Thursday, January 11, 2018

Stealth form of Climate Migration

In 1995 I was in Antarctica working as science support. It was there I met scientists evaluating climate change and global warming. Our conversations convinced me to move to a region that would do the best in the next few decades as the globe warmed.

I moved to Seattle, for the mitigating effect of the cold ocean, and simply being farther north. In the 21 years I've lived in the region its worth noting it went from having a brief thunderstorm every few years to having several thunderstorms per year. It also went above 100 degrees for the first time since records have been kept.

2018. I've become a rent refugee. I'm now relocated in Las Vegas and trying to start over. I'm now in a region that is already a climate disaster, with summers so hot the sidewalks are 180 degrees.

Beginning some years ago a building boom began. Many years have had over 80 high rise building projects, most being condos and apartments. Besides those skyscrapers, the city has built up and steady stream of 10 story apartment complexes totally dominating main neighborhood streets.

The spike in amount of supply has not lend to lower prices. One bedroom apartments now average just under $2000, and two bedrooms average over $2500 per month.

The primary source for the investment dollars funding these building projects are Chinese hedge funds.

(I am not even remotely anti-Chinese, nor against global economic investment. I've always seen the west coast's binding with Japan/Korea/China as a mark of superiority over the rest of the USA.)

I am also not prone to conspiracy theories of malevolent or pathological intents by powerful entities. Yet what I am about to assert sounds like a conspiracy and like a warning of ill intent by foreigners.

I think the Chinese, being less religious and more purely aligned with science, have more wholly embraced the idea of global warming. I think that as a result their wealthiest are making plans for that future. I don't think they are investing first in Vancouver BC Canada, then Seattle because those places look like a good return-on-investment, they are investing in a place for their grandchildren to live in 2050.

When I moved to Seattle in 1996 I thought I was embedding myself in the place forever. I naively did not concentrate on buying land or a residence in the region. I mistakenly had a local-centric view that I was here, foreigners were far away, and this place was mine to exist in while the rest of the world burned and stormed.

I didn't think through the idea of massive concentrations of wealth by a population scientifically smart enough to use that wealth to push aggressively into the most hospitable regions of Earth.

So now here I am, in burning unsustainable Las Vegas.

Well played Chinese, well played.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Proper Application of the Multiverse

Many Worlds Interpretation /

What if that situation you were in during sixth grade, where you found your passion in music because your aunt gave you a nice guitar, was changed? Your aunt never gives you a guitar, and in that same year you find your passion for drawing cartoons.

The multiverse theory suggests both happen. You are going along as a sixth grader and in one universe you get a guitar, in the other you do not. In all the Universes you are you, you just take the a different path at the fork in the road. 

In a multiverse the Nazi's loose in one, win the war in the other ; the electric car gets adopted as the way we do cars, in the other gasoline cars become the way we do cars. 

With each moment being a moment of on/off for whether something happened, this means the multiverse is huge, with each moment spinning off at least two where the ball was caught and the other where it was dropped. 

So hopefully you're comfortably imagining an endlessly branching out Universe of different outcomes. 

I offer that that the multiverse theory is a better metaphor for understanding evolution. 

In the multiverse metaphor there are forks, as in biological life with mutations. The mutant butterfly with a new color pattern or length for its legs spins off eventually to a new species. Lions, cheetahs, jaguars and house cats all have a common ancestor, just like in multiverse theory an event can have multiple outcomes. 

Of course in the case of evolution, we live with and see the multiplicity of mutations living all under the roof of one Universe. In the case of evolution all the different species of feline, canine and primate live on the same planet.

What about the mutations we don't see?

We talk about the amazing diversity of life by pointing to the living things around us. What about the things not in existence?

The diverse living things are not the only Multiverse....they are a small percentage of the Multiverse.

The lives that died young (before able to create offspring), and groups or species that went extinct, are the rest of the Multiverse. They are the negative space of the Multiverse.

All those born with mutations that did not work out in their environment are very much an example of diversity. They are just the end of diversity the environment killed off.

This isn't just the phenomenon of "birth defects". Mutations that gave an animal too much power in their biological niche can go extinct by being too strong. Think of a pack of wolves that have an odd
mutation of longer legs. They outrun all their prey. They are wildly successful and well fed for a season. Then, very soon, all of their prey are hunted to zero. That pack of longer legged and faster wolves dies due to not being fit for their environment. So it is not just birth defect mutants that die, but the overly strong or fast mutant that ruins its food supply by eating it all.

The only mutations that work are those that lead to offspring, and those offspring having offspring.

With all this established, we can easily see the biological Multiverse is constantly generating every form of life there could be, and the pressure of reality prunes much of the diversity from the living.

It is like an airplane factory that randomly generates every physical form of plane...even planes with the most bizarre things like playground swings and stair cases welded to their sides....and the reality of flight blots out of existence the ones unfit. What constitutes unfit?  Those not capable of coming back to the airstrip after taking off.

So all those planes the left the ground and never came back occupy the negative space of that Multiverse.

The largest portion of the Multiverse are the bad ideas, the failures, those that didn't make it. The largest portion of the Multiverse died. Died in a way that did not leave offspring, descendants in our present world.

The negative space of the Multiverse is what the Universe deemed undesirable unable to support within the frameworks and dynamics of reality. You see the strikethrough because, unlike us and our prejudices that load our desires and undesirables, the Universe is more open than we are. If we were in charge, there might be much more negative space in the Multiverse. 

Evolution is not about life, it is about death. It is not about seeking out and aiding good design, but about killing bad design. 

Evolution does not seek to make functional eyes, it does not seek to make the glories of the world around us. Evolution is just the negative space of the biological Multiverse. It only kills bad design. We end up with what survives, and call it good.

We as humans want to say a good or intelligent designer created all this good.

This is unfortunate, because the only omnipresent....God....or simply overarching immutable one of subtraction....of death.

The only God that propels this enterprise called Life forward is one that employs death, combined with wildly prolific attempts at creating offspring. Mass birthing, and mass death of those outside of some boundaries, with those boundaries fickle and shifting constantly.

In the Bible Jesus healed the sick, brought back the dead, and never married and had children. The very opposite of the omnipresent dynamic that keeps Life going.

Possibly the only true God is Odin -the God of promiscuous sex and death.

Note, the multiverse analogy I describe is more how science fiction has depicted multiverses.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Unnatural Sports League: Doping Allowed

  1. Artificially enhanced sports performance should be legal.
  2. An athlete on steroids is an entirely legitimate athlete.
  3. Natural athlete is a meaningless term, since humans are inherently a species intertwined and reliant on technology.
  4. If the terms natural and artificial are in contest, artificial has long ago become the victor.

Given the above as true. I propose the following as a means to carve out a space in the world of sports for augmented athletes.

The Unnatural Sports League needs to be created. Any of the Olympic sports along with the Tour de France would be replicated, with the sole difference being no investigation of doping.

Business models would be adopted that aggressively bought time on ESPN and other sports video forums. The goal would be to ignore news columnist op-eds, news and sports channel commentary, and any ethical statements of the status quo. Rather than wait for the blessing of the status quo, this radical shift in ethics simply creates its own forum of players and viewers with no concern for opposing views.

The expected outcome will be an alternate universe, in a manner of speaking. The Unnatural Sports League would exist as a thriving business enterprise, with loyal and enthusiastic fans, and its own mega-star athletes; making its millions or billions without a care for the opposing view. Eventually the views of the past will fatigue, or become less relevant, and this new ethical paradigm will only grow stronger and richer and more widely accepted. The Unnatural Sports League will become the basis of hero worship for the sports enthusiast who is choosing augmentation and technological enhancement in their lives, their mates and their children in order to out perform, out compete and live longer than their natural counterparts.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

On Vanity

In Rod Dreher’s Monastic Vision An orthodox Christian says his side has lost the culture wars—and argues for a “strategic retreat.” -By Joshua Rothman. The New Yorker notice how all the locations are the eastern half of the US? In places where the landscape is underwhelming, a place where "human nature" and the social sphere could gain more primacy when talking about fundamental reality. In other words, from a scientific perspective, rather shallow really, kind of a middle ages level inquiry.

They ask big questions...for a person stuck in 1200 AD.

Big tech is for sure mutating us socially and even fundamentally, and these people see that as unnatural, and thus abhorrent. Which is why in my AnthroTechne I say we need to create a future where a "good" person of the past would die trying to live in it. My meaning is the old prudences become a maladaptation for the present or future world. I once lived in that side of the US locked in some of those philosophical inquiries. Then I discovered the high plains deserts and mountains, then tech, then a complete understanding of evolution and science....all things that are bigger and indifferent to inquiries of even the brightest Christian monks, whether a monk of the past or present.

