Who I am, what I'm doing, and the anti-zombie protocol

Welcome! Very glad you could make it. I’d like to introduce myself, introduce the project, and then tell you about the anti-zombie protocol. Then we’ll jump right in.

Who are you?

I’m Michael Curzi. If you don’t know me from real life, you probably ran into me on Twitter.

This is a picture of my face:

The stache is new. Not sure what I think yet.

A bit of flavor text:

  • I’m kind of a spiritual guy. I got really into samurai philosophy (think 1700s treatises about martial virtue) as a kid. I studied philosophy in college. I meditate, introspect, interpret my dreams. I’m rather intense about it. I entertain an odd set of views about naturalistic theology; if it came to an argument, a lot of people would disagree over whether I’m an atheist or a true believer.

  • I also love to think. I somehow got jobs over the last ~7 years that let me do a metric fuckton of free-form thinking. Many of these thoughts are about spirituality, but also psychology, virtue, and society. I want to understand mankind, and figure out how to be useful to the world. I’ve spent a great deal of time working with people 1-1 to try to unravel their (and my) psychological, intellectual, and spiritual problems.

  • I’m also arguably someone who spends too much time thinking. I used to be involved in startups, found a job while traveling alone in China, etc - but that was years ago, prior to a rather introspective period. I don’t regret the hours and years spent in contemplation - but it’s time to return to the world, to come down from the monastery. I want to build life which, while still contemplative, features a much greater share of ‘doing’. My Twitter, blog, and this Substack are the currently-visible instantiations of this effort.

What are you doing with your life?

I’m currently in between jobs. Between this and COVID quarantine, I have a lot of time on my hands.

The main thing I want from the next few months is major progress on project selection. I want to find or create my next job. I could do this alone, but it sounded more fun to with others. I often find it easier to think out loud, and my thoughts improve when I bounce them off other people. It also helps to get feedback on my reasoning, and to feel some pressure to justify my views.

I’m also, admittedly, a bit of an ideologue at heart. Like all good ideologues, I nurse the conceit that I have some special wisdom, a bit of secret sauce for the recipe we call life.

We’ll have to see if that’s true.

So, you’re a philosophy guy who’s starting a company or something?

Something like that! I’ve experimented with new ventures before, and generally respect the methodologies of works like The Startup Owner’s Manual, The Lean Startup, Blue Ocean Strategy, etc etc. And like all good ambitious SV residents, I have a special predilection for the teachings of that one contrarian German billionaire.

But there’s a wrinkle. Once upon a time, I would have been happy to just start a successful company. I was once a hot blooded anarcho-capitalist - meaning that I thought business could solve everything, that government was evil, that regulation was unnecessary and that markets were always the best way to help the world.

I no longer hold that view. I don’t hate the market, but I no longer trust it as the main route to an excellent, sturdy, valuable society. Business books answer the question of how to start a successful business - not whether to do so. They’ll help you get rich, but won’t tell you what business is for. And most discussions of ‘social impact’ are usually embarrassingly shallow.

Did you say ‘making an excellent society’?

I guess I mean the thing the Philosopher King is working on. The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The Dream that was Rome.

For a recent exchange on this topic, I recommend reading ‘It’s Time to Build’ by Marc Andreessen, and especially’s Isaac Wilks’ response piece, ‘It’s Time To Build for Good’. I like what Andreessen is saying, but think I side with Wilks, to the extent that I understand his point. My interpretation, as applied to my own situation, was this: the urge to ‘build’ is admirable but all-too-ambiguous, and not at all certain to yield the social benefits that techies and market lovers claim their brilliant machines will shower down on us. Mammon, while powerful, is not all-wise.

The modern entrepreneur is content to build and become rich. And I certainly wouldn’t mind a couple mil in the bank account. But the heart strings just don’t pull that way. If my worldly efforts are worth a damn, I think it will be because I committed to aiming more directly at my actual goal, that glorious vision, the Golden Clockwork: a sturdy, healthy, and functioning society.

What will the mailing list be about?

My project selection efforts will follow the idiosyncratic methodology of one Michael Curzi. I’ll be narrating as I go.

Not all readers will be intrigued by my personal quest for a worthy project, but they may enjoy the thoughts I share along the way. Topics will be varied but thematic. For writing samples, check out the blog or maybe this Twitter thread.

Ok cool. But you never explained about the anti-zombie protocol.

Oh yeah.

At this very moment, I’m hyped about sharing my writing - but I’ve lost interest in projects before. And what is lamer than an undead project? What’s lamer than a blog with two posts saying ‘behold my grand plans’,  which hasn’t been updated since 2015?

Nay, there shall be no zombies here! We must choose life, or allow death - these in-between states are just too unnatural.

Thus the anti-zombie protocol:

  • I make a hard public commitment to post at least once a week for 3 months

  • This period begins now (late May 2020), and ends late August 2020.

  • By August 31, I’ll re-up my commitment, change to another format, or explicitly freeze/shut down the mailing list.

Are comments open?

Yes! You should comment stuff. I may discuss topics and answer questions brought up by readers.

Is that all?

That is all. Let’s get rolling.

I hope you enjoy your time here…