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 Transhumanism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Transhumanism. 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.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The People Who Want to Microchip People


Image Source: CBS News.

In an earlier post, I noted how the BBC is promoting human microchipping as well as larger tech-body implants. Their poster boy for this cause, colour blind guy, Neil Harbisson, merits a special 'cyborg' passport status.

Image Source: NYT.

Image Source: Munsell Color.

The subcutaneous chip was first developed by Siemens in the United States. The human microchip implant was invented by Kevin Warwick: "He is known for his studies on direct interfaces between computer systems and the human nervous system, and has also done research concerning robotics." You can read backgrounders on human microchip technology, here and here.

If this practice becomes widely accepted, it will become an automatic, mainstream practice, and children will be microchipped at birth. There are already brain chips which can affect moods and behaviour. Let this go further, and subcutaneous implants will become an organic user interface. They will also constitute an assault on the integrity of the bodies and minds of individuals both as individuals, and as members of society. Soon, it won't be necessary to talk about human rights and freedoms, because the preconditions for them will be medically removed and technically absent. For a disturbing, unconfirmed original sources on this endgame, see here.

The BBC promoting microchipping for Humans (29 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Body, Colonized

China Behavior Rating System V/S Sweden Microchip implants | Must watch technology (18 June 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Of course, rhetoric which promotes rights and freedoms will remain. The political speeches will continue, but rights and freedoms will be erased in reality. Lip service will be paid to these archaic constructions until it is no longer necessary to do so, and people have forgotten them, or been reprogrammed. Expect whatever slavery that follows to be labeled as a new type of freedom. The Chinese have a saying about manipulation and the acquisition of power: point to a deer, and call it a horse.

Human microchipping is part of a new field called 'biointerfaced nano-engineering.' Another catch-all term is 'wearables,' created by firms like Proteus and MC10. This is not the path to convenience, progress or enlightenment. It is the path to slavery. Although it seems that the human body must become the next technological platform, it is not inevitable. Do not do it. Do not accept it.

This post is not a Luddite screed. It is a plea to save the best potentials of technology and keep them on a course that will not destroy us. We are entering a new stage in the Tech Revolution, in which we have to learn to take responsibility for progress and innovation. Thus far, citizens have been accepting actors on the receiving end of research projects released via big tech companies. These were experimental prototypes, presented as exciting consumer goods. Electronic goods were marketed with various political and socio-economic messages to make them palatable in the capitalist endeavour to build self-identity from the outside in.

Image Source: Go into the Story.

We were entranced in the first decades of the Tech Revolution by the gadgets and rapid software upgrades. Most people believed in the opening act that they acted as consumers inside the pre-existing capitalist model. They did not understand that that old system had already been effectively outdated and internally destroyed; only an illusory shell of that model persists as a form of mass behavioural control.

We can all be forgiven for assuming that consumerism was how tech was introduced into our reality. But it never was.

Although glitzy, futuristic marketing campaigns created the illusion that technology turned people into empowered, connected consumers, each new level of hardware and software between the 1980s and the 2010s blinded technophiles to the fact that they were never consumers at all. They were increasingly-conditioned lab rats, running through monitored environments, inside the biggest human behavioural study ever conducted.

Now, things must change. It is time to wake up. It is time to grow up. We can be forgiven for trusting those big corporations, helmed by intelligence agencies and Promethean research groups, as benevolent guides in the opening act of the Tech Revolution.

Image Source: Film Connection.

But we cannot be forgiven if we sleepwalk into Act Two, and deliver our children into immersive slavery. In transhumanism, the commodity is not the microchip or its successor technologies. The commodity will be a new type of interbody imperialism and colonization, developed under the banner of building safer, more efficient societies. This will be a coercive, predictable, micro-legalized system, based on live feed maps of humankind's biological processes, mass consciousness, and psychological and physical reactions as a collective of living beings.

There has to be a moment when we recognize that the integrity of our bodies and souls is worth more than a few everyday conveniences. We are not meant to become 'the Borg.' Planting a gadget in your body is not a form of self-improvement that is good for the environment. To believe this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the body as an environment in itself, and of the body as an organism functioning within the larger natural environment.

I suspect that what will happen is that humankind will split into two camps. One group will absorb technology fully into the mind and body with erotic abandon. They will love the quasi-sexual interface, and will mistake the enhanced experience for an authentic upgrade.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: CERN is Wonderland


ALICE project at CERN: "(A Large Ion Collider Experiment) is a heavy-ion detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ring." Image Source: The Royal Society.

Today's post reveals how online researchers can take two terrifying ideas and combine them to create a new, counter-factual alt-history that is more terrifying because it seems more true, when it is actually less true.

Magic and Science, A Post-Truth Horror Mash-Up

These two frightening rumours are:

Theory 1: Evil Science
Those developing technology mean to enslave us with mind-bending and reality-altering devices that will get out of control.

Theory 2: Evil Magic
The CIA's historically-documented MKUltra program is a still-operational global scheme for brainwashing and controlling select individuals. The program's Nazi roots lead to murky accounts of ritualistic cults, black magic mayhem and murder, Satanic ritual abuse (SRA updates the ritual murder myth), prostitution and child torture. The hypothesis runs that MKUltra's malevolent techniques are now being applied wholesale via entertainment and news media to mainstream culture. A typical testimony in this genre is here.

Theory 1 seems more credible and tamer in terms of content than Theory 2. It isn't.

