Most of us, it seems, have a strong inclination to accept the peculiarities of our social environment as if they were ‘natural’.
It is one of the characteristics of the magical attitude of a primitive tribal or ‘closed’ society that it lives in a charmed circle of unchanging taboos, of laws and customs which are felt to be as inevitable as the rising of the sun, or the cycle of the seasons, or similar obvious regularities of nature. And it is only after this magical ‘closed society’ has actually broken down that a theoretical understanding of the difference between ‘nature’ and ‘society’ can develop.
- Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume One: The Spell of Plato
Minds create identities to solve problems. Minds categorize themselves and others to solve problems just like how we use a spoon to eat soup and a fork to eat spaghetti. Minds identify themselves for a reason. Even if one is born, say, with brown hair, the mind will associate hair color with a certain set of problems, and may try to change that color to solve some problem. There's always an explanation behind an identity choice. Even if sometimes that choice is to denigrate the minds' ability to do so. The mind's continued exploration of reality is then reflected in the recorded flow of this constant redefinition.
Attempts to ossify identity make solving problems harder because an identifier without malleability can no longer correct for errors when new problems arise. Reality isn't made up of set things, everything constantly in flux, in motion, flowing. So, freezing an identifier breaks the link between the mind and reality. These are all pretty high level ideas, but there’s plenty of examples of this in fiction. In the movie Gattaca
genes are ossified identifiers which control the flow of growth in its' dystopian society. The movie centers around an individual poking the holes in societies theories about success to accomplish their own dream (of going to space). Coda
spotlights a singer from a deaf family who must overcome her own self-image and the assumptions from her family about what's important to accomplish a dream (becoming a singer). Bilbo Baggins is an assuming hobbit who must overcome his hobbit-ness (and destroy an evil empire).
Given names are state-ossified identifiers. They have a lot to say about one’s parents, and the culture or the governing jurisdiction they were born in, but often very little to say about the person behind them. They exist to solve problems deemed compulsory by some authority; institutional responsibilities like: going to school, paying taxes, not spreading sickness and disease, etc. But, it's also interesting when people choose NOT to use those names. When they create something else: pseudonyms. Online identities, for example, do have a lot to say about the mind behind the name (even if it's a bot). Interpreting a pseudonym can reveal what problems people try to solve with that identity, why they choose not to associate it with their given names, and what sort of reality is reflected in that endeavour. Even choosing a randomly generated pseudonym
says something about goals the individual had when creating and using it.
So, where did Cozy Orb come from? Why did I choose Cozy Orb? If you'd like, you can skip to that explanation below. But first, I want to record a better understanding of my own name choices over the years. So, the following are some retrospective explanations:
My earliest memory of a screen name was something Dragon Ball Z related for an online RPG
(RIP Geocities & Angelfire). It must have been something like SSTrunksX; though I don't remember exactly.
Dragon Ball Z characters use their bodies to wield energy so powerful it can rip their clothes and change their hair color. Mainly this is done by tensing or flexing their muscles, sometimes for several half-hour episodes at a time, while other characters wait with bated breath. Their bodies are sculptural, renaissance worthy albeit unrealistic, hyperreal fetishization of the human muscular anatomy. Super fun to look at and imagine. Also there’s time travel, robots and aliens and stuff. What’s not to like!?
Dragon Ball and other anime were introduced to me and my peers through ‘Toonami’ on Cartoon Network
. One particular friend named Joey and I were very into this in the late 90s. We liked to geek out about anime, comic books (still a Spidey fan, too!), play impromptu role playing games (D&D), and things like that. That influence would later lead me to take Japanese in high school
when the unexpected opportunity arose.
I wouldn’t be in Japan today if it weren’t for those childhood interests. I wish that friend, with whom I used to geek out with, could have come to visit me in Japan. My family moved around 2001, and some years later it seems my friend took his own life, long before I thought to use something like Facebook to reconnect. I sometimes wonder if I had tried to reconnect earlier if things might have turned out different. RIP Joey.
