Friday, July 23, 2010

Enki's cross-posted rants

Monday, April 6, 2009

An anarchist party? In MY congress? More likely than you may think!

Though it may sound counterintuitive, the best chance for anarchy may in fact be playing along with the system.

Ask an arbitrary consumer what the first association s/he has with the term 'anarchy' is, and chances are it will be something like 'terrorism', 'car bomb', or 'vandalism'. This is not an accurate association with the anarchist political philosophy, which is merely concerned with the fact that the best government is no government at all (to paraphrase our second president). It is, however, an accurate representation of the political and social tactics of the most media-visible of self-identifying anarchists -- whether or not they agree with the actual concept of anarchy, as many of them are likely to be latching onto a trendy or taboo term the same way satanism has pretty much nothing to do with Satan.

How do we get around this? Anarchy is the only political system that has been described but never implemented, partly because normal power structures have their own defense mechanisms and want to self-propagate whereas anarchy is based on the concept of (to varying degrees of precision) a lack of any real power structure. Anarchy is a hard sell much of the time, especially when every system that is based around the interchange of power is fundamentally anti-anarchy -- a rallying point in terms of realpolitik even between political systems that don't agree upon anything else. Anarchy has traditionally been promoted one of two ways: either by discussing it (the method of Emerson and Spinoza, of whom the former has been totally misrepresented and his message subverted and the latter has been more or less forgotten) or by attempts at forcibly causing it (in the legacy of neo-marxists and other revolutionaries, including those french guys with the guillotines). The former has been unsuccessful because existing power structures can promote themselves far more effectively since to some extent they control many of the major lines of communication, particularly formative public education (which while important can be too easily misused -- we need our kids to read and write, but too many parents go along with the brainwashing and ingrained dogmatism that comes with, even when you cannot reasonably defend it under the label of socialization) and media (albeit indirectly). The latter has largely been a negative, forming the public sentiment that anarchy is a purely destructive force. The more minor forms (poetic terrorism, Operation Mindfuck, situationism, and other general-purpose small-scale benign acts of subversion) have been even less effective on a large scale, despite technologies advancing their effectiveness, primarily because any surrealistic subversive activity (particularly a highly localized one) can itself be easily subverted in the retelling -- and further, the spectacle has its own narrative, often at odds with reality and fighting with it to protect its own integrity by synthesizing into itself any subversive elements. To fight the empire is to be seduced into it.

So, what's a poor anarchist hoard to do?

Well, you can start off by doing what most other fringe political groups do and start a political party. Everyone knows about the green party, the libertarians, the american communist party, and so on -- even if they have never won a federal election and rarely win local ones. The easiest way to spread the idea of anarchy as a workable political system is to create an anarchist party.

But isn't that against anarchy, you may say?

That is precisely it. What better way to break down power structures than by putting anarchists in office? An anarchist party candidate, in my vision, would campaign on the platform that once in office, he will do nothing. He will not show up to meetings. He will not vote on things. He will not sign or veto bills. This would be a negative to any community electing one in the beginning, mind you, but the federal and state bureaucracies are pretty tied up to begin with. As the number grows, the actual legislative and executive branches slowly grate to a halt.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The increasing egalitarianism of everything

This is part of a listserv discussion.

If I may, I would like to propose yet another model for understanding
this. In line with what I understand to be a consensus among
international relations people (and in conjunction with yet another
Heinlien book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) you could call anarchy
the natural state of man: the set of all agents interacting on a small
scale. Governments are somewhat like protection rackets, in any given
form -- feudalism was more explicit about this, since after all, the
nobles swore to defend the serfs in return for their food and labour.
However, as communication gets better, the mobs are more capable of
defending themselves (which, of course, has been status q since before
the fall of feudalism), and furthermore, more capable of organizing
themselves than the ruling classes (the lords of feudalism, now
relegated merely to the status of glorified middle managers). So, an
active pure anarchy becomes progressively more practical and less
dangerous the better communication becomes, since the historical
situation of the lord/protector/wiseguy class having all the good
intel and all the good technology is getting progressively less true
(the intel business and the tech business are becoming more
egalitarian, certainly).

Problem is, of course, that whole industries are based around the idea
that the ruling class has all the intel and all the tech, and deigns
to give the outsiders access to snippets at whim. The current uses of
IP law are based around the idea that there are producers and
consumers, and that consumers can neither produce nor reproduce
without breaking things. However, the limitless perfect copying
capacity of computer networks means that consumers can make perfect
reproductions at much faster rates than any producers could distribute
them, and subverts the few-to-many producer/consumer population ratio
previously fundamental to the IP sale business model, while
simultaneously making it near impossible to use existing civil court
IP law to counter it. Likewise, the US military (and probably others)
are suffering major problems because of a few loose-lipped cannon
fodder types having access to things like twitter and facebook,
thereby ruining whole operations before they even begin. Even hardware
industries may fall, since the production of cheap 3d printers and
other advances by the hobbyist maker-culture makes possible a popular
means-of-production seizure of a kind more radical than any marxist
could imagine, and may do the same to the industrial and
military-industrial complexes that it has begun to do to the
media-memetic complex.

