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Communities threatened by crisis of purpose

Automation is both an exciting innovation and a deep spiritual threat to our communities.

To be clear, I think it’s great. The 5-year-old in me loves watching robots build cars, navigate the world, and make food. Now they’ll deliver it too.

This morning, the WSJ was talking about food delivery robots. Everyone’s mega stoked to get their burritos delivered by a cooler on wheels, according to the companies that make the robots.

In this lighthearted video from 2017, you can see Doordash’s delivery robot weathering some staged hooliganry perpetrated by BuzzFeed’s entertainers.

I worked for Doordash for a little while. It was a fun side hustle and a good way to get to know Eugene’s twists and turns after I’d recently moved here.

Food delivery has for a long time been a widely-accessible decently paying job. Whether it’s pizza delivery or modern options like UberEats and Postmates, there’s always money in bringing lazy people their food.

The funny thing about these delivery apps, though, is that they’re actively trying to innovate the humans out of their business model.

All major food delivery apps have partnered with startups such as Marble and Starship Technologies to make delivery bots for the “last mile” between restaurants and our hungry bellies.

Even Domino’s, the pizza chain that delivered 24% of online orders in 2016, is taking big steps to remove humans from its pizza machine.

Once these robots are adopted, one of the ubiquitous side hustles of the modern age will disappear overnight. For people who need the extra work to live, this will be catastrophic. Financially and spiritually catastrophic.

No jobs, no hope

When people can’t provide for themselves and their families, sadness, alcoholism and suicide rise. Researchers at universities all across North America found strong correlations between poverty and suicide following the ’08 financial collapse.

But this is nothing new:

“The positive association between poverty and mental health problems is one of the most
well established in all of psychiatric epidemiology.”

-Deborah Belle, Boston University

As we automate away more and more jobs, we create a crisis of purpose. Left with fewer options to provide for themselves and their families, people fall into listless despair.

Many modern people lack the mechanisms to create purpose in their own lives. We use work as shorthand for life purpose, so the slow drying up of jobs is a drying up of purpose.

More people are talking about automation lately, especially with Andrew Yang running for president. He promotes the idea of a guaranteed income for all Americans, but that’s only half the solution.

If there is no external force (jobs) telling us how to spend our time, we’ll have to make that decision for ourselves.  We need to resist the urge to spend all that money on drugs and video games. We’ll be happier if we invest our time and money in art, entrepreneurship, and community development. We need a system of values that makes that a priority.

Religion used to provide a scaffolding for everyone. Nowadays, though, kids grow up with nothing but superficial #values they get from reality tv and social media.

As Johann Hari says in his incredible book Lost Connections, junk values are one of the major causes of depression. It makes sense. If all you work for in life is more likes and retweets, you add nothing to the world and live a vapid, empty existence.

Even a food delivery job helps you feel like you’re part of something outside of yourself. I believe that’s where meaning comes from. What do you contribute to that is not yourself?

Create meaning to create peace

When people’s lives are meaningless, they often hurt themselves or others. Violence makes sense to everyone, as horrible as it is, and that can add a base level of meaning to an empty life. Violence fills the void.

Among other things, I attribute the rise of political street violence to boredom and apathy that come from living in this superficial society. People with fulfilling lives don’t put on masks and assault bystanders at political rallies.

We need to help the Antifa goons find meaning and a sense of belonging outside of their domestic terror cells, ASAP.

Woman happy food delivery robot
No one will be this happy to see the robots coming

Meaning creation is hard. It takes a lot of responsibility to decide what gives your life a greater purpose.

Deciding for yourself what’s important is a key part of living well though.

Lacking religion, though, what do people turn to for meaning? a lot of times it’s political bickering, Netflix, or social media.

Most people look to external sources to create meaning because they don’t know how to do it themselves.

That’s why everyone spends their time arguing on twitter. Choosing a side in this manufactured conflict makes you feel like you belong to a real group.

We need to get off the internet, return to our communities, and create a purpose for ourselves. Volunteer. Start a band. Build a house. Plant flowers. There are countless ways we can live more meaningful lives.

And it’s not going to be easy. But we need to stop looking for lives free from difficulty and conflict. You’re going to argue with people in the band you start. GEtting materials and a location to build a house is hard. Your flowers might not grow.

Find peace in the struggles of life, though. Suffering means your alive, and if you’re alive, you can change the world.

Once all the jobs belong to robots, our options will be to create a meaningful world or to watch as we burn it all down.

Which will you choose?

I don’t play Pokemon GO, but it’s basically the best app ever made

pokemon go gameplay image park digital app

Pokemon is inarguably one of the most influential games ever.

Nintendo struck gold with these fanciful superpowered critters. Satoshi Tajiri, the genius behind this franchise, could have never guessed how far things would evolve.

It grew from a groundbreaking 16-bit experience to the first widely successful AR game, Pokemon GO. It has transcended cultures and been wildly successful on every Nintendo console.

