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:

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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:


Warren Ellis: A Séance for the Future

Posted by on October 28th, 2012
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Magnetic Dreams

Posted by on October 13th, 2012

Our artist, Mike Seeler, has larger than average magnet implants in both hands. Traveling through New York City is a very different experience for the both of us. He is constantly discovering magnetic fields pouring out of the street, the subway, the bus, and buildings. He has even had a few dreams including his magnetic sense.

There is a lot in this Fast Company piece,”Biohackers And DIY Cyborgs Clone Silicon Valley Innovation”, but it is that quote in particular that interests me now.


TRUE SKIN [short film]

Posted by on October 11th, 2012
http://www.vimeo.com/51138699

via Digitalyn


Like Living Organisms [FASHION | NSFW]

Posted by on October 7th, 2012
http://www.vimeo.com/44993153

Like living organisms; a breathing artificial skin garment with pulsing veins (air is pumping through the veins to simulate a pulse), the pulse increases when you approach and the neckpiece deflates on touch as sign of trust.

via @corvus_blue


PLURALITY [short film]

Posted by on October 6th, 2012
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via @leashless | falkvinge


Grant Morrison at Morrison Con on transhumanism

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012

From CBR:

With that bleak thought, another audience member asked, in the face of war, economic crashes and global warming, is there any hope for the future?

“Yes,” Morrison replied, and the answer had everything to do with phones.

“Everyone’s got a phone now and the phone is getting smarter and smarter, the phone’s getting smaller and smaller, children have them now, so what you’re seeing is the development of a prosthesis,” Morrison said, explaining phones were evolving alongside humans and slowly merging the two into one. He also cited Stephen Hawking’s brain-computer interface as helping speed transhumanism, seeing both things as the beginning of a way of life that would turn humanity into a literal network identical to technological networks, erasing war and all barriers by interconnecting the human race.

“It’s going to be something new, it’s going to be a networked entity,” Morrison continued. “That’s what happening right now and there’s kind of a race on between the apocalypse and this thing — It’s not aliens that are going to come in, it’s the phone that’s going to come in. The phone is ringing for us right now and is about to connect everything up.

“So don’t worry!” Morrison added as the audience burst into applause.


The Lizardman (or the origin story of a proto neo human) [VID]

Posted by on October 2nd, 2012
http://www.vimeo.com/49841736

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:
    http://www.vimeo.com/50643386
    transcript:

    (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.


hand fixing hand [PIC]

Posted by on October 2nd, 2012

by Shane Willis


‘Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies.’ [PIC]

Posted by on September 29th, 2012

RUSSIA. Altai Territory. 2000. Villagers collecting scrap from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. Environmentalists fear for the region’s future…

photo by Jonas Bendiksen, via @robinsloan


wherein I review Technicolor Ultra Mall on Coilhouse

Posted by on September 29th, 2012

Today my review of my good friend Ryan Oakley‘s novel Technicolor Ultra Mall is up on Coilhouse. Here’s a sample:

TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL (#TCUM) is a busted neon literary warning sign. Where cyberpunk failed, this must succeed. It alerts us to hyper-capitalism’s end state: the mega-mall as polis. Born to shop, in death do we become commerce itself (“you could usually get more for a dead person than you could pull from their pockets”). Hyper-mediated, people are alienated from their own body, unable to feel anything without the right chemical compound. Corporate colonisation of emotion and sensation.

This is what comes of the “old people afraid of the sky” future, as Bruce Sterling has described it, written before he even uttered the words. Outside may as well be the surface of the Moon (or better yet, Mars); there is only the Mall. The adult version of Nausicaä Valley of the Wind, but with gigantic, hermetically sealed machinery instead of mutant bugs. The malls feed on the garbage of the past, as the book itself mines the midden heaps of the collective refuse of the decadent twentieth century (that still lingers on like a dying fire-breathing dragon stumbling into a village, unaware it’s killing us all.) This is Demolition Man mutated and buried underground by the Umbrella Corporation. This is Plato’s three-souled corporate Republic with its Red (bronze-souled favella), Green (silver-souled bourgeoisie) and Blue (golden-souled ruling class) levels, and twice as sickening.

