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.


Hope vs. Fear: we stand in the gap.

Posted by on November 8th, 2012

In which I string a narrative together from #OccupySandy / US Election / Eschaton coverage.

Power to the People : Occupy’s afterlife — a dispatch from New York’s dark zones by Sarah Jaffe:

The comparisons to Katrina have been everywhere, of course, but for me they hit home when, safe in my Crown Heights apartment that never even lost power, I saw friends and acquaintances who’d been involved with Occupy Wall Street tweeting their relief activities under the hashtag #OccupySandy. I couldn’t help but think, as I watched them tweet their setup of a hub in Red Hook, of Common Ground, of Malik Rahim, of New Orleans’ mutual aid after the storm, and how leftists and radicals (Rahim, a former Black Panther, learned about community care from the Panthers’ free food and tutoring programs) step quietly into the spaces that are left vacant by the wrecking crew that’s laid waste to social welfare programs and the churches and charities that Republicans keep telling us will step up to provide care.

Explaining #occupysandy in NY doing things FEMA, Gov, NYPD, Red Cross can’t, Ada says: “That’s because they’re not used to taking orders.”

— Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton) November 6, 2012

Quinn said - Don’t Vote:

The magic of aggregate human attention is so strong that we can fix this world, we can exceed these troubles — but only together, not looking to leadership structures that have failed us again and again.

Humanity is amazing. It is the elemental magic of the world. You are the ground that can shake and rise under the fragile political structures of the Earth. You are the wrath of angry gods, you are the true storm a small and accidental system of power fears. As long as you keep believing you have to vote, and all your power is tied only to that vote, our leaders get to balance a pyramid on its tip and call it democracy.

Lay down the lie of the American ballot box, with its legal rigging, lobbying, revolving doors, gerrymandering, and even at moments outright fraud. You will have to ask yourself what is next? What do you believe, and how do you live out those beliefs? It is a scary and beautiful thing to live your beliefs.

Don’t Vote. Do by Dymaxion:

Get out a sledgehammer and claim the real right you have to remake the system.  If you’re not American, if you live in a place where your vote really can change the fundamentals of your world, great; go do that first and then act.  For everyone who lives in the US or a place like it where your vote is consent and nothing else, don’t vote in the booth, vote in the street.  Don’t consent to a poisonous system that isn’t listening or let it confuse you into thinking the consent you give means anything.  Organize.  Strike.  Demand.  Whistleblow. Speak.  Build.  Rebuild.  Insist that the world treat you and those around you with decency, dignity, kindness, and equality.  Start by making sure you do the same to those around you.  Keep doing it until your vote matters again, and then keep doing it some more.

Do not consent to be governed by a man who would kill you in the street just because the other man would kill you in the street and piss on your corpse.  Do not consent to be governed by the system that made them.  Do not give your life to a machine designed to absorb it without a trace.

Teratocracy Triumphant? by Jamais Cascio:

I strongly suspect that, regardless of who wins the US presidential election today, the United States is likely to be entering a period of a crisis of legitimacy. If Romney wins, the claims of voter suppression and out-and-out shenanigans (this is a less ambiguous example) will potentially leave many Democrats incandescent with anger, even more so than after the 2000 Supreme Court selection of George W. Bush — because now it will be a “we can’t let them get away with this again” scenario. If Obama wins, the already widely-extant opposition to his legitimacy as President among Republicans could explode; expect to see Twitter storms about secession and armed revolution, as well as the very real possibility of violence.

Donald Trump has a Grump:

…and the one he deleted:

MAGICAL THINKING WILL ONLY GET YOU SO FAR.#ThenRealityIntervenes

— Mark Pesce (@mpesce) November 7, 2012

Fox News, Karl Rove Argue Over The Outcome In Ohio:

YouTube Preview Image

Imagine if Fox News was your only source of information right now.

— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) November 7, 2012

I’m told there are motels in Amerika where the tv’s are only tuned to Fox News. This is what we mean by reality tunnels.

This is the Ontological Gulf. On the other side of the Abyss there are people that hate us.

