Right up front, I have never played Pokemon Go and this is not an endorsement for the popular augmented reality game that has spread like wildfire the past week, causing speculations of conspiracy among even the most straightforward tinfoil hat accusers. And while it may indeed be a CIA plot to distract us from police killing and democratic shenanigans, or a tool of the Satanic Reptilian Shapeshifting Illuminati New World Order for some more esoteric outcome, its effects on human consciousness will transcend whatever normal or malignant purpose its current popularity is predicated on.
To be more specific it is the augmented reality itself that will have an unimaginable impact on humanity and reality. It will not do so directly, intentionally or obviously. We will not instantly be transformed, and most likely, we will not notice our transformation taking place. The lessons of augmented reality will not be explicit. They will not be a product of content or gameplay. Rather it will be the overall implicit context of navigating augmented reality that will bring about this evolution in consciousness.
As it is, most people tend to think about reality in the most literal terms. If we can measure it and define it, it is real. Despite the fact that most human experience happens outside of this mass hallucination of measurable objective reality, we still deny the existence or importance of that which remains intangible and beyond physical description. The reason for this has been quite simple. That reality is where everything seems to be happening at.
Augmented reality pastes another layer on top of that. It provides non-physical objects in real space/time that we can interact with through both physical and technological efforts. It provides rewards for doing so, even if intangible, that give that new layer of reality significance and import in our every day lives. It provides a new layer of reality in which things also seem to be happening at.
When we think about reality as a single layer of physicality, it appears to be incredibly rigid. Augmented reality will force us to think of reality on multiple levels. It will create new ideas about what is possible within reality by expanding our thoughts about what reality is. And as our consciousness absorbs this new fluidity then reality itself may take on less restrictive properties, since reality is not an external object but a manifestation of our deepest conscious ideas about what reality is.
This may seem like a pretty big leap for those conditioned to view existence through the narrow window of materialism. Materialist narratives make us subjects and victims of an external reality independent of our consciusness. Reality becomes an inescapable plot to contain and control everything within it. While there is a certain romance to admitting existential defeat, it is far from rational. The materialist narrative is just that. It is not a doctrine of absolute truth. But if it is wrong, we are potentially limitlessly powerful beings with only the limits set forth by our own imagination.
The materialist view of reality has been incredibly useful. It has allowed us to evolve from simple animals to complex technological/cultural beings. Technology and culture, and not just biology alone, are the partners of modern humans evolution. So it should be of no surprise that culture and technology will eventually do for us what we did for it, to guide us towards a complexity that seems almost magic when compared to our earliest ancestors and their tools.
This is exactly what augmented reality will do. It will remove the bumper lanes, or training wheels if you will, of human consciousness. The rigidity of physical reality is useful for learning to explore our existence, but it provides too many obstacles for consciousness to explore the almost infinite possible outcomes suggested for millennia by religion, philosophy and science alike. The fact that such limitless possibilities extend beyond our capabilities suggests that we may evolve in ways which allow us to experience those distant possibilities of reality.
Augmented reality, however, is not the beginning. The entire trajectory of human history has been to rise above any and all challenges, no matter the difficulty. We have done so through cleverness and invention. Our inventiveness began with sticks and stones, but has evolved to new layers of reality on our phones.
Soon the phones will be replaced by glasses. Then the glasses will be replaced by implants. Finally the implants will become unnecessary, as our own conscious will becomes the creative force that dictates what sort of experiences we will have.
In our waking states, we are asleep to the unlimited possibilities. In our sleeping states, we are awakened to them but have no will. The coming incarnations of reality, of universal experience itself, will be somewhere between. We will be awake to our own will and all possibilities. Choice, rather than some abstract learning device like physical nature, will guide our consciousness along its journey.
I know this seems fantastic and unthinkable. But our world would seem equally unthinkable to anyone we plucked out of prehistory to observe it. Perhaps, even, the world to come seems even more incomprehensible to us than ours would to those ancients. That incomprehensibility is often mistaken as impossibility, but that is because most of us have been conditioned to see the universe as a place of discovery rather than creativity.
I suggest that we are not worms in a universe experiencing its own corpse by consuming it, but that we are the body of divine creativity learning how to control itself one training course at a time. Augmented reality is one small step for Pokemon, and one giant leap for mankind.
Every once in awhile I like to take a look at the development of the new technologies that will lead to the post-scarcity reputation economy I have discussed here at AdvancedApe.com many times in the past. Four recent stories caught my eye and so I will share them here with you.
The first two involve light, which is essentially energy, and which makes up everything in the experienced universe.
The basic unit of light is a photon. The interactions between photons create a singularly unique signature. This signature can then be used as an encryption code. This is called quantum encryption, and it will someday replace passwords made of alphanumeric symbols.
A reputation economy will require information sharing that absolutely depends on authenticity and security, and since it would be impossible to replicate a quantum entanglement’s signature, it will be impossible to hack a system which uses them.
Manipulating light in order to create matter would free us from dependency on earths naturally occurring resources, as well as the disastrous consequences that relationship with the planet can entail. Once we can remove dependence on limited resources, we will gain unimaginable freedoms through self-sufficiency. No more wars fought for control of resources and land will be necessary when you can just replicate what ever you need right in your own home.
At the end of that last bit you may have rolled your eyes and thought, oh here he goes with that Star Trek replicator nonsense again. Well, it appears that I am not the only on, as NASA has issued a challenge calling for youth to engineer 3D-printed meals for future astronauts. They are calling the contest the Future Engineers Star Trek Replicator Challenge.
Before you protest that a 3D printer is not the same as a replicator, consider that replicators will have to utilize 3D printing technology in order to rearrange basic matter created from light into complex matter like food, pants or bike parts. You can’t make a moon pie directly from moonbeams, but with 3D printing mediating the process, it will someday be possible. And having the clout of NASA behind the technology makes it seem far more feasible to the skeptical.
Between now and the post-scarcity reputation economy, there is going to be an awkward transition period. As more jobs are automated and processes streamlined, an economic system based mostly around labor is just not going to function any more. Voices from all ends of the political spectrum and many great philosophers and scientists have been calling for a Universal Basic Income for awhile now. That is, everyone makes a living wage without having to work.
The greatest opponents of this idea are those distrust the state to redistribute wealth without creating greater problems than the ones that the proposal would claim to solve. But what if a UBI were funded and coordinated by private interests? One experiment is attempting to find that out.
It may seem impossible to imagine this working, but in some ways it already does. Consider a bowling ball or a roller rink. Those facilities provide the basic equipment necessary for their use. Sure, they could make more money selling balls and skates, but that would limit the use of their facilities to those willing to make such an investment. By providing the basics, the alley or rink stands to attract more customers, and thus do better business.
