Trumpism is a Zero-Sum Culture

A zero-sum culture believes that in order for it to win, some other culture or persons must lose. Its inherent view of the world is that of a strict binary of predator and prey. If you are not predator, then you must be prey. There is no middle-ground in this world-view. Thus, it is preferable to be predator at all times, lest you be mistaken for prey by another predator. This is the central idea behind Trumpism. Cobra-Kai! Never show any weakness! Sweep the leg!

We know this view to be wrong through the lessons of World War 1 and World War 2 combined. But certain cultures will never let go of this idea. Trumpism seems to have captured the hearts and minds of those cultures under its political umbrella.

The domino effect1 theory of the cold war was seduced by this zero-sum idea of the free world versus the communist world2. It was a failure as a guiding political theory. Its predictive nature was nil, and its damage to America was considerable.

The greatest historical lesson from both World War 2 and the Cold War is that a culture that believes in the zero-sum game is doomed to lose to the cultures that help each other as allies in a positive-sum game. The success of the positive-sum game cannot be more stark than the difference between post-WW1 Germany and post-WW2 Germany.

Post-WW1 Germany was a zero-sum culture. But 1930s Germans had every reason to see it this way since the Treaty of Versailles punished them by saddling Germany with the costs of WW1 which directly “stole” from Germany and enriched the Allies during the post-war economy.

And this alienation of Germany after WW1 of course led to the humiliated and economically isolated Germany that ultimately gave rise to Hitler and Naziism.

Contrast that with post-WW2 Germany which is an economically and politically thriving leader in European affairs with over a half-century of peace, growth, and prosperity. That’s because true economic prosperity is not a zero-sum game; it is a positive-sum game. And post-WW2 Pax Americana is a direct consequence of that positive-sum game. If we want to make America great again, all we have to do is to dive back into that positive-sum game and lead it again.

Even during WW2, the positive-sum game of allies working together was the winning strategy over the predatory strategies of fascism and nationalistic expansionism.

And post-WW2, the allies working freely together during the cold war out-competed the communist-bloc allies who were forged artificially as a defense unit, but not as true cooperative allies. In 1989, as soon as the USSR allowed the freedom of the communist bloc countries to leave the coalition, they did so quickly with little hesitation because the USSR was predatory in their relationship with them.

And since WW2, global economies have become even more integrated and more efficient. So if it was clear that the world had become a positive-sum game during and after WW2, then it should be exponentially clear by now, in 2020, that modern national strength derives from greater interconnectedness and not from isolationism and brutal winner-take-all competitiveness.

Yet, that archaic attitude of vicious competitiveness is at the heart of Trumpism, which in itself is a relic of an imperialistic nation prior to WW2.

Trumpism is that ancient virtue of selfishness at the expense of others. It is outdated and wrong. It is a loser ideology. Nazi Germany tried it, and failed. Soviet USSR tried it and failed. America tried it in Vietnam and Korea, and failed.

But there is something still ingrained in our hunter-warrior cultures that exalts the zero-sum conqueror as a glorious hero. Winning in sports and war has only one winner and one loser, by the rules of the game. That’s why Trump’s favorite insult is “loser” because in his binary world, if the other is the loser, then he alone remains the winner by default. Winning and conquering is glory, and America is addicted to that feeling both in its sports and its war.

America is a fiercely competitive culture— in its love of sports and war. When you see the world only through the lens of winning and losing, then any third alternative such as “cooperation”, by virtue of it not being “winning”, is interpreted automatically as “losing” to you.

This is how to view the world through Trumpism. Everything is simplified down to the point-mass diagram of winning or losing on a single dimension. Anything and everything that is too complicated can be reduced to this single line and placed on the “losing” side of the ledger. There is nothing in the world that cannot be simplified to this single-dimensional explanation.

Trump, and by extension his supporters, cannot grasp the concept of a positive-sum world in which everyone can be winners. Such a multi-axis world is too confusing, so they simplify it down to the single axis of winning-losing.

This is why universal health care or climate change accords are so strange of a concept to them. Their thinking is that if they accede to any demands, then they are losing ground to someone, and thus are losing the war on their one-dimensional axis.

There is no way to explain the multi-dimensional aspects of complex topics to them that clarify how everyone can win in a net-positive-sum game. They will tend to reduce your argument down to the single dimensional axis of winner-loser because that’s what they’re comfortable with in their worldview.

In such a zero-sum worldview, they cannot comprehend the simple facts of a net-positive-sum economy such as that winning against a pandemic as a team not only saves lives but also will improve the economy faster.

The same concept is true of global climate change. We all win as a team if we maintain the environmental conditions that are best suitable for human industry and agriculture as we currently understand it. To do otherwise is simply making everything more difficult and more costly for every person as a whole.

When we’re all on the same team, we all win together. There isn’t even an enemy, except for ourselves and our inability to work together as a team. The zero-sum mentality prevents this crucial understanding about how the modern economy works. This mentality is what thwarts the pandemic response and will thwart the upcoming climate crisis response.

Rejecting immigration is also a foolish artifact of zero-sum culture. It is only looking at one side of the ledger to see what someone takes away from you. But it’s not looking at the full ledger of what immigrants contribute to America as a whole.

Considering that America has always been founded on the strength of its generous immigration, it’s naive and foolish to reject the tremendous boon that immigration offers to America. It should be obvious and clear by many objective measures that immigrants by far add a net positive contribution to America in many ways, both historically and currently.

However, to the zero-sum cultures under Trumpism, this everybody is a winner concept is alien and unnerving and unconvincing because they cannot tangibly feel it in their every day lives. And that’s because America is so viciously predatory in its capitalism that it’s impossible to feel anything other than paranoia that predators are out to get you.

In that environment, indeed, you would prefer to be the predator rather than the prey. And this is the feeling of strength that Trumpism affords these people, even if it’s an illusionary strength. It’s an illusion they can comprehend and tangibly and viscerally feel in their day-to-day economic interactions with American capitalism.

They are not wrong. American capitalism does indeed prey upon them. And it is precisely this feeling which makes them believe whole-heartedly in the zero-sum game of predator and prey. Viewed in that vein, can you really blame them?

Fundamentally, at the higher level view, the modern interconnected world is a net-positive-sum game. But on a smaller, individual level, American capitalism is predatory to such a point that it feels like a zero-sum game to individuals. Although some small amount of socialism could be the antidote to predatory capitalism, the populace have been made so paranoid of socialism that it regards it as yet another predator hungering for their paycheck.

It’s going to be very difficult to convince zero-sum mentality people that they’re not being preyed upon. Their unease about pandemic response, climate change response, and healthcare reform are all attributable to their rightful paranoia of being preyed upon by American capitalist interests in their current lives.

