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 Robots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robots. Show all posts

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lessons from Building the Outer Brain


The NYT reported that smart assistants can be (re-)programmed by ultrasonic signals, which are inaudible to their owners. Image Source: NYT / Lynn Scurfield.

There have been several headlines about AI and robots in recent weeks. All of them involve a gap between what we want to see in technology (and in ourselves) and what we don't want to see.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Artificial Intelligence Nemesis


Image Source: thebodhitrees.

The creation of AI is a story of humanity. It will end where it begins, with a nemesis that will test humankind. This is because human beings grapple with inner knowing on ever more profound levels, driven by self-engineered crises.

Artificial Intelligence: The Nemesis in the Mirror

Anonymous - This Shocking Footage Should Worry You! (2018-2019) (13 January 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

AI is a big mirror. As Google's Cloud Lead Dr. Fei-Fei Li stated, AI began with the question, "Can machines think?" Engineers began building machines to mimic human thinking, to reason, see, hear, think, move around, manipulate. That was AI's foundational dream. In the 1980s, machine learning was born, followed by deep learning, which is rooted in neuroscience. This young discipline is set to explode, due to the exploitation of big data, harvested from around the globe. Thus, no matter how the machines end up evolving, it is worth asking now what we are doing with AI and why we doing it. There are unconscious human impulses that are informing AI design.

Find your museum Doppelgänger: some people have found themselves in paintings at art museums. Image Source: Kottke / My Modern Met / Davidurbon.

This mirror will test a psychological mode which human beings have used to build, change, create: the obsession with the nemesis, the other, the twin, the Doppelgänger.

The nemesis psychological complex works by externalizing something we cannot manage inside our own natures. Once the thing is externalized, we interact with it to create new ways of understanding and operating in the world. One of my posts, I Will Teach You Infinities, described how the nemesis complex informed the structure of language, because language progressively builds away from the starting point of selfhood, or 'I.'

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alexa's False Positives



The Verge reported yesterday that Amazon's gadget Echo has a virtual assistant named Alexa which has been laughing at users; it also refuses to obey commands and gives other weird responses. According to reports, the laughing does not sound not Alexa's normal laughter sound files.

Alexa sometimes does this when its owners are lying in their rooms at night in the dark. This "known issue" is due to "false positives" when the machine thinks it has been told to laugh ... maybe.

Amazon stated that they are working on a fix for this.  Some users were skeptical and think that the Amazon is testing the psychological response on social media. Meanwhile, the hashtag #alexalaugh is going viral.

Horrified Amazon Echo Users Say Alexa Has Gone Creepily Insane while Laughing (8 March 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Wonders of the Millennial World 9: A New Year's Walk on the Beach


Image Source: Boston Magazine.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018. Today, see the creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen who "demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles. His creatures are designed to move -- and even survive -- on their own." (Hat tip: The Outer Light.)

Car commercial: BMW (South Africa). Defining innovation (15 August 2006). Video Source: Youtube.

Jansen creates skeletons which walk by means of wind- and solar power. His latest creation in 2017 was called Strandbeest, or 'Beach Beast.' TEDx explains that Jansen tries to invest his creations with primitive intelligence so that they can act autonomously in their own rudimentary self-interest:
"[The artist] builds large works which resemble skeletons of animals that are able to walk using the wind on the beaches of the Netherlands. His animated works are a fusion of art and engineering; in a car company television commercial Jansen says: 'The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.' He strives at equipping his creations with their own intelligence to manage avoiding obstacles, by changing their course when one is detected, such as the sea itself."

Image Source: Web Urbanist.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Of Hauntings and Homelessness



A few years ago, when I was living in England, I walked through a back parking lot behind a grocery store on my way home. There were two vagrants there, sharing a bottle of wine, and I heard them talking:
"I never expected this."
"Expected what?"
"To be brought low."

Image Source: RT.

They are in growing company: in November, 2017, The Guardian reported that one person is homeless out of every 200 people in the UK. In London, one person in every 59 people is homeless! The epidemic is masked by unreported situations, people who are sofa-surfing, people living in their cars. The rot is spreading to London's leafy suburbs. Numbers are similar for the UK's other big cities. In Scotland, one household goes homeless every 19 minutes; over 6,000 children will be homeless on Christmas Day this year; and 184,000 families are one paycheque away from losing their home. This is mainly due to high rents, soaring property taxes, and housing benefit cuts.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Prepare for the Saudi Singularity



I have published a new post (here) at Vocal Media, which argues that the upheavals in Saudi Arabia are symptomatic of a massive shift from economies based on oil, to economies based on the next stage of technology.

I argue that events in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton suggest that the Singularity is coming, but not the way we expected. The Singularity will be commandeered by the Saudis, meaning that the dominant cultural tone of the Singularity will not be California Silicon Valley culture, or Asian culture, or German Tech-Kultur, or even Silicon Britain - or other global cultures you might expect.

Rather, the Singularity will be dominated by Wahhabist Islam.

The situation is far more complex than I have outlined in that Vocal piece; for more details, see James Corbett's summaries below. I don't always agree with Corbett's interpretations and opinions, but he has put together a decent overview of the situation, albeit from an alt-media perspective. He includes reasons why the Crown Prince may not succeed in commandeering the Singularity, much less Saudi Arabia.