All written through the visible lens of lived experience. Less Neuromancer, more Metrophage; bringing the punk back into the cyber, like John Shirley and Richard Kadrey before him.

Marbled like Kobe beef with the fat of concepts killer enough to fill a series of grindhouse movies.. garnished with cosmetic grinds like dermal holograms and implants, with a hint of mind transfer and seasoned with gritty GITS‘esque posthumanity distributed into the meat… massaged in perfectly, and served raw.

Go read the whole thing…


1500s prosthetic hand by Ambroise Paré

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

From io9, this prosthetic hand was designed in the 1500s by Ambroise Paré:

It was a hand that was operated by multiple catches and springs, which simulated the joints of a biological hand. When he showed his design to colleagues it was such a sensation that they worked up a prototype, and in 1551, a movable prosthesis was worn into battle by a French army captain. The Captain claimed it worked so well that he was able to grip and release the reigns of his horse.


We Are Legion – The Story of the Hacktivists [FULL MOVIE]

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

Today’s future present history lesson (or how the Internet developed an immune system lol):

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A Digital Tomorrow [Design Fiction]

Posted by on September 18th, 2012

From Warren Ellis’ Vice column, what real sf looks like now:

The film, A Digital Tomorrow, produced by Nicolas Nova of the Near Future Laboratory and colleagues at the Media Design Program in Pasadena, was a design fiction.

A design fiction is a short video, usually issued by a practise specialising in user interaction, created to illustrate possible futures in the social technology space. Literally, a fiction about design. This is where science fiction lives now.

http://www.vimeo.com/48204264

It’s easy to believe science fiction’s dead. It’s hard to find in the bookstores, the cinemas peddle fairytale crap dressed up as SF and TV’s record is spotty at best. But it turns out it’s alive, and being made in the offices of people who actually build the near future for a living. Which, like the best science fiction, is something you wouldn’t necessarily have predicted.


Enemies of the Internet [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted by on September 17th, 2012

Enemies Of The Internet

Created by:
Open-Site.org


Ontological Rescue Squad Training Manual #1: Know Thyself

Posted by on September 15th, 2012

Listen to Imhotep

– from S.H.I.E.L.D issue#1

Critical Thinking is Critical.

In this post I will go through several long and educational, instructional LongReads… These will serve as an introduction, a basis to build from.

As I’ve said before, “the first grind is the mind”, and that video at the other end of that link is well worth (re)visiting.

We are in the midst of a Reality War, where the meaning of words such as Theory are weapons.

Where in the US the Romney/Ryan campaign is, rather generously, described at Post-Truth. Where earlier this year the Texas GOP declared war on Critical Thinking. Yes, really. And the shocking thing is… we aren’t shocked by this.

But there is still hope. Take this tale of a man who broke out of the prison of his mind; The Political Awakening of a Republican:

I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious.  Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts.  As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.

I might still have stuck it out as a frustrated liberal Republican, knowing that the wealthy business core of the party still pulled a few strings and people like Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe remained in the Senate — if only because the idea of voting for Democrats by choice made me feel uncomfortable.  (It would have been so… gauche.)  Then came Hurricane Katrina.  In New Orleans, I learned that it wasn’t just the Bush administration that was flawed but my worldview itself.

The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in.  Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal.  For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets.  Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people.  My values shifted — from an individualistic celebration of success (that involved dividing the world into the morally deserving and the undeserving) to an interest in people as people.

In order to learn more — and to secure my membership in what Karl Rove sneeringly called the “reality-based community ” — I joined a social science research institute.  There I was slowly disabused of layer after layer of myth and received wisdom, and it hurt.  Perhaps nothing hurt more than to see just how far my patriotic, Republican conception of U.S. martial power — what it’s for, how it’s used — diverged from the reality of our wars.

An old saw has it that no one profits from talking about politics or religion.  I think I finally understand what it means.  We see different realities, different worlds.  If you and I take in different slices of reality, chances are that we aren’t talking about the same things.  I think this explains much of modern American political dialogue.