Ironically, they voted for a man who blatantly and openly preys upon them in Trump himself who is literally funneling their campaign contributions into his own interests!

That they should fall for such a blatant charlatan and con-artist is an indication of how deeply wounded these people are by predatory capitalism in America.

So how do we lift these people out of these grievous injuries to their psyche? For post-WW1 Germany, they turned to fascism to assuage their wounded psyches. We must not let that happen here.

Traditionally, government has been the foil to curb the excesses of capitalism. But corporate interests and government have been in alliance against the people for too long that the people can trust neither government nor corporations. The liberal Left is deeply suspicious of corporations and the conservative Right is deeply suspicious of government. Both have well-founded reasons to be suspicious!

The government needs to make a bold statement against the corporate control over American government in order to win back the people’s trust in the government. I don’t know if that’s even possible. But that’s the route away from fascism, difficult as it may be.

Corporatism is too strong of a force to be countered organically by the people. Only a government that is dedicated to curbing its excesses stands a chance of providing shelter for the people against predatory capitalism.

If people are hell-bent on framing the world as a simple zero-sum dichotomy, then I’ll present this one— either strengthen the government to curb predatory capitalism or else suffer the consequences of an angry fascist mob!

It’s important to understand how American culture is accustomed to view conflict in terms of a villain and a hero. Right now, we need to portray the government as the hero against predatory capitalism. What Trumpism has done is to portray a zero-sum world with fascist white supremacy as the hero and the net-positive-sum game of cooperation as the villain. We cannot allow this incorrect view to stand unchallenged.


  1. The entire cold war hallucination of the domino effect is a zero-sum culture belief— If a country could only be either capitalist or communist, then a communist country would infect its neighbors, and capitalist countries would have one fewer ally in the world.
  2. This world view is terribly naive in so many ways. Capitalist and freedom are not automatically synonymous, as we can plainly see in modern China. Furthermore, there is the false dichotomy of either capitalism xor communism without regard to any third option— decolonization of countries that wanted freedom from British, French, or other European imperialism. This was the true reason for the spread of communism— it was the automatic choice if you wanted an anti-imperialist ideology that automatically came with other anti-imperialist allies.

What Late Stage Capitalism Can’t Sell You

I’ve heard the argument that free trade via a money supply allows the market to quickly signal through price of products what goods and services are needed. And this is true to an extent— for goods and services that are saleable and *can* be priced.

But this leaves out a vast portion of our lives which cannot so easily have bar code price stickers affixed or encased in hard clear plastic— friendship, love, civic duty, honesty, community spirit, genuine dialog and so much more.

Individuals offer those things freely to the society because people intuitively understand that they’ll receive likewise in return from their trusted friends and family. However, such an economy of these necessities in life is like a black market that is entirely outside of the “normal” economy. People who have found “their people”, whomever those people might be, are saved from the emptiness that is the life promised to them in “The American Dream”— which is an entirely materialistic one.

But in a society that values only those services and products which can command a price tag and a profit by producing a surplus, these other essential holistic elements for a satisfying human life are conspicuously absent from the marketplace, with only cheap substitutes sold in their stead.

And so, the symptoms that we see are casualties of despair due to the failure of capitalism to provide the most basic nutrients to sustain a healthy and happy human life. It is implicit in this “free market utopia” that each individual seek and satisfy the remainder of their human non-material needs through their own means. That is part of the contract of a “free society”. But people don’t always realize that and also don’t always know where to fulfill the remainder of their needs.

The problem is that the society that uses the free market as the foundation of its entire construct provides no guidance as to how and what further is necessary to obtain for a satisfying life. The recommendations that ARE given are intended for the producers to extract a profit from the people seeking something more in life. That is the nature of the foundation of this market-centric society.

In the absence of this guidance of what more to seek out in life, people have sought more meaning in their lives through the products and services that have been advertised to them. It is unsurprising that such products and services that don’t fill the holes in their souls. And when those things sold as promises fall short, people turn to other false promises from a variety of other charlatans in religion, politics, or other temporary snake-oil salves.

There is no doubt in my mind that all that is happening is a crisis of late-stage capitalism. The flaw isn’t that capitalism is terrible. It has served its part quite well— to relieve society of scarcity of material goods and services. However, it has not and cannot relieve society of the scarcity of immaterial things such as love, friendship, civic duty, respect, honesty, and so many other things that we inherently value as a social species.

We must find those things ourselves. But it’s difficult for people who are accustomed to using money to find solutions to all of their problems. When that currency is not accepted by the providers of these other immaterial needs, the people who are accustomed to being “valued customers” grow angry that their money is no good here.

That disconnect is what I see most often between people who have bought into the “material goods” worldview and the “immaterial goods” worldview. The two economies use different currencies, and there is rightfully a rejection of money being used to buy goods and services from the “immaterial goods” economy. When someone with money tries to buy from the “immaterial goods economy” without earning the currency first, there is indignation and offense, and often times rejection of their attempted purchase. And there is indignation and offense in return that their money, that they’ve worked hard for, has no value in this economy that is foreign to them.

You have to find your people, whomever they may be. That’s the missing ingredient. And for each person, that ingredient is different. So, it’s hard for capitalism to produce a surplus to satisfy this particular demand, though they certainly have no qualms about trying and profiting from it anyway.

America is a kakistocracy now, just like Atari Games was for a long time before its demise

Frustrated, I always chanted a soothing mantra to myself, “They’ll collapse under the weight of their own incompetence.” And one day, they finally did. There was no joy and no vindication in the schadenfreude. They simply collapsed, as expected.

What happened at Atari Games was kakistocracy. Long before I was hired there, some idiots came into power and found the formula to stay in power— they kept promoting their idiot friends and formed a political faction to suppress competence or anything that might challenge their power. Competence is the most dangerous threat to a kakistocracy. And so, over time, the competent people who could have turned things around were one-by-one sifted out. The best people at Atari either self-selected to form other companies with each other to get away from the idiots, or else they were forced out by the politics of the dominant political groups. I got in there late, but I saw it all happen, nonetheless.

Sarah Ellerman I just realized something. Trump IS Atari Games! Remember when the management at Atari frustrated me all the time? I’d come home pissed off at You Know Who constantly. When I first started, it didn’t bother me because I wasn’t on the front-lines of their stupidity. But as my role became more prominent, their stupidity become more intrusive and obstructive of my desire and ability to succeed on Atari’s behalf.

And that is exactly what’s happening now with the GOP. Have you noticed that the best and smartest GOP members have renounced Trumpism and the GOP? There are numerous articles of such principled people. What are left after this sifting are the unprincipled people. The best of the Republicans have already moved on, to leave the idiots to at the helm to themselves, just as the best people who formerly worked at Atari left to form Activision and Electronic Arts, companies which still exist, while the biggest grand daddy, with all of its money and power— Atari, failed to remain relevant,except in the fantasy of Blade Runner films.

