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 Virtual Reality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virtual Reality. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The God Emperor and Venezuela


In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Britain is known as Airstrip One. Image Source: picssr.

In mid-January 2019, a Wiki user with the handle ZiaLater created a world map of nations according to their support in the country's current presidential crisis of Venezuelan interim president Juan Guaidó.

I was immediately struck by the fact that the Venezuela president recognition map 2019 is almost identical to the map of the world in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Venezuela president recognition map 2019 (January 2019). Image Source: Wiki.

Orwell's fictional superstates in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Image Source: Reddit.

Although the similarity between the two maps could confirm yet again that Orwell accurately predicted the future, it might mean instead that big geopolitical alignments don't change as much as we think they do. There are many continuities between Orwell's time and ours. The inchoate superstates Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia were and are always there, waiting to be born. This made me wonder what catalysts really prompt the imperial birth of superstates. In Orwell's novel, the catalyst is a nuclear war.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: They Live ... Don't They?


Still from They Live (1988). Note the book behind the hero: On ESP by Edgar Cayce, which you can read for free online here. All stills and film © Universal Pictures. Reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: IMDB.

On this blog, I have written about poverty and homelessness, the destruction of the middle classes, and how conspiracy theories provide dramatic and supernatural explanations for growing social inequality.

In 1988, horror film director John Carpenter made a film which tackled all these ideas. It was entitled They Live. Carpenter intended his film to be an attack on the Reagan era and 1980s' conspicuous consumption. The film suggests something prevalent in Millennial conspiracists' circles, namely, that the establishment élites are pawns of alien overlords who conceal their true appearance and feed off the energy of the impoverished common people. This is a metaphor for social alienation, racism, and socio-economic distress. But the film raises an additional question as to why They Live presented a story which many netizens now believe to be literally true.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Time and Politics 26: The Age of Divergence


Image Source: 8 tracks radio.

Last week, Michael Morgenstern intellectualized disinformation at The Chronicle of Higher Education: Dear Humanities Profs: We Are the Problem. Dismayed about American politics? Look in the mirror.

Morgenstern stated that postmodern theorists attacked the canon in the second half of the 20th century. According to these theorists, the western canon in arts and literature (and science) was a story of oppression, often intended, sometimes unconscious. This dominant account was written by Dead White Males. The period from the 1970s to 2010s was spent dismantling that canon, attacking power and privilege in the name of liberal civil rights and equality.

This approach extolled cultural relativism: there was no objective truth, no higher class of knowledge, no text, no vision of cultural superiority which could be offered as a mode of control (subtext: unless it was the new, divergent, relativist, postmodernist canon).

The Age of Divergence

Morgenstern has realized that this attack on cultural and intellectual convergence brought about our present circumstances. Postmodern literary critics had stated that every text was equal. Every text had its own 'civil rights.' Boomer intellectuals and their Gen X students recovered silenced voices, women writers, slave poets, indigenous histories, minority views. This was understandable and justified, because so many people had been mistreated and oppressed for decades, centuries, millennia. Without their voices, our histories were incomplete and our whole understanding of reality would be based on injustice and immorality.

However, this recovery of lost texts was also done in the name of undermining established experts and authorities. This was really a generational power struggle inside the academic profession, but it was dressed up in and justified with theory. Old tenured professors were unseated, early-retired, or pushed out. The aim was to supplant the older generation of intellectuals (viewed as 'the 1950s') with a radical new generation (defined as '1968'). But time has finally caught up with the 1968ers, who are now retired or retiring.

It's not as simple as this, but broadly speaking, this is Morgenstern's summary of how radical liberals attacked conservative authorities of the 1950s and built new intellectual value systems from the 1970s onward.

Morgenstern concluded that the liberals were successful. As a result, we now live in a world where no text is taken as true or accepted solely on the basis of the authority of its author or publisher. Unfortunately for this stratum of intellectuals, they now claim expertise, and by their own logic find themselves attacked, just as they once dismantled the institutional and cultural structures which came before them. Only one Chronicle reader, rebek13, pinned down Moregenstern's idea:
"I'm confused by other commenters who seem to have missed the main points I took from this, which were not so much about 'the canon' at all, which the author admits had exclusionary tendencies (though it need not).

