Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Notes While Reading _The Revenge of the Real_, by Benjamin Bratton - Part One

When reading Bratton, always on my mind is whether his brand of "realism" is more fabulistic than the fabulism he derides. Sure, he stakes his claim in "the real," and in usage real is real, as in we know these things to be true. But what he proposes is just so damned unlikely.

When climate change alarmists give us a measure of just decades before it's already too late, most of us can't see the necessary changes happening in time. (we should all be climate change alarmists, for certain, but though the term feels like the only right term here, it can be only half right since it's no false alarm as the term often implies, where alarmists can be, by definition, ignored) 

Once the pandemic seems to abate, one sees newbie dually pickup trucks not quite ready for that massive fifth wheel of towing prowess, castle bounding behind. One sees new boats on the river. It just seems so unlikely that our reality will ever change, in touch with whatever it might be that is more real than it is.

Not long ago I slept on the street in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans; the part that was underwater, I think, or maybe just above the waterline. "On the street" meant inside my popup trailer, which had only enough onboard power to run the exhaust fan. The ground shook with passing trucks over the bridge that I was under, and as trains clashed upon hookup in the adjacent railyard. It did feel like the end of my world, but I preferred to sit my otherwise vulnerable home rather than to inhabit the upper screenless and greasy floors of the art-lofty illegal squat warehouse where my young friend slept.

He took me to what he called "The End of the World" which was a cement ending of a long wild trail beside and out past a mothballed military blockish command office complex. (It is indeed "The End of the World" as identified as a Google landmark) He was familiar with who might be there at that end of the world, and I felt safe enough in the adventure, at the end of which we could watch freighters passing bizarrely above us later on, further down in the lower 9th, with no other life quite apparent.

It was a place to which to haul coolers of beer and charcoal and build fires to stay up all night. In the seeming middle of Big Easy.

And so yesterday, with my original fellow traveller along something of a personal pet project in apparently orthogonal relation to Bratton's, we discovered Buffalo's "End of the World" out beyond the cultivated parts of the waterfront new parkland behind the breakwater. Even this rough path was still improved by signage and bird blinds. We were poorly shod, and shaky in the legs walking across the sharp boulders of the breakwall. Its end identical to the one in New Orleans, except for the relative elevations.

Walking back, there was a fellow heading out and for no good reason I commented to him conspiratorially that we had found our new spot for late-night bonfires. 

His eyes widened in what could only be seen as shock. Shock that I was talking to him, and what looked then like fear as he hurried past. Perhaps I hadn't noticed the airpods, if they were there. That's even though I'm trained to notice them, since while bicycling they indicate meandering pedestrians who are immune to signalling. Perhaps he was in a drugged state of release. Was he wearing a mask? I don't remember. We weren't. 

It felt like post-pandemic paranoia worse than that from the just past still within me.

I commented to Peter that the pandemic had only given us more of what we already had; a kind of radical isolationism which is identical to the sort which Bratton outlines in this book. He connects it, quite properly, to the fabulist unreality of the populism which will prevent us from ministering to one another as the planet mocks us.

I developed what must have been an ulcer the next morning in New Orleans. I couldn't enjoy all the radical chic white eateries which had popped up in the middle of, but were not frequented by, the black communities in which they were embedded by virtue of economic possibility. So full of heart and soul and so disconnected from, well, reality.

I feel as lousy today. The heat is oppressive and my salvaged air conditioning isn't equal to it. And Bratton says that we must air-condition the planet by the Terraforming required to survive. Survive what, exactly? Well, survive ourselves. Plague and its solution both. Fantasy where? Whose fantasy?

I would walk out to pee in New Orleans mid-sleepless-night. Close by were teams of blacks, dressed in white, playing away from the heat of the day, I supposed. Not interested in me and where I was. 

Last night was long as well. What are those noises if not gunshots? The neighborhood where shootings seem to be an everyday now. Mine. There are two rooftop helipads in direct line of sight nearby. One for the Children's Hospital. One for the place which has welcomed me twice now back from death on Christmas Eve.

And as loud as those helicopters are each day and night - shades of Vietnam, I suppose - they are not so terrifying as the jets practicing for the Thunder over Buffalo airshow as they approached my apartment screaming, for which The Buffalo End of the World would have afforded the perfect vantage. That jet roar felt identical to my bursting appendix' crescendo that Christmas eve when I had to cross the now-closed border from Canada where I was staying in marital separationism and they thought that I was putting on an act to get across late night early morning doubled over at the slushy border. Hey, let's put on a show!