My next chronological memory of a screen name is “Charcoal317”. Charcoal was the name of my childhood pet cat. He met an untimely death when he was hit by a car on Halloween in 2003 or so. Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t name him Charcoal. I named him Jack. Like Jack Skeleton from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I loved when I was in elementary school. Jack has a strong /slicing/ feel to it. It's almost sharp and dangerous, but quick and agile, powerful and resilient. It's a good one. But, anyway, my friend Chris
started calling the cat Charcoal because it was charcoal colored, and it stuck. 317 is the Indianapolis area code, where I spent my adolescence. Charcoal317 is probably my most sentimental screen name. I used it for AIM, and had some of my first digital conversations using this pseudonym. It represented the things that shaped me more than the problems I wanted to solve, but sometimes just trying to understand the things that shape you is a hard enough problem.
Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood: there will always be some who misunderstand you.
- Karl Popper, Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography
Next is 7yuczhd2
(LiveJournal). Pessimism overtook my underlying understanding of the world and my place in it for most of middle school and the first half of high school. I moved from SLC, Utah to Indianatrapolis, Indiana, started liking girls, buried my interest in Spider-Man and anime, and began listening to Radiohead. I also became vegetarian, lost a lot of weight, got pretty good at programming, and learned photography/photoshop.
This name was designed to be misunderstood—7yuczhd2 is a vague reference to the Radiohead liner notes from an OK Computer B-side. Almost every day a child (like my self at the time) must go somewhere they didn’t choose to go, to do something they did not choose to do and perform well against standards they had no say in standardizing, to smile while describing this to their respective authority figures (parents), all the while understanding that this is justified because if they do not they will cause harm to society and others around them due to their apparently obvious and extremely dangerous ignorance. Claims for wanting to do something else are met with sarcasm and disregard by most adults. A child's desires are not generally to be taken seriously, unless they first pass the well measured valuation of someone old than them. It’s not that difficult to understand why teenagers are depressed, instead of excited, about their ever-changing bodies, minds, and the world around them. I certainly felt that way as a kid. I was to be misunderstood, so I leaned into it. Pointing to inevitable misunderstanding and the nebulosity of consciousness is a profoundly sad justification for a great deal of suffering.
The inevitability of misunderstanding is a good thing, though! It just means there is infinite space for growth, and growing is fun. For many the sadness and cynicism about humanity that starts during compulsory education never ends. Work is school, school is thought, for many. But, "I try not to let education get in the way of my learning", as Mark Twain is often quoted for.
So, unfortunately for that pseudonym, by Junior year of high school it didn’t feel like a good fit anymore. The end of high school promises the very freedom children are, until then, taught to be afraid of. I was finally allowed to find out what it means to be understood and taken seriously...and make new kinds of mistakes.
And, what better way to express my serious adulthood than to suggest I was considering ‘AllOfTheOptions
’? I created a blog (also, LiveJournal) under this name when I dropped out of school at Indiana University and moved to Seattle to ‘see about a girl’.
Note: It’s not the quantity of options that make life better—if that were the case simply being able to die in new more painful ways would constitute progress. Likewise, there are some options that perhaps shouldn’t be suggested lightly, or that people should have more of a chance to avoid than to experience. This realization would later lead me back to a sort of nebulous understand of humanity with the name ‘Mudl,’ but let’s get back to All Of The Options.
Dropping out was *not* one of those better-to-avoid options. I grew a lot by making several huge mistakes. Firstly, the ‘seeing about a girl’ thing revealed some deep insecurities I had about love, women and family. Secondly, and this is related to spontaneously leaving commitments on a whim: it’s better to have a problem you really want to fall in love with if you’re going to spend a lot of time on it, which is what learning should be for. Problems are inevitable, after all, if you go into something like a relationship with lofty ideals, it won’t take long to realize that growth never stops, especially in a relationship but also in any academic field one may choose to pursue.
