TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

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.



Showing posts with label 1984. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1984. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2019

What's Left Over? The Rationalist-Materialists


A quotation from the 2014 collection The Blooming of Madness 51, by Florida poet Christopher Poindexter. Image Source: pinterest.

A simple way to understand the philosophical crisis raised by technology is to ask yourself the question: 'What's left over?' This is a shorthand I devised, and partly borrowed from the sci-fi writer, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982).

Dick predicted the impact of simulated realities on our consciousness. Aware that simulations would soon be indistinguishable from organic beings and authentic objects, he kept trying to hit bedrock and finally concluded in his 1980 short story, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon: "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." This can be a maxim for testing your own views and those of others regarding the mind and its relationship to reality, especially when it comes to the meaning of creation (whether one sees God as Creator or humans as creators) and created objects like technology.

My previous post introduced the hypothesis that how people view technology may be grounded in rationalist-materialism, materialism, or in anti-materialism. Today, I will start with the rationalist-materialists; two subsequent posts will discuss the materialists and the anti-materialists.

To define what I mean by those systems of thought, I asked 'What's left over?' after one removes complex narratives and beliefs about reality in each case. That is, what core attitudes are we talking about when everything else is stripped away? My answers vastly oversimplify different philosophies about the mind and matter, and avoid formal academic definitions; nevertheless, I hope they will clarify our current conundrum as technological simulacra become harder to control.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Time and Politics 24: Kiwis on the Cutting Edge


L & P Stubbies Ad (NZ) (30 August 2006). Video Source: Youtube.

A hat tip goes to Ed at The Outer Light on Youtube for sharing a funny Kiwi ad for the famous New Zealand soft drink L&P (Lemon and Paeroa) featuring the equally famous Stubbies, "short shorts ... for informal wear" favoured by Aussie and Kiwi men since 1972. The ad reminded me of my earlier post on Canadian humour, here.

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, Kim Dotcom & Suzie Dawson - 2nd #AntiSpyBill event (20 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

If the Kiwis were on the cutting edge of men's fashion in the 1970s, they're on the cutting edge of political fashion now. This was Ed's segue, not mine! The point he was making, I think, is that the world used to be more trusting, naive, and less oppressive. People hung out, had parties, drank soda, and wore tight pants. Ed's Outer Light videos often express nostalgia for the lost, pre-Internet past, when everyday people did not worry about global crime and mass surveillance, and they felt they could trust their governments.

One of the Internet Party's supporters and spokespeople is Barrett Brown. For more on him, go here. Image Source: Facebook.

If citizens did not worry about mass surveillance then, they certainly do now. The New Zealand Internet Party held another worldwide roundtable meeting on 20 August 2017 to continue to develop a bill against government spying on citizens:
"Acclaimed CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou and other special guests will join tech entrepreneur and Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom on the panel of the next #AntiSpyBill live event this Sunday night.

This comes hot on the heels of several major American publications reporting on technical evidence recently presented by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals For Sanity (VIPS), of which Kiriakou is a member, to the White House regarding the DNC leaks of 2016, The event will be held online between 8pm and 11pm on Sunday the 20th of August, 2017, NZST (UTC+12) and follows on from the Internet Party’s flagship #AntiSpyBill event which featured appearances by Dotcom, award-winning journalist Barrett Brown, hacktivist Lauri Love and comedian Lee Camp. ...

The Internet Party is inviting the public to join the roundtable event, which as well as discussing contemporary issues of the day, will continue its effort to draft crowdsourced legislation to counter government spying."
The Internet Party is headed by ex-Occupy-Auckland citizen journalist, Suzie Dawson, a New Zealand political refugee living in Moscow, Russia (she has applied for temporary asylum); she made a documentary about her experiences in the Occupy movement and the events which led her to seek asylum, here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New UK Export: Police State Tools


How BAE sold cyber-surveillance tools to Arab states - BBC News (20 June 2017). Video Source: BBC via Youtube.

NSA in a box: on 20 June 2017, BBC reported that a UK firm, BAE systems, exported nation-wide surveillance and decryption tools to Arab states, notably the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Morocco. The BBC reporter found that this exported technology will potentially be used against the UK. Takeaway quote: "You'd be able to intercept any Internet traffic. If you wanted to do a whole country - go ahead!"

Image Source: BAE Systems.

The 52nd International Paris Air Show is on now from 19 to 25 June 2017, with reps talking about everything from commercial jets to quantum entanglement. The aerospace industry increasingly considers military applications in space. Jane's reported that BAE is there, seeking to expand its custom for fighter jets in Belgium and Finland. Despite political tensions between Trump's America and a liberal Europe, on 18 June 2017 Defense News stated that US military industry reps were sanguine: it's "full speed ahead" between Europe and the USA when it comes to aerospace and arms deals. While the event is on, you can watch a livestream from the Paris Air Show here.

Le Bourget roundup Day 1 (20 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Crisis in a Box


This image circulates on truther sites. I have not confirmed its origin or supposed associated terror event. Image Sources: here and here.

This summer's blog posts assess how weaponized propaganda in the media and on the Internet is affecting behaviour and perception. I have never seen so much chaotic, dangerous and disturbing information and disinformation.

The problem has arisen in an already uncertain environment. The Internet is culturally anti-statist, an attitude reinforced by leaks, hacks and whistle-blowing. Although leaks and whistle-blowing were and are intended to make the establishment more transparent and less corrupt, revelations also destabilize society. Some quarters now exploit the credibility of whistle-blown information, so that 'real truths' become vectors of disinformation. As a result, no one knows what to believe.

