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.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Very Human Anatomy of the Internet

Tissue Series Quilled Paper anatomical artwork (2011-2012) © Lisa Nilsson. Image Source: Colossal Art & Design.

Machines Like Us reports that the seemingly-infinite potential of the Internet will be limited by the capacities of our brains.  In short: "the total amount of information cannot grow faster than our ability to digest or handle it."  That's probably really good news:
Scientists have found that the capacity of the human brain to process and record information—and not economic constraints—may constitute the dominant limiting factor for the overall growth of globally stored information. These findings have just been published in an article in E[uropean] P[hysical] J[ournal] ... by Claudius Gros and colleagues from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany.
Ref: 1. Gros C., Kaczor G., Marković D., (2012) Neuropsychological constraints to human data production on a global scale, European Physical Journal B (EPJ B) 85: 28, DOI 10.1140/epjb/e2011-20581-3.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fountain of Youth 13: The Psychological Distress of Immortality

What Else Is There? (2012) © by oO-Rein-Oo at Deviant Art. Reproduced with kind perimission.

On January 30, novelist Jonathan Franzen expressed his worries to the Guardian that ebooks would corrode values and diminish an appreciation for paper books (thanks to -J.).  "All the real things are dying off," he sighed.  This provoked plenty of sharp criticism in the comments, for example: "Jonathan Franzen warns that people shouldn't travel by train as the greater than horse carriage speed may suffocate passengers through an involuntary inhalation of ether."

But Franzen made one thought-provoking comment that, if extrapolated, could explain why we age:
"One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], 'Well, that won't have to be my problem'," he said. "Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don't see how you could stand it psychologically."
This got me thinking about the primary cause of ageing.  What if the primary reason we age is not physical, as futurists such as Kurzweil would have us believe?  What if we age because our brains are hard-wired to exist for no more than 100 years at the absolute limit?  What if our brains cannot handle the psychological test of ageing, combined with historic change in our environment?  What if it's our brains that begin short-circuiting the body, forcing it to collapse and ultimately fail?  What if ageing is a measure of how we are mentally able to adapt to change, or not adapt to it?  Conversely, does that mean that the true elixir of life is a case of mind over matter?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Retro-Futurism 21: Twitter Not New at All -(STOP)-

The latest electronic gadget, straight from the 1890s to your desk: the Tworse Key, which digitally translates your telegraph-style Morse Code messages into regular Tweets. Image Source: Economist.

In their heyday, my parents and their friends were the last generation to travel by ship and communicate mainly by telegrams. Their collections of old private letters have wads of telegrams in them. We now see the seemingly obsolete brevity of telegraphy as romantic, and recall its peak as a form of global communication during the 1890s to the 1960s. There's even an Aussie company called Telegram Stop that lets you send old-styled faux telegrams to your friends; they say: "Our telegrams are made to look and feel like a classic telegram from the original days when telegrams were one of the only forms of national and international communications, we’ve taken great care to ensure the experience to the recipient is one that garners surprise and a sense of warmth." They've caught on like wild fire, and are especially popular in lieu of e-cards.

At the Turn of a Different Century

The War of Wealth, a Broadway play by Charles Turner Dazey that dramatized a run on a bank during the depression of the 1890s (the play opened 10 February 1895). (Library of Congress; Image © Strobridge Lith. Co., c1895) Image Source: Wiki.

Exponential technological change. Recession spreading from the west to Asia. Unemployment. Middle Eastern uprisings. Occupy. Internet clampdowns.  Budding cyber conflicts and a new class system.  Global marketing and collapsing local cultures. Nuclear tensions. People are being tested. Hardship turns private lives upside down, but walks hand-in-hand with opportunity.  The test is a moral and spiritual one above all, a test of resolve and a test of the heart. In a state of flux, some answers are superficial but look substantial, while others look risky but actually are profound and enduring.  Conspiracy theories multiply, as do reports of sasquatches, ghosts and UFOs.  The question is not whether these things exist or not, because they are fringe constants, the stuff of superstitions, mysteries, myths and legends.  If we were to find scientific proof of all three tomorrow, they would quickly be replaced by other things.  They haven't changed.  We have.  What changes is popular credulity.  There is a rush to believe in the unbelievable, possibly because that gives a wider range of reference points and hence an illusion of stability to generally accepted reality.  It becomes increasingly difficult to read the signs correctly and find stability anywhere.

