RW43 - All about the Hohenzollern

This week, Dan and John talked about:

  • XOXO 2016, preparing for talks and interviews (Shows and Events)
  • Interview with a 9/11 fighter pilot on a kamikaze mission (Stories)
  • The missing story of flight 93 during 9/11 (Stories)
  • Visit Seattle videos (Hey Seattle)
  • John forgetting the lyrics during a show (Career)
  • Different ways of learning (Attitude and Opinion)
  • Dan aspiring to become an architect (Dan Benjamin)
  • Keeping your friend’s phone numbers in your wallet (Early Days)
  • Phone number prefixes (Factoids)
  • Computer Science language being visible in web technology (Technology)
  • Barriers to entry for putting your music online (Technology)
  • Cell phone plans (Technology)
  • Letting engineers design something without thinking about ethics and aesthetics (Technology)
  • The early days of the Internet (Technology)
  • Schützenfest in Freckenhorst (Stories)
  • We are at the aperture to a new online era (Humanities)

The show title refers to John's story about the Schützenfest in Freckenhorst during his walk through Europe.

Dan always opens a LaCroix at the beginning of every single show with John and today he is having a LaCroix Coconut. John had a Kroger Lemon Lime Seltzer water.

John was about to get on an airplane right after the show.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

XOXO 2016, preparing for talks and interviews (RW43)

John gave an improvised talk at XOXO 2016 in Portland, his 3rd time at the festival. For his first one he was the musical guest, but he also did a live rendering of Roderick’s Rendezvous. The second year he was part of the story telling, and this year he was one of the speakers. During Dan's first year he was just a member of the audience and wanted to meet John, but they didn't meet until the second year. They had some gluten-free lunch and they had fun paling around.

John will typically think about a talk for a couple of days and throw some ideas around in his head, but he won't start composing it until about an hour before. While he goes for a walk, he runs through different anecdotes, thins about the general point of the talk, thinks about a couple of laugh lines and how he can remember those in the heat of the moment. Then he pieces, stitches and Frankensteins it together, all during that last hour. If he would compose it the day before, it would be completely blasted apart by the time he goes on stage. It is a bit of a tight rope walk because he has to find a way to wrap it up and bring it all back home.

This time at XOXO, John's speech (video) had gone well and it was just the right blend of not having a plan and coming up with a plan. Dan also tries not to do preparation for a talk until the last possible moment, which might be the morning of or the flight over.

When John did Roderick’s Rendezvous at XOXO, he interviewed the writer and now comic book writer Chelsea Cain. He does no preparation for interviews beyond being familiar with the person, because an interview is supposed to be a conversation! You will very quickly find something you want to know more about in any conversation and you will get somewhere, which is the whole hallmark of a good interview. Unfortunately, nobody is asking John to host a public television program based on his interview skills.

Interview with a 9/11 fighter pilot on a kamikaze mission (RW43)

John watched an interview with a woman who had been a F16 pilot at Andrews Air Force base during 9/11. She and another pilot were the first F16s in the air when flight 93 was still airborne. They didn’t have time to put any weapons on her plane because of all the bureaucratic army up-and-down and the tower of authorizations where they would have to get the chief of staff or whomever. They sent her and the other pilot into the air unarmed with the mission to kamikaze the passenger jet in case they would intercept it. As a young pilot she was all of a sudden streaking towards this jetliner that presumably was streaking towards the White House or the Capitol, completely prepared to take that plane out. The other pilot was a senior fighter and told her that he was going to take out the cockpit while she was going to take out the tail. That is a heavy story! She is a Major now and is very much a military person, so she knows how to give an interview without revealing too much, but she has been very candid.