Regardless, Corbett recognizes the basic new truth of our lives: Data is the New Oil. Erected before us like an unavoidable totem, this truth is not just economic or technological. Despite the scientific bent of technology, I maintain that the primary impact of this truth will be cultural and especially religious. We are at the exact moment that will determine which culture dominates and shapes the post-carbon era of the Singularity, related technocratic governments, and their official religions.

The Saudi Purge is a Global Crisis (17 November 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Why Big Oil Conquered The World (6 October 2017). Video Source: Youtube

How Big Oil Conquered the World (27 December 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Data is the New Oil (24 November 2017). Video Source: Youtube



Friday, September 15, 2017

Cairn Building Sacred Tree Chimps


This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees (1 March 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

The above video circulated last year, when researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Chimbo Foundation observed male chimpanzees filling hollow trees up with rocks, and then hurling more rocks at the filled trees in what looked like a strange ritual. This occurred in the Boé region of Guinea-Bissau on the western tip of Africa.

Were the researchers correct in projecting onto the chimpanzees the theory of human evolution, much less a theory of human evolution as dependent on the development of religion? For that seems to be the underlying argument: that biological evolution is impossible without the cognitive moment when the brain seeks the divine. As the researchers put it:
"We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites."
It is a banal but fascinating beginning for the gods: merely a pile of rubble, mounded in a new way which could begin to take on significance. The hypothesis is not asking whether these animals actually find gods in the stone configurations they make, rather whether their brains make the mental jump into thinking they do. In this theory, that's evolution.

One Youtuber summed up the discovery as "chimphenge." Other comments:
  • "Sorry mi english google translator: I do not believe in God, this discovery shows that never need God in our lives, we evolve throwing stones at the trees and forming mounds, then named sacred, those trees symbolically became pillars adorned our temples, after millions of years evolution forget this and we must give a name to both advance and consciousness. Unfortunately there was a lot to us and we prefer to form symbolic it out from within us and shape, we call 'God' and is the perfect excuse to manipulate and keep people away from the truth, everyone is 'God' does not exist a single God, in fact none exists, are just stones of different shapes and sizes in different trees, it depends on the monkey and the group which is the 'real tree' that 'God' is life, we are each living being. We gave shape the world as we know it and everything, God does not exist we create it, we ourselves are God, this evolutionary step in monkeys demonstrated."
  • "and what has been noted on which specific trees have been used? do these specific trees also feature in human's use such as shamanism, or medicinal or spiritual functions?"
  • "Maybe they're trying to recreate fire. . .from a past incident that simply happened by chance."
  • "Stop bring God into it. They are intelligent apes and live with nature. And if humans stopped interfering with there lives they would be ok"
  • "might be the start of next chapter in chimpanzee evolution theyre going to build their first pyramid"
  • "Idiots!!! clear they are playing a game unknown to man. Not everything is supposed to be [for a] reason. ..."
  • "I THINK THEY HIDING HILLARYS EMAILS"
Click to enlarge. Image Source: Nature.

This theory relates to how we worship our own ability to make things. The scientists here may be unconsciously projecting contemporary attitudes toward creativity onto the chimps. Most of the world has received the Technological Revolution with cult-like fervour. Today's Maker Culture is a 21st century extension of the old Arts and Crafts movement (c. 1880-1920), updated with machine building, engineering, arts and crafts, and open-sourced hardware. These trends involve the wonder of building something with one's bare hands, to the point where it enters an intellectual, conceptual, or spiritual realm. A more etheric branch of Maker Culture is software-oriented Hacker Culture.

So, a secular search for a moment of transcendence is there, and central to understanding the creative and intellectual arts. For artists and thinkers as creators, there is something magical about manipulating matter into a thing or moment beyond what existed before, through a creative act. At the core of it lies humankind's conflicted connection with nature.

The current manipulation of the world is based on a presumed human disconnection from the environment. These were the presumptions of the Enlightenment. In Enlightenment secularism, there was no divine entity and we did not derive from divine action. But we also had a right to control, understand, and rationalize the world because we were no longer animals and were disconnected from nature, and thus gained dominion over it.

Nothing could be sadder or further from the truth, and the fundamental error in that core assumption is reflected in the anguish caused by the superficial focus on modern materialism and rationalism, devoid of emotion and spiritual wonder. It is on the basis of that rigid, mask-like quantification of existence that we find ourselves seduced by technology.

Even technophiles who try to go deeper than commercialism and materialism yearn for microchip implants and brain-machine interfaces. They want the interface to fill the holes in their souls. It is interesting that they are obsessed with organic food, and nature-oriented spiritualism, but with a cardboard level of understanding. The spiritual disconnection from nature is complete, and robot-dom is just around the corner, even if that robot thinks it has done its job by climbing mountains, or contorting itself into yoga poses, drinking purified vitamin water, or eating organic vegetables. Mechanically going through the motions around consciousness does not constitute consciousness. The symbiotic bio-tech mesh between ourselves and our tools has already started. Even with the redemptive Maker Movement still trending, the philosophical consideration of what that means lags far behind.

This is why organized religion, for all its flaws and superstitions, constantly reminded human beings of the creative moment when they tried to understand their place in nature, in a fashion that went way beyond tool-building. Early technological monuments like Stonehenge were conceived not for the sake of technology itself, but to measure astronomical changes for even greater purpose.

