silly conversation topic making fun of Iggy Azalea and professing an undying girl-boner for Tay-Tay (it’s all in how you phrase things, darling). Everything about it was so wrong that it could only be awesomely right.

Not only did it receive more comments than any other topic, we received more subscribers than on any other single day. The herd was so confused that the cross-talk built controversy; the controversy created “value” in the form of subscribers, and the subreddit appeared to benefit handsomely as we enhanced our appearance of popularity.

All this for a fake topic comprised of people whining about a fake Australian rap star, originally retweeted from a Twitter account that may or may not be written by the real Taylor Swift.

Ridiculous. Whining for the win. I’m still laughing whenever I think about it.

Where Lurkers Roam, Reading Is Verboten

Principle: The average person dislikes reading, and dislikes thinking even more.

Here’s a quick tip about the “Subscriber” numbers. You’ll find them prominently displayed in the sidebar of most subreddits. Here’s the truth about subscriber counts: the number means absolutely nothing. People routinely click the “Subscribe” button, and… disappear. They don’t upvote. They don’t downvote. They neither post nor comment. They simply vanish, or worse, they “lurk”.

Lurking takes place when a person confuses the Internet for a television channel and sits there waiting for something interesting to happen instead of participating in any way.

Lurkers comprises at least 99% of the Internet, and they hate reading.

Have a look at the Reddit homepage. Better yet, pick any news/entertainment website offering salacious click-bait headlines. Ignore the story itself and read the comments first. Then go back and actually read the story. You’ll find that in a startlingly high percentage of the time, most commenters have never even read the story. Other commenters, exasperated, might have pointed out this fact and told the ingrate to actually read the story before commenting — inevitably to no avail.

This phenomenon is even more prevalent if you expect anyone to click a link, head to another website, read an article, then come back to add their thoughts about what they’ve read.

On Reddit, reams and reams of conversation consist of preconceived opinions spouted as if they were relevant facts. In that light, it may be better that most people lurk; when they offer their insufferably precious opinions, the outcome is either whining or superfluous piffle that adds nothing to any conversation. I resist the term “mental masturbation” because it’s just too easy, and at least masturbation actually has a purpose. The average commenter on Reddit is simply stroking their own ego for no reason at all aside from the onanistic pleasure of accruing worthless-in-the-real-world-or-anywhere-else “karma points”.

Changing The World With Cynical Apathy and Casual Disinterest

Principle: The average person is utterly apathetic and disinterested in anything beyond reactions to his or her own opinion.

As a Reddit moderator, I realized that most people contribute zero real value to a given conversation. They offer no links to primary sources (could Google be any easier to use?) and no well-formed thoughts beyond repetitive sound-bytes imitating other Redditors who have more “cool points”, a.k.a. silly sums of fictional karma.

Question: Why on Earth would anyone waste so much time on Reddit, then, or the Internet more generally?
Answer: The vast majority of comments exist solely to provoke other bored egotists to react with their own comments. If a topic foments enough upvotes and empty chatter between Redditors, it may end up triumphantly posted on the Reddit homepage.

This is why the Reddit homepage is an adorable wasteland of kitten-and-puppy pictures, and Wikipedia-level trivia about everyone’s favorite celebrities like Keanu Reeves (although I must admit, better Keanu than Iggy). Every now and then you’ll see a scare-mongering news piece or rare nugget of information; mostly, it’s snarky neckbeard humour that circulates like stale air trapped in a pressurized cabin cruising somewhere high above terra firma.

In that respect, the users of Reddit are like characters in an endless webcomic created by the masterminds behind a hipster version of Seinfeld. Or maybe, an ironically post-hipster take on Friends. Or maybe, Sharknado with Samuel L. Jackson from Snakes on a Plane. Beware that Reddit-humour is infectious and you might mistakenly try to export it to the real non-neckbeard world. Would you really want to hang out with your unwashed hordes of aimless Reddit-friends in real life?

Grazing Reddit For Hours? Welcome To The Herd

Principle: The average human is a herd animal.

We now know that the average person is an apathetic lurker. We also know that he or she also loves to complain.

So who’s left?

The other creatures grazing Reddit for hours are the proud members of the herd.

The herd, more than anything else, is the functional downfall of Reddit.

The herd will only move as a single unit. Hence, inertia rules: a topic that has no upvotes will tend to remain so. A topic that gains upvote momentum will tend to skyrocket within a certain window of time. A topic that’s downvoted and complained about by one troll, will also tend to be gored and buried by the stampeding herd.

