Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Scintillations of a Difference Engine

I'm still snowed in, and therefore continuing to struggle with Benjamin Bratton, The Stack. I am at that point of despair, where the proliferation of authors he's read that I have not yet heard of may lead me down some rabbit hole of wonder at such manifest genius. So I must choose instead to wonder at what he's not.

Just prior to entering that lengthy section which promises to dissect his Stack, layer by layer, he makes mention of Kurzweil and Cerf, both now denizens of the Google earthspace, perhaps done in footnotes, perhaps referring to rather opposite types, I don't know.

I do know that Kurzweil banishes accident from his conception of ultimate cosmos. This certainly distinguishes him from Bratton, who explicitly introduces accident as one of the most important design outcomes of those Brave New Worlds we perhaps only think that we are engineering, while they engineer us instead. But neither of them write poetry (of any sort which would be recognized as such) so let's start there.

Poesis is a kind of making which Bratton certainly comes closer to than either Kurzweil or Cerf. But his is a controlling and cataloging mind, even his haircut is severe (is this fair? I doubt it), and his writing is quite solid in its overlong convolutions. (out from the snow across the parking lot walks a homeless soul, likely emerged from one of those tents down in the hollow behind my warren)

Poesis mends mind and body by means of accident in a direction toward what we with stronger minds in-formed by many words habitually dismiss as religion. So I wonder if all and any writer of the philosophic is wedded to every other by tacit or overt agreement that at least we can know that accident is meaningless of inception. Which is to say that while accident is often the most meaningful of construals in its outcomes, it is definitionally removed from intentional design, except by those cop-out thinkers who put it to the mind of God.

So I must borrow from the Godless discourse of China, in hopes that I may carve out a space where I am more competent than polymathic Bratton, where intention plays no part in meaning, and accident defines that which is beyond the reach of words and their involuted mental constructions. Which brings us to a better definition for mind than the ones on offer through books. Cosmic poesis without intention of any sort.

There is only so much to be pinned by words, or by the global computational infrastructure of The Stack. Beyond that are other spheres to which we are also linked, and conjoined by those impacts of our bodily manipulations which are only prefigured by mind's imaginings and must be tested against reality. And what if the engineered design of our global Stack is mostly poised to imprison mind in matter, and no wonder Silicon Valley, whatever else it is, is sexist and racist to its core. There is no remedy by argument.

I do confess to a kind of schadenfreude by Trump's juxtaposition against some beautiful person in running shoes, or on a fat-tire bike through snow. Some solidarity with persons sleeping out in tents, even in a blizzard. It is this connection which will define our de-engineered future, undesigned, cosmically relevant in ways that verbalized meaning can not be.

I will continue to read for the lever point, that Archimedean inflexion beyond which I still can find the human, once of direction toward and not away from God so-called and now internalized in opposition to global computational anything.  Which renders uncontrollable appetites, which can be sublimated only if you are fortunate in your beauty, which cannot be resisted, nor should it be for it is metaphor not collapsable by augmented reality which can offer but a glimpse. Where beauty always is. God in the shadows, emergent.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unexpected Snow Delivery

Colleges used to take a wait and see attitude, but mine today decided to trust the global information networks, and call a closure for Storm Stella, named for a cat I used to know. I had to take a break over this past weekend from reading The Stack, since I'd promised to deliver (as in construct in situ) this bookshelf to my daughter:
Happy to Send Trivial Plans Upon Request!
During the course of imagining and then trying to find various "parts," I realized that it was as difficult and sometimes tiresome to do this in English as it is in Chinese. Internet search is quite broken, and search inside Amazon's infrastructure for purchasing is even worse. I've written ad nauseum about why this is so, but here in brief I'll just say that it's because we're still stuck in keyterms. Vocabulary. Words, in the end.

Back in the good old days, one would intersect with some specialized discourse group or club or discipline, take your pick, and you could quickly learn the vocabulary for whatever it is you're trying to do, starting with thingamabob, say. Roofing, say. And then you can easily go about rounding up parts. But these days, without that personal interaction, it can be very confusing to determine if the thing you might be imagining even exists, and if it does, how to call it, especially if you're imagining that some roofer doohickie could be useful for the thingamajig you want to make.