The people of this article are focused on the deeply personal within a tight knit group held together by both daily work, socializing and faith. These are hipsters affirming  Dunbar's number -a theory that humans are best suited to know and interact with no more than 150 people. A theory that, in essence, promotes a sentiment humans were meant for villages, not cities.

The people of this article inquire with weight and depth the local and personal while holding on to a long view for unchanging good and evil and their relationship to God.

They invest in vanities, the small, the stunted of growth. Then they wrestle with the dynamics of these poorer performing choices in a Universe that honors and grants survival and thriving to exactly the opposite.

They make literature and conversation, of high quality, which puts on record their downward spiral, their contrived and chosen lower station, their emotional rush of victory while in the outward objective reality they are so thoroughly the loser.

The Universe has one method of crafting beauty, of crafting what the Universe is and is becoming, and that is evolution. Evolution in biology, evolution in culture, and evolution in technology.

These people record in amazing eloquence what it is like to fail on all three.

  1. Rod Dreher's Monastic Vision -The Atlantic
  2. Dunbar's number

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Economics - Creative Destruction - Evolution in Tech and Commerce - Jobs - Employment Security - Social Unrest

Joseph Schumpeter

Joseph Schumpeter : Wikipedia
According to Christopher Freeman (2009), a scholar who devoted much time researching Schumpeter's work: "the central point of his whole life work [is]: that capitalism can only be understood as an evolutionary process of continuous innovation and 'creative destruction'".


Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders : A Commentary and Full Text

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Where The Misery Is VS Where it isn't

I am writing this as an ebola outbreak in multiple African countries has taken over lives (statistical record). At the same there is a new nation called Islamic State, ISIS and ISIL for short. It was created by a group of soldiers and commanders practicing genocide and forced rape-marriages on a massive regional scale.

Contemporary with the rise of the Islamic State, Noam Chomsky has written a piece titled Are We Approaching the End of Human History? (link ). The article is a wad of contempt for the US as the cause of all politically miseries, and the human species as a blight on the planet.

I've fine with pointing out miseries, blight, and massive die off of humans. Not all humans by a long shot, but very definitely some.

Who is falling into a future that will be pure misery?

The small village in a non-industrialized society. I am saying this: they will not all die, rather I believe their birthrate will provide new people to experience their grist mill of misery. I believe the language of apocalyptic four horsemen is meant only for this class of society, and not at all for others, especially the US. Follow my anecdotal evidence while returning to the subjects of ebola and Islamic State.

At the time of this writing there is one case of ebola in the USA -Dallas patient from Liberia, Thomas Eric Duncan. According to news reports since he was admitted to a hospital, there has been cooperation by the public and professional execution of duties by local law enforcement, health workers, national health officials to name the main stakeholders. Dallas -a place I am sure has many who are uneducated, lawless, superstitious and void of any respect for science - has not had any clashes with the efforts to contain the virus. As of this writing the only likely death will be Thomas Eric Duncan.

Compare this to the over 3000 deaths in Africa this year, with estimates of the numbers climbing to over a million by next year. A CDC official explained in an interview the difference between the Africa outbreak and the US outbreak is resources, educated population and well equipped hospitals. Rural Africa and the US are not the same on these parameters. They are not just different, they are over a million deaths different.

The archetype of villagers fearful of outsiders

This archetype played out as an atrocity with foreign health workers chased into the forest and killed with machetes. At least the villager's resistance to medical help ensures local mass death. (link).

Islamic State versus Westboro Baptist Church versus The Sovereign Movement

Islamic State is an example of a conservative religion expressing itself politically in the Middle East. In America we have conservative hidebound religions expressing themselves politically. One that is notorious is the Westboro Baptist Church. Go do some internet research and see how many beheadings or rape-marriages they've performed. The most violent conservative religious movement I know of in the US is the Sovereign Movement (link), and the only territory they control are a few parcels of private property.

Returning to the range of sentiment Chomsky expressed. It is the end of history...for the unindustrialized...for the rural third world village.

As for who Chomsky meant to place blame or contempt on....their's is exactly the world not ending. As a matter of fact their "world" is likely to start multiplying past this one planet. Colonizing Mars is no longer the topic of authors, rather, it is the topic of industrialists. And whatever is the topic of industrialists is what will be done, what will be built.

In my book Anthrotechne I stated we need to make the future a place our ancestors could not survive in. It seems reality is in agreement.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Meaning of Christmas: Peace on Earth With Comfort and Technology

There is the usual round of cries of outrage the meaning of Christmas is being lost in the pursuit of commercialism and consumerism. I counter the exact opposite: the meaning of the season is the giving of material gifts, of visceral courtship romance, of taking time off for worry of world news and issues to eat, drink and be merry.

I'm only speaking of American Christmas traditions, leaving out the world. Europe had several centuries of wanton revelry as their mode of celebration, while in the US most of the people were consciously more Puritan and austere, ignoring Christ Mass altogether.

The first uptick of Christmas as we know it came after the Civil War, in the newly industrialized and commercialized North. Dead was the Jeffersonian vision of a Republic of simple autonomous farmers, replaced by a more complex society of factories, railways and shops to sell those wares (mostly in the North and spreading West with northern investment and rail).

Northern Puritan preachers condemned this new partying, consumerism and pursuit of comfort with technology. Most all Southerners hated most all things Northern, so contempt for the partying, consumerist Yankees came easily. Those with contempt for this newly industrialized consumerism and partying were on the wrong side of history,  they were dinosaurs falling into extinction.

The second uptick of Christmas as we know it came after World War II, in the strong and enduring iconography of the American 1950's. Being a child of the 60's, in my teens and twenties I thought the vision of early 50's consumerism, Lazy-Boy chairs, dad smoking a pipe, and watching this new thing called TV was something uncool, that the 60's,70's and 80's had marshaled in new counterculture full of something better. Of late I've realized the 50's vision of a convenience oriented home full of comfort came after the hellish epoch of 1917-1945 when the general public in countries all over the world were considering sophisticated and extreme political ideologies, and fighting and dying in the quest to figure out which would triumph.

With that grandly intellectual and viscerally miserable Hell behind them, the Americans of 1950's inherited the only society on Earth with an industrial sector, all other industrial sectors on Earth were in disrepair due to bombing campaigns. While the whole world probably wanted to celebrate the end of the hellish epoch, Americans were the only ones in a position to actually do it.

And American did. It's recorded in the 1950's romantic movies and songs about Christmas. [e.g. ]

Dropping back to Christmas, and the phrases we use. Peace on Earth. What does that mean or look like? If you ask a philosopher, political scientist, or theologian you'll get a very (appropriately) long description, ironically I bet their solutions would look a lot like the solutions being tested in the World Wars of the 20th century. But for the regular folks having to actually live in that peace, I can think of no more real and good peace than this: young couples kissing, giving of expensive gifts, having dinners in which the worst that happens is someone drinks too much alcohol. That is a practical Peace on Earth, and while we strongly associate it with 1950's America, I contend people from all over the world want in on it, and I applaud every one that does.

  1. Why Christmas Should be More Commercial By Leonard Peikoff

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Long View, Transience, Progress and the Profound

I recently attended a lecture at a local Sakya Tibetan Buddhist Monastery titled Dharma Lectures: Buddhism and the Hard Sciences. Lecturer Chris Rebholz did an impressive job presenting the intersection of science and Buddhist practice. Even though I've read Buddhism texts and have a Bachelor of Science, I came away from the lecture with new information that seemed to be operating on me in a way that might reconfigure some of my attitude about the meaning of Life.

I gained a lot from Rebholz's explanation of emptiness. It is not a black void. Rather, it is ultimate transience of everything. Meditating with a mental frame of emptiness is not to achieve a kind of ignorance of the world and objects (nouns) in it, rather it is to acknowledge every last little thing you know and see it through the lens of eternity. Unlike Christian and Islamic concepts of a God with an agenda with eternity being the field in which God is going to actualize that agenda, the Buddhist concept is an inquiry into reality at the level of a scientific physics in which nouns such as tables and even mountains have a limited lifespan, with even Earth having limits to its permanence, much less the whims of social fashion and politics. To meditate in emptiness is to simply grapple with and hopefully be at ease with the transience of all that you know. (or as I like to think of it: every noun you know)

Chris Rebholz focused on a few quotes by Geshe Thupten Jinpa that basically claim objective reality and Buddhism are in perfect agreement, that empiricism is trumps everything else in science and Buddhism equally. The gist of all this was to indicate a strong presence of objectivism in Buddhism.

I'll drop pretentious language and say this lecture made me feel real good about Buddhism. I went home fired up about an objectivist, reality worshipping, Godless not religion, rather Rebholz stressed it is not a religion but a mode of inquiry expressed socially as rhetorical logic and privately as meditation.