Wells Cathedral: Gothic cathedrals were designed to look like the faithful were entering an artificial stone forest, reminiscent of earlier Druidic practices in real forest groves. Image Source: Shutterstock.

Architects designed the Gothic cathedrals of Europe to resemble forest groves. Yes, they invented the flying buttress, but they did it not for the sake of the buttresses. They did it to build stone forests, with stained-glass windows which imitated dappled sunlight, penetrating the canopy.

Compare that to our current disconnection from nature, in which technology is created blindly for the sake of mechanized production and mechanical modalities, desperately rolled out on accelerated machine-oriented schedules. The underlying spiritual gap is evident in the current demolition of European churches because they are too expensive to maintain. They are replaced by square cement boxes.

Today, there are enormous efforts toward creativity; but technophiles still indulge powerful fantasies that they control the process. This Millennial blind spot, which replaced God with the ego, may explain why the chimpanzees' stone cairns remain a mystery to us, who are so much more intelligent.

The scholarly article on the subject, published 29 February 2016, is by Hjalmar S. Kühl, Ammie K. Kalan, and others, "Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing," Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22219 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep22219.

Rise of the 'maker movement' (12 March 2012). Video Source: Youtube.

The Mad Geniuses of Maker Faire (10 July 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker trailer - A documentary on the Maker Movement (30 September 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

HOME MADE A Documentary on the Maker Movement in Denmark HD (9 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Next Maker Movement (22 May 2015). Video Source: Youtube.
 
Maker Faire Hannover 2015 Teil 1 - Impressionen JS TECHhack (6 June 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker Faire Bay Area 2016 (23 May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware (Full Documentary) | Future Cities | WIRED (5 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Hubs, Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement: Investing in Tech Innovation in Africa | #APF15 (27 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

The Maker Movement and the Next Manufacturing Revolution (21 October 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

MakerFaire UK 2017 (1 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

The Maker Movement: Finding Meaning in Work (7 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Bay Area Maker Faire 2017 (24 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker Faire 2017 Berlin (12 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Google's Infogate


Google was initially listed on 4 September 1998, hosted by Stanford.edu, having been developed by a couple of Gen X PhD students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Image Source: Business Insider.

This post is the first of several on decentralized information dynamics and real-fake, mainstream-alt news. I will start with the beast behind it all. On 4 September 1998, the search engine Google first appeared online. It is hard to believe, because it feels like a short time ago, but it was a pivotal moment between the way the world was and what it is now.

It used to be that if you wanted to find information you had to amass a personal book collection, and visit libraries and archives. You built a professional or amateur reputation as researcher. You had to get to know people - contacts, translators - who knew things, and travel around the world to see sequestered books, diaries and sealed files. Everything had to be taken down in pen and paper notes.

Orson Welles's sarcastic scene from Citizen Kane (1941), in which a journalist is granted permission to read in a private library which holds the unpublished memoirs of a deceased banker. Video Source: Youtube.

Once photocopiers existed, if the archivist was inclined, you would be permitted to photocopy small amounts of material at exorbitant rates. An average person might find one or two books at the bookstore or library, or have saved newspaper or magazine articles in a personal, physical, metal filing cabinet. That was it.

Before the Internet, information was hard won, and knowledge, wisdom and judgement about information even more so. The latter required time, contemplation, and reflection in total silence. It also demanded discussions with others who had done the same. It was a fundamentally different way of thinking.

Monday, November 7, 2016

World War III Projections 1: The Worm That Sleeps in the Wild


The Clutch album, Psychic Warfare, released 2 October 2015 by Weathermaker Music (for a taster, go here). Image Source: Jeff  Draws.

Like religions, wars are indices of technology. Henry David Thoreau said: "What is human warfare but just this; an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party." War also involves a psychological marshaling of forces as well as catharses. It permits a descent into savagery, and paradoxically produces efficient organization which rewards strategists. Brutal and logical, unbridled and innovative, war turns the unthinkable into reality.

Future of robotics - Boston Dynamics.
Future of robotics - Boston Dynamics.
Posted by Arch2O.com on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Although there is a popular belief that we will regress to sticks and stones, conflicts serve jumps in innovation. When radical testing is needed to assimilate knowledge secretly, war can enable unspeakable experiments beyond the usual subterfuges. The first use of airplanes in war occurred in 1911, in a conflict between Italy and Libya - one of several engagements fought around the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

This fact should inspire concern in a time when the tech industry is developing new capabilities ever more quickly, compulsively upgrading for the sake hyper-innovation. Technology departs the realm of engineers as mechanical capabilities intensify and deepen; tech is becoming more organic, intimate, integrated, more moral or spiritual than ever before. It is altering our behaviour; how we think; and what we think. Gadget designs are on the verge of becoming physically invasive.

This is the first of a series of posts which will ask what World War III would, or will, be like in an age of global communications. Given the way it is administered, the Internet as we know it would break down. But several systems would replace it.

Because currencies collapse in war zones, I wanted to know what would happen with gold and Bitcoin. It is a vast topic, so I will reserve gold and war for a future post. However, my first search on recent disappearances of large amounts of gold brought up a curious conspiracy theory that USD $740 million of gold and other precious metals disappeared from a two storey vault under the World Trade Center complex after 9/11.