Time’s Up by David Gelernter:

We’ve seen an important (though far from decisive) battle in the slow-motion civil war the nation is undergoing: The blue states want to secede not from America but from Americanism. They reject the American republic of God-fearing individuals in favor of the European ideal, which has only been government by aristocracy: either an aristocracy of birth or, nowadays, of ruling know-it-alls — of post-religious, globalist intellectuals (a.k.a. PORGIs). As I’ve said before — many others have too — you can’t graduate class after class after class of left-indoctrinated ignoramuses without paying the price.  Last night was a down payment.

More ideology from this theorist of the Right; Dismantling of a Culture:

 LOPEZ: And a “PORGI (Post-Religious Globalist Intellectuals) establishment.” Is that to get you tea-party cred?

GELERNTER: If we don’t understand who’s running our leading colleges, we can’t even begin to understand our own culture. Our most powerful colleges have gigantic cultural influence through their alumni, graduate, and professional schools (especially their law, journalism, business, and education schools) and their direct influence on sister institutions throughout the nation. So who’s in charge? Once upon a time, there was a powerful WASP elite in this country. Obviously they weren’t all the same, and obviously we can generalize (either that or we can’t think). The WASP elite on the whole was politically moderate and Christian.

And what sort of people are running our powerful colleges today? Or are they so diverse, it is impossible to generalize?

In fact they’re radically un-diverse. They’re not all the same, there are dissenters, but culturally they are far more uniform than the old WASP elite ever were. You won’t find lots of church-goers among them. You won’t find lots of patriots. You will find plenty of intellectuals. You can call the PORGI establishment whatever you like, but there’s no way around the fact that the culturally uniform, conformist group in powerful positions at top colleges are likely to be post-religious and globalist and intellectuals — or at least intellectualizers, would-be intellectuals. So call them whatever you like, but they’re PORGIs to me.

LOPEZ: Why is that “post-religion” bit so important?

GELERNTER: Post-religious thinkers don’t even live on the same spiritual planet as Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Americans. Old-time atheists struggled with biblical religion and rejected it; modern post-religious thinkers struggled with nothing. Since the Bible and biblical religion underlie the invention of America, it’s hard (unsurprisingly) for post-religious people to understand America sympathetically. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, the most sacred of American texts, is (precisely) a sermon describing North and South as equally guilty in God’s eyes for the sin of slavery and, ultimately, for the war itself:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

The quote is from Psalms 19; Reagan’s famous “shining city on a hill” paraphrases the gospels. Expecting post-religious, Bible-ignorant thinkers to grasp America is like expecting a gerbil to sing Pagliacci. The gerbil might be brilliant in his way, but he’ll never make it in opera. (If this be species-ism, make the most of it!) How can my post-religious colleagues and countrymen, many of whom have never even opened a Bible, understand Lincoln or America or Americans?

The Truth, such that it exists, is that the way one frames their enemy speaks far more to their own worldview. Just look at the depictions of the Gnostics by the early Christians. So at this point we may as well quote from an upright fictional work by a Globalistia Intellectual, a counter point scene from Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

It was the second year of my undergrad, taking a double-major in not making trouble for my profs and keeping my mouth shut. It was the early days of Bitchun, and most of us were still a little unclear on the concept.

Not all of us, though: a group of campus shit-disturbers, grad students in the Sociology Department, were on the bleeding edge of the revolution, and they knew what they wanted: control of the Department, oustering of the tyrannical, stodgy profs, a bully pulpit from which to preach the Bitchun gospel to a generation of impressionable undergrads who were too cowed by their workloads to realize what a load of shit they were being fed by the University.

At least, that’s what the intense, heavyset woman who seized the mic at my Soc 200 course said, that sleepy morning mid-semester at Convocation Hall. Nineteen hundred students filled the hall, a capacity crowd of bleary, coffee-sipping time-markers, and they woke up in a hurry when the woman’s strident harangue burst over their heads.

I saw it happen from the very start. The prof was down there on the stage, a speck with a tie-mic, droning over his slides, and then there was a blur as half a dozen grad students rushed the stage. They were dressed in University poverty-chic, wrinkled slacks and tattered sports coats, and five of them formed a human wall in front of the prof while the sixth, the heavyset one with the dark hair and the prominent mole on her cheek, unclipped his mic and clipped it to her lapel.

“Wakey wakey!” she called, and the reality of the moment hit home for me: this wasn’t on the lesson-plan.