This is what we are experiencing with the Trump’s executive handling of the Covid-19 emergency. This is how kakistocracy operates. I experienced it first hand at Atari Games, and so I recognize its tell-tale signs. It’s primary concern is maintaining power, because each individual within the kakistocracy knows intuitively that it is undeserving of the riches afforded to it. So, all tools and efforts are to maintain the lies and deception of governance while looting the treasury for as long as it will be allowed to do so.

Eventually, the kakistocracy produces the outcome exactly as I had predicted of Atari Games so long ago: “It will collapse under the weight of its own incompetence.” The only solace here is that it actually takes a long time for the rich flesh of the corpse to be stripped away, so America will lumber along, crippled by these parasites before it eventually stumbles and succumbs. That lengthy time buys some reprieve and hope to change course.

We shall see. Things won’t end immediately. This crisis is an opportunity for riches and re-election for Trumpism. And there may even be a continuance after that. America will make a rich corpse for the parasites to feed on for a long time. We can still carry on as normal inside of its bloated, sore-infested, pustulant corpse for as long as our lives will allow, shortened as it may be by the very existence of this parasite.

America 2.0 – America's Greatest Test in 3 Generations 3/21/2020

I’m becoming very very afraid for America. America is teetering precariously between two conflicting ideas— everyone for themselves, and we’re all in it together. It’s the latter spirit which helped win World War 2 and ushered in the golden age of Pax Americana of which we’re now at the tail end. But lately, the everyone-for-themselves side has been winning. We can see it in full evidence in several ways:

  • Senators dumping their stocks after briefings into the projections of Covid-19.
  • People hoarding medical masks and equipment that hospital workers desperately need.
  • People hoarding hand sanitizer only to be banned for trying to price gouge on Amazon.
  • Gun shops running out of guns and ammo.
  • People going to spring break in Florida regardless of the pending Covid-19 pandemic.
  • People down-playing the Covid-19 pandemic because it hasn’t affected them yet.

These are people trying to get ahead of the curve. This is the fundamental character of America, to get ahead of your neighbors, for yourself. Rather than pull together and fight together to solve a community problem, Americans, by instinctive nature, do what they can to protect themselves and their immediate family. This is why the hand sanitizer and toilet paper are gone from the shelves. It’s because Americans pride themselves as a self-reliant people. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an admirable quality. But it’s also a quality whose underlying dark side is the fundamental distrust of their fellow human beings to help them. It’s the quality of I must help myself because I’m the only one who will.
It’s the quality of buying up everything because of the distrust of the supply chain to remain intact during a crisis. It’s the quality of distrust of the government response. It’s distrust in our leaders to do what’s best for the all of us, rather than for themselves. It’s distrust of your neighbors, of other states, of other ideologies. We’re just a distrustful nation in general, and that heightens our self-reliant spirit which reinforces our natural distrustful disposition.

As it turns out, that distrust was quite warranted when we discovered that indeed the very people who we elected to protect our interests, our national representatives, had used early inside information to dump their stocks, to protect their own futures. They think nothing wrong of it, because that’s what all Americans do every day. That’s what you would do if you were in their position, of course, right? So, in a way, they are indeed true representatives of Americans. It’s not really so much their fault as it is the fault of the American character in general— that of fierce self-reliance, self-preservation, and individualism.

Americans are not as practiced at self-sacrifice and community support as other nations and cultures. Public service for American politicians is not about helping other people; it’s about helping yourself. Americans, in general, simply do not have a civic spirit.

I’m afraid for America today, March 21 2020, because I see two unstoppable juggernauts colliding into an inevitable result— the breakdown of society. Not just society as we know it, but society in total.

I’m talking about looting and murder in the streets breakdown of society, not just self-quarantine. I’m talking about national guard in the streets enforcing curfews. I’m talking about suspending elections due to martial law. If you think it can’t happen here, then you’re thinking just like the people who didn’t buy guns and ammo. You’re thinking Americans won’t shoot Americans. You’re thinking, that’s unthinkable. But those bullet points above are foreshadowing the unthinkable things that are going to happen in the next few weeks and months at an accelerated pace that you right now cannot imagine. The cold hard math and trajectory of Covid-19 points to inevitable shortages of medical supplies and medical attention, leading to unimaginable numbers of tragic deaths throughout the nation. Today, March 21, 2020, the numbers seem concerning, but not unimaginable. You might be reading this in the future, and may have forgotten what was imaginable right now on March 21, 2020 because those actual things are happening to you right now. Those of you in my present time, I alert you, so you can be psychologically prepared for this. In real-time, you will be seeing news stories that you thought were unthinkable just a couple of weeks earlier. Let this article ease you into this shock and get ready for it.

I’ve come to the startling realization that there are two crucial things that we are relying on to solve those shortages:
1) Capitalism must be functional enough to meet the demand of the medical supply chain, but also all of our other needs


2) That the spirit of working together as a team and the spirit of voluntary self-sacrifice to get things done is the primary spirit during the crisis

What concerns me greatly about this reliance on those two things above to solve the medical supply shortage logistical problem is that they are fundamentally mutually exclusive. Capitalism is inherently comprised of numerous uncountable atomic acts of individual selfishness rather than collective action for the good of the whole. In fact, corporations are groups of individuals who work together for the collectively selfish singular purpose of that corporation. If we’re counting on capitalism to generously provide a steady supply chain for medical equipment to keep up with the exponentially increasing demand of dying Covid-19 patients, then we’re asking something of capitalism that it was not designed for— not profit-taking at the expense of others. This is why the Senators who dumped their stocks feel they’ve done nothing wrong. What they did was simply true to the American character. It’s those of us who feel that it’s morally wrong who are in the minority and who are unusual— Because that’s not how capitalism works nor how it has ever worked. And that’s why those of us who feel like it was wrong of Senators to dump their stock are also wrong about condition #1 above. We only believe that the supply chain to hospitals and grocery stores will be maintained because it’s right to do so, and has always just been there, like magic. But capitalism does not care about morally right or wrong. It cares singularly about the money. It has never ever shown anything other than this true character. And yet, we’re relying on it because it’s the only thing we’ve ever relied upon, so much so that it is invisible to most of us. Americans know no other way. But what if there’s no more money in maintaining the supply chain? What if we’ve bought all the stuff we need to hunker down and stores can stop ordering stuff from factories and factories can save money by shutting down? It was and has always been all about the money. But what if there’s no more money— at all?

The people who collectively emptied out the gun shops are the first warning signs of what’s to come. When others think, “it can’t happen here”, these gun buyers are the ones who think, “don’t be naïve, if and when it happens here, at least I’ll be prepared.” This is the same thinking that goes through people’s minds when hoarding toilet paper and other supplies. It’s the same thinking as the senators who dump their stock. At least I’ll be prepared. It could happen here.