Theory 1: TLDR
  • The double slit experiment proved that an observer transforms an object by observing it. Scientists declare this occurs only on the quantum level.
  • Terrifying online theory: this leads to the question of whether any serious research projects have set out to understand and control that process on a large scale, thus potentially gaining the ability to shape general reality and change history at will.
  • To do this beyond the quantum level (if that is possible), researchers would have to control masses of observers in the first place; they would have to learn how to control human perception generally; and they would then have to begin to conduct experiments on that energetic field.
  • There is a hypothesis on the Internet that there may be a mathematical formula which defines how human perception affects reality. That is, this is a mathematical formula for the physics of human consciousness as it interacts with, and impresses itself upon, the material world.
  • A further hypothesis considers that the means to control human perception was already known in some cryptic way in occult or magical practices, but that means was not scientifically understood or instrumentalized in a reliable, industrial way. Thus far, the bending of space-time has supposedly been rooted in organic manifestations generated by highly-intuitive, spiritually-gifted, and esoterically-trained individuals. Some of these occult secrets have been revealed publicly through the arts.
  • Or they have been revealed through politics. Another fringe theory maintains that the murderous politics of Nazi Germany was an occult experiment in altering mass perception, thereby forcing reality and history to change, with genocidal consequences.
  • Yet another fringe theory asserts that after the fall of Nazi Germany, the Nazis' research into mass mind control was transferred to, and continued in, the USA and the UK at Project MKUltra and the Tavistock Institute, respectively.
  • Conspiracy theorists think all that work is now bearing terrible fruit and that CERN is the big scientific experiment dedicated to orchestrating human perception, thereby building a tool that will create new realities through the manipulation of mass consciousness.
  • One alt-researcher, Daniel Liszt, thinks that the map for CERN's research was originally presented in mathematical formulas embedded in the Alice in Wonderland books by British author, Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice reveals how Carroll did indeed insert mathematical formulas into his fiction.
  • The assumed CERN-Wonderland connection was fostered by the fact that CERN actually has a heavy ion detector called ALICE.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: Magic and the Technological Revolution


Donald Trump's uncle, John G. Trump, developed ultra-powerful X-rays. This is the historical first X-ray image, taken by Wilhelm Röntgen of his wife's left hand on 22 December 1895. Image Source: National Library of Medicine / The Scientist.

The new Tech Revolution is human. The top designers in Silicon Valley plainly understand a secret which they do not share with their customers. Technology is not a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop. It's not a mechanical thing. It's not a smartwatch or a game console. It's not a Virtual Reality headset. It's not a robot, an android, or an AI entity like the HAL9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Don't look at technology as something that helps you order your Starbucks coffee. Look at it as an advanced behavioural modifier.

Technology is the human being who is transformed through interaction with a machine. The revolutionary technology is you, as your behaviour, values, beliefs - as your brain and soul - have changed while you punched keys; listened to the radio, then podcasts; stared at the TV, then videos; took selfies; talked through texts, or on the telephone, or through video calls. Technology is you as you entered the social media reality, indulged in the Internet's arcane, entertaining hivemind, and became a different person. The changed person is a type of technology. The Technological Revolution refers to an irrevocable transformation of, and assault upon, the human condition.

From my previous post on Julian Assange and his possible relationship to the Trump family: in this cinematic depiction of MK-Ultra mind control, the controllers cryptically refer to the brainwashed person, not the brainwashing itself, as a technology. The Manchurian Candidate (7/7) Movie CLIP - Decisions (2004) HD (22 November 2011) © Paramount Pictures. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

While body modifications, identity politics, and behavioural changes will be the most obvious outward signs that this process is running its course, the main assault will be waged internally, on human consciousness. In other words, technology is a state of transformed mind. The Technological Revolution implies an absolute, no-going-back overhaul and control of the human brain and the larger capabilities of the human soul.

If that doesn't terrify you, it should. Everyone must recognize and guard the weirder gray areas where technology overlaps with human mentalities, or they will relinquish sovereign control over the space inside their craniums, and they will never see it coming.

Competing factions appear to be vying for the right to dominate this process. They have different visions of what they want to achieve in terms of the revolutionized human being. This is partly why politics is becoming so urgent and divisive, and why the economy is on the verge of collapse. Both were geared toward an earlier, more human age and both are transforming to encase the new transhuman state.

Traditions of Organic Betterment

For thousands of years, there have been attempts to improve, control and alter the human being. One difference in the 21st century is the speed at which the augmentations are taking place. The other Millennial distinction is the use of gadgets as prostheses, which deceives the user into thinking that the process is in the user's control, and outside the user's existential state of being.

Greatest Martial Artists in History • Brief Martial Arts (18 December 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The 2011 documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicled the extreme discipline necessary to become the top sushi chef in the world. Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Trailer (24 July 2012). Video Source: Youtube.

Unlocking Human Capability - Dr. Devi Shetty with Sadhguru (16 February 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The traditional ways people have augmented their awareness are organic. Even if they use tools, the physical and mental states are the main concerns: a karate master who smashes a stack of boards is not obsessed with the boards as his or her source of strength. These practitioners balance mind and body through well-honed methods. Disciplined study results in rational improvement of brain functions; regular physical training brings the body to peak performance; meditation and spiritual explorations challenge and awaken the soul. Each form of augmentation has resorted to techniques and aids, developed over centuries or longer.

