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 PermWeb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PermWeb. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

World War III Projections 2: If Only She Could Talk

The best tin foil hat on the Internet. Image Source: Etsy.

If only Julian Assange's cat could talk, I mean, really talk. If she could, the poor little thing would probably go the way of Tobermory, and be sacrificed in the name of silence. She is known by fans of WikiLeaks as 'Embassy Cat' and by the mainstream press as 'James,' who seem not to have bothered to understand that she is female. If she could talk, maybe she would tell us about the worst conspiracy theory of 2016, which is the subject of this post.

Assange received the kitten, descended from European wildcatsfrom his children in May 2016. Image Source: LinkTV. The Washington Post and other outlets frowned when the cat got its own Twitter account and started quoting Shakespeare in relation to current events.

A photo posted by Embassy Cat (@embassycat) on

A photo posted by Embassy Cat (@embassycat) on
Embassy Cat with Italian Marxist theorist, Franco Berardi.

Embassy Cat with Michael Moore, June 2016. Image Source: PBS via Twitter.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Image Source: Evening Standard.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: Disasters, Miracles and the Mandela Effect

The wildest so-called 'whistle-blower' of 2016 is the 4chan boards 'CERN scientist,' who insisted the Mandela effect was real on 21 August 2016. (Click to enlarge.) Image Source.

In 2015, astrologer Liz Greene summarized the spirit of our times (her extended comment on the subject is here): 
"The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote that nothing is certain except change. In the last two decades we have been forced to acknowledge this ancient truth, for many of our time-honoured and reliable religious, economic and social structures and definitions of reality have undergone major upheavals. Because human beings instinctively fear change, we imagine global disasters as we move into the future, or global redemption through the miracles of technology or some extraordinary new spiritual or political revolution. We are filled with both anxiety and hope. Is this really a time of great opportunity, spiritually and materially? Or does it seem so merely because we believe it to be so?"
In the spirit of understanding the power of perception over rationality and belief, I sometimes cover strange material on this blog. I discuss this material with reservations, and save the weirdest stories for the Hallowe'en countdown.

This summer, a deranged rumour on the Internet combined disasters with miracles. It is called the 'Mandela effect,' a meme which asserts that "large groups of people have alternate memories about past events." The effect is likely a jarring dyslexia of shared memory in the era of kinetic information. The Mandela effect is the creepiest meme I have ever encountered (even creepier than this one). It made me think of the line from David Lynch's 1997 neo-noir horror film, Lost Highway: "I like to remember things my own way. ... How I remember them. Not necessarily the way they happened."

The Mandela effect resembles Lynch's plot structures, especially in Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006), where characters and incidents repeat, transform, and overlap in new contexts. In Lynch's most recent work, the characters share a basic story. This is the 'highway' of everyday experience, the type of historical story we all know, expect and recognize. It follows a linear chronology. Radical variations in this kind of story are almost always rationally comprehensible. They may involve one character missing a critical piece of information; or big differences in opinion or perspective between characters; or a character's tragic flaw forcing him to act in a way he should not. A larger fate, god, or mystery can play a role in these stories, but the linear highway of the narrative remains predominant, even if the characters take an off-ramp.

From the Lost Highway soundtrack. I'm Deranged. LP: Outside (25 September 1995) © David Bowie/Brian Eno/RCA. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

But in the Lynchian universe, that main highway chronology is overlaid with other narratives which follow the separate stories of symbols (or archetypes), of the individual subconscious (possibly the soul), and of a larger, collective unconscious (perhaps the group soul). Those other, eerie narratives are non-linear and have different shapes. In Lost Highway, the plot relating to death symbols was constructed like a Möbius strip. Some of those unconventional narratives may have no shape at all and may be quantum, popping in and out of the linear narrative of conventional sanity, and co-existing in many times and realities. This allows Lynch's characters to disappear and reappear, sometimes with new identities, for no apparent linear reason. It is easy to dismiss these films as crazy, but Lynch's aim seems rather to tell the complete story of reality. The characters' behaviour and the events in these films would only make sense if you could map all the different narratives at play, and understand how they were interacting.

The Mandela effect also reminds me of Dark City (1998); the time travel and tangent universe of Donnie Darko (2001); and the Matrix films (1999-2003). In these movies, anomalies are explained as the products of manipulation by higher, outside actors. This is all fine, if you are a film critic or a post-Postmodern novelist. The only problem is, believers think the Mandela effect is real.

Clip from Lost Highway (1997) © October Films. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Clip from Dark City (1998) © New Line Cinema. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Clip from The Matrix (1999) © Warner/Roadshow Entertainment. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Inland Empire (2006) official trailer. Video Source: Youtube.

As to the source of the Mandela effect, one woman found discussions on the effect as far back as 2005. But the effect was defined by a Wiccan paranormal researcher and blogger named Fiona Broome, during a conversation at the 2010 comic book convention DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The conversation involved a collective belief that Nelson Mandela had died in prison on 23 July 1991, and then reappeared alive and well, and became President of South Africa and died in 2013. This led to Broome's conviction that people were dividing between those who remembered alternate histories - and those who did not.