Is this bad? Depends on who you ask. It's a game-changer, for sure.
The basic feudal model (with minor variants) has been status q in
human societies for at least the past four thousand years, and
probably longer. Most people will feel unmoored, if not a bit
alienated. In the short run, it will also mean game over for most of
the people and organizations that fundamentally depend upon a
few-to-many ratio rather than depending upon skill or quality. It will
probably be great for skilled hobbyists, and it already is to some
extent. I think that, if played right, in the long run it could be
pretty nice for almost everyone. But, it's a different gameboard, with
different rules, and I think there will be some thrashing while the
former ruling classes adjust.
- Show quoted text -

On Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 9:36 AM, wishnevsky wrote:
> A new word, if not a new idea.
> Wikiocracy
> Emerging ideas can only be comprehended by means of metaphor and allusion,
> as a rule. There is a wonderful array of happenings, most duly noted by
> those people who make their livings commenting on trends, emergent memes and
> concepts, but one of the most consequential changes to the global body
> politic is occurring unnoticed, in plain sight. A Marxist would call this
> the “withering away of the State,” but that is only part of the issue.
> Concepts such as “crowd sourcing,” wikipedia, “googleism,” free internet and
> many more are just a part of this emergence.
> Consider these points; The most rigid and monolithic state in history, the
> USSR, evaporated in a few months, with very little violence, an event
> predicted by no one, that has not been studied to any extent. Perhaps it was
> the political equivalent of a “rogue wave,” unforeseen and unique. But
> perhaps it was a harbinger.
> The fastest growing economy in the word, China, has a governmental system
> that defies classification, indeed description. There is a Marxist ruling
> class, a “People’s Army” morphed into a collection of industrial
> conglomerates and a middle class of unfettered capitalists unseen since the
> days of the Robber Barons. Underpinning it all is peasant based Feudalism.
> In 1950, China was the feeblest nation on earth, and now it bodes to become
> the leading superpower within a generation.
> India, also a basket case in 1950, is the type-case for unbridled diversity
> with 21 "scheduled languages," nine “major” religions, the entire range of
> human skin tones and uncounted ethnic groups. In spite of this prescription
> for confusion, they have achieved the largest democracy in the world,
> although the actual system of rule is largely undefined. Chaos and Discordia
> are not listed among the gods of India, perhaps they fled in horror. This
> multiplicity has not harmed their rate of growth, however.
> Brazil, by no means a monolithic state, is also in the running for the
> superpowers of the near future. It is easy to see that the monopolistic
> totalitarian gestalt of government has not survived the test of history.
> To return to Russia. Autocracy has moved through Anarchy to what?
> Unprincipled Oligarchy? Free Market Obscurity? Does anyone really know? No
> matter, their growth rate is healthy. Arthur C. Clarke had the most accurate
> prediction when he said that in 1984, the USA and the USSR would pass each
> other, going in opposite directions.
> The same indescribable process is easily visible as the hyper-democratic
> internet devours all types of monopolies. Wikipedia destroyed Encyclopedia
> Britannica without a whimper. Craigslist has removed the financial base of
> every newspaper in the country. The music industry killed Napster, crippling
> itself in the process. Now the “Industry” grows smaller every year while the
> amount of available “Indie” music passes any limits of calculation. No one
> can even keep up with the number of genres these days, they seem to have run
> out of hyphens.
> Robert Heinlein’s Science Fiction classic, “Double Star” plays with the
> concept of electronic democracy, where political parties are defined by
> occupation, not nationality and voting is instant. How far is that from
> implementation? The technology is available now, politicians are the
> laggards.
> SF writer Vernor Vinge postulated the Cyber Singularity, where computers
> recreate themselves past the point of human comprehension, another point we
> are approaching rapidly. All this ties into a real blue-sky concept, the
> “Global Brain” where the Internet becomes self-aware, an actual Deity. Pie
> in the sky? The first Global Brain was established by the Spanish Empire of
> Phillip the First, based on muscle power, sails and parchment.
> All this sheds light on the establishment of the first two “Instant
> Political Parties,” The Tea Party and the brand new Coffee Party. The
> reactionary Tea Parties, they are already suffering schism, were more
> collections of rump groups that received influxes of money from the Health
> Industry and support from Fox News.
> The Coffee Party appears genuine grass roots, started in January by
> filmmakers and activists Annabel Park and Eric Byler. The first real-world
> event was March 13, and there were nearly 400 events nationwide. There are
> well over 200,000 “fans” on Facebook, far more than the number of Tea Party
> fans.
> This is not an advertisement for the Coffee Party, rather an attempt to show
> that the process of “going viral” can apply to more weighty matters than LOL
> Catz. There have been un-programmed mass movements before, of course. It
> was a generation ago that many people decided to experiment with LSD, for no
> particular reason, with results that have not yet finished reverberating to
> this day.
> But this phenomenon is a new thing in the world, so it behooves us to
> recognize it as an emergent process, a process that is reshaping our lives
> at warp speed. Hang on.
> St. Wishnevsky

John Ohno

Monday, August 31, 2009

Futarchy, Cybersyn, and Assasination Politics: Playing for the Odds

I have recently been researching futarchy. For those who are not familiar with the concept, it is probably summarized (and oversimplified) by saying that in a futarchy system, voting is done via betting pool. The darling of several anarcho-capitalist would-be technocrats, the idea (in my relatively shallow researches on it) is limited by the fact that it depends upon the existence of an administration to implement the 'winning' results, making this more or less the same as a government run by publicly traded corporations. This is something I, personally, would not like, though plenty of anarcho-capitalists may be a fan of such things.

