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 house.
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.
Seth - 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 social 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.