ȘȈǤƝȘ 91: The Smoking Room

The Smoking Room with Monkeys by Abraham Teniers (1629-1670)

Welcome to Signs of Life, our periodic roundup edition sharing the best ideas, art, code, and events from the Other Life community on Urbit and beyond. If someone sent you this, subscribe for yourself here. 

In this issue:

  • Building the next Lyceum on Urbit (for devs & creators)

  • Caviar Cope: or, Why I Just Sold My TV to Someone on Twitter

  • The non-seriousness more serious than seriousness itself (Nick Land)

  • A 2023 Q1 buddy system now open for signups

  • Reading group on Deleuze on Cinema

  • Urbit writers will soon have the option to paywall content

  • Six open Urbit jobs

  • More news and updates from around the community

Cohort #4 of IndieThinkers Starts on January 16

Other Life is running another cohort of our accelerator for independent writers, artists, and/or developers working on independent projects. I've tweaked some of the parameters. I'm adding some new material; the length will be 4 weeks; and I'll host co-working sessions 4 days/week. First meeting is Monday, January 16, but enrollment closes on Friday the 13th. If you're keen to build momentum on a personal project, you should join us.

The Cathedral and the Lyceum: Building Courses on Urbit

​In previous months, we explored the significance of programmable money on Urbit, and the new economics of community on Urbit. This month, I'd like to explore one specific mode of mobilizing Code, Content, and Capital: Namely, courseware. We'll explore the 19th-century Lyceum movement, a decentralized public lecture circuit where some of America's greatest thinkers earned their livings. I'll argue that we're on the brink of a great Lyceum revival, but only if we can engineer our way out of the current local maximum: Specifically, the blunt and siloed $USD paywall systems that ironically make educational networking harder than in the 19th century. We'll be joined by Trent Gillham, founder/CEO of Holium, a company building a networked desktop client for communities on Urbit. He'll share his perspective on creator DAOs and how to build infrastructure for a new Lyceum revival.

Caviar Cope

Or Why I Just Sold My TV

I watched The White Lotus because my wife told me about it, and I saw people talking about it. I didn't really enjoy the first episode, and I didn't learn anything, but I figured it would get better, so I kept watching.

By the third episode, I still wasn't really getting anything from it, but there's something insidious about these New TV shows...

Once you're halfway through, you feel like you have to finish it. It's a combination of Sunk Cost Fallacy and big-budget psychological pwnage: You've given them Write Access to your brain and the first objective of their programming is to revoke your access to the "shutdown" switch. It's no different than TikTok, just a different algorithm and a lot more money spent per production.

So I rode it out. I didn't hate it, but I can't really say I liked it, either. A week later I don't really remember much, good or bad.

A lot of these new, buzzy shows are just comedically stupid/shallow/evil rich people in beautiful scenery accessible only to rich people. Viewers get to enjoy living in the sexy world of the rich, and they get to admire the success and power of the rich, while also feeling like haha rich people are actually stupid and evil.

Succession, The Menu, and The White Lotus are the three paradigmatic examples.

"I would love to own a yacht, but I'm too smart and mentally healthy to be that rich. So I'll just watch these pathetic losers on their yachts, to enjoy the experience, while also basking in my superior intelligence and well-being."

I call that Caviar Cope.

Caviar Cope is Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for the déclassé Professional Managerial Class.

A week later, I'm listening to the All-In podcast, a podcast by a few successful VCs. I was surprised to learn that these guys LOVED The White Lotus.

And that's when I decided: I'm done with all of this, I'm getting rid of my TV and I'm done listening to podcasts completely until further notice.

I just sold the TV this past Saturday.

TV, podcasts—it's increasingly one claustrophobic web of all-too-human copypasta, differentially refracted by different players in the name of their own sick fantasies, with very little grounding in reality.

35-year-old PhD dog-moms with sub-zero net worths love The White Lotus because it's like going on a vacation they can't afford, and it rationalizes their immiseration. But 50-year old billionaires also love The White Lotus because, in their mind, the mockery is not directed at them but the vulgar and neurotic upper-bourgeois who can't just relax and be grateful. The dog-mom thinks she is laughing at the economic elites, and the economic elites think they are laughing at preposterous strivers.

So which view is correct?