This dynamic completely destroys any pretense of “democracy” or “freedom of speech” to be found on Reddit. Instead, you have something more akin to mindless tribal gamesmanship or drive-by gang warfare tactics. On Reddit, the mob (or perhaps more aptly, the blob) always wins.

And this is why my subreddit was doomed — we tried to do something different. It’s practically impossible to change the way the game as played if people couldn’t be bothered to learn a new set of rules. Ultimately, you end up with the herd roving from pasture to pasture, whining about anything that isn’t “high-concept” enough to be instantly recognizable, while downvoting anything that doesn’t match their existing expectations. Then the inconsolable bovines of Reddit cry on each other’s hulking shoulders with fake outrage that there’s “nothing new left in the world” except blockbusters and remakes.

There would be no blockbusters or interminable strings of superhero reboots if not for the inherently hypocritical and mindless herd.

Information Should Be Worthless, I Mean, Free

Principle: The average person knows nothing about capitalism and therefore is willing to have his or her privacy destroyed for the sake of “free”.

Another feature of the herd is that they are easily led to believe easy lies at the expense of difficult-yet-obvious truths. The most important truth that I’ve learned is a reinforcement of the obvious fact that nothing of any value in life is free.

No one will moderate a community very well if they’re simply throwing time away to battle trolls and attempt to stir lurkers from their customary apathy. So the moderators on Reddit tend to do a poor job, arbitrarily censoring some content and allowing low-quality pieces to be posted. Some members are banned while some are allowed to continue bullying others.

When our subreddit made the rules transparent, trolls whined that the existence of rules was itself an impingement on their “freedom of speech” and began a downvoting campaign against us. When we stated why some posts were allowed and explained exactly what kind were not, the trolls whined louder about how a focused subreddit was the work of a “tyrant” who was trying to destroy the “freedom of information”.

Freedom of speech and freedom of information have been perverted to mean that idiots on Reddit can destroy any community by taking the “victim” role. They can then incite fake outrage for the sake of bullying into submission anyone who tries to do something different. The average person would rather be tricked and manipulated from behind the scenes (i.e. surveillance, I mean, “advertising”) rather than be told community rules and guidelines without sleight-of-mouth misdirection or intentional ambiguity.

Fixing Reddit. Is It Possible? Should We Scrap It And Start Over?

Reddit’s discovery features are also broken, so very few people even know when a new subreddit has been created. To counter that, I started sending private messages to readers of other sci-fi subreddits — one message only, saying essentially this: “hey, we exist. Come have a look if you want.” I also set up a Patreon account to take donations toward building a better website just for us.

Since any form of “spamming” is outlawed on Reddit, a troll complained loudly enough that our community was obliterated by the administrators. Without any other means of telling potential readers about us, the subreddit would never have grown at all — as is the case with the vast majority of Reddit’s communities. What Reddit has on its hands is a conundrum that they seem unable or unwilling to solve.

Two simple fixes would repair at least some of Reddit’s flaws:

1. Allow moderators to disallow downvotes in order to discourage trolls.

It’s baffling that this isn’t an option for moderators to turn on or off. The only plausible answer might be the fear of stifling “freedom of speech” and “freedom of information” which, as we’ve seen, are basically a sham at worst and a false argument at best. At the very least, this would give moderators the ability to shut out some of the noise that can ruin a subreddit at the click of the “downvote” arrow. Allow mods to do as they wish if they’d prefer to encourage upvotes rather than facilitate angry lurkers, perpetual whiners and hateful trolls.

2. Create an effective way to notify Redditors of new subreddits that match their interests.

When the herd receives a message from the site itself, it’s a “recommendation”, whereas a message from an individual is “spam”. Use the herd’s cognitive bias of blind faith in authority to help subreddits attain at least some visibility. From there, a subreddit can grow without the omnipresent spectre of complete ruin by the wrathful Gods of Reddit, who unknowingly are doing the bidding of trolls rather than assisting creative experiments in community-building.

The profiteering army of Steve Jobs-wannabes and cynical “hackers” like Mark Zuckerberg have, in a sense, equalized the playing field. Now anyone and everyone is on the Net, literally numbering in the billions. They are in many ways nothing like the ones who started the revolution in global communication, yet they often use the same terminology. Radical ideas have become “gentrified” as the “market sector” has “matured” and simultaneously devolved to the level of empty corporate marketing jargon.

Privacy, as a principle of self-protection, becomes gutted and pushed aside, derided as anachronistic in a public-relations war against anyone who “has something to hide” (which, incidentally, is everyone, including you). Sharing is no longer optional, yet people compulsively push themselves at each other in fetishistic obsession for the illusion of instant celebrity, driven by a new kind of social anxiety. Dissent now means being exiled from the worldwide monoculture of bland selfies and fashionably “edgy” behavior, quietly sponsored by whatever brand is crowding your eyes and clouding your mind with ads at the moment.