“Come on, heads up! This is not a drill. The University of Toronto Department of Sociology is under new management. If you’ll set your handhelds to ‘receive,’ we’ll be beaming out new lesson-plans momentarily. If you’ve forgotten your handhelds, you can download the plans later on. I’m going to run it down for you right now, anyway.

“Before I start though, I have a prepared statement for you. You’ll probably hear this a couple times more today, in your other classes. It’s worth repeating. Here goes:

“We reject the stodgy, tyrannical rule of the profs at this Department. We demand bully pulpits from which to preach the Bitchun gospel. Effective immediately, the University of Toronto Ad-Hoc Sociology Department is in charge. We promise high-relevance curriculum with an emphasis on reputation economies, post-scarcity social dynamics, and the social theory of infinite life-extension. No more Durkheim, kids, just deadheading! This will be fun.”

She taught the course like a pro—you could tell she’d been drilling her lecture for a while. Periodically, the human wall behind her shuddered as the prof made a break for it and was restrained.

At precisely 9:50 a.m. she dismissed the class, which had hung on her every word. Instead of trudging out and ambling to our next class, the whole nineteen hundred of us rose, and, as one, started buzzing to our neighbors, a roar of “Can you believe it?” that followed us out the door and to our next encounter with the Ad-Hoc Sociology Department.

It was cool, that day. I had another soc class, Constructing Social Deviance, and we got the same drill there, the same stirring propaganda, the same comical sight of a tenured prof battering himself against a human wall of ad-hocs.

Reporters pounced on us when we left the class, jabbing at us with mics and peppering us with questions. I gave them a big thumbs-up and said, “Bitchun!” in classic undergrad eloquence.

The profs struck back the next morning. I got a heads-up from the newscast as I brushed my teeth: the Dean of the Department of Sociology told a reporter that the ad-hocs’ courses would not be credited, that they were a gang of thugs who were totally unqualified to teach. A counterpoint interview from a spokesperson for the ad-hocs established that all of the new lecturers had been writing course-plans and lecture notes for the profs they replaced for years, and that they’d also written most of their journal articles.

The profs brought University security out to help them regain their lecterns, only to be repelled by ad-hoc security guards in homemade uniforms. University security got the message—anyone could be replaced—and stayed away.

The profs picketed. They held classes out front attended by grade-conscious brown-nosers who worried that the ad-hocs’ classes wouldn’t count towards their degrees. Fools like me alternated between the outdoor and indoor classes, not learning much of anything.

No one did. The profs spent their course-times whoring for Whuffie, leading the seminars like encounter groups instead of lectures. The ad-hocs spent their time badmouthing the profs and tearing apart their coursework.

At the end of the semester, everyone got a credit and the University Senate disbanded the Sociology program in favor of a distance-ed offering from Concordia in Montreal. Forty years later, the fight was settled forever. Once you took backup-and-restore, the rest of the Bitchunry just followed, a value-system settling over you.

Those who didn’t take backup-and-restore may have objected, but, hey, they all died.

Except this is not a war. It’s a rescue mission. Just because someone hates us, doesn’t mean we won’t save them. The network doesn’t think like the hierarchy. Back to the Rescue.

The New Revolution: The Grassroots Efforts of Hurricane Sandy Relief by Veronica Varlow

This is what I learned this week:  We are at the helm of our world community thriving or dying.  Know this.

Down at Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd in the Rockaways, the five of us, jammed in a 1990 Mazda 323, on top of 2 generators and a pump to empty basements of water,  pulled up to a parking lot.

Sixty people came running to our car, surrounding it. “Do you have blankets? Please, we’re freezing!”

We had two left to give.

I was not expecting this. We came out to pump out basements so the people can get power back without danger of electrocution or house fires.

Four of the small band of five of us, have had our houses burn to the ground with everything in it. I know that devastation first hand and I still was shocked at what I saw happening out there.

I wish my eyes had cameras so that I could show you what is going on right now. At Beach 23 and Seagirt Blvd, a neighborhood deemed dangerous – there is no media presence.

It is true.  We are the media. You and me.

I did not see FEMA there, I did not see the Red Cross. It was us.

It is people like Cory Booker, getting emergency updates from people on Twitter and running in to help. It is the grassroots movement of Occupy Sandy who are stepping in to help organize relief, it is the performers of the House of Yes who piled into an RV with supplies, food, and people ready to help.

People like you and me ARE the new emergency response.

The years ahead aren’t going to be easy. Far from it. But together, we can do it!