Now consider that if jobs are going the way of the cassette tape, value will no longer be produced through labor. In fact, it never really was. Value is produced through market interactions. So if labor is no longer creating value, it will need to be replaced by consumption. Buying will be the new earning. A basic living will be provided, and the profiteers of industrialism will still get to keep their mansions, yachts and child sex slaves.
And if you want nicer bowling balls or skates, you can work to create new products of your own to add to your spending power. And much of that will likely be done digitally, in the form of software, 3D printer plans, replicator recipes, information sharing, entertainment and other non-tangible goods.
The future is creeping up on us faster than we can imagine. Technological development is so rapid we cannot even imagine the possibilities that await us. It is truly a terrifying and exciting time to be alive.
I have always found transsexuals, transgendered, transvestites and other human anomalies to be pretty fascinating. I have never been opposed to them emotionally, intellectually or morally in any way. Yet in the last decade some of the Social Justice Warrior rhetoric regarding these individuals had become so absurd that I began to question the phenomena in ways that I had not before. I became skeptical of the motivations, intentions and psychological health of TTT’s. I now admit that this was an irrational reaction to something that tends to cross my wires, that is, political correctness. Political correctness is a form of puritanism that does all sort of social harm by creating opposition through extreme posturing. In this case I was so wrapped up in how awful the PC people were that I let my feelings carry over into TTT’s.
Within the last year it dawned on me that all of my criticism and skepticism of TTT’s were based on an ideology that I abhor even more than political correctness – materialist dualism. So I did what you are supposed to do when you find out you are wrong, I rethought my position.
By ‘materialist dualism’ I mean the idea that mind and matter are separate things, and that mind is just a side effect of the existence of matter, and that matter came first and means more. This belief is so widespread in the modern world that most people usually think, speak and act as though it is true without even investigating why they believe it. It is the most shallow and literal-minded narrative of our existence, but somehow it goes unquestioned by almost everyone.
Materialist dualism would state that gender, sexuality and identity are all just biological functions designed by evolution for specific purposes, and that TTT’s are are unnatural. If the unnatural occurs we usually just assume that something went wrong with reality instead of questioning of our version of it. In the case of ideological backlash against TTT’s this is exactly what has happened.
Besides the mind/matter duality, there is another false dichotomy here, which is that TTT’s were either born this way or they made a choice. Not only are both of those things true to some degree, there is a third way of considering the problem, which is that some form of imprint conditioning has played a role. What this means is that a TTT was probably born with some higher chance of manifesting their gender disassociation, then at a vulnerable point in development something flipped that switch and they later had to make a choice to what degree they would act it out personally and publicly. This is far more complex than the birth or choice dualism that most people subscribe to, and far more revealing about how we all become who we are.
The biological drive is probably the least influential factor of all. And the biological factor is what people are most focused on when they discuss the phenomena from a materialist viewpoint. This happens in a few ways. One way is that people accept TTT’s because they were ‘born that way’. The other way is that people will argue that TTT’s are an abomination because it is not what evolution and biology intended. The first is a patronizing reason for acceptance and the latter is just bigotry based on uninformed usage of biology. Yet once again we have a dualism here in which both parts are slightly true but may require a third one.
It may be that ‘nature’ or biology produces homosexuals and TTT’s for a very specific reason. Historically, I am not prepared to guess what that reason might have been, but here and now it should seem pretty obvious. There are now 7.5 billion living human beings, and that number is skyrocketing as child mortality continues to decrease, life spans get longer and parts of the world are developing in ways that accommodate rapid growth. We are multiplying at a staggering exponential rate as a species, so it would make sense for biology to rewire the reproduction drive in order not to self destruct from overpopulation.
Now I realize that what I am suggesting itself sounds materialist, but I interpret the physical world as a narrative, not a set of rules and defined interactions. And since our narrative includes biology and evolution, they must still be considered, while not being thought of as the full truth.
If you think people are getting strange now, give it another 5 billion people. By then a TTT of today will be tame compared to what happens to humans when we are no longer just genetic xerox machines. You are already seeing this as people identify as animals, anime characters, objects, etc. or have profound relationships with such things. By the end of the century there will be people who have had fourteen dicks surgically attached to them which they use only to rub up on giant silk shark puppets. And that will be pretty normal.
As far as choice goes, you have to be pretty brave still to come out as TTT. That requires the kind of decision making most people could not even begin to comprehend. Non-normality is always the least easy choice, not just to make, but to have to make at all. And I am pretty burnt out on ‘normalcy’ myself, so I can begin to understand the sort of mentality in which TTT’s start to use terms like ‘cis’ as a derogatory term for people who choose to live in obvious ways. If for no other reason that it fosters the courage to make a choice to be one of the evolutionary vanguard.
We are not just the sum of our genes or bodies or brain. Our consciousness must be larger than the reality it is required to encompass in order to do so. As such, variation in humanity is not just inevitable, it is the norm. TTT’s represent a future in which humanity learns to view itself outside of the narrow filter of materialism, which is why they make most people uncomfortable. Fear of the unknown. TTT’s are one of many signs that the near future is so relatively exotic that most people cannot even comprehend it. This is evidenced by the ironic fact both the pro and anti TTT factions are using the same metaphysical rationale to justify their opposing views.
Wherever bigotry, ignorance and hatred can be found against ‘groups’ of people, you will also find materialist metaphysics. Non dualism does not just give me a better view of reality, it deconstructs all of the petty thoughts and emotions I have labored under once I realize they are materialist in nature, and I hope it continues doing so for life. Abandoning materialism is not just about understanding our existence better, it is about making it better.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has also been addressed by non-materialists, such as Bernardo Kastrup, who works within that field. He makes a clear distinction between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness, although most materialists tend to equivocate the two, being that they believe sentience is a product of mechanistic intelligence that has reached a critical mass of complexity. Bernardo’s argument against artificial consciousness is premised on the non-dualist model, essentially stating that consciousness is primary to matter, and so matter cannot give birth to it’s own parent. Yet within his own model, there still remains a possibility for AI.
Like myself, he has argued that consensus reality is a construct of beliefs, most of which lie in deep unexamined layers of our egoic and collective minds. Certain premises and assumptions create a framework of boundaries for possibilities within this reality. What we expect at the most primary level of consciousness becomes manifest in the universe. Yet we cannot simply decide to change a single belief and see a change in reality because beliefs are all connected and must relate consistently in order for the corresponding paradigm to emerge. That is, we cannot just decide to fly, because other beliefs like the necessity of wings, aerodynamics, atmospheric tolerance and others all negate a belief in flying. In order to fly, we would have to change every corresponding belief about flight, and those beliefs would themselves need to restructure their own corresponding beliefs, creating a ripple that spread out and changed the very structures of human belief and reality. Despite what New Age gurus tell you, you can’t just change reality with good intentions and meditation.
