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, March 17, 2012

Red Hood Walking: Biotech Android of the Sixteenth Century

The Middle Ages were more Millennial than one would think. The aim of medieval alchemy was to find the root components of matter as a means to decode the connection between the material and the metaphysical. This field was the progentior of nanotechnology, quantum physics, quantum consciousness, quantum biology, biotech, genetics, anti-ageing tech and Virtual Reality. Alchemy was the science devoted to finding the Elixir of Life and attaining immortality. Alchemy confirms that literally building a spiritual dimension was always the ultimate aim of science.

The greatest and most famous alchemy text in the world is the Splendour Solis, or, Splendour of the Sun. Twenty copies still exist. The first copy dates from the early Renaissance, 1532-1535. By 1582, the work was illustrated. That edition (British Library Harley MS 3469) is a hand-copied manuscript codex with 22 full page illuminated images. These pictures contain kabbalistic, astrological and alchemical symbols. Their mysteries are still difficult to understand. There is a repeated motif of giant glass flasks, within which birds, animals and elements are transformed into people. Test tube babies float in these glass globes with cloned, mythical beasts. Sounds very - Millennial. You can see the codex online, with its incredible illustrations which are simultaneously antique and futuristic, and its and cryptic (translated) text, here.

Among the most sinister and curious of the illustrations is folio 18r (above). A muscled figure bears the alchemical colours of black, red and white. His head is encased in, or made of, red crystal. His left arm is transluscent white, so that his bones are visible. His right arm is bright red, suggesting its chemical composition. He strides out of a dark pool of primordial muck toward a celestial lady, whose angelic wings, star and crown indicate that she will take him to heaven, to immortality - or to superhumanity. She waits to hand him a red cloak. He appears as a mighty, frightening, forceful, masculine creature incredibly born of the perfect combination of elements. The lady represents the conference of something mystical and spiritual upon this construct: a higher consciousness, perhaps an immortal soul. This is the transition point, between Antiquity and Singularity, between the atomization of matter and its hidden transcendence.

Friday, March 16, 2012

(Re)Turning Centuries

Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine: the birthplace of American Literature; American Literary Geography (1933). Image Source: Brain Pickings.

Decades come back into fashion cyclically. Parts of the 1890s, as well as the late 1920s-to-early-1930s, have dominated the period from 2007 to 2012. For the past five years, we got a real life revisiting of the Great Depression, with a Lovecraftian flavour.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Desert Star Paradise

The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé debuted on 6 March 2012. Its ad depicts the car at the Paranal Observatory, home of the Very Large Telescope. Image Source: Georg Fischer for BMW via ESO.

Here's a glitzy bit of marketing. This is the latest high-end BMW, parked at the futuristic desert setting of the Paranal Observatory in Chile, home of the European Southern Observatory. Below the jump is a recent film made in the vicinity of the ESO by astronomers from The World at Night.

The Paranal Observatory. Image Source: Chile.ca.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi Day

Image Source: (2007) © G. J. Caulkins via A Taste of Maths.

Today, 3/14, commemorates the irrational number π (Hat tip: Necropolis). I know of no better film on the disconnected mysteries occupying the space between mathematics and numerology than the Darren Aronofsky film of the same name from 1998. In the film, a mathematician tries to use the number to unlock the secrets of the stock market - and God. It's a great movie about the dangers of trying to make this great infinite number, and all its endless connotations, finite, whether through financial market theories, mathematical analyses, or mystical explanations. A quote and clip are below the jump.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why Generational Labels are Fake 2: The 'Go Nowhere Generation,' A Gen X Response

Image Source: Geekalerts.

On 1 November 2011, I discussed the pernicious effects of generational labeling and its historical origins, here. This post follows up on that comment with regard to use of generational labeling in a recent New York Times article about Generation Y (Thanks to -M.).

20th century history testified to the evils of false positive and negative collective labeling for the purposes of social control. Nonetheless, that trend has become so commonplace that mass media labels easily become conventionally-accepted truths. One of the defining qualities of Millennial life is the gap we see everywhere between virtual hype and actual reality. This gap occurs for Generation Y as well: see here for my comment on their true reality.

It is almost impossible to discuss generational matters without resorting to the very generational labels this blog seeks to deconstruct. At the same time, it is important to observe that there is a general cultural pattern of group labeling evident in the MSM over the past 40 years. My discussion of that verifiable phenomenon does not imply my indulgence in that phenomenon. Again, group labeling has become part of the public discourse. That pattern of discussion coincided almost entirely with Baby Boomer domination of the discourse. Group labeling is stereotypically associated with the Boomers' primary modes of self-identification. Now, the Baby Boomers have not received great press from those coming up behind them. Moreover, many members of the Baby Boom generation may not have subscribed to a group mentality, or may not have aligned with group labels, such as the 'Me Generation.' Why then, do individual high profile members of the Boomer cohort constantly resort to group labeling as a means to understanding themselves and those younger than them in society? And why are so many of their contemporaries otherwise silent on the matter?

