fbpx
Calling all indie thinkers (literally)

Over the past week, I’ve conducted more than ten private Skype interviews with a diverse group of internet intellectuals, “content creators” of the higher-brow variety, cancellation-vulnerable professionals, and lesser-known upstarts aspiring to be one of these…

The reason I organized these Skype calls is that I spent the past month studying all the best practices that have emerged from lean/agile tech-startup culture. After nearly exhausting all the relevant Y Combinator and Indie Hackers content, it became apparent that one of the most important ways to succeed in building something effective and financially sustainable on the internet is to talk with the people for whom you plan to build it.

In my case, all I know is that I seem to find myself at the center of something quite new (conducting a financially sustainable academic career purely on the internet) and a decent quantity of people are now contacting me for various forms of advice. This seems to suggest I am in a position to create something of value for people, but I’ve never seen myself as an entrepreneur or “founder” and I’ve never really had any visionary business ideas.

But I really need to start making money lol. I’m now fully 6 months out from exiting academia and, while Patreon and freelancing odd-jobs are currently enough to pay the bills, it would be nice to put some caviar on my nachos.

So I figured I would learn everything about how and why startups succeed/fail, and then transfer that knowledge to the “content creator” game.

I still don’t know what, exactly, I’m going to build. So I’m just doing the one thing that everyone in-the-know says you should absolutely do first: I’m having one-on-one conversations with people in my orbit about their “pain points” (I know you like that business-speak baby). I’m trying to figure out the problems encountered by other internet-based intellectuals, cancelled or cancellable academics, and higher-brow “content creators,” and then I’ll try to solve them with something that people want to pay for.

I have no idea if this will work. After talking with people, I honestly now feel like I’m starting to see a vision of something that could really work, but entrepreneurs are notorious for their irrational over-confidence. Discounting for that, I feel utterly clueless about whether I’m really onto something.

So I’m just going to keep moving forward, in very small steps, trying to converge on an objectively data-driven idea. I’ll keep you posted, of course.

One positive result that’s already emerged from this exploration is I’ve come upon a possible catch-phrase to summarize this weird, pregnant-but-not-yet-born niche I’ve been theorizing. It’s simple, natural, short, and unpretentious. It is at least 10x better than all the awkward and cringey phrases I’ve been using until now, for lack of any better options. Instead of repeatedly saying things like “internet intellectuals, content creators of the higher-brow variety, and cancellation-vulnerable professionals,” from here on out I’m just going to refer to us all as indie thinkers.

By the way, if you feel this describes you, I’m still conducting interviews. if you’d like to setup a short Skype call. I'll just ask you a few questions about your problems. Who doesn't want to vent about their problems?

The worst that can happen is nothing

If you’re genuinely seeking the truth and you put something crappy into the world, nothing happens. There is no punishment for crappy content. It’s one of the simplest and most profound facts of conducting creative intellectual work on the internet. If you make something good or important, there’s some probability above zero that good things will happen to you. If you make something genuinely stupid, useless, or “cringe” — people ignore it and then forget it.

The fear of some imaginary punishment for failure blocks many unique intellectual trajectories from ever taking off. In almost every case, the fear is completely within the person’s own mind: “If I make content and it’s crappy, people will think I am dumb.” But the truth is they won’t, because “people” will never see it. “People” don’t read or watch anything for more than 3 seconds if they judge it to be crappy. If it’s truly crappy, people won’t pay enough attention to formulate the thought, “this is crappy.” And they certainly won’t bother to share it with disapproval, because crappy content is not worth attacking! Ironically, if someone shares your work to tell others that it’s crappy, this almost certainly means there is at least something good and important hiding within it.

If you search for “Based Deleuze” on Twitter, the overwhelming majority of tweets are making fun of it in some way. Yet it has sold well for a modest fringe philosophy book; I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback privately; it’s on Libgen and Aaaaarg (pirate sites); and many of the people who find it so crappy seem to be actually reading it and sharing their takes with others. Do you know how few people actually read theory books, let alone meme about them? It turns out that people calling your content crappy starts to happen right when you're finally getting real traction.

Having your weaker content ignored and forgotten is not a punishment or cost of failure, it is literally the absence of punishments and costs. As soon as you realize there is no punishment for bad content, your list of content ideas will expand dramatically and suddenly. Your motivation for trying them will increase. Some will be good, most will be bad, but when you experience the results first-hand (instead of taking my word for it), then you’ll really be off to the races.

Our Desert Commune of Monogamous and Poly Edgelords with Geoffrey Miller and Diana Fleischman

Big thanks to all the patrons who help me keep the lights on.

If you'd like to discuss this podcast with me and others, suggest future guests, or read/watch/listen to more content on these themes, request an invitation here.

Click here to download this episode.