What I see here is a critique of our abdication of the very idea of expertise, excellence, and beauty--literary studies serving as a prime example, but only that. We have in a postmodern haze suggested that tweets are just as good as texts, and that anyone's opinion on literature, philosophy, or history is really probably just as good as the expert who has spent years studying these fields. In doing so, we have made ourselves absolutely pointless and suggested the uselessness of our very fields.

Isn't it very odd that professors of literature have such poor defenses of the study of long, dense literary texts? Isn't it odd that many of my colleagues have turned to facebook comments and recipe books as objects of study (not scrutiny, ever, but study) as though these articles were just as precious as a novel? Why should students understand the value of a long text if we are saying 'everything is literature; nothing is any more worthwhile than anything else'?

It's funny. Colleagues with creative writing backgrounds seem to have a much more profound and certain appreciation of literature than those who spend their lives studying it. They would never suggest that a tweet could achieve the same things as a book. They are not that far gone.

The solution as I see it is not a return to canon as much as a return to the idea that some modes of thought and expression ARE better than others, and that experts are in a pretty good position to tell people how and why. Then we need to be those experts."
In short, due to the Internet, we are awash in oceans of information; and the very people who were supposed to decide what information was authoritative staked their own authority over the past fifty odd years on the deconstruction of privilege around information. This overhaul was supposed to offer new freedom for disempowered liberals in the old, conservative system. It was not supposed to spell freedom for disempowered conservatives in the new, liberal system.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Symbols of Immortality 4: The Fake Human Burger



No sooner did labs begin developing the ability to 3D print a fake hamburger, than Oxford-based evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, stampeded straight for the less obvious question: why not 3D print a burger made of artificial human meat?

Inside the Quest to Make Lab Grown Meat | WIRED (16 February 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment. It may have been a Swiftian joke. Maybe it was clickbait. Dawkins was Oxford's professor for the 'Public Understanding of Science' until 2008, so he must know about outreach.

A 3D printer creating fake meat. Image Source: ByFlow via BBC.

Over the past few years, the major news outlets have promised that lab grown meat is coming to your table and that this is a good thing: Washington Post, BBC, Bloomberg, The Economist, Reuters. Motherboard and the BBC have covered the topic since the new year. BBC reported that Dutch firm ByFlow has started selling its 3D meat printers to restaurants. ByFlow's motto is: "Think. Design. Eat." Memphis Meats (backed by Bill Gates) and Mosa Meat are two artificial meat start-ups which will start selling fake meat for public consumption by 2021. Another cellular agriculture company is New Harvest.

In the third week of February 2018, news outlets reported that the US Cattlemen's Association filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) against the Silicon Valley start-ups which are creating lab-grown meat. You can read their petition here. They focused primarily on the definition of real meat as created from animals which have been raised and slaughtered, so that fake meat cannot be labeled as genuine meat, thereby misleading consumers.

The Meat of the Future: How Lab-Grown Meat Is Made (2 October 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Lab meat, also known as clean meat, is touted as cruelty free, especially to vegetarians. Vegan Insight reported on 16 March 2018 that 41 per cent of Britons will eat "lab-grown clean meat and fish" in the next decade.

Image Source: Belchonock/Depositphotos via New Atlas.

It is one small step to Dawkins' fake human meat. Fake cannibalism will probably get a lot of support. Under the video below the jump, one girl commented: "As a vegan, I'd be happy to eat cultured human meat. I'm actually very curious and not grossed out at all."

Joe Rogan's interviewee in this video, Sam Harris, said (here) that there was "zero ethical problem ... if this was never attached to an animal, we're dealing with concepts here," that is, the vegan girl would be eating an object cultivated in a vat of human cells.

This issue highlights a moral blind spot in technological progress; it proves that technology is skewing the human ability to judge right from wrong.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Awaken the Amnesiacs 8: You are Now Inside the Computer


Image Source: The Hedge Mason.

The Urban Dictionary defines Youtube comments as:
"The only place where a polite discussion about kittens can lead to a flame war about government conspiracies."
Conspiracists vary in style. On Youtube, there is a spectrum. David Seaman's vitriol approaches incendiary levels, his this-is-not-a-threat promises are so chilling that they help me understand the history of mass psychology better, especially that of the 1930s.