Change can, however, occur over time. The beliefs which program our reality change over time as we accumulate and/or replace information via new symbols and archetypes. Since a widespread belief in AI has been flourishing within our memetic landscape, all it requires is a shift in the corresponding beliefs which estimate its arrival. Strangely enough, materialism may be just that set of corresponding beliefs. Materialism provides a narrative, or mythology, from which the memetic interconnectivity of consciousness could correspondingly allow new conscious entities (AI) to emerge.
The narrative of materialism is often sanctified by it’s ability to produce novel technologies. This does not mean that the materialist narrative is true, however, only that it has great utility in producing results. Things that produce great results are often untrue, as political propaganda clearly demonstrates. The power of mass suggestion creates self-fulfilling prophecies. Scientific progress in the last several centuries may owe more to the narrative and belief in science than to the method itself.
Yet this does not mean that the materialist model is superior, either in overall truth, or in its ability to produce results. It is still very much weighed down by it’s limitations and faulty premises. To observe phenomena within consciousness under the premise that those phenomena occur outside of it means we have to create a mass illusion like materialism in order to evolve within consciousness. What would we be capable of if our narratives corresponded more closely with the nature of our existence? What sort of new methods, technologies and realities might emerge if we cut out the literal interpretations of objects within consciousness and replaced them with an understanding of those objects as interacting agents of consciousness?
The success of materialism does not indicate the truth of that belief system. At the same time, the fact that materialism is untrue does not negate the power of its mythologies. AI, or artificial consciousness, may someday appear to arise out of the complexity of matter invented by humans. Yet in actuality, those entities may owe their genesis merely to the narrative of materialism. In this way we can view materialist science as complex set of rituals whose magic appears mundane because of the symbols and archetypes we have clothed it in. A magic that only works when we can describe it in non-magical language, and believe that we are doing the opposite of magic. Again, imagine the wizardry possible when no longer require such illusory roundabouts?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C.Clarke
The goal of this article is to introduce the idea that memes are to genes what consciousness is to the brain. The premises I use to get there fly in the face of mainstream knowledge, but my conclusions lead to practical advice for taking control of the destinies of the individual and humanity at large.
The materialist/physicalist model of the mind states that consciousness is just a pragmatic byproduct of the complexity of our brains; that it is an illusion used to facilitate the evolutionary fitness of individuals and species, which are themselves just inconsequential vessels for the survival of genes. Not only do I find these models of consciousness and evolution to be irrational, I find them to be cynical, defeatist and self-loathing. And they are also becoming obsolete as innovative new models challenge their ideological supremacy.
Independent philosopher (my favorite kind) Bernardo Kastrup has been working within the non-dualist paradigm to illustrate a new model of the brain and consciousness that does not stumble on materialist metaphysical dogmas. His general premise is that the substance of reality is primarily consciousness and that matter is a narrative device to give form to thoughts. Where mainstream science sees the brain as an engine driving our minds and bodies, Bernardo sees it more as a speedometer. The brain, in his parlance, is the second person perspective of consciousness, a phenomena which can only really be experienced internally by the individual. Therefore when neurologists see the brain reacting to external stimuli, they are viewing conscious processes from an outsider perspective in the limited context of their own beliefs about brains/minds. Here is a short excerpt explaining this in his own words:
The elegance of this view is that it dispenses entirely with the need to postulate anything other than the obvious: consciousness itself. We do not need to postulate a whole material universe outside consciousness anymore. Empirical reality is merely the outside image – the external aspect – of the mental activity of a cosmic consciousness, while body-brains are merely the outside image of dissociated segments of this cosmic consciousness. And what is a body-brain but something we can see, touch, measure; something with the qualities of experience? Indeed, the empirical world is the experience, by an alter, of the rest of the stream of consciousness outside the alter. It is dissociation that creates the duality between internal and external aspects. But this duality does not imply or require anything outside experience: the external aspects are themselves experiences; experiences of alters. As explained in Chapter 9 of Brief Peeks Beyond, ‘everything that currently motivates us to believe in a world outside consciousness can and will be understood as the effects of mental processes outside our particular alter, which we witness from a second-person perspective.’
Now hold on to that thought.
In his book Virus of the Mind, Richard Brodie takes a philosophical look at the science of memetics. That discipline is primarily concerned with understand the phenomena of memes, which Brodie describes as:
A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.
A meme, then, is a genetic unit of an mental entity that reproduces using the evolutionary strategies of viruses. The book and its ideas are brilliant, which is why it became such a critical and commercial success. I found the book enlightening throughout, with the exception of his insistence in the natural selection model of evolution. I think that my intelligent selection model actually works much better to pull the front and back ends of his book together, since what he is essentially proposing is that our observable reality is a construct of the symbols and archetypes we use to filter reality via our individual consciousness. A process which essentially creates our personal subjective realities and contributes to the illusion of an objective consensus reality where they overlap.
Essentially, he proposes that memes are the genes of consciousness, and that memetic therapy can be used to cure any malware of the mind caused by malignant, self-replicating memes that threaten the fitness of individuals and species.
When we think of genes, we think of tiny little instruction manuals that tell organisms how to form and behave. This is the materialist/physicalist model. Genes give rise to individual organisms and species in the same way that brains supposedly generate our minds. But how should we approach genes in a non-dualist model of consciousness and reality?
Earlier we explored the idea that brains were just second person perceptions of the first person experience of consciousness. Rather than the engine, the brain was an instrument panel showing the activities of an individuals consciousness. What then if we were to similarly view genes as the second person perspective of the first person experience of memes?
In this model, instead of saying that a gene caused you to have green eyes and red hair, those traits are a part of your memetic structure. A person’s genes are just physical manifestations of the memetic components of that individuals consciousness. In other words, a gene is a thumbnail image of the symbols and archetypes that you are made of. Your physical self is the image that those thumbnails represent, yet you are not the image of you. You are the thinking, feeling and creative being who can only be experienced by other thinking, feeling and creative beings in the form of the image constructed of ideas about you. Those ideas are memes.