The highest level of this augmentation builds human consciousness to a legendary moment when biochemical, magnetic and electrical brain functions become metaphysical. For a long time, the tools used to create the altered human were mystical or magical; these are ways of dealing with rare information such that those exposed to it have earned the right to engage with it and produce seemingly inexplicable, paranormal, or superhuman results of their actions. This level of activity involves a highly sophisticated interaction through the mind, body, spirit and soul with symbolic abstractions of time, matter and energy. In our era, technological gadgets are usurping the old, supra-organic, magical role of the symbol.

Are Psychic Powers and Telepathy Real? Dr. Devi Shetty with Sadhguru (30 November 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

Transhumanism: Weaponized Consciousness?

Brain-to-Brain Interface: The Next Gen Social Network (7 October 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Much of the Internet believes that the CIA Project MK-Ultra was developed out of Nazi research and that the second half of the 20th century developed the technological means for psychological manipulation and spiritual instrumentalization. That research has supposedly continued to the point where its torturous, hypnotic techniques have been widely disseminated via the Internet and the Internet of Things, with the whole collective's reactions continuously monitored. This approach marks a sinister appropriation and abandonment of the old school attempts at human self-betterment, as through western magic, eastern mystics and Asian martial arts. This new path weaponizes human consciousness through propaganda, education, marketing, and insidious, invasive mental bombardments. By any standards, the potential application of MK-Ultra techniques via mass technology signifies a catastrophic turn down a dark, misguided path.

Patreon-supported alt-documentary on the history of MK-Ultra: The Minds of Men | Official Trailer | Documentary by Aaron & Melissa Dykes (16 July 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Technological gadgets are being invented to mimic or replace capabilities which have traditionally belonged to 'magic,' the human psychic realm, or if you prefer, a conscious mastery of one's unconscious to the point where it affects one's outer material existence.

There is a terrible warning here, for to use a crutch to attain a faux superlative human condition is, by definition, psychopathic. For an example of this progression, consider that some gurus believe that paranormal abilities such as telepathy exist and can be cultivated through intense and profound training. By contrast, a report from October 2018 (the 23 September 2018 scholarly publication is here) confirms that mechanical prostheses are now being built to create 'BrainNet,' a synthetic, mechanized telepathy, transmitted over the Internet. We are at a point where brain-to-tech interfaces are being used by the US military, soon to follow on social media. It's not woo. It's not a ghost story. It's real, and soon it will be at your Apple Store with a price tag on it.


Magical Technology

All of this implies that the top leaders of the Technological Revolution were and are well-versed in older techniques of achieving the superlative human, the disciplines necessary to fine-tune behaviour. In addition, they know about the mind control research and propaganda and education campaigns of the mid-to-late 20th century. And they are diverting all this knowledge into their own, hideous transhuman experiment.

In short, that means that there's some magic misapplied in the development of high technology. Officially, high tech gadgets, apps and networks are so addictive because people like the founders of Facebook embedded psychological games and tricks in their platforms. Unofficially, it is theorized the Technological Revolution was founded in dark occult mysteries and practices.

Even if you don't believe in this type of thing, others do. If Silicon Valley was founded by magicians, and its products imbued with spells, wouldn't you want to know who did this, how, and with what incantations and intentions?

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, June 24, 2016

Time and Politics 20: Brexit


The statue of Winston Churchill at Westminster. Image Sources: The Atlantic and The Telegraph.

Although the blog is on a break, Brexit is a momentous historical event. It made me think of a quotation* from the Younger Pitt: "Depend on it, Mr. Burke ... we shall go on as we are to the Day of Judgement."

Perhaps. Although the UK will not leave the EU for two years, Irish and Scottish support for the European Union may lead to the reunification of Ireland, the separation of Scotland, and the break-up of the United Kingdom. Because the campaign became so dark, ugly and tragic, culminating with MP Jo Cox's murder, I will not comment at length on the arguments for one side or the other. I can see both points of view, because the Brexit debate confirms trends I have observed here while researching posts on the economy and the cultural impact of technological change.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 5: Reflection Reversal


One of Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings on display at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. Image Source: View on Canadian Art.

Imagine a mirror, presented to you as a piece of art. Hanging in a gallery, the art would superficially deliver a message about itself. But this art piece would not be about itself. The artist had devised this piece to turn its viewers into objects, while the artwork became the viewer, or subject. The painting-as-mirror would be actively, perhaps even aggressively, looking back at its viewer. In this case, the viewer should wonder not about the artwork, but upon what or whom is that artwork gazing? Everything in the reflection would direct attention and questions back upon the viewer. In the style of the 1970s' minimalist movement, this was the conceit of Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings (thanks to -C.). Richter's sheets of colour-coated glass reflect the viewer. Richter's paintings "have secrets."

Now consider that the mirror's nature as an inert object with innate power might only become apparent once it is covered, or the light on it changes or disappears. Without light, Richter's mirror paintings become matte, dull, flat surfaces. The mirror, when covered, betrays its dangerous nature because we are no longer mesmerized by what we see in it. When it loses its power to reflect back at the viewer, to transform the viewer into an object, the viewer is reminded, brought to conscious awareness, that he or she has been watched. Add light again and the mirror gains agency and becomes a subject gazing actively at the world, with the world looking back at it. But at that very moment, the viewer in the world gazing into the mirror is mesmerized, and forgets the true nature of his experience, mistakenly thinking that he is the agent of action.