In a climate of disillusionment, everything, including real facts, is disbelieved. On the Internet, all authorities are suspect. Truth in international affairs has become a question of atomized subjective belief, confirmation bias, and personal preference. Trust, rather than rationalism, drives the information sphere. The mainstream and alt-media compete for credibility and dominance in the fight to win the public's trust.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Freedom of the Internet in Virtual and Real Jurisdictions


Image Source: Freedom House.

Today, The Independent reported that the Tories' electoral manifesto promises to allow the UK government to censor the Internet. Part of this is in the name of decency, to control hate speech, terrorism and child pornography. Of course, there is a lot of leeway around how the Tories will define decency. Buzzfeed:
"'Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,' ... [the manifesto] states. 'We disagree.'

When the manifesto was unveiled by Theresa May in Halifax[, UK] on Thursday morning [18 May 2017], news bulletins understandably focused on the party's taxation policy and Brexit plans rather than the technology section at the end.

But the relatively oblique language hides a major change that will affect the vast majority of Britons who spend hours of their day on the internet: May's party feels it's time to stop treating the internet as an anarchic free-for-all.

... In particular, Conservative advisers suggested to BuzzFeed News that a future Tory government would be keen to rein in the growing power of Google and Facebook, two companies that dominate the flow of information on the internet but have a habit of strongly resisting regulation – as the government found out when it attempted to force Facebook-owned WhatsApp to weaken its encryption after the Westminster terror attack.

Pull the various tech-related manifesto pledges together and – if the polls are correct and May wins a majority in next month's election – the Conservatives could have a mandate from the British public for a significant extension of internet regulation, all based on the idea that a government's duty to protect citizens exists just as much on the internet as it does in the real world.

Legislation would be introduced to protect the public from abuse and offensive material online, while everyone would have the right to wipe material that was posted when they were under 18. Internet companies would also be asked to help promote counter-extremism narratives – potentially echoing the government's Prevent programme. There would be new rules requiring companies to make it ever harder for people to access pornography and violent images, with all content creators forced to justify their policies to the government.

Labour's manifesto covers some of the same ground – it pledges to keep children safe, tackles online abuse, and also allows content posted by under-18s to be wiped. But it stops short of setting out a comprehensive vision of how online culture should look and feel – and what role the government should have in enforcing these moral judgments. The Conservative manifesto has no such qualms.

Ultimately it all comes back to the idea that, after 20 years of widespread internet usage in the UK, the Conservative leadership feels the internet is having such an enormous effect on society that it cannot be left alone.

'Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline,' the Conservative manifesto says, giving its justification for a new level of regulation.

'It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically.'

New laws will be introduced to implement these rules, forcing internet companies such as Facebook to abide by the rulings of a regulator or face sanctions: 'We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law.'

A levy on tech companies – similar to that charged on gambling companies – would also be used to 'support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms'. The Conservatives even see this model going further, announcing their desire to work with other countries develop a global set of internet regulation standards similar to those 'we have for so long benefited from in other areas like banking and trade'.

May's manifesto also raises concerns about online news, warning it is willing to 'take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy', while pledging to 'ensure content creators are appropriately rewarded for the content they make available online'.

One Tory source told BuzzFeed News this final comment relates to Google and Facebook's growing dominance of the advertising market, which the newspaper industry believes is crushing its business model. The source suggested that if the web giants failed to act voluntarily then they could be forced by legislation to find ways to financially compensate traditional news producers."
Wow. This shows the degree to which the MSM, an increasingly outmoded form of media, are having trouble competing with social media and the alt-media. This statement ties the MSM to the old form of nation-state authority and implies that governments will prop up and enforce the MSM's continued dominance of public discourse and the legacy media's competitiveness, at the expense of innovation and diversity of opinion. There are several problems here. The vast majority of citizens accept the need to curb child pornography and hate speech. Unfortunately, those legitimate imperatives are smokescreens, employed to quell free speech and to reinforce crumbling frameworks of authority. Ultimately, these imperatives will shape how netizens in certain jurisdictions perceive reality. If the Tories have their way, those controls will be global and defined by Britain, not the EU or the USA.

The Brexiteers' view, from a conservative, politically incorrect cartoonist. Click to enlarge. Image Source: Ben Garrison.

This is a complex topic, which also embraces the economy. In an earlier post, I argued that Brexit indicated that Britain was shifting its economic focus, from Euro-Britain to Silicon Britain. Beneath the politicized racists-against-multiculturalists uproar, this was Brexit's true concern. Thus, it is critical to understand how the Tories intend to build Silicon Britain. Perfidious Albion - at least her Little England portion - has the Germans gnashing their teeth. But this is all about business and the never-ending quest for upward mobility. The Brits who know this do not care whom they offend or what values they betray:
"Britain’s future prosperity will be built on our technical capability and creative flair. Through our modern industrial strategy and digital strategy, we will help digital companies at every stage of their growth. We will help innovators and startups, by encouraging early stage investment and considering further incentives under our worldleading Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme. We will help digital businesses to scale up and grow, with an ambition for many more to list here in the UK, and open new offices of the British Business Bank in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newport, specialising in the local sector. As we set out in chapter one, we will ensure digital businesses have access to the best talent from overseas to compete with anywhere in the world. This will be complemented by at least one new institute of technology in the UK, dedicated to world-leading digital skills and developed and run in partnership with the tech industry. When we leave the European Union, we will fund the British Business Bank with the repatriated funds from the European Investment Fund."
It's all onwards, then, into the future. And if you work in the tech sector or the open source underground, never fear, because they will deprive you of your corporate masters and your crowd-funding. Then they will place honey pots before you, to draw you into the service of HM government:
"We will incubate more digital services within government and introduce digital transformation fellowships, so that hundreds of leaders from the world of tech can come into government to help deliver better public services."
You can read the Tories' manifesto, Forward, Together, here. The final part of the manifesto "Prosperity and Security in a Digital Age," starts on page 75 (page 77 in the whole PDF).