So, I had diverged from what I felt was my ‘linear path’ to explore problems I felt were interesting: love and art. Which is to say, I was using all my options (*wink*). But, through failure it was revealed that I needed to use commitments to my advantage. I wanted to be disobedient to a part of myself, in a way. Making a commitment means being ready to do something, probably unexpected, that, while you didn't know what it was before hand, had an inkling that you weren’t going to want to do when you agreed to the commitment in the first place. Otherwise, if it was easy and everything was pre-destined and predicted, why make a commitment at all? You know, like the 'sickness and in health' part of marriage vows. Love the problem, love the change and adaption.
Ultimately, I realized there are several benefits to commitment to finishing high education, beyond just “holding a degree,” which I am patently against as anything except ceremonial fun. One doesn’t go to university to get a degree or clout, one goes to university to learn ways to solve new and deeper problems. To learn how to be better at being critical, at error correcting, at growing knowledge—endlessly. It’s decidedly hard to do that with a full-time job, as I discovered while working at Kinkos. And making a commitment to that knowledge growth process is extremely valuable for solving big long term problems, rather than just, say, the parochial problem of printing new recruit handbooks for Taco Del Mar.
Note: at the time it was somewhat more difficult, or I lacked the knowledge, for how to do the 'knowledge growing' thing without some kind of academic institution. It's MUCH easier now, and arguably even the clout thing that people seem to love about school is seemingly less and less important as the years go by. But, anyway, at the time it was the best option I could come up with that I could afford, or find a way to afford.
However, I did have some professional growth in Seattle as well. I started a little portfolio-y website called “DefRef,” short for “definitive reference.” There is no remaining archive of DefRef that I’m aware of, though it looks like archive.org tried
. DefRef was for link sharing, blogging, script snippet sharing, professional work, and content aggregation. It’s easy to do this sort of thing now, basically you can just do that on almost any SNS, but it wasn’t so easy back in the day.
As I was leaving Seattle I started reading the book ‘Into The Wild’. This is kind of ironic because the subject of the book, Alexander Supertramp, was almost egging me on *not* to go back to school. He was patently anti-establishment. I gather it was primarily for the problems with school being non-optional, as mentioned above, and a general aversion to institutional coercion. But, that’s not what I took away from the book. The book is really about *fun*. Romance, in the literary sense, generally refers to something like "very explanations for pain actually being fun". This well-off, high class, spoiled kid left his safe educated life to have Fun on the streets and in nature, pretty much specifically because he wasn't *supposed* to. American civil disobedience taken to the extreme, and no mom to do the laundry while he was at Walden Pond or whatever.
I wasn’t having fun in Seattle, at least not the fun I knew I could have. More, I wasn’t happy or interested in the way I actually spent almost all of my time (Kinkos and in front of a computer).
I started doing street art and reading Philip K. Dick. ‘The empire never ended,’ reads the cryptic Exegesis from Valis. This really resonated with me. Yes, there is always some kind of empire, and it is not just every individual’s duty, but the nature of their mind, to disobey that external empire through creativity and imagination. Until the empire comes back stronger than ever somehow and the cycle repeats. I would go back to school, but this time with the counterintuitive plan to have fun and be disobedient.
I came up with the moniker “We Are All Time Machines
.” If you used the middle urinal in the Men’s bathroom beneath the ice cream joint at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis in 2007 or so, you may have seen my work. For a long time this name hung around as my Flickr username. The fascination with time, for me, started in high school after I saw the movie Primer
. It has stuck with me as a constant fascination--and is another topic I'd like to come back to another day, though. For now, I'll try to keep the 'minds are (basically?) time machines
' explanation brief:
Theory-making and improving is kind of like time travel. No other animal makes explanatory theories. Try waiting for an animal to ask you why you're feeding it. If you look around you right now, though, you will see theories from other minds (and genes on the species level, to be fair), instantiated as objects, communicating with us. Everything around us is imperfect and theory-laden, maybe it's the ‘Water
’ we can’t escape (this would also make a nice subject for a longer post).