If a meme acts like a virus, then it has two possible outcomes. It replicates itself as wholly as possible in as many hosts as possible -or- it makes innovative copies of itself that sometimes improve the fitness of itself and its host, and sometimes make it non-viable. Learning to recognize what a memes most likely outcome is, we can make conscious efforts to resist the kinds of viable memes that have no innovative qualities, and thus no benefit to their host. If we look at evolution as the march of memes through time, and we are able filter out malignant memes and accept, share and create useful ones, then we have the capability of shaping the evolution of ourselves, our species and our reality.
At the same time, memes also present an existential risk. Toxic memes can create a viral epidemic that harms our species and environment. Our culture has adopted memes that take the form of macro images and macro slogans. These meta-memes make us susceptible to absorbing and spreading memetic information compulsively without examining its properties and consequences. What we generally call a ‘meme‘ on the internet is sort of a virus that makes us consume and spread memes voraciously without any awareness. It invites the sort of apathy that turns memes from a useful tool for willfully evolving, into viruses with no other goal than to make their hosts just as blissfully ignorant of their own existence as they are.
Memes can either infect us with intellectual zombi-ism or pave a path to the stairway to heaven. The distinction will be a result of our ability to recognize them and utilize them consciously. Our pattern for validating and reinforcing the compulsive uses of memes and meta-memes is a frightening harbinger. Yet the power of memes means that beneficial memes like this article and its concepts are able to stem that tide and put us in the cockpit of our own evolutionary destiny.
I am not a scientist. This article is not an attempt to create a scientific hypothesis. I am a shaman, and the following ideas are a philosophical exploration combining the paradigms of evolution and non-duality.
Evolution is change over time.
Non-dualism is the idea that mind and body are one substance.
Materialism, the current metaphysical model under which most mainstream science, philosophy and psychology rely on as the underlying premise of their hypotheses, tells us that our mind (consciousness) is little more than a complex illusion arising haphazardly out of the complexity of matter. It dogmatically insist that everything you think and feel is just some side effect of having a brain, which itself seeks only to trick us into taking care of our bodies. In evolutionary terms this care is referred to as ‘fitness’, and materialists insist that the ‘illusion of mind’ produced by the brain has no purpose but to seek fitness. Our joys and pains, our ecstasy and despair, all of these are just meaningless phenomena whose purpose is solely to survive and reproduce. You are not important. You are just a link in a causal chain that has no purpose or destination. Everything is an accident and your existence means absolutely nothing.
As you can imagine, die-hard materialists are a lot of fun to talk to at parties.
The materialist model of evolution, known as natural selection, similarly insists that evolution occurs only to increase the fitness of a species. It has no value to individuals, but is just a way of nature seeking further complexity by favoring the survival of mutations that increase fitness. Once again, materialists want us to believe that evolutionary adaptations are just random events, meaningless and irrelevant to individuals, serving only to increase the complexity of almighty nature.
The Judeo-Christian model of evolution is called intelligent design, and its proponents claim that evolution is the gentle push of an all-powerful, human-like deity perfecting its creation over time.
In both cases, evolution is something happening to individuals and species by an external force, for the purpose of fulfilling its own momentum and desires. Natural selection and intelligent design both presuppose the same idea, that is, that change over time is imposed by something outside of the things which experience and manifest that change.
What I propose instead, is that the things experiencing and manifesting evolution are at least partially responsible for the changes/mutations affecting them.
When I write fiction I generally start from a basic idea. A scenario and a few characters prime my creative pump and as I begin writing, the narrative seems to unfold before me as I hustle to keep up with a story that is marching along from the momentum of a single push I made. The same happens when I write music or make visual art. The process of creation is often like pushing a boulder down a mountain. Once you unlodge the rock from its resting spot and get it going a bit, the rest of the journey mostly takes care of itself. Yet this does not mean you will be able to control the path, velocity or final resting place of the boulder.
Non-dualism states that consciousness is the fundamental source of reality, not matter. This is not reverse materialism, as matter is not considered an emergent property of consciousness, it is simply the language which expresses the symbols and archetypes of consciousness. As these symbols and archetypes become more numerous and complex, so does the language which expresses them.
This is what I mean by Intelligent Selection. It is the idea that as the individual and collective symbols and archetypes increase in complexity, the narrative itself evolves towards complexity. And this change is manifested in reality (nature) slowly over time. Evolution.
Unlike the evolutionary paradigms that require something external to that which is evolving, Intelligent Selection supposes that how we live, think and feel creates a momentum which selects traits for the fitness of individual experiences over time. In this model we are no longer floating in a sea of meaningless accidents with no purpose. Our reality and our selves are very real. Our experience is not just some illusion, but a quest to see harmony and pleasure, and to create more of it over time for ourselves and those who follow in our footsteps.
Intelligent Selection eschews the inherent nihilism of natural selection and the predeterminism of intelligent design. It puts our experience and will at the forefront of our existence, rather than relegating it to subservience to the experience and will of an external agency. We are not accidents. We are the story of eternity unfolding itself through our individual experiences and interactions. The universe is a stage in which we write our own parts, expanding on the narratives of those that came before us, while setting the stage for those who will come after.
Only intelligent selection is able to accommodate the narratives of the objective and subjective. It is inclusive of science and spirituality. It does not compete in a brutal environment for dominance. It just takes the best parts of all that we know and combines them in a way that contributes to, rather than detracts, from those narratives.
Understanding the ways in which our symbolic and archetypal narratives create the reality we experience is a way of taking a more conscious approach to guiding our own evolution. Unlimited vistas of experience await us, and we are lucky to be participants in their creation. Evolution is not something happening to us; it is a tool for us to get something happening.
Please submit your appreciation and/or criticisms in interpretive dances, paintings and poetry.
I spend quite a bit of time writing about the problems of philosophical materialism, that is, the idea that the universe is essentially nothing but matter from which consciousness just emerged out of dumb luck. While some people dismiss these concerns, not because they support philosophical materialism but because they think it is a non-issue, ideologies tend to bleed into cultural landscapes in ways that create issues we can all understand to some degree. The idea that existence is nothing more than a collection of interacting objects, a swirling cosmic mass of thing debris, empowers an ideology that only material goods can make our lives meaningful. This cultural obsession of mindless mass consumption is itself often called materialism, and it is a threat to human values and environment alike.
This kind of materialism has littered our psychic lexicon with status symbols, unhealthy attachments to objects and greed. It reduces day to day living into a maze of desperate economic activity. It enslaves us to a lifetime of meaningless employment we then justify by a misplaced pride in the size of our cage and how much booty we have dragged back to it. It has led to an economy of planned obsolescence and symbol over substance, while it instigates the vestigial evolutionary instinct that MORE IS BETTER!