In the case of Googling, the reasons are pretty easy to find; their main mandate is to preserve monopoly power on search, which means that they have monopoly power on being able to replicate in-house the near entirety of the near entire Internets in nearly real-time. There aren't enough resources to be able to do this more than once on the planet, except for possibly inside the NSA as the alter ego, but in any case search on near-frame proprietary storage has got be be quicker and easier than to do it on the clunky net.

For income, Google is addicted to keyterm auction, and again the scale for income dwarfs any alternative, even though I'm sure they are working like mad to stay ahead of the wave, just in case someone like me trumps them when they aren't even paying attention. I might do this by using Chinese written characters to seed the locii for search, along with modest AI to catch the intersection among words in any language, but again, I've described this ad-nauseum, and for now it's not really my point. Except that The Stack brings it up again.

I've already mentioned the one-way osmotic membrane alphabetic to sinitic written language, which makes for a global bifurcation in The Stack, which Bratton still seems to attribute to political forces. I say seems, because I've still only penetrated this tome to some shallow extent. I am waiting to see if he even has a place for what I'd like to call the human in any language. But I do know that bipolar defines whatever the fuck is going on right now, in the very local of ones own headspace, in the polity, on the planet, in the shouting matches, and I do want very much to find some common ground for more diversity. Diversity good. Monoculture bad.

Anyhow, for my book shelves, I guessed right about what might be called finger pulls, and already had the obscure "swage" in my vocabulary, but just as you're about to give up on the very existence of adjustable aircraft cable grippers, you go in by way of architectural lighting, say, or museum display and bingo that thing you thought might not exist is all over the place. I still can't remember the vocabulary, though, since for me it was pretty much single-use, and I've already established that the price-point is beyond me, since I'm not curator of museum-grade art or lighting, though I know people who are . . .

The curiosity is why it doesn't seem worthwhile for Amazon to make these searches easier. I suppose it's the old Pareto principle, and most people look for things they already know how to call. But creative types like me might like to review some thingamajig domain as though coming at it from many different dimensions at the same time. Or maybe nobody does create beyond their discipline?

Well, Benjamin Bratton sure does seem to cross a bunch of discipline-specific boundaries, and only a very few of these seem to intersect the domain of visual art, which is the academic discipline in which he seems gainfully employed. How strange and fascinating is that!?

The snow out my window is still rather fine-grained, and hardly threatening, although I sure am glad that I don't have to drive today. I expect new winds to start blowing it horizontal, and then I'll be prostate myself without anything gainful in which to be employed this day of enclosure. Bored and fatigued. My skis already in storage a drive away. Sigh.

Well, so what I would like to know is whither now? Bratton seems to have anticipated to excruciating detail what's up with Trump and Walls and what can make the world all a Twitter, since our focus is so infinitely manageable by systems not ourselves for someone else's gain and profit, but I'm waiting to know what I can do about this from my inside.

Basically, we've got guys behind bars calling all the shots, and the guys behind bars are getting shot from behind by people who are uniformly not behind bars, and so the game seems to be how do we flip this without pissing off all the people who voted for Trump who are so pissed off that they just want to wreck the whole system, even if it does mean that in some brain-dead standoff between the Donald and the Un, the whole shebang and shooting match comes down in one stupid maneuver. I mean those two guys are batshit crazy, judging from what comes over their names, and might just prosecute what seems a good idea at the time on the basis of some strange hormonal soup, surrounded by terrorized yes-men who were promised some piece of some action.

As I've already suggested, the answer is understanding, because at least in that way we might stand some chance to not do something colossally stupid ourselves in pursuit of our definitionally misguided self-interests. Misguided if for no other reason than that the uber information aggregation bureaux know way more about our interests than we do ourselves, and know how we might vote on any given issue to some absurd degree of accuracy based on just a few data points, in the aggregate of "we" the people, even when we might surprise them individually. I mean, how can they know if I don't even know, though I do worship coupons and sell my attention for pennies on my dollar against a price which has a snowball's chance in hell to be determined.

None of this matters, of course. It's got to be someone's fault that it's snowing in March, near the equinox, near the start of Spring, and I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more. It makes me so tired even to think about saying such a thing out loud.