Bitcoin, the currency of the Internet, could gain in value in a time of war; or perhaps the damage to the existing Internet would render Bitcoin worthless. There are two pages on page on Reddit where people have discussed this:
  • "In WW3 we all die. The only working currencies are ammo and iodine. But when people come out of the bunkers and restart civilization - there is a chance that one of them is a bitcoiner. Anyways bitcoin could be the currency for exchanging value between nations that hate one-another."
  • "How do you think the existing financial system works ... beads and shells? If WW3 kicks off this will be the least of our worries. However seen as you have asked I would imagine due to its inherent decentralization bitcoin would be extremely resilient. What other ledger of account is self propagating and distributed across 1000s of nodes? It may even be in space before long."
  • "Every soldier will get a 20 satoshi ration (worth $20 in 2026)"
  • "It will become completely worthless as well as fiat money will become worthless. The Blockchain will simply freeze because you need more energy then a coal plant generates to find new blocks at a reasonable time ... Nobody would be able to effort so much energy just to keep the Blockchain alive."
  • "Dont you think developers could Manually adjust difficulty?"
  • "Assuming there are developers with electricity and a computer, with an uplink? There is a fair probability that for at least the first while, they will have more important things on their mind than getting the blockchain running again. After that, a Hard Fork could be pushed to adjust difficulty, but at that point you'd have an interesting time pushing it."
  • "And whoever was pushing it would be effectively campaigning for election to run a gasp central bank."
  • "I was entertaining the thought of a 51% attack. Same concept, but whoever can get the ball rolling would be in control. Of course, it doesn't even begin to get into how war time inflation works, and how bartering winds up being used because the currencies can't keep up value-wise. A full blown world war would decimate bitcoin for a while I think, even if people somewhere were working on preserving it."
  • "The worst part of the war will be fought electronically. Governments will 'hack' each others systems to cause financial ruin. Grids will go down, markets will loose all information, treatment plants will go offline. Any server that can be pinpointed will be vulnerable. Most of all credit will stop causing most to fend for themselves. How this affects Bitcoin is that it runs on servers. I would think in the early stages of full scale mobilization people will flock to it but if the war drags on into most systems being taken off line it would probably become pretty useless. If things got to that point though currency would be the least of your problems. Most likely we would be forced to live under a feudal system where each ruler that can protect his population would seek to get back online and communicate with the rest of the world. In that case the original blockchain would most likely be lost and a new one would be started. But Im just guessing."
  • "Depends on how bad things get. The blockchain ledger would still exist in multiple states, I'm sure someone would've made a backup of it. However, screwing with the blockchain ledger would get significantly easier. With a lot less mining nodes around, reaching that 51% of hashing power would be more feasible. If you still had internet. If you still had power. But honestly, if WW3 happens and you somehow survive, I don't think the loss of your bitcoins will be your real problem. Finding things like food and shelter and clothing would be your real priority, and then if you somehow managed to get electricity flowing again, and jerry rigged an intarweb connection, then you'd be worried about recovering from backups (you did make backups, right) and seeing what's left of your BTC stash. Even gold would be more or less useless in a Mad Max screnario for the most part. Personally, I'm anticipating a Weimar type hyperinflation, where the phones and power all worked. Maybe I'm being too optimistic about the future? We'll see. You can tell me you told me so, if I'm wrong :)"
  • "I would be more concerned with forks in the blockchain when nations isolate themselves (internet wise) due to the embargoes (digital and otherwise) that would result. The fork would cause real problems for Bitcoin after the reconciliation of warring nation states. Let's hope this never happens."
  • "I actually think that gold and silver would quickly re-establish as money in a post-apocalyptic world. Basically I think civilization would revert to a historical model appropriate to whatever infrastructure and technology remain. Even if that meant returning to a lifestyle like ancient Rome, there would be local strongmen with armies and headquarters, there would be farms and protection money paid to operate them, there would be something very much like taxation, and there would be a need for a medium of exchange with all the classic properties of money ... just like there has been in every place and time, all throughout history. In the first few weeks after the bombs fall, food, water, and ammunition will reign supreme; but in the months and years after that, gold and silver will revert to their historic role."
  • "What? You mean that all these bottle caps I have been collecting in case of a post-apocalyptic scenario was for nothing? In all seriousness, I agree that we would either go back to the gold/silver/copper standard. A digital currency wouldn't be of much use with no internet."
Those chatting on Reddit did not consider that Bitcoin is entangled with the development of cyberwarfare. Just as Bitcoin challenges the power of central state banks, on this developing front of cyberwarfare, the full computing might of nation-states is brought to bear against that of state and non-state actors. In 2016, there were reports that ISIS had been attacked through cyberwarfare. In terms of politics, technological evolution during World War III will be tied to the evolution of the nation-state.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: Americans, Aliens and Area 51


A lamp post in Roswell, New Mexico, USA. Image Source: Houstonia.

The American election campaign has reached the 'aliens are real' stage. Given WikiLeaks' latest (and possibly Russian-sourced) UFO leaks (herehere, here and here) relating to Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, today we head to Area 51 for all things X-Files, Roswell, aliens, and flying saucers. According to WikiLeaks, US government staffers relayed the following information to John Podesta in an e-mail from December 2008:
"Add this to John Podesta's pile: A 'million fax on Washington' directed by the head of the Extraterrestrial Phenomena Political Action Committee (X-PPAC) to demand that Obama 'demand a full briefing from your military services and intelligence agencies regarding what they know and what they are doing about extraterrestrial related phenomena' and 'formally acknowledge the extraterrestrial presence and finally end the truth embargo after 61 years.'