One of the ways that ‘more is better’ plays out is not even in the actual consumer goods we purchase, but in the needlessly bold packaging of them that we justify with misguided notions of quality, safety and convenience. Manufacturers use excessive packaging for many reasons. They use them to protect their goods from the environment and as a simple precaution against damage during transport. Yet even these reasons cannot explain the hyperbole with which we package our goods, and the bigger culprit here is marketing. Consumer goods marketers look at flashy packaging as adding appeal and value to their products. A gaudy toy with no real play value can be wrapped in a plastic shell that gives it the appearance of being the most fun thing a child will ever own. After all, it must be great, or why would they put so much effort into packaging it?
Although safety and product protection are legitimate concerns, the ways in which they are addressed is often predicated on faulty thinking. Where hard plastic shells are made to protect goods from shipping turbulence and deter theft, the same things can be accomplished with reusable packaging supplies and clever retail displays. Safety is generally the reasoning given for the excessive packaging of food items. But locally sourced foods and careful storage and handling can do more for safety than any amount of packaging can, the number of regulations requiring certain types and amounts of packaging leads to mountains of unnecessary waste. And industrial farming practices mean our foods must travel long distances over long amounts of time. The amount of packaging in a fast food meal, from farm to table, far exceeds the mass of the meal itself.
And yet it is not just regulatory systems and industry that is to blame. The consumer, for their part, continues the legacy of waste in their own insistence that everything is packaged for their maximum convenience.
If you have ever worked in retail you know exactly what I am talking about. In my own retail experience I have seen people justify their own mindless excess on countless occasions. I have sold items the size of a cigarette box that the customer insisted they needed the large plastic bag with handles on it because that would make it easier to carry. How hard was it to carry without that? Is this a real concern that justifies another link in a chain of endless waste? I have heard customers explain that they needed a bag for a single durable item for the most mindless and bizarre reasons imaginable. I have sold people backpacks or other bags that they then wanted me to put inside of another disposable bag. I have received requests for point of sale packaging from folks who were buying a small item with the word ‘pocket’ right in its name. There is no end to the frivolous justifications for waste I have encountered in my lengthy retail experience.
Yet there is one packaging request I find more aggravating than all of the rest, and that is gift wrapping. It is not even that gift wrapping creates large amounts of waste relative to other over-packaging concerns, but more that it bespeaks the compulsive mindless culture of excess in all of its most ignorant and unexamined ways. From what I can tell there are two reasons to have a gift wrapped that make even an inkling of sense, and they are:
To store a gift in plain sight over an extended period of time, like a present that sits under the Christmas tree tantalizingly for weeks before it can be opened, adding value to the gift via an element of restrained curiosity fulfillment.
For the person giving the gift to say to the person receiving it, “Hey, I spent a long time choosing just the right gift for you, and then more time meticulously wrapping it and decorating it to show you how much you mean to me.”
When you rush into a store and buy a gift at the last minute and then make the sucker behind the counter spend excess time on your purchase by wrapping it for you, what that gift now says is, “Here, I fulfilled the symbolic gestures I am culturally bound to abide, now can I be done here?” That kind of compulsive consumerist gifting is less a way of honoring people than it is crossing them off your list so you can get back to consuming for yourself. It is lazy, thoughtless and carries a hint of insult and mockery with it.
I am not sure if the climate has been altered by human activities or not. While I suspect that it is possible, I also know that environmental alarmism has been used as a tool by the most environment-damaging industrialists as a way of selling legislative gambits that actually benefit the worst exploiters of our planet without causing any meaningful paradigm shift that realistically addresses the potential issues. What I do know for certain is that you don’t shit where you eat. There is an entire continent of human-created waste afloat in the Pacific ocean. The entire face of the planet is covered in the debris-wake of human consumerism. Even the most remote areas of the world contain evidence of humanities excessive consumption cycles. And at the same time, we have tore up the face of the planet to gather the resources lying beneath in ways that are both unsustainable and potentially disastrous at this rate. This old world may be pretty tough, but it may not be tough enough to weather our arrogant abuse of it indefinitely. Everything has its limits.
Packaging reduction alone will not save us from the potential consequences of reckless unexamined materialism, but it is a good place to start. It represents some of the most mindless and excessive exploitation of earths resources, and an awareness of the issues and concerns involved of that could beneficially bleed into our materialism problem in general. And while I also believe that post-scarcity technologies could free us from this destructive path, and that our world is more than just an object and could potentially be restored through humanities conscious willpower, we are not there yet. To get to our next stage of evolution we might have to recognize and correct our current follies. Being mindful of the bigger picture and how everything in the world is connected to everything else in some complex way is definitely part of that evolutionary process. A great place to begin changing our perspective and habits could be as simple as considering the folly of mindless consumerism at the most basic level by unpacking our pointless predilection for excessive packaging.
Back in 2004 I wrote a pamphlet entitled The Malcontents Manifesto. It was a sort of unified theory of all of the ideas I was attached to at the time. It is a quasi-religious tract that sits somewhere between the Principia Discordia and the Unabombers Manifesto. It is a rough synthesis of absurdist philosophy, panentheism and anarchism. Many of the ideas contained therein I have since abandoned. Some I have abandoned and then later recaptured. Most notable is that since this writing I have gone from a sort of leftist primitivist anarchism, filtered through libertarianism, and eventually landed in the camp of Anarcho-Futurism, where I sit today.
This tract was written and compiled before I was very internet savvy. Instead I chose to use the old school DIY zine format to get my message out there. I printed the scripts and then pasted them to patterned paper. I then went and got them printed from these ‘plates’ and distributed them to anyone I could get to take them. Since I was the owner/operator of a local headshop, it was not difficult to find folks to pass them off to. Hundreds of copies are now floating around out there somewhere and one was even archived at the University of Iowa Special Collections.
I reprint this here at Advanced Ape in the interest of highlighting the evolution that has occurred in both my ideas and my writing. I submit them for review by those who might possibly enjoy seeing a major part of the path I have taken to get where I am today as a thinker and writer. Parts of it are terribly embarrassing, while others still incite and inspire me. I have done my best not to change it, except a few minor tweaks to fix absolutely unreadable bits, which I could count on one hand. I have also provided photographs of the original plates that I used to print the original zine version. Whether it brings you laugh-out-loud revulsion or inspiration, I hope you enjoy this little peak into my mind over a dozen years ago. I can only imagine how I will feel a dozen years from now reading the things I wrote recently!
Page 1 (Cover)
The Malcontents Manifesto
A Book of Discontent
as revealed to Joshua Scott Hotchkin
Philosophy, politics, religion…
Nothing is safe when The Malcontent gets his say.
A guide to freethinking.
If you think that everything is okay, reading this might be dangerous to your false sense of comfort and security.