As she came to the part of the story where she was taking off without any missiles, everybody in the audience was on their toes wanting to know what that means, but the interviewer was like ”What were you thinking that day? Was it a sunny day? What were you thinking when the jet crashed into the Pentagon?” and her answer was that all emotion went away and she became single-minded in the performance of her duties. Now everybody wanted to know more, but the interviewer asked her about what she was wearing that morning. This idiot! How did he get this job? Eventually he came around to ask if she was prepared to crash her plane into the other plane and she replied ”That’s correct!” - ”What was going through your mind?” John wanted to go through the screen and throttle the guy, because we never really got to sit with her in the moment where she was going to fly her plane into the other plane to protect America. There were so many things to explore and the interviewer should give her the space to talk about it, talk about the fact she is still in the military. If she had done it, she would be one of the great American heroes! Her father was a pilot for United Airlines and he flew that route. She had every expectation that her father was piloting that jet, but the interviewer asked her what she had for breakfast.

The missing story of flight 93 during 9/11 (RW43)

John always suspected that flight 93 was downed by the Air Force and the whole business of the Let’s roll story felt wrong. He remembers watching the event live on TV with his mom, saying that there was no way this plane would be going to get to Washington DC, but they will shoot it out of the sky! As it turned out, it was very difficult to scramble together armed jets in time during this period of peace. During the Cold War, there were bomber crews on standby all the time and John figured that National Guard units would keep F16s with Sidewinder missiles fueled up on the tarmac ready to go with steam coming off of them, but that was not the case. He suspects that they go on training flights with blanks while the armed missiles are kept in an ammo dump far away from the airport. You don’t want your bombs sitting right on the tarmac.

John doesn’t want to cast any dispersions on the ”Let’s roll”-people on the plane, but there seems to be a missing piece from where the passengers were banging on the door and when it cuts to a crater in the ground. Maybe they rushed the cockpit and had a Battle Royale with the terrorists, maybe they couldn’t enter the cockpit and the terrorists plummeted the plane straight into the ground. All that would be part of the story and would be in the black box, but there doesn’t appear to be any of that. It is ”Let’s roll” and then ”Hole in the ground”, which is so American and felt like the one victory in the whole scene. It gave us some heroes amidst an otherwise bleak situation. These valiant people recognized that their fate was sealed and rather than go passively, they fought. Because that group of terrorists had hesitated and had not gotten control of the plane on the schedule they were supposed to, the people on that flight were already aware of the other attacks, while on the other 3 planes, the passengers didn’t know about anything.

Visit Seattle videos (RW43)

John recorded some videos for the website Visit Seattle in which he gives the audience tours of Seattle on a flatbed truck. The back of the truck had been replaced with some green scaffolding and a little stage. In the traditional talkshow format, there was a desk saying #heyseattle with a rolling chair and a blue-ish couch next to it. The truck went around town to about 10 different locations and John went up there to interview people who had either a connection to that area or who were prepared to answer general questions about what to do in Seattle.

Several stylists were tasked to make John look like himself. The photograph they used for reference had been taken during his campaign when he had dressed himself, but they were hesitant and asked him to just bring a few signature pieces of his own wardrobe, while they would provide the rest. They had put together a whole rack of new clothes and fitted him some things. They didn’t want a tie because John was supposed to be casual cool. He went along with it and was their blank slate. At the end there was a pair of shoes that he really liked and he said that he was going to keep those shoes. There were people who tried to say No, but it went up the ladder and eventually he got to the person who said Yes.

John has not watched any of those videos and it would already be excruciating to him to even see the page, even without clicking on them. He was very proud to do it and he very much hopes that it turned out well. Because he doesn’t actually know if it is super-good or not, he hasn’t made any effort to retweet it or promote it on social media. He waited for enough people to tell him that it is great and for a consensus in the right direction before he would start to promote it.

The concept called for very short snippets. They were generating a lot of material in the course of a filming day and the quality is very dependent on the editing. There was some stuff where John hoped they would not leave that in. He didn’t walk away from it having a super-good sense of how it went, which is true for people acting in films as well. They show up on set, they go ”Behold! The kingdom!”, the director says ”Cut!” and they go back to their trailer without having any sense of how the film is going to be when it comes out. There are many actors who never watch their own movies, because they find it unsettling to see their own face 30 feet high in a room full of people, even if the audience is typically not conscious of the fact that they are looking at one person’s face as tall as a building. It is generally hard to get used to hearing your own voice or seeing your own recordings.

