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?

neoteny and neo humans

Posted by on October 2nd, 2012

Live from linear time, here’s another series of ways to look at our mid-Singularity situation.

  1. an edited excerpt from 1978′s Nova Convention, featuring William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary and a heckler:
  2. a key part of Grant Morrison’s Supergods:

    And, as if to confirm that ours was not the only universe, it was explained to me that what I was seeing was a nursery of some kind. In order to grow their “offspring,” the chrome angels had to “make” time, because, as they pointed out reasonably, only in time were things able to grow as I understood it. Time was a kind of incubator, and all life on Earth was one thing, a single weird anemone-like mega-Hydra with its single-celled immortal root in the Precambrian tides and its billions of sensory branches, from ferns to people, with every single detail having its own part to play in the life cycle of a slowly complexifying, increasingly self-aware superorganism. It was as if I had been shown an infant god, attached to a placental support system called Earth, where it could grow bigger, more elaborate, more connected, and more intelligent. Growing at its tips were machine parts; cyborg tools made from the planet s mineral resources. It kerned to be constructing around itself a part-mechanical shell, like armor or a spacesuit. “It” was us, all life seen as one from the perspective of a higher dimension. I was told to return and take up my duties as a “midwife” to this gargantuan raw nervous system. It was important to ensure the proper growth and development of the larva and to make certain it didn’t panic or struggle too much when it woke up to its true nature as a singular life form. Incidentally, what we experienced as “evil” was simply the effects of inoculation against some cosmic disease, so I wasn’t to worry much.

  3. the Neo Human rant from 2001′s Waking Life:

    (A very intense man is talking in front of a fish tank, gesturing wildly – Eamonn Healy, Chemistry professor at University of Texas at Austin)

    If we’re looking at the highlights of human development, you have to look at the evolution of the organism and then at the development of its interaction with the environment. Evolution of the organism will begin with the evolution of life perceived through the hominid coming to the evolution of mankind. Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man. Now, interestingly, what you’re looking at here are three strings: biological, anthropological — development of the cities — and cultural, which is human expression.

    Now, what you’ve seen here is the evolution of populations, not so much the evolution of individuals. And in addition, if you look at the time scales that are involved here — two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, 100,000 years for mankind as we know it — you’re beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm. And then when you get to agricultural, when you get to scientific revolution and industrial revolution, you’re looking at 10,000 years, 400 years, 150 years. You’re seeing a further telescoping of this evolutionary time. What that means is that as we go through the new evolution, it’s gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself within our lifetime, within this generation.

    The new evolution stems from information, and it stems from two types of information: digital and analog. The digital is artificial intelligence. The analog results from molecular biology, the cloning of the organism. And you knit the two together with neurobiology. Before on the old evolutionary paradigm, one would die and the other would grow and dominate. But under the new paradigm, they would exist as a mutually supportive, noncompetitive grouping. Okay, independent from the external.

    And what is interesting here is that evolution now becomes an individually centered process, emanating from the needs and desires of the individual, and not an external process, a passive process where the individual is just at the whim of the collective. So, you produce a neo-human, okay, with a new individuality and a new consciousness. But that’s only the beginning of the evolutionary cycle because as the next cycle proceeds, the input is now this new intelligence. As intelligence piles on intelligence, as ability piles on ability, the speed changes. Until what? Until we reach a crescendo in a way could be imagined as an enormous instantaneous fulfilment of human? human and neo-human potential. It could be something totally different. It could be the amplification of the individual, the multiplication of individual existences. Parallel existences now with the individual no longer restricted by time and space.

    And the manifestations of this neo-human-type evolution, manifestations could be dramatically counter-intuitive. That’s the interesting part. The old evolution is cold. It’s sterile. It’s efficient, okay? And its manifestations of those social adaptations. We’re talking about parasitism, dominance, morality, okay? Uh, war, predation, these would be subject to de-emphasis. These will be subject to de-evolution. The new evolutionary paradigm will give us the human traits of truth, of loyalty, of justice, of freedom. These will be the manifestations of the new evolution. And that is what we would hope to see from this. That would be nice.