Page 2 (Front inner-sleeve)
What you are about to read is utter nonsense, but that’s no reason not to read it. In fact it’s precisely why you must read it. If you think that the answers to the questions regarding existence can be summed up in nice shiny logical statements, then you may never get the punchline. It’s a fool who chooses his logic to the sound of his own laughter. The reason I have went through all of the effort to produce this is not for your (the reader’s) benefit. It is simply the case that I must purge myself of all this excess nonsense so That I may move on to newer more exciting games of nonsense. Maybe, if you are anything like me, you will find something in this nonsense to ease your own discontent. Or maybe it will just give you the courage to think and say some crazy shit outwardly like I have here. Actually, none of the ideas contained within are very radical, nor are they original. You will find similarities to many religions and philosophies here. Hoever instead of a model of existence relying on esoteric superstitions or cold in human logic, I have used discontent to ‘solve the problem of the question of existence. Whatever that means. Everywhere you look there is discontent. The neighbors dog barks endlessly at nothing. You cannot ever eat, drink, sleep, intoxicate of fornicate enough to fulfill all of your pointless urges. And change is the only constant. Well, its become increasingly clear to me that discontent was responsible for all of this. Perhaps I am just a malcontent, projecting my own inner struggles on the whole. Either way, I feel a whole lot better knowing what I now think I know.
Book of Precepts
There is no false, this is the only truth.
There are no duality’s, only paradoxes.
A paradox proves absolutely nothing
A paradox disproves absolutely nothing.
Paradox is responsible for hypocrisy, but hypocrites are not responsible for paradoxes. Therefore all are alas free from hypocrisy and free to explore new ideas without any inner-turmoil about contrary speaking.
There can be no individual progress among individuals under the delusion that they are perfectly content to begin with. If you don’t know you are discontent, START PAYING ATTENTION.
I agree that nonsense makes perfect sense and that I am the Dungherder. I can put my foot right in the pile and get my slice-o-the-pie.
The Cosmology of Discontent Or “How we got into this whole mess.”
In the beginning there was nothing but the one mind, and the one mind was without form or identity.
The one mind was composed of every aspect of the universe.
The one mind was unchanging for many eternities.
At some point the one mind began to be overcome by a single aspect- Discontent.
Eventually the one mind, overcome by Discontent, shattered into individual aspects.
In order to maintain their individuality the aspects created the illusion of the physical universe.
The physical universe contains all of the aspects of the one mind, but the individual aspects do not contain the one mind.
Because the one mind was overcome by Discontent each aspect in the physical universe contains within it the seeds of Discontent.
It shall come to pass that someday Discontent shall overcome all of the physical aspects and they shall collapse once more to a state of one mind.
And so I have observed the nature of existence and non-existence to be not only cyclical, but paradoxically simultaneous, resulting in the absence of great meaning or ultimate truth…therefore I am.
The Parable of the Pancakes
Two wise men did come to dine within a Village Inn
The den of antiquity and patriot of pancakes
Upon finishing their meals the first wise man was gazing upon the second
Who was busying himself with an act of tidyness
The first wise man saw that the second wise man
Was dipping his napkin in butter
And using it as though it were a cleaning solution
Upon discovering the success of the solution
The second wise man did cryeth out – “Eureka!”
“The butter cleans up the syrup.”
Hearing this, the two wise men were enlightened
Pages 6, 7 & 8
An Anarchist’s Manifesto Since we are trapped in the illusion of a physical universe and therefore subject to all of its complexities, I think we should be free to discover and explore our own complexities without being subjected to one another in any manner which limits this freedom.
Human beings are individuals. As individuals we have varying interests and drives and different attitudes about our relationship to others. Some people are born with a very strong drive to seek out and win power struggles. Some people do not often feel the need to play games of order, or seek dominion over others. While some incidents during early childhood probably have much to do with the power drive of an individual, it is clear to this author that there always has been and always will be those who adopt the role of powerful, regardless of any advances in parenting that brain-pickers may invent.
Thousands of years ago the powerful and the common had a balance in which the powerful were allowed to exercise their power in a manner that didn’t detract from the commoner having control over their own lives. But the powerful were driven to as much power as they were allowed. Then at some point the common people committed atrocious acts of chicken-shitterly cowardice and began giving up portions of their own lives to the powerful. And inch was given and many light years since have been taken.
The powerful, in ancient times, declared themselves spiritual masters. They claimed to be the key to esoteric mysteries and divinities that the common were not in touch with. These divinities, it turned out, were higher beings who created us for the purpose of obedience and worship. These deities were useful inventions by which the powerful introduced the master and dog concept. With the powerful as intermediaries between master and dogs, they gained a status not granted to common man. And using fear the powerful were able to subject the common man to his own fancy. (This author believes that games of power and status are mostly male orientated/invented traits.)
Now that the powerful have franchised the common person to positions of obedience through fear and insecurity (Alas, the Gods had not made us equal, an idea very useful for exploiting privilege.) they were ready to expand upon their domination. So they created geographic boundaries over which they appointed themselves leaders and created and enforced policies to keep others out so that nobody sane could come in and ruin the whole gig. And thus have we brought upon ourselves the stench of religion, government and property which rob us of freedom and autonomy and set the stage for war, greed, prejudice and hatred.
For the next several thousand years the powerful refined their control. ‘Dark ages’ are interrupted by brief periods of ‘enlightenment’, but its never quite enough to dismantle the masters. And then along comes the industrial/technological revolution. Where the planet was once able to only support a few thousand scattered humans, we now had the resources for several billion. And the masters encouraged us to create these new human beings in larger numbers than ever before so that our hands would be tied with parenthood for most of our lives and we would hardly notice anything else going on. And certainly large populations justified the new system of human survival. -Wow, can this snake really swallow its tail!- Moreover, the more people, the larger the bureaucracy, and therefore the larger the gulf between the people and their masters. A chasm so wide they made it almost impossible, from their positions above us in their system, to dismantle.
As technologies increased and populations sky-rocketed, the community lost its purpose.They now acted merely as property lines and served very little function in creating a social framework from which humans could connect. We grew further and further apart, yet more and more suspicious of one another. Since we had lost almost all of the control over our own lives, we began exercising power in a cowardly fashion by sicking the system on one another to get revenge for the frustration we felt as a result of the system itself.
Fistfights became intolerable and wars fashionable. The ability of individuals to exercise their power, or even act on their own whims, became unthinkable. We have created physical and mental barriers that force us to deny our own truest desires. We have even suppressed the suppression of these desires. It is more acceptable to ignore one another than show love for one another, which is more frowned upon than flipping one another the bird in traffic. We deny our own animal nature and abide by rules that are unnatural to the conditions our species evolved in. We have even begun acting in a manner which is contrary to our own long-term survival.