On January 28, The Art of Manliness quoted a manual entitled Courage by the French pastor, Charles Wagner (1852-1918).  Wagner's historic source from 1894 rings true today.  The mid-1890s were a time of cultural, political and technological flux, and of economic depression after the Panic of 1893Wiki"Until the Great Depression of 1929, the Panic of '93 was the worst economic depression the United States had ever experienced."  A credit crunch and financial panic hit Britain and there was a steep drop in trade in Europe.  It lasted ten years, and the decade and a half that followed after 1900 was still shaky economically, leading straight into world war.  At the same time, the 1890s decade saw the Klondike Gold Rush, the invention of the earliest standardized automobiles, of cinema (the first commercial film, , was shown in 1894), telephone exchanges, and airplanesJust that list of innovations tells us how much we are still living in the era of 1890s.  As of 24 January 2012, there were thirty people left alive in the world who were born in this decade, so it has not quite left living memory and has, in a sense, now returned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Laugh of the Day: Hyundai Canada Sasquatch Ad

Image Source: Hyundai via Bigfoot Lunch Club.

The Bigfoot Lunch Club posted a link to Hyundai Canada's new Bigfoot ad campaign. See below the jump for the first funny ad, and go here for the main site which has a whole gallery of actor Douglas Tait as the Sasquatch. This Youtube channel features the on-set bloopers with Tait in costume.

Danse Macabre at the Grammys

Nicki Minaj and an actor impersonating the Pope at the Grammys. Image Source: Divided States.

The American entertainment industry did not need to fuel the widespread rumours - many of which are viciously racist and anti-Semitic - that top industry people are somehow connected to the Illuminati, Satanic worship and unfolding plots for world domination. The 54th Grammys became a classic example of how a row of events and images can be lined up online to look like the Prince of Darkness has come to visit.  Following on Candlemas (aka Imbolc), and the already unsettling symbols used in Madonna's Superbowl extravaganza, wild chatter now suggests that the Grammys were the second in a series of giant public Satanic ceremonies heralding the end of the world. Because Whitney Houston's cause of death is still not determined, and the star was seen alive and well about an hour before her death, her sudden demise is now being linked to the dark symbolic content of the Grammy Awards ceremonies.  Conspiracy theories that generally swirl around the entertainment industry merged quickly with theories about Houston's death.  Hybrid conspiracies appeared overnight, like a new crop of mushrooms.

Over yesterday, some of the really intense chat forums even went so far as to claim that Houston was a sacrificial lamb, a critical lynchpin in some dark Illuminati ritual, bizarrely enacted in plain sight.  One forum commenter plainly felt that bad magic had been set in motion: "Anyone else feeling depressed since last night. I could only watch the grammy's for a short time, it was too strange for me to sit through. Went to bed early, could not sleep, then when I did I had weird dreams. Today I am almost suicidal. Really horrible vibes going on....."  For those debating conspiracy theories around Houston's death, even LL Cool J's prayer at the opening of the Grammys took on a sinister tone: "Heavenly Father, we thank You for sharing our sister Whitney with us." Yesterday, Chaka Khan claimed that the music industry was "demonic" in a Piers Morgan interview on CNN, which has fueled more Internet talk.

Gen Y: The Anonymous Generation

Image Source: CNN.

CNN reports that before the Great Recession hit, nearly one third of the middle classes fell through the cracks and suffered a serious decline in their standard of living, and more will drop into poorer strata in the coming years.  According to the article, most of these people are late Generation Jones and younger:
Nearly one third of Americans who were raised in the middle class dropped down the economic ladder as adults -- and that's before the Great Recession hit.

"Being raised in the middle class is not a guarantee that you'll have that same status as an adult," said Erin Currier, project manager at Pew's Economic Mobility Project. "With all the economic turmoil in the past four years, there's good reason to think that downward mobility is more severe."

Pew looked at children born in the early- to mid-1960s and assessed their economic status roughly 40 years later.

Being middle class in the parents' generation meant a household income of roughly $33,000 to $64,000 in 1979. But their children had to earn between $54,000 and $111,000 to maintain their relative standing in society in the mid-2000s. (These figures are adjusted for inflation.)

The middle class is defined as those between the 30th and 70th income percentile.

Marital status and educational attainment had a great bearing on whether people were able to remain in the middle class, Pew found. Race and gender were also factors.

Those who are divorced, widowed or separated are more likely to fall out of the middle class, particularly if they are women. And Americans who don't attend college are also more likely to slip.

One's foothold on the middle class is more secure if you are a white man. Thirty percent of white women and 38% of black men drop out of the middle class, while only 21% of white men do.
Occupy protests seemed at first to come out of a joint working and middle class movement. The initial rhetoric of the 99 per cent was (and is) very much rich versus poor, little guy versus corporate fat cats, the government, the industrial and banking establishments.