The origins of group labeling of this kind have to do with the history of conservative, liberal and socialist politics in the 18th and 19th centuries, which I touched on here. That history of corporate labels and rights could explain many disasters in the 20th century. But that history will not explain why collective labels continue to be used, despite their negative and even dangerous historical connotations. Perhaps group labels are still used because even the media have become a marketing machine. And marketing mentalities and logistics cater primarily to demographics, among other mass categorizations. The Internet has only exacerbated the trend toward group and mini-group classifications.

Group labeling informed a March 10 NYT article by Todd Buchholz and his Gen Y daughter Victoria, entitled, "The Go-Nowhere Generation." The piece, along with a similar Todd Buchholz blog post, "Born to Sit," provides a classic Baby Boomer analysis that rests entirely on a facile collective dismissal of a younger cohort. Interestingly, the authors skipped Gen X in their list of go-getting and non-go-getting generations completely. Apparently, Xers no longer even warrant mention:
All this turns American history on its head. We are a nation of movers and shakers. Pilgrims leapt onto leaky boats to get here. The Lost Generation chased Hemingway and Gertrude Stein to Paris. The Greatest Generation signed up to ship out to fight Nazis in Germany or the Japanese imperial forces in the Pacific. The ’60s kids joined the Peace Corps.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse. Children raised during recessions ultimately take fewer risks with their investments and their jobs. Even when the recession passes, they don’t strive as hard to find new jobs, and they hang on to lousy jobs longer. Research by the economist Lisa B. Kahn of the Yale School of Management shows that those who graduated from college during a poor economy experienced a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force.

Perhaps more worrisome, kids who grow up during tough economic times also tend to believe that luck plays a bigger role in their success, which breeds complacency. ... Maybe it’s time to yank out the power cords, pump up the flat bicycle tires or even reopen Route 66 — whatever it takes to get our kids back on the road.  
The Buchholz pieces criticize Generation Y for refusing to move to other cities and countries to take up employment during tough times. The analysis of employment migration under current economic conditions is anecdotal and superficial. The commentary easily glides over the huge expenses and other barriers that go along with moving for a job, which younger employment candidates routinely face. It neglects the human cost, not so bad when job candidates are in their early-to-mid twenties, but a real burden as they get into their thirties and even forties: losing friends; or not settling in a job long enough to make them; loss of family connections; being forced into a loop of short term professional contracts; drifting from city to city and from contract to contract; shouldering moving costs with little or no support from the employer; facing micro-job contracts, which will not even pay the costs of the move to take the actual job; waking up in the morning - and not even knowing which country you're in.

These employment conditions arose due to the gutting of the liberal professions over the past 30 years by Boomer micro-managers and business theorists, who surfed the wave of institutional job security left to them by their elders. But Boomer bosses changed the rules to the despair of those who followed. This is a fate that some Gen Xers know all too well. Perhaps unlike the Millennials, Gen Xers were willing to move endlessly to take new jobs. And a portion of them still have the itinerant lifestyle to show for it. Many Xers who could settle lost their jobs and houses in the recession.

The conclusions drawn by the Buchholz NYT piece boil down to an ad hominem attack. Why will Gen Y not move? They are lazy. They are complacent. They fear risk-taking. They are "too happy at home checking Facebook." Their characters are intrinsically flawed. Oh, and they don't listen to lessons from Bruce Springsteen. They're not 'born to run.' Honestly. This is the level of serious public debate on this matter in the New York Times, one of the most important newspapers on the planet. It is a disgrace. Readers will remember the flashy negative catch-line though: the 'Go-Nowhere Generation,' just the way they forever remembered the fake term 'Slacker.'

All of this is highly ironic, considering that just a few short years ago, Boomer commentators were gushing about how optimistic and ready-to-work Millennials were. Millennials had great attitudes. Yes, they needed their hands held. But they were team players; and they were tech-savvy. In the early-to-mid 2000s, Boomer job management analysts dismissed Xers as has-beens. They proposed an alliance with Gen Y and promised to leap-frog their kids over those Slackers, who had never amounted to anything, anyway. Gen X always had such negative attitudes. And they were loners. Millennials, praised to the heavens as the kids of the future, the kids who would have it all, lapped it up. This was the 2000-2007 line taken in Boomer HR circles.

But now things have changed. In one big Reverse Mortgage moment, the conclusions in the Buchholz pieces become identical to the criticisms that were leveled at Generation X during the early-to-mid 1990s' recession. Both younger groups have been negatively and collectively defined, dismissed and thereby controlled by their elders during difficult economic crises. Yet Boomers just so happened to be in the economic driver's seat during both recessions. To class younger adults as 'lazy' when they are absorbing the shocks of the worst downturn since the Great Depression - a downturn they did not create - is unacceptable.

