welcome to the grim meathook present

Posted by on July 27th, 2014

The Red Alert: Israel platform (for iOS and Android) “has turned into a way for people throughout Israel and around the world to show their empathy for Israel,” Sprung told The Times of Israel. “People who have relatives and friends in the affected areas who want real-time updates on what is happening have been downloading the app, as have many people around the world. Our servers have been overloaded with download requests over the past several days.”

The app sounds a distinct alarm, like an emergency siren, when a Red Color alert is set off anywhere in Israel, listing the location and time of the projected strike. The app sends out its warning at the same time the military’s Homefront Command issues an order to activate the warning system, said Sprung. The app gets its information from the IDF and the Homefront Command, he added, but declined to discuss the process by which the data gets into the app. “It’s classified,” Sprung half-joked. The app also features a chat area, where residents — or anyone else — can comment on their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

 

Since 2012 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (known as Isis) has issued annual reports, outlining in numerical and geographical detail its operations – the number of bombings, assassinations, checkpoints, suicide missions, cities taken over and even “apostates” converted to the Isis cause.

In 2013 alone, the group’s report claimed nearly 10,000 operations in Iraq: 1,000 assassinations, 4,000 improvised explosive devices planted and hundreds of radical prisoners freed. In the same year it claimed hundreds of “apostates” had been turned.

Called al-Naba – the News – the reports for 2012 and 2013 (a year in which 8,000 civilians died in Iraq) have been analysed by the US-based Institute for the Study of War, which corroborates much of the information they contain. Isis’s aim appears to be to demonstrate its record to potential donors.
 

“It is clear that Eastern Japan and Metropolitan Tokyo have been contaminated with radiation.”

Dr. Mita compares radioactive contamination of the soil (measured in becquerels per kilogram, Bq/kg) in various parts of Tokyo with that observed in various portions of Europe following the Chernobyl disaster.

Prior to 2011, Shinjuku (the region of Tokyo that houses the municipal government) tested at only 0.5-1.5 Bq/kg. Today, levels at nearby Kodaira are at 200-300 Bq/kg.

“Within the 23 districts of Metropolitan Tokyo, contamination in the east part is 1000-4000 Bq/kg and the west part is 300-1000 Bq/kg,” Dr. Mita wrote.

For comparison, Kiev (capital of the Ukraine) has soil tested at 500 Bq/kg (Cs-137 only). Following the Chernobyl accident, West Germany and Italy reported levels of 90-100 Bq/kg, and both experienced measurable health effects on their populations.

Dr. Mita notes that the radiation situation in Tokyo is getting worse, not better, due to urban practices of concentrating solid waste in small areas such as municipal dumps and sewage plants. That is why, he says, radiation levels in Tokyo riverbeds have actually been increasing over the prior two years.

“Tokyo should no longer be inhabited, and… those who insist on living in Tokyo must take regular breaks in safer areas,” Dr. Mita writes. “Issues such as depopulation and state decline continue to burden the lives of second and third generation Ukrainians and Belarusians today, and I fear that this may be the future of Eastern Japan.”

 

Nigerian officials said Saturday that they are screening passengers arriving from foreign countries for symptoms of Ebola, following the death of an infected traveler from Liberia who died after collapsing at the airport in Lagos, Africa’s largest city with a population of 21 million.

Nearly 50 other passengers on the flight are being monitored for signs of Ebola but are not being kept in isolation, said an employee at Nigeria’s Ministry of Health, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
 

Joshua Ellis was good enough to revisit his idea of the Grim Meathook Future on a post here mid 2012. As Eva suggests, that future indeed seems to have passed into the present.

Bruce Sterling once said something like: “the future is on a sliderbar between the grim meathook future and the bright green spime world“. Well it’s clear now that those are two options on the one Möbius strip; two sides of the one dystopic, bad penny. Any hope for a bright internet-of-things that isn’t just another tool of surveillance seems a naive dream in the Snowden Effected world we all share.

The true horror of the real isn’t the ghoulishness of reporters walking through the wreckage of a passenger plane shot down for no reason on breakfast television. It’s that for all the politicians making speeches over the bodies of dead children, there is no empathic energy to be channelled into tv or approval ratings as the West Antarctic Ice Shelf falls into the ocean and the Arctic bubbles with ever more methane. Efforts like to visualize this on a local level completely fail to resonate. Yet these are exactly the things that will cause more regional conflicts around the Earth; more water wars, more heavy weather events, more refugees. More bad news to obsessively dissect on 24hr news channels; experts for every facet, infinite opinions. No action. More dead children.

Our global civilisation: seemingly ever more doomed, completely intent on wallowing in its death throes, turning its spasms into some macabre dance to be celebrated. Are we to be only numbed spectators, or can find our way through this and locate the seeds of the next thing, to plant in the ashes of the world we knew and loved and helplessly watched die? Can we plan now how to re-purpose the very tools causing its destruction and pull this culture out of its nosedive? Please.


Guns for Armes: The Amazing True Story of the World’s First Real Life Superhero

Posted by on December 6th, 2013

By Klint Finley

Every night dozens of people around the world don masks and costumes and venture into the streets to fight crime.

Phoenix Jones and Master Legend are perhaps the most famous, but there are hundreds of costumed would-be crime fighters and their activities range from attempting to apprehend criminals to watching over the homeless while they sleep to make sure their positions aren’t stolen.

These caped crusaders aren’t mutants, aliens or cyborgs — they’re just concerned citizens. They have no superhuman powers. But with advances in technology — such as exoskeletons and bionic limbs — you might think it’s only a matter of time until we see the first grinder superhero.

Actually, we’ve had him for quite some time.

J.J. Armes courtesy of photographer Adam Hicks via Wikipedia - This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

The first real-life superhero may have been J. J. Armes, a private detective who has been active in El Paso since 1958. His super power? A gun implanted in one of his prosthetic hook that he could fire with his biceps — without using his other hook.

Armes lives in a mansion, surrounded by lions and tigers. He always wears three piece suits, and travels by limo driven by his body guard cum chauffeur. It’s no wonder Ideal Toy Company manufactured a line of action figures based on his likeness, and comic book mogul Stan Lee wants to make a movie based on his life.

Origin Story

Armes lost both his hands at the age of 12, he told People in 1975. A friend brought over a box that, unknown to Armes, contained railroad dynamite charges. When Armes opened it, his hands were blown off at the wrist. His friend was unharmed.

His hands were replaced with hooks, but he kept playing sports. He even taught himself how to write with the hooks. His life changed again at the age of 15 when he was recruited to appear in the film Am I Handicapped?, he told Texas Monthly in 1976. He quit high school, moved to Hollywood, and went on to appear in 13 feature length films.

But eventually he decided to turn his attention to crime fighting. He moved to New York City to study psychology and criminology and graduated with honors by the age of 19. He then returned home to El Paso and started his private investigation service, eventually becoming better known to the children of the city than the president of the United States.

He made national news in 1972 after rescuing Marlon Brando’s son from kidnappers in Mexico. He now commands multi-million dollar fees, and has, in addition to the limo, a fleet of expensive vehicles, including a Rolls Royce, a Corvette and a helicopter.
His for-profit crime fighting stands in stark contrast with Master Legend and Phoenix Jones, who work day jobs assisting the disabled and elderly. But Armes He’s deeply religious and says he stays committed being a PI, despite being so wealthy that he’d be able retire at any time, because of his devotion to God.  He doesn’t smoke, drink or swear. He doesn’t drink coffee, let alone take any illegal drugs.
And his crime fighting has come at a cost — he’s survived multiple assassination attempts and his life is in constant danger.

Secret Origin

Well, that’s the story that Armes wanted people to believe back in 1976, anyway. Texas Monthly writer Gary Cartwright did some digging that year and found that Armes story didn’t add up.

Armes’ real name is Julian Armas. He was born in 1939 to Mexican immigrants, not Italian immigrants as he claimed. His friend didn’t find the dynamite that blew off his hands next to a railroad track. They broke into a rail house and stole it.

The Academy of Motion Pictures had no record of Am I Handicapped?. NYU had no record of Armas, or Armes, ever attending the school, let alone graduating. Nor was there any record of his mentor Max Falen having taught there.

“Old friends recalled when he returned from California. Julian, or Jay J. Armes as he now called himself, drove an old, raggedy- topped Cadillac with a live lion in the back and a dummy telephone mounted to the dash-board,” Cartwright wrote. “He would pull up beside the girls at the drive-in and pretend to be talking to some secret agent in some foreign land.”

There was also no indication that he really had a vast network of PIs at his disposal.

He does own a big house, but it was it was located in a poor part of town and was only worth about $50,000 in 1975. The helicopter certainly wouldn’t have been able to fly. What money he had likely didn’t come from his PI work, Cartwright wrote, but from lucrative real estate deals facilitated by his wealthy friend Thomas Fortune Ryan.