X-PPAC's executive director, Stephen Bassett, writes in his own open letter that he believes that the transition chief is a secret ally in this:

If you are in need of counsel to assist you in these matters, you have but to turn to your transition co-chair, John Podesta. His efforts to end the truth embargo and release all relevant government documents date back to at least 1993 and the Rockefeller Initiative. PRG believes he is fully aware of the extraterrestrial presence and is committed to creating more open, transparent governance. In this he is in sync with the chief financial backer of his Center for American Progress think tank, George Soros.

This is not a new theory. The response to Clinton Library Freedom of Information Law requests was delayed because the UFO people got there first, FOIAing, among other things, 'All files on UFOs, Roswell New Mexico, flying saucers, Area 51 or the TV show X-Files in the files of John Podesta'

X-PPAC reportedly is further heartened, this time around, by the likely presence of Bill Richardson in the new administration; during one debate, he called on the federal government to 'come clean' on Roswell, though he later said he hadn't meant to suggest he's a believer."
Russia Today claims the leaks prove that the American government knows that aliens exist, and the aliens want to help us with "zero point energy," or "free energy," which would change the whole history and development of the world. The fact that 'energy' is the aliens' main concern should be a telltale sign in all this Russian mischief. According to the leaks, the aliens are unwilling to share their technology unless 'we' overcome our violent, war-mongering tendencies. The leaks also 'prove' the Vatican's awareness of extraterrestrials. You can see these bizarre revelations summarized here. See more reports here, here, here, here, here and here. Critics argue that these leaks and Russian propagandistic interference in American affairs herald a new era of "false stories" and "weaponized information."

This image was attached to a 26 October 2015 e-mail purportedly from Tom DeLonge to Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta; it was leaked by WikiLeaks on 10 October 2016. It and other attached images relate to a Hollywood-sourced novels, films and 'non-fiction' works to be released about the existence of aliens. Image Source: WikiLeaks via CBS.



Image Source: PBS.

From the Prelinger Archives: "Color footage of atomic bomb tests with active duty military personnel at Camp Desert Rock, Nevada Test Site, Nevada. Shows soldiers in foxholes as nuclear detonation occurs nearby; light and shockwaves; blowing dust; soldiers climbing out of foxholes and running towards mushroom cloud." Video Source: Youtube. This film is in the public domain.

The Russians are cleverly exploiting a famous corner of American mythology to demoralize and confuse the Americans, turn them against their own system, and disrupt the USA's democratic process. Russian tactics are working because the adolescent republic reflexively reverts to revolutionary mode when considering any undue government influence - and because ancient superstitions married high technology in Nevada's now-toxic desert. Talk of flying saucers and aliens has long circled Area 51, a restricted facility, where the US Air Force tests experimental aircraft and weapons. According to Wiki, rumoured events in Area 51 include:
  • "The storage, examination, and reverse engineering of crashed alien spacecraft (including material supposedly recovered at Roswell), the study of their occupants (living and dead), and the manufacture of aircraft based on alien technology."
  • "Meetings or joint undertakings with extraterrestrials."
  • "The development of exotic energy weapons for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or other weapons programs."
  • "The development of means of weather control."
  • "The development of time travel and teleportation technology."
  • "The development of unusual and exotic propulsion systems related to the Aurora Program."
  • "Activities related to a supposed shadowy one world government or the Majestic 12 organization."
My 2012 post, Mutants, After the Apocalypse, contended that atomic bomb tests, nuclear accidents, and radioactive leaks on domestic soil constituted the fallout equivalent of a North American nuclear war. In other words, the nuclear apocalypse had already occurred but was not openly acknowledged. The subliminal fear of cancer and mutations became internalized through cultural metaphors, many of which were spiritual, religious or magical. Abduction narratives and alien conspiracy theories involve the internalization, impregnation, or hybridization of humans by insidious, non-human elements. A subplot in these stories includes world domination or military worries. These ideas symbolize the fear that deadly poisons have been absorbed inside physical human systems, with health and land compromised in the name of science, technology, defense and progress.

While aliens are mathematically likely to exist, the Fermi Paradox asks why they have not unquestionably arrived on earth. Believers say they have, but their logic bears all the remnant trademarks of the medieval religious and occult imagination. Where once Catholic Europe, threatened by bubonic plague, feared demonic possession, and the ghosts and vampires arising from a pandemic period of mass death - now technological Millennial America, unnerved by the radioactive source of her own superpower, fears alien invasion.

On 10 October 2016, the European Space Agency sent 3,775 messages toward the Pole Star Polaris, in a numerologically-laden 11-11-11 statement. Irish-born artist Paul Quast entitled the project, A Simple Response to an Elemental Message, in which the interstellar conversation with aliens was supposed to start around the question: "How will our present environmental interactions shape the future?" The messages will take 400 years to arrive. Image Source: Daily Galaxy.