This post is not exactly about Seaman, nor the accusations he levels in a brooding monotone at the bankers, politicians, deep-staters, evil cabal, establishment figures, and finally - the tech leaders who censor him (like Youtube CEO, Susan Wojcicki, whom he calls "Catshit Face"). This post is about Seaman's and others' rhetorical style in relation to conspiratorial subject matter, and what it means for all of us.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Interstellar Hystery


"This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. This unique object was discovered on 19 October 2017 by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i. Subsequent observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that it was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. `Oumuamua seems to be a dark red highly-elongated metallic or rocky object, about 400 metres long, and is unlike anything normally found in the Solar System." Image Source: ESO/M. Kornmesser; image published 20 November 2017.

Since the end of October, astronomers have been buzzing about the first ever observed interstellar visitor to our solar system. Jointly confirmed by ten observatories as it was momentarily captured by the gravity of our sun, this asteroid has arrived from elsewhere in our galaxy. The International Astronomical Union has now given this rock a name, 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua - pronunciation here). The name is a Hawaiian word meaning “a messenger from afar arriving first.” The asteroid was spotted on 19 October 2017 by Robert Weryk with the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) telescope at the University of Hawaii.

Video Source: Guardian.

What struck me, looking at its path, is how strict and staid the average person's view still is of the cosmos. That is, on the unconscious level, our view of reality is shaped by the order and predictability of our tiny solar system - sun plus planets on a plane, the night sky punctuated by familiar constellations. The visit of 'Oumuamua is a reminder of the scope of space and its unpredictability. Of course, thousands of these interstellar objects regularly enter our system, and our limited knowledge of them is symptomatic of our level of science and technology, rather than their absence.

"A/2017 U1 is probably of interstellar origin. This NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech diagram shows its path of travel from above the plane of our solar system, around the sun and past earth at 44 kilometres per second. It was closest to the sun on Sept. 9." Image Source: NASA JPL/Caltech via Weather Network.

"This diagram shows asteroid 'Oumuamua's path through the solar system. An analysis of its path shows that it is coming from the direction of where the star Vega is now, although Vega would not have been at that location millions of years ago. Now that it is leaving, it is headed for the constellation Pegasus. A new report, written using observations made using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, is now providing even more information about this asteroid." Image Source: ESO/K. Meech et al. via Weather Network.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Humanity's Tombstone


Image Source: Vigilant Citizen.

I try to address really strange conspiracy theories, which nonetheless have some larger importance, during the month of October. Special weirdness is reserved for a Stonehenge-like monument in Georgia, USA, which bears cryptic messages in English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.

Brad Meltzer's Decoded: Apocalypse in Georgia Season 1, Episode 10 (3 February 2011) © History Channel. Video Source: Youtube.

The Georgia Guidestones outside Atlanta were erected in 1980 on the orders of man working under an assumed name, R. C. Christian. There are revelations of his secret identity here and here. The Guidestones have inspired fear and vandalism, because alongside their espousal of rationalism, they also declare that the earth's human population should be cut back to 500 million people.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Dark Ambient and Dark Web Tales



There are new horror genres appearing online, in which the fear factor depends on blurring the line between the virtual and real. It makes the raven girl on the subway, above, oddly reassuring: at least she is honest about how gothic things are these days.

Potion Shop Sounds | Apothecary Ambience | 45 Minutes (24 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Over the past few years, ambient horror soundtracks have appeared on Youtube, which are unsettling because they add a cinematic video game quality to daily work at the desk. Some people listen to them to get to sleep, like the 6-hour Quiet Rusty Sewer Ambient Noise River.

Aaron Dykes at Truthstream Media explains the power of music - related to the frequency at which the eardrums vibrate - and particularly the discordant Locrian mode. From Bridget Mermikides: "From at least the early 18th century this tritone was described as Diabolus in Musica (the Devil in music)." The Secret Power Music Holds Over You (30 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Locrian Mode example. Sample Source: Wiki.

Locrian Mode example: Björk's Army of Me (1995). Sample Source: Wiki.

