Mansion Mania

mansion parties are sick, you have agency, nihilism is the mind killer, Sasha made me write it, China is building nuclear—why aren't we?

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Hi Friends, hosted our first ‘annual conference’ in Austin, Texas…in a mansion.

We spent the past two days discussing our projects, arguing about technology and the future of society, and uhhh, you know, partying.

Meeting friends from the internet has, for me, *knocks on wood* always been a good time. But this felt particularly special because this group is organized around our shared commitment to our own independent research and projects. Most of us had spent dozens of hours together over the past year and a half, in work sessions and seminars, co-working and discussing literature, philosophy, technology, and sociology. The conference both deepened connections—made them feel real—and created the space to make direct introductions that immediately turned into vibrant conversations.

Email introductions simply cannot compete.

The logistics of running an event like this are quite stressful and complicated (I did not play much of a role in planning this event). But the benefits of this kind of event seem to justify the stress, at least at the level of the group. “When’s the next one?” “Let’s do this again soon. I’d love to help plan it.

Vibing and partying in a mansion is much more fun than at a hotel or conference center. The high ceilings and genuinely beautiful design of the home made the experience distinct from any other meetup that I’ve participated in. You could easily hop from one aesthetic scene and interesting conversation to the next. We may have lucked out with this specific mansion but I’m sure there’s others out there.

Basic model:

  • Organize a community around a certain telos and values

  • Select for members that are genuinely engaged and working towards something challenging

  • Solicit interest in a mansion party

  • Find several suitable mansions and various price points, dates

  • Figure out the price per bed/room you need to cover costs (Airbnb, food, drinks, insurance, and a buffer—for when you need to order late night pizza)

  • Secure the necessary bag

  • ????????

  • Mansion Party

My 5th year college reunion was canceled this past year and I’m now tempted to try to host something similar with my college friends…but I don’t need any more projects right now.

If you host one after reading this, please invite me.

Recent Reads

People Are The Tails by Joe Norman

There’s an old woman who walks the main road near where we live every day picking up trash. I see almost no litter on this road, save for what is in the bag she carries. I shudder to think how the road will look when she is gone. I might have new daily walks — I hope I can live up to that. Her impact is small materially, yet infinite in its spirit.

Never underestimate the influence of a person—for good or evil. Too many contemporary narratives downplay the role of our agency and ability to shape our world.

This old woman does not know that her practice has moved Joe in this way. She does not know that he shared it on his newsletter or that I’ve shared it in mine. She won’t know that you’re going to think of her, at least in the abstract, when you see trash strewn along the road in your neighborhood. And yet she does it anyway.

She likely knows something we don’t.

Young People's Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon by Elizabeth Marks, et al

Methods: We surveyed 10,000 young people (aged 16-25 years) in ten countries. Data were collected on their thoughts and feelings about climate change, and government response.  

Findings: Respondents were worried about climate change (59% very or extremely worried, 84% at least moderately worried). Over 50% felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty. Over 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about climate change.

Being worried and anxious doesn’t accomplish anything unless it drives you to tangible action. If our communications and calls-to-action are not providing young people with clear paths to mitigating these risks, then the messaging is ineffective. I empathize with these young people (I’m out of the cohort now…). I spent a lot of time and energy being abstractly concerned about the future. But I realized my perspective was harmful, re-oriented myself and wrote Lead The Future. I’m post-doomer. We have real problems and nihilism isn’t going to solve any of them.

If You Have Writer’s Block, Maybe You Should Stop Lying by Sasha Chapin

I don’t believe you. I know that you have mental contents, right? Your mind is constantly moving. You’re always producing judgments, attitudes, opinions, emotions, melancholy, malaise, anger, and so on. You have things to write about. What you do is just put the things in your head on the page, in basically the order they naturally occur. Flip over the rock in your mind, type about the beetles.

I almost threw in the towel this week. I’m tired. I didn’t want to write. I want to curl up in bed with Derek Sivers’ latest book and fall asleep. My mind didn’t use the “writer’s block” term to try to sucker me out of typing this, it just told me “it would be better to send nothing than something bad!” But then I procrastinated by clearing out my inbox and found this piece. So if you’re mad that I wrote this newsletter feel free to blame Sasha.

Or hire him to be your writing coach! Or hire him to be my writing coach ;)

China’s Climate Goals Hinge on a $440 Billion Nuclear Buildout by Dan Murtaugh and Krystal Chia

The world’s biggest emitter, China’s planning at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35. The effort could cost as much as $440 billion; as early as the middle of this decade, the country will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest generator of nuclear power.

The upfront capital costs are touted as a reason to not invest in nuclear energy. At the same time, our own country just passed a bill with 3x the sticker price of this highly ambitious nuclear buildout. I don’t even know what we’re building with that money. If it’s inspiring, I haven’t heard about it. My associations are all negative because Congress embedded anti-crypto regulations in the bill. Infrastructure!

If you want to progressively decarbonize (reduce carbon emissions), then nuclear energy will be critical to our ability to do that. And we don’t want to “replace fossil fuels” because that framing is one of energy austerity. We want a consistent base load of more energy with fewer emissions and a lower price. We should learn from Europe’s mistakes.

I’ll likely be diving deeper into nuclear energy in the coming months—although likely not publishing posts quite like this.

Thanks for reading. I hope you found something interesting in here.

If not, what are you interested in? What are you afraid of? What would you like to see me write about? Please feel free to reply and let me know. The replies keep me writing!

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