Many people are saying that the culture has entered a post-literate phase. “Post-literate” is supposed to mean that people no longer read books, articles or anything longer than a TikTok caption. I don’t think this can be true. While the printed word is no longer the only diversion on offer to a bored populace, book sales are up. More people are reading than ever, but more people are doing everything else as well.
Creative places are uncomfortable. The tendency is to relax into comfortableness, but this needs to be fought against. We should seek out irritation in our lives. People mistakenly think that living in stasis is desirable and achievable. Both are wrong. There will always be problems, and we will always need to generate solutions through creativity. We need to live in a place of creativity, which will mean discomfort. The trick is to search out the right irritations in life, the creative situations, the correct set of tensions, the sand that will produce a pearl.
I find reaching for my phone, opening Twitter and scrolling to be a hugely compelling activity. The thrill is something like a soap opera, reading updates from the various dramatis personae. As 2020 scaled the heights of the culture war, a narrative was imparted on their posts. Idle thoughts become skirmishes in a grand battle. And the format of Twitter allows for me to model responses and reactions as I read.
When Americans reach for a European city to illustrate their point I notice they almost never pick London. If, “What about European tech?”, is the question, “Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Lisbon,” is the answer. Is this because London is not seen as foreign enough to be a valid example, or maybe the worry of being outed as an Anglophile? Whatever the reason, I think it’s indisputable that London is the tech capital of Europe and after SF and NYC the most important global tech hub.
Some values may benefit small groups such as startups, without necessarily being good for people’s everyday lives or even society as a whole. For example, overconfidence. Paul Graham tweeted that, “overconfidence … has its disadvantages. But it’s just what you need if you want to take on a problem most rational people would conclude was too hard.” Today, it’s generally assumed that people who work in tech are on the left – San Francisco values across the board.