Because John doesn’t watch his own performances, he doesn’t get better from it and instead gets worse and worse all the time. Dan's favorite performances of John on YouTube are for the Seattle radio station KEXP. They are really well filmed and well recorded.

John forgetting the lyrics during a show (RW43)

Sometimes John would forget the lyrics to a song. When he was on stage with a full Rock band, the band would already be in full flight when he was supposed to sing the first few lines. Sometimes he would stop them, and "HAHA, I don’t remember the words!", sometimes he would let them keep going and John ask the audience to yell the words at him, but that is very hard to hear while a live Rock band is playing. It wasn’t meant as a gag, but it was just as it turned out. Sean Nelson usually knew the words and John would whisper to him, but after he left, John didn’t have that resource anymore. Eric Corsan played the bass in a complete bass-player headspace and didn’t know the words or wouldn’t remember them in the moment. John has watched some videos online of him asking the audience for the words. For some reason he finds it funny.

Different ways of learning (RW43)

John does not listen to his own records, although he spent weeks making them. He doesn’t know why that is, because he will read his own writing without any problem. If people transcribed Roadwork shows, John would read them avidly! It is something with the ears. A lot of people learn by listening and have a hard time learning through their eyes. They don’t get it off a chalk-board or off a book, but they want to hear it and watch it being done. John is the other way and prefers learning by reading. He finds lectures melodious and tunes in and out of them. He enjoyed them in college, but mostly as doodling opportunities. He never took notes in a single lecture during his whole school career and his handwriting devolved into a series of glyphs a long time ago. Some of his letter formation is very child-like and when he writes quickly, his R:s are barely a lump and a lot of his letters are just suggested. You can make it out from context. Dan didn’t take any notes in college either and it would have been pointless because he wouldn't have been able to read his writing later anyway.

Dan aspiring to become an architect (RW43)

For a while, Dan imagined to become an architect and took drafting classes where they would do things like isometric projections. They would give you a Philips-head screw and you were supposed to do a drawing of it, teaching you the basic principles of drafting which would then lead to architecture. Now this is all done on a computer, but AutoCAD was a brand new thing at the time and they had only one computer in the architecture part of the school. Dan continues to talk about what they did in drafting class and how he used the blueprint machine to develop a drawing from a Vellum paper. He learned how to do draftsman style printing where each letter could take you 10 seconds. That was the only way for him to write legibly. His cursive was terrible and he would break out of it with regular letters. It looks like the scrawling of an insane 14th century opium addict.

Keeping your friend’s phone numbers in your wallet (RW43)

John can write very small. He used to carry a little laminated double-sided piece of yellow-lined legal paper in his wallet on which he had meticulously written the phone numbers of every person he knew in tiny writing. It also included the PIN to his ATM-card but he wouldn’t identify it as a PIN. Because the phones at the time didn't have memories, your friends' phone numbers were either memorized or on a piece of paper. John had a wide social circle and knew a lot of people and it was important for him to have their phone number. Because he is an archivist, he still has some of those phone number lists. He was very proud of them and he consulted them every day all the time. He still has memorized some of the numbers that he had called regularly. He still knows Sean Nelson’s phone number from 1998 and he obviously remembers his childhood phone number. Right now John doesn’t know anybody’s phone number except his mom’s. If his phone died and he would have to call somebody close to him, he would have no idea. He used to certainly have 25 current phone numbers memorized at all times. Dan could even remember a number just when people told it to him.

Phone number prefixes (RW43)

Back in the day there have been letters on the number pad and some phone numbers made up words, like SUNSET-32404. In Seattle, a lot of prefixes like Meridian, VanDyke, Waverly and Franklin represented neighborhoods and the numbers they have in Seattle today still correspond to these. For example, 322 is the prefix for Capitol Hill and makes the word "East", written as EA2. You could know the neighborhood you were calling from the telephone prefix, like EA2-7474 was a certain part of Capitol Hill, while EA3 was slightly South of there. This was also true of old license plates. The first two digits told you what county the car was registered in.