Aside from the Tories' moral and qualitative language, their veiled online imperialism, and the free speech issue, there are three interesting jurisdictional and philosophical questions evident in Forward, Together: alt-globalism; corporations' challenges to nation-states; and the cyber body politic.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

WikiLeaks: Vault 7 Tests the CIA


Image Source: The Intercept.

This morning at 9 a.m. Eastern, WikiLeaks released the biggest intelligence information dump in history (here). The dump of 8,761 documents, dating from 2013 to 2016, and entitled 'Vault 7' reveals how the US Central Intelligence Agency spies on citizens through almost all consumer technology. The CIA hacks, and can control, modern cars and trucks, iPhones, iPads, and Android phones.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

When Hairdressers Dominated the Earth


RT (12 August 2016): I destroyed the far right in Britain (and I grew a moustache). Image Source: Twitter.

I was going to leave the blog for a bit, but then ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage's post-Brexit moustache stopped me in my tracks. As a publicity stunt, it was so weird and economical. The Internet melted down. Ladbible wondered "what the fuck is going on"? Farage hasn't always been so lucky with moustaches.


The moustache debuted in an RT interview yesterday. It wasn't just the moustache. It was RT's colour scheme. I couldn't focus on what was said, because watching it felt like being loaded into a time machine and being shot back to 1985, when as one Youtuber put it, "hairdressers dominated the whole earth." I could not understand. When did turquoise and pink neon come back? Then I remembered they are the trending transgender colours of 2016. As for the moustache, I have a lot of posts on iconic 1980s' styles and media, but this is the main one; that post includes a clip from Scarface (1983) with Robert Loggia sporting the same facial hair.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Permanent Web 1: History, IPFS, and Ethereum


Nineteen Eighty-Four (Signet Books ed., 1954). Image Source: Flavor Wire.

This blog asks how we can record and write history in the new Millennium, given the volume of information, the ephemeral nature of the World Wide Web (evident in link rot and dead Websites), and the problem that data and authorship can be changed. There is an additional problem of interpretation of data. From my blog's statement of intention:
"This blog is an experiment in writing real-time history, which deals with the impact of digital communications on our understanding of history. There are serious problems emerging in social media, in which opinions are confused with facts, data and sources are available but potentially manipulated, and historical interpretive authority derives from hit counts and technical algorithms determining audience traffic. These problems demand an ongoing and increasingly rigorous reappraisal of historical method and historiography, to take into account the impacts of online behaviour and virtual perception."
As the Internet evolves, a disturbing trend has emerged which confirms the worst predictions of author George Orwell. The impermanent Web, as it now exists, enables manipulations of centralized information which effectively destroy history, common values, societal stability and our whole grasp of reality. With Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell understood that the stability of history, and of our ability to write verified history, depends on - and further shapes - a society's underlying structural organization, its politics, and the degree to which an individual within that system can form autonomous thoughts and emotions. Nineteen Eighty-Four's political horror hinges on a love story and asks whether love can blossom and endure against a pure, anti-historical tyranny, or whether it will be crushed as sexcrime.

Peter Cushing played Winston and Yvonne Mitchell played Julia in the 1953-1954 BBC dramatization of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Watch it here. Image Source: Speaker to Animals.

Orwell promised that the destruction of history, information impermanence and propaganda manipulation rely on and reinforce two conditions: first, psychological authoritarianism, a precondition for real world totalitarianism; and second, the centralization of information. Orwell's protagonist, Winston Smith, addresses his secret diary to any reader who is free from the past or future: "To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone — to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone."

If there is no correction in the current state of affairs, our impermanent Web threatens to become aggressively anti-historical and ensure frightening Orwellian outcomes. This is why open source coders, hackers and independent designers are trying to think about the Web in a new way. They want to redevelop it to create two results: first, they want to build a permanent Web, where all files and information are perpetually recorded, maintained, encrypted, public, and protected; second, they want to decentralize, and then distribute, big data power. That would allow future generations to question any information presented as historical facts. With a permanent, decentralized Web, anyone in the future will be able to check the archived data for themselves, no matter who they are, and no matter where they are.

This new possibility is appearing in the cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer technology spheres, through mergers of cryptocurrency technology with a collaborative information protocol called Interplanetary File System, also known by its acronym IPFS. (IPFS is not to be confused with Google's Interplanetary Internet Protocols, which are being designed at NASA for Mars colonization; I first blogged about InterPlaNet in 2011, here.)

I want to thank Chris Ellis for bringing IPFS to my attention. Ellis is a great, original thinker in the Bitcoin industry and founder of ProTip and the Fullnode Project. His technical and philosophical meditations on the combination of a new Web network protocol with cryptocurrencies enabled me to think of their broader implications in historical terms. You can see my 2014 interview with Ellis here; my earlier discussion on Bitcoin crowdfunding of creative and intellectual projects with Protip is here.