Interview with the Vampire (1994) contains one example of the supposed Mandela effect. The film is © Warner, reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: Goodreads

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

NASA's Plan to Colonize Mars

Developing adequate supporting technology is a pre-existing requirement in NASA's plan to colonize Mars. Image Source: NASA via Daily Mail.

Interplanetary communications systems are being developed in plans to colonize Mars. I first covered Google's InterPlanetary Internet Protocols in 2011, here. Delay-tolerant network protocols must cope with huge distances between our planet and a future Martian settlement. On 9 October 2015, NASA released its plan for a manned journey to Mars, including a stated need for IPFS development:
"Currently, Mars robotic rovers have data rates around two million bits per second, using a relay, such as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The ISS data rate is 300 million bits per second, two orders of magnitude faster. Future human Mars missions may need up to a billion bits per second at 1,000 times greater range than ISS, requiring laser communications to reduce weight and power. In addition, disruption and error-tolerant interplanetary networking and improved navigation capabilities are required to ensure accurate trajectories and precision landing."
This networking requirement for space exploration will potentially establish a permanent Internet, which I have discussed - coming from other sectors - here. On 18 March 2016, The Daily Mail reported that NASA plans to develop nuclear-powered rockets to travel to Mars, following a similar statement from the Russians in January 2016. With a nuclear rocket, spacecraft could reach the Red Planet in six weeks. The only problem is finding the money.

Planet Mars, As Seen by the 100 Inch Telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory: "Before we sent any spacecraft to Mars, these were the best images we had of the Red Planet." Image Source: The Carnegie Institution for Science via Tech Insider.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Time and Politics 19: Predicting the Future, A Tricky Business

Professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita spoke at LSE (Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building) on 21 October 2009; the chair of the discussion was Professor Richard Steinberg. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has been shaking the world of political science to its foundations with his predictions of world events. His systems based on game theory have an astonishing 90%+ ratio of accuracy and are frequently used to shape US foreign-policy decisions on issues such as the terrorist threat to America to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Considered by many to be the most important foreign-policy analyst there is, it is no surprise that he is regularly consulted by the CIA and US Department of Defence. In this lecture Professor Bueno de Mesquita will look at what is needed to reliably anticipate and even alter events in any situation involving negotiation in the shadow of the threat of coercion. He will demonstrate how to bring science to decision making in any situation from personal to professional."

In an earlier post, I discussed the work of NYU professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, who uses game theory to predict the future in international relations and advises businesses and the American government on major strategic policy concerns. In the 2009 talk above from the London School of Economics (at 53:00), he explained how he was hired to develop a fraud prediction model applied to banking regulations. At 55:32, he remarked:
"One of the best early warning indicators of fraud is that, relative to growth in market cap, compensation for senior management is under expectation for the size of the organization of the firm, not over. ... They're husbanding whatever resources they can to try to save the company."
Bueno de Mesquita has become widely known for his predictions on war, the economy and politics, although he remains dogged by popular fringe elements who compare his work to mystical prognosticators and fortune-tellers of the past, such as the Renaissance apothecary Nostradamus (1503-1566). In this lecture, he maintained a serious academic attitude while promoting his book, The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future. He has since published a book on how leaders exercise power (2012); and he issued a new edition of his book on war and peace in international politics (2013). He need not worry about becoming too popular; one Youtuber was unimpressed:
"The fiction that human beings are 'rational actors' has been totally discredited. Establishment academics with tenure have a hard time accepting real [world] facts that most people on the street intuitively understand without ... study. Anyone who claims 90% prediction accuracy in working with any complex system - who has not made themselves a billionaire with such gifts - is a con man."
Two questions put to Bueno de Mesquita at the end of his talk suggested that the Youtuber's remark had some weight. Random events, as well as anti-rational or irrational impulses, fall outside the professor's model. This is the 10 per cent range of human behaviour extending into the future, where game theory meets chaos theory meets randomness.

At 56:40, a member of the audience asked about Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007; 2nd ed. 2010). To paraphrase, the person asked if random, chance occurrences could drastically affect statistical models (Bueno de Mesquita corrected him: game theory models) due to unique expressions of human nature.

At 1:10:00, another member of the audience asked about Frederic Vester's (1925-2003) sensitivity model, which applied game theory to biology and behavioural ecology, and produces results similar Bueno de Mesquita's application of game theory to economics and politics. This similarity implies that organic systems mirror human systems in their predictability and unpredictability.

Both questions relate to the nature and impact of the Internet, especially as it is redesigned to endure and become a lasting edifice. Is the Web a techno-organic entity which reflects the rational and irrational impulses of its users, and to what degree? Can we describe peer-to-peer technological environments as 'ecosystems,' and if they are organic, to what degree are they chaotic and unpredictable? Or are the computer systems and technical designs of the Web and other peer-to-peer technologies, including cryptocurrencies, shaping the way we behave and think inside virtual realities? Are we driving the car or is the car driving us? This is a concern as Big Data analysts flock to predict, manipulate and control consumers' behaviours and voters' choices. In future posts, I will consider how these theories of predictability relate to decentralized behavioural psychology and the psychodynamics of peer-to-peer technologies.

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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.