Sunday, May 28, 2017

Clearing Out

I sit now in a rather large and mostly evacuated space. I wonder how I will make the move to my new mobile tiny house. I can pace here. I suppose I'll get used to pacing in the great out-of-doors:
How will I evacuate my bowels? It takes so many tries now. I like having a door to close, with a fan. I guess I'll adapt. There's a fan. There's a door. The trouble is that inside is all one!

Yesterday, I decided to clean out my Microsofted email account, at least to get my icon count of unopened messages down to zero. I'd closed my Juno account a couple of days earlier after years of trying to let it go fallow, and it mostly has. Although when I peeked and found old notes that I'd forgotten, there were pangs of loss. Tossing old items of clothing now, recycling things I might have liked. I hope that someone else will like them better. Goodwill.

Who really knows how perpetual 'free and unlimited' will be? Scanning down my inbox, I came across a New York Review of Books link to a review of a new Daniel Dennett book on consciousness. I read it - the review not the book - just because his big book, Consciousness Explained maybe, had felt so powerful to me. Yes, of course consciousness is an illusion of sorts, and we are less certain of our own "I" really than I am even of yours.

Oddly, I later found myself at the very bottom of my inbox (oddly really because my gmail account must be fathomless - unfathomable? - and the really good Juno stuff was jettisoned anyhow when they went all cloud. Though I archived it somewhere, even while the application which could open the archive must be long gone.

I do vaguely remember an original act upon discovering that I could have an email handle that was my actual name, since I'd gotten in to Outlook web access that early. My rickster variation is embarrassing. I was original on AOL, but now we proliferate and I have to add numbers and letters after that, my name.

I guess I got to the bottom of things with Outlook because I still favor the embarrassing account for friends. Since they know me there. I only recently started using my real-name account more, as I meet more genuine "I's" I'd like to continue to know, keeping the serious me, and dumping the trickster.

Anyhow, I'd written straight to Dennett way back in the beginning of this account. I wrote another one to Darryl Bem, who at the time had gained a little notoriety (probably brought to my attention by random acts of first-person news sorting on my behalf via some device or other). He'd been cited for his claim to have demonstrated pre-cognition. He used emotion and enthusiasm-charged pictures of porn to demonstrate an ever-so-slight favoring before the possibility of perceptual knowledge, of what the test subjects wanted to see. His statistical argument was impeccable.

Both had responded, Bem personally since I'd hooked him with the knowledge that we both like wooden sailboats, and Dennet by means of an automated assistant - likely a grad student - who passes along the good stuff, not including mine. He needs his space to do his work, of course.

Prof Dennett regrets that he is unable to respond, thoughtfully, to all the email messages he receives in the course of a week. He does try to read at least portions of them, but answering them would take all his work time. He is grateful for the thoughtful letters he is sent, and apologizes for not responding with the thoughtfulness that went into composing them.
With best wishes,
(from) Daniel Dennett


I'd tried to be really brief, which is hard for me, but I do stand by the conjecture I'd written. Of course I'd have to be a known personage in a field he respects to get a read from Dennett, but I had no idea how else to try:

Professor Dennett;

I've just finished reading Consciousness Explained and then familiarizing myself with your work more generally. In brief, I find the writing brilliant and the overall case cogent and convincing. Since it's far too late for me to take up the study of consciousness to the level of your accomplishment,  I feel entirely comfortable saying that for my purposes you have indeed explained consciousness. (I'll still read on through what you've written since!)

Here's why I write: As it happens, I read your book in light of the soon to be published work of Professor Bem regarding Psi and possibly pre-cognition of which I'm sure you are aware. I also read a cogent critique from the Bayesian side of statistics which relieves me, at least, of the need to worry too much about pre-cognition as Bem's work purports to discover it. Were there pre-cognition it would, of course, fall within the margin of error which Bayesian statistics provides as corrective to non-Bayesian methods. That's almost definitional. Accounting for the priors is hard to distinguish from accounting for frame of mind.

But since your approach to consciousness defies attempts to "locate" it, say in a brain, and since therefore there can be no meaning to simultaneity among drafted cognitions in a single mind - as you demonstrate convincingly in your book - therefore time's arrow has no place "in" the mind. A properly time-sequenced narrative must emerge for sense to prevail, but that is a separate matter from the order of events perceived, conceived, cognized or re-cognized.

You also challenge, at least implicitly, the bordering of the mind by the limits of its physical substrate (the brain, for instance) among other places by your suggestion that a single mind may be thought to be distributed, as in certain twins who inhabit a coherent biography. 

So first of all, if there is no singular locus for any thought inside the brain, any cognition there must in effect allow for pre-cognition. Indeed it's not a problem worth bothering about, since even in principle there's no way to measure it, again as I believe you amply demonstrate in this book. At the very least any thought remains subject to subsequent cognition for so long as it might be held in abeyance by some sense that there will be more to assimilate before a completed thought is uttered. 

Consciousness, in other words, may have more to do with sense of potential completion, rather more like the ballistic act of throwing a ball than like hitting a target. You initiate and correct along the way until release.