After talking to Ellis, I wondered if a distributed, permanent historic archive heralds as big a shift as did the historic separation of church and state. Over the past decade, the Internet has shaken nation-states to their foundations. There are many examples of mass protests sparked by social media, notably in 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt (see related posts here and here). Anti-corruption activists such as Alexey Navalny test the weak spots in the authority and apparatus of the Russian state with live online broadcasts to a global community of real-time witnesses. For a recent example, see Navalny's crowdfunding campaign to develop live camera feeds at intersections and prevent roadside police intimidation, here. Global communications naturally erode nation-state divisions.

However, we have entered a new stage in this trend. It is fascinating to consider that the manner in which information is organized and communicated determines its durability, and its political and governmental impact, over time. Our current Web is impermanent and builds addresses associated with nation-states or centralized organizations. IPFS builds cryptographic addresses associated with the information at the address. It is 'content-addressed,' not nationally-, corporately- or institutionally-addressed. That change builds a distributed information network, which might decouple the nation from the state, and remake states into entities with no geopolitical identities. The alternative is 'techno-community-states' of various types.


Images Source: Altcoin Today.

For an example, see the Twitter hashtag #BlockchainsNotBorders, dominated by the project, BitNation: "Welcome to Governance 2.0: Borderless Decentralized Voluntary." On 19 February 2016, BitNation released the world’s first 'virtual nation' constitution on top of the blockchain of the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Altcoin Today sampled the anarcho-capitalist libertarian rhetoric associated with this project's separation of nation and state:
By using borderless technology in the form of smart contracts, BitNation wants to remove geographical apartheid of individual nation states. Doing so will lead to governance services that are more transparent, cheaper, and overall better for the end user.

The concept of do-it-yourself governance may seem strange to some people, but the BitNation team is very confident in what they are trying to accomplish. While there is still a lot of work to be done before DIY governance becomes a mainstream trend, the team is currently focusing on security and dispute resolution. Ethereum smart contracts will play a big role in his department, according to BitNation founder Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof.

What makes these Ethereum smart contracts useful is how they bring a new layer of decentralization to the world. Unlike most services being used today, such as social media and email, BitNation’s governance 2.0 will not involve central authorities or governments. Needless to say, this model of governance is completely different to the centralized system of representative democracy most of the Western world is accustomed to.

Tempelhof feels that democracy is a massive failure, and the concept is – according to her – fundamentally flawed. Democracy as most people know it means governments give residents a variety of choices to vote on, without them having a say in the matter of what choices are offered. BitNation wants to change this by introducing democratic autonomous organizations (DAOs).

This concept needs some further explaining, however, as these Democratic Autonomous Organizations exist entirely on the Ethereum blockchain. From a governance point of view, decisions will be made by a group of parties who can decide on contracting people to do work, distributing assets, and even appointing shares. Two significant examples of a DAO can be found in Slock.it and DigixDAO. ... Tempelhof explained it as follows:
‘Decentralized’ means there is no single point of failure, like there is no central bank. If you look at Uber for example, they have got into trouble in Europe, they have been banned in France – but if Uber had been a DAO there would have been no bank accounts to freeze, nothing for regulators to ban. Decentralized also means personal autonomy. We decide what we do. Nobody tells us. And being borderless means that we are not confined by a passport to live in an area of war or famine. That’s as wrong as judging people on the color of their skin or sexual preference.
Another 'Governance 2.0' report from last year was entitled, Bitnation, Horizon and Blocknet join forces to deliver the world’s first platform for do-it-yourself governance services to 2.5 billion people across developing markets, using Bitcoin 2.0 technology (13 March 2015):
Bitnation, which is known mostly for its groundbreaking pilots including organizing the world’s first Blockchain Marriage and the world’s first World Citizenship ID on the blockchain, which has drawn attention from, amongst others, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, TechCrunch, Wired, and The New York Times. Bitnation aims to provide governance services in frontier and emerging markets, where it is needed the most. There are 2.5 billion unbanked in the world, the “System D” economy – the grey, unregulated markets – is a 10 trillion dollar economy, and 80% of the world’s population currently live in developing markets. Bitnation’s Founder and CEO, Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, worked for 7 years in challenging frontier environments, like Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and other countries, primarily with assessing people’s perception and experience of governance.
After the BitNation announcement that you can 'Create Your Own Nation in 140 Lines of Code,' performed in an online live event from an Irish pub in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 15 February 2016, one could step back and consider Orwell again.

Nineteen Eighty-Four asked how the individual's heart and soul could survive inside a totalitarian state. Orwell also pondered how information systems helped to construct, and were thereby reflected in, the governmental structure employed by political authority. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the two questions are intimately related. It is through systems of emotions, morality, thought and communications that we bind mentalities to power. This is why where once religion dominated the God-sourced monarchical state, the disciplines of history, philosophy and politics replaced religion in the era of the secular nation-state.

Of those three modern disciplines, aspiring technocrats have fixated on politics to develop their visions of  'techno-community-states.' But when history and philosophy are absent or only superficially considered, politics fares poorly in shotgun weddings with technology. We need all three disciplines together, and the help of other fields, to understand how tech-communities might be defined and connected to statehood, if at all. Chris Ellis, in conversation, preferred not to label the new permanent Web politically. His priority is to put "the technology into people's hands so that they get to have a say. Everyone gets their own narrative now. [And] it will be irrefutable that someone said [what they said]." He believes that it is better to allow time to tell whose narrative ends up being correct, rather than forcing older political theories onto the current evolution of the technosphere and its unprecedented circumstances and possibilities.

