Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Quantum Christmas

Jim Al-Khalili explains in a TED talk: robins may fly south in winter due to a process called 'quantum entanglement.' Image Source: Digital Photographer / Michael Williams.

Destiny and faith should be foreign concepts in the realm of science. But perhaps quantum physics will devise a formula for them. This possibility started in the 1930s, with Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Niels Bohr (1885-1962) arguing whether or how objective reality could be measured, because observing something changes its nature into what we would call a subjective reality. Of course, the distinction between objective reality - which religious people sometimes associate with God - and subjective awareness - the world limited by our individual perceptions - is a very old problem. The 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote: "We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn." The central question of religion asks: how are we flawed and animal humans connected to the larger order of the universe? Science asks the same question.

Image Source: Archillect.

To determine if it was possible to measure objective reality, Einstein and Bohr proposed a thought experiment to measure one particle of light, or photon, without affecting it. To do this, they proposed to measure a second particle that was related to the first one, and infer the nature of the related, but unmeasured, first particle. Then they encountered a curious problem. Their measurement of the second particle affected the nature of the first one, but they could not determine how the impact of their actions had been transferred to the first particle, especially because that information traveled instantaneously, that is, faster than the speed of light, which violated Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The distance between the photons did not matter either. They could be close together or on opposite sides of the universe. Einstein did not like this. Wiki:
[I]f a pair of particles is generated in such a way that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a certain axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, will be found to be counterclockwise; because of the nature of quantum measurement. However, this behavior gives rise to paradoxical effects: any measurement of a property of a particle can be seen as acting on that particle (e.g. by collapsing a number of superposed states); and in the case of entangled particles, such action must be on the entangled system as a whole. It thus appears that one particle of an entangled pair "knows" what measurement has been performed on the other, and with what outcome, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which at the time of measurement may be separated by arbitrarily large distances. ...

The counterintuitive predictions of quantum mechanics about strongly correlated systems were first discussed by Albert Einstein in 1935, in a joint paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. ... They wrote: "We are thus forced to conclude that the quantum-mechanical description of physical reality given by wave functions is not complete." ... 
Following the EPR paper, Erwin Schrödinger wrote a letter (in German) to Einstein in which he used the word Verschränkung (translated by himself as entanglement) "to describe the correlations between two particles that interact and then separate, as in the EPR experiment." He shortly thereafter published a seminal paper defining and discussing the notion, and terming it "entanglement." In the paper he recognized the importance of the concept, and stated: "I would not call [entanglement] one but rather the characteristic trait of quantum mechanics, the one that enforces its entire departure from classical lines of thought."

Like Einstein, Schrödinger was dissatisfied with the concept of entanglement, because it seemed to violate the speed limit on the transmission of information implicit in the theory of relativity. Einstein later famously derided entanglement as "spukhafte Fernwirkung" or "spooky action at a distance."
In 2013, Chinese physicists clocked the speed of 'spooky action at a distance.' They proved the speed of information as it moves through quantum entangled states is more than four times the speed of light, or three trillion metres per second. Their research paper was published in Physical Review Letters, vol. 110, listed here.

Quantum entanglement. Image Source: Glitch.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Watchers

Garuda (G-Box) Fixed Wing Geo-Location (Manned):"The G-Box is used as a GSM airborne geo-location system to replicate a GSM network Base Station. They operate by attracting and registering handsets operating on the local commercial network. Each handset's IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) or IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) is compared against the 's target watch list. When a targeted handset is identified and registered to the box, a geo-location solution is calculated. G-Box was specifically designed and built for geo-location missions in fixed wing aircraft (manned/ unmanned). Garuda received a software upgrade that modified the algorithm software, which allows the system to take 1000 entries." The vendor is reported as Maryland's KeyW. Image Source: The Intercept.

The Intercept claims to have obtained a secret catalogue of government surveillance hardware, developed for the military, now used increasingly by law enforcement in the United States and presumably anyone else to whom the manufacturers will sell their products. The report was published on 17 December 2015 (here). Their commentary on this leak opens as follows:
The Intercept has obtained a secret, internal U.S. government catalogue of dozens of cellphone surveillance devices used by the military and by intelligence agencies. The document, thick with previously undisclosed information, also offers rare insight into the spying capabilities of federal law enforcement and local police inside the United States.

The catalogue includes details on the Stingray, a well-known brand of surveillance gear, as well as Boeing “dirt boxes” and dozens of more obscure devices that can be mounted on vehicles, drones, and piloted aircraft. Some are designed to be used at static locations, while others can be discreetly carried by an individual. They have names like Cyberhawk, Yellowstone, Blackfin, Maximus, Cyclone, and Spartacus. Within the catalogue, the NSA is listed as the vendor of one device, while another was developed for use by the CIA, and another was developed for a special forces requirement. Nearly a third of the entries focus on equipment that seems to have never been described in public before.

The Intercept obtained the catalogue from a source within the intelligence community concerned about the militarization of domestic law enforcement. ...

A few of the devices can house a “target list” of as many as 10,000 unique phone identifiers. Most can be used to geolocate people, but the documents indicate that some have more advanced capabilities, like eavesdropping on calls and spying on SMS messages. Two systems, apparently designed for use on captured phones, are touted as having the ability to extract media files, address books, and notes, and one can retrieve deleted text messages.