When one considers unacknowledged fallout in the already-nuked homeland, American citizens become the real victims, alien to themselves, shambling around a ruined and polluted environment. Nor are they alone. By 2012, over 2,000 nuclear tests had been conducted around the world. For a map of where those tests occurred (assume far-reaching, global fallout), go here. Among the five top nations to conduct tests, only the British and French did not use their homeland territories. The British tested their bombs in Nevada, Australia, on islands in the Pacific, and in the atmosphere. The French conducted their tests in Algeria, the Pacific, and in the atmosphere.

Paul Hellyer statement on a covert alien invasion, supposedly kept secret by top governments as part of the New World Order conspiracy (May 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Before the October 2016 WikiLeaks revelations, the most high profile official to claim that aliens and related military conspiracies are real was the Canadian ex-Minister of Defence, Paul Hellyer. Hellyer remains hazy about whether he actually read secret governmental reports about UFOs while in office. His cited information comes from UFO writers, enthusiasts, and convention attendees. He implies that the Canadian government received reports of UFOs. But Canadian governmental neglect of those reports does not constitute a cover-up or proof of UFOs. Due to his former cabinet rank, Hellyer looks like a government UFO whistle-blower, even if he is not one.

Of course, as WikiLeaks shows, whistle-blowing carries a lot of momentum and perceived ethical weight in Millennial social media. Telling a suppressed secret in the name of a higher truth to protect the beleaguered public is a now-classic Millennial meme, which transforms the whistle-blower into a nearly-irreproachable, self-sacrificing holy man. It must be tempting to play the role of gnostic truth-teller, to become a prophet unveiling real reality in the nascent Age of Information. Only recently have netizens and hacktivists begun to ask about their sources' motivations.

Hellyer gains social media traction by mashing up two Millennial memes: aliens and whistle-blowing. Playing the whistle-blower gives Hellyer a carte blanche to say nearly anything and to occupy a projected space of moral rectitude in the UFO subculture. As a result, Hellyer is now a darling of these circles. He is spending his retirement touring alien conferences and conspiracy theorist conventions. He wants governments to give a "full disclosure" on UFOs to their citizens. He apparently believes the entire Millennial alien mythology: aliens in the ancient world, Atlantis, the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, the shadow government, the anti-banking movement, the New World Order plot, and human genetic manipulation orchestrated by alien interlopers.

Yet Hellyer's most poignant desire in resolving these perceived threats reveals a man struggling with a deeper problem. He says: "In a word, we have to become spiritual beings." As with the Russian-inspired aliens who are focused on energy, this is the giveaway. Although Hellyer would deny it in his quest for the truth, perhaps the problem he faces is one of alienation, not aliens, in society. The spiritual path typically begins by smashing the truth one takes for granted.

For Hellyer, that truth is obviously the integrity of western governments. His deeper spiritual concern chimes with a story of Area 51 which asks how love, community, and soul-based morality contend with fear of a contaminated landscape, rapid technological change, and death-dealing power. Hellyer's Nevada odyssey hints that in the era of mass communications, social media, and big data, the central challenge to the individual is how one decides to know information, and how one connects that 'way of knowing' to moral and political value systems. His interests also echo the New Age end of the aliens-are-here spectrum, where belief in aliens is associated with spiritual enlightenment and higher awakening.

Below, see an urbex video from urban explorer Dan Bell for a real, recent view of the region; and from across the Web, see some of the best alien Hallowe'en costumes. These days, most Millennial UFO reports hail from Central and South America rather than Nevada, although this US state still guards many mysteries: the most recent known nuclear test in Nevada was a 2012 underground plutonium bomb, Pollux.

From the 1950s to the present, 928 atomic bomb tests were conducted in the Yucca flats and surrounding areas at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Mushroom clouds could be seen from Las Vegas's downtown hotels and became tourist attractions. This is the 1 November 1951 'Dog' test from Operation Buster-Jangle, the first to include live troops manoeuvring on Frenchman Flat while the bomb went off. Image Source: Wiki.

Dan Bell's urbex video of an abandoned complex, 30 minutes from the alien gas station and celebrity-connected Heidi-Fleiss-owned brothel at Amargosa, Nevada, adjacent to the infamous Area 51 and equally infamous Yucca Mountain (17 August 2016). Bell mentions gold and silver mining, but regions to the north, south and southwest also featured uranium mines. Video Source: Youtube.

Brothel adjacent Area 51 at Amargosa, Nevada (Yucca Mountain Travel Center): "This is a legal brothel, or 'Cathouse' (whorehouse?) at the intersection of the Veterans Memorial Highway (US 95) and State Highway 393 in Amargosa, Nevada. Dennis Hof (owner of a successful brothel in Carson City) and Heidi Fleiss (the former Hollywood Madame who was arrested in the '90s for running a high-price prostitution ring) own and operate the place, respectively." (31 July 2012) Video Source: Youtube.

Image Source: Wiki.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Drone Precedents: Point and Click


The unmanned drone MQ-9 Reaper, made by General Atomics, designed in 2001, first introduced into use by the US Air Force in 2007. This photo is from Afghanistan. Image Source: US Air Force via Defense Update.

This is the third in three posts on discrepancies between declared meaning and hard reality and the problems those gaps cause in emerging Millennial history. Today's post focuses on warfare. The 2014 documentary Drone, directed by Norwegian director Tonje Hessen Schei, summarized the change from a critical perspective. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom reviewed the film in 2015:
"The international community has stressed that drone strikes involve killings without due process that are violating international law and human rights, most importantly the right to life. There have been strong concerns that drone operations do not gather sufficient information to establish legal targets, resulting in indiscriminate killings. The precision of drones, so fondly asserted by their supporters, is a myth.