Just listen to Robert Anton Wilson, from the audiobook discussing his book TSOG:


Enemies of the Internet [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by on September 17th, 2012

Enemies Of The Internet

Created by:
Open-Site.org


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:


The Revolution Has Begun (Love or Fear? The choice is yours.) #anon

Posted by on April 23rd, 2012

I fully endorse this message:

YouTube Preview Image

UPDATE: On reflection, it seems there’s a bit of THRIVE snuck into that vid. To balance that out, watch Guy Ritchie’s excellent #blankbadge movie REVOLVER.


Free The Network (30min doc on OWS)

Posted by on April 3rd, 2012

The 30-minute piece follows hacker Isaac Wilder and his Free Network Foundation from providing internet access to the Occupy activists in Zuccotti Park, to their aspirations for user-owned fiber backbones; and includes commentary from journalist Melissa Gira Grant and author and media critic Douglas Rushkoff.


The Fall of Man and the Anthropocene Era

Posted by on January 22nd, 2012

Here’s the current title holder of the Comedian’s Comedian, Mr Louis CK explaining the mess that is Civilisation and what The Fall of Man amounts to:

http://www.vimeo.com/36542350

Note: NSFW

During the Enlightenment the state of the human being was critically re-examined, and compared to its imagined origin, in a ’natural state’ (ie. pre The Fall). Of particular note here is Rousseau and his Theory of the Natural Human; consider these words from its entry in the GreatWiki (emphasis mine):

Society corrupts men only insofar as the Social Contract has not de facto succeeded, as we see in contemporary society as described in the Discourse on Inequality (1754).

In this essay, which elaborates on the ideas introduced in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Rousseau traces man’s social evolution from a primitive state of nature to modern society. The earliest solitary humans possessed a basic drive for self preservation and a natural disposition to compassion or pity. They differed from animals, however, in their capacity for free will and their potential perfectibility. As they began to live in groups and form clans they also began to experience family love, which Rousseau saw as the source of the greatest happiness known to humanity. As long as differences in wealth and status among families were minimal, the first coming together in groups was accompanied by a fleeting golden age of human flourishing. The development of agriculture, metallurgy, private property, and the division of labour and resulting dependency on one another, however, led to economic inequality and conflict. As population pressures forced them to associate more and more closely, they underwent a psychological transformation: They began to see themselves through the eyes of others and came to value the good opinion of others as essential to their self esteem. Rousseau posits that the original, deeply flawed Social Contract (i.e., that of Hobbes), which led to the modern state, was made at the suggestion of the rich and powerful, who tricked the general population into surrendering their liberties to them and instituted inequality as a fundamental feature of human society. Rousseau’s own conception of the Social Contract can be understood as an alternative to this fraudulent form of association. At the end of the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau explains how the desire to have value in the eyes of others comes to undermine personal integrity and authenticity in a society marked by interdependence, and hierarchy. In the last chapter of the Social Contract, Rousseau would ask “What is to be done?” He answers that now all men can do is to cultivate virtue in themselves and submit to their lawful rulers. To his readers, however, the inescapable conclusion was that a new and more equitable Social Contract was needed.

 

Where Nietzsche speaks of his transcendant Übermensch being Beyond Good & Evil, as a counterpoint we have Rousseau’s “Natural Human” being Before Good & Evil. This is what Terence McKenna speaks of as the Fall into History.

But the situation in this new Anthropocene Era leaves us with no ‘natural state’ left to return to. This is the subject of Bruce Sterling’s Art+Enviroment conference keynote, finally extending upon the seed of an idea he left dangling in DISTRACTION (aka “the book that predicts Occupy Wall Street”):

YouTube Preview Image
via THINKPROGRESS, which has some handy bonus quotes.

Which leads us where?

  • Next Nature as an internet of animals.
  • Bioengineered RFID-tagged stags roam Roundup Ready forests in search of their neural-networked doe harems.” ~ @claytoncubitt
  • PROPHET

See also:


The global power shift (TED talk)

Posted by on January 14th, 2012

Paddy Ashdown claims that we are living in a moment in history where power is changing in ways it never has before.