This power play is true of all mirrors, which is why some cultures require mirrors, or even reflective television screens, to be covered during sleep or after someone in a family dies. When Richter made a mirror into a piece of art, he manipulated superstition and embedded that message into an art piece, an object with cultural value. By putting mirrors into art galleries, he made us start to understand how mirrors reverse perspective and power. We think we are looking at mirrors, that we are agents with power when we gaze into them. But they are the real agents of power, and they are looking at us.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Awaken the Amnesiacs 1: The Gnostic-Hermetic Synthesis of 2015


Image Source: Spiritual Unite.

Western culture is undergoing a shift. New Age circles have been buzzing about it for the past few years, especially since the recession and 2012. Their chatter is now reaching a dull roar. For skeptics who want the TL;DR version, here is the

Executive Summary.
Several online movements are currently combining hermeticism and gnosticism to realign western values.

What this means.
Hermeticism combines monotheistic arcane traditions to inspire blind leaps in how we understand the world. Its early triad of alchemy, astrology and theurgy were termed as the 'three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe.' These translate in our terms into three aspects: first, science and rationalism of the mind; second, politics and emotions in the physical, the choices made to change the "life of matter and material existence"; and third, spirituality, our grasp of the relationship between the soul and what we define as divine. Sometimes associated with old Arab mysticism and the Kabbalah, sometimes with the occult, the Tarot and astrology, sometimes with Freemasonry, hermeticism is prevalent in popular culture today. This syncretic practice is being applied to gnostic philosophical unions of masculine and feminine principles to enable a shift in western perspectives. Much of this combination is due to the aftermath and reappraisal of 1960s' social revolutions, playing out during the Technological and Communications revolutions of the 2000s and 2010s. The philosophical synthesis also shows the next level of western engagement with virtual reality. Surging in the latter half of 2015, the trend may constitute a Fifth Great Awakening in America, but it is also evident in other western countries.

From September 2015. Image Source: Power of Consciousness.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Photo of the Day: Technological Enslavement


Street photo taken by friend and reader, -C., in San Francisco, California, USA (October 2015).

- A note about the blog: as of today, lengthy posts are going up fortnightly, due to other work commitments.

This street poster promotes a book by Swiss writer James Heim. His site, VoluntaryEnslavement.com, warns that we are interacting with technology like drug addicts and enthralled cultists:
Our use of technology gives us a broad range of intriguing advantages, which in turn strengthen our belief in technology as a universal remedy. It seems increasingly self-evident, that we should focus ever more of our time, energy, and attention on technology’s efficiency and functionality to reach our goals and satisfy our needs.

Enjoying some ice-cream or a glass of beer or wine can great. Being agreeable has many advantages, as does exercising regularly. We know, however, that habitually enjoying too many sweets or too much alcohol, never being able to say “no,” and constantly overstraining one’s body are likely to have negative effects. These insights are common knowledge. We accentuate the important idea of balance through sayings such as “everything in moderation.”

Yet regarding technological development – the most crucial area of human endeavor in our times – there is an alarming absence of moderation. What are the consequences of this lack of restraint?

Aldous Huxley once remarked that “… in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost.” Has our culture of technology become a religion? Are we – on a societal level – still able to question how quickly and thoroughly we are infusing technology into our human circumstances? Or has it become “sinful” to doubt our culture’s central paradigm, which simplistically equates technological development with being beneficial?

The book 'Voluntary Enslavement', by James Heim, fundamentally questions our technology culture. The questioning is rooted in the assumption that the variety of our human essence – for instance, that we are social and cultural beings – as well as human choice and freedom are valuable aspects of the human experience. It is explained why an uncritical submission to the inherent logic of technology's evolution inevitably dilutes human diversity and undermines choice and freedom. The book also examines the fueling of technological progression through the systematic over-empowerment of some of our primal motivations, such as curiosity. The basic pillars of an improved culture of technology (i.e., one that sustains a broad and free human experience) are discussed, as are the ways we can contribute to such a transition.

Changing our views on technology and our handling of technological development has become humanity’s biggest evolutionary challenge. Rising to the challenge would be humankind’s greatest accomplishment.
In 2010, I wrote that it would take time for anti-tech movements to get off the ground. When it comes to combating voluntary enslavement, the solution may be simpler than building a neo-Luddite counter-movement. Time recently reported that nanotechnology had lost its lustre; perhaps technological addiction will simply go out of fashion, like sun-tanning.

See other earlier posts on the Anti-Tech Backlash here, here, here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Saturation Point


Image Source: Business2Community.

Singularity experts regard ageing as a complex set of biological mechanisms which can be decoded, rebooted with stem cells, rejigged genetically, medicated, contained, redirected and even reversed. This is a literal-minded over-rationalization. Gurus like Ray Kurzweil set a date for the onset of the Singularity (the year 2045!), the way wild-eyed prophets used to arrive out of the desert to predict the end of the world. The end of the world was often a year that was almost, but not quite, over the horizon.

Perhaps ageing can be conquered by downloading human consciousness into a computer, or eased by engaging with the arts and material culture. However you choose to attack the problem, once you are out of the goldilocks zone of ages 18 to 35 - the period when the world weighs your juvenile potential and considers you to be naturally synchronized with material dynamics - the ageing process asks you one simple question about psychological agility: how much change can you take? Can you bear the emotional burden of the Singularity? What is your saturation point?