It’s apparently true that he brought Brando’s son back from Mexico, but other PIs are dubious about his methods. “They didn’t believe the part about the three-day helicopter search in which Jay Armes survived on water, chewing gum, and guts, but they all know the trick of grabbing a kid,” Carwright wrote. “You hired a couple of federales or gunsels. The problem wasn’t finding the kid, it was getting him out of the country.”

Armes came mostly clean in his autobiography, published later in 1976. He admitted his real name is Julian Armas. He didn’t admit to having broken into the railhouse himself, but didn’t claim that the other boy had found the dynamite charges either. Rather than claiming that a Hollywood director came showed up in El Paso and recruited him, Armes admitted that he went to California after high school. He wrote that he appeared in several films, but only in bit roles. He didn’t repeat the story about a mentor at NYU, and claimed only to have gotten a degree in criminology in California before returning to El Paso to become a private investigator.

Better Than Fiction

And not everything about Armes was a lie.

J. J. Armes Mobile Investigation Unit playset with J. J. Armes Action Figure with Custom Suit

Jay J. Armes "Mobile Investigation Unit" (Center) Jay J. Armes Doll w/custom made suit crafted by Armes' personal tailor. (Right) - Via http://www.spymall.com/investigators/action_figures.html

“It is true that Jay J. Armes drives around El Paso in the damnedest black limo you ever saw, armed to the teeth,” Cartwright wrote. “That pistol in his hook is the real McCoy; I watched him fire it.” And he really does have a fleet of vehicles, a flock of wild animals roaming the premises and a closet full of three-piece suits.

Today, at the age of 81, he’s still the head of the Investigators company. And his son Jay J. Armes III, who is an Investigator himself, has expanded the business into online retail with Spy Mall.

Even if you strip away the fabrications and exaggerations you’re left with an astounding tale. As Carwright wrote: “The real story is of a Mexican-American kid from one of the most impoverished settlements in the United States, how he extracted himself from the wreckage of a crippling childhood accident and through the exercise of tenacity, courage, and wits became a moderately successful private investigator. There is more sympathy, drama, and human intrigue in that accomplishment than you’re likely to find in any two or three normal studies of the human condition.”

Why then has his story largely been forgotten by the national media? Maybe it’s because of the tall tales in the beginning. Or maybe it’s because the media has little time for aging, disabled minorities.

Either way, J.J. Armes is a name worth remembering.

J.J. Armes did not respond to our request for comment on this story.
Special thanks to Trevor Blake.

External Links

Texas Monthly article

Investigators official site

Great photo shoot from 2008

A better photo of the action figure

The Real Life Superhero Project

Superheroes Anonymous

Klint Finley is a Wired reporter, TechCrunch columnist and the co-host of the Mindful Cyborgs podcast.  He can be found on Twitter as @klintron


Bright Green Dystopias – they’re Elemental

Posted by on December 1st, 2013

Banlieue 13 plot device

At Sea in the Future [WATER]

10pts if you noticed who the author of the SoftwareThink is Saving da World yo WIRED propagandaopinion piece was in the first Bright Green Dystopia post.

This guy:

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…calling for Exit, with a 10yr plan to get ahead of a backlash against teh_jobless_recovery and other dystopic variables. SilVal needs to secede to succeed.

David Brin does a decent job picking it apart, nailing it with:

All of his examples boil down to no more than exercises in the kind of freedom that Srinivasan and his peers already have, sheltered and nurtured and encouraged by the legacy nation that he — like an ungrateful, neotenous teenager — openly reviles.  A freedom to experiment that MADE Silicon Valley in the first place…

Brin can pick it apart, because has some practice dissecting these libertarian utopias, like Seasteading. And he has some suggestions:

Clearly there is a shortcut through all the red tape and other dangers. I portray it in EXISTENCE. That trick is to forge alliances with already-existing small, island states. Places like Tonga, Vanuatu, etc are currently terrified of being literally wiped off the map by rising seas. What I show in the novel is an alliance with rich seasteaders that allows them to build their initial pillared paradises on land that is currently relatively dry and already sovereign.

What do the islanders get, in return? Why, the promise of participation – indeed, continued “existence” – as their reefs and beaches gradually drown! Buy the novel (coming in June) to see it illustrated.

Those Ghost States sure do show some real potential for disruption. Take Kiribati:

The people of Kiribati, he said, understand what is coming; already, one family has sought asylum in New Zealand as climate change refugees. “We are working on many different plans. There’s a Japanese company that makes floating islands. We’re looking into that. But people understand they may have to leave forever, and this is hard. We have the wish to survive as a people. I lived in New Zealand once. I thought I was in paradise. I had all of this access to all the different ice creams. But our people like it here. We will lose our homeland unless the ocean stops rising. It’s very simple. We want to stay home. This is where the spirits live. This is where we’re from.”

So there we have it. Prime opportunity for a kindly plutocrat to sweep in and save a dying people from extinction. They can get jobs doing the work that can’t quite be automated yet. Preserve their culture and sing some joyous songs while they toil. Worked out pretty well for these guys:

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(But do not get any sinister thoughts about the Google Barges. They are not Evil. Google loves you so much it wants to keep your data for ever and ever and ever and make happy information babies with it. Just because they no longer have any clue what’s going on in their servers. Which are totally theirs, and not some posthuman AI God that they are now dutiful servants of. Shhhhhh.)

not home to your AI Overlords. Who totally love you

The Wall in the Sky [AIR]

check it out brah
Google are totally not also building flying cars so they can duck over to Whole Foods to get moar kale and quinoa. That would be their neighbour:

There have been stabs at a Jetson-mobile before, but two designs in the Zee.Aero patent put this one on the outer cutting edge: It would be battery powered. But in addition, it is designed to lift straight up like a helicopter — so no need for a runway. Then, as the patent notes, the collection of rotors on top work with two facing backward to allow it to hover for a bit before cruising off to that grocery store.

Fair odds it would at least be licensing some of the tech built next door at GoogleX. Taking the LIDAR system developed for their self-driving cars to the next level. Up!

Where you’re totally welcome. It’s just $99,999 for the beta. Here’s the link to subscribe, click through to confirm and join us at the nearest Google Barge for the launch…

get ready for the launch

Up, up and away. Exit…

But… what is more Brighter and Greener than terrforming a whole planet?

So I started with a crazy idea to spur the national will. I called it the Mars Oasis missions. The idea was to send a small greenhouse to the surface of Mars, packed with dehydrated nutrient gel that could be hydrated on landing. You’d wind up with this great photograph of green plants and red background—the first life on Mars, as far as we know, and the farthest that life’s ever traveled. It would be a great money shot, plus you’d get a lot of engineering data about what it takes to maintain a little greenhouse and keep plants alive on Mars. If I could afford it, I figured it would be a worthy expenditure of money, with no expectation of financial return.

You’re so cray Elon! But how much would we expect to pay? Half a million? Sure… let me just grab a few paintings off the wall (seriously, that was a line I saw in a business piece on philanthropic arts funding).

Now, don’t get the idea that the State is being hollowed out by the allies of the corporate elite, who are increasingly indistinguishable from each other. That what infrastructure hasn’t already been sold off, barely maintained, and is increasingly dangerous to use (was that another train crash today? surely not)… won’t be replaced. That the private space program, and whatever we come to call a stratosphere full of auto-piloted craft containing the remnants of the middle class on their way to and fro their private spaceports and %1er take on Burning Manto “net-positive” corporate arcologies that look like they’re about to lift off

…that this is some epic program to steal the wealth of the Earth and its population to form a Breakaway Republic for the elite, who no longer need a slaveclassworkforce. A republic that isn’t a country, but a network of banking districts, research and development complexes, private islands and corporate retreats and fortified residences. Where they’ve carving the sky into zones of privilege and building outposts in space.

Because you can still go shopping, they’ve just made that way easier too (’cause the sky’s NOT the limit for funding an Exit)

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And don’t worry, you can probably soon earn GoogleWallet currency as a human drone repairman and maybe Tom Cruise was depicting the future. Really, the future is bright and green and everything’s going to be ok… everybody’s happy, underground.

The Earth as a Barrier [EARTH]

– Trailer montage of great just us.

The world of (still) tomorrow, as seen twenty years ago, in Demolition Man: the overly sanitized and heavily policed, corporate future is just too bright for some, who have to retreat underground for true freedom. The man who might save both worlds is back from the past, but what if the wild taken out of him in cryo is just what they need to defeat Simon Phoenix?

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The world of today seen from nine years ago, in Banlieue (District) 13. A wall protects bourgeois Paris from the residents of its feral suburbs. A “clean bomb” (shown above) might cleanse this urban jungle. Can this odd couple of cop and benevolent gang lord team up successfully?