The new horror music is non-music, made up of cinematic sound effects tracks. There is a spectrum of how scary these recordings are; they range (at the top) from vague background noise to (lower down) demonic atmospherics.

Haunted Halloween Mansion Fireplace with Thunder, Rain and Howling Wind (24 October 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

HAUNTED FOREST Scary Sounds of Ghosts in the Darkness 2 HOURS (12 March 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Gathering Darkness - Scary Noises in a Haunted House - 2 Hours (2 May 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Amazing SCARY 3D Holophonic Sound (21 August 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Another example of horror found in the blurring between the virtual and the real is evident in a new genre of online horror story-telling, an offshoot of creepypastas, which explores the Dark Web. The Dark Web is reputed to be a place where anything goes, outside police jurisdictions, in a No Man's Land of international anonymity. Many Darknet communities are devoted to whistle-blowing, hacking, politics, drugs, crime, and hidden news.

By contrast, the Clearnet is the main, indexed Internet with which everyone is familiar. Clearnet lists of Dark Websites from 2015 to 2017 are here, here, here, here, and here - but don't click on links in those lists or surf further without a Tor browser and a VPN. A May 2017 Motherboard report gave a link to a list of every possible site on the Dark Web, that is, 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 sites, or just over one septillion Dark Websites beyond the reach of Google. That number directly contradicts Wired's 2015 estimate that there were over a billion sites on the Clear Web and 7,000 to 30,000 Dark Websites. You can see the total number of indexed Clear Websites counted in real time at Internet Live Stats.

Interactive livestream horror. Deep Web Horror Story - Why I Left The Deep Web by TASDiablo (21 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Friday, September 22, 2017

If Sin was Visible: An Interview with Dan Vyleta



Today, I am very pleased to interview novelist Dan Vyleta about his 2016 novel, Smoke; the Canadian paperback edition was released in July 2017.

Dan grew up in Germany after his family left Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s. He holds a doctorate in history from King’s College, Cambridge and has written three previous novels, Pavel & I (2008), The Quiet Twin (2011), and The Crooked Maid (2013). The Quiet Twin was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The Crooked Maid was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 2014 J. I. Segal Award. Dan currently teaches creative writing at the University of Birmingham.



Dan’s novel Smoke is a magical historical story of Victorian England. The novel will remind readers of Charles Dickens, especially Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and Dombey and Son. As with Dickens’s novels, Smoke is a social novel which reaches a conclusion about what is wrong in society and what is right.

There is a contrast between the country and the city during the Industrial Revolution, reminiscent of Blake’s “dark Satanic mills,” except in this novel, the Victorian smoke in question comes not from factories but from people! Smoke begins at an élite school, with nods to later works: The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, and The Secret History.

There, the similarities with other authors end. Smoke begins with a quote from Dombey and Son (1848) – what if sin was visible?
“Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from the vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portion of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them … could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!”
In Smoke, a fictionalized Victorian concern for morality conceals today’s obsession with transparency, truth, and corruption. As with other 21st century works, the historical setting really addresses Millennial problems. And the way Vyleta does this defies all expectations.

Note: All page references below are from the UK 2016 hardcover edition, published by Doubleday.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Time and Politics 24: Kiwis on the Cutting Edge


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pedogate: Spin and Victimhood


On 18 February 2017, a mansion on Turkey Run Road in McLean, Virginia, USA burned down. Conspiracy theorists assumed that this fire related to their theory of Washington's corrupt establishment, and involved the destruction of child abuse evidence. News sources reported that the mansion was owned by the United Arab Emirates and the people who lived in the house escaped unharmed. Image Source: WUSA-9.

We live in a hybrid condition, between past and future, between the 20th century and the 21st. In this hybrid condition, we see a number of problems: systemic corruption; taboo ideas and extremist language ramp up the energy of discourse; increasing efforts to use technology to impose control in old ways. This leads straight to totalitarianism, the very thing everyone claims they want to avoid.

The only antidote, the only possibility of recovering balance, would be to lay down ideological arms, step back from left-right arguments, and express compassion for those of opposing views and situations. Almost no one seems ready to do that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Surveillance Capitalism Crosses the Uncanny Valley


Me playing with the CUBO CC Girl (28 March 2008). Video Source: Youtube.