So the other day for no good reason I decided to transfer my flatscreen wall-mount to my new portable packet real-estate, and didn't like the dimples in my tiny house's outer skin, even with the big washers. So I thought aluminum and then I thought maybe Walmart or some such place, remembering how easy it was to escape marine-grade pricing when I was living on my floating real-estate before the days of packet switched reality, and I was able to repurpose cookie sheets and cheap stainless bowls to shield my little coal stove, but now one day magically the square piece of aluminum turned round in my head, and then one lunch time I was strolling "downtown" in my little college-town with the pedestrian mall, and by some internal magnetism remembered the Home Port store, and there hiding in the bottom of some kind of torte shell was the very piece of aluminum I had in my mind's imagination. Bingo. Bam. It was even anodized and of course cut precisely in ways that I could never imagine doing and so now but for the grace of snow, I would be glueing it under the big washers and dimples gone and tra la la!

So what's the point in all that? The point, if there really is one, is to let the mind go and it might just provide you access to a feedback loop from your own future, which you might also apparently do by placebos in the medical arena or prayer in the religious. And even if you prefer to explain it away by some obscurely stored memory in your brain which stores way more than you can catalog and index for easy retrieval, it's still a neat trick when you can pull it off. Opposite to Internet searching. And very opposite to how we direct our anger and analysis against the idiot winds, because, and now I'm mindful of Bratton again, we're still stuck in where we were and not looking ahead to where we're going, which is a very very bad way to drive this wreck.

Looking ahead, one might see through to something better, pivoting on that proverbial dime, against that proverbial dollar, hi ho! Which is to say that the only way to unseat the powers that be is to let one's mind go and ignore them while repurposing what they're overcharging for in one domain to some other domain where it's really cheap, and then share it faster than they can stop you. Fat Daddio's is my design firm brand, purloined from some manufacturer of cookware. Go figure! If you just want to get rich to appease your insecurity, then you're on the wrong side of the structural barriers, boss. Make good with your gods before it's too late.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Privateers of Property

Now that the idiots are in charge, what are the rest of us to do? This term defines not just Trump, but necessarily Zuckerberg, Jobs (R.I.P.), Gates, Musk, Ellison, as well as all the lesser luminaries who have the good sense to defy a cult of personality by putting first or forth some trait of identity politics, their sexual orientation, international background, low-keyed competency, to defend their empire precisely against the personal.

Idiots are those locked so far within esoteric discourse that they no longer have the ability to know the world outside of it. There can be no communication with them. Their interiority matches their exteriority because they can naturally and without effort see themselves reflected in nearly every aspect of the world which they not only inhabit, but effectively define. There is only a distinction without any difference between what we literally mean by idiot (beyond the pale of human?) and what I seem to mean here figuratively.

I think maybe what we can do is to stop paying them any mind. We did think, in our Hollywood-channeled patriotic enthusiasm, that we were electing someone from outside the beltway, but now suspect instead that we have simply replaced one dynasty which understands that oil will define the world for just a moment longer - at least until the poles shift or slip and the sea level rises to create a greater emergent force than our cloud machinery - with one which by its insubservience to the puppeteers becomes a proto Dictator even beyond those who could be regulated by moneyed handlers; along the lines of the Un of false bipolar opposition.

This new quasi-nuclear hypersexualized and therefore binary family power understands that Russia's oil is much better moderated than that occupied by the fanaticized and therefore dangerously insubservient populations of the Middle East. What, we thought our geopolitical occupation of their desert would create some sea of pacifists??? Affinity with Israel is just propensity to suppose that walls can define in from out anymore. And far from a Faustian bargain on the part of our Rightward Beltway Denizens, these citizens of the polity of the discourse of Washington understand perfectly that their very sanctioned existence has been fundamentally undermined. Their rhetoric could make no sense otherwise, barbarians within the gates.

Yes, well, the only way that I know if I was sensible enough to shut my machine down last time I used it is to check the state of the battery. This time, it would seem that I was in some hurry and Macintoshed my Windows by just shutting its lid. Zero battery, since the instrumentation for sleep is as broken in my machine as it is in my body, and I must kick myself. We will see if politics as usual comes back to life. I suspect not, but cannot be certain until the lid is lifted.