YouTube Preview Image


Rebecca MacKinnon’s call for a ‘Magna Carta’ for the Internet

Posted by on July 15th, 2011

From NYT, A Call To Take Back The Internet from Corporations:

“The sovereigns of the Internet are acting like they have a divine right to govern,” said Ms. MacKinnon, whose book, ”Consent of the Networked,” will be published by Basic Books in January 2012. “They are in complete denial that there is something horrible they would ever do.” She gave a preview of her book at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh on Tuesday morning and in an interview.

Governments at this point rarely act directly to constrain the Internet; instead, their policies are mediated through privately owned and operated services, Ms. MacKinnon said. This is true of China, which maintains the famed Great Firewall that blocks sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook in favor of local services. But domestically, every year the Chinese government gives out “China Internet Self-Discipline Awards” to honor companies that voluntarily cooperate with its censorship policies. Baidu, which had been Google’s rival in China before the search giant redirected China users to its uncensored Hong Kong site in 2010, has been among the honorees.

Although “we don’t always do it very well,” people generally know how to hold governments accountable, particularly in a democracy, said Ms. MacKinnon. However, it’s still unclear how users can push back against private transnational companies on the Internet. The solution is most likely not for Congress or other lawmakers to pass regulations alone, she said. ”It’s going to require innovation that is not only going to need to focus on politics, on geopolitics, but is also going to need to deal with questions of business management, investor behavior and consumer choice,” she said.

Ms. MacKinnon, who made a similar argument at the Personal Democracy Forum last month, said companies should start thinking of their users more as constituents who have a voice in the policymaking. Also, good corporate governance policies, like the ones that have become standard for clothing manufacturing companies, could become more widespread. Google, for example, regularly releases a transparency report, which lists how many requests for information it receives from each government. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have helped develop a code of conduct around Internet freedom through the Global Network Initiative. However, Twitter and Facebook have not joined in, limiting the impact of the code.

Her PDF talk, The Consent of the Networked:

YouTube Preview Image

In short: “I AM NOT A USER, I AM A FREE MAN!”

via @sfslim

UPDATE:

The Guardian is hosting the video of her TEDGlobal talk (which is, as specified, an expansion of the PDF one):


How the network is bringing down the Murdoch Empire and rocking the status quo

Posted by on July 10th, 2011

This. This is what is happening in the UK right now. Radical destabilisation of the existing order, the status quo, through the pure power of the truth.

Murdoch: the network defeats the hierarchy:

The Murdoch empire fractured, a Conservative prime minister attracting bets on his resignation, the Metropolitan Police on the edge of yet another existential crisis and the political establishment in disarray.

A network of subversives would have counted that a spectacular result to achieve in a decade, let alone in a single week. But it was not subversives that achieved it – the wounds are self-inflicted.

As the News of the World scandal gathered momentum it became clear, by midnight on Thursday, that this was not just the latest of a series of institutional crises – the banks, MPs expenses – but the biggest. For this one goes to the heart of the way this country has been run, under both parties, for decades.

It is like a nightmare scripted by Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek: key parts of the political machinery of Britain are wavering.

In economics journalism, we have learned to study what the Financial Times writer Gillian Tett calls “the social silence”: the subject that everybody at high-class cocktail parties wants to avoid.

After Lehman Brothers collapsed, we realised that the unasked question had been the most important: “on whose books do the increasingly toxic debts of the housing market stand?” The answer was “in the shadow banking system”, but we only knew it existed when it collapsed.

The political equivalent of that question is the one everybody has been asking journalists and politicians this weekend: why do all politicians kow-tow to Mr Murdoch; what is it that makes them incapable of seeing the moral hazards of the relationship?

Nobody outside the Murdoch circle knows the full answer, but I suspect it is quite prosaic: like the Wizard of Oz, Mr Murdoch’s power derived from the irrational fright politicians took from his occasional naked displays of it. The Kinnock “light bulb” headline was probably the signal moment. He was powerful because people believed he had the power, and that editors like Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson probably had a file on everybody bigger than MI5′s, and so you should never, ever, cross them.

Now there is a school of social theory that has a name for a system in which press barons, police officers and elected politicians operate a mutual back-scratching club: it is termed “the manufacturing of consent”.

Pioneered by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, the theory states that essentially the mass media is a propaganda machine; that the advertising model makes large corporate advertisers into “unofficial regulators”; that the media live in fear of politicians; that truly objective journalism is impossible because it is unprofitable (and plagued by “flak” generated within the legal system by resistant corporate power).