But introduce two things - the collapse of the middle classes and a tech dimension - into these protests, and the thrust of unrest starts to look like the middle classes are torn internally and battling amongst themselves for development and control of a new order.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mournful Effect of Impending Mayan Doomsday

North Group temples, Palenque, Mexico. Image (13 Feb. 2012) © A. Evans, National Geographic.

National Geographic travel writer Andrew Evans is currently continuing his tour through the Mexican ruins of Mayan civilization (previously mentioned here) to get to the bottom of the 2012 Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy.  His latest post is a poignant and touching commentary on what it really means for civilization to end, yet keep on living; to endure a massive revolution in time, and come out the other side; to persist past catastrophe, and endure with that traumatic legacy across millennia.  Everyone should read his commentary on Palenque, as he ponders the haunting fact that the great Mayan 900-year-old society came to a sudden end within the span of a year or two; and no one really knows why:
Wandering among the limestone ruins of temples and palaces of the past, I could not help but wonder how such a smart and sophisticated society could crumble into ruin.

The Maya of Palenque had aqueducts of running water, intelligent architecture, intricate artwork, ball courts and residences that will last much longer than most of the chipboard-walled homes built in America today.

Just as traveling in foreign places makes you reconsider home, standing atop a ruined civilization makes you reconsider your own. Palenque was built around 100 B.C. and was abandoned around 800 A.D. That’s 900 years of civilization that came to an abrupt finish.

In historical terms, our own civilization has yet to stand the test of time. New York City is not even 400 years old—I thought about New York because I spent the morning at Palenque estimating the expanse of the ruins in terms of Manhattan city blocks. I wondered: What would America’s biggest city look like if it were abandoned for the next 1,400 years? Which buildings would stay standing for the long haul, and which ones would crumble and fall? Even in my own relatively brief lifetime, the New York City skyline has changed in a major way.

... [V]isiting Palenque showed me that a world can disappear without actually disappearing.

For the ancient Maya of Palenque, the world most definitely ended. Their city and society ceased to function, and the grandeur and knowledge of their age fell into ruin and forgetting. And yet the Maya are still here. Millions of Maya still live in Mexico today—they live quite a different reality than they did 1,400 years ago, but the people themselves have not disappeared.

Also, the ruins of Palenque still stand—just as they were part of an ancient civilization, they have become part of our civilization today. They are a tourist attraction that inspires the whole world in myriad ways.

Yesterday, resting on the Pyramid of the Cross ... I observed the different visitors interacting with the strange and exotic archaeological sites around them. ... And I, observing these New Age manifestations in silence, found myself in agreement with American explorer John Lloyd Stephens, who in 1840 described Palenque’s “mournful effect.” While their ancient civilization is long finished, the mystery of the Maya is alive in the ruins of Palenque today.

Love in the New Millennium 9: Love Them Robots

Robots that love you back. Image Source: Lovotics.

Happy Valentine's Day! For my earlier posts on Millennial romance, see my post on love and the Millennial male (here) and love and the Millennial female (here).  For today, here's something in between.  According to Slate, robotics researchers at the National University of Singapore have solved one of the peskiest problems of Millennial virtual romance: the lack of a physical connection. They have developed mechanical avatars that can transmit physical movements on either side of an Internet link. See below the jump for the robot that physically connects people via Skype, called the Kissinger.

Kissinger is made by the same lab staff who are developing something called the Mini Surrogate. I'll leave you to find out what that is. The researchers are also designing a robot, Lovotics, which can reciprocate human love.  I especially like the white plush hat they gave it. Oh, and the artificial endochrine system they're cooking up for it:
The novel advanced artificial intelligence system of Lovotics includes an Artificial Endocrine System (based on physiology of love), Probabilistic Love Assembly (based on psychology of love) and Affective State Transition (based on emotions) modules.

Psychological unit of the Lovotics artificial intelligence calculates probabilistic parameters of love between humans and the robot. Various parameters such as proximity, propinquity, repeated exposure, similarity, desirability, attachment, reciprocal liking, satisfaction, privacy, chronemics, attraction, form, and mirroring are taken into consideration.

Physiological unit of the Lovotics artificial intelligence employs artificial endocrine system consisting of artificial emotional and biological hormones. Artificial emotional hormones include Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphin, and Oxytocin. For biological hormones Melatonin, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine, Orexin, Ghrelin, and Leptin hormones are employed which modulate biological parameters such as blood glucose, body temperature and appetite.
Warning: some of the activities below are simulated.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Apollo 18's Lunar Truth: Alternate History or Time Shift?