On the Youtube series, Deep Web Browsing, gamer host Mutahar stumbled in Episode 59 (here) across a Brazilian 'post-advertising' agency, cubo.cc, with a site on the Dark Web and supposed offices in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and New York City. Cubo CC claims it is part of the 'creative disruption network.' You can see what (I think) is one of their 2008 disruptive marketing products above, CUBO CC Girl, an interactive CGI girl who follows your cursor in real time. Forum members on Hacker News tried to trace this project's design and origins. You can see a similar 2008 project from Image Metrics, below.

The Emily Project from Image Metrics (2008). The project is explained here. Image Source: HDimagelib.

Friday, August 4, 2017

In Millennial Eyes 7: Edinburgh in 1544


Virtual Time Binoculars - Edinburgh 1544 from Smart History on Vimeo.

A new academic project has begun to explore the historical teaching potential of virtual reality environments. I have previously blogged on a similar projects concerning history and video game technology with regard to 17th century Netherlands in The Golden Age, and colonial Quebec in I Remember the French Revolution. This is the teaser trail for Virtual Time Binoculars - Edinburgh 1544:
"PREVIEW - TEASER TRAILER

New technology reveals old Edinburgh.

St Andrews research brings 16th Century capital back to life.

The lost townscape of sixteenth-century Edinburgh is being brought back to life by researchers at the University of St Andrews.

The reconstruction is still under construction and will be available on a number of digital platforms (including a mobile app, a 3D virtual experience, and more traditional web-based resources) from 1 May 2017.

'The new digital reconstruction is the first to be created of the sixteenth-century city, and is based on a drawing from 1544 (thought to be the earliest accurate depiction of the capital).'

The technology will be shown for the first time today (16 March 2017) at a special event showcasing the University’s research to industry partners.

The virtual time travel technology – which will be released as an app in May – provides a unique window into the capital around the time of the birth of Mary Queen of Scots.

The technology is the result of a collaboration between St Andrews historians, art historians, computer scientists and University spinout company Smart History. The result is an interactive tour of the capital as it appeared in 1544, just before the city was sacked and burned by an English army led by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.

Dr Bess Rhodes, an expert on sixteenth-century Scottish history who collaborated on the reconstruction, said, 'For the first time visitors and residents can compare the city they know with the capital of James V and Mary Queen of Scots.'

'It has been amazing seeing the recreation of a lost townscape. I hope this project makes the public more aware of the layers in the capital’s history, and furthers understanding of the complex way in which Edinburgh evolved.'

The reconstruction is inspired by a sixteenth-century drawing of Edinburgh made by Richard Lee, an English military engineer who later designed the massive artillery defences at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Lee accompanied the Earl of Hertford’s forces to Edinburgh in 1544, and his drawing is thought to be the first realistic depiction of Scotland’s capital.

The interdisciplinary team of St Andrews researchers supplemented the information from Lee’s plan with archaeological evidence, sixteenth-century written sources, and information about the geography of the modern city, to create an updated reconstruction of Edinburgh.

Dr Rhodes continued, 'The 1540s were a tumultuous period in Edinburgh’s history. In December 1542 King James V of Scotland died, leaving his baby daughter Mary as monarch. Not long after the English King Henry VIII ordered an invasion of Scotland, with the aim of forcing the Scots to accept a proposed betrothal between the infant Mary and his young son (the future Edward VI of England).'

'One of the first major actions in the conflict later known as the "Rough Wooing" was the Earl of Hertford’s attack on Edinburgh in May 1544. Hertford’s forces failed to capture Edinburgh Castle, but set fire to the city, damaging the medieval townscape, before they retreated. Our reconstruction is the first digital representation of Edinburgh at this eventful moment in the capital’s past.'

The new reconstruction gives an overview of the townscape of the entire sixteenth-century city, with a particular focus on the Royal Mile – the historic spine of Edinburgh. The digital development was largely financed by a grant from Innovate UK."

See all my posts in the series, In Millennial Eyes, in which I explore how history and historic themes are viewed from 21st century perspectives.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New UK Export: Police State Tools


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

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

Image Source: BAE Systems.