Growing up in Anchorage, John's phone number prefixes were 272, 277 and 276. He remembers when he first heard a phone number from 276 and it struck him. There was also 279. His dad’s number was 279, his mom’s number was 277, his uncle’s number was 272 and those were the prefixes he had ever heard until a friend of him came with 276 and it sounded weird. He never heard a 278 or 274. John's world in Anchorage in the 1970s and 1980s was confined to 3 or 4 prefixes. When Dan lived in Orlando, he had 407 as the main prefix while the rest of South Florida was 305, but at one point they would divide different parts of the city and you had one code at one side of the street and another code at the other side. New York was all 212 in the past and then they put a new one on there which was pretty destabilizing for people. Dan grew up in Philadelphia where they had 215 and they got something really terrible afterwards.

It is kind of amazing that this system that was devised at the dawn of telephones has persisted to this day. There is no need to remember numbers anymore, so John wonders how long it will last. Their SSNs have that little 2-digit blob in the middle: XXX-XX-XXXX, like a 7-digit phone number with two digits in between. Maybe phone numbers are headed there.

Computer Science language being visible in web technology (RW43)

URLs are a quite ungainly system that were clearly devised by computer science people who didn’t have the sense that those would be so widely used by so many people. Dan goes on to explain the history of different server names for different services and how ”www” points to the web-server of the domain. Dan’s job at one point was to set up routers with IP-tables, but he doesn’t remember any of it.

At the core of some of John’s criticism of our current interstitial online-lives is that these systems were initially devised by computer-science pioneers to communicate with one another in a technical language. Unlike almost any other technological innovation in recent history, the guts of the architecture are still visible right upfront and the lay people who became the ultimate users of these systems, are expected to use and understand those architectures. After airplanes became popular, it wasn’t necessary for the passenger to understand how the airplane worked or to see a diagram of the notion of lift or to know what the pilot was saying to the tower. When skyscrapers were built with poured concrete or steel beams, you didn’t need to understand the language of the people who built the elevator. You are not here to understand the building, but to use the building and you have other things to think about.

The Internet was a youth-movement as well as a technology and it remained necessary for the user to be a good engineer a lot longer than for most other technologies. The process of putting everything online was such a herculean process. It wasn’t just ”Here are some airplanes, rich people can fly on them”, but every single person in the world suddenly wanted their own website or blog. The aperture of people who knew how to do this stuff was so small and it remains small even now.

Barriers to entry for putting your music online (RW43)

At the time of recording, was down because SquareSpace Something and although Merlin told John what to do about it, it blew over his head. Yet, John should have up. The people who are building the Internet and who work within it have something of a blind spot. Even though Merlin knows that John is a dingeling and he is patiently walking John through the process, he still has the fundamental assumption that John is going to walk through this series of steps that are more self-evident to him than they are to John. John doesn’t know about those things because he doesn’t care and because it isn’t crucial for the work he is doing, but it is crucial to be able to turn the lights on. If John’s light switch doesn’t work, he knows what to do, because he taught himself how. He can find a short or wire an outlet. It is a physical process, you can follow the wires and troubleshoot it. To understand computers in a way that is still necessary to put up your own website requires more brain real-estate than John is willing to farm to it.

John discovered this with Jonathan Coulton and it was devastating the moment he realized it. Jonathan has incredible songs that resonate with people online. His success 8 years ago was astonishing to everybody because he had no profile outside the Internet and no-one in the music business had ever heard of him. Everybody tried to duplicate his success, because all you have to do is put your music on the Internet for free, but nobody else could do it. It was seen as the future, but ultimately it wasn’t and it kind of only worked for Jonathan. He was a computer programmer and made his site himself so that you could download his music at any resolution. You could pay for it or not, you could download everything for free or you could pay for lossless FLAC and every day he put a new song up. His site was not beautiful, but functional. John realized that he had none of those abilities while Jonathan could do it cost-effectively, because he could do it himself. Building that architecture at the time would have cost John $30.000. He was completely behind the 8-ball and he only imagined that all of his songs could be online and he could charge for them. He still imagines that. Now 10 years later he still doesn’t know how to put his music online to have people buy it or to have it be free.