At one level, this week’s events might be seen as a vindication of the theory: News International has admitted paying police officers; and politicians are admitting they have all played the game of influence (“We’ve all been in this together” said Cameron, disarmingly). The journalists are baring their breasts and examining their consciences. The whole web of influence has been uncovered.

Finally, the political influence that was supposed to stop the system crumbling, itself has crumbled. We are told Tony Blair pleaded with Gordon Brown to call off Tom Watson MP from his crusade over the original hacking allegations. It did not work.

Tom Baldwin, Ed Miliband’s spin-doctor purposely selected from the Murdoch empire to hone Labour’s message in the direction of Wapping, warned Labour “not to conflate phone-hacking and BSkyB”. Mr Miliband’s Bloomberg speech on Friday contradicted that approach.

One part of the Chomsky doctrine has been proven by exception. He stated that newspapers that told the truth could not make money. The Guardian, whose veteran reporter Nick Davies led the investigation, is indeed burning money and may run out of it in three years’ time.

But a combination of the Guardian, Twitter and the public-service broadcasters, including Sky News, proved stronger than the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch, and for now the rest of Fleet Street has joined in the kicking.

(It should be said here that the Daily Telegraph’s role in the exposure of the MPs expenses scandal laid the groundwork for this moment. The Telegraph proved you can attack major sections of the political elite, who had assumed impunity, and win.)

Now three institutions stand weakened: Mr Murdoch is facing the collapse of his BSkyB bid; a Conservative Party, cut adrift from him, faces a moment of internal re-appraisal; and in the cappuccino joints around New Scotland Yard there is apprehension over whether the Met can survive another systemic kicking so soon after the MacPherson report.

Of all these institutions, it is the one with least resilience among the mass of people that stands in greatest danger. The Conservative Party has branches, summer fetes, jumble sales and social roots going back centuries; the Met is, tonight, dressed in its stab vests and fuelled by stale McDonalds, dealing with traumatized victims of urban mayhem on housing estates few politicians would dare to visit after dark.

But Rupert Murdoch’s resilience relies on the few handpicked lieutenants and family members holed up in London and New York. It is a classic “Weberian hierarchy” – a command structure stronger vertically than horizontally.

Six months ago, in the context of Tunisia and Egypt, I wrote that the social media networks had made “all propaganda instantly flammable”. It was an understatement: complex and multifaceted media empires that do much more than propaganda, and which command the respect and loyalty of millions of readers are now also flammable.

Where all this leaves Noam Chomsky’s theory I will rely on the inevitable wave of comments from its supporters to flesh out.

But the most important fact is: not for the first time in 2011, the network has defeated the hierarchy.

via Mark Pesce


Jamais Cascio on Evolving our Society to Survive

Posted by on March 30th, 2011

This is a long, dense piece.. it’s Jamais Cascio’s speech to his Institute For The Future colleagues at their recent annual Ten Year Forecast event. It’s written in their native Futurist vernacular, but I’ve largely cut that in choosing the parts I’ve quoted here. I trust you’ll agree from this though that it’s well worth taking the time to digest and absorb it all:

..Now, I said a moment ago that this “unstable instability” is likely to last for at least another decade. I’m sure we could all spend the next hour coming up with reasons why that might be so, but one that I want to focus on for a bit is climate disruption. In many respects, climate disruption is the ultimate unstable instability system.

Climate disruption is something that comes up in nearly all of our gatherings these days, and I don’t think I need to reiterate to this audience the challenges to health, prosperity, and peace that it creates.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few Ten Year Forecasts looking at different ways we might mitigate or stall global warming. Last year, we talked about carbon economies; the year before that, social innovation through “superstructures.” In 2008, geoengineering. This year, I want to take yet another approach. I want to talk about climate adaptation.

I say that with some trepidation. Adaptation is a concept that many climate change specialists have been hesitant to talk about, because it seems to imply that we can or will do nothing to prevent worsening climate disruption, and instead should just get ready for it. But the fact of the matter is that our global efforts at mitigation have been far too slow and too hesitant to have a near-term impact, and we will see more substantial climate disruptions in the years to come no matter how hard we try to reduce carbon emissions. This doesn’t mean we should stop trying to cut carbon; what it does mean is that cutting carbon won’t be enough.

