Thursday, July 8, 2021

So, What Do I Do Now?

Walking over to dinner with my daughter last night, I passed a Tesla, rudely parked, whose license plate might be deciphered into "Star Citizen," which I take to mean some aspirational placement of oneself cosmically. But I know that person would have nothing to do with Cosmopolitics. Whatever that is, it's more related to life here on earth, and less enthusiastic about the prospects for populating beyond our earth. Probably a grown up gamer?

Then I read about Kyle Rittenhouse and how money and taking any advantage imaginable for taking advantage of anything or anyone's ability to take advantage of a potential money attractor. Some people are enthusiastic about space travel. Excited about what we've been able to accomplish so far, and all the human reaching that might imply. Hey, let's put on a show! It might attract some money!

I am mystified by now by all of my own one-time longing to live underwater. I might easily have constructed my habitat and tested it out, but my ambition only went so far. I've always thought that I was mostly driven by the freedom of mass neutrality, which required lesser reflexes than to stay aloft with artificial wings. The claustrophobia of being canned in outer space being somehow far more terrorizing than the claustrophobia of being canned under pressure. And I certainly didn't want to sit atop a rocket of my own making, though I sure did love that movie. And I did make rockets and shot all sorts of things up in them. Some of which got police attention.

Shall I go back to reading Gaddis' The Recognitions? Jonathan Franzen calls it the hardest book he's ever willingly finished. For me, it might end up along with Joyce's Ulysses, as a much attempted but only ever nearly completed read.

I think I'm pretty much done with Bratton, not because he can't be interesting - although he does seem to have hardened his thinking into a kind of schtick - but because I can't discern any worldview based on any kind of fundament. The triumph of human intelligence, in outer space, underwater, or in relation to making sense of the world around us, is not, in itself, fundamentally interesting to me. Anymore.

And I don't seem driven to making money. Money seems a far worse and more dangerous virus than the COVID-19 coronavirus which provides inspiration, of sorts, for Bratton's most recent musings. We can fight the coronavirus, but we haven't even begun to investigate how the money virus has acted on humanity. I suppose the span of more than a decade - we're talking all the way back to Newton here - doesn't really hold anyone's attention anymore.

Imagine this: Hyperwealthy people are shamed into direct investments for the sake of the people. They become ashamed of their jets and private yachts. Let's say the directors of Google are shamed into creating genuine search, which only their monopoly-scale pipes could afford us. It would break free of words and move into the realm of ideas, which are so notoriously difficult to monetize.

But then let's move real-estate into the virtual realm and put the adverts there. The actual ground is re-taken for the people, to build on as they see fit, and no billboards allowed, just like in Vermont where the entire state is a natural resource.

Let's build trolleys which are designed from the get-go to provide their own power, by solar, by tide, by wind, by panel, owned by the people in return for their taxes. The taxes on private cars can go through the roof, for all the people care. But of course, the farmers can make their own. It will be that trivial, as it already is in China. They'll be outlawed within the city "walls" of course. Too noxious and deadly. The farmers will have their own sources of energy.

Our current religion holds that wealth accrues to all the earth when the "geniuses" are allowed to flourish. It's thought the opposite of a zero-sum game, where the extravagance of the wealthy has no impact on the rest of us. Except, perhaps, to inspire us in similar profligate aspiration.

And actually nothing will be powered by shame or fear of God, though it will be informed by a better religion. One where none of shame or guilt or face hold sway. Or rather where each of these is tied to personal virtue. Where immortality is realized by extension of one's essence into each and every person round about, who are always credited equally for the contributions of the whole.

This all happens because the end of science is the beginning of human responsibility. It's already written in the code, if we did but take the time to read it. 

Now so far, that puts me in the same stance as Bratton. We differ as regards agency. There is nothing in science which tells us that there is a Grand Universal Theorem to be uncovered. That is but our untutored conviction. 

We will come to terms with the already evident fact that science is also a process to unlearn things one once did know. Ghosts are not only unfindable anymore, they cease to exist entirely for that portion of the general population who suddenly knows that there can be none there. The rest of the population, perhaps not so interested in scientific knowledge, feels mocked. This has not led to good things, so far.

There is similarly nothing in science which says that absent hunan virtue, the progressive uncoverings of science will lead us in a progressive and ameliorative direction. That part should be patently obvious post-nukes and now with dreams of autonomous profiling robotic drones powered by what? Artificial intelligence? Can there be virtue there? There can sure be power.

You are going to hell, Mr. Gates, for all your wanting to do good. You need to find a way to listen to the people and not to be so taken by your own success. As though meeting the moment in history were something other from luck. What you did with such luck is hardly different than all our various Attilas the various Huns. How many better dreams were snuffed underneath your collosus? 

I've probably lost my old sub- and super-liminal interests because - aside from a general despair that we will ever get it together as humans on the planet - my attempts even to automate my own life are failing at an accelerated clip. 