The True Revelation is where we see things as they truly were/are/shall be.

Hacking your Enlightenment and other transhuman future titbits

Posted by on August 22nd, 2012
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Particularly fascinating interview with Jeffery A. Martin here, not just for his research into the Enlightened, but for his eventual synthesis towards a speculative life for the newly near-immortal.

Other transhuman future titbits from around the web of late:

future present nausea

Posted by on May 25th, 2012

If you’re not indignant, you’re not paying attention” is a phrase that’s been going round my head the past week or so. I didn’t know what to do with it. Is it part of my campaign to become God Emperor of Earth? No, I decided. So I wrote it on a scrap of paper and continued to think about it…

Why aren’t people paying attention? The Media. By definition the layer between us and the raw truth. And that layer is run by corporations, who exist to generate profits. Necessarily skewing, infecting their performance of this task. A task they simplify by sticking to an agreed upon narrative, something negoitiated largely between these corporations, political parties and non government organisations; all watched over by our precious Academy. This is how the Truth is constructed. This is how attention is managed. This is how, from all the possible, nearly infinite, narratives that could’ve been generated by looking at the world, the few are pushed onto the citizenry and told that is what they have to choose from. “Left” or ”Right”. “Business” or “Labour”. etc, ad nausem. Or so it has been, until now.

When McLuhan said “The Medium is the Message“, part of what he was talking about was power structures. Broadcast media is top down control. This is still in effect, but everybody is on their social networks talking about it now, even within their ‘filter bubbles‘. But Facebook is the not the message. Twitter is not the message. The message is the Network.

But receiving this message comes with a cost. That cost is future present nausea.

What Bruce Sterling called Dark Euphoria:

Dark Euphoria is what the twenty-teens feels like. Things are just falling apart, you can’t believe the possibilities, it’s like anything is possible, but you never realized you’re going to have to dread it so much. It’s like a leap into the unknown. You’re falling toward earth at nine hundred kilometres an hour and then you realize there’s no earth there.

As I think it was Jhonen Vasquez who described the show Caprica: Everything’s amazing and no ones happy. This is the zeitgiest!

Because we’re starting to get a glimpse of the Abyss… raw truth coming in, unfiltered.

As Mark Pesce will now tell us, this is what it means to have hyperintelligence (emphasis his):

Hyperintelligence means each of us lives within everything everyone else knows. This is not mere trivia — the population of British India at the fin de siecle, or the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin. This is the concrete, the useful, the salient. The things that matter and the things that can be made to matter: as we know more our priorities change. Things that might never have concerned us in our ignorance will vex us endlessly in our understanding.

There comes a point when one knows too much. Ignorance is bliss; it’s opposite is the moment when the interconnectedness of one’s knowing and one’s actions results in a liberation from habit and expectation, a mutiny from the mundane, crying non serviam to the quotidian.

Everything gives you cancer; everyone is corrupt; everything is corruption. It was ever thus, and will ever be, failure without end. This moment of utter damnation is the price of omniscience; to know everything is to bear witness to the sins of the world.

But equally this looms as the moment of utter revelation, and in that light all things become possible. Nothing is certain, not even the past. There is no pattern, only inclination, and we can choose to incline ourselves toward the parts of one another which affirm and strengthen. The darkness comes only from knowing and keeping our eyes tightly closed.

There is no top, no bottom, nor any middle, anywhere. There is no power, nor force. It is all finally in our heads, all of it: not just the psychological projections of fantasy and forethought, but the collected knowledge and experience of everyone, everywhere.

We are all unspeakably rich; we are all in fetters and rags. We are each of these things simultaneously, and this is why our knowing pains us. We are free, but conscious of our enslavement; we are powerless, yet swollen with capability. We confuse ourselves because we have always thought ourselves one-or-the-other, but have suddenly achieved both, or rather, gained all.