In the days after the lecture I scoured the web using search terms that basically bind Buddhism, Objectivism, Science and Technology. I came up with nothing. Even trying refresh and augment my reference to emptiness I got references less clear than Rebolhz's, such as this Emptiness is Form, which, to me, is silly at best, and an attack on logical language at worst.

But that is one writing, by someone who has a prominent webpage, not endorsed by a set of or even one major monastery in the west or east. Every afternoon in most monasteries in Asia monks meet and present their views of reality, with the listeners harshly attacking whatever weakness the detect. I will assume their is much more vetted and strong argument for Buddhism among those monks than this unendorsed writer with a high profile webpage.

After a few hours, my web based research had these results:

  • 1%    ↳ Objectivist/Science/Technology Buddhism
  • 9%    ↳ Logic-undermining content (e.g. emptiness).
  • 90%    ↳ Equal valuation of all sentient beings.

This is when my excitement for Buddhism began to break down.

The Technium wants what evolution began (WTW page 270) and I'll posit evolution is contrary to Buddhist claims of human delusional sensibilities of superiority and inferiority, in the evolution certain things gain advantage while some other thing has disadvantage. In some cases we can state plainly one group has the winning hand, and by winning hand we could mean greater array of options, luxury, ease, or just plain old ability to stay alive.

Buddhist contests in rhetorical logic have enjoyed a few thousand years in which Buddhist wisdom easily won by calling people's sense of superiority/inferiority foolishness. Evolution -both biological and technological- offers a reality that undermines Buddhist schema of valuation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Sound Craftsmen -by Seth Galbraith

Twilight of the Elites tipped me off to this speech by C. S. Lewis:

The Inner Ring thesis explains the fundamental social dynamic by which elitism corrupts previously honest normal people (the "mainspring" of "The World.") The existence of informal power structures is inevitable and morally ambiguous, perhaps even good, but our instinctive fear of being left outside the inner ring causes us unnecessary suffering and tempts us to do wrong things in the futile pursuit of an impossible goal.

(When I say "people are monkeys" or "humans are social animals" this is usually what I am getting at: our irrational obsession with everyday status. When you combine this with the tendency of people to act like jerks and make rash decisions when they imagine themselves to have a little authority, the irrational obsession is useful: in certain circumstances we need quick decisions more than we need right decisions or popular decisions and a social hierarchy helps us do that. These situations were common for our ancestors, but rare for civilized people, so the lure of the Inner Ring seems exotic and mystical.)

But there is an alternative to living an empty, sometimes corrupting life pursuing membership in an Inner Ring. If you put some effort into actively resisting the desire to belong to exclusive groups that exist for exclusion's sake, you can become a "sound craftsman" - an exclusive brotherhood of sorts defined by the integrity of their work, who add honor to their professions rather than competing for honor like dogs fighting for scraps. The sound craftsmen are a lonely and powerless bunch in their way - they don't feature in many great capers or conspiracies, but they do good work, and in a world produced by human effort, doing good work makes the world better.

(When I talk about "the engineers" and "The Long War", what I have in mind are the "sound craftsman" - people who improve whatever profession they are in by understanding and giving life to the essentials of that profession. I tend to think of them as engineers and designers, but they could be academics, janitors, artists, maybe even soldiers and politicians. C. S. Lewis points out that cultivating this virtue sometimes requires the sound craftsmen to painfully suppress their craving to be accepted and advance socially.)

This thesis is also the undoing of all conspiracy theories and the reification of Conspiracy Theory writ large. The Knights Templar, Priory of Sion, Freemasons, Rothschild Family, Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Grove, Trilateral Commission, Reticulan Empire or Reptilian Visitors are ultimately just superficial structures of formal ritual, membership and rank, while the real power is held by an informal clique of Rothschilds or Reptilians within the conspiracy. And since the formal structure doesn't matter a whit, we can dispense with all those hypothetical secret societies, and recognize that inner circles with no names, using innuendos for passwords and our insatiable desire for belonging as their ultimate blackmail, form spontaneously in the organizations of the daylight world: government, business, church, etc.

The Conspiracy as an elegant scheme is a farce, but Conspiracy as a pervasive force driving history is real and perhaps even fundamental.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Statism -My Definition

A site dedicated to the Nolan Chart has an entry explaining Statism at I thought the entry was slightly informative and largely silly. So I quickly wrote my own definition describing Statism:

Statism is the wielding of power by a consolidation of individuals that are not of the same class, share little in values or epistemology, and would likely kill each other in a tribal only world. Statism is all about big power to do big things like, at the very least, put a bridge across a gorge, and at medium put a rail connection across a large continent, and at best put humans on other planetary objects.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Moral High Ground when combined with Incorrect

There are many in the world that believe choosing the path of highest moral stance is valid by default; that actions aligning with the purest form of (for example) pacifism, justice, tolerance and honesty are never wrong. That a life lived committing no sin is a good one.

I say this is entirely wrong, and while anyone can lead whatever life they want, in the public sphere when an example of reaching for higher moral ground has resulted in harm or waste then someone should pay in way that subtracts, weakens and shortens their tenure in this world.

My words are all abstract so far, so here is an example.

There are many who believe in leniency for criminals, sometimes believing that society or "the system" are to blame, or believe if we jail one innocent person our society is guilty of some higher crime.

I believe when the courts decide to allow someone on the street after police have arrested them, and prosecutors have made a case for their guilt, and that subject then commits a significant violent crime; then the jurisdiction associated with that court should be sued and forced to pay a figure high enough to have an effect on that community's ability to function. For reference I give this story of a man who has murdered and hurt people since he was a teen, yet the courts erred towards leniency in all the cases against him. The legal society of this man's community chose to avoid the stigma of putting a teenage boy in prison for life. Now several people are dead. We as a society tend to move on, assigning the monster label to this killer but holding in high regard the system that treated a teen as a child rather than as a killer. I say the monster is the system that knew of his violent tendencies, but chose to be kind. That kindness needs to be punished in a way the weakens the entire entity practicing the kindness.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Rise of The TV Preacher and Evangelical Christianity Explains the Modern Right

Before the mid-20th century phenomenon of Evangelical TV Preacher brand of superficial Christianity, the norm in Europe and North America was sectarian division. Methodist vs Baptists vs Anglicans vs Catholics vs etc etc, if you will. Up till the late 1800's people killed others based on these divisions, and into the late 1900's people socialized based on these divisions. The founding fathers knew that a national religion would mean a bloodbath, a war between Protestant sects, or at least something like the Anabaptist persecutions in Europe.

My thesis extends to explain the rise of social conservative Right wing politics beginning with Reagan. Before 1970 sectarian divisiveness was the norm. After 1970 a new kind of superficiality rose in Protestant ranks: non-denominational evangelism. Throw in a superficial right wing view of American history and reason for existence, and boom you've got a new kind of solidarity that grows and is persistent because of its superficiality. It's strength is in its dumbness. The old time religious people read their Bibles and interpreted on an exacting precision, making them seem cranky and weirdly obsessed by today's standards. But this prevented them from bonding together into a political meme and force.

Off-topic a little, but this analogy helps see a deeper political/social construct. The Mongol Empire was a culmination of an early stage of peace and alliance between normally warring nomadic tribes. The lesson here is obvious: peace and cooperation between small militaristic bands results in a large militaristic group that can then go out and conquer weaker groups. Beware of peaceful resolution of a normally contentious people, for in their cooperative new mode they are in a better position to

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Media Ecology, The increase of Alienation, Alienation is Good, Tribal/Collectivist Culture is Bad


Outside of my coding job and family life, I've been obsessed with the McLulan construct of Media Ecology. Scroll down to the Tribal_Age/Literary_Age/Print_Age/Digital_Age, which is what I'm specifically interested in. In today's pop academic rhetoric "alienation" (the tribal era had none, and each other media era increases it) is seen as a negative and something to undo, such as through renewed emphasis on local, physically connected, committed community. I see "alienation" via media technology as fundamentally positive and empowering, without exception.

Alienation is often the negative umbrella term used to encapsulate positive capacities:

  1. The Scientist As Rebel phenomenon, in which a bright individual can break from any epistemological and ethical boundaries his local (family, friends, class, neighborhood, etc) society adheres to, and choose to accept the feedback provided by math, literacy and success/fail status of tests in the material world, valuing these more than the emotional expressions of his local human clan.

  2. Defection, the anti-thesis of Localized Solidarity. In the Tribal Age [see below] defection is easily detected due to all activities being seen by others in the tribe. There are no levers to pull in private of any great power or consequence. Whereas, for instance, in a voting democracy one can break from any solidarity and vote for the opponent, thus empowering a political trend one's local tribe or class may be against.