Someone who knows all about this crude reality is Brandon Bryant, a former US Air Force drone operator diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, who is now speaking out to the world on what he experienced during his time flying drones. In the documentary, he describes the light-hearted, often nonchalant, atmosphere in the control room, half a world away from the people they were targeting, and how he himself grew more and more jaded for each strike."
The documentary (available at time of writing, here) sounds an alarm on drone development; the film regards drones as an international, not purely American, problem; and it criticizes the Republicans and especially the Democrats for their endorsement of the drone programme. The narration opens with an interview with Brandon Bryant, as he reflected on how drone operation dehumanized him:
"I didn't really understand what it meant to kill at first. It was horrible. Sometimes it plays itself over and over again in your head, so much that you, you just imagine who these people were. We sat in a box for nearly twelve hour shifts. I [was] typically on the night shift. It was quieter. All the lights were usually off, except for the light coming from the monitors. It was so weird just being able to watch people's lives. ... I remember watching a wedding. I mean, these were people enjoying themselves. These were people celebrating, like, a wedding. You know? Like - but someone in that wedding was a bad person, and at that moment, they were celebrating. It's just weird, like, I'm watching this person, and this person has no clue. We're the ultimate voyeurs, the ultimate Peeping Toms. No one's going to catch us, and we're getting orders to take these people's lives. It was just - point and click."
Bryant claimed most of his fellow drone pilots did not view their operations that way, and some threatened him when he came forward to criticize drones. At the other end of engagement, civilians sitting under drone attacks regard them as despicable and illegal. Lawyers in Pakistan have taken drone attack cases before their courts as criminal extrajudicial killings. But the paper trail disappears when it reaches the American government's doorstep, due to the confidentiality of unidentified authorities and top secret status of intelligence officers. In 2015, The Guardian called "Obama's drone panopticon" a "secret machine with no accountability." In the old military system, information can pinpoint those who violate military laws and court martial them. In the new military system, information disappears.




The verdict on conventional warfare from 2001 to 2008: Abu Ghraib prison torture in 2003 Image Source: Progressive Charlestown. The Senate committee report on torture was published on 30 December 2014. Image Source: Christian Science Monitor. Wife at the grave of an American soldier. Image Source: The Daily Call. Approximately half of veterans (over 1 million former military personnel) returned home to suffer PTSD, drug problems, convoluted governmental support, unemployment in the Great Recession, and other difficulties. A homeless veteran in Houston, Texas. Image Source: IFTBQP. Wiki: "In 2013, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that covered suicides from 1999 to 2010, which showed that roughly 22 veterans were committing suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes."

Barack Obama's drone programme grew out of a catastrophic evaluation of George W. Bush's conventional wars. The Americans faced huge criticism and problems over their handling of the War in Afghanistan (2001-2014) and the Iraq War (2003-present). Abu Ghraib prison, torture, and Guantanamo Bay became ugly mirrors which the big media held up to show a proud nation its shameful inhumanity. The media and experts challenged the justifications and WMD premises for the war. Bush's conventional war was also astronomically expensive. In 2004, Osama bin Laden stated that one of al-Qaeda's aims was to provoke the USA into military conflict to the point of bankruptcy. He almost succeeded. Critics blamed the 2008 meltdown partly on the cost of war. In 2013, Reuters reported that the Iraq War and its related aftermath could cost USD $6 trillion over the next four decades, including interest.

Enter the drone, a comparatively cheap, recessionary weapon. In 2015, The Daily Dot reported that Obama requested roughly USD $561 billion in defense spending for the following year, with a growing portion devoted to drones or drone research, to around USD $5 billion by 2016. This was the projected cost of 'soft defense' with a 'small footprint': "While controversial for a variety of reasons, the drone program was supposed to usher in the era of a slimmer, smarter military for the U.S." Bard College has a Center for the Study of the Drone, which broke down America's annual drone budget for 2016 (here) and 2017 (here). According to one PBS opinion piece, the Democrats paid for the drones by printing money, as part of recessionary quantitative easing.

So, Obama declared: war is peace. Drone technology effectively continued Bush's Middle Eastern military policy in a different style. Single, targeted drone attacks became more widespread, akin to drone bombing. The Intercept dug through leaked classified drone papers, especially those for Operation Haymaker in Afghanistan in 2012-2013, and found large numbers of civilian casualties. For all the earlier concerns in Iraq and Afghanistan, this was a troubling shift in operational perspective. The Democrats' policy obscured reality, and was conceptually, politically and philosophically dislocated from the reality it created. This war continued mostly out of the public eye, behind a façade of peace. The film Drone maintains that the sympathetic Democratic rhetoric of humanitarianism and frugal economy held the moral high ground over the sabre-rattling of hawkish Republicans. However, the Democrats' withdrawal of troops and peaceable rhetoric cynically, strategically - and progressively - continued the war with drone technology and mercenaries, who replaced American soldiers on the ground.