Above all, the catalogue represents a trove of details on surveillance devices developed for military and intelligence purposes but increasingly used by law enforcement agencies to spy on people and convict them of crimes.
Graphics from the catalogue are here, which lists the device vendors. I have not attempted to cross-reference the report.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Google Changes Policy for Blog Followers

This blog is run by Blogger, which is run by Google. Over the weekend, Google changed its system which enables people to follow its blogs, so that anyone without a Google account can no longer follow a Blogger blog. I lost seven followers in this transition; other bloggers are complaining to Google about lost followers. If you followed this blog but are no longer following because you do not have a Google account, you will need to sign up for one to continue to follow it automatically. The notice is here. Otherwise, you can subscribe to a newsfeed of posts and comments, or get email notifications on new posts from this blog by signing up in the right hand sidebar.

So Passed the Queen of the Black Coast

3 December 2015: "A professor at Texas A&M University posted these photos to Facebook. 'There has been a dead cockroach in the Anthropology building's stairwell for at least two weeks. Some enterprising person has now made her a little shrine.'" Images and Text Sources: Facebook via imgur.

In November, a cockroach died in the Anthropology stairwell at Texas A&M University. Then Facebook took over after the Anthropology Department went all Princess Diana-Burning Man to bid the cockroach goodbye in December.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 3: The Hermetics

The hermetic principle of silence. Image Source: Lilipilyspirit.

Dark days behind us: today is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere (04:49 UTC). The December solstice refers to birth or rebirth of the weakened sun in northern countries, often described in allegorical terms, as one New Age writer puts it: "The sun is dawning after the increasing darkness of winter. The Winter Solstice is nature’s physical equivalent of a spiritual awakening and enlightenment." From Theosophy Northwest:
At the winter solstice the universal currents of life help human consciousness to enter divine spheres. At the same time spiritual energy can descend from higher worlds into the human arena: the gods "descend into hell" to garner experience in their underworld -- our own world -- thereby bringing inspiration and enlightenment to humanity. At this time each of us also may undergo a new birth. Nature has opened the door, and it is up to us to recognize this and take a step further.
For denizens of the New Age Internet, this solstice is the culmination of 2015's online spiritual awakening, perhaps a Fifth Great Awakening in the United States, occasioned by a proclaimed end to the war between the sexes. When combined with hermeticism, discussed in today's post, the gnostic truce between the sexes attacks all polarized categorizations of identity. Online gurus argue that only hardened egoists prosper in an environment where inflexible categorizations of identity are the norm. Spiritual commentators prefer to cultivate a continuum of identities and they expect that spectrum to expand social compassion.

The winter solstice at Stonehenge. Image Source: Stonehenge Trips.

In the aftermath of the supposed collapse of egocentric western dualism, hermeticists pick up the pieces, to recover cultural memory and allow their amnesiac followers to 'remember' earlier ways of identifying with the physical, rational, emotional and spiritual aspects of existence. The hermetic part of this phenomenon makes the now-gender-neutral collective unconscious 'conscious' in practical senses, as with the establishment of new political movements. Of course, the shift in values is not widespread or universal. Nor are gnostic-hermetic solutions necessarily good ones, whatever their devotees may expect.

One must step back from the arcane language and beliefs to observe the actual trend behind them. Online debates on these subjects in mid-late 2015 indicate a tipping point, wherein interaction in virtual reality has begun to change behaviour and awareness on deeper levels. The Internet is breaking down and synthesizing demarcated experiences, whether between mind and body, between the genders, between the individual and the collective, or between the local and global. Perhaps hermeticism and gnosticism are the most durable ideas available in western culture to describe flexible identification, as individuals find themselves simultaneously immersed in virtual reality and 'real' reality.

China's One Belt, One Road Initiative (2015). Image Source: Roman Wilhelm/MERICS/The Diplomat.

One may ask how spiritual issues pertain to hard reality. Why does the New Age Internet matter, when China is building naval bases in the South China Sea, the Red Sea, and on the west coast of Africa? These online trends matter because societies rise and fall according to their adaptability when confronted with jumps in technology, social changes, and ensuing geopolitical conflicts. World War III, when (or if) it arrives, and everything that leads up to it, will depend on global connectivity. How our brains respond to connectivity and the ideas we discover or rediscover through that response may be essential to cultural resourcefulness and survival.

To ask these questions about western values now is akin to asking how the introduction of the printing press in Germany (1439-1440) led to the Protestant Reformation (1517-1617) and the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). The spiritual and moral outlook of a society is indexed to its level of technology and prosperity. When the latter two factors change, so does the former. Anomie and aporia, experienced then as now, will lead to experiments to develop values better suited to new ways of living. But that process emerges through trial and error. Societies sometimes depend on war to determine a new dominant narrative.

My treatment of these topics comes with a caveat. While I may comment on unusual online material here, I do not personally identify with evidence I uncover. Hermetic traditions and politics can be weird, occult, radical, fringe or extremist. My comments in this series of blog posts do not constitute my endorsement of these beliefs. They are presented here as part of an examination of the cultural historical impact of the Internet on western values, under increasingly universalized, yet decentralized and chaotic conditions. I also do not personally agree with conspiracy theories mentioned here, but rather regard them as signs of contemporary mentalities.