But more interestingly to me, if the mind cannot be located entirely "inside" the brain, then all those peripheral happenings which impinge on thought, of course including chance or random events, could be thought to condition moment of release according to their various potentials and probabilities (as variously perceived or conceived) regardless of their literal time-sequencing.

In Bem's experiment, the button-clickers have some anticipation of porn - they have a motive to click, not unlike someone playing Jeopardy. 

Pre-cognition, however, is the wrong thing to test for. Rather, there should be some test along the lines of how Bell's Theorem is tested in physics, to demonstrate the impossibility to disprove spatial separation of cognitive inputs (technically indistinguishable from pre-cognition) to within the margin of error between Bayesian and non-Bayesian statistical models.

My suggestion would be to redo the Bem experiment but using the pseudo-random number generated by the bounded system of the computer, rather than the "true" random number generated in the same "cosmos" within which the subject's mind is choosing.

After all, it is damned impossible to determine that the coin is a fair coin after a long run of heads, other than by invoking "prior" knowledge. But as with voting machines which preserve a physical record, as least with a pseudo random number, you have a trace to compare against.

Of course it is my sense that, as with physical reality, there is some dimension beyond which certainty is not only impossible for practical reasons, but impossible in principle. I suspect that this prospect unsettles you no more than it does me. I'd love to learn of a better conceived experiment than the one I propose, but I can't think one up right now - I know it's out there!

Of course I have plenty more to say on the subject, but I have used enough of your time (pure wishful thinking on my part).

Best!
Now you may have noticed that there was no malice aforethought in my scanning my email like that yesterday, apart from, perhaps, the occasion of moving. And boxing and sorting things, including books of course, does stimulate dormant memories. It is my sense, clearly, that most of my mind exists outside it, in the geography as it were, and among my possessions.

I had no conscious memory of the Dennet email when the one random email would caught my attention by its failing to the first time in came in. How strange then that I'd find another one. Connected. It took me way more than a beat to realize the coincidence. I am dense that way.

Now you will think that these outerings are only catalogs for what is contained somehow inside my brain. In that case, I am one with Dennett, that such a mistaking of manifest image for the real "scientific image" is, well, understandable, if entirely wrong. But that so-called "scientific image" still reeks of Platonism to me, who stopped believing long since in eternal and universal natural law.

Today I learned that I may travel to Mandalay instead of staying "here" within my national boundaries. I can't tell yet if I am distressed or disappointed. I'll try to keep you posted. Mandalay has such romantic associations in my mind. As it were. At least I can use Mandarin there, which is still in need of a bit of brushing up for me.

Well here's the thing: Bem calls his article "Feeling the Future," and my entire being, as it were, is caught up in a "scientific" description of emotion as a concept at least as cosmically eternal as bosons are. The explanatory power of this trivial reconfiguration of the parts of physics is tremendous, fantastic, fabulous, let me tell you!

The Good News is that it really doesn't change a whole lot about the physical world and its rules that we hold so precious(ly). I can't ask you to plow back into what I've written up here, and sheesh I really do promise to try to extract the readable stuff some day, but the long and the short of it is that I define emotion as the prediction, held in mind, that two perceptual objects are bound to meet, though they have yet to exchange particles (bosons?) to define a force-field between them.

This reconfiguration resolves the information-at-an-instant paradox of quantum physics, even as it leaves the rest of physicality quite alone. You can have your God and eat it, as it were. Well, some of you already do that. Ewww!!

So mind and emotion are as primordial as everything else we already know about our cosmos. You can't make sense without these there, even though physics has been constipated since round about the turn of the twentieth century, which in scientific terms shouldn't be near long enough to grow constipated. It's not even much longer than my so-called life.

Well, I do wonder how long my identity might endure, catalogued among loves and losses. I wonder how long it might take to make my point? I've been at it for some 35 years, almost precisely. What a lazy shit I am, and yet I've been working like a dog! Honest! Scant reserves though I have to show for it.

So as it happens, yesterday in the car running yet another endless pile of shit to the storage shed (which had looked way too large when I started, and I've jettisoned all the big stuff!) I was listening on NPR to some TED talks about empathy. Explorations of the continuum between psychopathy and self-less acts of random heroism. Like giving a kidney to a stranger, or seriously risking one's life to save a stranger, or even a stranger's pet, or even a wild animal as my Trump-loving cousin just did up on Facebook.

I walk past lots of homeless people here in Burlington. Some of them live in tents in the woods behind my (for about two seconds longer) apartment. The police are trained to be friendly and benign here. I cannot stop for all the pleas for assistance, but I do tend to acknowledge the request, knowing what it feels like to be invisible.

