Another completely brilliant weekend, in spite of the rain.
We went to the open studios at Headless Point, where I met
Michael Christian and Dan Das Mann, two of my favorite
Burning Man artists. Michael built the Nebulous Entity in
1998 and the Bone Tree in 99. Dan did the Faces of the Man, one
of this year's most beautiful pieces. I bought a little
steel sculpture from Michael: it's an apartment building,
filled with people laughing. Flames are coming out of the
roof, but the building is not consumed. Reminds me of our
Headless Point is absolutely great. It's out on the edge of
the Hunter's Point naval shipyards, a windswept and
profoundly toxic section of the Bay. Rusting ships loom
through the fog, and there are big salty marsh flats on all
sides. You can see where Michael and Dan get their
earth-tones, their industrial greys and greens, and their
wonderfully biomorphic technology.
I think you nailed the central problem of social
engineering. How do you get people to work for mutual
benefit without resorting to force? Burning Man and the
open source community tackle this problem in various
interesting ways. Larry Harvey makes a conscious effort to
create myths and taboos that encourage socially beneficial
behavior. Linus seems to take the other tack: he molds the
kernel to suit his own tastes and needs, and is pretty good
at ignoring efforts to guilt-trip him into serving other
peoples' ends. If they were Zen masters, Larry would be the
one with the infinitely regressing koans, and Linus would
be the one with the stick.
A lot of the arguments going on in both places at the
moment focus on questions of scale. Old-time BMers resent
the fact that the event has grown from a few hundred to
25,000 people. A small but vocal
group of Linux kernel hackers furiously resents Linus's
ad hoc patch management process. Me, I love Larry's
principle of radical inclusiveness, and Linus's avowed
desire for world domination. As far as I'm concered, the
bigger these experiments in community, the more
non-coercive environments they generate, and the more
contexts that value intellectual play over confrontation
and point-scoring that I get to hang out in, the better.
I suspect my whole political outlook is based on the desire
to create safe havens for kids who were beaten up in
school. No wonder I live in San Francisco.
I really love this
description of Iain Banks's post-Marxist utopia.