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Revisiting Self Hacks through a Network Lens

18 Dec 2010

Networks don’t require the whole person, only a narrow piece. If, on the other hand, you function in a network, it asks you to suppress all the parts of yourself except the network-interest part — a highly unnatural act although one you can get used to... If you enter into too many of these bargains, you will split yourself into many specialized pieces, none of them completely human. (p. 48)

This quote is from Caterina Fake's notes on Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. The passage compliments a warning I shared not long ago, concerning the dark side of self manipulation. I conclude that post with the following thought:

But there’s a danger in seeing instincts and drive as something that needs to be manipulated. The essence of who and what we are cannot be separated from our emotional needs and cravings.

It’s irrational to dissect aspects of our mind and expect to walk away whole. By treating one’s present intuition as nothing more than a tool to be manipulated, we attack part of our identity. Our personalities are interwoven with instincts that have enabled us to survive for thousands of generations. By denying and damning present biases, we risk becoming victims of our own intellectual hubris. An alternative decision making path fully embraces the present moment, as well as our human frailties. If we continually care for the present with all our attention, the future will take care of itself.

Networks require and more so demand, a slice of the whole of who we are as human beings. I see a relationship between the requirements of networks, and why we strive to master self manipulation. We are motivated to better jam narrow wedges of our personalities into social networks to extract value (wealth, recognition). What I'd like to see more of is the development of networks that cater to multiple aspects of our personality, and reward us for natural inclinations. This doesn't imply one network to rule them all, yet it does suggest single purpose networks dehumanize us (focused repetitive work).

Caterina's notes go one to highlight passages that relate to the education system and modern work environments as being the social tools which institutions use to propagate their existence. We should be wary of any purpose driven institution which doesn't require periodic dissolution and reinvention.

...every institution’s unstated first goal is to survive and grow, NOT to undertake the mission it has nominally staked out for itself. …It was this philistine potential — that teaching the young for pay would inevitably expandinto an institution for the protection of teachers, not students — that made Socrates condemn the Sophists so strongly. (p. 58-59)