Tag: life (page 1 of 7)

‘Slack’ and work

I’m composing this having done about 19 paid hours of work this week. I’ve also contributed to Open Source projects, written here, done some housework, parenting, and various other things.

I don’t define myself by paid work. I can’t really even properly tell you what I ‘do’ for a ‘job’, to be honest.

According to Bertrand Russell, this is all well and good. As Andrew Curry notes in this post, we should be aiming for about 60% capacity at any given time. I usually end up averaging between 20 and 25 hours per week, so it looks like I’m doing OK…

Portrait of Bertrand Russell

One of the key parallels that’s useful to draw here is between the idea of working less and ‘slack’. Slack is a difficult concept to pin down, but can exist in forms from queueing theory to buffer states. Working fewer hours than the current default 40-hour week is probably what most people do already, and it is also probably likely to move our slack-meter to a more optimal level.

Running with significant slack is often more efficient than running systems at high capacity. If you’re mathematically minded, Erik Bern simulates this via some code in the queueing theory link above, but G Gordon Worley III…gives a simpler explanation:

If you work with distributed systems, by which I mean any system that must pass information between multiple, tightly integrated subsystems, there is a well understood concept of maximum sustainable load and we know that number to be roughly 60% of maximum possible load for all systems.

This property will hold for basically anything that looks sufficiently like a distributed system. Thus the “operate at 60% capacity” rule of thumb will maximize throughput in lots of scenarios: assembly lines, service-oriented architecture software, coordinated work within any organization, an individual’s work, and perhaps most surprisingly an individual’s mind-body.

“Slack” is a decent way of putting this, but we can be pretty precise and say you need ~40% slack to optimize throughput: more and you tip into being “lazy”, less and you become “overworked”.

Allowing flexibility and time into our systems so that we can sit idle is not an admission of defeat, but instead has the potential to be optimal in many circumstances.

I’m not sure how many working hours a week the dogma “operate at 60% capacity” translates to, but Bertrand Russell thought it might be twenty.

Source:  10 June 2022. Work | Dystopia | Just Two Things

The life-changing difference of an internet connection

As someone who’s seemingly around the same age as the author of this post, I agree that the internet has made my life better. I didn’t have it anywhere near as hard as them while growing up, but my online connections (and research) have certainly helped me escape into a different life.

This is part of the story of how the internet changed my life for the better. I’m an early millennial and I was raised online. Through the internet, I found friends, support, and the human connection that I was lacking in real life. I also found valuable information that helped me help myself and sometimes help others. The key with information is always to effectively filter the good from the bad, which is a genuine life skill unto itself. My life today isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it’s ever been. My message to all the people out there who are struggling is to believe in yourself. If you help yourself and you let others help you, things are never hopeless.

Source: The Internet Changed My Life | Pointers Gone Wild

Online personas and liquid modernity

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Drew Austin references Zygmunt Bauman, an author I referenced in my thesis, in relation to personhood and social media. Really interesting.

Austin’s blog, which he seems to have abandoned in favour of a newsletter, discussed his friend recommending the creation of an an ‘alt’ persona “in order to break free of some of the restrictions that an online persona imposes.” I find this interesting in light of my thinking about nuking everything and starting again.

(PS what are we calling Substack newsletter displayed on the internet these days? I think I’ll just call them web pages.)

In his 2000 book Liquid Modernity, Bauman wrote: “Seen from a distance, (other people’s) existence seems to possess a coherence and a unity which they cannot have, in reality, but which seems evident to the spectator. This, of course, is an optical illusion. The distance (that is, the paucity of our knowledge) blurs the details and effaces everything that fits ill into the Gestalt. Illusion or not, we tend to see other people’s lives as works of art. And having seen them this way, we struggle to (make our lives) the same.”


As Bauman presciently realized, the constraints of these digital environments and the sheer volume of users endows even the flimsiest online presences with an illusion of unity. Showing up frequently enough in the feed might elevate one’s presence to a work of art, at least from everyone else’s distracted perspective, and this in turn motivates us all to present our own selves more artfully. The speed of the information flow is essential to the entire illusion: A platform like Twitter makes our asynchronous posts feel like real-time interaction by delivering them in such rapid succession, and that illusion begets another more powerful one, that we’re all actually present within the feed.


Something I frequently joke about—a dark truth that begs for humor—is how social media requires continuous posting just to remind everyone else you exist. I once said that if Twitter was real life our bodies would always be slowly shrinking, and tweeting more would be the only way to make ourselves bigger again. We can always opt out of this arrangement, of course, and live happily in meatspace, but that is precisely the point: Offline we exist by default; online we have to post our way into selfhood. Reality, as Philip K. Dick said, is that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it, and while the digital and physical worlds may be converging as a hybridized domain of lived experience and outward perception, our own sustained presence as individuals is the quality that distinguishes the two.

Source: #162: Minimum Viable Self | Kneeling Bus