What I’m saying is that thinking “It could happen here” is already the breakdown of society. American society is balanced precariously on top of capitalism. All of our supply chains— of toilet paper and food— all function because there’s money in it. If there’s no more money in it, everything stops. Capitalism is the delusion that stitches together the fabric of American society by virtue of a mass scam. In that way, Trump intuitively understands that if the American people see through that it’s all a scam, then the fabric begins to fray and unravel. If capitalism fails in America, we are all left naked with the frayed and threadbare fabric of our society hanging uselessly off our cold, naked bodies.

Except that won’t happen to those people who hoarded guns and ammo. They won’t be naked because they can take clothes, food and shelter from whoever is hoarding it. The people hoarding those things might be richer than them. But those people might also be YOU! Sure, it might be the unoccupied “investment” homes held by corporations. But those unoccupied homes taken by force also need to be filled with cans of food, masks, soap, and rolls of toilet paper. And maybe you’re the one who’s hoarding those things. If you can no longer buy the things you need from the stores, then guns and ammo are the only currency you need.

If you’re saying it can’t happen here then are you really that much different than the people in those states with fewer cases who are saying that Covid-19 can’t happen there? What is the reality of our situation? What is our delusion about how things should work versus how they actually are? We each have different delusions. We’re not that different, whether we deny the severity of Covid-19 or the possibility of total societal breakdown. They are two sides of the same denial coin. Reality is too ugly to even contemplate sometimes, yet here I am entertaining these ugly possibilities. Go into denial, if you must. Maybe we need some measure of it to maintain the fragile society that has been built upon capitalism.

Capitalism is a mass delusion about how things should work. And as long as it works, it does indeed work wondrously. However, the real danger, as I see it, is that at some point, it becomes obvious that it’s not working at all. And when capitalism stops working in America, and we’re left with no more supply chains, no more grocery stores, then the delusion is suddenly dispelled. Then, we’re really left with nothing. Nothing… except the world’s largest per capita gun to citizen population in the world.

The last time people decided that capitalism wasn’t working at all was in 1929 when their collective action that led to crash the stock market, as each individual acted in their own self-interest. There are some safety valves put in place for banks after that, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental pillar of truth— that belief in capitalism is all that holds it together.

Right now, these two juggernauts— a heavily armed citizenry and breakdown of capitalism, due to loss of faith in it— are heading toward each other. I’m afraid for America because I can’t tell which side— whether rugged individualism or whether steadfast determination to pull together as a team will be the spirit of America that wins. Both spirits are strong within her. But it lies in the balance. Both are formidable forces capable of winning the American psyche.

I know what you’re feeling after reading this. HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Maybe I’ll buy a gun and some ammo before they’re all bought out. Please don’t do that. That’s the individualism side of your American spirit getting anxious. Just please don’t. Not today. Not this week. Not this month. Not this year. Please, appeal to the other side: We can do this together! Because if we all pull together, we can do it. We’re tough and we can do this— FOR EACH OTHER!

Capitalism might be a delusion, but it’s all we’ve got right now. We still need it, for now. So, let’s pull through this by maintaining civility and calm while helping each other and not being selfish. We need both of those great American spirits to pull through this. We do need capitalism at this time when hope will seem frayed and worn, and we also do need our spirit of togetherness. Though they are at odds, we need both capitalism and a spirit of community, and that’s what scares me. But I hope I’m wrong and that these spirits are not truly mutually exclusive at all, but that these two great American spirits can work together in harmony just as Americans came together in industry and collective determination to defeat the Nazis in WW2. Maybe this can usher in Pax Americana 2. I hope this is our future direction. Greatest Generation 2— the best American sequel ever!

The Real Reason We Lost Our Jobs to Robots

The Real Reason We Lost Our Jobs to Robots

The real reason we lost our jobs to robots is because our educational system trains our children to be parts of an 18th century world wide computer system that no longer exists.

This is why children in the 21st century still have nonsensical rules like “you can’t use a calculator on your math test” with the bizarre justification that “You won’t always have a calculator with you” just as they’re Snapchatting that exact absurd moment to their worldwide friends on a device which literally does a billion times more math than the room-sized computers that sent men to the moon. In school, you have to memorize to be able to do simple arithmetic, including long division in case you become a cog in the global human computer that was the great economic machine at the center of all human commercial activity.

Your handwriting must be uniform and precise. You must arrive on time and not leave before the specified time or else face penalties. Any human eccentric variation in these aspects could jam up the human computer and break the system. Thus, uniformity is valued and encouraged in this 18th century ideal of a young worker.

In the 18th century, preparing a population of replaceable computer parts for your global information network made a lot of sense. You needed to be able to find a part with legible handwriting and capable accounting skills to serve as your word processor or spreadsheet or to replace a broken part of your word processor or spreadsheet. In the old days, parts of your human computer could literally die. And you thought losing your iPhone pictures was bad. At least they’re still up in the cloud. Old Wentworth might be up in the cloud after losing his bout with Scarlet Fever, but you’re not getting your data back from him. However, we now have such things as actual computers which handle the tasks of global communication, commerce, and arithmetic far more reliably and cheaply.

We no longer need children to memorize capitals of states and countries so they can potentially serve as a shoddy version of Google Maps. We no longer need children to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which is not even on Google Maps, nor John F. Kennedy’s speech to serve as a living embodiment of an oral version of Wikipedia as if it were some Fahrenheit 451 dystopia where such information would be lost otherwise. Just now, I wasn’t sure how to spell dystopia, but a two second alt-tab to Google provided me the answer. Although such things are not important anymore, we still have spelling bees for children to exalt this useless skill. We’re told not to use the word “I” in our writing, because writing must be messages intended not for other humans, with senses of humor, but for the global computer made of humans. Never use the word “I” in your writing because you’re not expected to actually communicate with other humans. Your expectation is to communicate only to other parts of the machine which happens to be made up of anonymous humans. Soylent Computer is MADE OF PEOPLE! In fact, in your writing, the more you downplay and disregard that there is a human which is a computer part, the better it is for the computer. Soylent computer runs smoother and more consistently if emotions and human blather like love are left out entirely. Surely, this makes sense. I certainly agree with my 18th century intelligensia that my word processor and my spreadsheet are not made any better by allowing the CPU and internet connection to have human emotions. What a mess that would be.

The real reason we lost our jobs to robots and automation is because our educational system trains our children to be a shitty computer and far far better computers exist now. Instead of training our children to design and invent those robots, our educational system trains our children to BE those robots. Is it any surprise that shitty child robots grow up to be shitty adult robots who can’t compete against actual real and working robots? Is it any surprise that of the few children who can invent a robot to replace 1000 shitty human robots, that the one clever child who invents the robot makes 1000 times as money as those children would have made?

