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Season 4

Episode 12: “The one global religion is money.”: a conversation with Lionel and Jim

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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Jim and Lionel recording this episode

Jim starts by talking about a candy bar he’s eating. Lionel references The Simpsons. Jim talks about feeling under the weather and needing some sugar energy. We talk about putting our show on YouTube (some episodes are there now.) Lionel talks about visiting Sacramento. Lionel talks about his favorite cafe Recess Coffee. Jim recalls a music venue called Happy Endingsand Lionel mentions Kitty Hoyne’s Irish Bar.

On to books: Lionel talks about Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. At this point, Jim asks Lionel to reposition his mic to avoid plosives. We think maybe our podcast should be retooled to feature nothing but the two of us adjusting the mic. We then resume our book discussion with some words The Books of Jacob and the issues of translation, referenced in Drive Your Plow. Lionel mentions a translation of Sex by Madonna being translated into Hungarian. Douglas Hofstadter’s writing on the problems of translation comes up. Then we address The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. Jim mentions that Keith Olbermann reads Thurber each Friday on his podcast Countdown, but never from that book. Jim talks about wanting to write a musical based on that book, thinking it had only been done in a high school somewhere, but unaware that it has already been written and published.

Jim says he’s been following a YouTube artist Andrewism who is a philosopher and historian, taking another look at our history and thinking. He is a Solarpunk advocate who discusses the benefit of Libraries of Everything. Specifically, Jim talks about Andrew’s piece on the Myth of the Barter Economy. We look forward to our interview with Leigh Hurwitz, a librarian at The Brooklyn Public Library, who pioneered Books Unbanned. Lionel advocates for drone delivery from the Library of Things and Jim pushes back citing issues Amazon faces with drones. We explore some ideas for what is practical for Libraries of Things.

We talk about existing shared resources, touching on robotic cars and the protest against them. Jim says he’s reading Piranesi to his daughters but that it’s been slow going with increased homework by his eldest. He talks about plans to see his wife Catherine race in the Head of the Charles regatta. Jim mentions he’s feeling like crap and they close... but...

The discussion continues offline, and Jim and Lionel realize, as Lionel gives his critical take on Andrewism that they should come back on the pod and discuss it further. Lionel says it’s really hard to determine how people actually lived, citing the charred scrolls at Vesuvius and the amazing advances in reading them. They seem to be a library of Epicurean Philosophy. Lionel mentions Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and our Euro-centric concept of agriculture. We mention the Three Sisters and The Lenape People and their form of agriculture. We talk about returning to a discussion of Andrew’s work, and the problems with content on YouTube.

Jim brings up his notion, not an original idea, that money is the one true global religion and references his experience writing the latest volume of his book series. He proposes that monetary valuation is a category mismatch that leads to unhappiness. Lionel draws comparison to the age of railroads and the use of capital to create big works and talks about how technology forces all of us to change the way we order society.

Lionel says he’s hopeful that it is increasingly possible to question the basic tenants of the dominant culture without being labeled a commie. He wonders if there’s a way to do away with agriculture and just print food. He speculates how fusion energy might change all of this with molecular assembly. Jim mentions that we have a giant fusion reactor available to us right now, we just need to collect the energy and store it. Lionel says the fact that information transmission has become so cheap, the effects on the world are remarkable, and the idea of infinite cheap energy would change everything. Jim remembers his old college professor Eric Chaisson who said that even with a zero carbon world, we will still end up with a heat surplus.

In the end, we decide we need to become like Larry Niven’s puppeteers and move the earth.