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.


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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We see things differently

Posted by on January 11th, 2011

We’re 11 days into 2011 and I’m watching the north of my country drown on live-television, as they in turn switch between exhausted officals giving press conferences, to reports straight from social media. In fact, they’re just sending viewers straight to #qldfloods. But, look.. SHINY!

Let’s face it, we’re going to need ever better methods to record disaster pr0n and navigate our way through it. OK, we don’t need them, but some kind of distraction is needed now and again. What have we got so far this year?

Augmented reality HUDS? Check. This was just released for skiers:

Introducing  Transcend, Recon Instruments’ collaboration with Colorado’s Zeal Optics. Transcend is the world’s first GPS-enabled goggles with a head-mounted display system.

Minimum interaction is required during use, sleek graphics and smart optics are completely unobtrusive for front and peripheral vision making it the ultimate solution for use in fast-paced environments.

Transcend provides real-time feedback including speed, latitude/longitude, altitude, vertical distance travelled, total distance travelled, chrono/stopwatch mode, a run-counter, temperature and time. It is also the only pair of goggles in the world that boasts GPS capabilities, USB charging and data transfer, and free post-processing software all with a user-friendly, addictive interface.

Just like the dashboard of a sports car or the instruments of a fighter jet, Transcend’s display provides performance-enhancing data, but only when you choose to view it. Safe, smart, fun…all wrapped up in the hottest goggle frame of 2010/11.

Now, of course you ask, but how will I best show my friends a panoramic, interactive recording of that sick black run (or train for the next one)? Sony has just the thing:

Besides looking über futuristic, Sony’s “virtual 3D cinematic experience” head mounted display (aka ‘Headman’) sports some fairly impressive specs. The tiny OLED screens inside are head HD resolution (1280 x 720), and the headphones integrated into the sides of the goggles are outputting high quality simulated 5.1 channel surround sound.

OK, that’s just a prototype. But something like it will be coming soon, so leave some space for it in your underground bunker.

But m1k3y, you say.. “those are great and all, but WHERE’S MY CLATTER?!” Well, I saved the best for last:

In 2008, as a proof of concept, Babak Parviz at the University of Washington in Seattle created a prototype contact lens containing a single red LED. Using the same technology, he has now created a lens capable of monitoring glucose levels in people with diabetes.

It works because glucose levels in tear fluid correspond directly to those found in the blood, making continuous measurement possible without the need for thumb pricks, he says. Parviz’s design calls for the contact lens to send this information wirelessly to a portable device worn by diabetics, allowing them to manage their diet and medication more accurately.

Lenses that also contain arrays of tiny LEDs may allow this or other types of digital information to be displayed directly to the wearer through the lens. This kind of augmented reality has already taken off in cellphones, with countless software apps superimposing digital data onto images of our surroundings, effectively blending the physical and online worlds.

Making it work on a contact lens won’t be easy, but the technology has begun to take shape. Last September, Sensimed, a Swiss spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, launched the very first commercial smart contact lens, designed to improve treatment for people with glaucoma.

The disease puts pressure on the optic nerve through fluid build-up, and can irreversibly damage vision if not properly treated. Highly sensitive platinum strain gauges embedded in Sensimed’s Triggerfish lens record changes in the curvature of the cornea, which correspond directly to the pressure inside the eye, says CEO Jean-Marc Wismer. The lens transmits this information wirelessly at regular intervals to a portable recording device worn by the patient, he says.

Like an RFID tag or London’s Oyster travel cards, the lens gets its power from a nearby loop antenna – in this case taped to the patient’s face. The powered antenna transmits electricity to the contact lens, which is used to interrogate the sensors, process the signals and transmit the readings back.

Each disposable contact lens is designed to be worn just once for 24 hours, and the patient repeats the process once or twice a year. This allows researchers to look for peaks in eye pressure which vary from patient to patient during the course of a day. This information is then used to schedule the timings of medication.

Parviz, however, has taken a different approach. His glucose sensor uses sets of electrodes to run tiny currents through the tear fluid and measures them to detect very small quantities of dissolved sugar. These electrodes, along with a computer chip that contains a radio frequency antenna, are fabricated on a flat substrate made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a transparent polymer commonly found in plastic bottles. This is then moulded into the shape of a contact lens to fit the eye.