Someday soon, I may learn to hug them, these homeless people, because I'll likely start smelling as they do in my imagination (Somehow I can't call up to memory what I did living on sailboat or motorcycle to keep my clothes clean. I just have no memory of using laundromats. Ever. I know I didn't use deodorant back in those days. I'm so much more civilized now as to be terrorized by these things; that I might smell bad, that I might look silly enough for someone to fall over laughing as they did when I was walking in Yosemite in the pouring rain, keeping my helmet and my leathers on. My cheeks puff out. I don't look good in hats)

I am terrorized about how to keep up my civilized and medicated existence if I were to move to Mandalay, which my friend tells me is like Taiwan was back in the seventies when we both were there. I had no fear in those days, and cut my own hair. Did I have a scruffy beard? I have no memory of razors.

So these TED talkers indicated that empathy can be learned. The example was of prisoners given the task to be minders for older prisoners suffering dementia. I ended my mini road trip before I could hear whether the Amygdala did grow apace, more or less like the Grinch's heart. Measuring the size and output of that organ, internal (external?) to the brain, is apparently part and parcel of distinguishing psychopaths from the rest of us.

Still, it did occur to me that ideology is the real empathy killer. This is what unites the evangelicals with the psychopathic Trumpistas. I mean that in the most benign and mild way, but these are people who might be able to kill an abortion provider on some certainty, or ditto hate a homosexual. Make a billion dollars a year and feel no connection to those billions who live in dread and pain in that making. The uniquely American ideology of rampant capitalism which must be liberated to rape the earth. I mean I did befriend my brother-in-law before he exposed himself as a child rapist, and he did occupy a pulpit for a while. He even tried to rationalize his despicable acts in reference to the Bible. Yes yes, I'm trying to find the time to watch The Keepers up on Netflix before my Internet goes metric.

Now I'm not saying that Dennett lacks good Samaritan instincts by ignoring my earnest request. Far from it. And I'm almost certain that his Amygdala Mandala Mandalay Mandarin is way bigger than mine is, in proportion to the size of his brain (metaphorically speaking, of course). I'm just saying that I wish someone were listening.

Oh brother, can you spare a dime? (I've had to dust off my guitar as well)

Godspeed! (Oy! Talking to myself all over again.)

Cheers!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Bell Curve, All Over Again

As I move about and cull my bookshelves, I discover I'm doing this by the wrong principle. I keep books I might like to read again, or refer to, and leave behind those I've entirely digested and disposed of. So I left The Bell Curve behind, along with (two copies of) The Closing of the American Mind and some Western triumphalist book about or called The Alphabet Effect, along with lots of other such goofy things.

These books tend to come back around, and now I want them ready to hand for consultation about how the argument went.  Living near Middlebury as I now do for just a moment longer, Charles Murray comes back into my radar.

Having headed a school for gifted children, I had to read the book when it came out, and had thought the arguments thoroughly demolished already, way back then. But intellectual progress goes in fits and starts, and moves retrograde betimes, evidently.

I'm not blaming Trump, and I have a good deal of sympathy for Murray's antipathy toward identity politics, as well as his concerns about segregation of elites from the rest of us. It's the bland assumption that cognitive competency is all that, which I find offensive.

Unquestioned is the rationality of our economy, our schools, our workplaces. Ignored utterly are any ethnographic studies (Shirley Brice-Heath, Ways with Words comes immediately to mind), which catalog cultural differences in both mental processes and approaches to learning. Mating is thought to be a rational affair as well. This is nutty!

No one seems to notice the utterly obvious correspondence (I can't even say correlation without choking) among technological advances, feminist advances, ethnographic advances, civil rights fits and starts, educational elaborations in the direction ever more favoring of Cognitive Ability, and economic distortions which celebrate the cleverness of the idiot savants who run the tech world.

This stuff is all of a piece, and informs an hermetic citadel of power for mostly white and mostly male vectorialists (a useful term from McKenzie Wark) whose bidding is done by presumably high IQ and almost all-male drones, high on Jolt as well.

Never does Murray suggest that we might and should and even must disrupt the classroom, the workplace, the patriarchy, indeed all of that which puts all of humanity now on a hyperbolic crescendo to what the nuclear bomb is only metaphor for.

Since women weren't encouraged, or mostly even allowed to read for most of history, and since blacks were, well, enslaved; and wives were bound by a similar chattel contract to their husbands, please where is the need to do sophisticated regression analysis to parse out the contribution of Cognitive Ability, to these wondrous accomplishments of Dead White Males?

It's all technology, and the techno-post-humanists somehow still do believe that tech will decenter humanity by surpassing us, without even noticing that it's a very particular slant on humanity which is embodied in our brave new digital world. The same reality which Murray blandly assumes is the only one.

Well, I look as bland as he does, and I'm not about to be out-blanded by a guy who counts his glories according to how few people do what he does. I'm even fewer than he is, ferchrissakes!

Murray is bunk, but you can't decenter him by analysis of his methodology, apparently. It's more subtle than that. His is an entire worldview, and it's not disaligned with similar worldviews on left or right. Whether identity or class politics, whether your feminism takes the form of boosterism for STEM for girls, or boosterism for GAIA and Ma Earth, whether you're a true believer in the eternal existence for all of space and time forevermore amen of Natural Law, or in the essential and fundamental fact of human responsibility as co-creators of so-called reality, you all, every single one of you, are picking nits by disagreement with Charles Murray. He's just not worth the bother, no matter the towering and lofty heights of his Cognitive Ability.