That is only partly true, because future truths don't spontaneously manifest themselves. There are always present-day conflicts to find a dominant narrative, and future corrections can be very difficult. Future historians will be actors who will help to decide which narrative ends up being 'correct' - in the sense of being the closest reflection of our Millennial reality, while also being relevant to future considerations - and for how long. But what is at least promised now, is that there actually will be future historians to make those analyses, as opposed to Winston Smiths, working in the Records Department of a future Ministry of Information. These are the overarching questions to the technical overview that follows; those questions will be explored in subsequent posts in this series on the Permanent Web.

The explanation on Ethereum starts at 2:25; the discussion on IPFS starts at 4:26; from The Daily Decrypt interview with Ethereum Director of Integration Taylor Gerring (26 January 2016). Gerring emphasized that Ethereum allows users to develop applications which sit on the cryptocurrency's blockchain. Video Source: Youtube.

In the January 2016 video above, The Daily Decrypt interviewed Ethereum cryptocurrency dev Taylor Gerring to explain what Ethereum is and how it might be combined with IPFS to build and incentivize a permanent Web. All data on IPFS are perpetually recorded online by means of peer-to-peer network distribution; and every single subsequent change to a given file is also permanently recorded by means of the amended file acquiring a new encrypted addresses, which can be indexed by a blockchain. This IPFS combination with cryptocurrency technology would establish a standing historical archive of online information. The encrypted addresses for any piece of information would ensure that that information could not be manipulated without the manipulation being noted in another encrypted process. Proponents in the open source coding community claim that this combination will build a new Web to function as the Web should have, from the start.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 2: The Gnostics


The gnostic twin flame subculture (September 2015). Image Source: The Spirit Science.

In any society, there is no more powerful source of values than the relationship between the sexes. It precedes all other assumptions, so central is it to existence. In a previous post in this series, I observed a trend in the second half of 2015, in which online New Age communities declared an end to the war between the sexes. That redefinition has entered the western media through debates on gender dualism, gender neutrality, gender fluidity and transgenderism. As the trend reaches the mainstream, it marks a huge shift in western values.

The origins of this trend are at least as old as Christianity, if not older, and developed alongside it. For centuries, westerners have been toying with the feminine-oriented Christian heresy of gnosticism, which drew from neo-Platonism - and the masculine-dominated cult of hermeticism, derived from eastern mystery religions. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana must have whole collections devoted to these heresies' periodic resurgences, although they will not always confirm that. In the 2010s, Christian and post-Christian westerners began to combine these heresies. That is not difficult, since both belief systems involve a spiritual journey which culminates in a final merger of the sexes. Cross-pollination within western esotericism is not novel, and merely constitutes a third, enduring strand in the western tradition, opposite Judeo-Christian religion and Enlightenment rationalism.

What is new is how the dynamics of global connectivity create fertile beds for heretical cult behaviour around gender neutrality, expressed through technology and inside technological spaces. I will not summarize gnostic ideas here, because I have in other posts, particularly this one. Upcoming posts in this series address the hermetic 'practical' application of the gnostic vision and explain the possible real world impacts of this shift in values. But I will start here, inside the blind spot of 2015's technological gnostic worship. A caveat: This post reports on these trends as historical cultural phenomena and not as an indication of my personal opinions on these matters, which are private.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Magic, Numerology and the IMF


Planning/Knowledge mural at Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Painting by Ben Long. Image Source: Vigilant Citizen.

What does the year 2000 mean? What did it mean? Nothing. There is no innate significance about it, other than the cultural weight associated with the calendar and religious history. In reality, the passing from one year (1999) to another (2000) meant nothing. However, symbolically speaking, the arrival of the year 2000 was imagined as a huge moment of change.

The mass media, on the Internet, in news, politics, entertainment, and tech circles, convey fake symbolic assessments about the momentous shift to a new age. Moreover, entertainment figures and historic actors blur the line between fiction and fact around this mantra all the time. Other people do it too. Just as the years 1984 and 2012 and the day 9/11 became cultural artifacts, false significance is imposed upon the year 2000. What people do in real life, how and what they create, what they perceive and express, all become narratives constructed around the new Millennium. Thus, although the year 2000 was no more a turning point than the year 1996 or the year 2004, the stubbornly-held conviction that 2000 had to be an enormous moment of change is increasingly mischievous and pernicious.

The trend is evident all over popular politics and culture. The insistence that 2000 must have 'changed everything' means that people are now doing things in large and small ways to 'change everything.' In the artificial quest to change everything, an old visual and numerological lexicon has given the quest false meanings. Throughout the mass media, above all in the entertainment industry, marketers are borrowing symbols from an occult cultural heritage. They are using these symbols like loaded guns, pointing them at the year 2000, forcing that year and subsequent decades to become what they think this time period must become.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Forever: Maybe Not the Word You Want?


Johnny Depp's original 'Winona Forever' tattoo. Image Source: johnnydepp.org.

In the past couple of days, the word forever kept coming up. Finally, it all converged in a 'plate of shrimp' moment. The first mention came up in this analysis at The White Review of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The article, Famous Tombs: Love in the 90s, described Depp's and Ryder's relationship as the American youth romance of the decade. Author Masha Tupitsyn then probed a more interesting question. She almost cracked what, exactly, happened to the Depp-Ryder romance, not in terms of what it meant privately to the two actors, because we can't know that, but what it represented to the rest of us.

Image Source: Buzzfeed.