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.  I think this shows why Republicans put so much effort into “ creat[ing] our own reality ,” into fostering distrust of liberals, experts, scientists, and academics, and why they won’t let a campaign “ be dictated by fact-checkers ” (as a Romney pollster put it).  It explains why study after study shows — examples herehere, and here– that avid consumers of Republican-oriented media are more poorly informed than people who use other news sources or don’t bother to follow the news at all.

Waking up to a fuller spectrum of reality has proved long and painful.  I had to question all my assumptions, unlearn so much of what I had learned.  I came to understand why we Republicans thought people on the Left always seemed to be screeching angrily (because we refused to open our eyes to the damage we caused or blamed the victims) and why they never seemed to have any solutions to offer (because those weren’t mentioned in the media we read or watched).

My transition has significantly strained my relationships with family, friends, and former colleagues.  It is deeply upsetting to walk on thin ice where there used to be solid, common ground.  I wish they, too, would come to see a fuller spectrum of reality, but I know from experience how hard that can be when your worldview won’t let you.

Another term to throw around at this point is: Reality Tunnel, “a subconscious set of mental “filters” formed from… beliefs and experiences”.

The first step is to understand that this exists. Only then can you attempt to take control of it and progress.

In this Harper’s Magazine piece from 1997, the recently passed Earl Shorris relays his own journey in Understanding, thanks to a meeting with a remarkable female prison inmate:

She didn’t speak of jobs or money. In that, she was like the others I had listened to. No one had spoken of jobs or money. But how could the “moral life of downtown” lead anyone out from the surround of force? How could a museum push poverty away? Who can dress in statues or eat the past? And what of the political life? Had Niecie skipped a step or failed to take a step? The way out of poverty was politics, not the “moral life of downtown.” But to enter the public world, to practice the political life, the poor had first to learn to reflect. That was what Niecie meant by the “moral life of downtown.” She did not make the error of divorcing ethics from politics. Niecie had simply said, in a kind of shorthand, that no one could step out of the panicking circumstance of poverty directly into the public world.

Although she did not say so, I was sure that when she spoke of the “moral life of downtown” she meant something that had happened to her. With no job and no money, a prisoner, she had undergone a radical transformation. She had followed the same path that led to the invention of politics in ancient Greece. She had learned to reflect. In further conversation it became clear that when she spoke of “the moral life of downtown” she meant the humanities, the study of human constructs and concerns, which has been the source of reflection for the secular world since the Greeks first stepped back from nature to experience wonder at what they beheld. If the political life was the way out of poverty, the humanities provided an entrance to reflection and the political life. The poor did not need anyone to release them; an escape route existed. But to open this avenue to reflection and politics a major distinction between the preparation for the life of the rich and the life of the poor had to be eliminated.

“You’ve been cheated,” I said. “Rich people learn the humanities; you didn’t. The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you. I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political, and I don’t mean political in the sense of voting in an election but in the broad sense.” I told them Thucydides’ definition of politics.

“Rich people know politics in that sense. They know how to negotiate instead of using force. They know how to use politics to get along, to get power. It doesn’t mean that rich people are good and poor people are bad. It simply means that rich people know a more effective method for living in this society.

“Do all rich people, or people who are in the middle, know the humanities? Not a chance. But some do. And it helps. It helps to live better and enjoy life more. Will the humanities make you rich? Yes. Absolutely. But not in terms of money. In terms of life.

“Rich people learn the humanities in private schools and expensive universities. And that’s one of the ways in which they learn the political life. I think that is the real difference between the haves and have-nots in this country. If you want real power, legitimate power, the kind that comes from the people and belongs to the people, you must understand politics. The humanities will help.

“My T-cell count is down. But that’s neither here nor there. Tell me about the course, Earl. What are you going to teach?”

“Moral philosophy.”

“And what does that include?”

She had turned the visit into an interrogation. I didn’t mind. At the end of the conversation I would be going out into “the free world”; if she wanted our meeting to be an interrogation, I was not about to argue. I said, “We’ll begin with Plato: the Apology, a little of the Crito, a few pages of the Phaedo so that they’ll know what happened to Socrates. Then we’ll read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I also want them to read Thucydides, particularly Pericles’ Funeral Oration in order to make the connection between ethics and politics, to lead them in the direction I hope the course will take them. Then we’ll end with Antigone, but read as moral and political philosophy as well as drama.”

