The North Star Becomes the North Pole

Consider the model of words and concepts as vectors (e.g. word2vec).

A curious phenomenon in which a vector enters the basis set itself.

In which a goal, fixed at a certain point in space, morphs into an axis, defined by the infinite positive, in opposition to its infinite negative.

The inversion of effability (vectors) and ineffability (axes).

The transformation of means into ends. tools-for-conviviality

Transformation of Quantity into Quality

  • Mass produced clothes, furniture, etc. available in higher quantity but lower quality, with the effect that we require more of them because they keep breaking down (planned obsolescence)
  • Travel occurs over larger distances—but we travel for diversion, not to cross distances for the sake of it. Now we go thousands of miles away just to find ourselves back in "the same sort of place we have just left behind in Brooklyn." (p. 136)
  • Living within walking/biking distance of everything you need => incentive to beautify surroundings. Contrast with ugliness of suburban commutes.

And this is, indeed, what historic evidence seems to prove: that vast-scale economic expansion has caused not an advance but a back-sliding of living standards and that what we confront in the fantastic increase in production is nothing other than a form of inflation. More of the new goods seem to give us less satisfaction than fewer of the old ones.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 140

This condition must by necessity produce a fundamental change in the outlook of the citizen of the mass state. Finding himself perpetually living in the midst of formidable crowds it is only natural that he should begin to see greatness in what to the inhabitant of a small state is a stifling nightmare. He becomes obsessed with a mass complex. He becomes number struck and cheers whenever another million is added to the population figure. He falls into the error against which Aristotle has warned, and confounds a populous state with a great one. Quantity suddenly turns before his dazzled eyes into quality.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 102

As has already been indicated, it is not any particular economic system that seems at fault, but economic size. Whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions. When this happens to a community, its problems will not only increase faster than its growth; they will be of a new order, arising no longer from the business of living but from the business of growing. Instead of growth serving life, life must now serve growth, perverting the very purpose of existence. Economically speaking this IX:-: that once a society outgrows its proper size, a size determined by its function of providing the individual with the greatest possible benefits, an ever-increasing portion of its increasing product and productivity must be used to raise not the personal standard of its members but the social standard of the community as such. Up to a point the two are complementary and can be raised simultaneously; but beyond it they become mutually exclusive, the perfected tool turning into a self-seeking master, and the swollen means into its self-serving end. From then on, the more powerful a society becomes, the more of its increasing product, instead of increasing individual consumption, is devoured by the task of coping with the problems caused by the rise of its very power. The more it gains in density, the more is devoured by the process of meeting the problems caused by its increasing density. And the more it advances, the more is devoured by the problems resulting from its very advance.

breakdown-of-nationsp. 146


tools-for-conviviality Illich, Ivan. 1973. Tools for Conviviality. Fontana. ↩︎ 1

breakdown-of-nations Kohr, Leopold. 1978. The Breakdown of Nations. Dutton. ↩︎ 1 2 3