But then, well, you'd have to similarly ignore Sergey and Bill and Mark and Elon and Steve and well you know Jared and Donald and even Barack although he's apparently human, and certainly Larry and Bernie Madoff whose biopic I just finished after as many tries as it now takes to clear my bowels. He's far less significant - the other Bernie is - as a confidence man than these other bozos, narcissistically taken as they are by their own, well, um Cognitive Ability. As though that were sufficient cause for their cornering of all our markets. Just sayin'

There are far truer humans down in the trenches, working out their emotional struggles to stay human in a world stacked against them by design.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Connecticut Yankee on Mother's Day

Not all that long ago - during my own lifetime in fact - we didn't wash so much. Maybe that's why we were publicly so afraid of sex? Maybe we cuddled more?

Skin during the time of King Arthur was crusty like some homeless person maybe, with clothing rank. Not all that long ago, Mark Twain could be a bestseller, famous throughout the land, selling modest quantities of awkwardly printed books. And now we are all authors, with Harry Potter mocking the days of royalty. Google scale concentration of wealth on my joyful labor.

I transitioned the "dry look" generation, and finally did give in to Odorono, having tortured my College mates quite enough. I'm bored with the enacted orgasm anyhow, informed by film which is also past its prime. Cary Grant needed LSD to be himself for us. My compass is broken, I shall wander aimlessly. But I shall smell like nothing, and it will be my offering and suffering both.

Advisor to a young student from China, brought here by me as a matter of fact and failure, I must shy away against the pain of raw need. Why must he say out loud that he has no friends? Why can he not at least connect with the significant numbers of Chinese students at the University up the road? Why can't he be like American expats, and form himself aloof from us, making fun, finding a way to be almost at home away from home. Why can't he be more like I was?

He did graduate yesterday, and I am humbled. That he was so serious about learning our ways and yet was still rejected by his classmates who complained of his preparation with English, imagining some sort of payoff to the College to let him attend. I suppose that among his fellow Chinese he is also awkward, and therefore should be a mate to me. Inwardly, I am annoyed.

I could not quite swallow the irony that my colleague chose for me a Dr Seuss book to send me off. Touching really, to the point of tears, it was so appropriate. But Ted Geisel used Mom as the prototype for fascist dictators, and I grew up subversive therefore, as are my own kids. Simple words can be so empowering at each outset!

Could I somehow find a way through humor to let my colleague and former boss know how wrong it is to mother a team? To take their production narcissistically as her own. To find miraculously when someone outsmarts her that she'd already thought of that at the program's inception, and is now so glad that someone finally has midwife her own idea?

When I remarked a family discovery that my own Mom was destructively narcissistic, that she deployed her daughters against their father to their shame, that she couldn't separate her ego from her children and in her pride and gloating left me full of shame and wanting to hide, my colleague answered without hesitation that all Moms are narcissistic. Of course.

Perhaps a celebrity roast format, and I wish I had a million dollars to endow a chair in her name upon retirement already. My own Dad's voice R.I.P. still does echo within me conjectural statements of things I could say to most anybody if I were to want to hurt them beyond what knight's armor protects against.

Sometimes I do it entirely carelessly, a stray remark to son-in-law, which I know is me in destructive competition and I feel somehow as though I cannot help myself. I have so many important things to work out with him, he is that much more intelligent than I. So much more deserving of my daughter's love. No excuses padre, no excuses.

And how then can we ever come together if we only celebrate those versions of each other which we love through gritted teeth (my dentist is in process of cleaning out my pockets for my own good, against excruciating pain)? I say only good things and sometimes it exhausts me. Thank god for confidential friends who are enough alike that language is a barrier only on those rare occasions when precision is actually required. With those mates, you work it out together.

Well farewell sweet College. You have so much potential, though microcosm is so much more difficult to alter than the big picture. I did order special tams for our Fine Arts graduates, urging them to understand that "fine arts," the term, is as much a holdover from the days of knights and nobility as is the structure of the College itself, though we claim to be forward looking.

All are authors and artists now, and the work is collaborative, and it must change the world and not only delight, for we must transform again the way we did when writing did the trick last time. Was it the first time?

The word, the province of the elites for so long until Gutenberg and Buddhist sutras brought it to the common man. Our hyperindividuated selves, as in-formed as performance-art orgasm, still lust after fame and power. Trump is our King Arthur, foul though he breathes.

Happy I am to prefer the feel of scalding water on scaling flesh, Inwardly, I wear the face of a dog scratching toward his belly. Forgetting is sweet sorrow. Sleep eludes me. Mom will get a walker now, in honor of slipping away. She is happy all the time, and forgets what I am up to. Blessed relief. And free at last. A Farewell to Arms. I fly at half-mast, vast or half-vast are my pursuits, and the change is upon us. We shall pull ourselves from the icy grip of our technologies. We shall be post-human in better ways than can be articulated by design.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Review of The Stack, by Benjamin H. Bratton

This book is incredibly useful. It is so utterly packed with important insights and research results that I read it with the gusto I sometimes have for a good novel. And as carefully, and as slowly.