“There’s something missing,” she said, leaning back in her chair, taking on an air of superiority.

The drive had been long, the day was hot, the air in the room was dead and damp. “Oh, yeah,” I said, “and what’s that?”

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. How can you teach philosophy to poor people without the Allegory of the Cave? The ghetto is the cave. Education is the light. Poor people can understand that.

The question then becomes: what do we do with our new knowledge? Our post-awakened existence?!

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. ~ Rumi

This epic, three hour interview with Chris Hedges wherein he recounts his own personal evolution, a progression towards the twin asymptotes of self-knowledge and worldly-understanding, was revelatory for me as both a path to follow and a better life to lead:

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Liberalism is Domesticated Protest.

Now here’s an elderly Situationist with some news about Utopia to temper the notion that Humanism might save us all:

 Utopianism? From now on, that’s the hell of the past.
(((There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still fire in the furnace.))) We
have always been constrained to live in a place that is everywhere but,
in that place, we are nowhere. That’s the reality of our exile. It has
been imposed on us for thousands of years by an economy founded on the
exploitation of man by man. Humanist ideology has made us believe that
we are human while we remain, for the most part, reduced to the state of
beasts whose predatory instincts are satisfied by the will to power and
appropriation.

Our “vale of tears” was considered the best possible
world. Could we have invented a way of living that is more
phantasmagorical and absurd than the all-powerful cruelty of the gods,
the caste of priests and princes ruling enslaved peoples, the obligation
to work that is supposed to guarantee joy and substantiate the Stalinist
paradise, the millenarianist Third Reich, the Maoist Cultural
Revolution, the society of well-being (the Welfare state[4]), the
totalitarianism of money beyond which there is neither individual nor
social safety, [and] finally the idea that survival is everything and
life is nothing? (((Take note, philosophy students: this is how one
asks a “rhetorical question.”)))

Against that utopia, which passes for reality, is
opposed the only reality that matters: what we try to live by assuring
our happiness and that of everyone else. Thenceforth, we no longer are
in a utopia, but at the heart of a mutation, a change of civilization
that takes shape under our eyes and that many people, blinded by the
dominant obscurantism, are incapable of discerning. Because the quest
for profit makes men into predatory, insensitive and stupid brutes.

Eschatological signs and portents may abide, we may succeed in lifting the veil ourselves and see things as they truly are, we may learn that the secret of the universe is All in the Eye of the Beholder…  but one thing is certain: this is not how the world ends!

Questions/Comments/Queries?


The Year of the Drone, the “Anternet”, the brain’s networking and Autism.

Posted by on September 14th, 2012
  • Great chat here about Drones, between SF author Daniel Suarez, and Global Guerilla’s John Robb:

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  • Speaking of insect intelligence, meet the “Anternet”:

    Prabhakar wrote an ant algorithm to predict foraging behavior depending on the amount of food – i.e., bandwidth – available. Gordon’s experiments manipulate the rate of forager return. Working with Stanford student Katie Dektar, they found that the TCP-influenced algorithm almost exactly matched the ant behavior found in Gordon’s experiments.

    “Ants have discovered an algorithm that we know well, and they’ve been doing it for millions of years,” Prabhakar said.

    They also found that the ants followed two other phases of TCP. One phase is known as slow start, which describes how a source sends out a large wave of packets at the beginning of a transmission to gauge bandwidth; similarly, when the harvester ants begin foraging, they send out foragers to scope out food availability before scaling up or down the rate of outgoing foragers.

    Another protocol, called time-out, occurs when a data transfer link breaks or is disrupted, and the source stops sending packets. Similarly, when foragers are prevented from returning to the nest for more than 20 minutes, no more foragers leave the nest.

    Prabhakar said that had this discovery been made in the 1970s, before TCP was written, harvester ants very well could have influenced the design of the Internet.

    Gordon thinks that scientists have just scratched the surface for how ant colony behavior could help us in the design of networked systems.