Income inequality, poverty, and joblessness all stem from one source: Computers advanced far faster at an exponential rate than innovation in our educational system. Our educational system was good for the 200 years in which global society used a Soylent Computer. But now that it’s clear that Soylent Computer is no longer needed, we need to change our educational system to reflect that profound change.

So, this is a call to everyone who can make change in the system. The system needs to change. And it must change fast. It’s changing far too slowly and the nation’s citizens are suffering for it for every moment we lag behind. Computers are still advancing exponentially. And the educational system is hardly even advancing linearly. It is static. It’s still stuck in the 18th century. The longer this remains the case, the more people who will be hurt by being born into this stagnant situation.

However, not all people of the earth will be born into this situation. There are many billions of people who, had they been born in the 18th century, would not have been born into an educational system which afforded them the potential to work at Soylent Computer. They would not have received the education to even be a cog in the human computer. They would not have participated in the world economy at any level.

People of China, of India, of Africa could have never participated in the global economy in the 18th century. Yet, now, going into the 21st century, they are not yoked as children into an 18th century rigid educational system. Instead, with no educational system at all, those nations and peoples are free to invent one which is suitable for the realities of the 21st century in which global communications and computers are ubiquitous.

Just as China did not have to build telegraph wires across their entire mountainous and difficult terrain to join the telecommunications revolution, future children of the world no longer have to endure the intermediate step of an antiquated educational system in order to participate in a dynamic and rapidly evolving world economy.

If America loses its dominance, it will be fast because the world moves so much faster now. The root cause will be because of its educational system. Just as in warfare where innovations such as rifling or camouflage or armored vehicles have a profound and upsetting effect on the nations which have met previous success with the status quo, the future of the global economy does not belong to the nations which adhere to the status quo, but instead adapt unrelentingly to the pace of change.

This is why conservatives, in the traditional sense of the word, as in “preserving the status quo”, are far more dangerous to the future of the United States than anyone dare thought, even in its current chaotic and turbulent state.

The pace of global change is so fast that you can put a man on the moon less than a hundred years after learning to fly and then subsequently land a probe on a comet in the same time as the first plane and landing on the moon. Being conservative and adverse to change in this situation is believing that the right shoes can win a footrace against a Ford Model T when the Tesla has already been invented. The man in the Tesla will beat your man with his best shoes on any day, often with heated seats and without touching the wheel.

The world is changing far far faster than the educational system. Even if we were to reverse this trend tomorrow, how much change would be necessary in order for it to make a difference? It would still be too slow. There are billions yet to be born in China and India into this new world economy. Your change to the educational system in the US would only affect millions in a few decades. Do the math. They taught you to do that, by hand, right? Now, do it. You didn’t. Because you know, like the future of the nation, someone else will do it for you, and more efficiently than by hand, at that. In two hundred years, how many billions will have been born into an educational system adapted to current conditions versus how many millions in the US born into an educational system still trying to figure itself out? Just going by the numbers, which system would be most likely to produce the most impactful citizens of the new world economy?

And conservatives want to keep out immigrants? If conservatives love this country, they would be advocating for the exact opposite immigration strategy. At the moment, the US still stands as a coveted nation for immigration. How long will this remain true? A hundred years, at best, given the current rate of progress of other nations and the stagnation of the US. And how does it benefit the US if it loses the status of the most preferred nation by the world’s intellectuals, the world’s most talented people, and the world’s most wealthy people? Easily within 100 years, which, given current advances, it will be within youlifetime if you’re only 10 or 20 years younger than me, the US will no longer hold the esteemed title of most coveted country for immigration. That will be the inflection point at which historians will be able to point to and say that this was the fall of the American empire. That will be the point in time, like the collapse of the Roman Empire, which will attract the most historian scrutiny. But lost in history will be the time and moment when the American empire had the means to change all of that. Perhaps, some historians will point to the election of Trump as the inflection point in which this inevitable turn of events hinged. But this problem is beyond Trump and beyond Clinton. Clinton may have been more tolerant of change than Trump, but she would not have been an advocate of radical change in the educational system since she was most definitely, a moderate, at best. No, the necessary change to alter future history is not anything any politician can realistically implement anyway. The systems of education and politics are too calcified to change faster than the rapid iteration of innovation in human economic activity. Even revolutions did not change the educational systems throughout society. A political revolution is about the maximal change possible in such systems and not all of it may have an immediate positive effect. So, how many revolutions per hundred years would be required to keep up with the relentless pace of change in technological innovation? A thousand per century? Ten thousand? The pace of technological innovation is ridiculous.

Systems such as education and politics which deal with people cannot keep up with the pace of technology. Thus, problems of loss of job skills and economic disenfranchisement will be the primary perennial problems of a post-scarcity world economy for humans. Computers and robots will be fine. But humans live in a wide logarithmic gap between geological scale and computer nanosecond scale. And their silly feelings will need to be assuaged to cope with post-post-modern life lest they cause societal problems with their emotions. Ironically, after being freed from being a human computer cog by real computers, human beings will still be encouraged to suppress their feelings in a world dominated by computers and robots simply because feelings and emotions and irrationality become the greatest threat to destroy a highly ordered and computerized world economy.

The crucial moment when we can still do something about this inevitable collision course with fate is now. Yet, nothing will be done and the events I have described will simply play out as it does in a heavily foreshadowed script. A single person is no longer enough to change history now that billions of people have the opportunity to join the world economy. The myth of the great person only works if there are only so few people in the world that their noble lineage can all be traced such that inevitably a single person with opportunity may arise from that small population of known nobility. The days of nobility are over, now that the opportunity to become great may be afforded to more people than only the nobility. The massive human crush of billions of middle class people will have their own revolution in nothing so dramatic as Marie Antoinette, but whose effects will have far-reaching worldwide consequences nonetheless.

April 9, 2017

Eu-Ming Lee


How I dropped Out of Society Into a Fourth Social Class

There are three social classes in America. I have chosen to be in none of them. This is not a choice normally available to people. Let me explain a little bit why I dropped out and how I’m basically classless now.

First, let me define the three classes.