With a novel, the approach is to enter some brilliant mind just beyond the grasp for the author's own containment, and depart the reading changed. For me, this happens even though or more likely because I can hardly ever remember detail. I hold on to some trust that I actually have changed with the same faith I reserve for the notion that I am me, though I have only a sketched remembering of my own whole life. It now takes halfway through to realize I've already read this book. My shelves shrink. I lose my referents.

As would most of us, I would cringe to see it all reflected back to me - my supposed self - in higher resolution than my narrative-constructing brain can retain. There is no more true authentic me than the one I have created mostly as a fiction from whole cloth. Honor demands that. Varnishing my life, and forgetting the extraneous detail is utterly essential to becoming known at all, not to mention loved.

I see a diminution and not an amplification of whatever "I" am, as the only possible result of the hyper-mirror, promised by the brave new computational reality, layered over the Earth I do still love. (A routine mirror is dispiriting enough!) I see this ony as a trap, and no liberation at all.

When Facebook shows me what I was doing last year or eight years ago, its precision is unsettling since I know that my own distorted timeline - engendered at least in part by news cycles which flatten events to where I have no idea if that significant passage was last month or three years ago - my own timeline is simply not right. It doesn't add up.

So I am no more bothered by my memory issues than I am by the fact that others remember things about me than I have almost entirely forgotten. Calling these up from the cloud-stored records of some other me is a strange combination of touching and excruciating. It takes a lot of practice to watch yourself on TV, and by the time you've become used to it you are no longer an ordinary person. I suppose that can be good or bad, depending, ahem, on your point of view.

I am grateful for Bratton's brilliance; for his illuminations about the actual deep structure of our current "world." I shall have to return often to the book, to check details. I made a lot of highlights on my Kindle version, just to leave a kind of breadcrumb trail for myself. His ability to catalog and retain encyclopedic reading and understanding is my definition for brilliant. In my cosmos, this kind of genius, masculinist though it still is, far outshines the superstars of our hypermediated economy.

I will also want to check my conclusions.

More than any other delineator of the Antropocene, Bratton digs way deep to all sorts of nitty gritty about how transformed our earth has been by a new and extremely recent computational overlay. Most authors, I think, would call what he's unearthed dystopic. Bratton himself seems to find it all inevitable, and like a devout Jehovah's Witness, leaves no choice for mankind but to master the facts and get on top of what's happening. Disaster, in other words, is the inevitable result of failure to understand, failure to get on top of, failure to take charge of, what the fuck is going on.

Were he to have spent much time on the tech support side of software and hardware, he might have a different sense of how fragile is this computational house of cards. How utterly unlikely that its realm for fate and accident could ever achieve the unlikely (and always dynamic [sic]) homeostasis of what we still call natural evolution. Understanding cultural evolution in no way promises mastery. I believe that this is one of Bratton's main points.

But the field for accident in our designed world actually extends through unlikelihood to utter impossibility for homeostasis to endure beyond a terminal blink. We all know this in our guts, which is why we project a genius of godlike proportions onto our tech titans. Virtual holdings far outstrip bricks and mortar and actual tooling in their imputed worth. For the moment we are OK with that, since even fools and knaves might go viral and take over the power slot. Comfort where?

It's hard for me to equate fools and knaves with responsible and deserving accomplishers of something important. Most of these - scientists, artists, honest politicians - remain virtually unknown and invisible almost all of the time.

Bratton is utterly rational, common sensible, reasonable and (therefore) banishes all consideration about how quickly actual living breathing humans might lose their enthusiasm for this computational layer. This new aspect of our Earth has also created what he quite accurately calls digital feudalism (or something like that).

He misses the evident fact that there is no longer any human agency in money, which has become a life-force ensnaring the likes of those we adore as geniuses, to its service. The Zucks, and Jobs and Gates and Schmitt's and Musks and etceteras among the vanishingly few with one-man impact on the planet.

Try though they might to be human, these titans are imprisoned in servitude, approaching the scale of exile normally reserved for the likes of Snowden and Assange who are bit players in this narrative.

Those who are not bit players, but whose economic impact gives them Trump-grade freedom of choice (which he so willingly relinquished, right?), must carefully curate their every word. Must publicly say almost nothing of consequence to public opinion. Must save their honest brokering for a few, trusted by scale of salary, inner confidantes. Mostly, this keeps the world going 'round.

Structurally, Bratton carves out the space typically reserved for God, and places Man the designer there. This is what most of us do most of the time, since we no longer believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise.

And when we do contain in our one self all the contradictions now shouted at by others who have certainty to make them seem literate, we are rendered dumb and mute. I know that I will not dare open my mouth - in a faculty meeting say - when others are so stunningly articulate. It actually hurts to be known a fool. I am almost as careful in my speech as a back male must be, or so I can only imagine. I mostly talk one-on-one or in small groups among friends. In public apart from this infernal cloud space, I am utterly silent.