When Nintendo first released the Pokemon GO app, I tried it, didn’t get hooked, and deleted it after a day. I’m not enough of a weeb to be in the target demographic, and I prefer to play my video games inside, sitting down.

But the appeal was clear.

I lived in San Jose at the time, and one particular park became nearly impossible to skate through because so many nerds were out there hunting for elusive rare pokemon.

Haters always gonna hate, and a lot of critics made fun of the gamers wandering around, glued to their phones, living in some digital quasi-existence overlaid on the real world.

But those people should just shut up. Pokemon GO is great.

It gives gamers a fun easy outdoor activity to do. It’s also a great connection to a global community of fantasy wildlife enthusiasts. It sounds like a joke, but I want a peaceful global community and I believe Pokemon GO helps get us take a baby step in that direction.

And today, as I just found out, is #PokemonGOCommunityDay! I found this out because on my 6-block walk to the dispensary I passed about 80 people playing the game.

Some were alone, some were in groups of up to 15 people. 

I could tell people’s commitment to the game based on the amount of pokemon merch they were wearing and the number of phones and battery packs they carried. One old guy had 4 phones, all plugged into portable battery packs.

Getting nerds outside

Now, I honestly don’t know what’s different or special about Pokemon GO today. Maybe there are more pokemon running around, or some super rare ones like Entei are easier to find. Who knows.

But these people walking around look like they haven’t had much physical activity or exposure to the sun in a long time. It’s a beautiful hot midsummer day, though, and these nerds are out moving their bodies, talking to each other, and getting that sweet Vitamin D.

For that reason, I think Pokemon GO is one of the best things ever to launch in the app store.

Anything that gets people out of their houses and in the sun so effectively is a great invention.
I do worry that these AR games are habituating us to the VR mind control matrix I’ve been researching, but for the time being, I’m glad it exists.

So here’s the verdict:

Even though I don’t use it, Pokemon GO is officially Snaktak Certified to enrich communities and generate happiness!

pokemon go wallpaper beautiful cartoon nature

Does your environment make you use your phone more?

Smartphones are important because we are digital beings. Our levels of connectedness will only increase as we move deeper into the technological age.
Now is the time to practice using technology and the internet in the most beneficial ways possible.
Visit our shop to find some items that will help you be happier and use your phone less.
And next time you pick up your phone, use it to call an old friend or thank someone important for making your life better 🙂

Snaktak is part of the oldest human tradition

We just had a great weekend!
The Whitaker Community Market, one of Eugene’s many pop-up markets, welcomed us in for our first day. Selling Dirtballs alongside all the other wonderful vendors was fun, fulfilling, and tiring 😴
Community markets like this are important though. It’s a low-barrier way for you to get out there and test your products. You get to meet a lot of new friends and learn from the other vendors.
It’s cool to see people carrying on such a great historical tradition. Village markets were the economic and social backbone of every human culture that ever existed.
It reminds me of the Savusavu farmer’s market I shopped at during my stay in Fiji.
Every Saturday morning, farmers, crafters, and entrepreneurs gather in the community hall to sell their wares (and most of them bring chairs to sit on). It is a vibrant fun way to engage with the locals.
I bought some of the best watermelons I’ve ever tasted there, along with papayas, fresh ginger, radish seeds, necklaces, and handmade coconut soap. That’s just what I can remember.
People worry a lot about the state of our communities and our economy. But if you go outside and see what’s going on at places like the Whiteaker Market or the Saturday Market, it’s obvious that everything is thriving.
When we get too focused on businesses like Amazon with their incomprehensible pricetags, we can forget what it means to do well. You don’t have to be the best to be good.
I think every business would benefit from moving some sales online, but you don’t have to dominate the online space to provide for yourself and your family.
Selling Dirtballs at the community market is mostly to build brand awareness and connect with the community. I’m in the process of changing up the product so it’s more ecommerce friendly.
Doing business in person will always be important. As long as I’m running this company, there will never be a day when Snaktak is exclusively online.
I spend a lot of time thinking about in-person retail experiences that will be engaging and fulfilling for my customers.
We get too distracted by the internet and robots and all that. We will only lose our humanity if we adopt the attitude that losing our humanity is inevitable.
Amazon is obviously on a quest for world domination. And to be honest, I’m a small part of it. Dirtballs are listed on Amazon and I use their associate program.
 But we don’t have to give up. As long as the People’s Produce and Dr. Hempenhound’s are out in the market every sunday, we’re preserving the humanity and economic well-being of our communites.
We can’t ignore the internet or surrender to it. We have to work hard and learn the ever-changing rules of business so that we can create the world we want to see.


