I just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age - I read it so long ago the plot felt friendly-familiar but I’ve forgotten enough that it all also felt fresh. For a book with so little about my day to day life (it is set in a fairly crazy future after all), there are some powerful and very current quotes. This quote truly bites at government and at digital work:

“Any strategy that involves crossing a valley — accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance — will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.”

That’s probably too big a thing to personally solve, but this quote is more manageable on an individual level:

“In an era when everything can be surveiled, all we have left is politeness.”

The book sets a lot of story around Victorian ideals:

  • Standing and saying hello/goodbye to groups (even on train, etc)
  • Introducing with full name and station
  • Making use of shared/public transport and also of vigorous walking
  • Being aware not to intrude on people with loud noises or strong smells
  • Writing letters
  • Maintaining a contacts book

To me, much of what the book balanced against the overwhelming world of futuristic technology was simply structured respect for others. Politeness. The idea of politeness, and some of the themes of big tech/death of the artisan in a time when everything is consumable and replaceable, got me thinking about how I support my own local shops (rather than shopping with tech/shopping giants). I’ve been thinking about pledging to only buy certain things from certain places. I’ve just chucked this list together based one some of my non-standard recent shopping places and on some stuff I’m likely to need to buy in the next 3-6 months.


Supporting small companies - such as:

Supporting local shops - such as:

  • Bike parts from Bike Craft in Ocean Terminal
  • Regular clothes from the shops in Ocean Terminal
  • Books from Waterstones in Ocean Terminal
  • DIY stuff from Homebase Craigleith
  • Pet supplies from Pets At Home Craigleith

Supporting local Charities - such as:

I’m likely to come back and revise this a bit, but it’s a starter for ten for being slightly more mindful of what I’m buying and from who. Sustainability of cultural and shopping spaces, of jobs, of the local economy.