I'm taking a break. See you offline!

I got my first computer when I was around 10, and quickly developed an addiction. I was 14 when I bought my first modem, and I can remember very few days since that I did not spend at least partly (or wholly) “online”.

I started what would later be called a privacy “blog” for a small target audience twenty years ago, then went to study Computer Science in Dresden after a very brief stint as a Kindergardener; in Dresden, because of Andreas Pfitzmann and his work around online privacy and anonymity. Over the past decades, as someone who has always enjoyed to provide “infrastructure” for others to build upon, many many projects have accumulated on my plate. Trust me, if you know me well, you don't know half of what I'm involved in. Sometimes not even I do. ;-)

In 2013, after some years of intense involvement in the Tor community ecosystem and my project Torservers, I was invited to join a new human rights foundation, Renewable Freedom, to help develop concepts of support for the broad field of “activism and the digital”. Even more intense years followed where I had been given the chance to surround myself with many great minds “doing good”. In the past five years, I've been to well over a hundred events across many continents, spanning tech activism, traditional human rights, and many other communities of humans who share great enthusiasm and the struggle for positive change. I am very grateful for the many friendships that formed during these past years, and I hope they will be with me for many decades to come. I learned a lot just “being around” and “trying to be generally useful”. My “mandate” didn't allow me to focus on any single topic or project, something which very much resonated with my own desires, in that I don't believe in any one theory or effort to save humanity.

It is time for me to take a step back, and process what I've seen and heard.

It took me the past two years to prepare for what you might want to call a “Sabbatical”, to reduce my involvement and to learn to say No to lots of interesting projects. From January 2020, I will leave all the digital spaces I've been involved in. This includes IRC, mailing lists, other social networks, but also, for the first time in decades, email (!) and “instant messengers”.

I plan to spend as much time as possible “offline”. This is as far as my plan goes. Yes, correct: I do not have a plan about how to fill that time, and I don't want to have one.

I do want to make good use of my time. Working with so many projects and humans required a lot of context switching, and context switching burns a lot of energy. It is time for me to take a step back, contemplate, and leave enough space and time to decide what's next.

Maybe I will return to your space, maybe not! Maybe I will pick up one project and focus all my energy on it, or maybe not! I am decidedly not deciding how to even spend the time, and I will let my thoughts and feelings guide me about what I want to do “afterwards”. This is not the nowadays typical Sabbatical, where people drop their work to work on something else. I plan to drop my work to not work on anything else.

The only thing I know right now is that I am pretty excited about all of it, and that I need to recharge without constantly being surrounded by electronic communication and newsfeeds. All the travel to all these events that I wanted to go to was nice, but it also brought me into a lot of busy, noisy metropolitan areas. Now, I will contrast this with very little travel, much nature and stillness, and as little electronic communication and information streams as possible.

This does not mean I don't want to hear from you next year.

To the contrary! I plan to have a lot of time, even more than before, for you and your project, and your idea on how to change the world for the better (and I have a few on my own to share). Come visit me! I will very likely be somewhere near Berlin, Germany. I set up a cloud thing where you can pick an arrival date. I will get back to you with instructions on how and where to find me, ask you how long you want to stay, accommodation options etc.

Yes, trust me, if you read this, I am interested in your visit!

Or, if that is a bit too much for you, send me a letter. Yes, via postal mail.

I promise not to reply quickly, but I will cherish any actual piece of mail I receive.

Scanbox #03350
Ehrenbergstr. 16a
10245 Berlin, Germany

(Please note that scans of your mail will end up on Amazon machines. Sorry about that but it's the most hassle-free option that I found for now that does not require me to be in any specific place. I can provide alternative offline addresses on request.)

I've always been an avid reader, and something that I will likely do much more next year than I was able to in the past years is read even more. Which books do you think I should read?

If you have an interesting project that you think I should be joining in 2022 or so, let me know too. It's all “up in the air” and the only promise I can make is that I will not make any promises, but any input you provide during my time off is much welcome.

Wait. What is happening to your projects?

Most people who are in active projects with me have been warned and have some idea of what is coming. Any ongoing commitments will be honored! To the contrary, for any project that I did not hand over or remove myself from, it will very likely mean that I have more brainspace available for it, not less!

In the meantime, I am leaving the Center for the Cultivation of Technology in capable hands, Torservers will live on without me, and the Renewable Freedom Foundation will continue to exist (into eternity, like any proper foundation).

I will very likely return to these projects eventually. Maybe in a changed role, maybe not. We will see!

See you somewhere offline – and earlier if you come visit!

— Mo

As we struggle, awash in social vibrations of fear and aggression, to face the catastrophic self-destruction of global civilization, the only way to keep alive our long tradition of humanistic inquiry is to learn to die. We must practice suspending stress-semantic chains of social excitation through critical thought, contemplation, philosophical debate, and posing impertinent questions. We must suspend our attachment to the continual press of the present by keeping alive the past, cultivating the info-garden of the archive, reading, interpreting, sorting, nurturing, and, most important, reworking our stock of remembrance. We must keep renovating and innovating perceptual, affective, and conceptual fields through recombination, remixing, translation, transformation, and play. We must inculcate ruminative frequencies in the human animal by teaching slowness, attention to detail, argumentative rigor, careful reading, and meditative reflection. We must keep up our communion with the dead, for they are us, as we are the dead of future generations. – Roy Scranton: Learning to Die in the Antropocene. Reflections on the End of A Civilization. (2015)

Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever. – Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness. (1932)