However, in reading Assassination Politics (written by a crypto-anarchist, who later defended himself by arguing it was merely a thought experiment), a solution appears. Amusingly, in this thought experiment, the people wagering on possibilities are expected to 'cheat' -- the system exists for the sole purpose of people with a vested interest in the outcome actually causing the outcome. In the context of Assassination Politics, the outcome is the annihilation of the standing government, something I personally don't agree with in terms of method (I have a long-standing issue with the idea of anarchists as inherently violent, an unfortunate media-promoted idea that I would take every chance to counter, but that is something for another blog post), but the form is extensible.

The Cybersyn project was the pinnacle of technocracy, a computer with a neural net planned to do the day to day of governance. It has never been finished, and along with the administration that started it, the concept has been discredited. However, in a new, people-centric futarchy, perhaps an Execution Politics can form: the central computer is the whole government, yet is functionally little more than an online betting system. The executive functions of government are implemented by individuals with a stake in the outcome of given bets. A slight improvement to pure democracy is thus achieved, along with a major improvement over representative democracy, a vast minimization of overhead, a vast maximization of effectiveness and nearly zero hard and fast laws. If politics is a strife of interests pretending to be a parade of principles, then Execution Politics is a strife of interests with no mask, neatly managing the unmanageable though a functional and universal anarchy with no more violence than the most peaceful republics.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Infictive infections and working subversion

An excellent post by Deloras at Chaos Marxism has sparked much discussion, and I suppose I should probably expand and clarify my $0.02 on the subject.

We live mostly not in reality, but in fictional projections of our models of reality. Whenever we make a conscious decision, we are consulting models of reality formed from several sources of information:
1) previous direct experience in analogous situations
2) indirect experience of analogous situations (stories)
3) the interaction between existing models and new experiences (received directly or indirectly) as they interacted at the time of absorption

Now, our models occasionally reject direct experience that conflicts completely with our models. This is useful; our sense organs produce spurious noise much of the time, and so it is very important in a life-or-death situation to have the kind of brain function that will tell you that the shape in the corner of the room is NOT a ghost or a shroud-eater or some even-scarier beast you have been raised to think does not exist, since otherwise you may run into the mouth of a more immediate danger while fleeing a chimera. The veto mechanism can be abused, as is seen in practice by many highly dogmatic systems of thought (obvious examples include the creationists, the Randites, the Randiites, the lifestyle canon-marxists, apple fans, microsoft fans, linux fans, breatharians, and fluffybunny pagan types, but pretty much any subculture with a name consists partially if not mostly of people who will ignore reality that conflicts with their pet models).

There are other ways these systems can be hacked, though. Robert Anton Wilson's epistemological pan-agnosticism, like some less-metaphorical Neo, tries to save people from their own nervous system firewalls by demonstrating how much nonsense they can generate. Unfortunately, dogmatic memeplexes have some pretty intense and potent self-defense systems. Cognitive dissonance may not be a good route either. While I am all for people freeing their minds, a grass-roots free-your-mind movement is probably destined for as much success as the yippie movement's grassroots free-your-mind movement; trickle-up enlightenment is likely to be blocked subconsciously by the < href="">memeplexes that have already infiltrated the highest levels of society. On the other hand, the most active adepts in today's world have already realized how to get people to suspend disbelief long enough to feed them autotoxic memeplexes.

Everyone partakes of fiction, more or less. Fiction provides a language in which the shorthand forms of the everyday umwelt can be slipped to the uninitiated, and designed in such a way that subversions should slip under the radar. All communication is subversion in a sense, and the spectacle can be infected in such a way that it will promote the manipulation of reality tunnels. Like any other living creature, the spectacle will do anything to survive, or die trying. The infectious detournment of fiction made possible by the extensive classification by tropers of the sub-liminal language of modern narrative will not only affect fiction but affect reality.

There are side notes to this, which might be best explored later. I will note them now:
1) One can utilize tvtropes outside of the standard narrative hypersigil workings, since these documents show correlations between entities, qualities, and rituals, as understood under the radar by the hoi polloi.
2) Fiction affects reality through methods not directly mediated by humans. The most obvious example is google-bombing, which on a much more subtle level any piece of fiction that is archived by a search engine as sophisticated as google's will end up doing to some extent -- slightly modifying the results of searches, ad targeting, and even translations.
3) TvTropes itself is highly mutable. Any tvtropes-inspired subversion that gains notability will eventually modify tvtropes itself, and even non-notable narratives can subvert pieces of the narrative spectacle.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reality? Lol, reality

Okay, so we have this thing, and we call it reality, right?


There is no reality, and none of you exist. I'm not saying this from an ivory tower -- I don't exist either. Now, I'll tell you why.

Way back in the day some dude named Renee Descartes spend enough time in bed to come up with the idea that nothing exists. They called this Cartesian Doubt, because apparently in all of history nobody else had been bored enough to come up with that idea (yeah, right...). Now, he writes this book on it, but here's the clincher: half way through, he says "but, I'm thinking, yeah? So that means that in some form, I exist!" And there was much rejoicing, and he pissed all over his own fallacy. Unfortunately, he was born before the period when computers and postmodern philosophy and game theory and so on were commonplace, so he thought that it was obvious that anything that thinks exists (NB: in fields like philosophy, claiming something to be obvious, while mayhaps useful in the short term, is a pretty good way to make a total ass of yourself later). But, of course, he was wrong.