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Æon Flux, the movie. The internal conflicts of the last city on Earth… dare they tear down the wall, end their nightmare stasis, and embrace… teh wild. (Whatever could that be code for?!)

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* But no, we won’t get to Elysium just yet… we’ve a ways to go first.

But there is an FPS of this conflicted vision:

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Bright Green Dystopias

Posted by on November 24th, 2013

We’ll come back to this at length. For now, just some basic arithmetic.

This is the city of Fox’s new spec fic show, Almost Human.
the world of Almost Human

From WIRED –  Software is Reorganizing the World:

Machine translation of signs, text, and speech brings down language barriers and facilitates ever more cross-cultural meetings of like minds. Immersive headsets, input devices, and telepresence robots further collapse space and time, allowing us to instantly be alongside others on the other side of the globe. Mobile technology makes us ever more mobile, increasingly permitting not just easier movement around a home base but permanent international relocation.

Technology is thus enabling arbitrary numbers of people from around the world to assemble in remote locations, without interrupting their ability to work or communicate with existing networks. In this sense, the future of technology is not really location-based apps; it is about making location completely unimportant.

But could everything really become that mobile, that portable? What about transportation, infrastructure, food, shelter, the clothes on our backs?

Consider transportation first: Car ownership is already declining, and the combination of Uber, Lyft, their public-transportation analogs, and new shareable car fleets will greatly reduce traffic and emissions. On-demand rental will ultimately become more convenient than the burden of outright ownership, especially in an autonomous car world, and will make us vastly more mobile as a result. And many more things can be transported on-demand once we have the on-demand car.

With respect to infrastructure, projects from neighborhood pothole repairs to bridge changes are being crowdfunded or driven through private-public sector partnerships (in fact, entrepreneurs built roads for most of American history). And with autonomous cars coming, technologists are going to need to reinvent roads again. Google’s Vannevar is moving construction to the cloud, much of shipping logistics and the supply chain is going there as well, and robots can already build small buildings and operate autonomous mines. The net result is that both core infrastructure and many of the mechanisms for building and funding it are becoming computerized, and thus deployable in new locations.

And from the road we turn our eyes to the sky: next up will be a carbon-friendly computerized infrastructure for safer air traffic control, to guide the emerging fleets of drones doing everything from photography to surveying to delivery.

As for the physical items used in daily life — the present, let alone the future, is already a time where everything from food to shelter to clothing to transportation to your very wallet and keychain can be accessed on demand from your mobile phone, in more cities every day.

So when it comes to the constraints on mobility imposed by the physical world, the rule is simple: when goods themselves can’t be digitized, our interface to them will be.

The benefits of such high mobility are much more than convenience to the people who supply these goods. For example, with online food ordering, an owner of a small restaurant is finally able to prepare meals in batch, order ingredients in bulk, and reach repeat customers without wasting valuable, limited resources in guesswork. With the advent of mobile microtasks, we are seeing the emergence of new digital assembly line jobs that offer greater flexibility, less risk of injury, and hourly wages comparable in some cases to those of new hires at GM. And with autonomous mines, workers can extract needed minerals without risking black lung disease.

This is why location is becoming so much less important: technology is enabling us to access everything we need from our mobile phone, to find our true communities in the cloud, and to easily travel to assemble these communities in person. Taken together, we are rapidly approaching a future characterized by a totally new phenomenon, the reverse diaspora: one that starts out internationally distributed, finds each other online, and ends up physically concentrated.

What might these reverse diasporas be like? As a people whose primary bond is through the internet, many of their properties would not fit our pre-existing mental models. Unlike rugged individualists, these emigrants would be moving within or between nation states to become part of a community, not to strike out on their own. Unlike would-be revolutionaries, those migrating in this fashion would be doing so out of humility in their ability to change existing political systems. And unlike so-called secessionists, the specific site of physical concentration would be a matter of convenience, not passion; the geography incidental and not worth fighting over.

Today, one of the first and largest international reverse diasporas has assembled in Silicon Valley, drawn by the internet to the cloud capital of technology; in fact, an incredible 64% of the Valley’s scientists and engineers hail from outside the U.S., with 43.9% of its technology companies founded by emigrants.

But the geocenter of this cloud formation is only positioned over Silicon Valley for historical reasons, as the semiconductor manufacturing that was made easier by the temperate clime of the South Bay has long since moved away. Nothing today binds technologists to the soil besides other people. In this sense Silicon Valley is nothing special; it is best conceptualized as just the most common (x,y) coordinates of a set of highly mobile nodes in a social network whose true existence is in the cloud.

And this global technology cloud truly stretches over the whole earth, touching down at various locales both in the U.S. — at Sendgrid in Boulder, Tumblr in New York, Rackspace in Austin, Snapchat in L.A., Zipcar in Boston, Opscode in Seattle — and outside it — at Skype in Estonia, Tencent in Shenzhen, Soundcloud in Germany, Flipkart in India, Spotify in Sweden, Line in Tokyo, and Waze in Israel. Cultural connections forming between people in this cloud are becoming stronger than the connections between their geographic neighbors. Palo Alto’s Accel invests in India’s Flipkart, Estonia’s Skype is folded into Seattle’s Microsoft, Israel’s Waze is merged into Mountain View’s Google, and the SoundCloud engineer on a laptop in Berlin builds a deeper relationship with the VC in New York than the nearby Bavarian bank.

Today, the geocenter of the global technology cloud is still hovering over Silicon Valley. But in a world where technology is making location increasingly less important, tomorrow the reverse diaspora may well assemble somewhere else.

Meanwhile, Palo Alto Passes New Ordinance To Criminalize Homelessness

There are more than 400 homeless men and women who live in Palo Alto, according to a 2010 estimate, and as many as 50 of them currently find refuge in their cars. If they don’t find other accommodations or leave town in the next six months when the law goes fully into effect, they could face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Palo Alto first considered banning people from dwelling in vehicles in 2011, but opted instead to try to mimic a program used in other cities where homeless residents can park and sleep at local churches. That plan failed to take hold in Palo Alto, Sheyner notes, “after staff failed to find participants in the local faith-based community.”

Even before Monday’s vote, Palo Alto had developed a reputation for cruel treatment of its homeless residents. In 1997, the city passed a “sit-lie” law, which prohibits people from sitting or lying down on downtown sidewalks. The ordinance effectively outlaws homeless people from asking for donations or even spending time downtown; as a result, homeless residents are pushed even further to the margin of society.

Many cities in the Bay Area have already outlawed sleeping in one’s car.

A future heading in two, interconnected, directions. Look at the city again above. Do you see the shiny buildings and infrastructure, or the wall?


the near earth asteroid defense system #thinkglobalactsolar

Posted by on October 23rd, 2013

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Lu began by noting that deflecting lethal asteroids is the easy part. We know how to do it and already have the needed technology. Years before a threatening asteroid converges with Earth, we can ram it from behind with a rocket with the precise amount of energy needed to speed it up just enough to miss our planet and keep on missing us in the future.

Funding such a mission will be straightforward. Once you know when (and even where) a catastrophic impact will occur, there will be abundant motivation to pay for heading it off. With good sky reconnaissance, we’ll have years of warning. But that reconnaissance doesn’t exist yet.

As I do several times each year since they first began, I’ve been catching up the Long Now Seminar’s on Long Term Thinking. Much as love hearing visions of Starship programs and DeExtinction projects, it was former astronaut Ed Lu’s talk (above) that really leapt out. Because it is both fantastic and realistic, and immediate. And necessary.

Lu spoke about the consequences of the Overview Effect:

http://www.vimeo.com/55073825

We have to start acting as one species, with one destiny. We are not going to survive if we don’t do that.

Coming back to Earth a changed man, and wanting to do something real. Long story, short (you can hear it all above, after all), he’s founded the B612 Foundation. Their self-assigned mission, to build and launch Sentinel:

The Sentinel Mission will provide a unique opportunity for the public to take ownership in a historic space mission that will protect Earth, while providing the necessary roadmap for future exploration.
Sentinel is a space-based infrared (IR) survey mission to discover and catalog 90 percent of the asteroids larger than 140 meters in Earth’s region of the solar system. The mission should also discover a significant number of smaller asteroids down to a diameter of 30 meters. Sentinel will be launched into a Venus-like orbit around the sun, which significantly improves the efficiency of asteroid discovery during its 6.5 year mission.

 

They’re aiming to share resources with NASA, and funding it via philanthropy and donations from the public. And whilst I view philanthropy as the benevolence of those that have accrued wealth through various forms of economic and legal force, it’s better that those funds get directed toward doing something other purely cosmetic, vanity projects. We simply don’t have time to linearly fix all world’s problems. The pragmatist in me maintains that the rescue mission must accomplished by whatever means are available.