Tupitsyn hints that it never went anywhere, but Johnny and Winona did. She believes that Depp sublimated it in alcohol and drugs, replacing love for a woman with addictions so distracting that it became impossible to get back to the original source. Meanwhile, Ryder moved forward, but part of her is still trapped in that past time. It wasn't just her love for Depp. She embodied a decade for Generation Jones and Gen X rebels, symbolized by the curious fact that she is naturally a blonde, but for decades has dyed her hair Gothic black:
Like John Cusack, another black haired/pale skinned 80s/90s idol, as well as a youth actor whose great, and perhaps only gift, was to enact a different kind of youth (a counter-youth and counter-masculinity) in his youth, Winona Ryder was never timeless, she was of the time. Most especially that brief time in her life, her teenage years and early twenties. Perhaps this is why Jake Gyllenhaal’s light hair was dyed jet-black for the retroactive DONNIE DARKO, and Christian Slater’s jet-black for HEATHERS. Something about dark hair showing up in the late 80s and early 90s as a form of retribution for an aesthetically fascistic and representationally narrow decade. These are people who were not kissed by the sun, who were not California Dreamin’, or, as the German writer Heinrich Laube puts it, ‘These pale youths are uncanny, concocting God knows what mischief.’ If, as the teenage radio pirate DJ, ‘Hard Harry’ puts it in PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990), the 80s were a totally ‘exhausted decade, where there’s nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to’, Winona Ryder rose up from the bleached-blonde ashes of the 1980s.
Depp and Ryder started in gothic and horror genres. Their early work, like that of contemporaries Keanu Reeves, Parker Posey and River Phoenix, appeared in dark indie films or popular movies with unsettling vibes. Depp made his feature film debut in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), in which he played a nice but useless boyfriend. These roles reflected a time, when, for a brief period, surreal depictions of the collective unconscious entered the American mainstream in almost unedited forms. It was remarkable. David Lynch, an American director surreal enough to be respected by Europeans, became popular, as his Twin Peaks exposed the underside of the American Dream.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 13: NeverEnding Pasts and Futures


Barret Oliver, who played lead character Bastian Bux in The NeverEnding Story (1984). Image Source: Suzy Turner.

Yahoo, among other sites, has posted a 'where are they now?' article about former Hollywood child stars. Favourite targets of this unwanted attention include the actors who starred in the 1984 film, The NeverEnding Story, a late Gen X favourite based on the 1979 German fantasy book by the same name. Ah, for the pre-CGI days when puppets were serious effects creations on movie screens. You can hear the film's sugary pop theme song by Limahl, here.

Barret Oliver more recently. Image Source: Showbizgeek.

Then-and-now articles focus on Barret Oliver, one of the lead actors in the above-mentioned film, and Yahoo is dismissive in the most superficial way about Oliver's occupation today:
Barret Oliver
Better known as: Bastian Bux in The Neverending Story
Last seen: Working as an arty photographer specialising in 'historic techniques'.
I especially like the scare quotes around 'historic techniques,' as though it is bad enough that Oliver became an arty photographer, let alone one experimenting with a style that is not considered contemporary. But is he really so out of step with the times?

An example of Woodburytype in a late 19th century photograph: Woodburytype of Octave Feuillet (1876/84). Image Source: The Art Institute of Chicago via Wiki.

In 2007, Oliver published A History of the Woodburytype, about a photographic technique and style that is synonymous with our vision of the modern past. The book's blurb reveals the background on the technique and its creator, Walter Bentley Woodbury:
In 1864 Walter Bentley Woodbury introduced a process for mechanically reproducing photographs that changed forever the way the world looked at images. Aesthetically beautiful, permanent and infinitely reproducible, the Woodburytype was the first process used extensively to photographically illustrate books, journals, museum catalogues, magazines and even campaign materials. More than a century after its heyday the Woodburytype stands as a pinnacle of photographic achievement. This book traces the history of Woodbury's process from the early technology and experiments to its commercial success and domination of the illustration field, and further attempts to adapt it to industrialized methods, and finally, to its eventual disuse. Also covered is the story of how Woodbury overcame daunting personal odds to bestow this beautiful photographic process upon the world. ...
Though the process continued in use for several years, the key period of its popularity, especially in terms of later being replaced by the half-tone process, was the 25 years after 1870. The Woodburytype has been noted by curators and librarians for years, but very little has been published on it or about how to identify the prints. Oliver is an independent scholar, and this is the first in-depth study of this process and of Woodbury. ... This book, beyond its technical aspects, broadens understanding of how photography became a truly modem medium of mass cultural import.
A deeper look at Woodburytype reveals that Oliver's famous movie role and his recent artistic preoccupation reflect each other. Like the meta-story The NeverEnding Story, there are layers of reality in Woodburytype. Imitations of Woodburytype today create a 'historic' look: there are sepia-toned quasi-Woodburytype photo apps on smartphones, cameras and image manipulation software. In short, Woodburytype is today's meta-photographic style, signifying early photographic technology and past times.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Live Tweet Audio Spy


"Brian House and Kyle McDonald’s creation, the Conversnitch, impersonates a lightbulb or lamp while eavesdropping on and livetweeting nearby conversations." Image Source: Kyle McDonald via Wired.

Wired reports on a lamp called Conversnitch which eavesdrops on the conversations of passersby. These objects automatically retweet the conversations live on Twitter:
Kyle McDonald and Brian House say they hope to raise questions about the nature of public and private spaces in an era when anything can be broadcast by ubiquitous, Internet-connected listening devices.

“What does it mean to deploy one of these in a library, a public square, someone’s bedroom? What kind of power relationship does it set up?” asks House, a 34-year-old adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. “And what does this stream of tweets mean if it’s not set up by an artist but by the U.S. government?”