Take, as a counterpoint, the philosophy known as Externism. Externism is the direct inverse of Solipism: in Externism, everything exists except for the self, and the self only appears to exist because its surroundings skirt around this nonexistent thing, just as a hole in a piece of paper will change shape when you wiggle the paper around. In such a way, a thing that does not exist can not only appear to exist, but have a certain level of complex thought and interaction with its environment. However, if existence is simply constituted by the connective level, wherein by interacting with someone who does exist you automatically exist, then Externism fails. However, another even more obvious example looms on the horizon.

There are things that do not exist that influence our lives daily. In fact, one might argue that the only things that influence most people's lives are the things that don't exist. Since one must model one's universe to survive (it's not very useful to try to find food if you can't remember what food looks like and how to differentiate it from predators, the ground, the moon, and your own feet), we as humans have developed quite advanced modeling capabilites that are mostly transparent to us. When we see a chair, we see a chair, not a bunch of lines and colours jittering around with every saccade, and we have enough information in our world-model about chairs to know that it probably has a place you can sit on even if you can't see that place initially. We don't necessarily differentiate our mental model of a chair from a real chair, or at least we don't unless it doesn't match up. If we sit on it and we fall to the floor, it no longer matches the model of a chair, and we have to probably switch models (I would suggest putting that into a model of a broken chair, or if this happens too often, an unsturdy non-weight-supporting chair). This extends even into our social life, since by having totally imperfect yet useful models of people, we can avoid some pretty awkward social situations and sometimes predict reactions in other useful ways ("That guy is a go-getter, so if you propose this idea to him, he'll probably be pretty honest in appraising it. If it's good enough, he might even invest!").

Of course, our mental models, even of individuals, even of people we are close to (or even of ourselves) are typically quite inaccurate, and at best imperfect in ways that are of minor practical importance. However, the practical importance aspect doesn't negate the fact that the people we know and the people we think we know aren't the same people. We ourselves aren't even who we think we are. There are so many automatic layers of translation and generalization and pattern matching between our senses and our perceptions that we might as well just say the world we live in is entirely fabricated and be done with it.

But, so many people perceive the world in more or less the same way, you might say. How can that be, if our world is nearly entirely fiction?

I could take the easy way out here and say that we don't live in comparable world, but we only think we do. This is arguable, and I think it's true much of the time, however it doesn't do a good job of explaining why such a significant amount of our thoughts and perceptions are even communicable.

So, instead, I make an obscure reference to the phenomenon known as "folie a deux". This is an old term, as you can tell by the fact that it's in french and not some greek-latin-gobbledygook that would make your high school etymology teacher want to gag herself on a dirty dishrag printed with apostrophe errors. What it means, essentially, is a shared delusion or hallucination. It's documented, it happens a lot, etc. Apparently, we all give off a lot of subliminal cues about stuff that we don't realize we're giving off, and we pick a lot up and pass them on without ever realizing they're there. Some of this is easily explained via elementary cognitive science (word choice can prime interpretations which can trigger one belief over another, bla bla bla, ewige blumenkraft fnord), but the bottom line is that people somehow can share pretty detailed mental models of hallucinatory objects that don't even exist.

So, if much of our everyday perceptions are an (albeit quite useful) self-generated hallucination, and hallucinatory objects can be shared and perceived by a group simply by the exchange of signals in terms of word choice and body language, how do we know that a large portion of the objects and devices we use every day even exist? It's quite possible, for instance, that there are no real iPods in the world (to pick an arbitrary object of great popularity), and that Steve Jobs is unknowingly selling empty boxes that people buy and then hallucinate that they are listening to music on imaginary earbuds. Or, perhaps the building you work in every day doesn't actually exist, and the sensory info that makes you think you are there is actually a delusion. Or perhaps, maybe, our bodies and the physical world don't exist at all. Maybe in mind even, we are just hypotheticals -- characters in some novel that may never even be written, thinking in our first person narratives all day and never daring to consider that what we choose to do, what we eat, what we watch on television, how we do in school and what we do in public, don't matter in the least, because the story ends tomorrow and we're all minor characters who don't deserve a proper conclusion.

I hope this has been some food for thought. I'm not telling you to go out and do something crazy to spice up some hypothetical author-deity's ranking on the new york time's best seller list; I'm just trying to get across to you that so many things you have never questioned you could be entirely wrong about, as could anyone. No one knows the truth, and no one even knows if there is a truth. To put it bluntly,

no one knows.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Plates of shrimp, social priming, and the wikiality of the superorganism (yet another pseudophilosophical bullshit session)

The following is another brain dump, but it may make more sense since parts of it have already been articulated elsewhere in semiunderstandable terms.

We may not all agree with reality as a fully social construction (solipism is a four letter word to the mathematically disinclined), but I think we all can agree that a certain amount of how we interpret events that are arguably 'real' is socially or intellectually influenced. Whether or not there's something 'out there', most of the time we interact primarily with our internal model, which may or may not correspond very well with the external (1:1) model, and we also use our model to make sense of the confusing and altogether super-ambiguous signals we get from our senses.