End of my world, as the school I headed was closing, not unrelated to my dissolving marriage. That was all very real. Meritocratic intentions which included the vague notion of recompense to the rest of the world for my own lucky gifts. Libertarian Individualism could not abide that. The planet cannot abide libertarian individualism, nor neoliberalism, nor anything about us. And we shall be the Terraformers.?? Terrifiers terrified! Ta RaTa Ra!

Bratton speaks of "country of passport" as though belonging to a (political) nation were a quaint and obsolete vector for identity. If not geography, cultural affinity, and language, then by what shall we sort ourselves in his unbounded world of biological politics? Shall it be the same processes which have determined internal migration within, say, the U.S.? That will sort according, mostly, to wealth, with all the balkanization of trust and knowledge and power which that entails? 

Bratton should care very much about the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, though I take his apparent point that origins are irrelevant to the nature of this or any other inevitable contagion. Still, it does mitigate his rather dogmatically proposed resolution when it still seems that it could have been the good intention, coupled with lax protocols as followed (or not) by perhaps overconfident researchers. These researchers were probably located in China, but at least partially funded by U.S. interests, including those descended from aspects of our government here. This the more likely melodramatic outcome of any Terraforming we might attempt. No matter how certain that we were that it will work and be good and ameliorate our deficits.

How does this speak to the odds of coordinated governance with integrity on behalf of the whole? Of all of us?

And really, why bash those serious thinkers who are way outside Bratton's box, if they are engaging with the same problems from a different perspective? He seems to find 'cosmopolitics' ridiculous, for instance, likely because it challenges the ultimate validity of approaches to truth which follow the scientific method. As though that method hadn't itself become rather quaint and, well, perhaps even obsolete - at least in the face of the economy of it all.

The scientific method will not touch the subjective experience of mankind, well, except to further encourage its disappearance from that methodology as any sort of creative initiator. And yet Bratton practically worships subject-centered 'agency,' as though that sort of agency - what we use to drive a car, say - can be generalized to entire populations. Or to the entire population.

A good driver is aware of all their surroundings, not just those other cars directly impinging on theirs. The driver has to know what the car in front of the one in front of them is doing to know what that one will do and what they should do in turn. Polite giving way makes everyone safer.

Now I'm already a cranky old man, but I do attribute the degradation in general driving skills to the addition to cars of all sorts of safety sensors. Especially young people seem to drive as though they were in a video game, or like Chinese people queueing (or driving). Only aware of the triangle in front of you and how to move forward faster.

Now here's collective agency: prohibit cars at the border of every city and provide streetcars. Put the routes where people want to go. You can even let the streetcars drive themselves for all I care. Too much individual agency is almost never a good thing. 

(of course, on the other hand, as a way early adopter of smartphones or the earlier PDAs, I do think that my thinking has been enhanced by the synthesized intelligence of both of us together. The ads, however, nearly destroy the advantage.)

It is intersubjective trust which is our main problem, and it does seem clear - blame it on populism if you must - that scientific knowledge makes no apparent dent in idiocy there. But really, am I being an idiot when I don't trust the powers that be to have my own best interests at heart? Or even and especially the interests of the general population? 

Populism or not, power these days always seems to promote the unleashing of power as the solution to any and all problems. I'd like to know how Bratton deals with power, if not by way of democratic or at least pseudo-democratic structures for governance. I don't think there is any such thing as synthetic democracy.

When we partake in a corporate personage - as an employee, not as a citizen - we are generally not consulted as to its direction. Governance structures internal to corporate persons often look worse than the worst autocracy imaginable. And yet we must promote the direction in the corporate interest for our own good on its inside. No matter how much it might exploit those on its outside.

The collective result of individual agency cannot be called collective agency. Individual agency is an emotive response to the narratives handed up pre-consciously by the gray goo of our brains. This is easily demonstrated by FMRI investigations of choice versus conscious choice. We can never own the real choices. They come to us ready-made. We can only drive the car once the machinery and infrastructure is in place.

I mean, if we really wish to take collective agency over the course of the planet's transformations toward hospitality toward humans - what Bratton calls Terraforming - we could do no better for rapid fix than to get rid of any notion that a corporation has the rights of a person. In general terms, a corporate person is a sociopath.

An agent is an actor, an author, a director of cultured output. Those generic works that we admire so, did themselves arise, spontaneously, from the gray goo of words which clustered and figured according to some logic that belonged to no individual, ever. An individual must fit some collective to live at all.

Once math becomes part of any equation for reality, the human starts getting squeezed out. That's what objectivity means. The layers of the stack which overlay our "world" if not our planet developed spontaneously, and if there was any collective agency involved it was mostly by omission. 