The surveillance gadget they unveiled Wednesday [23 April 2014] is constructed from little more than a Raspberry Pi miniature computer, a microphone, an LED and a plastic flower pot. It screws into and draws power from any standard bulb socket. Then it uploads captured audio via the nearest open Wi-Fi network to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, which McDonald and House pay small fees to transcribe the audio and post lines of conversation to Conversnitch’s Twitter account. “This is stuff you can buy and have running in a few hours,” says McDonald, a 28-year-old adjunct professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts. ...

[A] video they’ve posted online (embedded below) shows two people with obscured faces planting Conversnitch in a light fixture in a New York McDonald’s, disguised as a desk lamp in a bedroom and a bank lobby, in a library, and inside a lamp post in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park. A glance at the Conversnitch Twitter feed shows fragments of conversations about topics as private as a failed course, a job interview rejection, someone’s frayed relationship with his or her boss and criticisms of a politician.
You can read the Conversnitch demo Twitter feed from one operating device, here.  Is the feed real?
“We recognize that this device can be used in an illegal way, and we will not admit to using it in that way,” McDonald says cagily. “It has potentially been deployed in various places. ... I think you have to make things provocative or even dangerous if you want people to pay attention. ... You can’t make this stuff up anymore,” says McDonald. “Here were Brian and I trying to make something kind of scary, something that makes you wonder if someone’s watching you all the time. And then Snowden says, ‘They are.’”
Conversnitch's inventors argue that their device is something between a warning bell and a piece of technological art, rather like a similar work about which I blogged earlier this year, which is unambiguously fictitious. The motto for Conversnitch is: Bridging the gap between online and IRL.


"Conversnitch being planted in a library. House and McDonald obscured the individual’s face to avoid legal issues." Image Source: Kyle McDonald via Wired.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Breaking Newspeak's Faustian Bargains


Image Source: Escapist Magazine.

In the new Millennium, online surveillance comes hand-in-hand the media's external imposition upon, and transformation of, internal thought. It is not news that Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) has arrived as a horrendous reality, although the UK is not yet known merely as Airstrip One. In some ways, the arrival is so horrendous that a portion of the public lives day by day in denial or willful ignorance, because it is easier to believe that things are not as bad as that. On 3 March 2014, Toronto Star columnist reported on the GCHQ collection of Yahoo users' video feeds and insisted, yes, it is as bad as that; we are living in a science fiction novel, where our own word processors are subject to outside control:
Whenever British journalist Luke Harding, working on his new book about spying whistleblower Edward Snowden, wrote something disparaging about the NSA, a weird thing would happen.
“The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish,” Harding wrote in the Guardian this week.
The deletes kept happening for weeks. “All authors expect criticism,” wrote Harding, author of the new and astounding The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man. “But criticism before publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel.”
Finally, Harding politely asked whoever was doing it to consider stopping. A month later, they finally did.
He has no idea who did this. Were they American or British, a hacker or an offended National Security Agency analyst? We know they were reading Harding’s words as they were written but were they also watching him via a Skype-like device?
The news that GCHQ— the British surveillance agency that teams with the NSA and spy agencies in other allied “Five Eyes” nations, including Canada — has been intercepting and storing Yahoo webcam chats globally is eerie. We knew they could read what you typed, we suspect they can do this in real time, but now the massive Snowden leaked papers reveal that they can watch you talking to your nearest and dearest. Worse, you may have been naked at the time.
A program codenamed Optic Nerve gathered millions of stills from webcam chats between 2008 and 2010 and sent them in for viewing. In one six-month period alone, Optic Nerve scooped up images from more than 1.8 million Yahoo accounts around the world, the Guardian has reported.
Yahoo says it knew nothing of this.
In effect, people’s computer screens have become devices from Nineteen Eighty-Four where humans watch a screen that watches them back. But at least Winston Smith knew he was being watched.
In case you would like to know, the word processor that Guardian journalist Luke Harding was using was OpenOffice, which plainly lives up to its name. The Guardian has been in the thick of the Snowden leaks from the beginning. Harding admits that the entire staff felt paranoid. This post asks whether Orwell's dystopia is really here; or whether his Nineteen Eighty-Four world can still become a 'near miss,' a terrible alternate history that can still be narrowly avoided.

Monday, December 9, 2013

More Snowden Leaks: Who Watches the Watchmen?


A World of Warcraft dwarf warrior. Image Source: Got Warcraft.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we are now watching governments watch us. A report from The Wire states that the NSA and GCHQ have been spying on players in virtual reality environments:
As it turns out, your guild isn't the only group watching your level 90 dwarf warrior slay the Horde like its a walk through the park: The NSA and its British intelligence counterpart, the GCHQ, are watching World of Warcraft, too. That's according to a new report from The Guardian, The New York Times, and ProPublica, which also details the intelligence community's surveillance of Second Life and the Microsoft XBox Live network.

According to the report, the NSA collected the content and metadata of communications between players, while creating characters to target (and attempt to recruit) specific users. The report, like many other recent revelations on the extent of U.S. intelligence collection, cites documents obtained through Edward Snowden.