  3. Solidarity that is not local or within one's class. Through the time and space travel afforded by literacy, an individual can bond with an idea or command transferred in a book, or web page. Solidarity may not be the correct term here, in the case of a command all the actors who have read the command are captured by the message and directed to effect their material world. This becomes a virtual tribe in which the media is a primary member of the tribe and the people are something more ephemeral and verb-like expression plane of the media. These kinds of virtual tribes can often defeat and entirely eliminate illiterate-acoustic tribes due to the undying nature of the virtual tribe's leader (a mass produced document on paper or hard drive).

The text below is a copy of Wikipedia's Media Ecology circa August 18 2012.

Tribal Age

The first period in history that McLuhan describes is the Tribal Age, a time of community because the ear is the dominant sense organ. This is also known as an acoustic era because the senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell were far more strongly developed than the ability to visualize. During this time, hearing was more valuable because it allowed you to be more immediately aware of your surroundings, which was extremely important for hunting during this time. Everyone hears at the same time makings listening to someone in a group a unifying act, deepening the feeling of community. In this world of surround sound, everything is more immediate, more present, and more actual fostering more passion and spontaneity. During the Tribal Age, hearing was believing. Click here to see excerpt from The Information regarding McLulan's views on tribalism/acoustic media age..

Literary age

The second stage is the Literary Stage, a time of private detachment because the eyes is a dominant sense organ; also known as the visual era. Turning sounds into visible objects radically altered the symbolic environment. Words were no longer alive and immediate, they were able to read over and over again. Hearing no longer becomes trustworthy, seeing was believing. Even though people read the same words, the act of reading is an individual act of singular focus. Tribes didn't need to come together to get information anymore. This is when the invention of the alphabet came about. During this time, when people learned to read, they became independent thinkers.

Print Age

The third stage is the Print Age, mass production of individual products due to the invention of the printing press. It gave the ability to reproduce the same text over and over again, making multiple copies. With printing came a new visual stress, the portable book. It allowed men to carry books, so men could read in privacy and isolated from others. Libraries were created to hold these books and also gave freedom to be alienated from others and from immediacy of their surroundings.

Electronic Age

Lastly, the Electronic Age, an era of instant communication and a return to an environment with simultaneous sounds and touch. It started with a device created by Samuel Morse's invention of the telegraph and lead to the telephone, the cell phone, television, internet, DVD, video games, etc. This ability to communicate instantly returned us to the tradition of sound and touch rather than sight. Being able to be in constant contact with the world becomes a nosy generation where everyone knows everyone's business and everyone's business is everyone else's. This phenomenon is called the global village. "We have seen the birth of nationalism which is the largest possible social unit. It occurred because the print media made it possible for government systems to coordinate, which facilitated homogeneous cultures. Now other nations join our nation to form a global community. Nations can easily break apart as fast as they join together like we see in case throughout the former Soviet bloc, in the developing world, or in Iraq and with Al Qaeda. Strate hopes we can find the freedom to step outside the system to understand our media environment and that we can find the discipline to systematize that knowledge and make it available to others."

The text below is an excerpt from The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick -pages 47-50

Then the vanished world of primary orality was not missed. Not until the twentieth century, amid a burgeoning of new media for communication, did the qualms and the nostalgia resurface. Marshall McLuhan, who became the most famous spokesman for the bygone oral culture, did so in the service for an argument for modernity. He hailed the new "electric age" not for its newness but for its return to the roots of human creativity. He saw it as a revival of the old orality. "We are in our century 'winding the tape backward,'" he declared, finding his metaphorical tape in one the newest information technologies. He constructed a series of polemical contrasts: the printed word vs. the spoke word; cold/hot; static/fluid; neutral/magical; impoverished/rich; regimented/creative; mechanical/organic; separatist/integrative. "The alphabet is a technology of visual fragmentation and specialism, " he wrote. It leads to "a desert of classified data". One way of framing McLuhan's critique of print would be to say that print offers only a narrow channel of communication. The channel is linear and even fragmented. By contrast, speech -in the primal case, face-to-face human intercourse, alive with gesture and touch- engages all the senses, not just hearing. If the ideal of communication is a meeting of souls, then writing is a shadow of the ideal.

That same criticism was made of other constrained channels, created by later technologies -the telegraph, the telephone, radio, and e-mail. Jonathan Miller rephrases McLuhan's argument in quasi-technical terms of information: "The larger the number of senses involved, the better the chance of transmitting a reliable copy of the sender's mental state." In the stream of words past the ear or eye, we sense not just the items one by one but their rhythms and tones, which is to say their music. We, the listner or the reader, do not hear, or read, one word at a time; we get messages in groupings small and large. Human memory being what it is, larger patrterns can be grasped in writing than in sound. The eye can glance back. McLuhan considered this damaging, or at least diminishing. "Acoustic space is organic and intergral," he said, "perceived through the simultaneous interplay of all the senses; whereas 'rational' or pictorial space is uniform, sequential and continuous and creates a closed world with none of the rich resonance of the tribal echoland." For McLuhan, the tribal echoland is Eden.

By their dependence on the spoken word for information, people were drawn together into a tribal mesh...the spoken word is more emotionally laden than the written...Audile-tactile tribal man partook of the collective unconscious, lived in a magical integral world patterned by myth and ritual, its values divine.

Up to a point maybe. Yet three centuries earlier, Thomas Hobbes, looking from a vantage where literacy was new, had taken a less rosy view. He could see the preliterate culture more clearly: "Men lived upon gross experience," he wrote. "There was no method; that is to say, no sowing nor planting of knowledge by itself, apart from the weeds and common plants of error and conjecture. " A sorry place, neither magical nor divine.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The anti-materialism of Philip K. Dick and Gnosticism, a long war for the Demiurge and the Materialists

This is an amazingly smart and important article. I recommend it highly even though my next statement is negative. In this Part 2 section, it delves into Gnostic belief that *this world* (the phenomenal/physical world explained and manipulated by politics, science and technology) is inherently evil and not the product of God, and God's creation is out there in another knowledge/non-physical universe that is calling some of us to it. It even names the demiurge as a height of evil. That is a quick snapshot of who the good guys and bad guys are to Philip K. Dick.

I couldn't disagree more, nor be more in opposition. Serious opposition. What Gnostics and Philip K Dick would call the Evil Empire -something very much like the machine managed human-using Matrix- I call this: The Best Thing in the Universe, the Superior Thing in the Universe. And I say superior with the full weight and intention of such a loaded word.

I anticipate a long, maybe endless, battle between anti-materialists such as Gnostics (Muslims and Christians of certain types possibly included) and the demiurge (people who maintain this political technological world). I see a never ending torrent of anti-materialists arising through every age, and the only way to defeat them is with a further Rise of the Machines.

My book Athena Techne is a healthy push against the anti-materialists. I'm so glad I made this contribution to the war against anti-materialism.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Southern Culture discussion in email thread

Seth Galbraith writes:

So there are two distinct kinds of very religious states in the USA:

  • Southern type: religion is pervasive, but there are many degrees of religiosity
  • Mormon type: religion is compartmentalized, but it is taken very seriously.

Lance Miller writes:

I like the distinction made back in your original post about Southern style religion.

I've been way busy lately, but a lot of postings....on anything US political or US economic...I've wanted to scream something about how the Southeastern US has always held an antithesis to the American identity and narrative.

During the Revolution it was Tory/British sympathetic. It stood at a cultural standstill while the rest of the US industrialized. It is a place where average or lower economic order people capital H hate socialist/anarchist schemes to distribute goods or status to the poor.

While there are plenty all over the US who think of themselves as Conservative, they are reliant on the Southeastern US as the Hollywood and New York City of their platform...the Southeast is where the stuff is stored in bulk, especially through progressive phases of America.

There, i got that off my chest.

Seth Galbraith writes:

Until recently the South was predominantly agricultural, making the South a target of colonization as much as a colonizing power. Southerners were significant in conquering the Banana Republics of Latin America during the early 20th century. Because of it's very different labor laws the industrialization of the South is essentially a form of "offshoring" labor from pro-union to anti-union states. (And in the long run, just as the world is becoming flatter in a race to the bottom, so the United States is becoming internally flatter and more Southernized - but from the Southern POV, the South is being invaded by Yankees.)

If the politics of the South begin as the politics of the British Empire, then the Plantation tradition may originate in the Ulster Plantation - the colonization of northern Ireland by wealthy British landlords and their protestant minions from all over Britain, but stereotypically Scottish Presbyterians. This started around the same time as the first British Plantation in Virginia. (Note the etymoloigical connection: "plantation" = "colony". The plantation lifestyle of the Old South is a colonization system.) Many of the Ulster colonists ended up coming to America. We call them Scotch-Irish.