Now Bratton calls for a collectivisation of our actions?? We would never have gotten to this point if there were collective agency in it. The Stack evolved in the same way that everything does, but this time in the synthetic earth where the economy grows, where accounting without accounting for externalities is everything. Rationcination has never been the best part of being human, and math and then the technology just amplify that fact. Ratiocination simply cannot be the solution. I declare!

In any case, looking at any particular aspect of our ability to get it together, it just simply doesn't seem that there is enough time. Yet interestingly, getting time together on the planet has been accomplished effortlessly. Global GPS quickly overtook hackable Internet NTP time URLs, and nobody - except Taiwan in a mild sense - wants to challenge time's conventional catalog which stems from some fictional and calendar-relative inflexion point at the crossroads of Christ. A perfect ten in Chinese.

In a way, Bratton makes me glad I'm not as brilliant as he is. That's because the volume of things we don't each know is, by definition of infinite, virtually identical. I'm just a little less impressed by the finality of what it is I do know.

I know, for instance, that time is not that fixing agent which Bratton's approach to, um, agency, demands. He doesn't really mention our relation to time's fixation in his tome, The Stack, as far as I can remember. He doesn't seem quite aware that we are different as people because of that. I doubt anyone really thinks we're better people now, even though we sure do do just-in-time manufacturing well, until it shows its underside, backside, which can't be swiped. Collective improvements, temporary though they must always be, may well ride on the backs of deprecated people.

The past is only fixed in our imaginations - those same imaginations which Bratton derides for their fantastical imagined reality - and the future is certainly not fixed by agency. That would be totalitarian nightmare. I see no evidence that Bratton is in favor of that in any way.

The reality of the past is surely a function of current and present assumptions and prejudices and cultural relativisms - surely at least regarding the past's ability to influence the present - more than it is a function of our fantasy that there is still some bedrock there, even though we can never know it.

Perhaps there is some way that consciousness itself transforms - it would have to be in a virtual instant - in just the seamless way that our interactions with time's passage have brought the planet together operationally, if not politically. In an instant, time has become a universal constant. Adjusted for relativity, of course, to a nanosecond in an eon of accuracy. 

Remove time as any measure for productivity, and replace coinage with measures of virtue and not merit devoid of anything but ratiocination, and replace value with anything other than measures of want as those relate to recognition, and we do have our instant resolution. We craved it once, in Christ. Surely we can do it again, and this time even quicker.

It won't be to preserve us as we already are (nasty, brutish, and hateful) but rather to preserve humanity as we might have been, regardless of how many of us might last. Quality versus quantity kind of thing. 

Oh dear, that sounds an even worse totalitarianism, no? I praise God for absence of immortality in the time dimension. We never seem to want it in any other dimension, where we want only extension as wealth provides us. Bezos a jillion, Benjamin nil. And yet our time remains a constant.

My, I do get wordy, don't I? Onward to the Comparative Governance chapter. . . well, I finished that one, and find nothing to disagree with there. On to The Epidemiological View of Society. Sounds promising!

Friday, June 18, 2021

Agency, Benjamin, Agency!

Benjamin H. Bratton is still in his rut. He thinks that all we need to do as humans in the cosmos is to get our collective agency organized and fix our planet. Nevermind that organized agency is the only problem we can't solve. Our attempts have reliably led us to the brink of destruction; a brink Bratton clearly apprehends.

Terraforming can't make sense unless and until we find ourselves meaningfully in some cosmos where we're not alone. This cannot be a physical connection, as our physics clearly demonstrates. So what, other than destruction itself - which is so easily imagined now - shall be our efficient "other?" 

Not God, certainly. Subservience gets us nowhere, and fast. Bratton would have us usurp God's agency by the simple expedient of re-defining God in human terms, as it ever has been. Man must now become the super-agent. Collectively, please! Oh, please!

It's a miscue to generalize the agency we might experience as individuals as even similar to the political agency which would be required for Terraforming. Bratton's most recent post reiterates most of his now well-worn themes, and his insights are, as ever, powerful. His distinction between "artificial" and "synthetic," for the best example.

Now let's apply that distinction to agency from the final line of his above-linked article. 
"Taking this new existential condition seriously demands a radically different sort of philosophy."  

Bratton doesn't quite propose such a philosophy, and yet he does imply it. I would contend that his implied philosophy is purest artifice, and not synthesis. That is even though I can't hold a candle to his brilliance. His artifice is because his sapience is devoid of emotion, the most important aspect of human mind. Sapience can never by synthesized without it, notwithstanding Bratton's ever-brilliant observations about how much sapience grows and changes by interfacing with artifice. That has been everso.