Fuck Plastic

     Hot take: convenience is plastic’s only redeeming quality.
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     We have better tools for most of what we use plastic for.
     There’s obviously some nuance here. I think it’s good to make medical equipment and other things that need to be sanitary out of plastic because it’s easy to clean. But for iced coffee to-go and pb&j sandwiches, there are better options.
     And for my first shameless promotional blog, I’m going to highlight one of my favorite reusable options: The Etee Food Wrap.
     Early on last summer I was researching a lot of products to build a sustainability ecommerce site. I reached out to Etee because their organic wraps looked cool.
     Etee never emailed me back, but a package came in the mail a few weeks later. There were 3 Etee wraps in it, and I was excited to use them.
     They must like sending strangers packages, because a few days ago I got a new parcel. This time it was a 100% reusable dishcloth, coconut fiber brillo pad, and some soap, probably also made of coconut.
     It’s kind of bizarre that Etee never sends any kind of note or information with these parcels. Though that does fit with an eco-friendly paperless philosophy (Edit: They emailed me, I just missed it).
     I found a few different ways to use the first wraps they sent me. They’re easy to use and add a nice pop of color into my lunchbag 👌
     They didn’t change my life, but they did exactly what they were supposed to extremely well. I still use the one I haven’t lost to hold snacks and cover food in my fridge. Right now it’s keeping some leftover chicken alfredo fresh.
     (These wraps probably aren’t the best tool to use for iced coffee and other beverages. But for the record I did turn one into a watertight bowl)
     So throw away those damn ziploc bags!
     For real, though, incorporating reusable household items is a small way to help mother earth out. Many small steps taken over time cover great distance.
     My biggest argument against these things is that you have to use extra time cleaning Etees and manipulating them to fit on your food.
But that’s a dumb argument.
     It begs the question, “What are we saving time for?”
     More IG scrolling? Another bachelorette? Next round of Fortnite?
     I don’t think that most people use their time effectively as they could. It takes 64 more seconds at worst to use an Etee instead of a sandwich bag. And unless you’re Gary Vaynerchuck, you probably don’t have your day optimized to the point that every second truly counts
     Since my earliest days I’ve eaten PB & J out of plastic bags. I never thought about it because when you’re 4 and you have loving parents, you never think to question what Mom puts in your lunch.
     That’s why we use plastic. A fish can’t see the water it swims in. We can’t see the plastic we live in. ​​
     Efficient manufacturing and good salespeople enabled plastic producers to expand globally before we had a chance to fully understand their impact. By the time we realized plastic was polluting our children and our oceans, it was already a factor in most of our everyday interactions.
     Even though questioning and curiosity are important parts of my personality, it’s still challenging to think critically about how I transport my food or what happens after I throw away my dental floss.
“Tools like Etee make us consciously engage
with parts of our lives we usually ignore.”
     Life is hard and complicated, so it’s unsuprising that convenience has been such a defining factor in which technologies took over our daily lives.
     Nowadays I use tupperware or an Etee wrap because I have restructured my life around it. I constantly take small steps towards a life centered around reusable technology.
     I really view it as a mindfulness excercise. We spend so much time checked out from our direct reality because we’re thinking about some imaginary anxiety or a fearful responsibility.
     Tools like Etee make us consciously engage with parts of our lives we usually ignore.
     Here is a problem, though: Plastic might be the most efficient solution to human life! There is a possibility that we have made it and we’re simply doomed to drown ourselves in straws & to-go bags.
     I disagree with this view, because I think a bright future is impossible without optimism. We can’t find the solutions without a subconscious understanding that they might exist.
     We can solve our global trash problem. In order to do this, though, we need to fully accept the severity of the situation. Anna Hommel illustrates the point perfectly:
“Although the Korean government is strict about household recycling, it cannot deal with the trash anymore. Due to heavy smog in 2017, the Korean government started shipping trash out to other countries, instead of incinerating it within Korea. China used to be the main recipient, but due to tightened regulations, Korea started to export its trash to the Philippines, both legally and illegally. However, the trash South Korea exported to the Philippines was not recyclable, and they had to take a portion of the trash back.” 
     😂It’s tragic and hilarious that some people’s job is to ferry trash around the world. No one can figure out what to do with it so they just put it on a boat and send it to a different country. Out of sight, out of mind.😂
     I know there is a better way. Big boats cannot be our best possible waste management strategy. Plastic products helped western society involve into a state of relative comfort and stability. but it’s the wrong tool to take us to the next steps.
     Maybe this September some University of Mumbai undergrads will invent an efficient process that blends trash into a paste, denatures the organic material, and compresses it into bricks to build houses. Or better yet repurposes the trash as 3D printing material.
     Optimism and effort over time yield world-changing results. We cannot despair when we wake up tomorrow in the same plastic-filled world. The insight that changes environmental history might happen the day afterwards.
     In the words of Ellen DeGeneres, ” Just keep swimming.” We’ll get to Sydney eventually.
Visit Etee’s website for more info about their resusable products.