In a very crude and stereotypical way you could say that Ulster Plantation = Scotch-Irish = Appalachians = Hillbillies. Virginia Senator Jim Webb and self-proclaimed redneck wrote a book called "Born Fighting" which credits the Scotch-Irish for all sorts of rebellious American ideas like mistrust of government.

There is something appealing about thinking of the South as a colony being developed by rich British merchants and guarded by Scotch-Irish protestant minions who still believe they are fighting an ancient blood feud against the Antichrist in Rome and other popish persons and still waiting for the Apocalypse which was supposed to start in 1666. But this also seems like a huge stretch and gross oversimplification. For example the Scotch Irish included more Patriots than Loyalists (basically the new Scotch-Irish colonists were still loyal to the crown while the 2nd and 3rd generation Scotch-Irish colonists further north were ready for independence.)

Viewed from outside the USA, the "history" of the Southern United States is a comical notion. Americans don't dig up Roman ruins when we lay the foundation for a new shopping center. And we construct things in an ephemeral way (we invented baloon frame construction and ghost towns) which ensures that history never gets started. We are savages and our narrative is an oral tradition that mixes old and new stories.

The stories of the Old South, the Hillbillies and the British Dissenters are all mixed together into a sort of Nashville Cargo Cult which is as much a product of the 20th century revisionism as 18th century imperialism or 19th century conquest. Country music for example is a politically correct, Madison Avenue approved, sanitized and bowdlerized euphemism for hillbilly music. The 20th century romance of the hillbilly is often about the narco-terrorist lifestyle of the moonshiner, drawing a long twisted path connecting the guerilla warfare of the American Revolution with the insurrections of Prohibition Era warlords.

Speaking of which, after Prohibition ended, Eliot Ness and his "Untouchables" joined the Alcohol Tax Unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which later became the ATF and the IRS. The ATF (sometimes under the IRS and sometimes under the Justice Department) continued to wage war against hillbilly moonshiners until the high price of sugar in the early 1970's put an end to that great way of life. That's right, the ATF is an elite national police force for reenacting Prohibition with live ammo.

The ATF then turned it's attention to guns, but rather than focusing on guns used in crimes, they went after the low hanging fruit: law-abiding gun owners, spreading misinformation about regulations and then prosecuting gun collectors for borderline technical infractions, and frequently refusing to return guns when the owners were acquitted.

So during the late 70's and early 80's, as the militia movement was just getting started and gun crimes were on the rise, the ATF was doing it's damnedest to make sure all the hillbillies had a new reason to fear and hate the government. This led to the 1986 Firearm Owner's Protection Act, which still didn't keep the ATF from triggering the holocaust of the Branch Dravidian cult in the 90's or selling 2500 guns to mexican drug cartels in the recent operations Fast and Furious, Too Hot to Handle and Wide Receiver (because they are classy like that.)

  • Nashville continually reinvents the Hillbilly as a proxy identity for the American People because we have no History.
  • Colonization does not merely exploit poverty and backwardness. It actively creates poverty and backwardness.
  • Cops are not politically neutral actors who only desire to "protect and serve." In their career-building zeal they can and frequently do escalate violent situations and make insurgencies worse for their own personal gain and glory.

All this suggests that the South and all it's atavisms are not merely accidents of history but significant parts of the social and political structure of America, and that they need to be understood not merely as a reaction to progressivism, but as projects that benefit specific interests, including obviously the music industry, manufacturing and law enforcement, but probably also all the usual suspects who profit from alienation, exploitation and violence.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Earth: 2110

NanoClime is a technology that alters ambient temperature and humidity within a 15 meter radius. The technology is not a gadget, it is more like a medicinal remedy that remedies something outside the body (local climate). A user of NanoClime creates a custom serum to injest, that then operates in the human body for no less than 24 hours, and except in bizarre cases, never more than 48 hours. A person becomes the "engine" for NanoClime processes, the person is called a "climate-engine" in most English speaking slang.

When the meds are being made, the person making the batch selects the desired temp and humidity. This is the reason most people wanting to be a climate-engine make their own -very few people want to endure climate settings set to someone else's extremely different preferences.

Like all complex technologies, this one started out expensive and for wealthy early adopters. Then after thirty years it became something so common it is traded in shanty towns. It currently costs $80 for a year long supply.

NanoClimes can only try to alter the temperature and humidity near its climate-engine. Wind is the main hindrance to achieving the desired levels. Of course extreme difference with the general climate and one's desired levels -e.g. wanting your local environment to be wet and warm while in northern Siberia during winter.

People can set their desired levels to whatever they want, but this is not magic, their is an effect on the body. If the person does want something extreme -a tropical local clime while walking in a Siberian windstorm- then their climate-engine has to work at a higher output, resulting in trembling. The trembling ranges from nonexistent to visibly awkward depending on how hard the climate-engine is having to work.

Once NanoClimes became ubiquitous, all these micro-climates began to effect the general weather, and create global climate change. New jet-streams and ocean currents emerged, new patterns of dust storms and tornadoes emerged also.

All hell broke loose.

And not just in the sky, but in political discourse as well.

NanoClimes became an allegory to describe our psychological political selves. Since everyone knew all too well the effect of NanoClimes, the simplest person could grasp this allegory.

The allegory explored how almost all humans have a political/cultural preference -with some wanting to focus on a culture that makes it easy for them to practice their religion, others wanting to focus on economy and themselves having a chance to be wealthier and mobile, and then infinitude of preferences answering to "which kind of religion" and "which kind of economy". The allegory of the NanoClimes brought to the fore how we use voting or some other technology to try and make our world a little more to our liking.

This allegory became popular the world over. People began to see the futility of politics if it is all about one's personal preferences.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The American Ideology, Parasites and Higher Powers

-by Seth Galbraith, February 29, 2012


Santorum's physical sensations and mental processes are being dominated by what David Bohm called a "higher power" and Richard Dawkins would call a "selfish meme." A parasitic idea has attached to Santorum's idea of himself. It causes him physical pain and provokes him to lash out aggressively, even when the people he is attacking agree with him on every point.

All of us have parasites like this in our minds. Santorum's behavior has alarmed observers who sense something wrong in his overly personal reactions. I suggest that the problem is not depth of feeling but actual conflation of his personal identity and his ideas. This undermines any zealous feelings or high ideals Santorum holds, because the parasite has no interest in achieving goals other than perhaps protecting and spreading itself.

I have been wanting to critique Rick Santorum for some time, but I don't want to make it about his religious convictions. I think we do benefit from people who have ideals and strong opinions, even if they aren't popular, even if I don't share them, and even if they are wrong. Zealotry encourages sincere and active participation in society.

But Santorum has said two things that tell me he is ideologically blinded, and not just about religious issues:

  • Confession #1: JFK's 1960 speech about separation of church and state made Santorum want to throw up. He explains that JFK said people of faith should not run for office.
  • Confession #2: Regarding Obama's challenge for every American to get at least 1 year of higher education, Santorum said, with deep disgust: "What a snob!"

Both confessions show that Santorum actually failed to understand the obvious surface message of what JFK and Obama said.

JFK was saying that he would be loyal to America, not the Vatican, and that religious convictions should not be a barrier to participation in the public sphere. He was defending his own religious freedom, not urging other people to restrain their zealotry. There are reasons to be disgusted with JFK as a person, but it was the speech itself that made Santorum nauseous.

Obama's full statement defines higher education to include vocational training and apprenticeships, which is exactly what Santorum encouraged later when asked to clarify himself. Obama and Santorum do not disagree in their educational advice, Santorum simply did not listen to what Obama said.

Gut Feelings

Aside from a tendency toward self-centered and self-serving bias that we should expect from powerful people, Santorum's visible expression of disgust in both cases could explain why he did not comprehend the messages. He actually experienced nausea while reading or listening to the speeches and the part of his brain that comprehends language literally shut down in panic.

This is not that unusual. If I were to seriously threaten you in some way, you would also feel physically ill and stop listening to me. You would feel the urge to attack me or run away. (This is why good cop/bad cop is not just useful, it's necessary any time you are bullying someone. No one will listen to the guy waving a gun if he keeps shouting angrily.) We feel that way about all threats to our selves, not just physical threats to our bodies and the people we love, but also threats to the idea of who we are. Any piece of information in our minds can become associated with our identity, and then that information gains a degree of physical control over our bodies and minds, including the sensation of nausea and our ability to understand language.

Sometimes these ideas are very complex, well organized and very good at controlling people. These ideas are often called ideologies. David Bohm called them higher powers. Richard Dawkins proposed that they could be composed of selfish "memes" that compete against other ideas in the same way that genes evolve control over animals and plants as the genes compete to replicate themselves - even if it means the animal or plant itself must suffer. Let's just stick to calling them ideologies for now.