This is also why I do consistently label Bratton a masculinist, and why his envisioned planet feels so utterly totalitarian to me. Humans subject to a perpetual synthetic machine of sapience. Does this man ever read poetry? How about poetry in service to some purported God or to the State? What is the song he's singing? I think I've heard it many times before.

In my cosmos, the grey goo of individual preconscious brains composes narrative from the asynchronous mess of bodily perception. It has to be asynchronous, because communication internal to the brain is simply too slow. The narrative is a simple form derived from perception to compose the claims we might make for agency. Here you go agency, I've set the table for you. Now choose! Time has no direction without narrative.

At survival speed, cognition - what Bratton aptly calls sapience - is far too slow. Our decisions - all of them as they relate to survival, are made emotionally and in a flash and pre-consciously. No agency required. No agency wanted. Agency can only be in the way. Fight or flight, if you will. Bratton seems to believe that the grey goo of the brain is still the seat of sapience, even as he might grope toward a spread mind

A spread mind is an implicated mind, and at that scale there is no logic. There is only fractal chaos which moves backward as well as forward. Our past has already been conditioned by our future, and our chosen futures are as reliably a function of our extracted pasts. 

Past and future join, always, with a kiss. Entropy zero, forward and back. Sapience stands by for the credits, And what, you thought that agency could account for evolution? Entropy one, sapience zero buddy. You let God back in through the back door.

Collective agency - composed mostly of spoken and then written words, however much "technology" may extend those - can only build out on the basis of immediate steadiness. Surely Trump and simultaneous COVID-19 give the lie to any requirement that our collective narratives must be embedded in any kind of truth. Agency will simply never be equal to emergency. Except, perhaps, at the point of a figurative gun.

Agency has always been an illusion, built on pride from recognition. I did that, and now we must do this. That is, of course, how we have always envisioned and imagined God. A totalitarian God, for sure.

God never did die, but we did outgrow Him. Bratton would have us stuck on the stage where artificial Gods play. Authors, poets and now even scientists craving recognition because they know that they are right and good and true. And some of that knowledge will indeed transform how we live in relation to all that is about us. As Bratton points out, we didn't create the microbes, but we can't exactly live them down now that we know that they exist.

"While anxiety about technology is expressed in accounts of its pernicious effects, that unease is sometimes rooted in what technology uncovers that was always there all along. Microscopes did not conjure microbes into being, but once we knew they were there, we could never see surfaces the same way again.

Indeed technology has also uncovered the ugliness of the human heart; capitalism unleashed by any other name. Bratton catalogs that as well:

"The technologies of a planetary society are ongoing processes over which we have agency. In its current commercial form, the primary purpose of planetary-scale computation is to measure and model individual people in order to predict their next impulse. But a more aspirational goal would be to contribute to the comprehension, composition and enforcement of a shared future that is more rich, diverse and viable. (emphasis mine)

He purports to be decentering humans in a Copernican move - moving earth away from Eurocentrism toward a planetary consciousness. But very clearly, in the end, he has recentered man as designer. 

We didn't create our planet either, no matter the overlays that we might claim in and for our cleverness. The stack that we know that we inhabit is not the true stack. The designs that we admire now go quickly out of date. Individual man and individual planet depend on a basic truth in order to survive. Individuals count for nothing in the great scheme of things. Bad choice of words that. In the great being, how about.

So, what then, we must take them - all of our brave and new discoveries - in to our realm where accident has been defeated by agency? That a sort of hubris which I, for one, simply can't abide. If he can read what he himself has written, Bratton would not abide it either.

"[Terraforming is] the name of the project before us as we contemplate how to preserve, curate and extend complex life." The horror, the horror!

Complex life extends itself. Always has and always will. What you contemplate is termination, Benjamin. On purpose, no less. 

I only hope that your sense of irony remains intact.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Back to the Future, Redux

It turned out that connecting autism to inoculation against viruses was less of a stretch than some who called the anti-vaxxers crazy might have thought. But they had it backwards. Being on the spectrum apparently gives a person some immunity against the kind of virus which infected, say, Elise Stefanik, in a vicious cycle with fans of a certain kind of certainty in the thralldom of one or another great con.

The great con in general is when you convince someone that there's more danger in not 'buying' whatever they're selling than there is cost to do so. Goddist religion being, of course, the greatest con of all. No cost to you, but hell if you skeptate. That's the genetic link right there between Agent Orange and the Evangelicals, in case you were confused.