This is the triumph of the milieu, the accelerating middle which sweeps both top and bottom into its current and carries everything in its path toward some common destiny. It is not the end of difference, but its quintessence, because each point of difference is held in common. Our minds reject this as inconceivable; we find the mutiny even within ourselves. But we can not turn our back on the way the world now works. We can not divorce ourselves from hyperintelligence. It has become the spirit of the world, the hammer to our anvil.

This is a growing pain.


thanks to @interdome & @wolven for letting me ramble at them as I fleshed this out.

Images credits:

Evolution of the Moon (VIDEO)

Posted by on March 21st, 2012

Thanks NASA!

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Southern Chinese boy found to have cat-like night vision

Posted by on January 25th, 2012

From the Mutant & Proud files:

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Medical tests conducted in complete darkness show Youhui can read perfectly without any light and sees as clearly as most people do during the day.

…and I was just talking about Darwin’s Radio the other day.

via Disinformation


Welcome to 2012

Posted by on January 3rd, 2012

No revolution but EVOLUTION!

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Buckle up for 2012, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But we have the words of legends like Terence McKenna to guide us through these times… and his timewave may or may not be ‘true’, but if there’s one thing that seems likely, it’s the end of the world as we knew it.

It looks likely we’ll be reaching back into the past further and further to understand the present, which makes sense; it’s what the last Enlightenment did. So as McKenna said, we need squads of Shamans, standing outside, passing the rest cheat codes. JOIN US!

The Empathic Civilisation

Posted by on July 13th, 2011
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via Wes Unruh

SyFy’s Alphas

Posted by on July 12th, 2011

They’re the first version of the next stage of human evolution, peope with a “neurological difference that confers some exceptional advantage.” They fight crime.

Alphas is SyFy’s new ‘superhuman’ crime drama - basically a grounded, more constrained version of the X-Men, complete with it’s own Brotherhood of Mutants, Red Flag. It’s far from perfect (it’s certainly no Misfits), but it has potential and is immediately far surperior to Heroes.

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The Plan

Posted by on June 15th, 2011
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TEDTalks: Are we ready for neo-evolution?

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

Always interesting to see how the mainstream re-packages the fringe as the cutting edge.

Tim Flannery on humanity’s future as a super organism

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

From the Guardian, where it appears Flannery is updating the Gaia hypothesis:

Tim Flannery argues that humankind is evolving into a ‘super-organism’ where interdependence has profound consequences for the individual.

Look for an expansion of this in his Long Now seminar.

Song of the Machine

Posted by on April 23rd, 2011

Song of the Machine is my favourite kind of design fiction, combining multiple forms of extrapolation from the present into the future.

Unlike the implants and electrodes used to achieve bionic vision, this science modifies the human body genetically from within. First, a virus is used to infect the degenerate eye with a light-sensitive protein, altering the biological capabilities of the subject. Then, the new biological capabilities are augmented with wearable (opto)electronics, which, by mimicking the eye’s neural song, establish a direct optical link to the brain. It’s as if the virus gives the body ears to hear the song of the machine, allowing it to sing the world into being.

So we’ve got advances in genetic engineering combined with electronic ones to overcome a biological disability through continuing man’s progress, it’s ongoing co-evolution with the tools he creates. Except this marks a Rubicon Moment, the crossing of a threshold into a merger between man and his technology and the result is something far more, a step toward the posthuman.

Get used to this. Better living through upgrades.

For more details see this article in the Guardian by the consultant to this project, Dr Patrick Degenaar, optogenetics researcher at Newcastle University and leader of the OptoNeuro project.

thoughts on the Transcendent Man

Posted by on April 7th, 2011

The Ray Kurzweil documentary, Transcendent Man, has been downloadable for a while now and is having selected screenings across the world. Prompted by Paul Raven’s review on Futurismic (and his appearance on the panel discussing the film in London, get down there locals!) I decided to give it a watch.