Which brings us to the newly created, half jesting, semi-fictional, deadly serious Overview Effect Enforcement Agency. The product of a conversation between some creatively titled futurist folks on Twitter, it exists, if only as a rescue-lutionary theory object, to encourage the sending of the world’s leaders into low-earth orbit for a cognitive readjustment. A tactic deployed by Picard in an episode of Star Trek: TNG, to correct his own elevation to godhood. As recent political theater events of extreme dramatis demonstrate, it’s sorely needed. And as I suggested: if they learn something, they can come back too.

Because there are more threats to the world than just the ego’s of political leaders and billionaires. Like Lazarus Comets:

“We found a graveyard of comets,” said Ferrín. “Imagine all these asteroids going around the Sun for aeons, with no hint of activity. We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy that they receive from the Sun increases by a few per cent.”

Resurrected space rocks don’t discriminate on imaginary human divisions of map, religion or creed. We can learn something from them. We can be bigger, grow up, build out into the solar system, and beyond. It’s just an idea. But what else has ever changed the world than that?


The Many Posthuman Aspects of PacificRim

Posted by on October 22nd, 2013

Or: the candy-coated man/machine rescue mission.

Pacific Rim is many things. Many shiny, spectacular, immersive, self-aware, monster genre mashing, robot smashing, crowd pleasing, city destroying, heroic dancing things. But apart from its surface appeal, it’s also the delivery system for some incredibly out there, subversive, challenging ideas. This may just be my reading of it, and that’s fine. But I suspect Guillermo Del Toro is guilty of being a clever, clever human and knew exactly what he was doing with this blockbuster movie.

Allow me to explain my thinking here. This is not a review. It’s a “User Guide for Humans”, from barely opened, posthuman eyes. This is an analog mind-meld, I mean drift; an English language sequence as slow-boot brain update. Are you ready to accept Singularity?

Want some Candy?

Taken at face value, Pacific Rim is… completely absurd. And if that wasn’t immediately apparent from its premise, it’s clear by halfway through the film that’s it’s winking hard at you. And shouting at you with Idris Elba’s mandatory “the apocalypse is cancelled” speech at the climax, that amazing actor barely containing the joy on his face in getting to deliver an epic line like this. Pure man-child bliss… just the kind you might expect to find in a mech suit vs kaiju fightfest.

Now those of the Otaku-bent might want to do a detailed analysis of the origins and influences and details of Pacific Rim, and that’s exactly what this post on Medum.com has done, if you want it.

I’m not anti-Otaku. Hell, I raced home as a kid to watch Robotech, and collected what Transformers I could afford. When I toured Japan in ’09 I stumbled onto the Mobile Suit Gundam arcade game and played it every day I was there. I clutched my pilot card when I walked into the preview screening of Pacific Rim, and wore the pirate Neon Genesis Evangelion tee I picked up in a store in Akihabara.

I have been absolutely psyched for this film, and its complement Elysium, all damn year.

What I am saying is there’s a lot more going on below the surface of Pacific Rim. Just don’t expect it to cohere into a logical whole.

Go Borg or Stay Human

First we have the “dance-dance pilot systems”. With its shiny video game aesthetics, and drama engine device, it is first and foremost pro-Borg; celebrating the union of more than one human conscious into a greater whole. There’s been a lot of Borg-hate going on since Google Glass dropped into the world, and I’m looking mostly at Stop the Cyborgs.

Mind you, I walked into this movie with my head having been resident inside in Ramez Naam’s Nexus’verse for a good month. One of the elements of that future world is human hate of anything group-mind (not unlike the linear future world of the Star Trek-verse’s Federation), following various terrorist attacks and cult fiascoes.  So to immediately recognise that there were Borg heroes, front and centre in this film was yet another joyful moment.

Then we have the Robo/Borgsexuality.

Posthuman Gender & Robosexuality

It’s fair to say there are fans going into this already fetishising being inside giant robots…

…which brings us to the giant confusion of posthuman gender. Because what does that even look like from a human perspective? Maybe it’s two buff guys in shiny suits merging through a shared childhood to form a union with a rocket punching, sock’em bot? Maybe it’s also some weird, ritualised staff fighting sequence that isn’t a romantic, courtship sequence… because that would make the two brothers incestuous and homoerotic and is anyone else getting uncomfortable thinking deeply about this?

Let’s cut to the heroic scientist “drifting” with a random chunk of giant alien brain… why on Earth would a Kaiju fanboy ever be turned on by humongous glial cells of extra-dimensional origin?

Chief prosecutor for the homoerotic subtext of jockeying flightsuits argument, thinly fictionalized Quentin Tarantino, explains:

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you want subversion on a massive level…

 

Those of us raised on Robotech also obsessively watched Top Gun as teens. Hell, my gaming nick was Maverick for much of my youth. So the reconciliation scene at the end of Pacific Rim, the begrudging acceptance of the owner of worst Aussie accent ever and our hero… totally recapitulates Top Gun.

And if you’re still not convinced, you haven’t been watching True Blood; same actor, explicitly homoerotic mind-meld:

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Message received collective unconscious!

Make what you will of the fact that I really hope we get to see the bulldog don a mech suit and borg it up with friendly, genetically engineered Kaiju in a sequel. Plot that on your human linear Kinsey scale!

Move over Seven of Nine, the new borg sexiness is definitely here.

Posthuman Battlesuits

Once you’ve accepted that, the “city as a battlesuit [Matt Jones guest post on io9]” is a not a stretch of the brain meats at all. The mech suit as embodiment of the merger of humanity and its infrastructure; the champion of the Anthropocene. Especially visible when you’ve got ships being used as baseball bats and “Gipsy Danger [using] shipping containers like brass knuckles”.

Each Jaegar is built to defend a city, but really, it’s manifesting its surrounds, even merging with them.

As Matt Jones quotes from a British architecture journal:

While Batman’s Gotham City and Superman’s Metropolis largely reflect the character of the superheroes who inhabit them (Gotham is grim, Metropolis shines)

And as he compares to a hero of The Authority:

“Hawksmoor defeats the giant, monstrous sentient city by wrapping himself in Tokyo to form a massive concrete battlesuit.”

Posthuman defense systems with local characteristics.

And while we’re stretching that long bow of your mind, let’s add that you can argue that its also a recapitulation of one Earth’s oldest tales: Marduk the City God vs the Serpent. The Jaegar as the city turned God-like, and if the Kaiju aren’t the contemporary incarnation of the “monster of primeval chaos”, than what is?

“It’s not Posthuman without going Post-State”

It’s not a posthuman tale without things going post-state. The foolish, political human types gripped by their illusions of control decide that building a giant wall trends much better in the polls, and it’s within that construction effort that we find our hero lurking at the film’s commencement. Kaijus walk right through megastructures dramatis (or thinly disguised metaphors at the political penchant for building barriers to keep out unwanted arrivals). Anyway… our pragmatic, military leader, Idris Elba (TV’s Luther), unencumbered by the requisite trope of giant wall of video-screened suits ordering him turns to… “extra-legal funding sources”, continuing the rescue mission by any means necessary.

In this case, dealing with a bizarre caricature of a bad guy with great shoes; the hybrid Spy Kids enemy / Bond Villain. (Ranking the film just above Contact on someone’s “Top 10: Projects funded by an absolute Bond Villain?” list)

But let’s not miss the metaphor of the real villains; the Kaiju themselves. Thomas Hobbes described the State as a Leviathan. And what better way to portray the entities that have really destroyed the climate of this planet for their own ends, what more apt depiction of rogue geoengineers than as giant monsters?! It’s definitely how the various manifestations of corporate-democratic empire looks to the rest of the world.

And this is the most subversive element of all snuck into the subconscious of the audience for a gigantic popcorn flick by a Mexican director. Perhaps no surprise then that the film did terribly in the US, but made serious bank globally.

 

Maybe it’ll take the US a decade or so to appreciate it, as critics are just now accepting Southland Tales, but when you’re watching Elysium wondering why augmented super soldiers are battling with swords and chainsaws over the rights of a breakaway civilisation to exist, remember that Ron Perlman probably said it best in the post-credits scene:

where is my other shoe? -^

When will it drop?

Disproving its antecedent film on things that lurk in the cracks of the earth, beneath the waves, The Abyss: “They want us to grow up a bit, and put away childish things. Of course, it’s just a suggestion.

With Del Toro it’s posthuman man-children dancing off to the rescue, and that’s just super by me.


I’m here to see the wizard

Posted by on September 4th, 2013

I'm here to see the wizard

From ~EvidenceE~’s flickr stream.


on TheState: anarchist futurism & the lie of history

Posted by on June 26th, 2013

Last week I ran into an old workmate I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade, in the middle of a peak hour train station. A friendly face in the throng.