So anyhow, Greta and Amanda and Elon are somewhere along some spectrum. It apparently allows you to believe in yourself beyond all reason, because somehow you're not mitigated by anyone urging you otherwise. But you're also pretty much immune to the cons that ensnare the rest of us. 

So here's how it's going to work in the future. We will have gotten rid of fever dreams about populating the universe, as though what Elon calls the bright light of consciousness were something all that great. Our consciousness doesn't hold a candle to what's in the collective, collaboratively written, Confucian heart-mind. Where man has cosmic significance equal to the stars above and the earth below premised on bringing integrity - intellectual and emotional and emotional stability both as a heart-mind to cosmos. Bringing the eternal stability of the heavens down to earth.

You hardly need to travel through space to fulfill that mission. No con involved. You can do it yourself. 

I look forward to the days not so very far away where goods are all packet switched - the true Internet of Things - and where people have finally realized that your own personal probability cloud cannot be collapsed into anything real without actual contact with others; things and people. The pandemic has taught us that zoom just doesn't cut it. 

So our densely populated cities will be threaded by autonomous vehicles into which people and goods are loaded autonomously and then dropped off into secure locked destinations. No drones clogging the airways. No need for highways. Only highspeed rail corridors flying over and under the wild exurban expanse. 

People will, of course, prefer to travel with others and not in lockboxes. Things can traverse the country in a jiffy without airplanes by virtue of predictive placement. Shopping will have moved entirely to the screen and socializing will have moved entirely off it. 

Of course, Facebook will be a public utility, run by the postal system, which runs the packet switching. The expertise they've accumulated across our couple of hundred years since Ben Franklin, who must have been on the spectrum himself to wear beaver hats in Paris, will make it work. 

Goods will be advertised the old fashioned way, by virtual billboards to accompany whatever realm you're exploring, based not on your history but on your obvious anonymous intention as a searcher. Google will have collapsed under the weight of keyterm auctioning in the new world of language independent orthogonally indexed locii, pinned, of all things, by Chinese characters. Around which all other languages may cluster. The grammar of the Internet will be a natural grammar, and not one that you must game or translate or second guess.

Those revenues - revenues from advertising billboards - will accrue to the news entities if that's what you're looking for, the goods manufacturers if that's what you're looking for, and to the publishers if you're looking for books. Most importantly, the government will earn revenue for every packet switched, physical or virtual, as you navigate your life.

Maybe I'm reading Bezos' mind. Hmmm. I wonder if he's on some spectrum? Bill Gates must be. 

So wouldn't it be cool if all the income disparity found a more natural level by virtue of purely honest brokerage? If teaching were to become a high calling again? If medicine were not a game of blackmail, and there were some incentive to research diseases that aren't profitable to cure. This would happen if we were to have the sort of transparency that I'm describing. 

A nice daydream anyhow.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Confucius Say

News flash! I complained about “optimized charging” on my iPhone last post, and last night to spite me it made it only up to 80%, even though I slept in. And they say they don’t spy on you!

OK, sure, 80% is their magic number, not mine, and it's only from my very particular point of view that this is 'meaningful coincidence.' Surely, there is some explanation for it, but just as surely it cannot be determinate. It certainly wouldn't be worth tracking down. Did I sleep in the day before (I don't think so, but who knows?)? Is this something that Apple does periodically, to test the waters? 

There are no digital traces that I can find about my habits, and there sure isn't anyone at Apple who would tell me. None that the iPhone preserves for me that they would tell me how to find.

Mom is in memory care now, without a care in the world and she's the happiest she's ever been, in a durable sense. She's let go all of her worries - mostly about her kids and grandkids - and is surrounded with simulated friends who are more reliably nice to her than anyone in real life. Everything's taken care of. Everything.

Dad was in the same place and not so happy. He really didn't like losing control - what a nasty time I had as the designated driving license remover. He howled to raise the dead as he was dying. He growled a lot in life.

I write now as Confucius. Why not? There was no Confucius who wrote in his own name. There may have been disciples, later on. That name - "disciples" - carries global weight. As Confucius, say. Or the twelve that were attached to Christ.

This morning I have too much on my mind to cradle the coffee can so that the grinds don't spill as I transfer them to the moka pot. Any other day, the motor memory was plenty and now I'm trying to reconstruct my habitual practice, which apparently made no real sense. Or at least I can't reconstruct the rules for it.

Thinking diminishing, or thinking overpowering? You tell me!