I cannot know if my betters are entrapped and I liberated by their brilliance, or if it's vice versa. In my own really really hard thinking and reading, I do now discover the reality of what others still call God, right there alongside scientific verisimilitude. This kind of mute represents post-human to me. Death be not proud. A different Benjamin wrote the score, sounding nearly the same as this one.

Presumably all of our technology extends but does not destroy the workings of still so-called nature. We actual humans will finally be decentered from a post-human world, which will be more and better toward what we, at our best, aspire. We will no longer dominate nature, in other words, but will be subsumed in its forces once again.

I also refuse some projection of humanity in the Name of God to the space Bratton hollows out in this book whose precision approaches engineering. Bratton's sort of masculinist rationality which finds the physical body merely useful, still does project the self-same spirit of the God he would banish against the dangerous fundamentalists, who also rule The Stack and might yet overcome the rest of us.

My projection is the love which still appears best and brightest in the embodied human heart. Its cosmic trace the Dao, and not the Western natural law which we still hope to discover while remaining innocent of its invention.

Emotional interactions are, quite naturally, simultaneous. This is what it means. Definitionally.

Emotion doesn't propagate at the speed of information, which is no speed at all, which is infinite. Information is always there for us to discover. Emotion is more quick than dead is all. The beginning and end of everything all about us. Stimulus to be in the first place, response in the end.

Rock on!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Interface Layer

This is where my reading may slow to stoppage. Off the rails. It is possible that Bratton has never worked the guts of computation, never wielded a wrench, and only knows the toolset of words. I will lose trust, perhaps entirely.

A map is already an interface, whose computation, however slowly rendered, exists all around it, before and after, and this interface both controls the real world it represents, and causes the user to be controlled by it. There is no need for computation "in" the interface. What Bratton seems to miss is the digital divide.

It can only be seeming because I have ground to a halt after barely entering the chapter; only just getting beneath its skin or it under mine. It will entail some actual effort to spiral back and around a few times. And I may no longer trust my guide.

I am hung up on interface as layer. Skin is, after all, the primary unmediated interface, and it is also the most intuitively an embodiment of "layer." But this comes after delineation of a subtly different meaning for the term, borrowed from computer networking, where unintuitive earth, cloud, city, and address and eventually or perhaps ultimately user are meant to be understood as layers, each articulated with the other by way of some sort of interface, itself a layer now. I feel that metaphor has displaced reality in a kind of rhetorical flimflam. Yellow Submarine tuba-player inhaled into his horn. My teeth hurt. Naturally.

Skin divides in from out, the internal reality of blood and guts from the external reality of the environment. Both define nature. The world of machines puts cowling where the skin might be, to hide the tangle of wires and levers and gears. Sound may be deadened, power insulated, and the goal is to mystify the actions underneath, but also to naturalize them so that the driver feels direct connection to some underlying world which he may learn to master. Drive by wire is not OK yet, for the most of us. Still, the automobile will not release us as we iterate it unto absurdity.

This is the identical architecture for digital computational machines, or at least that's how I read this section so far. There is an interface, and there is an imagined world, and there is some tooling to make the connection between these as direct as possible. Inside are still gears and wires and levers, but they are miniaturized and silenced to some extreme (apart from cooling apparatus, whose silencing has recently provoked explosion). But what is different is that we now imagine "nature" in our future also to be composed only of machinery. Computational machinery, operating only at the level of a very difficult-to-release Platonic "layer."

The literature cut out from the discourse of this book includes Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery. In that case, man and his machines were not quite removed from the somatic reality of the cosmos, and it was letting go of intentional precision which allowed a reconnect (in the form of a bullseye) with the world without.

The rifle and the reciprocating engine, which have so much genetic identity between them, are the last real interfaces, and it is no wonder that those on the wrong side of the cosmopolitan digital divide hold on to these so tightly. Action at a distance that remains, in most ways, tangibly immediate. The handle of a wrench is much closer to the stock of a firearm than to the joystick for some remote drone.

It does not require very much fancy impenetrable language to get this distinction. Guerillas planting explosives under bridges still hiding wires to pump-action spark generators. Wiley Coyote. Those of us fleeing metropolis - cosmopolis - post-meltdown, will be blocked by analog devices. Lever and result tangibly connected. Networks which materialize fighters the way that moonshine makes its rounds in mountains, and visitors are detected in the same way that an arrow meets its target. These actions are not computable in any cosmos.

Still, I look forward to understanding the user layer in The Stack. I look forward to knowing if Bratton knows that the user has already lost humanity, in battle with the machine. His gestures are inwardly aped, and his intentions amplified to the point of deniability when some social other is shamed to death. No-one has pulled the trigger, which is how the machine designed us. We have lost our language. We grunt agree or disagree, thumbs up or thumbs down. Shame on those coddled Middlebury students. They know not what they do, though they aim to do good and right by the world.