Nor is Todd Buchholz alone, particularly, in taking this line. I don't quite understand the logic of Boomer commentators here. Wouldn't it be wiser at this point to appeal to the better natures of those coming up behind them? In a decade or so, the picture will be different. In two decades, it will be even more so. It may be that Generations X and Y will remember the booms and busts not as standard economic fluctuations, which could have been remedied through vertical cross-generational cooperation and mentorship, but as 50 odd years of false and negative generational publicity about them.  And they may remember that that publicity was created by those who came before them. It is hardly a promising policy for Boomers to pursue now, as they seek to secure their period of old age.

Celebrating 50 (Future) Years of Building Better Worlds

Ridley Scott has cleverly managed viral marketing for his upcoming Alien prequel film, Prometheus. On 28 February, he released a faux futuristic TED talk. Since 2006, the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference has acted as the famous and much-respected Silicon Valley online agora for today's leading lights to discuss cutting-edge ideas. Scott's produced TED talk looks just like a regular TED talk, except the hall is different, it is set in 2023, and it features actor Guy Pearce playing fictional corporate magnate Peter Weyland (Thanks to -J.).

For those who don't follow these things, in the Alien universe, Weyland is one of the co-founders of Weyland Industries, which later merges into the fictional Weyland-Yutani Corporation, better known by everyone unfortunate enough to work for it as 'the Company.' Weyland designs the artificial intelligent androids that are mysteriously connected via the Company to the Yutani corporate interest in weaponized alien species. He has a faux online bio:
Sir Peter Weyland was born in Mumbai, India at the turn of the Millennium. The progeny of two brilliant parents; His mother, an Oxford Educated Professor of Comparative Mythology, his father, a self-taught software Engineer, it was clear from an early age that Sir Peter's capabilities would only be eclipsed by his ambition to realize them. By the age of fourteen, he had already registered a dozen patents in a wide range of fields from biotech to robotics, but it would be his dynamic break-throughs in generating synthetic atmosphere above the polar ice cap that gained him worldwide recognition and spawned an empire.

In less than a decade, Weyland Corporation became a worldwide leader in emerging technologies and launched the first privatized industrial mission to leave the planet Earth. "There are other worlds than this one," Sir Peter boldly declared, "And if there is no air to breathe, we will simply have to make it."

Peter Weyland has been a magnet for controversy since he announced his intent to build the first convincingly humanoid robotic system by the end of the decade.

Whether challenging the ethical boundaries of medicine with nanotechnology or going toe to toe with the Vatican itself on the issue of gene-therapy sterilization, Sir Peter prides himself on his motto, "If we can, we must." After a three year media blackout, Weyland has finally emerged to reveal where he's heading next. Wherever that may be, we will most certainly want to follow.
A related character, Charles Bishop Weyland, head of Weyland Industries, appears in Alien vs. Predator (2004). One fansite that traces the characters and the Alien continuity is the Weyland Yutani Archives and another is the Weyland-Yutani Wiki. The Alien Universe timeline is here. With one film promo, Ridley Scott has provided the sci-fi metafictional connection from our time, to the near future, to this timeline.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Went Wrong With American Heroism?

Wonder Woman #10 (August 2012).

What went wrong with American heroism? A picture is worth a thousand words. DC's core triumvirate of heroes represents 'truth, justice and the American Way.' Wonder Woman, an ambassador from a world of classical warrior women to the modern world of American men, embodies the truth that bridges those worlds. But what truth does she manifest here?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Ghosts of Fukushima

Fukushima exclusion zone (April 2011) © Donald Weber/Newsweek.

Today is the one year anniversary of the 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (see my related posts, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). On cue, Fukushima was hit today by a 4.5 magnitude earthquake, followed by a 4.4 magnitude quake. The 3/11 picture is a picture of ghosts. One snapshot of this catastrophe comes from Ghost Hunting Theories, regarding local fears of haunted ruins:
The town of Ishinomaki has mixed feelings about the rebuilding. One shop owner believed that spirits were causing people rebuilding his store to become sick. One taxi driver admitted not wanting to pick up riders in one deadly part of the city because he worried they might be spirits. ... Shinto priests have been called in to clear certain areas of spirits and help them move on. At Buddhist ceremonies, many leave offerings in memory of the dead to hopefully find peace.
Some have called Fukushima, "a nuclear war without a war." There are other ghosts that haunt Japan and the world: radiation in a poisoned Pacific and fallout in Japan and abroad; 20 million tonnes of debris now floating toward the shores of North America; and the whole problem with energy policies worldwide. Developed and developing countries alike are hitting a wall. Science- and tech-hungry societies need vast amounts of energy. That need is driving conflict around oil production. Rising oil prices spurred nuclear power projects. But Fukushima exploded the myth that nuclear power is safe. More than the fallout, more than problems in the Middle East, more than fracking and Canada-to-US pipelines - energy haunts the world.