There is a worker class who produces material goods. Then, secondly, there is a capitalist class who creates an organization to collect the surplus value of the workers after paying the workers. The market decides what the workers get paid. In America, we rely on the market to balance many things, and worker wages is one of these things. However, when only a single class (the capitalist class) competes in the market for workers, it is difficult for the workers to receive full value for the product of their work whose labor surplus is inevitably skimmed for profit by the capitalist class. What capitalists are competing for in “the market” is this labor surplus. However, competition for this surplus never causes the surplus to go to zero, otherwise, the capitalist has no incentive to start the company at all. Thus, by the very nature of the system of capitalism, it is guaranteed that the worker class can never receive the full total of their labors, for by nature, the capitalist must be incentivized by equity in order to risk his capital to receive the surplus.
The worker’s only choice is which capitalist they choose to skim their profits. Occasionally, workers may band together in a start-up company in hopes that their skills and labor allow them to become elevated to the capitalist class themselves. Ironically, such a gamble requires selling a significant share of their labor to the capitalist class in the form of equity to angel investors, venture capitalists, or Wall Street investors.

Aside from the worker class and the capitalist class, there is one other class that I am not a part of. That class is the incarcerated class. That is the class you fall into by design if you choose not to be a worker for the capitalist class. As a person who has chosen not to be in any of those three classes, I am constantly in danger of falling into the incarcerated class due the laws which rig it that way.

An example of a law which would put me into the incarcerated class is the law which bans sleeping in vehicles. Although you can eat in your vehicle or do just about anything else in your vehicle, many cities have outlawed sleeping in your vehicle because they don’t want homeless people living in their cars.

Our society purposely doesn’t want homeless people because they fall into a non-category of peoples who have rejected the rat-race of being a worker who has her surplus value skimmed by profiteering capitalists. Once you have decided you don’t need a home, then you certainly don’t need a job and thus you don’t need to enter the job market for various capitalists to choose how to exploit you. This is very bad for a society of capitalists. So, it is discouraged. And one way it is discouraged is to arrest you and fine you so that you remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and incarceration so that you will want to join the worker class to escape your spiraling predicament.

I have to be very careful while skirting the fringes of society not to accidentally fall into the incarcerated class. Once one tendril of poverty has grabbed you, it won’t let go until you are trapped in the incarcerated class. So far, I have managed to avoid it with previous wealth accumulated when I was a worker and by continually disguising myself as a “decent” worker class citizen.

Worker class people are afforded certain privileges in society that we take for granted, and I know how to act and present myself as a worker having been one myself for decades. Fortunately, many well-to-do technologists look poverty-stricken and disheveled; so a crazy homeless van dweller, a wealthy start-up app creator, and a math professor at Berkeley are indistinguishable to a police officer.
It is this guise of normalcy which affords my safety in society. It is not the laws which protect me. It is the disheveled appearance of my fellow Silicon Valley workers which affords me the most security.

Let me make this clear. It is not the laws which make me safe from imprisonment and harassment from police. It is my old CodeWarrior and OpenGL t-shirts from 10 years ago that allow me a disguise to slip past laws intended for homeless people. These old clothes are mostly still stored in my storage area. Ten years ago, I could not have known that they would serve me as a uniform of the worker class that I dropped out of and be as valuable as a literal license to participate in society.

There have been many times I have been told to move or threatened with a ticket or various anti-homeless measures that I have been able to thwart by convincing the police that I was “programming” or “visiting someone” in my obviously expensive van and then hastily moving away. I have had the privilege of select enforcement of the law because of the privilege or illusion of wealth, I am not ashamed to admit. I am truly sorry for the treatment that less wealthy citizens would receive due to these laws, but that is not something I am prepared to go to jail for and fight a civil liberties battle over at this point. Such a move would certainly put me into the incarceration class for good. And these laws will remain precisely because no one who is ever put into that legal position could afford to fight those laws.

One of the “solutions” to the homeless problem is to put people to work. I see this as problematic for various reasons. For one, some people may have chosen to drop out of the rigged game of workers and capitalists. I know that we in the worker class believe in the stigma of being homeless as being mentally ill or having substance abuse problems. I don’t know enough about the topic to determine whether this stigma is one of causation or correlation or whether the stigma serves more as a warning to the worker class to not become homeless and to keep maintaining a steady pace on the treadmill for their capitalist of choice.

For me, I tried to get out of the worker class by starting my own company and joining many various start ups. I didn’t quite succeed. I’m not sure I have what it takes to be a capitalist anyway. So, now, I’m adrift neither here nor there.

What I want to do is just create stories and experiences for people to enjoy using the skills that I’ve learned over a couple of decades. I think I can do that without spiraling into the incarcerated class.
But I’ve also chosen to do that without attempting to join the capitalist class or to beg them for help. This is not really a rational thing to do because what I would like to do requires resources beyond what I can muster myself.

And so, things are going slow. That’s okay. I don’t care about deadlines, and I don’t care about milestones, and I don’t care about making money. I’ll let things sort out on its own. Maybe I’ll make money, but I’m certainly not counting on it. And if I don’t count on it, I think I can properly enjoy the process of creating. I think the journey of creation is what matters to me now. Once I strip away all of the stress of starting a company that has to balance income with expenses and has to hit a market window and has to choose the right people, choose the right platform, and choose the right moment, I can truly enjoy what I always wanted to do when I first played Space Invaders in 1977 as a 7 year-old kid— to make his own game.

I only need to get back a fraction of the value of work that I put into my own game to make it worth my while. After all, I’m only getting paid a fraction of my value by any capitalist that’s making a profit anyway. So, for now, I’m not going to worry about what that fraction is going to be. I must accept that that fraction is exactly zero and go on doing what I want to do anyway. It’s not worth worrying about at this point. I’m too far from completion on any of the projects to even think that far ahead anyway.

And so I’m hoping there is a fourth social class in America that joins me. Perhaps there will be enough wealth from an automated and nearly workerless society that a fourth social class can emerge and can simply create art, literature, and entertainment while sustaining themselves with occasional gifts or purchases from the worker and capitalist classes.

This class, like me, will leverage the skills gained from years in the worker class to create novel things that could never be commercially successful enough for the capitalist class to want to exploit.

There are many small things too specific and niche and weird to ever be mass market and thus never be commercially viable to a capitalist class. Such things can be created by a mature post-worker artisan class simply because artisans love to create things and such crafts were not allowed to even be attempted when under the yoke of a capitalist.

And so that’s what I’m going to be doing— sometimes. I hope I can succeed, not so much to make money, but as to serve as an example to others that it is possible to be done. If freedom affords you this luxury, I hope you can take it as I have. I don’t think you have to be brave or anything to do this.

You have to realize that being in the worker class is merely a more comfy kind of incarcerated class. I think Fight Club touched on this a little bit. But you don’t have to be violent or disruptive to break free of the seeming stranglehold of the worker class. The prison is an illusion.

You can live just fine and be happy with less. You can be happy with your relationships without your things. It’s a matter of elevating your most important values to the top of the priority list and then shedding the rest. Once you’re accustomed to not dealing with the rest anyway, it becomes easy to focus on only the necessities.