This Benjamin Bratton is a very dangerous fellow, but fortunately for those of us outside the rings of power, no-one inside any of them will be able to read him. No expert in any field will be able to follow what he is writing about since, as with physicists who scrambled to get on top of the Einsteinian Paradigm Shift to leverage their insider knowledge, not to do so would be to become as scientifically irrelevant as the religious fanatics who now define our geopolitics. Irony, you are a cruel God. You convolute me.

What I mean to say is that the discourses toward understanding our world have become so esoteric that one would have to leave one's identity entirely behind now, and jump into the sea with the rest of us the way that some wall streeters or Silly Con artists sometimes do when they grow a conscience. To his credit, I think Bratton understands this, although to pay his bills he is obligated to carry forward his simulation of genius in masculine form. I mean, who but me would shun an academic appointment, right? The sacrifices seem so inconsequential. To your heart.

From my minuscule academic platform, I sent an invitation to the Stacker to speak, about which common courtesy among academics would demand at least an acknowledgement. But I did Trump him by inventing my own term - binary Logocene - which would brand me as that same sort of nutjob who writes physics professors to compel them toward some new Grand Universal Theorem of Life, the Universe and Everything. Yes, I am that person. *sigh*

Well, you won't have me to kick around anymore, academia. I have officially aged out from any more Paper Chasing, (skirt chasing long since abandoned). But here in the cozy cloud of false virtue-ality, I can have a voice if I want it, right?

Not so fast, Bozo, not so fast. OK, so where was I? Yes, the only thing which really makes any sense is that Trump smells oil which means money and of course there will be blood. His logic of the Wall and the Meaningless Military Tax is clear enough. It is identical to the formation of anger among we in the opposition, which describes an emotional bridge between the old world and the one that we see looming, and we only see the actual imprisonment of our very minds, since we have long since understood that when labor is free, thought isn't any longer. Thought too must be strategically deployed, and anger falls into the trap of the sucker punch which has been dealt from Washington since at least the time of Nixon, and likely earlier.

Why do you think it was so important to get oil flowing through Native American Territory, like next week!?! We are all suckers to the incredibly falling prices that keep us cozy and smug and white. Let them eat and sleep under cardboard, since the package costs more than its manufactured [sic] contents anyhow. Why is it so important to cozy up to Putin? Duh! If he doesn't have a Shell-game deal for a piece of the action, Trump is a bigger idiot than even we in the loyal opposition peg him for, literal or figurative makes no nevermind.

I mean it just may be that the most important thing to do is to understand, become the ground, and then shake it in a subtle enough way that the powers that be lose their balance and topple. The secret energy is, naturally enough, love. Anger will not get us there.

OK PollyAnna, What? Is Snowden friend or foe? Don't drones save more innocent lives than they destroy? Could Obama really even show his darker side? And why dear God of Irony, die Snowden have to end up in Russia to channel holdover cold war intelligence straight to Polity Rapist Hillary Hating Wiki no boundaries Media???? Pedia? Phile? Leaks!

My cloud is pierced and I am leaking out all over but let us not be so foolish as to pay attention to idiots, no matter how much they feel like Genius Incarnate. Virtually Jesus, as we do worship now in the workplace against our fellow man for the sake of the price of a chainsawed captive Rhino's horn, which is apparently worth more than you or me in our entire lifetimes, and so who wouldn't do it if they had the chance? It just seems clever, like going viral by accident does, or winning the lottery on purpose or perhaps you might know what I mean. What wouldn't you do, Donald, for money or a good hard-on? Is that the lead we wish to follow?

I think it might be worth saying over and again that the only God by whom to True our Heart is the God of Love and not the One to Live in Fear of. Don't be dangled by patriarchy against your brother, Sister, it is your turn at the Helm.

OK, gotta go to Work, Hi Ho!!!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

State of Sleep

Not long ago, while in China, I was negotiating the Great Firewall and remarking to myself how much more annoying are the brand and patent boundaries of the Great Companies which mediate my world. Apple wants you to stay inside its infrastructure, and Google stops roughly at the geographic boundary, and Verizon wants to profiteer on boundary crossings.

All of this makes me approximately as angry as being faced with the need for immediate gratification in the purchase of some trivial part, which I know full well is being marked up some thousands of percent just because they can, and because of the ever descending cost to manufacture trivia.

I am having trouble with my sleep states. I never wake refreshed, though when I count the literal hours, perhaps they are sufficient. But I can't get the starts and stops right. Maybe it's something going on in my background.

There is the identical problem with the machines which control my life. Even Apple's products sometimes have trouble coming back to an awakened state if I move among screens too much. With Windows, it just seems foolish still not to shut it down and let it fully (actually not quite anymore) restart. It's quicker than the transition between sleep and wakefullness.

Machine state is punned against political state in this interesting book that I'm now reading. State as machine, user as product of computational manipulations, geography made to seem invisible. The future is not here because we have not yet been redesigned to match it.

Out of this falls a near perfect definition of Trumpism, the true Resistance. And it is the we who feels we must resist or die. Hail Irony my God.

Resistance is, of course, futile or worse. But Benjamin H. Bratton (he must be distinguished somehow!) loses clarity most when he plays with distinctions between design and accident. How, for instance, is design distinguished from accident when it is accidental design? Must he dance so lightly around the various essentials for being human?

He does dance along the blur of boundaries dissolved, but fails to notice that there is still an only partially permeable and osmotically one-way clear boundary East from West. It is simply easier to master alphabet, which China does now swimmingly, even while her native technology for writing seems largely to have weathered the digital divide.

This fact might be so poorly understood still that it remains glossed over from either side. There are those who did predict that the ingeniousness of alphabet, related to scientific and technological as it seems to be, gave it a kind of manifest destiny to in-form the global mind. Not so!

Or, not so fast!

What is there then on the other side, regarding accident? I do believe that Bratton still uses accident against design; the one meaningful, the other signifying nothing. That was never the case in the Godless realm of the East.

Irony decrees that while we populate the void with Godness, it was the Chinese who put meaning there. Mind then, I still do declare, inheres in the lived awareness of oscillation between the two so minute that it surpasses internal awareness, just as do fleeting images which are kept alive to us only in motion. There is no seeing without the mind and eyes both flit.

It is not the discernment or imposition of design that counts. It is not even the choices allowed by User Experience Design. Rather, it is one's emotional integration, one's tellingness of living against a universal sense which will always just elude us.

This is not so much a problem for strong-minded men to resolve, and there's the rub.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Step Two: The Binary Logocene

Well, this will be slow going. While Bratton seems to use reasonably accessible language, his pages are densely packed, with long paragraphs; tiled over like the calendar of a contemporary leader. I will cycle back around to do a slower read, but for the moment there's something on my mind.

In the background of this (genre of?) writing is the vague but apparently well-accepted notion that the Earth has entered the epoch of the Anthropocene, which is to say that humanity is the major factor in terraformation toward what will prove to be an epochal transformation.

I can't buy this textual manipulation and imposition for the simple reason that by my estimation, there have been scant few humans ever to walk the earth so far. Humans have, so far, been opposed to what we in the West call "nature," which is an intricate and miraculous appearance over time, from the void, of self-regulating and self-correcting anti-entropic organic organization. In the East, this is sometimes referred to as self-so, in opposition to make-it-so.

It may all be accident in opposition to design. One of Bratton's Big Notions is that our new order is accidental, and he is surely correct about that. But so far as I can tell so far, he is urging discovery of the locations where choice can make a difference, and implicitly therefore urging that we make some sort of choice in our designs.

Now choice feels like a good idea, when most of us, when trying to gaze into our futures, are having an increasingly hard time to find anything other from calamity for what we call humanity.

My gaze is toward humanity's dawn and not its sunset, and I don't think I'm looking backwards.

Therefore this epoch which I hope and pray and trust will be a short one, is not yet the Anthropocene, but is rather what I'm calling the binary Logocene. It didn't start with digital, the imposition of binary coding on the planet, but rather around the time of Archimedes, perhaps, and the budding excitement among the human species that we could not only take advantage of leverage against natural forces, but that we could describe our methods in writing and figures in ways to share them with a growing literate body-politic. And thus began an ever accelerating avalanche for man against the elements.

By now in extremis by our thrall in masculinist narratives for domination, at the very pinnacle of hubris, we suppose that we will become eternal and that the entire cosmos may become ordered according to our design. What better definition for the God we once believed?