Both views are wrong because these shows are not trying to say anything pointed. They're trying to arrive at whatever pastiche of scenery and signifiers would be maximally rewarded by the megamachine. And right now, the optimized formula is: Grandiose scenery + absurd wealthy people hilariously affirming and negating everything at once + no clear plot or value system that could offend or stress anyone.

“All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. The imagination is continually at work filling up all the fissures through which grace might pass.”

—Simone Weil

The Non-Seriousness More Serious Than Seriousness Itself

Nick Land thinks society is increasingly gamified and machine intelligence is reformatting the world into games. He discusses the requirements of well-constructed games and suggests that, in America, the dominant game is now Social Domination, which happens to be a badly constructed game. According to Land, it is impossible to oppose the trend of gamification without playing into it.

“Any real exit has to be seriously non-serious. Game it out. Play another, different game on the side, shifting everything steadily to the side. Migrate intelligence-capital onto a million ludic frontiers, where exit hatches. No one will take it seriously until it’s too late.”

In this short and crisp text—atypically direct for Land—he threads a needle through video gaming, game theory, GameStop, Gamergate, all the way up to the game of training AIs. Most surprisingly, the essay finishes with a note of techno-optimism.

"It’s time to war-game getting the hell out, and away from them. The technological platforms for it are almost in place. Begin to use them, and they’ll arrive faster. It’s all been set up in a way that can’t be stopped. The games industry is the template."

The Imperceptible Country

Highlights from our private community of more than 500 writers, creators, & engineers. Members get instant access to their own Urbit planet in the cloud, plus exclusive content and events.

Discussions and Member-Only Events

The Other Life group has been down for maintenance

Apologies if this is your main home on Urbit, my ship has more than 500M events so it's always going into uncharted territory. Tlon Hosting is doing their best. If that's the main group you hang out in, please explore ~rondev/group-discovery in the meantime.

Our longstanding Web2 outpost at town.otherlife.co is fine.

Holium's app suite has been updated

In addition to stability and performance improvements, we're seeing fun new things like... Links opened from a Group will now open in Realm's native browser Relic, and Realm users will now see their custom theme reflected in Groups and Talk.

Holium is also centralizing all of the early Realm alpha users into one Group and one Realm Space, so things are starting to reach a critical mass. You'll randomly find someone in a voice Room, your Chronicle app will be surfacing new content, and more.

If you've already received an alpha invite to Realm, be sure to join the Holium group at ~lomder-librun/realm-forerunners or say hi in Holium's off-Urbit Telegram group https://t.me/ther0undtable.


If you'd like to try the private alpha release of Realm, I've been given a batch of invites just for readers of Other Life. Get access here.

A game of poker was played on Urbit with money on Uqbar testnet

If you don't think this is important, I can't help you.

Native Planet lets you host your ship from home

Native Planet has released new open-source software for easily and securely hosting your Urbit ship from home. GroundSeg is now available to install on Linux or you can install Colony OS on a dedicated machine and turn nearly any old computer into a plug and play Urbit server. Introducing GroundSeg.

Tirrel is releasing paywalls for Urbit newsletters

We've been sent an exclusive sneak-peek. Email newsletters running on your personal server will soon be able to gate content like this:


Urbit Jobs

  • iOS Swift Developer (full time). Several years experience and some familiarity with Hoon. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.

  • Full Stack Developer (full time). Well rounded engineer who has a functional programming background and a proven track record of delivering high-quality infrastructure or platform products. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.

  • Runtime Engineer (full time). Deep knowledge of C, asynchronous systems code, memory allocators, Rust, etc. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.

  • Hoon Developer (full time). Completed Hoon School and ideally App School. Some experience developing production software. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.

  • Principal Product Designer (full time). Generalist design background and can manage projects autonomously; work closely with PMs and engineers to deliver thoughtful and systematic solutions to spec; manage and evolve existing design systems; BA in Design, Architecture, HCI, or relevant experience; 7+ years’ product design experience. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.

  • Director of Finance (full time). Investor relations, create and maintain financial models, develop investor presentations, bookkeeping and accounting, etc. 3+ years experience in ops, finance, or investor relations. Hit reply if this sounds like you, and I'll connect you to the right person.

Remember (1924) by Nicholas Roerich

"One main factor in the upward trend of animal life has been the power of wandering." —Whitehead