We are never alone, in that sense. We are surrounded by theoretical extensions of the people that we co-exist with and that preceded us—and we use those theories, improve and replace them, to build and travel further into the future. But, just to be clear, a person is real, not just remnants of stuff. That’s where the metaphor ends. It’s preferable to have a person in addition to a theory, people have infinite theoretical potential, existing theories on their own without someone to interpret and fix them, don’t. The casual interpretation of a theory is what travels through time. We can leapfrog through error correction. We don't need to have another holy war to understand why, say, the seperation of church and state is important. A persons reach is universal, and what we call “time,” is the phenomenon of turning any universe we can go to, any timeline we can go to, into the universe we're actually in. But at some point, unless we keep creating new and better ideas, that "reach" eventually ends. So keep creating!
Thus, feeling like part of me is a Time Machine took me back to school, having fun, making mistakes, learning, and growing.
: While in university the centralized social media age commenced. Given names that shared columns in government databases were (perhaps carelessly) attached to unencrypted digitized personal data. As the legend goes (https://www.businessinsider.com/well-these-new-zuckerberg-ims-wont-help-facebooks-privacy-problems-2010-5?utm_source=reddit.com
), all of us ‘dumb’ people trusted a few people with a lot of private information. I begrudgingly downloaded and deleted at least 5 years of private Instagram and Facebook data during the Trump administration. A controlled burn. I lost a lot of connections doing this, which I deeply regret—I didn’t make a big post about it on Facebook, either. I thought it was “obvious,” or, again, maybe was afraid of being misunderstood. So, most of my content from recent years is in privately downloaded archives (e.g. from Facebook and Instagram), scraped from Twitter (here
), and whatever else was popular at the time.
However, while attending the University of Kent and doing study abroad, I took it upon myself to watch a movie every day and record it
. I also posted a lot on Tumblr. I imported some of those posts and micro-blogs to a Wordpress instance: codybaldwin.wordpress.com
. I've also got some stuff on Vimeo
in my given name. One day it will all be here, but at the time of writing this, it is not.
While at Kent I started producing music under the name Mudl—short for muddle. It’s shortened because that seemed like a cool thing to do. Short names are more rare, like a form of realty, and therefore more sought after. They are also easy to remember and search for. Muddle also has sort of a weird cuteness to it, something about the onomatopoeia, same with the word puddle...poodle. Yes, do you feel it? Oodles of joy. Moodles of moods.
I used it for this blog
for a while, too, from late 2019 or so. When I registered it it was the closest domain I could find was appealing to me, reasonably priced, and was kind of like "muddle": mudl.us (which I stopped paying for but is on archive.org). It used to point to my Tumblr
, which, as I mentioned above, has mostly been imported to Wordpress now. But, back to analysis.
I somehow took ‘feeling muddled’ to be a de-facto good
thing—despite not /actually/ feeling that way in everyday life. I was influenced by concepts like liminality, intersectionality. Postmodernism in general. Where something is not quite one thing or the other. Postmodernism celebrates the fragmentation (of meaning
), in reaction to the problem of mourning it as presented by Modernism
. I read Camus' The Stranger
and cried on a park bench walking back to my flat at Kent, but I couldn't explain why.
There’s a great chapter of The Beginning of Infinity
titled, “A Physicist’s History of Bad Philosophy
”, which I highly recommend, which finally turned me on my head.
Fragmentation (like of meaning, interpretation, symbols, categories and abstractions) is inevitable. This is related to the "Problems are Inevitable," half of the simplification of Deutsch's argument for optimism
. But, problems are also soluble! Celebrating fragmentation, Postmodernism, is just pessimism with...expensive decorations. Expensive decorations that celebrate (e.g. moral) ambiguity. It seemed to me, that if you were ambiguous in the right way, maybe in the best way, you'd get famous and make substantive impact on society.