America is Conservative

Santorum is a conservative. Conservative ideas include big role for religion in politics and disdain for academic elitism. When Santorum called Obama a snob for wanting everyone to go to college, his audience applauded enthusiastically. Their response to Santorums anti-college sentiment was as warm and accepting as Santorum’s response to Obama’s pro-college sentiment was chilling and combative. Santorum was preaching to the choir. Santorum does not have an unusual ideology, he has a very popular ideology. According to Gallup polls, most Americans consider themselves to be conservative, but most Americans also support the Democratic Party, while only a minority support the conservative Republican Party. So conservativism is not just loyalty to a party, it is an idea in itself.

If you poll Americans on individual issues, they usually skew toward moderate or liberal positions. Liberals have used this to claim that Americans are liberal. This confuses individual values with the ideological system, which could very well have it’s own agenda that conflicts with the individual’s values and interests. We see this in totalitarian socialist countries that boast about their egalitarian, popular values, but practice elitism and brutal repression of dissent. We Americans are also capable of betraying our own personal values for some great cause.

Totalitarian Systems and Tendencies

Václav Havel described a totalitarian system as a society in which everyone is involved in oppression as both oppressors and victims, in contrast to a conventional dictatorship where oligarchs focus their oppression on particular enemies. The totalitarian system requires everyone to adhere to a coherent ideology. Because individuals do not all have the same attitudes, experiences and interests, this adherence is hypocritical. Attempting to live within the truth of individual experience is a potential threat to a system where all oppress all, so any deviation is punished as a serious betrayal of the system.

Havel noticed similar tendencies in western consumerism, but argued that public competition for power required political parties to adjust their ideology to conform more closely to truth than the ideology of a single party state, whose ideology only needs to be coherent, not truthful. But tossing political power around in a popularity contest only offers us protection from becoming a complete totalitarian system with a completely hypocritical ideology. It does not mean we cannot have totalitarian tendencies, attributes and practice mixed in with a degree of sincere reflection. Also, If the majority of people adhere to an ideology, regardless of which party they support, then the public competition for power only requires truthfulness from parties that need to win minorities to their cause. If all conservatives consistently supported the Republican Party, they would always win.

Ideas can Hurt You

Take one idea from conservativism: the anti-college sentiment. The idea by itself makes sense. We live in a society of unequal people doing unequal jobs, rich and poor, less educated and more educated, talented and ordinary, laborers and inventors, care givers and risk takers. Putting everyone through the same education would be inefficient and inflate the status of those who succeed academically over those who do other important work.

The problem comes when you take a reasonable idea and make it part of who you are. Now you hear any endorsement of the idea as an endorsement of yourself, and any critique of the idea as a criticism of yourself. It becomes impossible to talk frankly about education because even the faintest suggestion of a difference in opinion will be taken as a personal insult.

The anti-college sentiment, when it is incorporated into an ideology that has won your allegiance, doesn’t just require you to support a wide range of education options or oppose the trend toward more expensive and often useless degrees (reasonable goals) It also requires you to actively oppose the efforts of anyone who doesn’t hypocritically pander to your ideology. It even makes enemies out of people who share your objectives issue-by-issue, point-by-point, as in the case of Obama and Santorum on academic, technical and vocational education.

So the ideology hypocritically prevents you even from accomplishing goals that naturally follow from the ideas that make up the ideology. The ideology is just an idea attached in your mind to the idea of yourself, triggering the instinct to defend yourself if the ideology is threatened. The ideology will still be there regardless of whether you are actually able to truthfully live by the ideas that make it up.

Letting an ideology take control actually betrays the values that made the ideology appealing in the first place.

Don’t Take it Personally

America’s past and present are full of totalitarian policies that conflict with our values but served our ideologies well. We currently have a prisoner population worthy of a totalitarian police state, handing out big sentences for small crimes as “deterrence.” We used to have overt racial segregation, state eugenics boards, prohibition, slavery and puritanism.

Rick Santorum literally takes conservative ideas too personally. Rather than feeling conservative values deeply in his soul and idealistically making them a priority in his mind, he has actually conflated the ideas with his personal identity, linking primal urges to hair trigger reactions the same way we all respond to personal threats and insults. As long as he lets these gut reactions rule him, he will be compelled to attack inappropriate targets and betray his own values. This is a poor quality in a leader whether you share his values or not.

An ideology is a totalitarian system inside the minds of individuals with power to control their physical sensations and mental processes. If we allow ideologies to rule us, we are hardly more free than a society which embraces a totalitarian system of government. Our idealism and zealotry can only be truthful and effective if we reject oppression from within and around us.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Juche and a antidote to Juche

Juche is a political thesis created and implemented by Kim Il-sung. "Juche" has sometimes been translated in North Korean sources as "independent stand" or "spirit of self-reliance", and has also been interpreted as "always putting Korean things first." According to Kim Il-sung, the Juche Idea is based on the belief that "man is the master of everything and decides everything." Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche in his April 14, 1965, speech "On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea":

  1. Political independence [chaju]
  2. Economic self-sustenance [charip]
  3. Self-reliance in defense [chawi]

In the early 21st century it is seen as progressive (to leftist Westerners) to embrace departures and annulments of the following societal blocks:

  • Global trade blocks such as WTO and NAFTA.
  • Nation states.
  • Porous borders for the transmission of material manufactured goods.

Basically, Leftists want to bomb the ports and revert to a localized economy, society, and body politic. North Korea is practicing an extremely pure instance of localized independence.

Human ideas are wonderful and dysfunctional till they become purely implemented -then they become hideous and hyper-functional; locked into a death trap of stasis.

My concept of Goliath Machine God is a counter to pure Juche, and to Kim Il-sung's belief that "man is the master of everything and decides everything". Machines need to be part of the master class, and big decisions need some of the process done on machines.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The awful Truth of Ecosystems, the Lie called Ideology by Seth Galbraith

From the Havel essay The Power of the Powerless:

As the interpretation of reality by the power structure, ideology is always subordinated ultimately to the interests of the structure. Therefore, it has a natural tendency to disengage itself from reality, to create a world of appearances, to become ritual. In societies where there is public competition for power and therefore public control of that power, there also exists quite naturally public control of the way that power legitimates itself ideologically. Consequently, in such conditions there are always certain correctives that effectively prevent ideology from abandoning reality altogether. Under totalitarianism, however, these correctives disappear, and thus there is nothing to prevent ideology from becoming more and more removed from reality, gradually turning into what it has already become in the post-totalitarian system: a world of appearances, a mere ritual, a formalized language deprived of semantic contact with reality and transformed into a system of ritual signs that replace reality with pseudo-reality.

Phrases we should perhaps use more often: "post-totalitarian" (persistent repressive ideological government) "public competition for power" (the popularity contest that we commonly call democracy) and "dictatorship of the ritual" (when the internal reality of an ideology seems to guide the power structure of a post-totalitarian system.)

Humanity has so far got two great competitors for dominance of this planet. (A) ecosystems - networks of interdependent species which are capable of rendering the planet less inhabitable through thoughtless but complex changes to resource cycles and which could arbitrarily "decide" to favor bacteria over humans and kill almost all of us. (B) ideologies - systems of ritual and interpretation of reality that reconcile the ugly power structures in our lives with our ugly selfish desires into a beautiful narrative that we can identify ourselves with.

(Note that presently in North Korea, humanity is being squeezed out by both ideologies and ecosystems, as they seemed to have returned to the famine and malnutrition of the 1990's.)

In essence, ecosystems are the awful truth and ideologies are the big lies that excuse us from facing the truth. But it's not that simple. Ecosystems are immensely complex, possibly unpredictable, and we have very limited influence over them. This defies our conventional notion of "truth" as facts that allow us to improve our prospects by adjusting our behavior. Truth that doesn't give us an opportunity to improve ourselves is simply fate.

Ideologies on the other hand defy the conventional notion of a "lie" as a contradiction of truth that allows us to improve our prospects by rejecting the lie and adjusting our behavior accordingly. Rejecting ideology is difficult for the individual and seemingly impossible for an entire society. The best system we seem to have come up with is a public competition for power, which encourages ideologies to track reality, but that doesn't make the lies true.

Human self-interest is really a simple problem: we need first the necessities of life, second the security of social connections (family, friends, community, etc.) and finally we need to be engaged in some satisfying activity, which really doesn't have to be a lot more useful or complex than playing World of Warcraft.

We are supremely adapted as a species to pursuing this interest. The primary reason that we lived as hunter-gatherers for 100s of millenia before developing agriculture is that we were really good at it. Paleolithic bands were efficient, close-knit, busy and more fun than we usually give them credit for.

By the middle ages we had gotten so good at agriculture that it was actually better than living as a hunter gatherer (for the most part - we don't have much hard data, and conditions varied from place to place.) Medieval communities were efficient, close-knit, busy and more fun than we usually give them credit for.