There is a huge barrier to entry and a lot of it is that we haven’t consumerized it yet. We are trying to monetize the Internet way ahead of consumerizing it. It will inevitably get there, but nobody wants to know about it. Another problem is that somewhere along the line of making the Internet truly an effortless consumer arena, people should not have to sign a new user end agreement (sic) every time they plugged in their phone. We are still signing 50 contracts a year that we don’t understand in order to what? To protect Apple from what? It is evidence of the fact that we have not systematized a consumer standard.

Cell phone plans (RW43)

There was this fraught moment in the early days of cellphones where it wasn’t clear how this system was going to work. Did you buy the phone and then pay for minutes? Or did you rent the phone and get unlimited minutes? Did you lease the phone? Because those 2 year contracts didn't exist yet, could you just follow the phone company with the best deal? It codified into this system that we are still living under: Phone companies are bastards and you sign a contract with them. Why is that? There is nothing about owning a phone that requires a contract! It was just the way they decided they were going to monetize it, sort of like the way they are trying to monetize the cloud, a system of indebtedness or indenturedness to companies that don’t have any motivation to do a good job for you. John remembers a customer service experience with Verizon where they told him they didn’t care about him because he was trying to get out of his contract to go to AT&T, which was such an inversion of what had formerly been the business model where the customer is always right and you were supposed to keep the customer satisfied.

There is no reason why cellphone culture shouldn't have evolved in a different way and why phones shouldn't be monetized entirely differently. We are still living in this world where it is litigious because people don’t understand. There is nothing to sue about, but there is the idea you could sue Apple just because they are rich. Apple is capable of taking away your entire music library in an instant that you have spent years assembling. You would have no recourse and if you wrote them ”You bastards!”, they would tell you ”Thank you for writing, you are in an 85-years long queue”, which is a thing that we have allowed to happen because at no point along the way did we have any recourse.

Letting engineers design something without thinking about ethics and aesthetics (RW43)

The rise of the computer engineer has made the engineer a culty figure, but engineers belong in boiler rooms and in windowless offices! Engineers are not Rock stars! Rock stars are actual things who play Rock and do it well enough to be stars, which requires that they are somewhat sexy, but computer engineers aren’t! They are engineers who should just build things and shut up about it!

The primary concern of engineers is how things are going to work, but not the ethics or the evolution of it. Nobody ever asks the Rock-star engineer if this is beautiful or ethical, but they just ask them to build this. If the skyscrapers of the 1920s and 1930s had been built exclusively by engineers, they would be hideous, but there were other considerations that ended up making the Chrysler building. It is both a marvel of engineering and aesthetic marvel. A lot of what makes it beautiful and iconic was expensive to do and performs no function other than to be able to look at the beautiful thing we made. Come to New York City!

Contemporary American business schools no longer encourages their students to make something wonderful. Apple did make beautiful things and that is why people adopted their products, but in a way John doesn’t feel they made them functional, which is kind of a weird inversion of what he was just saying. The whole system is missing a crucial component that is palpable. When John argues about engineers, he obviously gets a lot of letters from engineers defending their world, defending their logic and arguing with John about his logic. This system that we are all absorbed in, that is a legitimate portion of our world, and that for some people is a much larger portion of their world, is missing something crucial at the consumer end where things are supposed to be made elegant and effortless. A lot of the letters from engineers are prefaced that John fails because it is not interesting to him, just like Dan told him.