From a distance, ratiocination is discernible only as something dead, rock-like. It is but the crystallizations of mankind's preferred mode; the intentional mode. But your intentions may not look like mine, and so those computer chips preserved in the rubble of our discovered existence would only represent those artifactual things we had in common, and no natural form.

Natural is what we were before there was writing and material remains. Aspirational graves.

Intention that thing we claim when things turn out well for us as we think of ourselves. At the end of a long chain of survival strategies, which work themselves out as the unintentional life that is evolution, and which is also played out in the gray goo of our brains. Without intention, we look as natural as the rest of creation, as though any of it were ever created in the first place.

Knock-offs of one another, if you really want immortality you'll have to forget yourself. That happens naturally as well. Descent back into that from which you arose, prodded to identity by the want all about you. Our natural and especially our scientific language already militates (militates?) against individual identity because whatever it is that you might discover must already have existed, and it didn't exist - couldn't have existed - without your others having been there first to prepare the ground, as it were. Forebears.

Recognition a human desire no different from what creates a moving wave. A kind of pushback, and the form is just as natural as anything can be, if and when the distance is right. We now in some backwater; an eddy in time where authorial authority seems to matter. Seeming never makes it so.

I have a friend who will not relinquish what he calls, as vague as shit, 'singularity.' He seems to mean authorship and authority in the Name of God, for instance, but also Confucius whose Analects (they were never "his"), he says, reduce him to tears (reduce?). The call of loneliness, that.

Those Analects were but collective agreement, and you sacrifice nearly all of your individuality to get that, though it makes life locally oh so much more reliable and therefore livable, but for times of war and boundary skirmish. You are not in it alone, and there is someone who seems able to make sense. When the plates, the paradigms, shift and skitter in geologic time and then the quakes.

Time now seeming so accelerationist, and no wonder personal worth must exceed even the corporate corporeal, what do we mean? Embodiment?

As though that much wealth could be attributable to a single author, alone, who still seems to want to screw and screw as much as the next person. Sex be not proud, I'll try the other one. In old age you do discover that it's only an itch to scratch no matter how much you wrap it in glory. Creeping toward immortality, and not the Chinese poetic sort.

Now the richest two on the planet are shooting for the stars. Bezos wants to take his brother with him on the first shot up. I hope he makes it to space and finds immortality there. He won't find any if he makes it back. A name to live it down in ignominy. Because, and no more than this, we were already abandoned. Readers only.

Have you ever sorted Chinese? It's nearly a lost art. There be no alphabet. There be counting and strokes. There be sonic and memetic radicals. Really, it's all a rabble, but you still have to do it to know it and nobody does it anymore. 

And so nobody will ever know again what this means:






No worries. It's meaningless. I made it up myself. 

Some one said: “The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are that which we know.

Unless, of course, you're a scientist or black. In which case the live writers are what counts. Only one of those will survive the earthquakes.

Call them Ishmael.

Dang! The air-conditioner (yes it does get hot here) drowned out the sound of my moka pot vesuviating. It's a good thing Amazon forced me to buy bunches of those silicone washers at a time, as though there were any other way to get them. Well, I don't think that charred silicone is what will kill me, and anyhow that lawsuit would take far more than a lifetime to prosecute and who would I target, and how?

Ready for take off!


My friend Riccardo Manzotti already made the correction for our mistaken definition of the "real." The real temperature is the one that my corrected thermometer reads, that is the same as yours. But the temperature I feel - what's real for me - must include the humidity and the movement of the air and all sorts of more subjunctivized but still mostly objective phenomena. 

How do you feel today? Elliot distinguishes feelings and emotions. I think it's feelings that are the more real to him. I can't be certain. The poet catalyst disappears in any case. Of that I'm reasonably certain.

I can't find my place in the book I've been reading, China Miéville, The City & The City. It seems relevant somehow, the book and my lost place in it. Archaeology of something not existing and that maybe never did exist. Something we learn to unsee.

If you read in or on or through a Kindle with touch and you fall asleep, the book may advance or regress without you, as it has with me. Who knows what happens with my fingers when I fall asleep and before the book has? Now I must skip backward until I recognize a sentence, and even then I have to go further to regain context. Blocks of memory fall out. Will I be more like Mom or more like Dad?

My mind is mostly grounded in the real, same as yours is. All of us must fret now. We are so divided, The Nation & The Nation. Only one side is arming themselves. Who do they think will hurt them? There is no threat from my unarmed side, which is no side at all. Or wait, by proxy, it's the government. 