After establishing contact via mutual staring, we did the usual brief status updates.

“What have you been up to”, I asked.  ”Consulting”, he answered.

“And you?” “Self-mythologizing on the internet”, I replied. He nodded. Then we parted ways.

My first series of posts for The State has just concluded.

Here’s the links with some pull quotes. More to come as I continue to preach the good word of Sonmi-451 and the need for a posthuman rescue squad mission :)

anarchist futurism & the lie of history

  • part 1 The Origin Tale begins:

    This is the story of that reality: my journey through the corporate R&D wormhole and out the other side into the blogosphere; my first-hand witness of how the future is—and mostly isn’t—created; how I became an anarchist futurist, a Doktor of Mystery and, above all else, a grinder.

  • part 2 (meta):

    This was how I came to realise that in actuality, the grinding.be team was a human-machine dropped into the really real world to aid in the formation of planetary rescue; a metafictional outreach program from the mind of Warren Ellis to paradoxically prevent the creation of the universe he created. To stand in the gap, as Hickman puts it in S.H.I.E.L.D. To embrace the co-evolution of human and machine and to build the best of all possible futures.

    And our remit was also to give them, the readers, the Grinders, a narrative constructed for that purpose. Because narratives are ontological engines, through which we can radically reframe people’s self-awareness and vision, and thereby create Ontological Rescue Mission Squads. Along the way, as I’ve grinded my futurist stats, I’ve been fortunate to find myself a proper mentor of sorts: Futurist, inventor of VRML, and legendary techno-pagan, Mark Pesce. And having an epiphany one day some years ago now, I put it to him that I was now a Militant Futurist, fighting for a better world. And he succinctly replied, as all gurus do, “there’s another kind?”

  • part 3 Secret Histories and Doktors of Mystery:

    Like the wire-frames of the Matrix, the present is built out of the invisible tension of secret histories and strange facts, and Robert Anton Wilson was more right than even he suspected, even if he was kidding most of the time. But George Bush, Sr wasn’t really the grandson of Crowley, conceived in one of the greatest rituals performed in the 20th Century.

    If one thing is resolutely clear to me now, through all this ponderous, reflexive thought, it’s that the future isn’t a passive force that washes over us—much as it seemed as World War II ended, and the Space Age kicked off. The idea we inherited by osmosis. We didn’t get jetpacks precisely because we ceded our agency to a conjured narrative. We have met the enemy and he is us. But we did get more civil rights… for some.

    If we’re going to succinctly summarise my futurist philosophy, we need to talk about Archery. Archery is very now, very zeitgeist, and an absolutely palaeolithic technology. Hawkeye in The Avengers, the eponymous star of Arrow, and the world of the successor to Tolkien, Game of Drones Thrones.

    Think of the future as a target you want to hit. The further away it is, the more forces you have to consider—wind speed, politics, gravity, economics—and if it’s in motion, social change and the inertia of history, of course. Moore’s Law as the culture equivalent of Newton’s Second Law of Motion. Which gives us our poster girl for the future, the genetically engineered super girl, Hanna.

    Raised in the wilderness to be more badass than the literary Starship Troopers, fluent in multiple languages, strong in heart and mind, and above all, resilient. An atemporal hero for the futurepresent. The Anarchist Futurist Exemplar. The woman you’d want to lead a new Knight’s Templar. In an inverted Game of Thrones, her direwolf companion would be the alpha from The Grey. And far more palatable than the purely techno-utopian, crypto-fascist Hitler Jurgen of Ender’s Game fame.

    The future belongs to the mutants. That’s the future I’m fighting for. Mutants trying to climb the fractal of history. Updating themselves with every recursion. With only one motto: Adapt or die.

PS – would you like to know more about “invisible headphones” implants?


“it’s a Sleepless world, they’re just awaking to it”

Posted by on June 9th, 2013

Warning [SPOILERS]: if you care about the plots of Nikita, Iron Man 3, The Bourne Legacy… stop now, go watch ‘em all then come back. Hi!

Philosophy so physical makes for a very handsome tribe.

http://www.vimeo.com/67976111

This scene from Canadian science-fiction drama show Orphan Black is the best rendering of a Grinder Bar yet seen on screens small or large. In fact, I’m not even sure what the others are.

And it’s a good reason to take a whip-around look at the world of pop culture as serious business, and re-examine the state of the #transhumanfuturepresent.

First we have the latest season of the spy soap, Nikita. Referring in-show to its “spy fi” plot elements, the absolute transhuman drama of cyborg hand upgrades and cutting edge transplant dramatic problems. Don’t bring a possibly evil hand to a knife fight or something.

The settings of Iron Man 3 and The Bourne Legacy are both unquestionably transhuman. Neither film is a journey of a character to science-fictional state (see recent highlights: Limitless, Chronicle), but rather their starting condition.

(We can wedge Hanna in here too, though it’s more properly a genetically engineered super-solider girl coming of age fairy tale, innit).

In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (1.0) not only has upgraded-girlfriend-dramas (well, Red She-Hulk solutions) but the plot driver is a conflict between two competing paths of self-directed human evolution: man/machine co-evolution and direct genetic hacking (hopefully not precluding the eventual arrival of Zeke Stane (Tony Stark 2.0) onto the big screen, that plot having been mined from The Five Nightmares arc of The Invincible Iron Man).

Speaking about playing Aldritch Killan, Guy Pearce mentions that Extremis also upgrades the subject to become one of the beautiful people:

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In The Bourne Legacy, our hero, who totally isn’t being chased by the mutant wolves of The Grey as it opens, is the latest iteration of the super-soldierspy program. His motivation is to hold onto his upgraded self, lest he reverts back to being the guy from The Lawnmower Man, or something.

Once you’ve gone transhuman…

Back in Canada, and actually set-in-Canada Canadian drama Continuum, which apart from featuring an absolutely bad-ass tech suit rather a lot like Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s (itself a bridge between its low-grade #peakcyberpunkfuture and today, a cyborg hand reaching back to the present), combines transhuman future cop trapped in the present drama, with standard procedural drama, and excellent sociopolitical critique. Honestly, the first show on TV that I wish I was writing for ([blink]%HIRE ME%[/blink]).

Plus in the actual RL, we have Google Glass, already getting surpassed by the Meta. Pioneers like Steve Mann and Neil HarbigesenSports stories speculating on specific upgrades already being outdated… and other things I’m sure I’ve missed. So tell me!

and while we’re talking, let’s discuss the anti-posthuman agenda of Star Trek, most recently seen in Into the Darkness:

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Litmus test: who is the real villain in X-Men: First Class?

And we leave you with the trailer for Elysium, grinder revenge pr0n if ever there was one:

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Special Guest Post from the UK: Cat Vincent brings us “Rate Of Return: Woolwich, 4GW and Kayfabe.”

Posted by on May 27th, 2013

In this special guest post, Cat Vincent reports from the UK on the aftermath of the Woolwich attack, and 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare).

Rate Of Return: Woolwich, 4GW and Kayfabe.

The recent murder of a soldier by two men on the streets of London has produced a wave of shock and horror around the world.

It has also produced a vicious backlash, both officially and otherwise: the British government has responded with increasing pressure for near-total internet surveillance to be put into law and also restricting the availability of certain ‘radical’ Muslim websites, while the thuggish forces of the neo-Nazi English Defence League have staged several highly-publicised (but poorly-attended – tens or hundreds at most) marches and riots.

At the same time, a heavily organized and well-planned series of non-violent actions (protests in dozens of cities across the world, with literally millions in attendance) against the Monsanto corporation were all but ignored in the popular press. Why is this?

I don’t think it’s as simple or as cynical as the old saying “if it bleeds, it leads”… though certainly, that’s a factor. What it makes me think about specifically is the theoretical work of writer John Robb on the subject of 4th Generation Warfare (4GW).

Robb, a former USAF special ops pilot and security consultant, discussed the concept of 4GW – effectively, the warfare conducted by small non-state actors against heavily militarized governments – at length in his blog Global Guerillas. One of his key concepts in why 4GW is so effective is that of the “return on investment” (RoI). From Robb’s book, Brave New War:

In the summer of 2004, Iraq’s global guerrillas attacked a southern section of the Iraqi oil pipeline infrastructure (Iraq has over 4,300 miles of pipelines). This attack cost the attackers an estimated $2,000 to produce. None of the attackers was caught. The effects of this attack were over $50 million in lost oil exports. The rate of return: 250,000 times the cost of the attack.