The documents also outline the agency's logic in starting the program. According to one 2008 NSA document, intelligence officials were able to match "terrorist target selectors” to accounts in a handful of online games. They also discovered that some potential foreign agent recruits were playing World of Warcraft, including "engineers, embassy drivers, scientists and other foreign intelligence operatives." ...

here's an interesting tidbit on a 2007 meeting between NSA officials and a now former executive at Linden Lab, who pitched his own company's service as [an] intelligence gathering gold mine:
The executive, Cory Ondrejka, was a former Navy officer who had worked at the NSA with a top-secret security clearance. He visited the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., in May 2007 to speak to staff members over a brown bag lunch, according to an internal agency announcement. “Second Life has proven that virtual worlds of social networking are a reality: come hear Cory tell you why!” said the announcement. It added that virtual worlds gave the government the opportunity “to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviors of non-Americans through observation, without leaving U.S. soil.”
And in 2009, the government solicited proposals for research grants intended to fund inquiries into the links between online behavior in video games and the real-world behavior of the player. It's not clear if any of the programs mentioned in the documents are still in effect. The [leaked] documents are available to view here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nuclear Leaks 31: The Good News and the Bad News


Sea stars are dying along the whole west coast of North America. Image Source: Time.

In Fukushima, Japan, there is good news and bad news. First, the good news. A 2009 report that scientists have made mice immune to radiation may find application sooner than we expect:
In a breakthrough that could change the lives of cancer victims, pilots and nuclear power plant workers, researchers might have found a way to protect cells from radiation damage. 

In a study published in the new AAAS journal Science Translational Medicine ... researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute found that they could protect healthy cells from radiation injury by turning off an inhibitory pathway that regulates nitric oxide. ...

Dr. Isenberg and his team made the discovery that by switching off a related inhibitory pathway that controls nitric oxide, they could give animals "near immunity to record levels of radiation," he says.

In mice, when Dr. Isenberg and his team introduced a drug that prevented a protein, thrombospondin-1, from binding to a surface cell receptor called CD47, the animals could endure almost unheard-of doses of radiation with virtually no ill effects.

In cellular studies, cells could withstand up to the tested amount: 60 Gy. And in whole animal studies, mice could endure the limit they were given: 40 Gy.

"Primarily, [on mice] people are using 5-10 Gy. This is off the scale from what they've published," he says.

Shockingly, the irradiated rodents were almost completely unharmed. Other than some mild hair loss at the site of dosage, there was almost no cell death or damage when histological samples were checked.

"There was no skin laceration or muscle loss," Dr. Isenberg says. "When we stained for cell death, we didn't even see significant loss of bone marrow, which is exquisitely sensitive...to radiation damage."

In comparison, control mice -- who didn't get the pathway-blocking treatment -- were eaten away with tissue loss and "frank necrosis of the limbs."
In other good news, the Japanese government issued a draft report on 3 December 2013; the report states that in seven years, the government expects to be able to stop dumping heavily contaminated water which TEPCO is using to cool its crippled nuclear reactors. Since March 2011, TEPCO has been dumping between 300 and 400 tonnes of contaminated water every day into the Pacific Ocean, but its officials only acknowledged that fact this past summer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Decryption, Public Trust and Civil War


British intelligence office GCHQ is now hiring, with a public call to anyone who can break a series of codes on its Web site: "The Can You Find It? competition is designed to test both experienced and self-taught techies to crack a series of cryptic codes." (Daily Mirror report from 11 September 2013). Image Source: GCHQ via The Daily Mirror. If you crack the codes, the GCHQ promises "You can win 1 of 100 Raspberry Pi or 1 of 5 Google Nexus 7 tablets."

Do not discuss the NSA decryptions, please. There's nothing to see, move along. On 5 September 2013, Matthew Green, Assistant Research Professor in Computer Science (with a specialty in applied cryptography) at Johns Hopkins University, wrote a blog post about a sensational joint report from The Guardian (here) and the NYT (here). These reports claimed that the American National Security Agency and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have decrypted a whole spectrum of Web software and communications and monitor them with the Sigint Enabling Project. The NYT remarks that Sigint involves: "industry relationships, clandestine changes to commercial software to weaken encryption, and lobbying for encryption standards it can crack."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

PRISM's Millennial Omens: The War Over the Internet Begins

Anonymous, the hacker group, has just released some PRISM-related NSA documents, and claims that the NSA is spying on citizens of more than 35 countries. Image Source: RT.

The Internet is swirling with reports that America's National Security Agency has 'wiretapped' the Internet and scrutinized people's private messages, searches, phone calls and personal data in the PRISM program. Rumours suggest that Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, Youtube, and Google, among others, are all involved, although these Web giants are sharply denying that.

It started with a leak from the Guardian:
Guardian blogger Glenn Greenwald dropped a bombshell on Thursday [6 June 2013], with a story that showed the National Security Agency was collecting data from Verizon thanks to a secret court order. But that was just the beginning: the Washington Post later revealed an even broader program of surveillance code-named PRISM, which involved data collection from the web’s largest players — including Google, Facebook and Apple — and then the Wall Street Journal said data is also being gathered from ISPs [Internet Service Providers] and credit-card companies.

Leaked cover slide of the US Federal Government's data collection program PRISM (April 2013). Image Source: Wiki via Washington Post.




Leaked slides of the US Federal Government's data collection program PRISM (April 2013), including description of how global Internet traffic passes through the USA. Image Source: Washington Post.

In these days of cyberwar and Big Data, I'm not sure why this is a huge surprise to some. It is the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the Web is being and could be mobilized as a tool of social control. And this is why the counter voice of hackers is so interesting in terms of the evolution of Millennial politics. What hackers will do in response to defend online users - the virtual 99 per cent - and whether they can be trusted to shoulder the burden of power and immense wealth associated with Big Data, without also becoming corrupted, is another story. At any rate, here is an initial list of links to articles and Web debate on the subject: