Sunday, March 20, 2016

Boundary Conditions

Happy Spring! Google celebrates today with a doodle showing smiling rocks watching a cherry tree blossom. The little one accidentally sneezes, and blows the beauty. I suspect either Google has no sense of irony, or that some one subversive got the conceit past the censors. Just like Disney used to, they storyboard lots of challenging adult plots before cleaning them up for mass appeal. I suppose Google still likes to live at the edge.

Mark Zuckerberg meets with the central party boss in China who is in charge of "propaganda." Here we call that advertizing. It's an apt meeting. The Party would love what Zuck has, so long as they could rate the netizens according to some political calculus according to what those netizens like and don't. The algorithms are identical.

Apple doesn't want in to that business, staying clean with hardware and software that gets things done for people according to what they want, and in China they all want iPhones. But our Ashcroft clone Eagle scout FBI boss, apparently utterly clueless about technology, cares only about our safety and security, and so Apple is in the crosshairs. Imagine what China would do with that back door were it to be loose in the field.

Meanwhile in China, they keep track of who's on first regarding the great go contest between AlphaGo and some human go-master whose name will soon be forgotten. Workers at Google still effuse about the coming singularity when machine prowess will be wedded to human intelligence to make a whole brave new world which will look a lot like those depicted in our digital fantasies for the future as framed on screens of all sizes everywhere.

Of course there are the MadMax naysayers, who depict dystopia without any plotline at all - just a straight trajectory into the end times, which is however, very very Grand Theft Auto cool, one has to suppose. Surprise sweep at the Oscars, perhaps for its celebration of diversity.

I am still stuck in the middle of the quite literally interminable - boundless - Three Body Problem, which were it not on my Kindle would extend to some 1200 pages in Chinese by the time I finish volume three. This guy, Liu Cixin, explores every conceivable narrative eventuality following on his simple originating conceit; A hive-like civilization some 4 plus light-years away in one of the galaxies closest to earth has managed to survive the extreme and random vagaries of their three-sun system. They have accomplished a kind of autonomous hibernation, likened to those anti-freeze body-fluid little "bears" discovered in Antarctica. These apparently so-called in English "Trisolarians" have learned to self-dessicate on demand.

Their problem is that their last but one remaining planet has flamed out across the random Trisolarian eons, and they need a new place to live. Earthlings despondent over mankind's treatment of our home planet and our politics - well China's politics, to be specific - misguidedly send out a distress call, which is picked up by these even more exceedingly desperate Trisolarians, who set out to occupy a planet which very much resembles our Eden to them. It's all relative, right?

They are very clever, these Trisolarians, and so they play a trick on earthlings, whom they know can and will develop our scientific and technological prowess much faster than the periodically hibernating hive collective culture can ever do. Temporarily in advance of Earth in their deployments of quantum physics, they place a kind of mask in front of any further development in the arena of basic research. All they need to accomplish is to stop us across the 400+ year journey to our planet which they almost immediately launched.

I am just at the part in the series where the computer scientists have been frustrated by the blockage of any advances in their understanding of quantum theory as those might apply to computing, energy generation and so forth. They have, however, managed to concoct a real-time and functional schematic of the human brain by piecing together a gajillion core silicon replica of our our neural mappings, inside a holographic projection of which they can wander around and study.

So far, the main outcome of this exercise is to have discovered that intense irrational phobias can be implanted in the living human brain; the example is a fear of water, perhaps adaptive to Trisolarians and certainly to electronic machinery which still depends on early twenty-first century iterations.

Here the author turns to investigations of faith and belief. It's interesting, if terminally inconclusive,.

Now as I read the Chinese are laughing up their sleeves at the utter insanity of the electioneering of Donald Trump. I imagine that even down to the lowliest Tiananmen survivors there are plenty who feel relief that they never did follow us down this road.

But really, we've carefully paved the way here, in part by bargains with the devil made by the Republican Party starting way back with Uncle Ronnie. In part by our use or misuse of social media, which we once did think could liberate all peoples of the earth in the model of the Google Twitter Arab Spring. Not so much anymore.

Crazies come out of this stuff. True believing outright lunatics, and they are legion.

There are really only three technological epochs in the history of mankind. Agriculture got us started as something recognizable as the human race. That was not much longer ago than the great ice age which carved out all these lakes I love to live among.

Writing was the big one - a genuine emergent phenomenon, perhaps in the manner of our very brain itself, not programmed by evolution which formed our basic biological components. These emergent phenomena are the epiphenomena which ride on top of pattern recognition, face recognition, articulate utterance and physical grasp.

Writing allowed humans together to cobble or craft a kind of soul, if you will. We imagined or created some highly individualized narrative behind each familiar face, even while we tempered that epic power by the supposition that behind unfamiliar faces and women's faces there was nothing at all worth individually caring for. To this day, as a species, we seem to desport on the femininzied other for our animalistic pleasure.

And then we discovered mechanical motive power, accelerated by the cosmic gift of fossil fuels, remains of our evolutionary forebears. We broke free of water power - of geographic limits - and made it all the way to the moon without the help of very much more than a cellphone's worth of silicon. Embodied logic.

Perhaps the technologies of agriculture and writing and industrialising motive power all simply accelerated what was already latent at life's beginning. We imagine something very human-like at the end of this random chain, almost as though there were intelligence at its beginning.

And so the information technologies in this so-called information age are supposed further to accelerate this fundamental trend, even as we irrationally cling to those remains of the previous day; the trains the planes the automobiles. The ships at sea, the networks of postal stops, the imagination of something exotic and interesting at the other end.

Among the boundary conditions we investigate in this age of consummation - when gravity waves and massless bosons are finally "detected" - are those of the literal singularity; the Black Hole across whose edgy boundaries it is still unknown whether even information can transgress. These may yet reveal secrets from the Big Bang Beginning.

Or so goes the News of the Day. We here in these United States remain afraid of actual bodies transgressing our boundaries, while in China they remain much more afraid of the kind of information we Americans so willingly trust to our friendly almost childlike captains of digital industry. Snowden is so childlike too, pointing out the Empire's bare behind.

What really are we so very afraid of?

It could be that our technological accelerations are revealing and propelling forward all that is the very least human about us. There is such a growing chasm now between those on the New Age conveyor belt and those who are its servants. C-level executives flow like water among enterprises which range from soda-pop to war machinery to even education as though the organizational principles were all the very same. Credit score or citizen score vetted entry level workers who may aspire to win the mansion in the sky. Meanwhile you might feel lucky if the local constabulary allows you to pitch a tent in some vacant field.

Google pitched a rock to welcome this very strange spring. No snow here in the northeast where I turned in my skis a week ago. A week before that it was below zero Fahrenheit. The lake never did freeze over the way that it did last year.

A rock is as fully determined as any moving machine, certainly including the digital which still can't create a truly random number without dipping into the real world. Our technological advances seem maniacally bent on separating our minds from any body at all, as though we might prefer to live in some perfected world of abstraction where anything imaginable can be real. As though we will no longer care for touch as mediated by the boundary of our skin.

And so we continue to concoct this grand spectacular emergency as though it were the only imperative remaining once we learned to overpopulate our ground. Surely there must be some thoughtless thought-free way to put humpty dumpty back together again so what we may each and every one of us live in the comfort we see projected by our betters.

The conceit of the Three Body Problem is being carried out in reality. There really is no more basic physics to be accomplished. We really are facing the end of all that we know, only the enemy is not storming in from some other galactic system. Pogo style, the enemy is us.

Those Trisolarians have transgressed even speech. Their thoughts are transparent and so they have no guile. They have no analog to human language, and so we clever humans have determined to lodge our secret plans inside the private heads of four carefully chosen schemers. And now we've built a computer analog of the insides of those very heads. The suspense is just killing me.

But the reason I keep turning the pages is that I really want to know where the author lands. I can't tell from my clumsy Internet searching if he is so fluent in English that he has mastered that much of our history and literature as he packs into his novel. Surely there is not a soul here in America who knows that much about China from translation.

I want to know if in the end Liu Cixin - apparently an engineering operator of a power station, likely a nuclear power station in China - I want to know if in the end he realizes that there is an end to science actually. I struggle so with the novel into which he seems to need to pack the entire vocabulary of written Chinese, that I haven't found the time to research the man, literary taboo though that might be. It is by his work that you shall know him.




I dodge the same question he does in the book, with some very clever nearly untranslatable rhetoric. Belief in the end can't be instilled by or by means of machine. Faith is irrational. Random may not be so.

The suspense is killing me, even while it keeps me from more important pursuits; the ones the paylords would have me accomplish post-haste on the deck while I spy the iceberg ahead and imagine someone in charge must have seen it first.

I would steel the helm myself before I let the Donald grab it. But who the hell knows how to do that, and in any case another one would arise from the crowd terrorist cell-style, a clone put forward by the crowd which needs the appearance of leadership if not its substance.

This is the wages of disinvestment in education, of channeling women into STEM so that they can feel still more powerless and inadequate. Be like us but keep your lovely bodies available and free. Who hasn't cringed while watching House of Cards that this might be the Clintons? The evil now required for the C-level has grown palpable. The clueless disregard for what you don't already favor. The heedless promotion of Ivy Leaguers as your proxy, as though these might inspire confidence and not expose the lottery wheel of admissions for its historic fraud.

There are digital numbers on the heads of each and every one of us. Our narratives don't matter any more. We might as well stay silent and hope for the best.

I am going to take a ride by car into this beautiful sunny first day of spring. What else can I do? I am pissed that I had to spend this much time blathering into the ether.

But I do think that language and the skin are beautiful and necessary boundaries. You will never know me by my works, as I will never trust you that much though I have made that leap of faith a few times. I have yet to meet a person who is not far more interesting upon the knowing that was the case on supposition. The dance to get that far is becoming more and more tricky though, even as the social markers for recognition of parity are becoming ever more stark.

Donald is transparent. That must be his attraction. He gives voice to what many apparently wish they could say out loud and not be thought ignorant for it. I think that they are right in that. We ought to listen more carefully. Those of us who are in charge of the collective narrative. I mean the educators.

Ignorance is as ignorance does. We seem to be doing it faster.

As the next technological revolutionary breakthrough I propose love. That will require allowing the exposure of actual narratives and not the sanitized Disney-style ones either. If we are to prove that humanity or something like us really is at the end of the timeline, then we really should begin by behaving human. We should begin by learning to read, and leave the ciphering for later. We should learn to listen and to touch.

These information technologies were invented and envisioned by a bunch of spiritually dreamy anarchists, right alongside their military and C-level aspirants. We need to take back the space. It belongs to humanity and not to the money-driven Beast.

These are not the end-times. This is the very dawn of humanity if we would but awaken to it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


I'm very acronym challenged today. Back in the day, I thought I remembered NOTD meant News of the Day; something the sysadmin might configure so that all users were on the same page, so to speak. Now it might mean Night of the Dead, or god knows what all.

On this day, Google's driverless car program suffered its first machine-caused accident. I hope their insurance goes way way up, right? Google's go-playing program beat the world champion go player.

This is all old news, since IBM's Watson has long since beaten Jeopardy and let's not even talk about chess.

But at the same time, our political system seems to be melting down.

WTF, right? I'm going out on a limb here to claim that these are all the same event. Approximately conterminous with detecting gravity waves, the Higgs boson, the largest structure in the cosmos, a cure for cancer. Sorry, just joking about that last one, and didn't mean to hurt anyone's hope.

Machine-mind, which is generally associated with masculine mind, has reached its limit. Intuition of any sort has never been on the table, but let's stay short of that and make the outrageous claim that the machine mind has no clue about how to read social science. It's too hard, and the rewards are too dim.

I have this on first hand highest authority.

The thing is, masculine machine mind has the right to toss aside social science as all sorts of convoluted rhetorically challenging gobbledegook, while at the same time claiming a kind of privileged access to that arcane mathematical and algorithmic language rewarded best on intelligence tests (which even Google doesn't use anymore to get its best employees) that the rest of us sheepishly claim ignorance about.

See it doesn't matter who wins in the contest between man and machine, since the man in the contest is already a machine. There are plenty of really cheap and easy ways to reduce automotive mayhem, and driverless cars are by far the most complex. Way more complex than a system of globe-circling airlines, or a trip to the moon and back which still had a man at the tiller.

In a mild sense this imperiousness about the locus for solutions to mankind's problems constitutes a kind of collective rape. Of the Earth, of the female of the species, of our children. One could measure this by differentials in wages, in representation, in education male to female, but that would be a bit too much math again. Shoved down peoples' throats. Get on the STEM bandwagon, women, or you'll be left behind. It's not that black lives don't matter, it's that black thinking doesn't count.

Fact is we men have a hard time taking responsibility, and would rather foist that off onto the future in the form of perfected knowledge, as though all accident might eventually be shoved off the table and our women about whom we doth protest far too much our love might live in peace and harmony.

Clearly, that's not about to happen. There is no limit to what we will expend on war materials of science to develop autonomous cures for life. Even while we allow that person almost right next to us to drown because we won't tarnish our new shoes, as lots of very nice social thinkers might observe. Turst me on this, nothing here is original with me.

I wish I could join the elder march - nothing more to lose - on Washington this April, but I'll be in China where such silliness would never be suffered to happen. I guess it should be said that they don't let amateurs get so close to power as we do either.

Is Bernie an amateur? I hardly think so. He's spent his life solving very real social problems. Is Hillary an amateur? I don't think anyone on earth would say so. Trump? Nope - he's just some kind of crazy narcissistic reflection of the gut feelings of the least informed among us. Get rid of him, and those gut feelings still remain. He's the sort of narcissist who gets rich, but not the sort who makes anything worth having. Gut check that!

Would we have a future, we had really better start taking responsibility and stop thinking only about ourselves and our little local fame and fortunes which allow us to persist in our comfortable moving or stationary wombs with a view.

Yes yes, it's all very exciting to imagine driverless cars all packet switching their way to zero accidents and minimized stop and go. But the real point is to keep us separate from one another so that we don't have to interact.

With the political will and a tiny itsy bitsy smidge of social science knowledge we could almost tomorrow ban all cars to the cities' edge and provide house-to-garage timespans to retrieve them from the Big Garage at the frontier should we want to drive out of town which is the only fun to be had in a car anymore anyhow. A simple network of smart buses and no new infrastructure could get us around the city in less time than it now takes to walk. That would buy us the time to reconfigure for a future in which we sit on our front porches again because we actually know our smelly neighbors.

Talk about a pipe dream! Well, I do live in Burlington, home to Bernie, 100% sustainable electricity grid. Still walking across town takes about the same amount of time as driving and parking. Now there's a metric to chew on.