Now, priming is the term given to the way that our short term memory (especially the bits of it that we can't directly access) influence the interpretation of new signals often more so than long term memory. This makes sense. Our long term memory is contextual, since we have so much stuff in there that it would take forever to figure out that the shape on the ground is a poisonous snake if we have to sort through all the images recorded in that time when we flew a kite in the city and bumped our knee first (by the time we get to the category of 'forest animals' we're probably already bitten, and by the time we loop around to how to get to a hospital we're already half dead). The short term memory provides context, sort of like an index. But priming becomes increasingly complex and powerful at the level of multilayer symbolic interaction we get to with written and spoken languages that are more complex than what cats and dogs are capable of.

Priming affects not only our interpretation of signals, but also influences our output. 'Freudian slips' are only the most obvious examples. Many times, the signals are modified just enough to cause a change in word choice: the connotation will subtly change, though the denotation (and therefore the obvious meaning) will remain.

Now, this effect has a relatively small effect with a small group of relatively uncommunicative people. With a small group of highly communicative people, we get into what McLuhan calls the 'tribal system' -- think of it as being like the rumour mill in a small town, where a game of telephone stablizes into a semicoherent perception after a few iterations because of the incestuous interconnection of all nodes with comparatively few jumps: after hearing six variants of the same rumour, most people will decide to repeat only the version they like, likely back to the same people who have heard all the others, and a few versions will crystallize as canon due to repetition and popularity.

But on the tubes, we have an absurdly LARGE number of people with an extremely SMALL number of hops and minimal distortion of a given message (the human element of distortion is relegated to summaries, commentaries, and questionable mischaracterizations in an environment when the entirety of the original can be copypasted or linked to with minimal effort). This causes what McLuhan calls a 'global villiage' (which is actually such an overloaded term these days that most of the time when it's used it bears very little resemblance to what McLuhan meant by it) wherein a tribal system is scaled up massively while maintaining roughly the same level of interconnectivity and hops between nodes. This allows massive near-instantaneous propagation of all sorts of messages to all sorts of people, and in fact allows most of this communication to be bidirectional despite the large number of nodes, some of which are hubs or even combination maven-hubs. So, despite the fact that person X is on the other side of the world, they can still hear about person Y's actions of questionable taste/morality, and comment in a method that may reach person Y more or less intact. The rumour mill has become part of the underlying infrastructure of spaceship earth.

But, what of priming?

Priming was previously limited simply by the potential for bidirectional propagation and the modification (or, might I posit, processing) caused by the back-and-forth. With the internets, we currently have not only a global villiage with a massive number of people processing and communicating primed subtexts nearly instantaenously and nearly constantly, but we also have a semi-permanent log of a great deal of them.

And now for something completely different. (do you believe that?)

Carl Jung is credited with the concept of 'synchronicity', which is (very roughly) defined as meaningful coincidence. Both the word 'meaningful' and the word 'coincidence' are entirely relative to the point of view and level of abstraction one is working at, obviously, but it's a nice thing to build on. Jung, in fact, didn't come up with the idea, but he probably thought he did. In the movie Repo Man, synchronicity is called the 'plate of shrimp' effect.

The normal explanation for this is termed 'the law of very large numbers': in other words, no matter how uncorrelated with reality a bias is, given enough data one can cherry-pick pieces of evidence to convincingly impose a pattern. Cherry-picking data is called a stochastic process, and is the cornerstone of science and cognition, as well as being the cornerstone of defense for all forms of dogma (anti-evolutionism, dogmatic materialism, political propaganda, conspiracy theories, fundamentalist creationism, racism, and cultural elitism, to name a few). In theory, the major difference is that dogma cherry-picks things to flatter itself and defame other dogmas while science is supposed to cherry-pick things to flatter and defame everybody on and off in turns. Synchronicity is typically explained away as starting with a meaning and ignoring all coincidences that don't flatter it.

However, does that actually pan out? The 'meaning' in the synchronicity is rarely there before it is seen -- instead, the meaning is picked out because of a few strange coincidences, and once it is picked, the number of coincidences involved expand significantly.

A certain amount of this is going to be the law of very large numbers by itself. However, a certain amount is probably going to be due to other people's research on the *exact same meaning*. For a simple example, Burroghs started a journal of accidents involving the number twenty three, which spurred Robert Anton Wilson to do the same. Both authors dropped references to the number's 'meaning' in their books, and a certain amount of the following of 23-related coincidences is probably due to indirect references-to-references-to-references (Jim Carey's movie "The Number 23" is probably not directly inspired by Burroghs or RAW, despite the trailer referencing several things found in the works of both).

There is something that is called the "net of synchronicity" -- something that a follower of coincidences starts to notice, wherein (far more than even the law of very large numbers should probably explain) certain strange coincidences seem to be highly interrelated. For instance, Burroughs connected 23 with the name "Clark", while Wilson connected 23 with Aleister Crowley, the Sirius system, and the 1960s drug counterculture.