Shared roots versus hard forks

I’m reading with interest the recent comeback post by Curtis Yarvin. I might have some longer thoughts later, but for the moment I just wanted to quibble with part of his empirical model.

Referring to the dominant axis of partisan polarization, he writes:

Any point on which both poles concur is shared story: “uncontroversial, bipartisan consensus.”

Shared story has root privilege. It has no natural enemies and is automatically true. Injecting ideas into it is nontrivial and hence lucrative; this profession is called “PR.”

The Clear Pill, Part 1 of 5: The Four-Stroke Regime

Empirically, I think this is the opposite of what’s really going on. He seems to acknowledge this toward the end, I just feel like riffing... The problem is not an illusory consensus, but the rapid disintegration of all illusory consensus beyond the small-group or subculture level. Neoreaction momentarily aligned the words “accelerationism” and “Moldbug,” but perhaps now we should start to explore the adversarial collaboration: Accelerationism versus Moldbug.

The broadcast era saw the reign of illusory consensus because everyone had to fight for highly scarce spots in a one-to-many transmission game. Digitalization, downstream from the mid-century Information Revolution, has been the story of protracted fragmentation of the illusory consensus.

Players from Rush Limbaugh to the Fox News network gradually realized that it was increasingly possible to “hard fork” the illusory consensus. At first, educated high-status people thought Rush Limbaugh or Fox News would be easy to dismiss; it was genuinely believed that enough public snickering about these stupid people would force them to go away.

What we are now realizing is that the short-term stigmatization of low-status culture hackers simply does not work. High-status educated people were overconfident in their power to make or break the success of cultural projects by telling the public what is worthy of attention. Low-status content that optimizes for the affects of particular audience segments, will always defeat high-status condemnation of it — but only as of recently. High-status people still don’t understand this yet, because their life’s work is predicated on climbing broadcast towers, in an era where broadcast legitimation games could make or break you. The low-status culture hacker is invariably weird, dumb, lame, or evil in the eyes of high-status figures, but the hacker doesn’t care. They are correct to not care, for what they intuit is that there is no longer any root. If all the high-status people say you’re a loser, but 1000 people think or feel you’re awesome (as indicated by their revealed preference to read/watch/listen to you), ontologically you are much closer to “awesome” than “loser.” The 1000 people who like you are real people, whereas the high-status people are shouting into a room that was evacuated years ago. The hard-forking culture hackers know their machines operate objectively, in a fashion technically immune to the lamentations of the déclassé broadcaster folks.

At the moment, what's happening is that this realization is finally being reckoned with from within the younger and more risk-tolerant factions of the higher-status sets. This is why so much of the cultural conflict is becoming particularly hysterical: all of the older and established individuals in perches based on institutionalized status see that genuine creative talent from here on out is no longer paying into their pyramid scheme. Imagine building your household on a MLM business, which has been growing for as long as you can remember, but now all of a sudden the last cohort of incoming members has nobody behind them. The analogy is not quite right, because it’s happening more gradually than this, but you get the idea. Whether it's the relatively uncouth and anarchistic temperaments defecting from increasingly oppressive high-status perches (like me), or young and attractive women who see that defection from Hollywood morals is a growth market (like Red Scare), or high-school boys who calculate that becoming anonymous internet edgelords has a higher expected value than even trying to speak to peers IRL… The fact is that everyone and everything worth paying attention to has already moved to the frontier, in a digital gold rush that is hardly even seen, let alone understood, by those who have not yet set sail.

There are certainly shared illusions in operation, as there always are in human groups, but what is unique and perverse about contemporary American history is the disappearance of limits (historically, hardware-based limits) on the quantity and quality of hard forks.

But hey, maybe Yarvin’s next posts will account for all of this and more. Just thought I’d jump in while the water is warm.

Parrhesia and the Future of Honesty (Talk given at the Invisible College, London)

"Today, inappropriate honesty is not merely feasible, increasingly it is a dominant strategy." I discuss the concept of parrhesia, its history, and its present political prospects. Thanks to Nina Power and DC Miller for the invitation.

Big thanks to all the patrons who help me keep the lights on.

If you'd like to discuss this podcast with me and others, suggest future guests, or read/watch/listen to more content on these themes, request an invitation here.

Click here to download this episode.

Joker: Very Serious Symposium with Geoffrey Miller and Diana Fleischman


We talked about the Joker film right after we saw it. We discuss mental illness, heredity, violence, the 1970s, praying, silly health foods, and the quantum incel multiverse.

Big thanks to all the patrons who help me keep the lights on.

If you'd like to discuss this podcast with me and others, suggest future guests, or read/watch/listen to more content on these themes, request an invitation here.
Click here to download this episode.

The content of this website is licensed under a CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL LICENSE. The Privacy Policy can be found here. This site participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram