Welcome to the Machine: Why call this place davidgraeber.industries?


from Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus. Might the emitted vapours be beneficial?

It has come to my attention that this institution’s name inspires controversy: davidgraeber.industries.

Perhaps it reminds people of industrial capitalism: Little hands crushed in demonic gears churning out units of “content.”

Let us assure you, this is no normal industrial undertaking. This factory charges no money & gives everything away! And its name was enthusiastically chosen by David himself. (From a page of search results I sent him.)

When he saw “davidgraeber.industries,” he immediately knew it was the right choice. As did I, when he told me. So I didn’t think to question it. Now I must attempt to explain our intuitions, unable to ask David.

First, let’s clear our minds with a little mental exercise. David advocated “charitable interpretations”: If something looks bad, perhaps you can add something to make it look good. And if you want David-level imagination (after all, your mind is no less valuable than his!), this is good practice: turn bad things into good by imaginatively adding something.

So what are some charitable ways to interpret “industries”?

Well, imagine yourself as David: a neurotic workaholic busting his ass for decades writing books & occupying things. You might be forgiven for being rather pleased at your fleet of works. Assembled as a result of your stubborn child-like industriousness, madly scribbling & exploring where you’re not supposed to.

And in a slightly different world, couldn’t “industry” mainly just build tools for human liberation? Free us from drudgery & amplify our imaginations? (Unlike this world, where “industry” is a Rube Goldberg contraption to transform Earth to be more amusingly Venus-like.)

After all, David saw possibilities. Which means he often lived in alternate possible worlds—likely experiencing this world as their dull shadow.

Consider his favourite desert-island book (circa 2005): Stanisław Lem’s “The Cyberiad.” It doesn’t depict emotionless factories—but rather conscious & creative factories understandably annoyed by their obnoxious STEM Lord creators.

Or maybe we could scroll through his beloved Codex Seraphinianus (with a warm cocoa?) to imagine what “industry” could mean.

By the way, there’s a seperate-but-related-question: Why did we make this website in the first place? There’s actually an odd story behind it! But that story can wait for another day.