I suppose that in a way, the net of synchronicity is probably the collective product of the interchange of primings within a somewhat interconnected group of people interested in particular types of coincidences. Wilson got 23 from Burroughs, and picked up Crowley from a friend of a friend of Burroughs, and then got the Sirius association by juxtaposing the 23 element with the Crowley element, and a good number of his contacts during that time were associated with the 1960s counterculture. In the internet age, synchronicities can piggyback upon each other, and synchronicities can become self-fulfilling prophecies due to both direct and indirect influence (subconscious anxiety on a flight 13 can cause a pilot to panic and crash rather than think critically and pull off an emergency landing, changing a happy ending into a disaster, while meanwhile a movie producer may reference the number 13 simply in order to piggyback on the existing fears surrounding it). This can happen far faster and far more complexly than without it, and a lot of the early sources are still around and documented there. Time binding is becoming far more efficient.

One can probably argue (as I am wont to do) that in a way, through these layers of both conscious and subconscious communication and processing, we are becoming sort of a super-organism. Without the internet, we are sort of like a loose colony of cells, like slime mold (which is a colony of single-celled organisms that manage to work together well enough to pass for a single organism occasionally but can easily break into its component parts, and then reassemble). With the internet, we are a much larger organism, wherein the cells (us human beans) are highly interconnected by high speed broadband axions, and wherein short term stable pattern in a continuously evolving conversation between huge numbers of nodes. This synchronicity net can both consciously and subconsciously influence a large number of people, which of course will influence their actions to some extent. Given enough time, a stable self-organizing pattern of instructions will occur, and a number of actions that are seemingly unrelated will cause a 'perfect storm' situation for a given action, which will then happen. This action cannot really be said to be the choice of any given person. Instead, this action (being quite deliberate in retrospect) is the emergent decision of all of humanity as a single entity, with no hierarchical structure being involved in the actual decision. This action in of itself may become the cornerstone of a totally new synchronicity net.

So, tl;dr: wierd conspiracy theories, wiki defacement, 4chan, twitter, and facebook are the unwitting central and peripheral nervous system for a being the size of the earth and exponetially more intelligent than any given human on the network.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Culture Bomb

this was mined with minimal changes from a thread

I may or may not have come up with this idea. I suspect I may have stolen it from GM through crypomnesia, prediction, wanking, following the same line of thought, or quantum telepathy dongs.

You all might be aware of the idea of memebombs. I frame memebombs in a slightly different structure than the Discordian Power Elite (whoever they are), so I'll summarize my model: you've got at least one memeplex (a bunch of ideas that play nice together) and one of them is probably dominant most of the time. A memebomb is a short slogan that targets common dominant memeplexes and subverts them in such a way that they either self-annihilate, become patently absurd, or mutate into something else entirely (ideally). You more or less want to target a memeplex and get behind its defenses, and then poke it until it explodes, loses an eye, or grows a new eye. In the BIP metaphor, a memebomb blows up a wall, leaving shrapnel everywhere to use for remodeling.

Alright. But there are a couple problems with memebombs. One problem is that, being short slogans, one can recognize them for what they are more often and just block them out. Another is that they only target one memeplex -- if you hit the dominant one, the next most dominant will probably try to take over, and if you hit a non-dominant one it may just give the others more power over the behavior of the person. Three, there's only so much distribution it can get before being subverted itself. Four, the form tends to make people think that anything short and clever-sounding counts as a memebomb, which is why the SOMA is full of dreck.

Alright. So, what's a culture bomb? Well, a culture is more or less a whole ecosystem of memeplexes fed to children (and adults). A culture is somewhat like a genre in fiction -- a set of cliched yet not necessarily negative or counterfactual tropes (in this case, ideology or psychology tropes) that are often found together more or less for hysterical rasins (tradition or whatever). A culture bomb is the nonfiction equivalent of a deconstructor fleet, and the memebomb equivalent of a kiloton nuke full of anthrax and mercury. The culture bomb is a full work of fiction disguised as a genre piece that, hypersigil-like, subverts or mutates entire aspects of the culture of the target audience only after the reader has had enough time to finish it, chew on it, and recommend it to friends.

There are several possible media for culture bombs. I'll suggest a few I'm considering, along with pros and cons.

American comics
Pro: absurdly rich source of material to play with, some established names who might play along, already the home of plenty of successful hypersigils both accidental and on purpose
Con: difficult to get in on, big names (big red arrow pointing to you), still kinda fringe, ascended fanboys at the gates

Pros: subverts an existing canon and promulgates your ideas in fanon if you're lucky, easy access to a reasonably wide audience, relative anonymity
Cons: thirteen year old girls aren't exactly the pinnacle of society, ideas may mutate to subvert your original intent or just sterilize it in derivative works, you need to be a fan to start out with, you have to write actually good fanfiction, anne rice might sue you

Pros: potentially huge audience, easily time-segmented so that people can be brought into the fold by fans before the intent is even fulfilled, potentially madly obsessive fans
Cons: may be even less mainstream than american comics, you need to be able to draw probably, everyone else had the same idea too after they made their blog and wiki and joined twitter

Pro: tendency towards high-frequency high-feedback communication within an imageboard can refine ideas
Con: tendency towards high-frequency high-feedback communication within an imageboard can subvert and/or sterilize intent, tldr responses

Bonus: the idea of a culturebomb might itself be a culturebomb if introduced in the right context. I'm planning to work it into a later chapter of a story.

You might consider a number of existing phenomena (historically) to be culturebombs. In fact, particular ideas have drastically modified the cultures from which they were born, in absurd and unpredictable ways.