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, the scientific unlocking of ageing biology and related diseases is fairly easily accomplished. The real challenge comes when the ultra-aged face prolonged mental distress as their brains are expected to survive beyond a normal human lifespan. After the Singularity, Robinson predicted, the eternally young will go mad. Only the most resilient will learn how to survive, and the results will not be pretty.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Space Farming: Little Green Tendrils of Chaos


You can take it with you: Nigella damascena, a type of buttercup, germinated in a lab on the International Space Station. Image Source: Wiki.

When we depart for the Final Frontier, we will have to become very good at farming in zero gravity and on other worlds. Anyone who has tried the most basic seed planting and coaxed a plant to maturity under ideal earthly conditions may start to appreciate what a daunting task that is. Even in today's era of Frankenfoods, plants don't care what humans think they should be or do. If you try to force plants or their environment to run counter to the laws they expect to follow, they simply die. If scientists are able to force plants in the short term via genetic modification to satisfy artificial human fads and demands, there will always be a correction in the environment, somewhere, that will decimate the plan. Period. For thousands of years, people have tried to play god with plants. Even when they achieve some success, that never become god. Biology will never be fully instrumentalized by humans, and it's a good thing too. It is that scary unknown factor in agriculture which brings a host of problems to space colonization.

On 12 March 2015, NASA confirmed via Hubble's observations that Jupiter's moon Ganymede has a huge water ocean under an ice crust, which could mean that it harbours life. Image Souce: Sci Tech Daily.

Experts claim that the only way for humanity to survive over the long term is that we clear that hurdle in the future. According to Stephen Hawking, whatever problems we may have down here on earth, a bigger one trumps them all. Our future lies in the stars, he argues, and humanity must eventually abandon this planet or face extinction. Does God play dice he asks, paraphrasing Einstein? Yes, He does, Hawking argues, asserting that there is an underlying range of chaotic variability, an unpredictability, to everything. Hawking contradicts Einstein's insistence that there had to be an underlying order in everything which we could not yet grasp. Despite Hawking's faith that the future cannot be predicted, he is certain humankind must go through a cataclysmic bottleneck, a test of survival, a possible extinction event. Over the next thousand years, space exploration must be our inevitable future. There is no wiggle room on this, he concludes, due to global warming, nuclear annihilation, or a genetically-engineered virus.

Cultural expectations of transcendent Singularity (which include a faith in space colonization) continue the very mechanistic mentality, a 19th century positivism, which quantum physicists criticize. Humans-as-machines is a very popular idea now, and culturally speaking, it is big, but not that deep. Humans are now addicted to, and obsessed by, their species' new computing power. Pause to observe the stunning fact that 40 per cent of the world's population got a new heroin habit over the past 20 years that was socially acceptable, economically profitable (if also economically tumultuous), politically unstable, and governmentally dubious. Then imagine that the most hard core tech addicts insist that we must lose ourselves in the addiction, becoming more and more like the technological objects of our adoration.

In fact, successful space exploration might be achieved only by an antithetical stance, a renewal of the organic, in a move that counters the seductive, semi-sexual love affair with computer gadgetry. In this post, I noted how popular ideas in the 1920s and 1930s shaped scientists' early conceptions of dark matter. In cultural terms, today's Singularity and quantum aficionados are 1920s' and 1930s' revivalists.

That is the kind of point that confirms that culture and science are not contending opposites; instead, they make an unexpected pair of yoked oxen. How scientists interpret and conceptualize their findings is heavily influenced by their cultural values, about which they are rarely objective or intensively schooled. This is why science fiction author Charlie Stross argued that space colonization is not a story about extending technology, despite all the technical trappings of the exercise. It is a story, as Frank Herbert knew well, about our relationship with the environment. And that relationship, given our psychology, almost always is expressed mystically and philosophically through the expansion and transformation of religion; Stross pondered some of this:
I'm going to take it as read that the idea of space colonization isn't unfamiliar; domed cities on Mars, orbiting cylindrical space habitats a la J. D. Bernal or Gerard K. O'Neill, that sort of thing. Generation ships that take hundreds of years to ferry colonists out to other star systems where — as we are now discovering — there are profusions of planets to explore. And I don't want to spend much time talking about the unspoken ideological underpinnings of the urge to space colonization, other than to point out that they're there, that the case for space colonization isn't usually presented as an economic enterprise so much as a quasi-religious one. "We can't afford to keep all our eggs in one basket" isn't so much a justification as an appeal to sentimentality.
A response to that post, quoted at the Daily Galaxy, dismissed these culturally-derived warnings because transhumanists believe we will meld with machines and morph into something non-human, or superhuman, or post-human:
[Stross doesn't take] into account the possibility of post-Singularity, Drexlerian, Kardashev Type II civilizations. Essentially, we're talking about post-scarcity civilizations with access to molecular assembling nanotechnology, radically advanced materials, artificial superintelligence, and access to most of the energy available in the solar system. "Stross also too easily dismisses how machine intelligences, uploaded entities and AGI will impact on how space could be colonized. He speculates about biological humans being sent from solar system to solar system, and complains of the psychological and social hardships that could be inflicted on an individual or crew. He even speculates about the presence of extraterrestrial pathogens that undoubtedly awaits our daring explorers. This is a highly unlikely scenario. Biological humans will have no role to play in space. Instead, this work will be done by robots and quite possibly cyborgs.
That is such a 2000s' thing to say. Super-this, nano-that.  In 2005, Ray Kurzweil maintained in The Singularity is Near that we could interface with our technology, the way computers interface with each other, and in so doing we could transcend our biology. It was a fashionable, and now dated, thing to assume. The post-Singularity hypothesis tells you more about 2005 than it does about 2500.