The early days of the Internet (RW43)

Dan remembers the time when the Internet was a new thing: All of a sudden, people needed more than just a fax-machine: Now they also needed a website to take their business online. They didn’t really know what it meant, but they knew they didn’t have it. During the mid-1990s, Dan was working for a company that was excited to have him onboard because he not only understood the Internet on a deep level, but he could also talk to people. The company used to do seminars like "How to use Microsoft Word" and they wanted Dan to teach people about the Internet, how to get a website and what HTML was. If you attended this seminar today in 2016, you would assume it was for geriatric patients and people who were living under a rock forever, but back then business-people were flocking to these seminars and Dan even trained a couple of colleagues who then traveled around the country and gave talks filled with hundreds of people. They answered questions like what email was.

Dan always expected that as time went by, the Internet would become easier and easier to use, just as computers got easier and easier to use, which is probably a bad analogy to make. Today you don’t need to know anything about a car to own a car. You just need to know how to drive, which is a thing that a lot of people can do. You also don’t need to know anything about the construction of the US Highway system and you don’t need to sign an end user agreement promising you won’t sue anybody when your car goes off the road. At every step of the way, the system has been designed to make the process invisible. The first thing they did was take away the crank that you had to turn to get the motor started. Pretty soon you don’t even have to drive the car anymore!

Nothing about the Internet has gotten easier and it still seems to John that the burden of entry is as high as it is on purpose. It is not a system of planned obsolescence, but a system of planned exclusivity. The engineers are not motivated to make it easier for dummies, because what would their job be then? It is wonderful that there are so many Javascript coders, but John wishes they would go into Plato’s cave and they could live in there happily.

John is part of a tech culture, but the idea that he would ever have encountered Javascript or had to parse it at all, or having met somebody who expected he would know something about Javascript is very different from any previous technological innovation. Nobody at Boeing in 1955 went to a cocktail party and expected anybody there to know about building an airplane. John welcomes our Squid overlords, but he also looks forward to a time with a renewed focus on the front-end part of Internet land. He doesn’t mean the front-end like Garage Band, but the systems we use each and every day. He hears the chorus of voices saying ”All you have to do is go into the search bar and type what you want and the thing pops up immediately”.

Schützenfest in Freckenhorst (RW43)

As John walked across Europe years ago, he ended up in the town of Freckenhorst, a tiny little town to the East of Münster in Germany. As he was walking around, he heard some Ooompa-music, followed it and came to the local Schützenfest. During the 10 days around that point, every town he was going to had a Schützenfest. It literally means shooting festival and it is about hunting birds or whatever, one of these events in Germany that feels vaguely pagan and with a very nationalist vibe. There is actually goose-stepping as part of it and everybody is wearing their little German hats and their Lederhosen. It feels very connected to something in the German spirit and culture that is very old, even pre-Christian. Here we are, it is early summer and we are celebrating the hunt. As John followed this Ooompa-music, he found all these people in their Lederhosen drinking beer. He walked into the little gated yard and somebody came over and asked him what he was doing here. ”Schützenfest!” It was a closed party, but John was welcome to hang out with them because he was funny and he spent the whole night watching Schützenfest-men get drunk.

At one point they formed up into marching ranks and marched past the big house that turned out to be the manor house of the aristocratic family that once upon a time would have been the dukes of the Warendorf area. The duke or prince or count and his family were very beautiful people and appearing very cultured. They came out on the balcony on the manor house as the Schützenfest-men marched past in review and went into goose-stepping which John had never seen in real life before. He thought it was something related to Nazism or Fascism, but in this instance it was clearly some kind of Roman empire thing that had been brought to the Germans when the Romans fought them while they were still the Barbarians. This was the strangest thing John had ever seen! All the drunken men who were now his best friends were explaining everything to him and as they got drunker, they started talking about Hitler. It was a very strange night.