It’s clear that the return on investment for the Woolwich attack is considerable, probably on a level of millions to one – committing the UK government to millions, even billions of pounds in police, military and counter-intelligence spending for no more than a couple of hundred quid on some knives and axes and a rusty old revolver. (In fact the cost is so low, the action having been performed by just two people, it makes the attack close to being what the writer Brainsturbator described in his Skilluminati blog as 5GW – warfare committed by “super-empowered individuals” – though in this case, the empowerment comes from their media use more than their actual tool set. Skilluminati in general, and the 5GW Project in particular, are I think vital mind-tools for the aware Grinder.)

Yesterday, I put a mention of the RoI of the Woolwich murder on Twitter (which is what prompted the Grinding editorship to ask for this article). The main thing I didn’t get the space to expand upon there was the question of cui bono? – if there’s a return on investment for such a violent action, who actually profits from it?

A clue about this appeared on my Twitter stream not long after, in a conversation between Brainsturbator and Damien Williams (@wolven) of this parish: the subject of conversation was not terrorism, but a term from professional wrestling: Kayfabe.

To quote from the brilliant Edge essay by Eric Weinstein (who is best known this month for possibly reconciling all modern physics)

Because professional wrestling is a simulated sport, all competitors who face each other in the ring are actually close collaborators who must form a closed system (called “a promotion”) sealed against outsiders. With external competitors generally excluded, antagonists are chosen from within the promotion and their ritualized battles are largely negotiated, choreographed, and rehearsed at a significantly decreased risk of injury or death. With outcomes predetermined under Kayfabe, betrayal in wrestling comes not from engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct, but by the surprise appearance of actual sporting behavior. Such unwelcome sportsmanship which “breaks Kayfabe” is called “shooting” to distinguish it from the expected scripted deception called “working”.
Were Kayfabe to become part of our toolkit for the twenty-first century, we would undoubtedly have an easier time understanding a world in which investigative journalism seems to have vanished and bitter corporate rivals cooperate on everything from joint ventures to lobbying efforts. …What makes Kayfabe remarkable is that it gives us potentially the most complete example of the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.

One of the consistent myths of pro wrestling is the concept of the “face” and the “heel” – the good guy and the bad guy. Within the consensus reality of the Kayfabe, these are mortal foes… right up to the point where one or the other makes a “heel-face turn”, the good guy becoming the bad or vice versa. (Like, say, the ‘heroic rebels’ of the CIA-sponsored Mujahideen becoming the post-9/11 enemy…) But in reality, they’re still just performers in a symbolic, mythical struggle. Whether they consciously co-operate or not, both sides need the struggle in order to continue their identity, to define their reality.

So, again – who profits? Those invested – emotionally, financially – in the game, on both supposed sides. The extremists; the governments who seek any excuse to cow the populous, to keep every single person scared and surveilled; the radicals who want to tear down anything that doesn’t look exactly like their fantasy world (be it Dar-al-Islam or Rule Britannia); the corporations that sell the weapons to them all or, like Monsanto, rely on the distraction to conceal their agenda. And, by pure coincidence, those who want to tame the internet, to stop those who don’t want to suffer for their gain from finding out more about the truth behind the spectacle. Anyone who wants to play another game, wants a future of co-operation not competition, strength for all instead of profit-and-loss… are just collateral damage for the drones and the thugs.

John Robb doesn’t write about 4GW directly that much, these days. In his consideration of precisely how one should defend against it, he came to understand the necessity of working towards the living conditions which are most effective in resisting terrorism in general and such cheap RoI attacks in particular – decentralized infrastructure, local and networked co-operation unlocked from hierarchy. People acting in groups sharing common goals, working towards long-term building of resilient communities rather than zero-sum enemies to be obliterated. A long-term solution that strives to bypass the reflexive tit-for-tat of this conflict, to benefit all.

As I wrote this, the EDL marched on Whitehall. Again, only a couple of hundred of them, faced with a similar number of anti-fascist protesters. Supposed patriots are giving Nazi salutes and fighting police in the very heart of British governance, claiming to be protecting England against the infidel. Another front in The Forever War opened these past few days… and for those who aren’t part of the kayfabe, who strive to break past the fourth wall of us-and-them, resilience is becoming that much harder. We have to keep looking for the tools to grind our bodies, minds and tribes to be strong and flexible enough to endure the crushing pressures of these wrestling behemoths, to always remember that whoever appears to be the face or the heel… this should not, cannot be just war.

It must always be a rescue mission.

Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent is a writer and journalist on the Fortean beat, a contributing editor to The Daily Grail and a former professional combat magician. He lives in Yorkshire, England.


Welkome to Grim Meathook Amerika

Posted by on May 25th, 2013
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Welcome to an austere first world.

@Dymaxion did warn us.

No surprise then that there’s an influx of émigrés to Rio’s favelas.


favela chic vs gothic high-tech: extra legal guns edition

Posted by on May 25th, 2013

From the pop gonzo journalists at VICE, a glimpse at the world of underground gunsmiths in the Philippines:

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versus

The “hyper futurity”, crypto-libertarian poster kids at DEFCAD with their 3D Printed one-shot Liberator:

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You do the math.

———————–

Answer a)

In the horrible, spectacular events at Woolwich just a few days ago this gun was used:

via Daily Fail

With this result:

Here is one extraordinary chain of tweets by a rapper, Boya Deemarko, who says that one of the murderers fired a gun but lost his finger when the weapon backfired.

———————–

The truth is there is no solution to the math.


An identity shattering prescription for heavy weather nights

Posted by on May 25th, 2013

A complementary, double-shot prescription for those heavy weather nights, as the Earth seems too hot or too cold almost everywhere, slipping outta the Goldilock Zone and well into the Anthropocene Age.

Take one-hour of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and the Lady Jaye:

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(Here’s some longread material for later that captures her world-view.)

Then follow it with Shane Carruth’s follow up to Primer, Upstream Color:

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(Here’s an interview, of sorts, with him over on TWITCH.)

Previously:


sustainability IS gardening

Posted by on May 20th, 2013

A short follow-up to my recent post, Conservation ain’t what it used to be (WE NEED TO BE BIGGER)

 

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Wake. The. World

Posted by on April 25th, 2013

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
~ James Joyce, Ulysses

For two weeks I saw As everywhere. On tshirts, broken signs, torn stickers… or just lying there, on the ground.

Never actually the Avenger’s A, except in my mind’ eye. What connections was my unconscious making?

There are three heroes in Joss Whedon’s movie: Phil Coulson, Natasha Romanova and Clint Barton.

Then there are the projections of the Collective Unconscious: the vicious sky god, the rage monster, the personification of the techno myth and enCAPsulation of the Amerikan Fighting Spirit.

And the Villain? Witness the speech of the embodiment of the Patriarchy, and all Forces of Control:

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And sadly, reality proved this to be true… with the Disney arm of Global Capitalism delivering this Patriarchal  message:

The Disney Store is selling Avengers t-shirts for women with the slogan “I Need a Hero” and “I Only Kiss Heroes,” and an Iron Man t-shirt for boys that reads “Be a Hero.” This sends a harmful message about who can and cannot be a leader in this world. These shirts promote the idea that men and boys are meant to do the saving, and that women and girls are the ones who need to be saved.

Which is completely absurd because the *core hero* of The Avengers is Natasha Romanova (aka Black Widow). She recruits the Hulk, tricks Loki into revealing his scheme, and basically saves the world. As Alyssa Rosenberg describes her for ThinkProgress:

Black Widow, given a personal stake in the fight when Loki brainwashes Hawkeye, tells the villain who wants to know if she’s in love with him, “Love is for children. I owe a debt,” and leaves it at that. Her refusal to clarify leaves room for Loki to speculate, and ultimately to reveal more than he intended. All sorts of skill sets matter in a conflict this big and complex. And without making her a victim or a lesser member of the team, Black Widow’s reactions are a regular reminder that superheroics and space invaders have real impact beyond the financial support of the Cinematic Demolition Industrial Complex. Watching her come back to herself after being badly beaten in a fight is a reminder of how damaging these powers can be when applied to ordinary people. And hearing her tell Captain America in an unconvincing deadpan “It’ll be fun,” when she tries a hugely risky gambit without the protection of enhancement or godlike abilities makes the enterprise seem more serious. These things may be entertaining as hell to watch, but they’d be terrifying to actually carry out.

Ian Grey does an excellent job parsing through the reviews the film got, where seemingly every male critic saw only the Michael Bay-esque aspects of the spectacle presented, and missed the apparent subtly of Black Widow’s role because she wasn’t shouting about it, just getting it done. Witness the entertainment marketing complex displaying a complete lack of critical thinking… almost as if the role of reviews in the press is to repeat the message of the dominantor paradigm, regardless of the truth of the content being promoted.

null

Natasha is the embodiment of heroism: highly trained, empathetic, cognitively agile and unhesitatingly able to make ‘the sacrifice play’, literally in Cap’s face. And that deserves to be repeated until it sinks in:

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Now, post-movie The Avengers we have Jonathan Hickman writing up a storm in the new run of Avengers (and New Avengers) comics… delivering, at core, this message:


Taking the FULL COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS and showing it to us… to build a better tomorrow, together, today. A Mythic Global Frequency.