Part of that hypothesis suggests that our addiction to computers is reaching blind adoration, and extends to the assumption that they are, or will be, smarter than we are. We love them so, such that we will either join with them (a typical, unreflective psycho-sexual assumption), and/or they will out-survive us. This is exactly the kind of thing an addict would say about his or her drug: it's stronger than I am; it's destroying me in the long term; but I love it anyway in the short term because it enhances my capabilities. The Daily Galaxy:
In a futuristic mode similar to Hawking, both Steven Dick, chief NASA historian and Carnegie-Mellon robotics pundit, Hans Moravec, believe that human biological evolution is but a passing phase: the future of mankind will be as vastly evolved sentient machines capable of self-replicating and exploring the farthest reaches of the Universe programmed with instructions on how to recreate earth life and humans to target stars. Dick believes that if there is a flaw in the logic of the Fermi Paradox, and extraterrestrials are a natural outcome of cosmic evolution, then cultural evolution may have resulted in a post-biological universe in which machines are the predominant intelligence.
There is so much blind confidence in the secular window dressing around science and technology, that there is no warning that Millennial technological prophets employ the language of cult leaders. They speak the high-priestly language of a sacred mentality with religious fervour, and remain unaware of what they are actually doing, because they are scientists. They predict the future, while in the same breath admit that science tells them that the future cannot be predicted.



Eco horror from John Wyndham: alien trees might be triffid-like on planets in binary, two-sun systems. Image Source: Passenger Films.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #1.

Image Source.
Will the techno-rapture break down over space farming, when the plants remind us about our bottom line dependence on the environment? That is the final cultural pre-condition. We breathe air. We drink water. And despite our love affair with our shiny tools, we need the other earthly organisms which have evolved alongside us. What will the galaxy gurus do when the plants refuse to grow, or start to die, or grow tendrils 12 feet long so that they can snag and eat the colonists?

What if, in the wilds of space, space colonies and spaceships, plants can survive better than we can, arise to occupy a superior evolutionary niche to do so, and eventually overthrow and destroy us? They are only tamed here on earth because terran conditions allow us to be dominant. Space colony die-hards forget that humans evolved to a dominant position out of, and within, this earthly ecosystem, and no other. Once humankind leaves this planet with other terran species, to interact in long-haul spacecraft and space colony ecosystems, there are no guarantees that humans will dominate those systems. Even with humans supported by the technology they developed, plants may not remain their silent slaves. And this is before animal husbandry comes into the mix.

In a related vein, Mars One - the plan to send colonists on a one way trip to Mars by 2027, aka the final apex of reality television - came under harsh criticism this week. Their candidate selection practices and media entertainment fund-raising took a bashing. Critics dismiss Mars One as a pyramid scheme, even though that is only symptomatic of a more pressing problem. The reason private companies are taking over space exploration is because of politics. For years in the United States, a bizarre scenario has unfolded in which global warming has been pitted politically against space explorationObama's government slashed NASA's budget and money for other Big Science projects, which meant that other countries are now challenging or outcompeting America in these fields. Under these conditions, private companies will merge commercial capitalism with space aspirations and exploration technology. This week, Mars One's technological feasibility critics came through the loudest because a 2014 MIT study declared that Mars One's colonists' first wheat crop would blow their life support systems.

An independent MIT study from October 2014 concluded that the maturation of Mars One colonists' wheat crops would blow their life support systems by creating an overabundance of oxygen. Image Source: Extreme Tech.

Agriculture adds an element of the universe's chaos into any plan for survival in space and space colonies. This is the chaos whose metrics physicists like Hawking constantly seek and which eludes them. This is the chaos which makes them admit that they cannot predict the future, right at the moment when technology dangles a future in front of them that they want to believe (rather than prove). This agricultural element of the unseen, of perceptual error, of the unknowable, confirms that space farming would constantly remind us of our essential humanity, right when space exploration threatened to dehumanize its technologists and engineers. It is organic chaos, culminating in our unpredictable relationship with the unwieldy environment and other organisms which may have the last laugh, which reminds us how fragile we are and that we must colonize the stars with humility. Luke, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy, was raised as a farmer. It's no wonder why George Lucas did that. This is why, this week, the Mars One project came under fire around the question at the heart of all human civilizations: not media, not money, but agriculture.


An earlier post on HOTTC discussed the film, Silent Running (1972), in which the 1970s' back-to-the-land movement met the 1970s' space opera. You can hear Joan Baez's performance for the film's folksy soundtrack below the jump. Will the calls for space colonization overlap with the Millennial back-to-the land movement? So far, they haven't. Below the jump, see a selection of plants which have been planted on the International Space Station, and which plants are planned for future greenhouses on the moon and Mars. Several foods have been tested on the ISS, including the first bagels in space.

"Plant growth chambers, seeds and watering devices that made up part of an experiment flown to the space station during the STS-118 space shuttle mission [in 2007]. The seeds were later returned to Earth and grown within lunar growth chambers designed by students." Image Source: NASA via Phys.org.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

History in the Echo Chamber


Erasures from history are hallmarks of dictatorships. Image Source: Business Insider.

History is up for grabs. In the malleable global media, parts of history are being denied, erased or changed beyond recognition to suit new agendas. What is being changed, by whom, and where it is happening, all foreshadow coming trends in politics and daily life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wonders of the Millennial World 7: New Millennial Humanism


Image Source: The Pictorial Arts.

