What to Do While the World Is Burning

3 min readAug 22, 2018

Oregon is on fire.

Not all of it, but enough that Mt. Hood might as well never have existed, from the vantage point of Portland. Visibility through the haze fades to feet instead of miles. It’s not as bad as last fall, when white ash covered the hood of my car, but it’s not ok or right or in any way good.

NORTH BONNEVILLE, WA — SEPT 5, 2017: View of the Eagle Creek Trail wildfire burns thoursands of acres in the Cascade Gorge affecting Oregon and Washington (Photo by Diego G Diaz). https://www.wweek.com/news/2018/08/20/stay-indoors-again-portland-wildfire-smoke-is-back-until-wednesday/

This is not hell, but it’s the kind of place — the kind of threshold, the kind of portico — that makes you wonder how bad things will actually get. It’s the kind of week that makes me really, actually, not regret not having had children. I am worried about where the future takes us.

Copyright 2015 Tess Gadwa

I am troubled. You may not be. But I feel it in my bones.

The next 80 years won’t resemble the past 80 years. They won’t resemble any time in history.


It’s too late for an off switch. Taking out your recycling, buying a Prius, these things won’t help you now.

So what the fuck do you do?

If you’re me, you build things.

Not for fun, or for profit. You try your best to build humanity’s missing aggregate nervous system.

I can’t say a lot more about what I’m doing because EVERYTHING we’re doing needs to be proprietary to have a shot of getting funded. It’s hard enough convincing the world that an English major who taught herself to program might have the skills to be a serious entrant in this field.

But the long and short of what we’re trying to do is give wise people, smart people, people with specific fields of expertise, a megaphone online. The model we are building can be applied to numerous industries: beer, music, books, shopping, take your pick. But its aim is to give a voice back to the rational, quiet middle. If we can establish this system we may have some hope of establishing an open communications system on Earth that is not limited to a small cadre of experts or state-sanctioned propaganda bureaus. We may able to actually be take the Internet into the era of federated meshnets, solar powered arrays, systems that are distributed and as delicate as a dandelion at the end of its bloom. This is the world we are heading toward. It is a world where nation-states sprawl like beached whales. It is a world which makes Gibson’s Chiba City or Sterling’s Islands in the Net look positively tame.

This is our future. It is not the future I would choose.

I cannot help with the hardware. That is somebody else’s task to fill.

But I am going to do what I can fucking do. It beats doing nothing at all.




Product Architect at Lotus.fm, a startup dedicated to creating better user experiences for data driven applications.