Salvo 05.25.2021 5 minutes

Gulag Reverie

Silhouette of Barbed Wire fence against a Cloudy Sky

Dreaming of an implausible future

It was warm. The sun shone brightly against my Persols. We were about 20 minutes into the prairie when I saw the lemon orchard rising on the horizon.

Adam’s site plan is inspired. We used to be neighbors in the city. He followed me out here a few years ago after he came to realize what more is possible. His new dream is to build a research farm, where he will teach resilient strategies on how to raise animals, grow food, and harness energy. With all the space, there are many similar projects taking root down here. I got so distracted staring at his orchard that I missed my turn.

So I slammed on the brakes, spun the E-Type around, and kicked up a cloud of dirt. My fiancé laughed. The autonomous vehicles don’t permit such maneuvers anymore. I bought an older model from before they stuck the computers in the dash. They say the code protect us, but under it our spirit is crushed. What could be more small-souled than having AP headlines dictated at you as your car drives you to the Megacorp? We have a fun little game we play where we roll down the windows, pull on our ears, and stick out our tongues at Tesla owners, especially if they look like nerds. They can’t take a joke! Nothing hurts the NPC more than the shadow of human flourishing.

We’re on our way to a housewarming party for another new “IC”—an intentional community. They’re essentially designer neighborhoods that offer an array of curated community features. I’m excited to see what commercial integrations they have planned for this one. Just yesterday I did a yoga class at Elise’s IC. The community hired an instructor to teach a few times a week in the common gardens. The residents invite their friends, and it draws people to the businesses inside the community.

After the class, we jumped in her rainwater-fed cold plunge. I’ve done it a thousand times, yet it still feels divine. Some startup has been trying for years now to chemically stimulate the norepinephrine release that occurs naturally when frigid water envelops the body.

But if you want a real experience, you have to seek it for yourself. A few of the ICs I’ve been to trigger foggy memories of South American hostels. They have these bunk-bedded longhouses filled with would-have-been college kids learning to code, developing practical skills, and networking through the funnels the influential players set up. On the plateau, there’s an IC that hosts DJ sets—they remind me of deep house shows in Brooklyn from a lifetime ago. In late-stage democracy, perpetual adolescence through arrested development is a big market.

Other ICs are more stately, designed for families and multigenerational living. Last month, a hybrid homestead in the Sorrento Village sold for 110 million dollars. The plots are scarce, and the designer is world-renowned. As they say, you have to pay to play. People romanticize city-states and sunset institutions, but there will never be a return in the way that they fantasize. History may rhyme but it doesn’t repeat itself.. An organic mosaic is developing as the value of the particular is realized.

Ever since I truly internalized that things have changed, and noticed that everyone feels this same sense of uneasiness about the present moment, everything has been a lot more fun. The pressure to live a lifestyle that’s long past is nothing but an impediment to personal growth. At first, I set out just to try to find some like-minded neighbors. But somewhere along the way, I came to understand that there is a larger project that we ought to be working towards.

I made four million dollars from Chainlink last year and bought a plot next to the river. The founder was my TA in college, and thanks to a wild psychedelic experience years ago, I stopped believing in coincidences. I trusted what nature put in front of me, and capitalized on it. I still barely understand how the technology works, but it just doesn’t matter. It’s a new world now. If you understand the intersection of markets and human nature, you can make a fortune in this economy.

Letting the Past Die

 Do yourself a favor and stop betting on reversions to the mean. You are confused if you are still thinking in antiquated terms of legality and constitutionality, reason and logic, hypocrisy and contradiction, or rights and freedom. That’s all gone, foundational principles revealed as cheap veneer.

The Right spends far too much time trying to find evidence of what is obvious to convince people of things that they will never accept: Downtown has been dangerous for years now. I don’t go there much anymore. The effort to transcend the political sphere is mostly contrived, but to pay attention to politics at this stage is fully masochistic. When I need to get work done, I go to my friend Robin’s co-working space. She built a cozy lounge on her ranch for members to use. Parking is easy, there’s no homeless, and the smell of her lavender fields feed something ethereal inside my soul.