Some of you may remember this interview at HOTTC about Thom Buchanan's new magazine, The Pictorial Arts Journal. The interview coincided with the release of a sampler or preview issue of the magazine, which grew out of Buchanan's blog, The Pictorial Arts. The magazine allows longer articles and deeper explorations than the blog. In this larger project, Buchanan, and other artists, designers, illustrators and writers seek to define new humanist values.

It's so easy to concentrate on dystopias, but this is a positive and nuanced understanding of our times, a search for the wonders of the Millennial world. Thom's project is a reminder of what the Web was supposed to be about. From its inception, the Web was supposed to be the home of unfettered grassroots creativity. The Pictorial Arts blog and magazine remind me of one of the most innovative sites I ever saw on the Web in its earliest days (until Mac Tonnies came along with Posthuman Blues). That early site was called The Strip. I will never forget The Strip or Posthuman Blues - or more recent projects like Kate Sherrod's Suppertime Sonnets, Paul Laroquod's Extratemporal Perception, and Dia Sobin's Trans-D Digital art blog. These people express what the Web is supposed to be about. It is not supposed to be about Facebook, Anonymous and the NSA.

Today, Thom announced a new Kickstarter campaign to support the launch of the magazine's first issue:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1126292849/first-flight-for-premiere-issue-of-pictorial-arts
I have 28 days to raise the needed funds to publish the premiere issue of PAJ. I will be posting pictorial updates with developing details along the way.
See the promotional video below the jump. The promo widget will be up in the sidebar here while the Kickstarter campaign runs. The smallest donation is USD $1 for this amazing new project. If you contribute at the higher levels, check out the Kickstarter page for some of the bonus prints you can get along with the magazine.

Image Source: Kickstarter.

Monday, October 7, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: Voodoo Dolls Alive


Image Source: Pixel Nitrate.

I wanted to do a post on voodoo for today's Countdown to Hallowe'en entry, and I found a very cool animated short, Sebastian's Voodoo. It was created by Joaquin Baldwin at the UCLA Animation Workshop, with music by Nick Fevola. The film dates from 2008 and has won many awards. The synopsis: "A voodoo doll must find the courage to save his friends from being pinned to death." See it below the jump.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Coming Siege Against Cognitive Liberties


Image Source: Nature.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on how researchers are debating the legal implications of technological advances in neuroscanning:
Imagine that psychologists are scanning a patients' brain, for some basic research purpose. As they do so, they stumble across a fleeting thought that their equipment is able to decode: The patient has committed a murder, or is thinking of committing one soon. What would the researchers be obliged to do with that information?

That hypothetical was floated a few weeks ago at the first meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues devoted to exploring societal and ethical issues raised by the government's Brain initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), which will put some $100-million in 2014 alone into the goal of mapping the brain. ...

One commissioner ... has been exploring precisely those sorts of far-out scenarios. Will brain scans undermine traditional notions of privacy? Are existing constitutional protections sufficient to guard our freedom of thought, or are new laws required as fMRI scanners and EEG detectors grow evermore precise?

Asking those questions is the Duke University associate professor of law Nita A. Farahany ... . "We have this idea of privacy that includes the space around our thoughts, which we only share with people we want to ... . Neuroscience shows that what we thought of as this zone of privacy can be breached." In one recent law-review article, she warned against a "coming siege against cognitive liberties."

Her particular interest is in how brain scans reshape our understanding of, or are checked by, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. Respectively, they protect against "unreasonable searches and seizures" and self-incrimination, which forbids the state to turn any citizen into "a witness against himself." Will "taking the Fifth," a time-honored tactic in American courtrooms, mean anything in a world where the government can scan your brain? The answer may depend a lot on how the law comes down on another question: Is a brain scan more like an interview or a blood test? ...

Berkeley's [Jack] Gallant says that although it will take an unforeseen breakthrough, "assuming that science keeps marching on, there will eventually be a radar detector that you can point at somebody and it will read their brain cognitions remotely." ...

Moving roughly from less protected to more protected ... [Farahany's] categories [for reading the brain in legal terms] are: identifying information, automatic information (produced by the brain or body without effort or conscious thought), memorialized information (that is, memories), and uttered information. (Contrary to idiomatic usage, her "uttered" information can include information uttered only in the mind. At the least, she observes, we may need stronger Miranda warnings, specifying that what you say, even silently to yourself, can be used against you.) ...

In a book to be published next month, Mind, Brains, and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience (Oxford University Press), Michael S. Pardo and Dennis Patterson directly confront Farahany's work. They argue that her evidence categories do not necessarily track people's moral intuitions—that physical evidence can be even more personal than thought can. "We assume," they write, "that many people would expect a greater privacy interest in the content of information about their blood"—identifying or automatic information, like HIV status—"than in the content of their memories or evoked utterances on a variety of nonpersonal matters."

On the Fifth Amendment question, the two authors "resist" the notion that a memory could ever be considered analogous to a book or an MP3 file and be unprotected, the idea Farahany flirts with. And where the Fourth Amendment is concerned, Pardo, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, writes in an e-mail, "I do think that lie-detection brain scans would be treated like blood draws." ...

[Farahany] says ... her critics are overly concerned with the "bright line" of physical testimony: "All of them are just grappling with current doctrine. What I'm trying to do is reimagine and newly conceive of how we think of doctrine."