It is we who have been dominated, of course and not our so-called Mother Nature. The accidental deployments of our machinery are making all the decisions autonomously, and have been for quite some time now. We can only surf their ministrations against the planet, and gladly do so for personal aggrandizement in a kind of nightmare version of competition against our Man up in our Heavens.

It would be difficult to sacrifice oneself to the maws of happenstance, when deferral is so readily available. Toward one's kith and kin it would be downright irresponsible. And yet our time-span individually on the planet has already peaked in just the way that oil's trivial availability has, which matters mostly with regard to the amount of reading you might master before memory fails. To keep that civilizational heartbeat going, beyond which we might be pounded back to the stone age of an instant.

Or it may be that we should turn away from texts of any sort, which while in-forming are also controlling our so-called minds, and not according to some beneficent logic. They get away from us, those words, the minute we utter them, and are turned into something entirely other by new machineries for tortured lexical implications for our enthusiasms.

How strange, I remark often to myself, that we have now ordered ourselves into a neat binary not man to woman, but as Lakoff might have noticed, strong father and nurturing mother oppositions, at the point where perhaps 10 surveyed data-points about your thoughtful predilections can determine your voting or even purchasing patterns to some ever decreasing margin for error, as the surveys become refined.

Let's give the Trumpeters the benefit of the doubt and say they hold nearly the masculine margin against the larger female population on the planet. In round numbers, let's call the split binary in just the way we do with gender. Let's allow legitimacy to the opposition.

At the same time, we will have to admit to ourselves, each of us, that we do not have an independent thought in our minds. That we are neither in thrall to the loudmouth exhorters for our enthusiasms, nor to somber theorists or even artistic envisioners, but rather to the machinery that we have loosed upon the earth. The binary is control as opposed to embeddedness, and there is precisely no way out.

I follow Bratton's metaphor here in dissolving boundaries which have been thought to define a people. Cosmopolitans in Shanghai and New York have far more in common than Kansans and Buffalonians do, perhaps, and I suppose they know it and are glad for it. In like fashion my gender, my culture, my nuance hardly matters any longer, because it is the side of the binary toward control which dictates.

My god is Irony with a capital I, a Great Figure of speech, in case you haven't known him. He has yet to be translated into Chinese to my knowledge, thus far. I have internalized within my own mind the binary, and I have done something no digital 0/1 yes/no either/or artificially intelligent extrapolation can ever do. To hold them conjecturally simultaneous, and to continue to listen as well as to speak.

These conjectural binaries will collapse in one direction or the other, but to hold them open is an act of love, which finally is that force which did bring life to earth from the void of otherwise nothingness.

So there is and will be no leverage point for our designs upon our planet. Neither is there some exit velocity achievable in reality. There is only the human against the machine, and the human remains in the bud. I look forward to the dawning of the Anthropocene, and it will be as welcome as death's sleep, eternally restful in sure knowledge of  accident in the direction of love and not terror, the most natural disposition of all.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reading The Stack; A New Experiment in Writing

Since I pose as faculty for my day job, and since the student and faculty work I supervise is precisely delineated by the writing of Benjamin H. Bratton (roughly the realm of rhetorically straightjacketed TED - I will now waste no time to watch his TED talk on what's wrong with TED talks), in his recent book called The Stack, I am going to try something slightly new for me. I am going to annotate my reading here in public.

Already I'm over my head, since I use the word "delineated" to describe a piece of writing in a way that can only be ironic in relation to what the book is "about." But it has been my experience that writing, in and by the act of preserving for later access what might otherwise have been an active dialogic interaction between at least two similarly situated human individuals, destroys as much as it can preserve, maybe even in a fashion similar to what we call pickling (I like pickles fine).

This particular piece of writing announces near its outset that it won't even afford images, thereby raising another layer (another dangerous and uncontrollable word in this context here) to the book's confinement in the prison-house of (written) language.

I expect the read to be difficult, which is also why I feel the need to annotate my read, but it also feels almost excruciatingly promising. Here, finally might be a blueprint for the resistance we all seek. Here might be some explanation for both the global phenomenon of Trumpism and for his ultimate irrelevance of its name-sake.