We miss our mark. But I digress.

Monday, May 1, 2017

And So What Went Wrong? (A Ghost Story)

Here is what happened: At about the time when the planet was becoming really uninhabitable, and most of the people of means were already living inside Habitat-style cosmopolitan Bubbles, it became as trivial to build interplanetary space-transport Leviathan's, posh enough, like David Geffen's storied yacht, to make the transit fine, but still not large enough to replace all the complexity of the cosmopolis bubbles, conjoined with one another by this time with transport tubes, of the kind which once did criss-cross The Southern Tip of long-gone Manhattan, well before Privateer-Prime Musk took credit for them.

These bubbles did afford the Earth some breathing space as well, since they were designed to be self contained, absorbing nothing, emitting nothing, from an abundance of caution that Earth may still be required for continued livelihood. For those living inside the Bubbles, interplanetary transport was no significant change. For those without, well they had only known without, and stopped remembering what had caused the skin lesions, lung abscesses, digestive troubles and poor eyesight with which they had become accustomed. Already, there were resistant strains of humans abroad in the land (and on the sea, for sure).

Indeed there was a space elevator, and it was always easy to entice earthling outsiders away (from earth) with simple promise of daily bread and distance from terror at strange eruptions, roving bands of hyperthugs, exploding metallic carcassses large and small. These would become the terraforming armies for new Bubbles, scattered in space, with no more poor communion with compadres than with Olde Home, planet Earth. The only remaining issue unresolved was whether the terraforming armies would be stationed within or without; transport back to Earth trivial enough, but somewhat morally reprehensible. And what, after all, could without possibly mean? They would, quite simply, be sterilized.

Truth be told the divergence among the post-races was sufficient enough that the outsiders were paid no more mind than blacks once were, under the Pirate Prime. This was not the major issue.

What happened was that those inside the Bubbles had differentiated themselves still further from those outside according to a still somewhat surprising development. What happened was that they started to see, and not only to see, but to interact with and live their lives according to the appearance of, lively objects of the sort once described as ghosts.

It is already quite well-understood just exactly what had happened and why. Still, it was surprising. What happened was this: Once these Bubbles were entirely sealed, in from out, there was an utterly contained address-space, and all that was grown and manufactured and consumed was perfectly cataloged, inter-referenced and retrievable in principle, on pain of never having existed in the first place, else the microcosmos would also have ceased and desisted already.

What arose, quite naturally, was an addressable meta-cosmos of emotive interrelations, many of which had never been experienced, or which had been experienced far too insufficiently to be considered real, in any wise. They became so quite on and of their own.

It was never supposed that these intangible address-spaces of emotional complexity could be any threat to the sustainability of Cosmic Bubbling, but of course it never is supposed that the emotions of men and even women too, may Trump their intelligence. These are simply matters to be suppressed, and eradicated by drugs whenever necessary.

Well, the drugs did no good against the ghosts. They were apparently just simply there, taking all sorts of unexpected shapes and having all manner of unanticipated influence. You understand, of course, that I write from without, and many centuries beyond when the melancholic dream of release was nearly realized.

It had already appeared to me (I was genetically lucky, and it was far easier for my strain to resist off-planet attractions) that the problem was in the over-addressing of identity in the first place. Those inside the Bubbles were, by very definition, full of ego, narcissism and cupidity, since that's what the economy meant at that time. Even those we most admired, the Double Aughts, the Bonos, the Cast Away actors, could not resist fantasy yachting as reward for having served at all. Having at least seemed nice for at least a while, good performers one and all, they did deserve to live out the fantasies only barely imaginable to the rest of us. And then to boast, but that is quite a different story.

It had not yet been ascertained with certainty that money itself had become the prime mover, the life-force, definer of all things dormant and quick, and that it was this very life-force, renderer of wants and dreams, value against desire, which had been the efficient cause of earth's destruction. Every calculation of my own needs against those of my neighbor, whom I charged whatever rent the market would bear and dressed accordingly, to kill if necessary. Cost to the bottom created fine opportunity for sociopaths among us to disrupt and be thought cute for it.

Once this life force was contained, and the Earth was free to live her life again, lick her wounds, re-calibrate post-Anthropocene, it simply, well, fermented, this bottled up life-force. Now that is not a bad thing, and were it not for fermentations, it is extremely unlikely that mankind would ever have survived so many eons of knowledge about each individual inevitable fate. What is a bad thing, perchance and perhaps perforce, is when everyone is inebriated every living second of every single living day. This is and always has been, the "cost," so to speak, of too much concentration of wealth without too much accountability.

And wealth is trivially easy to concentrate when shortage is only artificially induced against desire for objects, drained of any meaning, but for design. When getting them requires only that the cost for necessities be driven ever lower until cost itself becomes meaningless, and you take joy, delicious absolute joy, in rendering your labor ever upward, giggling all the while. There was, of course, no labor necessary inside the Bubbles, for these were self-sustaining and wage slavery - robotics - was entirely mechanized. That is how and why emotive Avatars, more real than real, rose up to wreak havoc on lives removed from the reality I now still do inhabit.