"The bright line has never worked," she continues. "Truthfully, there are things that fall in between, and a better thing to do is to describe the levels of in-betweenness than to inappropriately and with great difficulty assign them to one category or another."

Among those staking out the brightest line is Paul Root Wolpe, a professor of bioethics at Emory University. "The skull," he says, "should be an absolute zone of privacy." He maintains that position even for the scenario of the suspected terrorist and the ticking time bomb, which is invariably raised against his position.
"As Sartre said, the ultimate power or right of a person is to say, 'No,'" Wolpe observes. "What happens if that right is taken away—if I say 'No' and they strap me down and get the information anyway? I want to say the state never has a right to use those technologies." ... Farahany stakes out more of a middle ground, arguing that, as with most legal issues, the interests of the state need to be balanced against those of the individual. ...

The nonprotection of automatic information, she writes, amounts to "a disturbing secret lurking beneath the surface of existing doctrine." Telephone metadata, another kind of automatic information, can, after all, be as revealing as GPS tracking.

Farahany starts by showing how the secrets in our brains are threatened by technology. She winds up getting us to ponder all the secrets that a digitally savvy state can gain access to, with silky and ominous ease.
Much of the discussion among these legal researchers involves thinking about cognitive legal issues (motivations, actions, memories) in a way that is strongly influenced by computer-based metaphors. This is part of the new transhuman bias, evident in many branches of research. This confirms a surprising point: posthumanism is not some future hypothetical reality, where we all have chips in our brains and are cybernetically enhanced. It is an often-unconsidered way of life for people who are still 100 per cent human; it is a way that they are seeing the world.

This is the 'soft' impact of high technology, where there is an automatic assumption that we, our brains, or the living world around us, are like computers, with data which can be manipulated and downloaded.

In other words, it is not just the hard gadgetry of technological advances that initiates these insidious changes in law and society. If we really want to worry about the advent of a surveillance state, we must question the general mindset of tech industry designers, and people in general, who are unconsciously mimicking computers in the way they try to understand the world. From this unconscious mimicry comes changes to society for which computers are not technically responsible.

A false metaphorical correlation between human and machine - the expectation that organic lives must be artificially automated  - is corrosive to the assumptions upon which functioning societies currently still rest. These assumptions are what Farahany would call, "current doctrine." We take 'current doctrine' for granted. But at the same time, we now take for granted ideas that make 'current doctrine' increasingly impossible to maintain.

This is not to say that change is unnecessary or that technology has not brought vast improvements.

But is it really necessary for everything to go faster and faster? Do we need to be accessible to everyone and everything, day and night? Should our bosses, the police, the government, corporations, the media, let alone other citizens, know everything we do and think in private? Do we really need more powerful technology every six months? Why is it necessary that our gadgets increasingly become smaller, more intimate, and physically attached to us? Why is it not compulsory for all of us to learn (by this point) to a standard level how computers are built and how they are programmed?

We are accepting technology as a given, without second guessing the core assumptions driving that acceptance. Because we are not questioning what seems 'obvious,' researchers press on, in an equally unconsidered fashion, with their expectations that a total surveillance state is inevitable.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Brain-to-Brain Interface


"University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind, while across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain. ... Rao sends a brain signal to Andrea Stocco via the Internet, causing Stocco's right hand to move on a keyboard." Image Source: University of Washington via cnet.

Cnet reported today on the first successful brain-to-brain interface, sent via the Internet on 12 August 2013, wherein a brain signal from one man's brain was able to control his colleague's body:
The telepathic cyborg lives, sort of. University of Washington scientists Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco claim that they are the first to demonstrate human brain-to-brain communication. Rao sent a signal into a Stocco's brain via the Internet that caused him to move his right hand. Brain-to-brain communication has previously been demonstrated between rats and from humans to rats.
"The experiment is a proof in concept. We have tech to reverse engineer the brain signal and transmit it from one brain to another via computer," said Chantel Prat, an assistant professor of psychology who worked on the project.

In a press release, the experiment was described as follows:
The team had a Skype connection set up so the two labs could coordinate, though neither Rao nor Stocco could see the Skype screens. Rao looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with his mind. When he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he imagined moving his right hand (being careful not to actually move his hand), causing a cursor to hit the "fire" button. Almost instantaneously, Stocco, who wore noise-canceling earbuds and wasn't looking at a computer screen, involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing the cannon. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic.
... "Right now the only way to transfer information from one brain to another is with words," ... [Prat] said. With advances in computer science and neuroscience, people could eventually perform complicated tasks, such as flying an airplane, and dancing the tango, by transferring information in a noninvasive way from one brain to another. "You can imagine all complex motor skills, which are difficult to verbalize, are just chains of procedures," Prat said.
More complex cognitive skills, such as understanding algebra and physics could also benefit from the technology. "Ultimately, it's important education and training, especially when knowledge cannot be easily translatable into words." she said.
Prat noted that some people might be nervous about this technology being used to control minds against their will. "The signal is being transmitted remotely through the Internet, but the humans are connected to physical equipment and must be trained to create the right signals. There is no way to control minds without their willingness," Prat said.
One cnet commenter wrote: "Neo: I know kung fu." Another: "This going to take internet sex to a whole new level." See the experiment video below the jump.

"The schematic diagram shows how the brainwave signal was transferred from one brain to another."
Image Source: University of Washington via cnet.