    There are 11,000 species of ants, living in every habitat and dealing with every type of ecological problem, Gordon said. “Ants have evolved ways of doing things that we haven’t thought up, but could apply in computer systems. Computationally speaking, each ant has limited capabilities, but the collective can perform complex tasks.

    “So ant algorithms have to be simple, distributed and scalable – the very qualities that we need in large engineered distributed systems,” she said. “I think as we start understanding more about how species of ants regulate their behavior, we’ll find many more useful applications for network algorithms.”

  • Meanwhile, progress is being made understanding just how our brains are wired:

    “The biggest differences occurred in the expression of human genes involved in plasticity – the ability of the brain to process information and adapt,” said Konopka. “This supports the premise that the human brain evolved to enable higher rates of learning.”

    One gene in particular, CLOCK, behaved very differently in the human brain.Considered the master regulator of Circadian rhythm, CLOCK is disrupted in mood disorders like depression and bipolar syndrome.

    “Groups of genes resemble spokes on a wheel – they circle a hub gene that often acts like a conductor,” said Geschwind. “For the first time, we saw CLOCK assuming a starring role that we suspect is unrelated to Circadian rhythm. Its presence offers a potentially interesting clue that it orchestrates another function essential to the human brain.”

    When comparing the human brain to the non-human primates, the researchers saw more connections among gene networks that featured FOXP1 and FOXP2. Earlier studies have linked these genes to humans’ unique ability to produce speech and understand language.

    “Connectivity measures how genes interact with other genes, providing a strong indicator of functional changes,” said Geschwind. “It makes perfect sense that genes involved in speech and language would be less connected in the non-human primate brains – and highly connected in the human brain.”

  • Lastly, could infection of this “wiring” be what’s causing Autism?

    In autistic individuals, the immune system fails at this balancing act. Inflammatory signals dominate. Anti-inflammatory ones are inadequate. A state of chronic activation prevails. And the more skewed toward inflammation, the more acute the autistic symptoms.

    Nowhere are the consequences of this dysregulation more evident than in the autistic brain. Spidery cells that help maintain neurons — called astroglia and microglia — are enlarged from chronic activation. Pro-inflammatory signaling molecules abound. Genes involved in inflammation are switched on.

    These findings are important for many reasons, but perhaps the most noteworthy is that they provide evidence of an abnormal, continuing biological process. That means that there is finally a therapeutic target for a disorder defined by behavioral criteria like social impairments, difficulty communicating and repetitive behaviors.


“We could put the whole world’s knowledge in 4 grams of DNA”

Posted by on August 26th, 2012
http://www.vimeo.com/47615970

While not the first project to demonstrate the potential of DNA storage, Church’s team married next-generation sequencing technology with a novel strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest amount of data previously stored in DNA.

The researchers used binary code to preserve the text, images and formatting of the book at a density of 5.5 petabits (1 million gigabits) per cubic millimeter. “The information density and scale compare favorably with other experimental storage methods from biology and physics,” said Sri Kosuri, a senior scientist at the Wyss Institute and senior author on the paper. The team also included Yuan Gao, a former Wyss postdoc who is now an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

And where some experimental media — like quantum holography — require incredibly cold temperatures and tremendous energy, DNA is stable at room temperature. “You can drop it wherever you want, in the desert or your backyard, and it will be there 400,000 years later,” Church said.

Keep reading over on Kurzweil’s blog…


#NDAA #TrapWire Resistance is not futile

Posted by on August 22nd, 2012

The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology [GUARDIAN]

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TrapWire: The Truth Behind The Hype [STORIFY]
My Abraxas and TrapWire Saga [Tim Shorrock]

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How to Make an Invisible Mask for Video Cameras [WIKIHOW]

http://www.vimeo.com/45819231

DARPA-Funded Researcher Can Take Over Android And Nokia Phones By Merely Waving Another Device Near Them [FORBES]

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#cryptoparty

When reality resembles one product of the Nolan brothers (Person of Interest), how long until it’s a Bane’esque “fire rising” taking centre stage?

North Korea builds EMP munition [DEFENSETECH]

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