* Nuclear weapons -- caused the cold war, the idea of mutually assured destruction, deterrent-based warfare, "purity of essence"
* The holy trinity -- people can be monotheists and polytheists simultaenously by not knowing how to count, a man can be his own son and a ghost at the same time
* Darwinian natural selection -- led to memetics, was used as an excuse by businessmen and nazis, caused some groups of creationists to ask very strange questions about monkeys

Any piece of good art can be considered a culturebomb to some extent, but culturebombs are more often accidental. This might be because people are bad at making them on purpose, or it might be because people weren't thinking about them in a way that's conducive to making them. It might also be because no one wants to make them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Esotericism: A Pascal's Wager

The Straussian theory says that for every text, there is an exoteric (or obvious) interpretation and an esoteric (non-obvious) explanation. Of course, postmodernism has taught us that we can interpret a text any way we damn well choose, given enough time and cleverness. So, there is a theoretically infinite number of esoteric interpretations of a given text.

If we assume that there is an intended esoteric meaning, then the text has an intended esoteric meaning with a given level of esotericism and an exoteric meaning that is likewise intended -- and most (if not all) meanings in-between will probably have been considered by the author. Since the number of intended meanings are finite and concentrated towards the most obvious, while the unintended meanings are more esoteric and infinite, the more esoteric an interpretation the less likely it is to be intended even in the context of an esoteric text.

Of course, esoteric meanings are important outside of author intent. For the most part, it has never really mattered what meanings were and were not intended within explicitly esoteric works, since the goal of esotericism itself is largely the multiplication of meanings within the interpreter. A pleasant experiment that is difficult to dogmatize is to use a text source from which there can be no intended meanings, and assume the existence of an esoteric meaning.

In the end, this is a dual form. One may assume that a given meaning is not intended and lose nothing, and one may assume that a given meaning is meaningful regardless of intent and likewise lose nothing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Premature enlightenment and the faith of no-faith

The initial Promethean enlightenment philosophy was radical; it has now become the status quo. As Crowley described, the spread of even the best ideas will grow batches of charlatans who have poor understanding and merely preach the faith, in this case the faith of no-faith -- a rising form of pseudoskepticism whose dogma is based on an assumption of stasis in science that is in of itself illusory and self-contradictory.

Whenever you depart from the radical -- the quick progression of ideas, and the violent changes both mental and environmental that come with it -- you become an institution and furthermore static. An organization that has calcified can no longer be radical, and that which was once dangerously progressive has become conservative and reactionary. This is the heart of my understanding of progress -- that it leaves any snapshot of itself quickly in the dust. Neal Stephenson had a nice geological metaphor for it in In The Beginning... Was The Command Line. The point stands that those who marry the spirit of their age soon become widowers -- or, in many cases, far worse: they become the delusional Norman Bates, married to the corpse of the culture that birthed them and willing to kill those who dare endanger their warped rear-view mirror.

How could this have happened? The age of reason has been declared far too soon -- but Voltaire failed to realize that perhaps the thing holding Reason back was the very worship of Reason. Early enlightenment thinking was agnostic -- thank Jefferson for the way that was passed on into early United States legislation, and by extension many of the similar documents that were modeled after it. Over time, though, the twin cores of Prometheanism -- "Nobody knows" and "Let's find out" -- were separated. The former was largely the victim of the ever-present human ego, which appears to be the largest factor (outside of a tendency for baldness and a terribly acrobatic vocal tract) separating us from the other apes; we forteans and other beautiful mutants were by and large the takers of agnosis, since it scares even the most forward-thinking of those who prefer to live in the past and tends to be considered a sign of weakness by the ones who still think throwing shit is a good way to solve problems (some shit is written, some is spoken, some is lead, and now we also have nuclear shit -- the purpose remains the same, though: put it down to lay claim to territory, and throw it at whoever dares trespass). The latter was pursued doubletime, but was somewhat useless in many cases seeing as people tend to get supporting evidence for things they already know, regardless of whether or not it is true -- it was perhaps a mismeasure of man to assume he could be objective.

Well, now that the clergy is firmly in place and the pious populous is supporting the saints and the cardinals, we can firmly expect the heretics and the theologians (which set contains the other?) to be locked up in monasteries. Perhaps a new hermeticism is needed; an alchemy of revolutionary agnosticism where reason is more tempered. We all know that when the village is global, everyone in the monastery and the trivium alike will pick the short line -- a socially constructed reality, enforced by faith: the faith that we have no faith, and need none, and that our work will lead to the elimination of faith and agnosis alike.

Hey, Mister Architect: You're number one!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Faith in Chaos

Though the net is all a-twitter with The Vigilant Citizen's shocking exposees on the Lady Gaga Code, the same blog is also known for explanations of the esoteric meanings of films of whose hidden agenda the author does not approve. To break with this slightly, I will discuss the esoteric meaning of a film of whose hidden agenda I thoroughly approve:

To claim that Pi is about mathematics is false. The exoteric plot is indeed about maths -- the main character, Max Cohen, is a brilliant mathematician searching for a pattern in the stock market; when he finds it, he is pursued by both Wall Street and a sect of Kaballists who believe that the pattern he has found is the true name of god. He has hallucinations along the way, and in the end he puts his tired overworked brain out of its misery.