Firstly, to be clear, I’m not a Believer in the Singularity, and I feel that it’s these Believers that contribute to the frequent descriptions of it as a techno-religious cult. Indeed, the almost immediate impression you got from this Kurzweil love-fest was: There is only one God (Technology) and Ray Kurzweil is its Prophet. There’s A LOT of time dedicated to what seems to be the creation/promotion of a Cult of Personality around Ray (but this may well be my own sensitivities speaking, since I’ve dedicated a lot of time lately studying Mao Zedong) and far less given to those equally brilliant people, doing amazing work, with dissenting opinions (the clips with Kevin Warwick, always a favourite here, are particularly good.) But far be it for me to mount an aggressive campaign picking apart his arguments. Starting a War is the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, let me gently point out a few of flaws as I see them:

  1. Ray is focusing on Technological change to the complete exclusion of all other elements, be they Social, Political or Economical. I agree we’re in the midst of rapid change, but you must account for the intersection & feedback between all aspects of Human Society.
  2. Ray seems to have pinned his hopes on the eventual arrival of Friendly AIs (primarily to resurrect his dead father.) While I can sympathize with this desire, I think it’s foolish to imagine that should near-god-like AIs suddenly burst into existence that they will even remotely resemble Human Beings and have human concerns. This applies equally to the Doomsday scenarios, that The Machines Will Wipe Us Out! Why would they/it bother?? If anything, like in Vernor Vinge’s book Rainbow End, they might see us as a curiosity to be toyed with, but forget the Terminator-nightmare. That is just Humanity’s ego overstating it’s own anthropocentric importance.
  3. Finally, his whole theory is posited on the idea that all human biological evolution has ceased and it is within the sphere of technology and culture that evolution now takes place. This idea has been popular for a while, but like all scientific ideas, it represents just the current understanding (with its implicit statement of the Myth of Nature, the idea that Humans have left the Animal Kingdom.) Whereas current indications (see Are We Still Evolving?) hint that not only did we never stop evolving (because we are still Animals), but as a consequence of <rapid change = rapidly changing selection criteria> humanity might Naturally be about to make a Great Leap Forward.

Nonetheless, for all interested in Technological Change this documentary is well made and worth seeing, if only to focus your own viewpoints and sharpen your arguments.

Tangentially, I recently read Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four comic and Kurzweil seems oddly similar to the depiction of Reed Richards in these (especially in issue #579.) They’re both unquestioningly brilliant men trying to fix the world and in short: Solve Everything. However, intelligence and wisdom are two different things. (Weirdly enough, both had largely absent fathers too.) But enough conflating fact and fiction.

Fundamentally my bugbear with Singularitarianism is this: it discourages engaging with the Present, thinking that we can just lie back and let Technology Fix Everything. It seems focused on watching for the arrival of elements necessary to fulfill its predictions, rather than closely observing the present and trying to extrapolate from emerging trends, continuously updating your future-world-view. What worries me is that people viewing this documentary will think that everything will be just fine and they can safely adopt a passive role.

As I see it, the challenge we’re facing right now is making the Transition as gentle as possible. As I’ve said before, we’re already mid-Singularity, in that a one-way shift is happening. The world that lies on the other side will very much be the product of the choices we make right now and they require us all to be engaged in making and shaping them; but I am absolutely down for Total Life Forever.

BBC Horizon – Are We Still Evolving?

Posted by on March 9th, 2011

This BBC Horizon documentary, Are We Still Evolving? is an excellent overview of the current research into evolution in general, continuing human evolution and genetic engineering. It does stop short of the really interesting implications though; with radical technological change affecting the selection criteria, will we see an explosion in human evolution in the coming generations? We’ll soon find out.

Meanwhile, Danish researchers are attempting to create ‘cyborg DNA’, adding an extra strand to create a triple helix. Yep, things haven’t even started to get interesting yet.