Parviz plans to use a higher-powered antenna to get a better range, allowing patients to carry a single external device in their breast pocket or on their belt. Preliminary tests show that his sensors can accurately detect even very low glucose levels. Parvis is due to present his results later this month at the IEEE MEMS 2011 conference in Cancún, Mexico.

“There’s still a lot more testing we have to do,” says Parviz. In the meantime, his lab has made progress with contact lens displays. They have developed both red and blue miniature LEDs – leaving only green for full colour – and have separately built lenses with 3D optics that resemble the head-up visors used to view movies in 3D.

Parviz has yet to combine both the optics and the LEDs in the same contact lens, but he is confident that even images so close to the eye can be brought into focus. “You won’t necessarily have to shift your focus to see the image generated by the contact lens,” says Parviz. It will just appear in front of you, he says. The LEDs will be arranged in a grid pattern, and should not interfere with normal vision when the display is off.

For Sensimed, the circuitry is entirely around the edge of the lens (see photo). However, both have yet to address the fact that wearing these lenses might make you look like the robots in the Terminator movies. False irises could eventually solve this problem, says Parviz. “But that’s not something at the top of our priority list,” he says.

So close… And Terminator eyes? That’s a feature, not a bug. YES PLEASE!

Lepht Anonym – Cybernetics for the Masses

Posted by on January 6th, 2011

Video of Lepht Anonym‘s presentation at 27c3, mentioned earlier, is now online.

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The Return of the Stoned Ape

Posted by on November 5th, 2010

Don Bastardo:  ”You want to see the work?  Fine, but you won’t understand it, and you won’t replicate it at home.  You want to speak with the dead?  What do you think you’re going to learn?”
John Reinhardt: “How to permanently change my mind.  Because the one I’ve got isn’t big enough.”

Evolutionary Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa has recently been publishing a version of his Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis over at Psychology Today.   His theory, amongst many other things, establishes a connection between intelligence, novelity seeking and the consumption of psychoactive drugs.  Or, as the Atlantic Wire put it: “Smart People Do More Drugs — Because of Evolution.” The quick version, hopefully without boiling it down too far, is that Kanazawa believes that more intelligent individuals are better equipped to deal with novel situations – and in fact seek those situations out.   Thus, highly intelligent individuals are more likely to seek out experiences with psychoactive drugs, which are essentially novelty sinks.  He’s not claiming that this behavior has a traditionally positive effect – in fact his wording shows a pretty strong bias against psychoactive experimentation but simply that people with high IQs are more likely to seek these experiences out.  Or in his words:

People–scientists and civilians alike–often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes.  The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals.  Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.

What struck me, is not that he found proof of this tendency – eyeballing the amount of Ph.D’s in the room the last time I tripped has me anecdotally primed for such a conclusion – but how interestingly it matches Terence McKenna’s “Stoned Ape” theory of human cognitive development. While history and the fields of Anthropology or Evolutionary Biology haven’t been too kind to many of McKenna’s theories over the years since he passed away, one that continually strikes me as relevant – perhaps because of my own theories of hybridization and technological development – is the Stoned Ape.

Here’s the Stoned Ape on the back of a napkin:  A series of studies in the 1950s revealed that sub-threshold (i.e. not tripping balls) doses of psilocybin resulted in heightened visual acuity and movement perception.  So, hunters would have had the ability to consume psilocybin and have an instant upgrade to their hunting abilities.  

Let’s resurrect my favourite caveman, Grok Kurzweil as an example:

Grok is a hunter, with his primitive tools and lack of developed linguistic technologies. His chief rival from some other tribe is Throgg. Grok, one day due to conditions or timing, adds the nice tasting mushroom he found under a pile of feces to his diet. Soon, Grok Kurzweil and the Kurzweil tribe is outperforming Throgg’s tribe and developing better living conditions, which as anyone not on the Texas Board of Education can tell you, theoretically resulted in more Smart-Drug using Grok Kurzweils and less Throggs. There also would have been a non-incidental amount of tripping balls. If the Stoned Ape theory is at all true, the times after hunting expeditions probably looked a lot like a shorter, hairier version of Burning Man. This resulted in linguistics skills, which in turn may have been tied to tool-making skills, which may have been tied to the proto-imagination as a targeting adaptation for throwing, which led to better conditions which led, eventually, and more recently to LOLCATS.