John even met the young princes and he was fascinated by them. They were late teenagers, 19 and 17 years old, and they were tending bar for the men of the village. They were exactly as you would expect young aristocrats to be. They looked handsome and fit and preppy like the Kennedys and John assumed they went to school in Switzerland. They spoke impeccable English and they thought that John was hilarious because he had come to this party in their front yard. John is not immune of feeling excitement when he is in the presence of European aristocracy. It is part of his whole weird world of interest, in particular the German aristocracy which was all de-landed in 1918. The house of Hohenzollern, where the princes of Prussia and Kaiser Wilhelm was from, all those royal houses of Germany, and all the dukes and counts and margraves, have lost their claim. They are still aristocratic families, a lot of them are cousins of Prince Charles or they are part of the succession for the British throne, but they live in Germany. It is the same with the French aristocracy: Louis Quatorze still has relatives in France and they still call themselves the Baron of Metz or something, but they are never going to ascend to a throne.

John is fascinated by that world, especially when he is actually in the presence of somebody who’s name is Count von Blitzenstein. When they will get married, will it be to some Italian royal house in order to maintain this crazy system? Ever since this day John was trying to figure out who they were and whatever they were doing in Freckenhorst. If you drove through Freckenhorst in a car, you would see that this town hasn’t even got a 7-Eleven and you would keep moving. It is just one of a million villages in Germany, but these glamorous people are living in this beautiful house in Freckenhost that has been there for several hundred years. It is a world of class and privilege that John doesn’t understand. He tried to find out who they were, but everywhere he went, he could not find anything. Then he forgot about them and stopped thinking about them.

Earlier this morning for some reason, John was back reading about the Hohenzollerns and he remembered the castle of Freckenhorst. He put it into the title bar of his Google. It is still a little bit hard to find, but eventually he came to the family von Westerholt who lives in the castle of Freckenhorst. Right when Dan called him to record the podcast, he had arrived at the Wikipedia-entry of the Westerholt Adelsgeschlecht, which is in German and he was just about to click on ”translate”. He had googled them before and found nothing, but now we have finally reached a point where enough information has entered Google for John to find the Westerholts and to find out who they are and if he should call them Count von Westerholt whenever he tells this story.

We are at the aperture to a new online ear (RW43)

A good portion of the invisible 90% of the iceberg of human knowledge is probably not going to make it into Google and it is not going to exist in the future. Somebody decided that the Westerholts warranted a Wikipedia-page. They didn’t put it in English and it has to be translated by the robot, but somebody made that decision, the computer didn’t do that! There is so much shit that no-one is ever going to feel that about and what that effectively means 20 years from now is that it ceases to exist. The books that don't have it are going in the pyre. Already now, books are mostly decorative and only scholars are going into the stacks. The reason there is a Westholt page on Wikipedia is that there are still living Westerholts. But many of those trails that are still alive now, even the trails that led up just to now, won’t survive the purge. They will be gone and it is weird to think about that.

The reality of books was 600 years and longer if you count illuminated manuscripts. The time before books is just like a blank to us. We still don’t know what the hieroglyphics mean exactly and we still haven't found the Rosetta stone, so 99% of human history is a blank to us. We have been leaving a record for the last 1000 years which means that those last 1000 years are much more colorful to us, but we are at an aperture right now: What doesn’t make it through will be pre-history. That is a significant moment in human life and those decisions are being made very whimsically. If John wanted to put up a website about some weird company that made eyeglasses from 1940-1970, he could do it. There might only be 100 people in the world who know about that company anymore, like the grandson of the person who started it.

Just look at John’s dad’s life: if he will put him online somehow, and he has done so by virtue of these podcasts, he will live on, but if John had failed to do that, his dad would have been gone forever! And why would anybody care? Every person born today will have an online life that will potentially live forever. That process and multiple processes like it aren’t really being examined as much as the user end agreements. We are spending so much more time thinking about the user end agreements (sic) and how to monetize apps than we think about the fact that we are at a massive moment in history. Maybe Steve Jobs was thinking about this, but John didn’t get the sense he was, and he doesn’t think Elon Musk is either. There is no chief aesthetician or ethicist and sadly it is because there is no money in it, but that is the work that needs to be done now. John is not doing it, because he doesn’t know how to put up a website.

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