As traditional incentive structures have now mostly collapsed, people have started to carve out unique career paths. It began out of necessity, but the reclamation of agency has become something of a lifestyle. Fortune 500 companies hire mostly women and H1-B labor now. Men have always been the trailblazers, and no one really wants it any other way, women least of all.

The subscription economy has grown rapidly for research analysts, social commentators, and essentially anyone who can command attention. If you provide value, the market has a way of finding you. Cryptocurrencies have really taken off, but it’s more of a fiat collapse than anything else. The development teams have been aggressively poaching top Big Tech employees. This has formalized the industry and given it a newfound air of maturity in public perception. It took some time, but the engineers have finally realized their market value.

The greater problem within crypto is that nearly every company pursues an all-or-nothing, zero-to-one approach, so almost nothing useful ever actually gets built. Every company is marketed as “the final solution,” and investors are happy to engage in this delusion as long as they can get in early. All markets are now almost entirely dominated by wild speculation. Boom-and-bust cycles play out within hours.

Someone at the party was telling me that Thunder Network recently banned another slew of dissident accounts from accessing Bitcoin. They’ll have to use the public blockchain now, and won’t be able to access their corporate rewards programs anymore. Vacation and banking will be effectively impossible for their families now. They’re blaming Jack again, but I don’t see any agency there. People think billionaires are free, but it seems to be exactly the opposite. Everyone interesting already uses pseudonyms or private email lists anyway. Followers and views don’t mean anything if they don’t lead to real-world outcomes.

Hands On

On the way home, we drove past The Domain. Big Tech set up their offices there, just north of the city. The pods quickly followed, and then the corporate suburbs arrived. It’s an urban sprawl of restaurants, bars, and retail chains; with a dog park. Logistically and socially, it’s a traveling circus. They say this is the new Silicon Valley, and while they do have a footprint here, everyone knows we’re the animating spirit that drives this place. There was so much demand to come here that the corporations had to limit how many employees could transfer. At this stage, even they are participating in the development here.

Many of them have pooled resources and founded their own coding schools, or have explicit partnerships with independent learning facilities. They’re playing both sides, but just don’t like it to be known: Shh… dont tell the NYT. The most viable path forward is to use the existing institutional incentive structure as a scaffold to build new and improved systems that are more in line with the natural order. We have to bridge the gap between outdated urban dreams and a resilient future.

To understand what comes next, you need to understand our nature. The human spirit is naturally romantic. The romanticism we feel is an instinctive reaction to the dehumanization caused by the synthesis of materialism and industrialism, and the ensuing mass standardization of labor, products, and mind. This dynamic has actively suppressed innovation and growth by diverting creativity into ineffective solutions. At best, these fail to capitalize on the positive externalities that arise within natural processes. At worst, they actively harm us.

If you want to see into someone’s soul, ask them what their definition of human flourishing is. Real human flourishing is achieved through stewardship, not through consumption. Eventually, the consumption of aesthetics dulls, and you have to transition to the production of aesthetics.

Americans in the past were physically connected to the production process: they worked in the factories and on the farms, touched the good with their hands. Our disconnection from the production-side of the equation has led to an imbalance on the consumption-side. By redirecting human innovation and creativity to the production process, we can create a new trajectory for the future, with new products and services to match. We need to fundamentally reimagine what progress’ looks like; less disconnection from nature, and more integration with nature.

This is what we’re working on. After we returned home from the housewarming party, I poured some Cointreau and we sat on the lanai to watch the sun set behind the orange trees. From pod living just a few years ago, to carving this homestead out of the prairie, we’re finally building the experiences at home that we’ve chased out there for so very long.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading from the editors

to the newsletter