I try to find ways of doing things based on setting out a sequence of reasoning which will still make sense to me after I forget the specific decision I made. The forgetting is increasingly reliable, but even the principles for coming up with a particular decision won't quite stay put. Just about the only thing I can really do is to build habits, but even those can tend to change or invert from disuse.

I toss around certain technical terms - things like epistemology or phenomenology or ontology - really just to mock myself, because I can never quite remember which is which or how to gloss their meaning. I guess that means I'm making fun of people who know how to use technical terms reliably, and who have some memory of their provenance; and which great thinker pinned them.

So why are so few of the smart people interested in the life force of money, which is the patent root of all our troubles? Why do they think that they can polaristically philosophize their way to final clarity? Money only took off virally post-digital, and the banks were among the first, of course, to accelerate the accounting. I lack detail. 

And still I believe that my own thought and writing do sit on a fundament, just like I sit on my ass most days most of the time, now. Although I did walk a good six miles on Independence day, the Monday holiday not the day itself, down to the water and back through a city entirely evacuated for the holiday, though the waterfront was populated, if not so crowded as it once would have been. 

I watched a family trying to sail without a centerboard, and it was frustrating. Back and forth and no forward progress. Expertise is attenuated where there is no critical mass of experts. The seasons disturb habits which might otherwise be more fully developed. Skiers must travel to the global South or up higher on Mt. Hood to keep their practice up. Sailors are better in California. Perhaps they didn't even know what a centerboard is, and left it at the dock. Swindled by their lessor.

I can only imagine how I would have appeared back in the day, running the gauntlet of the gawkers in my gaudily painted (for lack of patience for the redo, except on an annualized schedule) and awkward old wooden boat. I hadn't yet acquired the swollen belly which all sailors seem to sport now. Standing abaft an overlarge wheel, and likely pushing buttons. I scampered and hauled and tied off. Must have been at least mildly entertaining.

Yes, I believe that I am perseverating. Feeling sore and lazy. What'll it be Ace? Sport? An IPA? A boilermaker? What's your pleasure?

We shall increasingly buy our cars in shares now, and reduce, thereby, the press of the highways. The economy demands it, since it won't afford us workers a living wage anymore. Will that be our revenge on the real? To remove ourselves from the marketplace that enriches so few? We will abuse the platforms to spread a kind of slacker ethos, mocked now by the bloating platform which brazenly stole the name.

Slack might just be what saves the world and frees the planet. We think too hard just now. We spend way too much time on our phones. Nothing exciting will happen soon. Anymore. And so we must turn away from disaster and catastrophe to cultivate, well, our own gardens.

When Buckminster Fuller called our planet "Spaceship Earth," we should already have started thinking about what that entailed; that we would have to learn to be the pilots. He was an engineer and a designer, but mostly pre-digital, I think. 

Now Bratton thinks digital, and is probably dreaming of spaceships travelling off-earth, so he has moved beyond "Spaceship Earth," to something more like "homebase Earth," though I really can't tell. 

What turns me on anymore is the notion that we were already starting to be "in touch" (touchlessly, of course) with other life, which would mean that no travelling needed to be done from either side. What I think I mean is that while we were starting to turn natural law to our uses, we had the opportunity to notice that natural law is itself a form of communication. 

Beyond coaxing us to agree about basic material reality here at home, it was challenging us to wonder where else in cosmos these natural laws might apply. And if there was choice in our construings of those natural law, then where did the law end and the choice begin? And when did the virus of money start construing things as if there were positive truth and proof after Einstein turned it all on its head. And then we started to distrust positivism and introduce relativity to our constructivist social realities, and we did recognize that this was so much more difficult than the physical sciences. 

We did have plenty of choice within the constraints of natural law in the physical sciences, and then along came digital and everything was choice, no physical limitations at all to our imaginations. And then we were cut off from any and all other life in the cosmos, hoist by our own petard away from the real. We live in the zero, which is without connection to the one. That's what on/off means.

When one construes natural law as some insight and revelation into God's mind, we do at least remain in touch with something other. Now, we no longer bother to ask, and simply wonder how much more gaudy we could make our private jets and private yachts, to live our lives ungrounded and high. Perpetually stoned. And this now is progress?

Progress will be reversion not to the patriarchal interpretation of God into law, nor the patriarchal interpretation of scientific findings about reality, now interpreted statistically into simulacra of truthiness. Progress will be progress beyond interpretation to a felt connection beyond oneself. And to forsake this connection will be actual damnation in our not so very distant future. 

And so I, for one, remain hopeful. Likely, I don't get excited about the same future you do. I like hot baths, yes, and interior climate control, sure, and I like to be able to move about and change my scenery. I don't like that all destinations look alike, or that people have stopped thinking because, presumably, scientists and philosophers do it for them. 

There is truth to art and culture. There is truth to love. Science can facilitate that as well. IT needn't be so totalizing.

Oh well. Back to Gaddis.

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