Some of us have the malignant feeling that things aren’t right. We are aware that our lives are not brand names to be bought and sold. We have discovered that our purpose is not blind obedience to ideas larger than us, but to search out and find what makes us happy. We wish a place to live our lives in regard to our own truest ideas about happiness and fulfillment without notions of success or achievement created by others for their own selfish purposes. We wish to seek our own shelter and food, our own survival. We will not stand in line for handouts from hands that fasten our shackles.
We are taught all of our lives that it is no practical for us to feel this way. That we must accept the world as it is and conform to it. That we should lie down and take our beatings, for it is much easier than a struggle. We are told that we are weak and we cannot make difference, even in our own lives. We are taught that we are stuck. Those who abandon this loss of hope are are feared and despised by those who do actually feel weak and stuck. We are also hated by those who stand to gain from this infighting at the bottom of the power chain, for they know that we can overcome them.
They know they are powerless to control us without our own permission. We give our permission whenever we go to work at a job that does not provide personal satisfaction, whenever we pay our taxes, whenever we are silent, whenever we follow rules compulsively, even though we see no value in them, and certainly whenever we go and vote for the masters. It is unfortunate that we have come to accept the masters to such a degree that we actually take an active part in pretending to select them. And we wonder why we are a bubbling cauldron of frustration and insecurity whose lives seem dull, meaningless and over-before-we-know-it. But it is not the masters who are the enemy. As we stated before, the powerful are just acting on their own natural impulses. The masters have also become enslaved to this system. Do you think the president would rather be talking with soldiers in a foreign land than at home making love to his wife? Do you suppose CEO’s would rather be making pointless decisions in a tall building rather than lying in the sand on the beach any more than the garbage man would rather be collecting trash rather than playing with his own children? Hell no! Now think again on it long and hard. Are you free? Truly free to do whatever you wish so long as no others are harmed and you are prepared to accept the consequences? Or do you define your freedom as the ability to choose from a set of preordained choices set before you? Is that what freedom means to you?
I do not wish to end this by telling you what you should do or how you should live your life. I just want you to know that you still have a choice to live the life you have carved out for yourself and abandon the life that was prepackaged and marketed to you.
Discontent As Salvation
If you are like most people you probably have a preconceived notion that Discontent is ‘bad’, that it is undesirable and that its opposite is the penultimate achievement of an individual. It is of no surprise, as we were all similarly brainwashed through the oversocialization that is rampant in our modern society. Those who would fool themselves with the idea of having reached contentment are so far removed from their truest desires that their lives are being lived for popular notions rather than for happiness, which is not to be confused with contentment. Happiness is reaching the top of the roller coaster and enjoying it despite the fear of the upcoming plunge. Contentment is watching others ride from the sidelines and not really feeling anything because you were too meek and afraid to be willingly and joyfully alive through the act of consciously facing your own fear.
In fact, not only is contentment the greatest betrayal of human complexity and desire, but those who believe they are content are the greatest enemy of happiness because through their consent to ideas larger than themselves they have weakened the position of those displaying the true human nature- The Malcontents.
Engage in warfare with contentment everyday. Either through direct action or by simply engaging in activities that which you would formerly not have because something besides your own true desire told you not to. I do not suggest you go out and hurt anyone. As a matter of fact you can start by alternately hurling compliments and insults randomly at strangers. Play in a mud puddle like a child. Go to work naked. Better yet, don’t go to work at all. Take the day off and instead spend it nakedly ranting at strangers from a mud puddle! In conclusion and in accord with the dissolution of duality’s, contentment is not ‘bad’ or undesirable. It is simply not the best, and certainly not the only path for achieving freedom, autonomy and happiness. Comfort and security are a piss poor consolation prize for the denial of your true nature.
Those who worship the past are doomed to repeat it
How many times have you heard someone argue the impossibility of of a better tomorrow using the past as their proof? How often has it been argued that we need our masters to protect us from ourselves, and then justified the observation by pointing to the folly of humans of the past? Does an undesirable yesterday really prove that tomorrow will be just as hopeless? History as we know it is an account of only those who have won power struggles, thus it hardly serves as an objective signifier for what we could achieve if we so desired. Those who write history have much to gain by defrauding you into believing that things have gotten as good as they are gonna get. Those who worship history are forever stuck in their ruts. They can see no way to get out of this mess. But we are not stuck in the past. Tomorrow can be better than every yesterday that came before. Humanity is not doomed to repeat the errors of its past unless we actively decide it to be so. The old adage ‘Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,’ is useless in that it teaches that we should learn primarily from our mistakes instead of our successes.
Tomorrow will be whatever you make it. The decisions you make to get there need not be haunted by the ghost of human folly. Tomorrow can be the place of your dreams and fantasies if you use your imagination. Pragmatists need not apply.
The future is unwritten…
Page 11 (Rear Inner-Sleeve)
The following is a list of books, authors, organizations and other sources of guerrilla information that I find insightful and helpful in dissolving useless mental polarities. Check them out at your library, bookstore and in most cases online.
The Principia Discordia
The Church of the SubGenius
Robert Anton Wilson
The Unabombers Manifesto
Disclaimer The Malcontents Manifesto is not a substitute for freethinking. Its ideas are not to be worshiped or held accountable. The ultimate goal is to encourage individuals to think and live for themselves rather than blindly adhering to the strictures of popular culture with its systematic dogma and inconsideration for individualism.
Please copy and pass this along to your friends accompanied by your very own manifesto.
To contact the author send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please use the subject title ‘Discontent’ so that I do not mistake, and therefore erase, your email as spam.
Page 12 (Rear Cover)
The Malcontents Manifesto In which everything is explained, yet nothing is learned.
I blink, therefore I am.
In the vacuum of space subatomic particles blink in and out of existence. From nothing and back in barely enough time for the most precise scientific instruments to record their passing. Wait, did I say from nothing? How can that be? Can something come from nothing?
Of course you can’t get something out of nothing, but it happens all of the time. The universe is a lot more complex than the tiny brains we use to observe it with, so don’t worry about any of the mechanics. I have gathered all of the facts and they are not only contradictory to one another, but completely irrelevant to how I choose to think, feel and act most of the time.
Thus \, I recommend using facts only when they are beneficial in helping you attain you truest desires, and not for the tiresome practice of compulsively trying to make your point to others. This human folly of making and accepting blanket statement has caused enough needless confusion, hatred and suffering among us.