Blackwater gained public attention when four of their mercenaries were ambushed, killed and burned on a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq, on 31 March 2004. It took two military battles for the Americans to take the city. After the victory in December 2004, the Marines signed the bridge with their Latin motto. In the photo above, 3/5 is the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment of the Marines, also known as the Darkhorse. From 2005 to 2011, investigative reports linked birth defects in Fallujah to the US Army's use of white phosphorous. The incident showed how unconventional mercenaries and weapons overlapped with conventional forces and the media. Images Sources: Mount Holyoke University; flickr.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton condemned the Bush State Department's employment of the military contractor Blackwater. But a 2014 HuffPo investigation found that shortly thereafter, Clinton's State Department stepped up hiring of private armies; her office promised Blackwater (now known as Academi) USD $500 million in mercenary contracts. In 2010, Wired reported that Clinton's State Department signed a five-year contract worth over USD $10 billion with a mercenary umbrella group called, 'International Development Solutions,' which included Academi-formerly-known-as-Blackwater. In 2014, there were rumours that Academi and an affiliated, Barbados-based company, Greystone, were active in the Ukraine. Other Blackwater shell companies, like Paravant, have grimly ironic names (a paravent is a portable bedroom privacy screen). According to Wired, here are a few other names Blackwater, its subsidiaries, or related merc companies have taken on to shed baggage:
  • Total Intelligence Solutions
  • Technical Defense Inc.
  • Apex Management Solutions LLC
  • Aviation Worldwide Services LLC
  • Air Quest Inc.
  • Presidential Airways Inc.
  • EP Aviation LLC
  • Backup Training LLC
  • Terrorism Research Center
  • Xe Services LLC
  • Worldwide Protective Services
  • AAR Corp.
The employer-reviews Website, Glassdoor, has employees' reviews of International Development Solutions; one reads: "Great pay. Travel is awesome. [But y]ou're away from home quite often." Darker parts of the story emerged in 2016 about an embryonic private air force (here and here), while ex-Blackwater CEO Erik Prince aided in China's quiet imperial conquest of Africa. One blog devoted to overseas military contractors calls them "the best kept secret of the wars." Contractors and drones allowed war to disappear (largely) from the media; conflict faded into the background behind the term, 'deniability.' Regardless of the winner in the American presidential race, this approach will continue. The current foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump is Joseph Schmitz, a former Blackwater executive.

Even more than before, politicians separated cause from effect and meaning from reality. This policy created two contemporary historical narratives, the politicized metahistory, and the factual course of events. The misleading image of a kinder, gentler government became easier to cultivate, because warfare was conducted through several degrees of separation and obscured political responsibility. Drone argues that Obama disapproved of Guantanamo Bay, so he solved that problem by killing suspects with drones, thereby avoiding the public relations mess of capturing, incarcerating them and facing scrutiny over that process. Critics in Drone maintain that this policy by-passed international and national legal systems (as opposed to violating them, as the Bush administration had). Other critics assert that the same policy encouraged the rise of ISIS. Drones are one of the reasons why ISIS are so keen to provoke the Americans back into boots-on-the ground, hand-to-hand combat in the Middle East. In their eyes, a bloody human clash is the true contest between societies, and remote-piloted drones are the weapons of cowards.

Purported drone killing (12 November 2015) of 'Jihadi John' aka Mohammed Emwazi (born Muhammad Jassim Abdulkarim Olayan al-Dhafiri), a Londoner who beheaded several high-profile western captives for ISIS, including American journalist James Foley on 19 August 2014 (see my post on Foley's beheading here). ISIS confirmed Emwazi's death in January 2016. The gamer who posted this video on 13 November 2015 rejoices in the killing. This is likely the wrong footage, revealing public difficulty in confirming the details of drone warfare. According to the Daily Mail, Emwazi was killed on a street while talking on his cell phone. Video Source: Youtube

The psychological orientation of drone battle is different from conventional warfare. One army sits, thousands of miles away from the arena of action. Their engagement is virtual, disconnected from direct combat, and they target enemies dispersed among a civilian population. The documentary observes that human operators of drones will soon be replaced by computer algorithms, thus making the targeting of undesirable individuals in the world nearly fully automated. Proponents of algorithmic pilots argue that an algorithm is more objective than human drone operators. At present, the human decision to assassinate an individual or group depends on intelligence analysis and a chain of command. The intelligence is gathered through governmental monitoring of private citizens' information, combined with international intelligence tips - including, the film asserts - from the European Union, whose governments have not criticized Obama's policy on drones.

In DroneColonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, remarked that the advent of drones changes the legal connotations of war, and positions the soldier as more murderer than defender of his or her society. Drone operations demand a different kind of recruit, from soldiers who are physically, organizationally and strategically trained for combat, to soldiers who are computer gamers. The US military has developed unmanned airplane computer games to ferret out and attract drone pilot recruits at as early an age as possible. From Wilkerson in Drone:
"It's a very different youth group that we're dealing with, that we're forcing into this environment of killing. And it's a very different form of killing, when you're in Nevada and the people you're killing are ten thousand miles away. We have something in the armed forces that we call the 'warrior ethos.' You destroy that when you go out and kill people and you're totally invulnerable. I think the drone business, the distance imposed, amplifies this a hundredfold. And the distinction between killing for state purposes under just war theory and killing for state purposes with no vulnerability is, I think, the difference between killing in a way that is recognized and legalized, even, and murder. How did we get to the point where we're no longer warriors, we're murderers for the state?"