By the 1950's some parts of the world had gotten so good at industry that it was actually better than living as a farmer (but again we don't have much hard data on pre-industrial societies.) Death of a Salesman notwithstanding, Industrial America is associated with creating great surpluses of the necessities of life (food, energy, housing) having extensive social networks (clubs, associations, family reunions) finding fulfilling work (entrepreneurship, skilled labor) and a near monopoly on defining good times for future generations (

So on the one hand we have human beings continually improving their lives by developing and perfecting our way of life. And on the other hand (A) our lives also depend on unreliable ecosystems dominated by selfish bacteria, and (B) we sell our souls to ideologies that also ultimately only care about preserving themselves.

It seems to me that this is a situation we can never really escape, but it is one that we can manage, as we have managed to live with bacteria (and they with us) for the entire history of our species. The rise of post-totalitarian communism in the 20th century was an example of poor management, but the situation has now improved for some communist and post-communist (post-post-totalitarian?) countries.

But this perspective raises some disturbing questions. For example what about persistent post-totalitarian states with starving populations and nuclear weapons? What if global warming eventually stirs up a global bacterial bloom that wipes out most life on Earth? If we find at some point that ecosystems and ideologies are ready to kill us all, how far would we go to prevent it?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Visual Literacy : Final Reflection : Summer 2005

Final Reflection Essay by Lance Miller for Visual Literacy, a course taught as part of the Whole Systems Design Masters Program at Antioch University in Seattle.

This summer our group in Visual Literacy explored visual phenomenon and visual thinking. I make this distinction between phenomenon and thinking to point to phenomenon external to the receiver and thinking with neural activity that emulates visualization.

An interesting entry point for discussion was the assertion that language paralyzes thought. Thinking in a visual modality, rather than in a linguistic modality, was offered as a way to avoid the stated paralysis.

In my exploration of visual modalities in thinking, I think I’ve understood the sentence “language paralyzes thought, and visual creativity can go beyond language to discover new creativity or thoughts” as an instance of English language. It states that there is something outside the bounds of linguistics that is neurological activity that utilizes visual parameters. The meaning, use and even the possibility of cogent discussion on this neural activity are important clarifications I need.

Book on Logical Philosophy

My need to understand such a meta level assertion led me back to a dependable source of inspiration – Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tracticus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP). When I discovered Wittgenstein, in 1994, I was involved in a religion my family had been in for four generations. This religion forbade the use of icons and imagery to convey religion. Text and hermeneutic extrapolation using historical records was the method of religious experience. Wittgenstein’s Tracticus Logico-Philosophicus freed me from the crude self-referencing affirmation of revealed truth and validity that had empowered this religion’s hold on my thinking.

TLP opened up the stuff of life, the non-deterministic unfolding of the present, and a more rigorous thinking for me. After discovering Wittgenstein, I hitchhiked for twenty-five hundred miles, and drove ten thousand miles on a summer long vision quest that delivered me into opportunities to go to Antarctica and Alaska. Along the way I read Umberto Eco, Gregory Bateson, and all of Wittgenstein’s published works.

The Freedom of Rationality

A key feature of this new adventurism was the ability to explore reality with language and rationality. I mention the encounter with Wittgenstein’s works not just for indulgent autobiography, but to demarcate my life by a line on which I became far more rational, and creative. Previous to this time all things creative –music and writing especially, were elusive crafts that escaped my serious attempts at mastery. After reading Umberto Eco’s “A Theory of Semiotics” I started developing an understanding of repetition and change as relational in creating music. I saw the use of the two in creating signals that communicate. Other relative opposites are words like unique and banal, and music can mix these as a means to communicate. Ad hoc frameworks like these came easily after stumbling into a rational analytic philosophy with language as the prime thought process.

Irrational is __________

When I step out of a rational language space, I mentally experience______. The exception is when I play music. In the case of music, when I step out of rational language space, I mentally experience…music. But the music is has a relational management system built into it via harmonic rhythm, overtone scales, and spatial corporeality expressed in reverb. Music is a rational language space in its own right.

Universe of Ratios, Universe of Relations

When I speak of rational, I imply its root, synonym, and derivative terms. I especially imply ratio. For me, all things add up to one universe by a gathering of things into relative ratios. A few caveats I should mention on rationalism: I know that my senses only see a tiny fraction of these things, and my ratio summation of the universe is always incomplete. Our choice in things to see, the lines of demarcation to see separate things, and even the ratios we choose as metrics are ad hoc socially constructed artifacts. For me, the discovery of systemic thinking and a love for it is simply an extension of my vision quest into the rational.

A Ratio of Perspectives, Participation, and Collective Experience

One of the biggest lessons I learned while in Visual Literacy Studio was the variance in perceptions and avenues of articulation. From classroom discussions and online dialogue I saw that people experience art, color, brightness, and combinations of sensory input very differently. In the last residency we had an excellent discussion on imagination, which is the mental creation of a new thing that is doable, as opposed to fantasy, which is the mental creation of the impossible. I believe we need, and will always need, more imagination to guide society away from pathologies. People need inspiration and varying degrees of stimulation to encourage imagination. I have learned that what I need to free my mind and create new and great things is not the same as what others need. I want to respect these needs unlike mine, I want to encourage the needs unlike mine. We are creating tomorrow today, and a greater pleasantness for that tomorrow will require an inspired and imaginative humanity.

Creative use of visual stimulation, painting, and visual thinking may be just what many will need for that process.


Wittgenstein L. (1922). Tracticus Logico-Philosophicus. Great Britain: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Human migration and settlement of comets via genetically engineered trees.

This blog posting is a recycling of ideas in an essay by Freeman Dyson published as Chapter 24 in Scientist as Rebel. I feel the bullet point style in this blog posting promotes Dyson's ideas to a wider audience.

  • Except for Earth, planets are not important for human habitation. Mars is waterless, and the rest are inhospitable for humans.

  • Comets are rich in water, carbon and nirogen -the essentials to support life.

  • Approximately one comet per year has a perturbation of its orbit such that it is captured into a region near enough to the Sun where it eventually evaporates and disintergrates. If one comet per year has been falling towards the Sun throughout the existence of the solar system, then the population of comets loosely surrounding the Sun likely numbers in the billions.

  • Billions of comets, a few miles in diameter, would amount to habitable space ten to one hundred times the size of Earth.

  • Comets are a plentiful platform for long-term space colonialization.

  • Two essentials comets lack -air and warmth- could be added to the comet environment with introduction of biologically engineered trees.

    Components and Features of a Space Tree

    1. Leaf Skin

      Requirements of leaf skin designed for space:
      • Opaque to far-ultraviolet radiation in order to protect vital tissues from radiation damage.
      • Impervious to water.
      • Transmit visible light to the organs of photosynthesis.
      • Extremely low emission of far-infrared radiation, to limit the loss of heat and keep itself from freezing.
      • For the colder environment beyond Saturn additional features are needed for warmth: a compound leave that has photosynthesis and warmth in one part, and a cold mirror component that focused sunlight on the photosynthesis area. The mirror component could have genetic instructions to orient correctly towards sunlight.
    2. Branches -must be insulated to retain heat, a less complex challenge than insulating the leaves.

    3. Roots -will penetrate the comet, transferring heat to the roots system to melt ice into water (to service humans and the tree), and carry building block substances to the rest of the tree.

    4. Trunk -the trunk area would provide oxygen for humans, with the tree leaves genetically instructed not to release oxygen, but to carry the oxygen to the trunk area where it is released for human use.