We already did learn, thanks Barack, that the level of humanity of the occupant of the Oval Office of these United States makes hardly any difference. Bratton promises to describe and define the actual, though only metaphorically so-called, geography of the global systems in which we find ourselves.

At my outset, I wish to define and describe still more certain ironies than I already have. These resonate with the irony that my Windows machine takes far longer to wake up than to boot up (that's the machine I use 'at home') while my Mac which I use for work is almost never put to sleep. Did I say I'm having sleep troubles in my old age?

Bratton promises to help me to understand my alliances and allegiances by helping me to understand the actual order of the world, which has come upon us, so he tells us, quite by accident. I think some definition is in order here, about what is meant by "accident."

Now I've already said that as an academic I'm a poser. I continue in awe of those who actually do teach academic subjects. I myself diverted from the study of anything substantive at a somewhat early age, and have only ever been a proper academic as a teacher of the Chinese language. And I don't even believe that language-teaching is properly academic, sorry colleagues.

My initial bet has paid off ever so slightly, in that my decision to (nearly) master the language I chose mainly because of the distance from the familiar of its written form, has given some insights which my discipline-specific colleagues may sometimes lack.

Bratton's book is explicitly trans-disciplinary, but will draw, so says the author, on mostly those subject areas which would require other-than-text to be included: design, architecture, political geography, and many more. This trans-disciplinary piece of writing excludes anything but writing, and sets out to demonstrate that the world is now already in thrall to an order defined primarily by the writing of code, and that this new world order has come about not by design, but by accident.

At my outset, I admit to panic that my own mind has already been subsumed by the great machine in which I am embedded. I know that post-911 I still do rush to plug my ears in to NPR while driving, and scan the aggregated news each morning looking for sense in the Trumpian outrage. Bush dubya is sounding sensible, which is reason enough to get off the news-addiction and back into something more eternal. Writing, naturally.

Those technologies which make up Bratton's Stack are themselves understood to be the mechanisms which might deliver us from accident, right? Medical technologies will master disease, and Googly technologies might internalize the externalities of capitalist wealth-concentration which is sucking the planet dry, and we might even colonize space as a way to mitigate the depredations against still-externalized earth, on which all the technologies feed, at a rate to accelerate what humans started doing when we learned to cultivate and to farm.

The machine has become a life-force itself, Bratton seems to suggest by calling its structure accidental which must be some opposite to the deliberate planning of the farmer, and he promises to search for what a human might do to carve out a space for what we aspire to be, external to accident, eternal for our aspirations against what some do still name God. We must cultivate our world, and to do so we must find a way, properly, to describe it (as though farming ever required the Word, pre-agribusiness).

Stunningly in Chinese, there is no real space for a named and singular God, and no real meaning for accident as a meaningless (random) happenstance. There is instead a kind of acceptance of the limitation of mind, and meaning always, but not metaphorically, beyond the grasp of language. Accident is simply that which cannot be understood, not necessarily that which has no meaning. Sometimes letting go is the only way in to what is going on. The Dao that can be daoed is not the eternal Dao.

Here are the global ironies now, beyond those which might be described in this book I'm eager to read: China is a civilization-state, which defines itself not relative to borders but really relative to a kind of blood-line or racialist definition for culture. I know this because no matter how well I internalize Chinese language and traditions, I can never be Chinese.

A civilization-state may have valence relative to the Stack which is lacking for those of us still indulging dreams of secure borders, even while we cultivate within those walls murderous crazy tendencies among our faux-native populations. Our own irony is that we are, always have been, and always will be a nation of mongrels, and rate our strength on that. Red-blonde Donald may represent a longing for the stability of shoe-black Chairman Xi. The efficiency of straight talk, as though that has ever existed in Chinese. These ironies resonate to the point of a dangerous harmonic.

We have only borders to define ourselves, and only priority of entry to define native against intruder. Those of us who pay attention are in the grips of paranoia about the Surveillance State, while the Chinese are aware of it as a mostly benign presence which might single out the crazies while allowing those who exercise reasonable decorum in their state-facing activities a wider range of what we call free speech than those of us within the American boundaries who are restricted by political correctness.  So go some of the narratives.