It’s simpler and less complicated and more fun to focus only on what matters to you, even if it’s trivial or not understood by others. In fact, not being understood by others is what makes it special and enjoyable to you and only you. People might ask, “won’t you get tired of it?” I don’t think you can ever get tired of being a kid every day. Besides, if you miss any aspects of worker society, you can always put on a uniform and blend in and experience a taste every now and again.

Now, granted, I have built myself a bit of a cushion in finances in order to do this, and not everyone will have the same flexibility. But I think the fundamental concept is sound. We are really much more wealthy and capable than we think we are. We’re under an illusion that running out of money will result in homelessness or mental illness or substance abuse as if all of the latter were one thing.

I’m amazed at people who grow up poor but wind up having a huge number of kids anyway. Well, if they can do , then anybody who works in tech in Silicon Valley can also. People working tech jobs in Silicon Valley have a tremendous amount of wealth compared to people in other parts of the United States and other parts of the world. Yet, they’re always comparing themselves with each other and their neighbors which makes them feel poor.

So rather than bemoaning that you can’t buy a house in Silicon Valley, be grateful that you can do things that many people in the world cannot even begin to comprehend, like spending $5 for a cup of coffee and then not even finishing it.

Because wealth is relative like this, I have chosen to focus on how wealthy I am compared to the rest of America even though I’m not working, and to change my perspective on life to appreciate the luxuries that that wealth affords me. And what it really affords me is time. I can have time to do the things that I want to do without worrying about spiraling down into the incarcerated class. I see the danger in that for those who are closer to poverty. Perhaps I am skirting a bit close to the edge of poverty, but I have chosen to not be afraid of it and to be confident in my ability to stay out of the trap of poverty.

So, maybe for this part, you do have to be a little brave. If you or your family has fought hard to come out of poverty, I can see how this part would be scary. However, if you’ve made it into the worker class and saved up some money, have confidence in yourself that you can re-enter the worker class at some level if you so choose. It may be at a lower level than you were accustomed to, but just accept that that was part of the cost for chasing your dreams and experiencing real freedom in your life.

I understand. You don’t want to lose your place on the ladder. You’ve worked very hard to get to that rung and you don’t want to lose it, so you grip tightly. I get that. But don’t cling to the ladder just for the sake of the ladder’s position itself. Remember that you got to that rung for some reason. What was that reason? Do you still remember? You had something else you wanted to do and climbing that ladder was the way to achieve it. It’s not too late to try to achieve it. Even though you haven’t reached the top of the ladder, maybe you’ve reached a high enough rung that you can simply let go and try and achieve the original goal you had in mind. Climbing the ladder certainly wasn’t your only goal until you got onto the first rung, right? The ladder was meant to lead somewhere. Maybe you don’t need to climb the rest of the ladder to get there right now. That’s what is worth considering.


How to Survive the Impending Oligarchy Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Capitalism

Did I say impending oligarchy? I must be mistaken. I mean existing oligarchy. Well, whether you believe the United States is becoming or has become or will become an oligarchy is not the point of this article. The point of this article is to say, “Well, fuck it, we’re fucked. So how do we fucking unfuck ourselves?”

I’ve thought of a couple of ways, both of which I’ve tried with mild degrees of success. Way Number One is to follow with tiny footsteps in the giant footsteps of the giant capitalists ahead of you. What does this mean? This means that you find ways in which capitalists have exploited the law for their own gain and try to emulate their success to some small degree. After all, if someone is going to cheat by changing the rules to favor themselves, is it really wrong to crib from their answers?

Let me serve you an example! Did you know that some 9000 tax payers in the United States have accumulated over $5 million each in their IRA accounts? If they follow the rules of the IRA which limits contributions each year to $5500, then it would seem to reason that there are at least 9000 vampires in the United States who are over 900 years old! And one of them is Mitt Romney. I demand to see his birth certificate! He’s definitely a vampire!

Or perhaps there is a better explanation: We live in an oligarchy where the rules are bent for the extremely wealthy. Or maybe they simply have lawyers read the rules differently. If you want some ideas on how this is done, you can check out this Bloomberg article here. But you’d better act fast, because the anti-oligarchy minded Obama is onto this and has been working to close this particular loophole. In any case, some of those ideas might be doable for somewhat regular folks like you and me. We might own our own businesses or we might be a founder of a startup. The methods in the article are like doubling down 10 times in your own success.

Another way is a thing I stumbled into called HARP. Basically, due to the financial crisis caused unironically by our financial institutions, the US found itself in a recession. In order to stimulate the economy, the government decided that it would throw some liquidity into the gummed up economy in order to get the wheels of capitalism turning again. Greasing the wheels of the money machine, you might say. In layman’s terms, increasing liquidity means that they need to effectively print some cold hard cash and give it to people. If you want to understand why this needs to happen, I urge you to read Paul Krugman’s retelling of the baby-sitter co-op. It’s a lovely story which illustrates a liquidity crunch very effectively.

Usually, in a situation like this, the government would simply give the newly created money to the banks. This, mysteriously enough, is not called “giving money to banks” but is instead called increasing the supply of money. Now, if you’re anything like me, you too would like to increase your supply of money, but you have the inconvenient fact that you’re a person and not a bank and certainly not a person who owns a bank. This greatly hinders your efforts at increasing your supply of money by virtue of the Fed. (The Fed is a fancy capitalist insider’s way of saying The Federal Reserve Bank. If you’re going to follow in the giant footsteps of capitalists ahead of you, you should at least sound like them.)

In this unique situation in which the government needs to give out tons of money, but the institutions it normally gives it to were the cause of the problem in the first place (i.e. the banks), it then needs to give it out to people who won’t fuck shit up even more. And also, maybe punish the banks a little bit, too. But not too much. We’re a capitalistic oligarchy, not a socialist country, you Bernie Sanders loving fuck. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Why are you reading this if not to get your hands on that lovely free supply of money from the government? Socialists! Always trying to get the government to give you free money and you don’t realize that they’re already giving you money! (Well, not anybody… just people rich enough to afford a home. Sorry, renters! Maybe you guys should vote or something. Oh, also, I forgot. If you happen to own a struggling automobile manufacturer, you could also get some free money. But don’t worry about that. That money wasn’t really free. Haha! Government play joke on capitalists!)

Uhhh… where were we? Free money! That brings us back to HARP. What is HARP? Well, it’s a relief program for homeowners (hopefully you, though I know you kind of have to be a bazillionaire in Silicon Valley where I live to own a home). Basically, the whole housing market was artificially inflated by the bankers making money off of inventive new “financial instruments” which was basically writing so many I.O.U’s and insurance claims against bad I.O.U’s that they lost track of who was going to lose money. Some banks knew that they would lose money, but as long as they weren’t losing money at that moment, they were still making tons of money, so it was okay. Well, because the banks basically leeched tons of money out of the housing market, the government responded with HARP which is meant to even things out a bit with the homeowners and the bankers who robbed them.