There’s a not-inconsiderable connection between the idea that cognition evolved hand-in-hand with exposure to psychoactively generated states of novelty and the idea that intelligence itself can be linked to an ability to “withstand” and seek out novelty.  And while Kanazawa himself doesn’t theorize on the outcomes of exposure to psychoactive drugs – and also puts forth that the use of psychoactive substances is an evolutionarily recent event – I’ve got to wonder if this avenue of research isn’t on the cusp of validating at least some of McKenna’s theories on cognitive evolution.

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A Doktor Sleepless Monologue

Posted by on November 26th, 2009

Second Sight – Augmented Contacts

Posted by on September 3rd, 2009

We talked about the prototype HUD contact in January 2008. They have been working on improvements:

Today — together with his students — Babak A. Parviz, bionanotechnology expert at University of Washington, is already producing devices that have a lens with one wirelessly Radio Frequency powered LED. To turn such a lens into a functional browser, control circuits, communication circuits and miniature antennas will have to be integrated. These lenses will eventually include hundreds of semitransparent LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye: words, charts, imagery enabling the wearers to navigate their surroundings whithout distraction or disorientation. The optoelectronics in the lens may be controlled by a seperate device that relays information to the lens’s control circuit. Another use could be the monitoring of the wearer’s health and biomarkers f.e. cholesterol, sodium, kalium or glucose.

Link and photo via nextnature.net, though the image is a concept only at this point and not yet a working prototype.

Thanks to LBA for the tip-off!

Sara 013′s amazing Doktor Sleepless keychains

Posted by on August 30th, 2009

from Sara 013‘s flickrstream

Angels are the new UFOs T-Shirt

Posted by on August 18th, 2009

A small grinder logo on the left front chest, large warning sign on the back. You know you want one. They are going to be available later this week, from Avatar Press.

A Doktor Sleepless Panel

Posted by on August 18th, 2009

Panel preview, sent by the mysterious 13:

There have been clues in a few places, including the secret Doktor Sleepless community.

Doktor Sleepless #13

Posted by on August 17th, 2009

Out this week!

QRC Destination Unkown

Posted by on August 10th, 2009

Found in the secret Doktor Sleepless community (you are a member, right?):

Whomever scans the QRC code and gets a web address, please put it in the comments so all our readers can follow where it leads. Thanks!

Decayed Mansion

Posted by on April 30th, 2009

Via imgfave.com.

Doktor Sleepless #12

Posted by on April 7th, 2009

- image via Avatar Press flickr stream

Out this week!

Tattoo Barbie or How you should be like everyone else

Posted by on March 26th, 2009

I dislike the Barbie concept – so perfect, perky, likable and pink. Gah. I’d be the last person to support anything Barbie, but the recent parental uproar over the “Tattoo Barbie” reminded me very much of what Doktor Sleepless was saying to the grinders:

“That stuff’s just fake.”
“Don’t get idea above your station.”
“Take that shit off”
“Dress properly.”
“Why can’t you be like everyone else”

Sure, these are dolls marketed towards children – but not every parent was upset about this doll. Reading bits and pieces across the interwebs, some parents felt this was their child’s’ generational image, much like how Elvis was controversial during their time. Still others thought it showed a greater respect for tattoos. Some people felt it was wrong to encourage children to get tattoos because real tattoos don’t wash off with soap and water and that children wouldn’t understand the difference.

Yes, because children would never ask their parents about the tattoos they have. They wouldn’t never noticed they don’t wash off with soap and water. They would never ask why they had gotten them in the first place. Tattoos aren’t proper creativity.


Posted by on January 1st, 2009

Shipping next week! A new player enters the game…

Cover via Avatar Press.

“There’s that goddam sun again”

Posted by on December 25th, 2008

Created by prophesise, for the DOKTOR SLEEPLESS community.

Thank you for sharing, prophesise!


Posted by on December 16th, 2008

Via Avatar Press‘ flickr stream.

Out this week – DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #10

Posted by on December 15th, 2008

Thrills, chills and more Sarah Berlin?

Image via Avatar Press‘ flickr.

Clatter Skins and Music Players

Posted by on October 24th, 2008

Pronoia sent me an email, telling me of the Xion audio player and more specifically, the Clatter Skin he’d created for it. Take a look:

Damn impressive job! Thank you, Pronoia, for sending me the link to your creation.