We are being hacked, red alert red alert. The Chinese let a virus loose, the Russians let all their unemployed geniuses loose, and meanwhile we have always been loose. We must learn to love again. There is no point arguing about the particulars of the real. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Chaos Theory of the Self

We don't hear all that much about chaos theory or fractals these days. I hardly even remember what those terms mean. It was exciting, back in the day, to realize that there was a kind of math which could describe natural forms in a pretty straightforward way without actually having to deal with the complexity of exhaustive designation and description and analytic structural analysis.

We put strange attractors on our computers, when computers were used for computing and a good spreadsheet program could do anything you could possibly want it to do. We watched as natural forms took place, once there was a graphics processor, once Chinese could be coded in double-character ASCII text and pictures too.

Now all that's left of fractals and chaos theory is the so-called "butterfly effect" which gets all of it backwards and upside down, since people hear "effect" and assume that a butterfly can have an outsized impact on the world. That would be almost like suggesting that a floor sweeper at Apple can be responsible for, oh I don't know, let's say their unworkable "optimized battery charging." Does Apple even know how much ill-will they're generating with that?

Who would bother to tell them, right? "Machine learning" my ass. It almost never works and you can't game it, and those things that might impact how it works are hidden and opaque almost beyond belief. How about give me a slider or a lever or some way to say what I want the phone to do to save my battery. I can make a flat curve at 80% and learn to live with it if it saves me buying a new battery. They must be rewarding the floor sweeper of the coding pit. They must think we're all stupid and don't want to spend any time futsing with our phones. Right.

So as corporate structures keep gobbling up smaller corporate structures until the scale rivals national governments, maybe it's time to trot chaos theory back out again. I mean we call ourselves a political democracy even as we fit ourselves in various ways, even if not by way of employment, into pure exemplars of autocracy in the workplace; the workplaces with which we must interact to deal with insurance, the vectorialists (the new capitalists if Wark would stop talking about her transition), and even drinking beer in case you thought your favorite beer wasn't owned by INBev. You know, Budweiser owns the world of beer kind of thing.

Well, I guess the economics of micro-brewing are pretty favorable, and it makes a nice way to sideline otherwise troublesome sorts with more intelligence than they know what to do with. Happy to pay your premium for the corporate dodge. Happy to let my brain ferment, no knead, evermore. Let's replicate those structures, hows 'bout?

My very self is a strange attractor, the boundaries of me fractal, and if you were to stretch them out they might reach infinity in any dimension. That would make a way for immortality so long as you go for the broke of not that thing which everyone else seems to aggrandize, the selfie-self.

My work - my narrative pitch - is to erase that self before my bounded body dies which would be that much better than to preserve it in simulation of life. Natural forms don't do the kinds of math which we prefer with heroic story arcs and happy endings. There was a young lady from Natchez.

I don't know, am I talking about fractals or am I talking about macrocosm/microcosm. In my mind they're the same thing. Structure of the cosmos, sort of thing. Q.E.D., quantum electrodynamics, Benjamin. Not ratiocination, no plastic forever, not what we will.

Lots of times these days I have to endure friends who are better off than I am talking about their pleasures. Then some of them think that I should share the beer tab. The ones who don't need me to pick up the tab seem to live the same way I do, but their thinking isn't so interesting. The moral equivalent of Trumpers, it sometimes seems to me. Right? Trumpers always pick up your tab if they're better off than you. There's something to be said for that.

So, I spend a lot of time alone, reading, and writing, and hanging with family where we can still be pretty open about things. We're almost a Confucian family in that microcosmic sense of order your own life and the world will be ordered. We have a lot of variety within the family and sometimes it's a lot of work to hold it all together. The bond is love. Strange attractor, that.

Speaking of which, it really irritates me when people who don't know jackshit generalize about China. They call it authoritarian or they call it communist when all it is is reverting to form. Among my extended family is a story from back during the days when "dynastic" described China's system of order-making, and it sure does sound like contemporary China to me. Confucius sneaking in through the back door of history's caricature-making apparatus, maybe. Just look at the way houses are built now. 

Yes, I know, I usually write about the Tiananmen massacre about now, but I no longer think I understand what it means. It's not exactly that it's been erased from my own history, and sure I get anxious when Hong Kong can't even assemble large demonstrations, but somehow it feels as though the very size of our military-industrial complex is behind it all. We handle dissent in such subtle ways here, and almost as well as China handles the pandemic. Go capitalism! We're inoculated by innovation!