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Inequality, A Function of Virtual Reality


Still from Videodrome (1983) © Universal. Reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: The Dissolve.

Today, academics at the London School of Economics are discussing socio-economic inequality and the rise of a dual-track system between haves and have-nots. The scholars at LSE recognize that whoever understands and commandeers the narrative of inequality will control new Millennial politics. They think there is a need to reframe the terms of debate, which means Millennial inequality is a partly-unknown quantity which is up for grabs. They consider inequality as a form of identity, that is, a subset of populist nationalism. Unfortunately, by using recognized terms from the 20th century political lexicon, these researchers are missing dimensions of the problem.

This blog has been exploring inequality rather differently. I maintain that technology and the Internet intensify the conflict between the establishment and the precariat. Globalization would be impossible without technology; the global economy's most basic motivating source is not political and is instead a function of the tools we are using. Technology has also fragmented 20th century economies and polities. The Internet compounds the breakdown through intensified media experiences, which lead to contrasting views of reality. That is, inequality is related in cryptic ways to the corresponding expansion and deepening of virtual reality.

Still from Videodrome (1983) © Universal. Reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: The Dissolve.

I consider the influence of technology to be poorly understood. Philosophically, it implies that there are disturbing new ways of existing, the ripple effects of which are unprecedented and unknown. Of course, the current president of the United States did not come to the narrative of inequality through conventional politics, but through years of experience with the modality of reality television.

If the philosophical implications are difficult to grasp, consider the physical effects of technology for a start. A recent conspiratorial video from Truthstream Media concerns a 2003 patent, here, entitled, Nervous System Manipulation by Electromagnetic Fields from Monitors. The patent concerned the ways multimedia gadgets could be used to alter the functions of the human nervous system to change mass behaviour. It sounds like something for the tin foil hat crowd, except that the author of the patent expressed misgivings about potential abuses of the technology he designed. He recognized that his invention could damage collective psychology and physiology, but he only considered this outcome as a kind of regretful afterthought.

This Creepy Patent Proves They Can Remotely Hijack Your Nervous System (7 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Red Pill, Blue Pill, Green Pill, Black Pill


Forbidden fruit: The Apple logo is commonly considered to make an occult reference to the Garden of Eden and relates computer use to forbidden knowledge, information, and soul-testing enlightened liberation. Image Source: The Open Scroll.

Before 1999, there was no word in English, as far as I know, to describe information which shatters one's world view. Techno-political ideologies evolve from an overdose on information and subsequent, broken views of the world.

Information as Forbidden Fruit

The first cyber-ideology to describe the disillusionment of the Information Age was called the red pill, or being red-pilled. The term comes from the film, The Matrix (1999) and Morpheus's speech on how to deal with knowing something you can't explain:
"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."
Red pilling starts with the feeling that there is something wrong in the world, and you don't know what it is. Everywhere you look, things have gone wrong.

The splinter, driving you mad, is that you are a slave, born into bondage in an invisible prison: The Matrix (1999) © Warner. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Freedom of the Internet in Virtual and Real Jurisdictions


Image Source: Freedom House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A 1930s' Revival


Image Source: New York Post.

I hoped for a respite from the political nightmare, but that is not happening. Instead, there is a chilling déjà vu of the 1930s. Hillary Clinton launched the 'resistance.' Donald Trump's national security leak to the Russians has an Israeli source; the scandal damages his presidency. The leak endangers a spy who is working inside ISIS and who provided information which led to the laptop ban on airplane flights.

The alt-media are discussing the Seth Rich murder case because it challenges the Democrats' narrative that the Russians hacked the US election. A private investigator and federal investigator came forward to maintain that Rich was WikiLeaks' source of Democrats' e-mails. Contrary to the claims of Rich's family, the alt-media think DNC leaders murdered Rich for leaking 44,053 DNC e-mails to Julian Assange via the hacker Guccifer 2.0. Even the alt-right do not trust this trail of information, yet they conclude that the source which compromised Clinton's electoral campaign was not Russian. Rich's laptop, which could confirm his connection to WikiLeaks, is held by the FBI; his murder is unsolved. This story is dismissed as a right-wing conspiracy theory to draw attention away from Trump's intelligence leak.