If I lose my speech, then ghosts will appear to me as well, and I might want. I therefore write, though fraught with apology, I feel as though I have no choice. Novel précis.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Singularity is Dear

This is getting tiresome, this Stack book. There are grand big ideas which I got in the previews, and I agree with the dude about what's wrong with TED, but in the end he feels like one of those pricks who knows how to throw around words like ontology, phenomenology, epistemology. Words that I can never keep a handle on.

Sitting in lectures with world-famous erudites, I'm always astounded at the chutzpah of young students confident enough of their grasp of the discourse actually to ask questions out loud and in public. Or last night at the Game Studio show, young designers of computer games talking like they're already on the indie inside of the industry, and I do wish them well, I really do. 

But there is something frightfully masculinist about how Ben Bratton writes. He feels an obligation to impose his astonishing cleverness on the world. After a while that cleverness smells like fear; a way to hedge against risk of bold statements, documenting every detour, establishing the absolute soundness of what he has to say.

To his credit, I don't really think he is the sort to throw around those words I doth protest to hate. I Googled Ontology of Accident before venturing to say it out loud here, and sure enough there's a book on it. It's what I want to see Bratton write about. He has nothing near to that, so far, and so I am left hanging, about whether he's just another one of those who think that human cleverness is what it's all about. 

I am compelled into side-excursions, like reading Mark Twain A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, wherein I learn that to "hang out" was already around before Clemens died, and train conductors already sounded the way they did when I was little. Perhaps he coined it.

Looking up post-humanism, only to find - duh! - that its meaning which might have started in eco-consciousness to unsettle the "us" from some supposed pinnacle of evolution, with dreams of becoming one with nature again somehow; its meaning has been expropriated.

Now it seems that users of the term mostly talk about how technological elaborations on our being are what engenders the "post" to humanism. That it will only be our betters to put us in our place. Subject to the machine, and this is better how? Sounds post life to me.

This is all as ironic as the evident fact that Evangelical Christians are the most ardently humanist people on the planet, right? They're the ones who champion dominion over nature by manly man. As though it were automatically the case that God the Father is the most clever of beings. And not the most loving. The most angy. And not the most indulgent.

These highly technical usages for terms which ought to be common are what feel like sin to me. Humanism can't mean something special in regard to disbelievers in God at the same time it means those who don't believe. Dominion over nature with a vengeance. Angry God as though the New Testament were never written. Am I a subject or am I an object, or has all language lost its sense?

So yes along my way I discovered that it was Vernor Vinge coined the term Singularity, which Kurzweil only borrowed. It's always the narrative adepts and not the scientists. Writers of creative fiction, and not the earnest thinkers. Apotheosis of cleverness, and machine thinking will crowd out all else. 

Doubt it. Irony be my God.

Whatever we collectively decide its definition might be, consciousness implies bodily continuity with the cosmos. Of the simultaneity sort. Felt, not perceived and language abandons me again, for were not feeling that which moves from outside in? And must it not start with perception? My love is a rose by any other name.

That thing which binary realities deny, by definition. My ontology of accident is trivially simple, and not some clever way to account for the tragedy of accidental brain trauma or disfigurement, although I can only imagine love in that usage, as and and it was a woman who wrote it.

It was only our good fortune that we were the result of prior mass extinctions if and as we think of these as accidents. Accidents are phenomena (there I go!) cut off from our ability by means of cleverness to attribute their sources. We think we might eradicate these from existence and thereby or in the very process become omniscient, which would be God. But these accidents are our very all, and at their point of eradication we become as unconscious as I soon will be, who never did have a good ability to name and to attribute, and it's getting worse on a minute-by-minute basis. Let me tell you.

It were love that predicted us, and it had nothing to do with perceptual anything that could be instrumentally detected and measured and whose reality thereby ascribed. It was a feeling, and the accident of it is only a matter of point of view. We only can look forward, which is a limitation of our consciousness so far. Looking backward is a faculty being eradicated faster than I am dying, and it is techno lust the evil-doer. 

As I may have said, I live in Burlington Vermont which has to be one of the more expensive real-estate markets on the planet. There are no fools who do not charge the market rate for rent, and that just makes fools of the rest of us. There are no beautiful women who intentionally disfigure themselves, no matter their affinity for downscale rags. The brands are meant to enhance the brand. This is no kind of love that I want. It can only be a threat to my very being. When I insist on getting my best price, I am by definition cruel to my fellow man. I hold this truth self-evident. 

My dick shrivels and I don't have to worry about it anymore. There is far more pleasure in scalding my itchy skin than ever there was in orgasm whose discharge won't even wash out anymore. I have grown toxic even to myself. 

Still, I do await the borning of humanity on the planet and I find it just around my corner, hopefully not after the self-eradication of these beastly self-absorbed and narcissistic homo-sapiens all about me of which I am one. All or nothing, so says I, all or nothing at all as it were in the beginning, world without end, amen.