Tune in and WAKE THE WORLD. Because it’s asleep at the wheel of history and we have figurative seconds to change course if we wish to avoid the coming Crash.


Grinders wanted for Transhuman Religion Study

Posted by on April 24th, 2013

Venetia Robertson, shown below practicing catching cyborg flies, is seeking Grinders for a survey as part of her thesis. She says:

Hi all, I am looking for people who would like to answer a brief survey regarding the intersection of transhumanism and identity, with a focus on notions of the spiritual, religious, sacred etc. I am a PhD student from the University of Sydney, Australia, and my thesis explores ideas of identity, particularly identity that is beyond that which is ‘purely human’. Any data I can get from people who are interested in or actively engaging with grinding, body-hacking, wet-ware, transhumanism and/or becoming ‘cyborgs’ would be greatly appreciated! Hit me up at venetia.robertson@sydney.edu.au to be sent the survey and a participant information statement detailing my ethics clearance, or if you simply have questions. You can also check out my academic profile page at http://sydney.academia.edu/VenetiaRobertson. Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

I took it myself on the weekend, and am keen to see what she comes up with.


Conservation ain’t what it used to be (WE NEED TO BE BIGGER)

Posted by on April 21st, 2013

Avengers #3 (2013)

Attention Conservation Notice: long quotes designed to break open your Green mind

Developers can build on nature reserves – if they ‘offset’ the damage elsewhere, says Government review:

A “priority recommendation” from the Government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force is for a new “biodiversity offset system” to let large developers would be given a right to build on one nature reserve or protected area, if they build one somewhere else.

The taskforce’s Government report said this was not “a license to trash nature” – although campaigners have warned that that is exactly what it is.

It said: “We need a system in which unavoidable net impacts on biodiversity of new development are more than compensated by restored and created habitats elsewhere through an efficient market.”

It is about better regulation, developing a well-defined market which delivers ‘net gain’ for nature which the current planning system has generally failed to do.”

In April 2012, six two year pilot projects were launched in Devon, Doncaster, Essex, Norwich, Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull.

The review said that it would “revolutionise conservation in England by delivering restoration, creation and long-term management of in excess of 300,000 hectares of habitat over 20 years” and “incentivise location of development at sites of lower nature value”.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson suggested that he would decide on whether to expand the scheme when the trials’ results come back next year.

He said: “We shouldn’t to choose between either improving the environment or growing the economy. We should aim to have both which is why I’m keen to see the results of these trials.”

But Neil Sinden, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said offsetting failed “to recognise the complex way in which wildlife systems are sustained and thrive”.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “You can’t wipe out wildlife habitats and expect to be able to create on that can achieve the richness and diversity of wildlife sites that have evolved over decades and centuries.

Now, our well-cultivated, knee-jerk Green reaction is to immediately cry “NATURE IS NOT A SUBSET OF ECONOMICS”.

The thing is, it’s actually far, far worse than that, as we forcibly free ourselves from the gravity of the Green Mythology.

In his looooong read Quarterly Essay Tim Flannery takes aim at the failings of “conservation”…:

Such is the depth of public ignorance about Australia’s extinction crisis that most people are unaware that is is occurring, while those who do know of it commonly believe that our national parks and reserves are safe places for threatened species. In fact the second extinction wave is now in full swing, and it’s emptying our national parks and wildlife reserves as ruthlessly as other landscapes. This is disturbing: national parks exist explicitly to conserve biodiversity, and their failure to do so is a failure both of government policy and of our collective will to protect our natural heritage. Paradoxically, biodiversity is sometimes flourishing more vibrantly on private land than in national parks, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent annually by our governments on reserved lands.

The problem lies not with the parks’ staff, who are often dedicated and skilled at their work. Nor does it lie solely with budgets, although more funding rather than more cuts would always be welcome. Instead, the difficulties are at least threefold. First and foremost, the problem stems from the delusion that the simple act of proclaiming a national park or nature reserve will result in the protection of biodiversity. Parks must be proclaimed and effectively managed if biodiversity is to be protected. Secondly, the various government agencies responsible for biodiversity protection have allowed their scientific capacity to erode to the point where it’s hard to be sure how many individuals of most endangered species survive; and thirdly, the attempt to save endangered species involves risks that bureaucracies are increasingly unwilling to take. The first duty of the bureaucrat these days seems to be to protect their minister from criticism: thus it often seems preferable to let a species die out quietly, seemingly a victim of natural change, than to institute a recovery program that carries a risk of failure, however small.

 

I’m increasingly resistant to the notion of Sustainability… because what are we sustaining but the slow motion death of the life on Earth that has supported us? WE NEED TO ACCELERATE FORWARDS INTO THE FUTURE, DRAGGING ALL OF HISTORY AND ITS LESSONS WITH US.

Okay, that’s a tad hyperbolic… but there are a lot of legacy civilizational myths that need to be exploded. For starters, the crux of the Environmental Mythology, that the Amazon is some untouched Gaian Paradise, when the evidence points to it being a pre-Columbian garden that’s since ReWilded:

Unlike Europeans, who planted mainly annual crops, the Indians, he says, centered their agriculture on the Amazon’s unbelievably diverse assortment of trees: fruits, nuts, and palms. “It’s tremendously difficult to clear fields with stone tools,” Clement says. “If you can plant trees, you get twenty years of productivity out of your work instead of two or three.”

Planting their orchards, the first Amazonians transformed large swaths of the river basin into something more pleasing to human beings. In a widely cited article from 1989, William Balée, the Tulane anthropologist, cautiously estimated that about 12 percent of the nonflooded Amazon forest was of anthropogenic origin—directly or indirectly created by human beings. In some circles this is now seen as a conservative position. “I basically think it’s all human-created,” Clement told me in Brazil. He argues that Indians changed the assortment and density of species throughout the region. So does Clark Erickson, the University of Pennsylvania archaeologist, who told me in Bolivia that the lowland tropical forests of South America are among the finest works of art on the planet. “Some of my colleagues would say that’s pretty radical,” he said, smiling mischievously. According to Peter Stahl, an anthropologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, “lots” of botanists believe that “what the eco-imagery would like to picture as a pristine, untouched Urwelt [primeval world] in fact has been managed by people for millennia.” The phrase “built environment,” Erickson says, “applies to most, if not all, Neotropical landscapes.”

“Landscape” in this case is meant exactly—Amazonian Indians literally created the ground beneath their feet. According to William I. Woods, a soil geographer at Southern Illinois University, ecologists’ claims about terrible Amazonian land were based on very little data. In the late 1990s Woods and others began careful measurements in the lower Amazon. They indeed found lots of inhospitable terrain. But they also discovered swaths of terra preta—rich, fertile “black earth” that anthropologists increasingly believe was created by human beings.

Terra preta, Woods guesses, covers at least 10 percent of Amazonia, an area the size of France. It has amazing properties, he says. Tropical rain doesn’t leach nutrients from terra preta fields; instead the soil, so to speak, fights back. Not far from Painted Rock Cave is a 300-acre area with a two-foot layer of terra preta quarried by locals for potting soil. The bottom third of the layer is never removed, workers there explain, because over time it will re-create the original soil layer in its initial thickness. The reason, scientists suspect, is that terra preta is generated by a special suite of microorganisms that resists depletion. “Apparently,” Woods and the Wisconsin geographer Joseph M. McCann argued in a presentation last summer, “at some threshold level … dark earth attains the capacity to perpetuate—even regenerate itself—thus behaving more like a living ‘super’-organism than an inert material.”

In as yet unpublished research the archaeologists Eduardo Neves, of the University of São Paulo; Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida; and their colleagues examined terra preta in the upper Xingu, a huge southern tributary of the Amazon. Not all Xingu cultures left behind this living earth, they discovered. But the ones that did generated it rapidly—suggesting to Woods that terra preta was created deliberately. In a process reminiscent of dropping microorganism-rich starter into plain dough to create sourdough bread, Amazonian peoples, he believes, inoculated bad soil with a transforming bacterial charge. Not every group of Indians there did this, but quite a few did, and over an extended period of time.

When Woods told me this, I was so amazed that I almost dropped the phone. I ceased to be articulate for a moment and said things like “wow” and “gosh.” Woods chuckled at my reaction, probably because he understood what was passing through my mind. Faced with an ecological problem, I was thinking, the Indians fixed it. They were in the process of terraforming the Amazon when Columbus showed up and ruined everything.