Reddit had the potential to do better than that. I have a feeling that Aaron Swartz would agree, and maybe even Wozniak, too (though definitely not Steve Jobs, as Jobs’ contribution to tech was that he turned computers into glossy high-status toys). Shills, trolls and the herd are the opposite of what makes the Internet great. Hopefully my notes can help you to see what’s happening from a different perspective and maybe even help create a better way. As for me? I’m still just getting started. My goals are still alive and my sense of purpose is stronger than ever. Maybe we can make something cool and useful together.

Fan reactions ranged from dismay to outrage as news broke that Hollywood would adapt the 1995 cyberpunk anime classic Ghost in the Shell.

A natural next thought arose in this nascent age of crowdfunding and Internet-based collaboration:

What if we could take matters into our own hands and create something better than anything Hollywood would ever dare to produce?

Early discussions about the “GITS: Alive” idea often centered around the cost of producing a live-action Ghost in the Shell film. The film clearly requires a strong element of special-effects expertise, as seen in the anime’s approach to technology in the year 2029.

All dreams in cinematic form eventually awaken to the reality of one word: money.

The effort could be fully funded from the start. That would be the ideal scenario.

If not, there are other possibilities.

What if “GITS: Alive” begins life in the short-film format?

Here are a few options:

1. It could begin as pitches often do: with an idea, images and/or storyboards and a trailer. Shoot a dynamic and exciting few minutes’ worth to get fans and potential investors salivating to see the rest.

2. GITS:Alive could have the “best” scenes filmed and released first in order to woo and awe the viewer into wanting more. Release each subsequent scene as a mini-feature that builds momentum for the next. A faithful adaptation needn’t worry about “spoilers”, since the fans have seen the original anyway. The crucial attributes are craftsmanship, smart-yet-faithful adaptation of source material, and believably acted characterization.

Each mini-feature would be the promotional vehicle for the ones to come, with a focus on tight budgeting in order to reach the ultimate goal of funding a completed feature-length film. The sooner that objective is reached, the sooner the film’s remaining scenes can be shot, edited and compiled into a finished product. Most films are lensed out of order regardless, so this way of building scenes could work equally well.

Another way to film in the “mini-feature” style would be to construct each part as its own small “episode” with beginning, middle and end (“to be continued…”). For the final work, editing and any necessary “in-between” filming can smooth the contiguous narrative arcs to manifest a single cohesive storyline.

3. GITS:Alive could be condensed into a single short-film version. The already-written full-length script could be refined into a five, ten, or even fifteen-minute piece. It would hint at what could be possible with a proper budget and creative latitude required for a true telling of the GITS story. Once further funding is procured, the production commences with either a series of short films (see option 2 above), or full-on from start to finish using the feature-length script.

Here are a few early nominations for a potential group of independent creators in the visual/film worlds who could bring a Ghost in the Shell to life.

Visual Design/Interface Design: Project 2501

Why? See Project 2501.

Project 2501. Homage to Ghost in the Shell.
Project 2501. Homage to Ghost in the Shell.

Co-Director: Ash Thorp

Why? Thorp is the visionary behind Project 2501. His aesthetic sensibility captures the tone, beauty and style of the anime with the auteur’s impeccable attention to detail. Given that Project 2501 was a global collaboration, Thorp has also shown leadership skills and the ability to complete a complex visual project.

Co-Director: Joseph Kahn

Why? See Power Rangers bootleg.

Kahn’s willingness to go as far as necessary down the R-Rated road is essential to a Ghost in the Shell film. If you’ve seen the anime, you know that the action is not the kind that can be toned down to the equivalent of PG-13. The Power Rangers Bootleg short film shows that a decent story needn’t sacrifice the necessary violence that was a masterfully conceived aspect of Ghost in the Shell.

Director of Photography/Technical Director: BLR VFX

Why? See Keloid.

Watch the film. Now remember Ghost in the Shell. The style and subject matter are so similar, they could almost take place in the same fictional universe.

Caveat: BLR VFX may no longer exist. It’s likely that the original BLR members have heard of GITS — and would want to join the team for a live-action film.

Producer: Adi Shankar.

Why? Mainly because of Shankar’s awesomely weird tendency to dress like Brandon Lee from the Crow — while offering a solid introduction into the world of indie film financing. Shankar also produced the Power Rangers bootleg.

Cast:

This is the next question.

A few names have already been mentioned.

More ideas coming soon.