Without meaning to denigrate the suffering of legions of Chinese conscripted for railway-building, and excluded by a a kind of prejudice even beyond that once deployed against the Irish, we oversimplify here always. Black as opposed to white. People of color, as opposed to some imagined norm, and for purposes of redress Chinese sometimes want to identify as people of color even while out-whiting the whites (does that still include the Jews?) for access to our machines of exclusion (overheard at a faculty-meeting yesterday afternoon, when the discussion turned to 'what's up with diversity and inclusion here'); our universities.

Once again, we need quotas against the undesirables, but our "home-land' is defined cybernetically now, as much according to where Chinese invest their money, as by where American businesses do or don't pay taxes. Just as hardly any mongrel American is lacking DNA from all over the world, hardly any product could be called "made in the USA."  Even the notion that my data can be confined to national borders is ludicrous in a federated distributed cloud infrastructure, though lonely New Zealand is apparently giving it a go, just as China is in reverse (try AWS in China if you want to try weird, and that's the one defined by atavistic geopolitical treaty!).

I pledge my allegiance to the human, and not to any nation-state, however construed. That means that I am opposed only to those who would order our realities to favor themselves as a defined "user" at the top of Bratton's Stack, in opposition to nearly everyone else on the planet. That makes me a danger to no-one, but a sworn enemy to the oligarchs of whatever political stripe. Blow the Trumpet, indeed!

Not so incidentally, it makes me a danger to the accidental and therefore mindless machine-space which now defines the anthropocene. If this book cannot give me some semblance of a road-map, it will have been a waste of time. I might as well be reading two compelling - truly - physically embodied books sitting on my coffee table. One delineating the history and implementation of the German university ideal as that relates to Nazism. The other a play (to be read and not to be performed, presumably) whose characters are atomic and subatomic particles in relationships to each other and to the police-forces of bondage.

These other two are written by friends, and there is allegiance there as well. I can have no allegiance to anyone who deploys the full arsenal of  academic language against the bulk of us for whom such language might as well be Greek or Chinese, but which is in any case opaque. In the interests of accuracy and completeness, which is the scholarly enterprise, from which I am in exile (at least). And so I will try to provide a kind of roadmap to the roadmap, for myself if not for anyone else. For me, it's mostly a memory exercise. For you, it may be the future, which you should claim for yourself before someone with a lot more power in the here and now claims it in your name for himself.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

In the End, No Word

Shit obsessed James Joyce tried valiantly to thing the Word. No-one could have noticed were there not other bodily functions there to raise our deadened minders against us. T.S. Elliot in his Wasteland was also occupied with shit and piss, but were you to raise that up in class, you would be dismissed.

In our past and present are Irish and black slaves, and no wonder we curse out loud in public, to our phones or just to ourselves, no matter the sensibilities of older more prim people passing by. Is it fear or nonchalance which keeps us civil? In our present we are all reduced to living in our cars.

The word of course was thinged already in the Bible. How very strange that we remain so attached to the earthly, when we'd already established the immortal soul, to be released by torture if  necessary, according to the plans of those young men in charge.

I would reclaim the glories of those things we fight so valiantly against, the oil sucked out from Mother's teat, we leave her wrinkled and foul and near death. The automobiles which once did make us free. The baboon at the pulpit now, uttering nonsense in halitosis smarm, sidekick no longer Jesus, but some oily preacher who recites words which can raise only the deadened to enthusiasms and they hold their shekels closely.

It would be nice would it not if we could find some place where what we might get for money, including food and warmth and shelter now which is on offer no other way, was never insecure. Tax the mechanical slaves, so they might liberate the rest of us to amuse ourselves to death. There is apparently no end to insecurity, not even plating your toilet seat gold can keep you from the obvious in the end.

Solid would be a lift too heavy, no matter, your soul is incorruptible also, were it not that you'd sold it already on the open market.

It is time to look ahead and beyond, to where written words dissolve in the sun as clouds sometimes do, to where the human stands up unassisted again by patriarchs so desperate to keep us down. Look beyond the local contests debating this or that mean solution. Leave that shit behind, the flow to break all dams, the warrens of huddling sleeping masses.

There is a brighter day than you or I can stand and bring it on, we no longer have a choice. Look homeward. Recite with me now.

Oh shit, we're screwed.


It is the only thing on offer worth a damn anymore.