The esoteric meaning, obvious to anyone who has spent a significant period of time training in western mysticism, appears to be to some extent distinctly discordian in nature. A brilliant mathematician, torn up inside looking for order in all things, decides to tackle what appears to be pure chaos. He finds the order in the chaos, and after a long trip through chapel perilous, gains enlightenment (or re-gains it) by realizing that not all things must be ordered -- the mystical transformation from aneristic avatar to balanced human being. Along the way, in hallucinatory trips and 'real world' adventures alike, he is faced with several themes: the search of light (the ain sof of kaballah is mentioned explicitly; he looked at the sun as a child and went blind, mirroring the early kaballist who went blind from imagining God's robe and its infinite spiral of light that bends space and time -- and he refinds it in part during every fade to white), the search for order in apparent pure chaos (pareidoila and the law of fives is mentioned outright by his mentor, along with the metaphor of the go board), and the backlash against his own mind for doing so (the hallucinatory and real beatings of his brain, Sol's stroke).

In a way, Pi is a very canon representation of how RAW might approach the interpretation of a Kaballist's journey through chapel perilous. The Kaballah method would involve mathematics explicitly; gematria is dropped into the plot. The man's reality tunnel becomes horribly inverted -- he is able to predict things that cannot be predicted, but he is unable to predict the otherwise expected. Only when he gives up the search for order in all chaos -- and indeed, has faith in chaos -- is he at peace. His last line of the film, "I don't know", shows his inner peace in agnosis.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Disangelion -- GAINAX and gnosis

Hideaki Anno once famously said, in response to a question about a gnostic reference in End of Evangelion, "I have no bloody clue; fanwank something". Since then, it has been assumed that most of the references to gnosticism in his masterwork Neon Genesis Evangelion were "pointless religious references", and that they were there for no reason other than because the abrahamic religions are exotic and sexy in japan.

However (though this may be the Law of Fives in action) I posit that Anno had (and perhaps still has) a far deeper understanding of gnosticism (among other 'fringe' sciences) than is usually assumed.

Point: Humanity is the 18th angel. (The seventeenth is free will, which we will get to later). Arguably, humanity is the demiurge (samahel). Note that humanity's method is science, and is otherwise incapable of the feats of reality manipulation that the angels are incapable of.

Point: There is an (otherwise entirely out of place) focus on quantum mechanics throughout the series. All the violations of newtonian physics directly addressed in the series are blamed on the peculiar properties of 'particle-wave matter' (mind you, all matter is particle-wave matter technically; the wavelengths of macroscopic objects are superlative enough that they can be discounted). There is also direct mention of quantum mechanics terms (specifically, terms for orientation such as 'top', 'strange', 'charm', etc.) in situations having nothing at all to do with quantum mechanics (such as during the discussion of Rei's early programming, to be mentioned later). This mirrors the idea of multiple layers of reality, as well as the idea that on a lower level of abstraction the properties of matter as known do not exist.

Point: The description of Rei's early life involves elements specifically similar to descriptions of the Monarch Project. These elements differ from descriptions of MK-ULTRA (particularly psychic driving, which the Monarch Project seems to be working off of). Some elements have been jumped upon as Freudian (such as the comment that Rei's subconscious is made up of "light and water" -- which sounds like a description of Oceanic Consciousness), but other elements fit better with the Monarch hypothesis.

Point: Anno did not restrict symbolism to gnosticism. Kaballah and Freemasonry are also referenced -- the Sephirothic System and the 'angelic alphabets' in the opening sequence are most notably tied to Kaballah and the Nerv pyramid is explicitly Freemasonic, as is the sequence of "dogmas" underground. Several elements belong more to hermeticism, and the entire basis of NERV and GEHIRN's philosophy is enlightenment-style 'luciferianism' or 'prometheanism'. SEELE lives up to its name, being an amusingly reactionary detournment and mockery of the Illuminati concept -- about as anti-illumination as possible, and the very model of a stereotypical NWO.

Point: The nature of the Angels mirrors that of Jacques Vallee's 'ultraterrestrials'. They are alien, supernatural, and have powers far beyond our own, not to mention the focus on eyes, light, insectoid elements (as common in DMT trips), and sexual organs in their designs, yet they come from earth in a single flap. The use of the word 'angel' in english and 'shito' (meaning messenger) in japanese highlights an important point which Anno must have been aware of -- while the japanese and english terms are different between 'messenger' and 'angel', the hebrew word is the same. To make the association triply is to imply that which Vallee put forth in Passport to Magonia and John Keel (another Keel -- add this to Chairman Keel, and the Ikari family, along with the nautical terms that saturate the naming in the series) that the angels in the old testament were in-deed ultraterrestrials of the same type as Indrid Cold and our friendly MIBs (which, when appearing in NGE, are amusingly human, and quite fallible).

Note that I don't claim Anno is any sort of occultist. After all, all of this information is readily available to anyone who looks, especially after 1988 when the internet became publicly available. However, Anno seems to know far more than he claims to know about these occult subjects. Does he claim a-gnosis for the sake of saving a long explanation using terms unknown to an average translator, in an unfamiliar language? Or does he have other reasons to hide his knowledge? Or, perhaps like Phillip K Dick, the insight came and went with his episode of mental illness.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is only one of a number of things in the popular visual media which have an esoteric meaning only hinted to by the exoteric meaning. I plan to post about more of them in the future.

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