Thank goodness Trump has permanently erased the very possibility of treason, so that I may now say anything I want without fear of imprisonment. Like, for instance, ours is no democracy. China has more democracy than we do now. They have yet to internalize the rules of narrative and make them into their very selves. They at least know that there is no primary author of any poem. Inception is always in the gray goo.

Nothing original there. So I have this tiny home that I've spun around the continent a few times and I'm wondering if I'll ever get back out there. I sped across the continent when there seemed to be an opening last summer. Family called. It felt like dodging snow storms, truth be told, which I'd done the year before when I left Canada too late in the season and the storms had already started. Covid, blizzards; approximate same hazard when you're on the move on highways through blasted parts of the nation.

So my well-off bro-in-law starts to wonder how he could enhance his chockfulloffun outdoorsy life if he had a trailer like mine. And I'm getting excited because, you know, I could sell it without quite having to say goodbye and pay a few more months rent without panic, to stay put. I tout its praises, in song, or whatever. Perfect!

Then they go back to their busy lives of entertainment and I go back to being unable to sleep and feeling like shit each day and so it hits me that hey why is it that when I have something like a sailboat or a tiny house it's a desperate measure to keep myself alive, and when somebody else has one it's a fine choice among too much choice about how to spend leisure-time with drink? 

Funny thing, though. I'm the one having more fun. As in, I would never ever want a really expensive yacht. It might be nice, but it wouldn't be half so much fun. Engine room of the Titanic kind of thing. I've removed my cylinder heads at sea in a storm because the valves were stuck and I wasn't sure about docking in such wind. At lake. I am rarely at sea.

And then I'm back to picking up the tab for someone who should always pick up mine, or sweeping the floor or otherwise doing the fixup for someone else's better life. And I think shit, it's all my fault since in all other aspects I already won the lottery. It's just that I'm always struggling to find the time to do what I want to do, and even if I don't have to work on an emergency basis just now, I'm too busy just simply trying to figure out what it's all about before I check out, to want to waste my time with endless fun. 

Talk about a fool's errand. But honestly, if not forced to work for the Man, it just feels like sellout to do so so that I can have more leisure. Sheesh. I've put in plenty of time, plenty of time. Just not in the big house, if you know what I mean. No corporate prisonhouse for me! It's been bad enough in the prisonhouse of academia, where I've swept floors mostly, but have been nobility enough to taste it. 

Now even the academies are touting global branding. NYU for you too across the globe, and the Cleveland Clinic has nearly nothing to do with that city where craft beer can actually be bad. How is that even possible? It's all in a name.

And speaking of which I am so fucking sick and tired of racism. Walking along the waterfront where a new popup bar in and on a shipping container has finally shown up and there's a handsome dreadlocked dude opening up and these Q-tip topped old ladies who must have hard hearing say something like, 'yeah go for a drink and you'll probably get your wallet stolen,' and I just glare. 

But what I really hate is my own internal racism. You know, like my peeps spent like 300 years creating an artificial culture based on skin color. Start with subjugation then go with strict and easily policed segregation and pretty soon you have culturally-based generalized traits that you might feel free to disparage. I mean, how does one even begin to undo that? Don't even get me started on sexism.

No big surprise that the macrocosm of our economic order is replicated in microcosm inside corporate structures, especially in tech. We're all naturalized to it, and even the black rappers just want some piece of the action of the free market, so called, which once sold people, section 230, I guess. Property is property and information will be free.

I'm just trying to get my own life right, microcosmic style, and then maybe it all goes viral through the grey goo of cultural transmission. I mean, there's zero unnatural about humans on the planet. We're fractal just as much as the plants are. There is no procedural resolution. We're what democracy means, which is to say that we facilitate autocracy big time, no matter how or whether we vote. That makes me sad.

All you have to do is have lots of money or look or act like you have lots of money and you'll have procedural power. But, you know, in the end, you're nothing just like the rest of us. Dust to dust. 

I know that I will disappear before my body does. It's in the genes. Speaking of Michelangelo. I shall become myself in sketch, unfinished sketch, and it will be me more than I am me, in very few pixels, like the original 16 by 16 grid which made characters legible before the original Hercules. We're talking processing not life here.

As I tell my friends and family who have money and want me to fix up their houses, 'you can't pay me to do this shit.' I do it for love or not at all, and if you think you're going to save money by having me do it, you're right. That's part of why I'm not going to do it for you. 

Maybe it's time to hit the road again, just as I've been getting settled. Maybe I can't just sit still. Better brush my teeth now. My mouth takes on a Frankenstein pout, lips blueing and teeth yellowing, there is no help for that which would have me for dinner with whitened Derrida obsessed hair. No thank you very much.