A clue lies inside Bruce Sterling’s book Distraction:

“We could integrate the natural world right into the substance of our cities. If we knew how to use our power properly, we could guide herds of American bison right through our own streets. We could live in an Eden at peace with packs of wolves. All it would take is enough sense and vision to know who we are, and what we want.” “That sounds wonderful, Senator. Why don’t you do it?” “Because we’re a pack of thieves! We went straight from wilder-ness to decadence, without ever creating an authentic American civilization.”

 

This shit is complicated and hard, and an app isn’t going to solve it, let alone any other form of Solutionism by itself.

Instead, we need to grow the fuck up. WE NEED TO BE BIGGER. To acknowledge what is broken, take stock and rebuild… towards rebirth.

Hands up who wants to construct a reality worth being near-immortal in?

– Comments intentionally disabled, trackbacks will work. Give unto the blogosphere your considered thoughts.


tachyon rich data trails of transhuman theft

Posted by on April 12th, 2013

Triggered by yetAnotherMacTheftGoneViralForGreatFirstWorldJustice, agent @interdome‘s wired consciousness achieved resonance with his near-future-self, causing the creation of the following micro-time-leaked tweets:


Guest Post: Damien Williams on The Confrontation-of-Ontological-Terror Squad

Posted by on March 14th, 2013

The next in our occasional series of guest posts, Damien Wolven Williams on the maladaptive forces at work in the TranshumanFuturePresent:

The Confrontation-of-Ontological-Terror Squad

The distribution of the future is still uneven, but more shocking than that is the fact that some people are actively working to keep it that way. More than large corporations with billions of dollars in vested interests, grass-roots movements have sprung up which claim to peak for “the people.” Indeed, there are currently groups at work which see themselves as seeking to make this world safe for “normal” humans and “natural” systems, and to keep those people and systems free from the interference of those forces which would augment, mechanise, or otherwise alter them.

Recently a group calling themselves “Individuals Tending Toward Savagery” has claimed responsibility for the 2011 high-profile assassination of a biotechnologist, and the explosion at the Pemex Executive Tower in Mexico, earlier this year. Leaving aside the fact that this latter event was reported to be due to a gas leak, the fact that a group would even lay claim to such activities and events should be the focus of our discussion, and that’s mainly because they’re not alone in their efforts. More and more people are taking to the streets, and the internets and the airwaves to protest the idea of biotechnology, nanotechnology, cybernetics, and other so-called transhumanist ideas. There is even a new group which calls itself (for fuck’s sake) Stop The Cyborgs. That is their actual name.

Now I could go into a very long rant about the nature and use of language and what that reflects about our present mental states as well as what those choices mean for our future stages of perception and our likelihood to accept new things. I could talk about how, if we continually tie the idea of “cyborgs” to the definition of “Non-Human Machine Hybrids Which Must Be Feared,” then the self-fulfilling prophecy of that definition will be harder and harder to escape. I could tell you that if you keep telling people that they should be afraid of something of which they’re already suspicious, then you’re not engaging in anything like critical, thoughtful discourse, or a meaningful engagement with our future-present. But you know all of that, already. If you’re here, reading this, you’re probably well aware of how all of this works. What you may not recognise–in fact what it may be extremely difficult for you to recognise–is that not everyone around you understands that there is a necessary engagement with the complexity of elements which make our world, if we are to do more than run and hide from the scary new technological aspects of our lives.

Groups like ITS and STC are not news. They’re people who feel as though the march of our technological progress is outstripping that of our ethical and moral progress, and that something must be done to prevent us from losing our “real selves,” and maybe they’re right. Perhaps we do need to take a long look at what is we create and become, and make sure that we are aware of the potential for effects we did not intend to cause. But this? Assassinations, bombings, and full-scale bans of technology which they themselves admit they do not yet fully understand in terms of either function or scope of application? That’s just loom-smashing for the 21st century. That Luddites exist isn’t earth-shattering news, by any stretch, but the real issue has never been that people “hate” new technology, for what it does to “humanity.” The problem with Luddism and Neo-Luddism is that it represents a perspective which takes the ever-widening aspects of our emerging future and reacts to them with blanket fear and distrust, rather than a wary hope.

Blind hope is a naive proposition. It is one in which we sit in optimism, absent any evidence that it might actually pay off in that direction. It is one which ignores the very real dangers and pitfalls of new situations, and the opportunities for unintended consequences to rear their heads. However, the fallacious notion of the “slippery slope” of technological progress– that it’ll cause us to descend into a dystopian future where everything we are and do is controlled by corporations, or disassembled into grey goo–is one based in blind fear. These have the same basic components, they’re just pointed in different directions. Blind fear takes something new, something unknown, and says that unknowns are terrifying and should be destroyed before they can destroy us. Blind fear says that there is nothing good which can come from the new. And while the groups in question may not see themselves as reactionary, on an even reading it’s hard to see them as anything but.

What is the nature of technology that we drive toward? Why do we drive toward it, at all? How do we apply that motivation, and what do we value in the mechanisms and effects of our creation? These are the questions that we can ask, if we don’t want to be blindly optimistic or pessimistic about our future. We can ask these questions and then seek to address them, recognising that whatever answers we find may not be–and most likely will not be–permanent solutions to our problems. There are groups working now, in academia, public policy, and practical solution-building to help people think of different things than the utopian promise and the dystopian terror of our current work at building a future for ourselves.

In a forthcoming paper, I write the following:

…the field of cybernetics relies heavily on the notion of an interconnected, reflexive system of interactions. Therefore, any conversations about what the world “actually looks like” when we technologically augment ourselves to remove the factors of mediation from between ourselves, our creations, and the act of their creation will be dependent on humanity’s ability to apprehend whatever perceptual and conceptual changes arise as a result of that reflexive interaction. As we deal with how other people approach our implants, modifications, and appropriations of technology, we have to deal with how that changes what they see of us. In a very real sense, the cyborg’s identity is directly connected to the continuing project of becoming and continuing to be a cyborg. In fact, being a cyborg in the contemporary sense can be said to be entirely about being at least one step “ahead” of the baseline for human technological interaction. What that means is, staying ahead of the curve of whatever it means to be “Human” today—which may, in fact, be what it meant to be a “Cyborg,” yesterday. But this is not new…

…as Donna Haraway noted in her seminal “Cyborg Manifesto,” the language of this cybernetic feedback loop is not one relegated only to humanity and its processes, but is also a framework which can be used to describe the state of nature, as a whole. Taking this tack, we can come to understand that all of nature is involved in an integrated process of adaptation, augmentation, and implementation which, far from being a simple Biological-Or-Technological division is, instead, a process or a system of becoming.

What I mean, here, is that those perceptions of self that are tied to that of which we are “naturally” composed–our biological and “base” components– has been under revision since we have been able to look at it and recognise it as a thing we possess. The questions of “what makes us human,” and “what makes us natural” have been mooted in hundreds of cultures for thousands of years, and we are no closer to a single answer, now, than when we started. Why? Because we keep changing. Everything that we are shifts and alters in reaction to our questions about what we are. Does this mean that we should thus stop seeking answers, and thus stop progressing? Obviously not.

We have a responsibility to approach hard questions while recognising that we may not always like the answers we get, and we have a duty to honestly assess the negative, positive, and unknown consequences of our actions. The philosophical and political aspects of these debates are not merely academic questions, to be tossed about from armchair to armchair; they have repercussions in the everyday lives of individuals and societies, repercussions of an existential and immediate nature. If we don’t do everything we can to engage these concerns and honestly grapple with them, we run the risk of falling headlong into a future where self-styled anarchist terrorists kill scientists who are literally trying to make the world a better place; a future where “Bio-Humans Only” signs adorn establishments to keep out people with any kinds of implanted technology; a future where corporations do use seemingly innocuous people and technology to monitor and record everyone’s every move, and use algorithms to patent and trademark words and phrases in combination, in real time. Because that will be the only future we were able to see for ourselves; the one we talked about and feared and reacted to the strongest.

The self-fulfilling prophecy of the dystopian future isn’t our only option, but first we we have to recognise and address the fact that some don’t even understand that the class “Options for the Future” is a thing which exists.

Damien Patrick Williams is a writer, essayist, autonomous-created-intelligence- and cyborg-rights-advocate, and instructor of philosophy. He has written and presented on the intersections of popular media, politics, philosophy, and future technology, and is currently raising funds to get to his presentation at the 15th International Meeting and Conferences on Virtual Reality and Converging Technologies in Laval France, next week.


grinderbot’s tumblrcast…

Posted by on February 19th, 2013

FYI – we’ve a tumblr now, where the more tumblr’y things now appear. It’s already cross-posting to the twitter account, or you can grab the RSS here.

When we return… more longreads than you can TL:DR.