William Blake's I want! I want! (1793).

Over the past few months, one of the most popular posts on this blog has been this one, which I wrote about the movie, Apollo 18.  Now, the Space Review has recently dumped cold water all over the rampant Internet buzz about this movie, and questions as to why its revelatory website, Lunar Truth, was seemingly gagged online.  Nor are there any hints of self-deprecating ironic humour among conspiracy theorists as they search for something with a built in oxymoronic pun like 'lunar truth,' but I digress.  No matter what the critics say, space exploration and other major Millennial historical events remain topics where reality is constantly questioned.  If we one day settle Mars, I wonder whether there will be groups of people on Earth who believe the colonists simply are not there?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

V is for Vindication

Image Source: BBC.

What does Alan Moore think of the worldwide appropriation of his Orwellian 1980s' comic book character, V, for the purposes of global anti-capitalist and anti-government hactivism?  He's just fine with it, and thinks it is a sign that the 17th century is alive and well:
Today's response to similar oppressions seems to be one that is intelligent, constantly evolving and considerably more humane, and yet our character's borrowed Catholic revolutionary visage and his incongruously Puritan apparel are perhaps a reminder that unjust institutions may always be haunted by volatile 17th century spectres, even if today's uprisings are fuelled more by social networks than by gunpowder.

Some ghosts never go away.

As for the ideas tentatively proposed in that dystopian fantasy thirty years ago, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that whatever usefulness they afford modern radicalism is very satisfying.
Image Source: BBC.

Flu Scare at Auckland Airport

Image Source: NBR.

Following up from this post, there is an ongoing Flu scare at Auckland airport right now:

A major health response is under way after an Air New Zealand plane landed at Auckland Airport with children with flu-like symptoms on-board. A group of 73 children arrived into Auckland off NZ90 from Narita, Tokyo, at 9.20am this morning with the symptoms. Air New Zealand is following public health procedures and has advised the Auckland Regional Public Health Service. The Boeing 777-200 has 274 passengers on-board, and no-one has been allowed to exit the aircraft.             
Medical staff are now on board the plane.

Mayans, Mayans, Mayans! The Place Where Time Began

Where time began, according to the Mayas. Izapa Photo: A. Evans (2012) © National Geographic. Reproduced with kind permission.

With fears that the Mayan Long Count Calendar will count down to the end of the world this year, one travel writer, Andrew Evans of National Geographic, is currently taking the trouble to find out where the Mayans thought time began.  Yesterday, he visited the ruins of Izapa in Mexico. His remarks clarify the Mayan prophecies, briefly explain the Mayan calendars, and allow us for just a moment to step into the shoes of the Mayans and their predecessors. Below are some selected comments he made, but make sure you read his whole post here:
I began my investigation of the Mayan calendar by traveling back to the ancient site of Izapa—a place “where time began” ...

Izapa is where the Maya started counting—at least this is what the current theories say. They also say that it wasn’t the Maya who started counting, but rather their predecessors, the Olmec. Either way, so much of Mayan numerology originates right here in Izapa.

The Tzolk’in calendar comprises twenty different days in a cycle of thirteen (tercena), resulting in 260 unique days, each with religious meaning. For example, today’s Tzolk’in date is 1 Chicchan, which means the serpent day of the first day in the current tercena.

The Haab calendar comprises eighteen months of twenty days each, totaling in 360 unique days (the extra five days were an ill-omened “free space” occurring once a year). Today’s Haab date is 13 Pax, which signifies the thirteenth day of the “planting time”. ...

Time begins only when we begin to measure it. The sun may rise and fall, the earth can spin round that same sun, and babies may be born, but until humans can count these moments, they become almost impossible to define. ...

Today’s doomsday theorists are focused on the final number: The End. But that number originated here — the ancient Maya started counting right here at Izapa due to the very specific latitude and the sun’s positions over time. They made sense of their world from this very particular point on the planet and thousands of years later, I had traveled to this same point to make sense of the world today.
Today, he is at the Mayan jungle city of Palenque, tracing the Mayan past, which at this site dates back to 100 BCE.  He has walked the equivalent of 10 New York City blocks of cleared ruins.  More areas of the city lie still buried beneath the jungle, which gives you an idea of how huge this city was. You can follow Andrew on Twitter as he continues his trip through the Mayan empire, here.

Temple XII, Temple of the Skull at Palenque. Image: A. Evans (12 Feb. 2012) © National Geographic. Reproduced with kind permission.

Face sculpture, Palace of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. Image: A. Evans (12 Feb. 2012) © National Geographic. Reproduced with kind permission.