The alt-media point to a Podesta e-mail, which states that a warning example should be made of a "suspected leaker." The dates do not line up to support the conspiracy theory: Podesta's e-mail dates from February 2015. WikiLeaksDNC material covers January 2015 to May 2016. Rich was murdered in July 2016. The alt-media further argue that the murder was covered up by the Chief of Washington, DC police at the request of the mayor and the DNC. It sounds like Gotham City!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Big Data's Strategic Inflection Point


Image Source: RNZ.

Collection, surveillance, analysis, prediction: there are reasons why the battle between freedom and slavery will take place on the Internet. Only in the past decade did big data enter the headlines, because the necessary hardware and storage capacity became affordable for corporations. In addition, governmental and corporate data crunching capability improved to enable what panelists at Financier Worldwide call, "curation ... of enormous data sets" and "the ability to predict when a certain business-contextual event is about to happen, and then to adjust accordingly in an automated fashion."



Few people read the fine print when they sign up for social media accounts, so they do not understand how others now own their personal identities and seek to decide their fates. Nor do they understand how the Internet of Things forms a network of physical objects around them to glean and mobilize information. From Radio New Zealand:
"I was on Facebook recently and I realised they were showing me a photo that wasn't already on my newsfeed and that I wasn't even tagged in, that had come from my camera roll."
In 2016, Edward Snowden stated that surveillance was about "social control," not terrorism. Certainly, companies such as Oracle (cloud database management), LexisNexis (legal and business risk management services), and Micron (semi-conductor solutions) confirm Snowden's narrative (see my earlier posts on this topic here, here, here and here).

Image Source: Sputnik International.

counter-surveillance movement arose to combat government and corporate intrusion. A talk from the 2016 hackers' Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany describes the problem:
"Today virtually everything we do is monitored in some way. The collection, analysis and utilization of digital information about our clicks, swipes, likes, purchases, movements, behaviors and interests have become part of everyday life. While individuals become increasingly transparent, companies take control of the recorded data."
Mozilla, developers of the Firefox browser, developed Lightbeam so you can see who is tracking you while you browse. Privacy Lab has made available online a 2016 book by Wolfie Christl and Sarah Spiekermann: Networks of Control: A Report on Corporate Surveillance, Digital Tracking, Big Data and Privacy (Hat tip and thanks: Janine Römer). The book explains how social control through big data actually works, and it is far more evil, insidious and Darwinian than one would imagine, because algorithms target individuals' socio-economic performance in life to create new kinds of discrimination. When you state what you are doing or thinking on Facebook or Twitter, when you surf the Web, when you buy things, travel, or read certain news stories, you are letting the world know how successful you are or are not, by other people's mechanized standards:
"Today, a vast landscape of partially interlinked databases has emerged which serve to characterize each one of us. Whenever we use our smartphone, a laptop, an ATM or credit card, or our ‘smart’ TV sets detailed information is transmitted about our behaviors and movements to servers, which might be located at the other end of the world. A rapidly growing number of our interactions is monitored, analyzed and assessed by a network of machines and software algorithms that are operated by companies we have rarely ever heard of. Without our knowledge and hardly with our effectively informed consent, our individual strengths and weaknesses, interests, preferences, miseries, fortunes, illnesses, successes, secrets and – most importantly – purchasing power are surveyed. If we don’t score well, we are not treated as equal to our better peers. We are categorized, excluded and sometimes invisibly observed by an obscure network of machines for potential misconduct and without having any control over such practices.

While the media and special interest groups are aware of these developments for a while now, we believe that the full degree and scale of personal data collection, use and – in particular – abuse has not been scrutinized closely enough. This is the gap we want to close with the study presented in this book."
Corporate surveillance, digital tracking, big data and privacy: How thousands of companies are profiling, categorizing, rating and affecting the lives of billions. Talk by Wolfie Christl at CCC Congress (30 December 2016). Video Source: CCC-TV. Hat tip and thanks: Janine Römer.