Ambiguity, though, (as in, say, interpretations of abstractions from “love” to “gravity”) is a power to be welded, it's a right and a responsibility. Purposeful ambiguity is like a magician using an attractive helper to distract, or magnets to defy gravity, to fool their audience. Ambiguity is sometimes *interesting*, entertaining and fun, but it can also be coercive. So, the trick from The Prestige is wrong (making the movie good, of course, lol). But, something like Penn and Teller’s commitment to never make an audience complicit in a deadly routine
, is right. Ambiguity, ignorance about ignorance, is a form of power. Pointing to ambiguity, to the inevitability of misinterpretation, is a great was to justify lots of suffering.
Using ambiguity as a tool is a predictive power, and not a causal power. It says nothing of where the problem came from, or how to solve it, it just points at the problem. So as to say, “See here: you are stupid!” Basically every optical illusion is this sort of thing. Or anyone that points to a cognitive bias as evidence of human insignificance. Look, I get it, it's fun to be surprised and wowed. But at the end of the day, if you come away feeling intractably stupid, then the result of the entertainment was pessimism. That the future will not resemble the past, you will see things you haven’t seen before, make mistakes you didn't plan on making, can be scary, or exciting depending on how it’s contextualized. Again, though, as a form of fatalism it can then be used to justify terrible things
So, remember, when given two options, we can create a third. Do you see the gorilla?
Simply explain why it's difficult, and a new behavior is created that you never had before (understanding the limitations of your eyes). Maybe we can create new better eyes, or improve them, we can have a second black and white processing mode simultaneous sending us sensory data. The result is not the end of the discussion, it's the beginning. Taking advantage of what is *not* known is a good thing for people, because creativity is fun! So, great news, there are infinite problems for us to solve, infinite discoveries yet to be made!
Magic isn’t magic if there is an explanation that /anyone/ can use. If the audience is in on the trick, it’s a comedy routine. Magic is only magic if an exclusive set of people can use an aspect of reality that others can’t. This is wrong, in reality, but is usually the cause of a lot of problems in fantasy and fiction: Star Wars (those with the force and without), Harry Potter (muggles or magicians), etc. And this goes back to the very first couple paragraphs above, identity is a fluid causal tool for individuals, not a pinnacle of understanding and categorizing people.
Creating incentive to have things that are not understood—and worse, considered not understandable by people in principle, is very wrong. It’s evil. And I fear that “muddle,” was a representation of that. So, I have abandoned it, but left some vestiges
around for discussion and to show my own growth.
Now, finally, for Cozyorb. There’s a tokenized platform called Handshake which is attempting to decentralize DNS resolution. A DNS is how your computer knows what server (other computer) to connect to when it goes to a domain (e.g. cozyorb.com
). Handshake offers "top level domains". An example of a top level domain is “.com”. I found that I could buy subdomains from weird Handshake TLDs on Namecheap, the registrar I was already using for mudl.us before I ditched it. So, looking around, I found the “.orb” domain. This got me thinking.
Cozy is a play on my given first name, Cody. My parents said they named me after Buffalo Bill Cody, after which the city of Cody, Wyoming is named. But, I was always curious about the etymology, it seems like quite a strange name. Looking it up will reveal that Cody may mean ‘helpful’ in Gaelic or Irish, I’ve also seen it comes from “Cushion.” Definitely some vibes there. So, Cozy seems like a good play on that theme. Cozy is an interesting juxtaposition with Orb, as orb has a sort of “home” quality to it as well. But, there’s more!
Growth tends to *feel* like a snowball effect. We have some kernels at the core, and we build out on those things (like however you explain "what am I?"). When something about that kernel changes, it’s as if entire sections of the snowball have broken off. There need be no starting point, anything can be the kernel, and one can always start over with a new kernel—but my point is, there does seem to be a gravity
to growth. And gravity, it makes orb-y, bubbly, bobular, cellular
things. Sometimes round things can be very resilient, too, like eggs
What is the shape of knowledge?
Maybe knowledge is like a cozy orb.