The next big thing

As traditional businesses adapt…

Axios

… the digital age continuously advances.

It was already happening before the virus – VR headsets, wireless earbuds, wearable devices – all steps in the direction of technology-human symbiosis. These popular products are still early and primitive in application, but the course is set. Outside the mainstream, in specialized medicine for instance, it’s been happening for years (e.g., pacemakers, other implants and monitoring devices, artificial limbs).

It’s hard to say what causes what, if fantasy is inspired by events or vice versa, but the early speculative authors, like Wells and Verne – who among other things contemplated travels to the moon and explorations of the earth’s interior and oceans – or Huxley – who thought about the changes in society as technology advanced – were not wrong.

The integration of our body with technology has been speculated about by the storytellers for a while. Stephenson dealt with the digitized brain in his most recent novel, Pynchon created an increasingly mechanized person in V., and before all of that there was Frankenstein. The currently popular series Westworld almost seems like a culmination…

If nothing else, these tales have been projections of what the writers felt was underway. The artists feel these sorts of things, it seems, and in the case of symbiotics there is some mounting evidence and, as it now turns out, incentive.

Things happen fast and getting faster nowadays. Your edge is not the next big thing, but the one after.

In memory

The author W.G. Sebald gave a reading at the 92nd Street Y in New York roughly a month after September 11, 2001, and he died two months later. I was in the audience that night, but didn’t appreciate the significance of his work as I think I do now.

The Rings of Saturn

The new Bob Dylan song about the JFK assassination is about much more than that…

… and the timing of the release may not be happenstance.

This ain't no disco

This time of distancing and isolation, where science and technology are a constant background voice and many are left to wonder who knows what and when and how the knowledge is used or not and why… it feels a little like a Pynchon novel.

“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” [Gravity’s Rainbow]

I’ve read (most of) all of them, in some cases more than once (in sections). His books are long and dense and atmospheric, and very beautiful. The one that I return to frequently, maybe because it’s his shortest and in a way most personal besides Inherent Vice (the movie adaptation of which is a worthy intro if you’re new to Pynchon and care to nibble), is The Crying of Lot 49.

Mucho Maas, home, bounded through the screen door. “Today was another defeat,” he began.

“Let me tell you,” she also began. But let Mucho go first.

This mix of almost slapstick comedy and extreme seriousness, told through the vantage points of rich and memorable characters, is typical Pynchon.

If you have extra time and space these days, like many others, I highly recommend…

… and also this, which feels similar in spirit:

The world’s digital immunity

A financially analytic outcome from the virus spread and its economic reactions will be to measure the extent to which software has in fact eaten the world, how this is priced by markets, and the company specific results that demonstrate their software dominance of scale and operations.

At the extreme, a purely digitized supply and value chain should be immune to biological disturbances.

Sequoia Capital: The Black Swan of 2020
Axios Pro Rata

It will also be seen, on a social level, to what extent a software eaten world is possible.

The Possibility of an Island

Last specimens

The author László Krasznahorkai wrote a story called “The Last Wolf” in one continuous sentence.

The story is about the extinction of last specimens – but like all good stories, this one is about many things…

… and the effect of a linear narrative containing dialogue and digressions and returns to the main thread and character and nuance and emotion and much more…

… all in the course of a run-on sentence that goes on for 70 pages…

… is, among other things, musical.

NY Times interview with the legend

In the timbers of Fennario the wolves are running round…

An entrepreneur’s journey

By age 19 the subject has written all the poems he would ever write, which will revolutionize poetry for a century to come and influence art as varied as Henry Miller’s memoirs and Patti Smith’s CBGB shows. By age 27 he has traveled to all parts of the western hemisphere in pursuit of business ventures.

In his 30s, he settles in the remote city of Harar, in what is today Ethiopia, a landlocked ancient city where commerce had once thrived but is now slow, where prospects are few. More or less, this is where the story ends.

Goodreads Rimbaud in Abyssinia

Reading this biographical travel guide, the author of which pursued an abbreviated route similar to that of Arthur Rimbaud in order to experience what his subject must have, certain similarities between Rimbaud in the 19th century and a present-day entrepreneur are striking.

That entrepreneurship is a creative undertaking goes without saying, and one might even go so far as to compare the entrepreneur to the poet, as there is in many (perhaps most) entrepreneurs a spark of romance, idealism, inspiration, and the desire to touch – hopefully improve – some aspect of their environment. There is an energy in entrepreneurship – a restlessness that is almost an end in itself for some – not dissimilar to the referenced poet’s travel, his continuous quest, occasional discovery, and adventurous invention.

The story of Rimbaud’s life is a catalog of calls to action. Maybe even his poetic style – innovative and intended to shake up – were a venture that had run its course… at which point the serial entrepreneur moved on, to his next projects in succession – commodities trading, gun running – which undertakings were no different in a sense from (and really a continuation of) The Illuminations, The Drunken Boat, Season in Hell.

Arthur Rimbaud in New York

The tale, however, turns cautionary, as Rimbaud’s storm and spark take him to a remote locale where he will meet his end. Perhaps considering Harar to be an “untapped market,” the entrepreneur attacks it with his usual passion. But Harar, it seems, was fated to be untapped, and what seemed like a territory ripe for the entrepreneur’s ventures turns out to be an isolated enclave where he is cut off from the flow of commerce, where business conditions are poor, and where, worst of all, there are few other entrepreneurs around.

Thus, it is once again demonstrated that no man is an island, and that context, timing, conditions, communication, interaction, traffic, learning, are all as important to the business builder’s success as are individual traits such as inspiration and energy.

Rimbaud’s classic poetry was a product of Paris, as much as it was of Rimbaud.