But adaptation won’t be easy. It’s going to require us to make both large and small changes to our economy and society in order to endure climate disruption more readily. That said, simply running down a checklist of possible adaptation methods wouldn’t really illuminate just how big of a deal adaptation would be. We decided instead that it would be more useful to think through a systematic framework for adaptation.

Our first cut was to think about adaptations in terms of whether they simplify systems – reducing dependencies and thereby hopefully reducing system “brittleness” – or make systems more complex, introducing new dependencies but hopefully increasing system capacity.

Simplified systems, on the whole, tend to be fairly local in scale. But reducing dependencies can also reduce influence. Simplification asks us to sacrifice some measure of capability in order to gain a greater degree of robustness. It’s a popular strategy for dealing with climate disruption and energy uncertainty; the environmental mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle” is a celebration of adaptive simplification.

Adaption through complexity creates or alters interconnected systems to better fit a changing environment. This usually requires operating at a regional or global scale, in order to take advantage of diverse material and intellectual resources. Complex systems may have increased dependencies, and therefore increased vulnerabilities, but they will be able to do things that simpler systems cannot.

So that’s the first pass: when we think about adaptation, are we thinking about changes that make our systems simpler, or more complex?

But here’s the twist: the effectiveness of these adaptive changes and the forms that they take will really depend upon the broader conditions under which they’re applied. We have to understand the context.

Adaptation can take multiple forms, but more importantly, the value of an adaptation depends upon the conditions in which it is tried. Just because an adaptive process worked in the past doesn’t mean that it will be just as effective next time. But there are larger patterns at work, too. If you can see them early enough, you can shape your adaptive strategies in ways that take advantage of conditions, rather than struggle against them.

But here’s the crucial element: it looks very likely that we’re in a period where the large patterns we’ve seen before aren’t working right.

Instead, we’re in an environment that will force swift and sometimes frightening evolution. Businesses, communities, social institutions of all kinds, will find themselves facing a need to simultaneously experiment rapidly and keep hold of a longer-term perspective. You simply can’t expect that the world to which you’ve become adapted will look in any way the same – economically, environmentally, politically – in another decade.

As a result, you simply can’t expect that you will look in any way the same, either.

The asteroid strikes. The era of evolution is upon us. It’s now time to watch the dinosaurs take flight.

We’ve seen the writing on the wall for decades, but the Powers That Be have done little to stop it. Carbon trading won’t save us, no framing of it as a purely economic problem will. The sooner we start radically adapting our societies to face this new reality, the more hope we have. To use the terms in my recent essay, it’s past time for the Rescue Mission to begin.


Adam Greenfield’s Cognitive Cities keynote: On Public Objects

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s Adam Greenfield‘s excellent, thought-provoking keynote at the recent Cognitive Cities conference in Berlin – On Public Objects: Connected Things And Civic Responsibilities In The Networked City

http://www.vimeo.com/20875732

Related:


Bruce Sterling interviewed by Andrew Keen @ SXSW

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s a selection of short clips from TechCrunch TV’s Andrew Keen interview with The Chairman, Bruce Sterling, at this year’s SXSW.

Watch the full selection on Tech Crunch: part1 & part2.

via Technoccult & @doingitwrong.


Cafe Scientifique: Your Local Source of Debate

Posted by on June 2nd, 2009

Unlike some of my esteemed peers on Grinding, I am not a scientist. At best, I am a shy-entist, eager to learn and listen, but untrained and slightly scared of speaking with science-types lest I show my soft, pink humanities belly.

But I think I might have found an antidote for it in a random find: Cafe Scientifique

Cafe Scientifique is a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology. Meetings have taken place in cafes, bars, restaurants and even theatres, but always outside a traditional academic context.

The first Cafes Scientifiques in the UK were held in Leeds in 1998. From there, cafes gradually spread across the country. Currently, some forty or so cafes meetregularly to hear scientists or writers on science talk about their work and discuss it with diverse audiences.

Cafe Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, not a shop window for science. We are committed to promoting public engagement with science and to making science accountable.

I know for a fact there’s one near myself and m1k3y, so I might drag him along to see if we can scope out the action. There’s a handy map here if you want to find your own and debate the living shit out of people.

And here is an old Guardian article about the Dana Cafe in London, which gives a very media-sparkle version of what goes on in one of these cafes.