    5. Size -ordinary wood has the ability to support its own weight, which if combined with the weak gravity of a comet ten miles or less in diameter should produce trees hundreds of kilometers in height. This size feature will greatly increase the ice melting and oxygen output for human use.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil by J.D. Bernal (1929)

"Normal man is an evolutionary dead end; mechanical man, apparently a break in organic evolution, is more in the true tradition of a further evolution." -page 42
"Instead of the present [human] body structure have a whole framework of some sort of very rigid shape it might well be rather a short cylinder...the brain and nerve cells are kept circulating over it at a uniform temperature. The connected in the anterior of the case with its immediate sense organs, the eye and the ear. The eyes will look into a kind of optical box which will enable them to alternatively to look into periscopes projecting from the case, telescopes, microscopes and a whole range of televisual apparatus. The ear would have the corresponding microphone attachments and would still be the chief organ for wireless communications...attached to the brain cylinder would be immediate motor organs, corresponding to but much more complex than, our mouth, tongue and hands." -page 38
"The complex minds could, with their lease of life, extend their perceptions and understanding and their actions for beyond those of the [normal organic] individual. Time senses could be altered: the events that moved with the slowness of geological ages would be apprehended as movement...As we have seen, sense organs would tend to be less and less attached to bodies, and the host of subsidiary, purely mechanical agents and perceptors would be capable of penetrating those regions where organic bodies cannot enter of hope to survive." -page 45
The brain itself would become more and more separated into different groups of cells or individual cells with complicated connections, and probably occupying considerable space. The would be loss of motility which would not be a disadvantage owing to extension of sense faculties. Every part would be accessible for replacing or repairing." -page 46
The new life would be more plastic, more directly controllable and at the same time more variable and more permanent than that produced by the triumphant opportunism of nature. Bit by bit the heritage in the direct line of mankind -the heritage of the original life emerging on the face of the world -would dwindle, and in the end disappear effectively, being preserved as some curious relic, while the new life which conserves none of the substance and all of the spirit of the old would take its place...Finally, consciousness itself may end or vanish in a humanity that has become completely etherialized, becoming masses of atoms in space communicating by radiation, and ultimately perhaps resolving into pure light." -page 47
"The cardinal tendency of progress is the replacement of an indifferent chance environment by a deliberately created one. As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed. In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly-controlled universe which is nothing more or less than art." -page 66

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Space Vikings -Why People Will Go Into Space- by Seth Galbraith

This article has two videos you should watch. The first is just a short recording of a test launch. The second is a TEDxCopenhagen presentation from before the test launch.

Key points:

  • Any blacksmith with the right plans could make a spacecraft.
  • Save money by finding people who don't know how to do the job but are willing to learn.
  • You can do this with one ten-thousandth of the budget of NASAs space race programs.
  • Regulatory hurdles actually favor bold adventures over gradually building infrastructure.
  • In other words, rockets are just metal tubes and professionalism is a barrier innovation.

Three nations are capable or nearly-capable of supporting long-term outposts in space. All of them are driven by a myth of resistance to occupation. For the Russians the iconic occupier is the mongol horde. For the Americans the iconic occupier is the British. Between the 1840s and 1940's China was occupied to some degree by almost every colonial power from Portugal and Britain to Germany and Japan. Even the runners-up, like India, Israel and Iran also have similar post-colonial resistance narratives that shaped their identities.

France, Japan and the UK also launched orbital rockets, but they have had this capability for decades without developing their own independent human spaceflight program.

Of course a post-colonial national identity is not unusual in the modern world. Half of the world's population lives in countries that have had orbital launch capability at some point. But pushing frontiers and showing that you can drop a nuke anywhere you want matters most to a country that sees itself as the product of armed resistance to external exploitation.

I believe the post-colonial narrative is fading as it has become the new normal and the world is getting flatter. Maybe we will see one last new batch of national space programs emerge from Kennedy's "New Frontier" of equatorial countries that emerged from colonialism in the 70's and 80's, but eventually we will probably end up with one big international space station program. Maybe we'll have a few space stations, but they'll all pretty much be built from the same cloth as the current ISS: low earth orbit monuments to cooperation between countries-that-aren't-colonies-anymore.

When I say the world is getting flatter, I don't mean that exploitation is going away, but that exploitation within nations is increasing while exploitation between countries is decreasing. The post-colonial narrative was largely about how countries that benefited most from colonialism (like the UK and USA) should recognized the debt they owed to the countries that benefited least - or at least respect the independence of those peripheral countries. "We" westerners should realize that "our" prosperity was the produced at "their" expense.

The global movement that has emerged around Occupy Wall Street has a new post-post-colonial framing. "We" aren't the rich west and "they" aren't the third world. "We" are the 99%, whether we sleep in a wheelbarrow in Lagos or a McMansion outside of Las Vegas, and "they" are the 1% of people managing the system so poorly that the banks are foreclosing on our wheelbarrows and McMansions in spite of us keeping our end of the deal we made with them.

This is what will drive space colonization: general disenchantment with management. Schemes for libertarian barge-cities notwithstanding, you can't live in the modern world and escape completely from the stagnating influence of management hierarchies, stifling professionalism, and meddling regulations. And the savage, primitive, brutal environment of outer space is about as far as you can get from the modern world.

When there is nowhere left to run, people will sit on top of a homemade tank of explosive fuel and light it off.

For now this is only a temporary escape. Suborbital launches only provide a glimpse of space, but each launch that takes people further, higher and faster will show the boring old world below as a smaller and smaller circle until they have figured out how to get into orbit for thousands rather than millions of dollars. Then they will start learning how to survive in space for weeks, then months, then years. And finally small groups of people will just fly away into the solar system, not for science, not for profit, but just to live by their wits in a place where people can screw things up for themselves instead of being torn between regulation and exploitation.

-Seth Galbraith

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Class Warfare, The Rise of Anti-Visionary, Detail-Oriented Leadership by Seth Galbraith

One of the parallel processes at work in modern times is the shift away from the abstract, mystical and visionary and toward the detailed structure of things. Computers and animals are becoming more important, even more loved and respected, while human beings, governments and corporations have lost value. Artificial intelligence has literally become a joke. Making intelligences that reason at a higher level makes no sense if the future belongs to beings that reason on a lower level.

"Corporations are people, friend."
"I think it's dangerous ... this class warfare."

That's what Mitt Romney said, and he's right.

In 1833, Parliament abolished slavery throughout the British Empire and paid slaveowners 20 million pounds for the lost property. The United States failed to reach a similar compromise and instead - after a generation of threats and negotiations - slaveowners got to eat lead balls. The 14th amendment allowed the freed slaves to become citizens, but it also became the basis for corporate personhood.

Class warfare is dangerous. It's dangerous to the class on top. And when you are on top and you don't see the winds of change coming and take action to preserve yourself, history will not judge you kindly. It doesn't matter whether you are a role model and a job creator and a success story. It doesn't matter whether you are just trying to hold onto your just reward for a lifetime of hard work and good decisions. It really doesn't matter, because future generations will just see that you stood there and ate a lead ball instead of getting out while the getting was good.

In the final years of the second millenium, the first fully self-regulating banking system was created and put in charge of Wall Street. This was a system built from machines, not people, and it made bankers just as obsolete as slaves, skilled craftsmen and actors in an age of trucks, automated factories, and digital clones. Human labor now has no more value than the oscillations of a sewing machine - not even "mental labor" in the sense that we say a banker or manager does mental work.

So this is class warfare between classes of people who have no value to one another as commodities. A war of utterly alienated cyphers. Zero vs. zero. 

It is not a slave revolt because the slaves are already as free as their minds will let them be. It is in fact the masters who are on strike. They are on strike against regulations, against social programs that only benefit people who work for a living, against taxes, against tax CUTS when those tax cuts require them to exercise the little gray cells (like payroll tax cuts.) The masters have gone on strike against all of the bogeymen that oppress them in their own deluded imaginations, harrying them as they drive in circles around their gated communities.

Occupy _____ is not a strike. It's the strike breakers. They don't know and they don't really care about the issues that the oligarchs are upset about. Plutonomy? free markets? sounds like some hippie BS to me. Up against the wall!
Corporations are ...
  • ... collectives with a shared consciousness
  • ... people entitled to equal protection under the law
  • ... discriminated against by oppressive governments
  • ... citizens of the world with no loyalty to any one nation
  • ... conscientious objectors who reject all state coercion
  • ... rising up in revolt against the Establishment
... and totally on the wrong side of history. 

Let's take Temple Grandin's hierarchy:
  • big picture normal humans
  • detail oriented autistic people
  • animals
And add a few other types of intelligence to the great chain of being:
  • mystical visions
  • corporations, collectives, governments
  • normal humans
  • bureaucrats and engineers
  • autistic people
  • animals
  • computers, ecosystems
  • appliances, vehicles, plants, germs
  • genes, ideologies
  • chemicals, simple machines
  • physical structure of the universe
One of the parallel processes at work in modern times is the shift away from the abstract, mystical and visionary and toward the detailed structure of things. Computers and animals are becoming more important, even more loved and respected, while human beings, governments and corporations have lost value. Artificial intelligence has literally become a joke. I'm not a robot, I'm a unicorn. Making intelligences that reason at a higher level makes no sense if the future belongs to beings that reason on a lower level.

If Peter Ward is right, we are living in the middle of the age of complex, multicellular life, which began 600 million years ago, and will end some time in the next 600 million years. For billions of years before this age began, the microbes ruled. And after complex, multicellular life eventually self-destructs, the microbes will rule again for billions of years.

Perhaps we are also living in the middle of the age of complex, social intelligence. Perhaps culture and civilization are working against themselves, destined to self-destruct and return us (or return without us) to a world ruled over by animal-like intelligences. Even if that is not our destiny, the current trend is not toward a more transcendent and humanized future, but a more animalistic, mechanized, and ideological one.