Thus, the debate around big data focuses on post-2013, post-Snowden ideas: privacy or anonymity; predictive marketing; social control; totalitarianism. Yet Utopia or Dystopia recognizes that big data are so superhuman in quantity that they blur reality:
"Big Data; does it actually provide us with a useful map of reality, or instead drown us in mostly useless information? ... [D]oes Big Data actually make us safer? ... [H]ow is the truth to survive in a world where seemingly any organization or person can create their own version of reality. Doesn’t the lack of transparency by corporations or the government give rise to all sorts of conspiracy theories in such an atmosphere, and isn’t it ultimately futile ... for corporations and governments to try to shape all these newly enabled voices to its liking through spin and propaganda?"
Instead of big data driving fears of exploitation and totalitarianism, this concern revives far older contests between rationality and the unknowable.


Bodies of big data are so big that they become a kind of big mind, a combined collective consciousness and collective unconscious. To account for virtual reality by known means is impossible. Academic history as we knew it, 15 years ago, cannot now be written according to traditional methods and new methods must be developed. The body of data is: (a) too vast to be processed by a human; (b) unfixed: potentially subject to infinite alteration; and (c) stored in languages and on devices which rapidly become obsolete.

The same goes for the social sciences. Try to analyze the online kekkism in the recent American election and be prepared to confront something akin to magic which will defy current theories. The great modern experiment to rationalize the world breaks down in the face of anti-rationality, hacking, and Underground cryptics, whether by anonymity and encryption, or by mysterious forms of communication, behaviour and awareness, which will surpass knowledge and understanding. Big data erode reality, and this is why the ISIS publicity bureau and magazine can promote an apocalyptic eschatology unironically in this day and age. When you are operating in an environment where X zillion bits of data are being created every second, an apocalypse seems appropriate to some, and makes more sense.

Digital Book World recently weighed the pros and cons of big data. Mathematician Cathy O'Neil - who joked that her New Year's resolutions included the plan to gain 10 pounds and start smoking, and who wrote the 2016 book, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy - warned Digital Book World that algorithms are not the rational tools they seem to be. Instead, algorithms are artifacts, the techno-dynamic features of which are correlated against human aspects, such as sales numbers and social media traction. As algorithms manipulate big data to locate desired human results, they become, in O'Neil's estimation, new kinds of laws:
"When it comes to human activities, algorithms are expected to be models of objectivity, owing to their basis in mathematical formulae and reliance on enormous quantities of measured facts about a given general population, whether students or teachers, job applicants or criminal defendants. Cathy O’Neil makes the case that real-world mathematical models are anything but objective. ... [S]he asserts that big data WMDs are opaque, unaccountable and destructive and that they essentially act as unwritten and unpublished secret laws."
Despite these warnings, on 22 August 2016, Digital Book World remained optimistic about what the Panama Papers can tell us about deep learning. The lesson is not about offshore accounts, corruption, and a meshed network of legitimate and illegitimate interests spanning the globe. The Panama Papers show, according to DBW, that big data are a gold mine for profit, right at something called big data's strategic inflection point:
"[The Panama Papers] should ... serve as a stark reminder of the hidden value sitting locked in large amounts of unstructured data, such as notes, documents and emails.

In recent years, we’ve seen businesses in many industries solve the puzzle of big data and begin to extract the insights that can accelerate innovation and grow revenue. Healthcare, finance and retail are three that immediately come to mind that are at the forefront of using big data. But that is only the beginning.

Consider this: 90 percent of the world’s data only came into existence in the last two years. With more of our lives moving online and into the cloud, this remarkable growth of data will only accelerate, offering enormous possibilities to the businesses that can navigate these massive data collections.

The Panama Papers are a roadmap. It is now possible to collect and analyze data faster than ever before through the use of unparalleled computing power and machine learning methods, such as deep learning. Unstructured data, such as the text in the posts and messages of social media that most of the world uses, emails that were leaked or subpoenaed, laboratory notes or technical documentation, represent a massive opportunity for businesses that can harness it. ...

Andy Grove, retired CEO of Intel Corp., calls this moment in potential growth a 'strategic inflection point' — the point at which two major pathways temporarily coincide — between doing business as usual, or embracing and adapting to the new."
Digital Marketing Transit Map (25 June 2013). Click to enlarge. Image Source: Gartner.