Have you ever seen those click-bait ads that are like “Click here for this one trick which bankers don’t want you to know about!”? Well, that is literally HARP. You can literally only do HARP one time according to its rules. The bankers must offer you these loans if your house value is lower than what you owe on the house. Because basically, you might have thought you bought your house at a reasonable value. But due to banker shenanigans, it was actually way higher than it should have been. As a result of those shenanigans, the price plummeted thus leaving you in danger of forfeiting your house to… you guessed it: the bankers responsible for the shenanigans. So, the government decided to give those homeowners another chance to rewrite their mortgages at a better contract than originally signed. The banks would rather you forfeit your house, but the government is now looking over their shoulders, so they’re going to play by the rules rather than try any shenanigans, otherwise called irrational exuberance, by those in the know. Remember to walk the walk and talk the talk, little capitalist footstep-follower!

That’s an awesome deal! Here’s the rub. Not enough people actually qualified under those terms. So, they changed the terms. Rather than being underwater (i.e. you own more on the house than it’s worth), you needed some low equity value, less than 20%. Well, if you’re like me, you probably put 20% down and if the house value went down, you have less than 20% equity. Voila! You might qualify for HARP! Now sign up and force the banks to pay some institutional penance that is way too little for the shit-storm they caused, but still not bad considering we live in a capitalistic oligarchy!

So, in summary, we’ve examined a couple of ways of getting by in the post-oligarchy world.

1: Find an absurd thing a wealthy capitalist did and copy it.

2: Find a mistake that a capitalist institution made and be the beneficiary of its punishment.

Remember, little footstep followers, to be creative with the above two concepts. Capitalism is rich in absurd things you can do and also mistakes that need to get punished by the government! You are in a target rich environment! Now that we have the internet, it’s much easier to find out about these things and either copy their techniques or else take advantage of the rules meant to punish their irrational exuberance! Feel free to post some crazy things that you’ve seen capitalists do in the comments section. Happy hunting!

Stay tuned to next time for Way Number 2 Of How To Exploit Capitalism for My Own Gain: Or How I Enjoyed the Fruits of Capitalism Without Being Ground Up By Its Gears!

LARP on a Lark

On September 5th, I met a new friend at Pacificon and then later that night, I found out she was an alien. I almost didn’t meet this alien, and that would have been a shame, because it was a fun and unique experience.

It all started after I had finished an afternoon of playing board games at Pacificon, a yearly convention for board gamers, miniatures gamers, role playing gamers, and some small group of LARPers. I had wandered into the historical miniatures room which was a large room filled with large tables of awesome tank battles, infantry battles, airplane battles, and ship battles. I was admiring the detail on tiny plastic plumes of water splash that marked missed cannon shots in a giant fleet battle when someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I would be interested in LARPing.

My first thought was, “lol… no, not really.” I had preconceived notions of what LARPing was, and I figured it wasn’t for me. Maybe some of you have some preconceived notion of what LARPing is, too. Here’s a picture of LARPing from Wikipedia to give you a rough idea of what I might have gotten myself into.

Some serious LARPing!

I’m just not sure if I’m ready to run through the woods shouting “Magic Missile! Magic Missile! Magic Missile!” at other cosplayers.

“Well, we really need two more people to be able to start”, implored the LARP recruiter woman. Ah… what the hell, why not? Although I had a party to go to at 8pm and it was already 7pm, I said, “Sure, why not, I’ll give it a try.” She was so happy and grateful to find someone to complete their group. I forgot to ask, “Well, how long does this take? The schedule here says it’s going to take 5 hours. Is it really 5 hours?” “Yes, it could take 5 hours,” she responded. “Is that okay?”

Hmmm… That’s a good question. Do I want to commit 5 hours to doing something where I have no idea what it’s going to be or with whom, but must be committed in order to not let down some total strangers? That’s a lot of commitment for someone who just wants a sample taste of LARP.

I like trying new things, but I know that sometimes, not all things are for me. I tried going to a rave. Twice. I don’t dance. I’m terrible at it, and I’m terrible at learning how to dance. I tried to like it, but it really just bored me. I sat in a corner and started falling asleep. Someone came by and shined a light in my eyes and asked me if I was okay or if I had taken too much ecstasy. Umm… No, I’m just really bored and tired.

Dude, are you on ecstasy? No, man. I’m just super-sleepy all the time. Truth.

I think normally, I might not be open to 5 hours of random LARPing because there is a risk of wasting that time. But, being a Free Range Programmer who has already shed most of my expenses in order to buy time for myself, I suddenly found myself with a relative abundance of time. So, that changed the equation. So, yes. Yes, I would like to spend 5 hours with random strangers, playing a random game that I’ve never played before. That is exactly what I want!

But why not LARP? Why the reluctance in the first place? What is it about our adult lives that makes dressing up and pretending and being creative something to be ridiculed? Why wouldn’t I want to hang out with two dozen creative, passionate individuals, who can be theatrical, treacherous, insolent, arrogant, domineering, and all manner of interesting and engaging? I’ll bet you’ll never meet a friendlier group of backstabbing treacherous assassins as you would in a LARP.

I found that I like LARPers. Their subculture has a lot of the things I like in people— creative, open-minded, don’t take themselves too seriously, imaginative, silly, fun, and friendly and open to conversation. And young at heart.

I think getting old means you weigh the cost of time too much. You are reluctant to try new things because you think that it will be a waste of your time if it’s not “productive” or “entertaining” in some way. There is no room for adventure. What is adventure? Adventure is spending time which may be pleasant or may be unpleasant because you don’t know the outcome. Watching a movie is not an adventure, because you almost always know the outcome, especially of a Hollywood mainstream movie. So few of us actually seek an adventure because we cannot bear the burden of wasting time in our lives. Instead, we avoid adventure because of the potential unknown— I may not enjoy this activity and it is taking place in lieu of something that I know I would enjoy.

That is how you fall into patterns and routines. You are afraid of trying something you might like. You do only the things that you like over and over again. So, what I’ve learned is, that with the luxury of having an abundance of time is that I don’t have to be afraid of wasting my time on anything. If I keep a positive attitude, stay awake, and open my mind to new experiences, I can experience more of the world and discover what was already before me, but never knew existed.

This wonderful, creative community of people have already existed around me right here in San Jose. I’ve ignored or dismissed them as being too silly. How silly of me and how ignorant of me to have done that. I’m glad it wasn’t too late for me to not miss out on this unique and creative activity called LARPing!

PS – I will write about the specifics of that particular LARP in a different article. It did not involve dressing up or casting spells or anything like a fantasy role playing game. It was mostly conversations and diplomacy in a sort of live action theatre.