From nothing we come, to nothing we shall return. Everything else is in between.
One of the most tragic paradigms of the human intellect is that of literalism. When we fail to address or understand things beyond their face value, beyond the most obvious observations and descriptions, we not only fail to fully understand something, but gain a false and delusional understanding of it in the process. When so many of our starting premises for our opinions, ideas and beliefs are constructed from these literalist misreadings of reality, it begins to have a massive effect, one that remains invisible behind the wall of literalism we have constructed through consensus.
The most unfortunate sort of literalism is that which we apply to ourselves. When our self-concept and self-awareness becomes constructed around delusions spun out of a refusal to investigate our deeper motivations, intent and inconsistencies, it becomes possible for us to become our own worst enemies. We can be unwitting co-conspirators of everything that we despise in the world when we fail to read more deeply into our own thinking and behaviors. And we can also be manipulated by those with a better sense of the power of obfuscation through literalism. And as distasteful and painful as it may be to hear, most of us are guilty of taking things too literally or shallowly much of the time.
I could spend days discussing the ways in which literalism becomes a tool of self-delusion, but for the purposes of this article, I wish to discuss the function and meaning of positive social media rewards and how our failure to exercise self-awareness may be having disastrous consequences on our social and intellectual environments. So before I discuss how this literalism becomes problematic, let us look specifically at Facebook and the ‘like’ button and try to understand the full range of motivations we exercise when clicking it.
I do not specifically or literally like this, but I am clicking like (etc.) because…
I approve of your interest/fascination with the topic.
I want to appear friendly.
I want you to feel safe in this conversation so you continue to play along.
I have not liked anything of yours for awhile, so I will like this to remind you that I like you.
I want to remind you that I exist.
I really dislike ‘the opposite’ of this.
I feel sorry for this person and want to show support, regardless of the content of the thing I liked.
This confirms my biases.
This validates me.
I want you to like me.
I will ironically like your insult in an attempt to dis-empower it.
I like everything I see on this topic, regardless of actual content.
I appreciate that this probably annoys certain types of people.
I want to smash my genitals with this person’s genitals.
To appease The Algorithms.
Some of these reasons are purely manipulation. Some are genuine attempts at kindness. Others are measured activity for specific effect. We use likes to rig the system, whether it is the rigid social media system itself or the only loosely definable system of human relationships and social interaction. But this much is clear, ‘like’ does not always mean you actually ‘like’ something. And if we are being honest we would see that most of our ‘likes’ are either not steeped in an actual appreciation, or off of one so weak that we are watering down the nature of appreciation itself.
Human values are largely constructed from consensus. What we view as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is, at the very, least strongly influenced by what we believe others also view as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Values do not necessarily gain their worth through majority rule, but they are often formed by it. And this process is largely non-conscious. We do not walk around aware of the fact that we are absorbing other peoples values, or that we are creating them. It just happens little by little over time. There are rarely any apparent indicators of this process in the real world. Most of the reward/punishment stimulation happens in the sub-context of our interactions. But in social media, this is quite different. We are aware of our ability to reward certain thoughts and behaviors using ‘likes’ or ‘upvotes’ or any of the similar social media tools. But that awareness of the tool is becoming increasingly ignorant of the cost, long term effects and larger understanding of it. We are creating new sets of human values without really understanding that we are doing it or how it is being done. And although this is true of humans throughout history, we are now doing is at an exponentially rapid rate. We are reconstructing reality and our values at unprecedented speeds.
One can drive a car a few miles per hour and not pay much attention to what is going on around them, and there will probably not be very great consequences if something goes wrong. But when you speed up and continue to speed up more and more without raising your awareness to match, you are almost certainly heading straight for a disaster. This is true of both automobiles and social paradigms. The like button may still look and feel like a slow car, but that is because it sped up slowly without us realizing it, as often happens when we experience things incrementally relative to our position to them. That car is now hauling ass and our ignorance and/or denial is going to lead to a disaster if we don’t increase our awareness of the car, the road and ourselves.
Back to social media. The like button and its counterparts are tools that the programmers use to determine what content we will see in our feeds through calculated algorithms. This keeps their content in the range that their advertisers want. When we ‘like’ something we are setting an agenda. And when we set that agenda we are creating mainstream paradigms and manufacturing normality. And thus we are creating values. This makes social media a powerful tool for ideological revolutions. We can create new norms and overthrow old dogmas by manufacturing consent for new ideas using social media tools. Yet this requires a highly organized and self-aware set of behaviors to be coordinated by large numbers of individuals. And while that is happening, far more often social media is being used with far less understanding and consciously calculated attempt to create better values.
This is where those ‘fake’ ‘likes’ become a problem. They are working to create values without awareness that they are doing so, or even necessarily what values they are creating, and what the effects and consequences of them will be. When our reasoning for using the like tool is done without regard to the effect that doing so has, we are transforming our value systems rapidly and blindly.
This happens in a lot of various ways, but let us illustrate it with some examples.
There is a man. He is a very handsome man. Very handsome. Even a profile picture of this man can douse panties faster than a fire hose. However, this man is also very stupid and somewhat immoral. He ends up posting idiotic political ideas a lot. Most of his followers do not agree with his stupid beliefs, opinions and ideas. But damn if they wouldn’t give up a year of their life just to have a steamy encounter with the man. So in the chance that there is any hope he will notice them, they like his posts, even when they mostly disagree with them. Over time, people see all of these likes and wonder if this guys isn’t on to something. Women view him as valuable to other women, which raises his attractiveness and the ‘likes’ it brings. Men view his worldview as appealing to women, and so begin to adopt it. Over time, the handsome man has gained a following of people who would have never approved of or shared his values on their own. But the subcontext provided by his attractiveness manufactured consensus over time.
There is a woman. She is a stupid and petty woman. People show up in her post threads just to watch the train wreck. The thing is, if she suspects you disagree with her, she will either ignore you or block you. So in an attempt to stay on that horse, people like her comments and give brief nods of consent. Over time the woman becomes more certain and enamored of her idiotic beliefs. Her confidence becomes a fuel which propels her into an even greater spotlight. And the more spotlight she gets, the more it appears that she deserves it. And the more it appears that she deserves it, the more skepticism breaks down and her audience grows. As it does, her idiotic and often hateful ideas grow with her. And thus ‘likes’ that were given ironically become a force which actually empower the target of scorn.
Many people have come to be critical of the government. Therefore when we see a post that is critical of government, we like it to insure that government-critical messages are seen throughout social media. The problem is, these critical messages often contain an error in their reasoning or an untenable solution to the problem. So when we like this message based on the criticism factor alone, in order to make it more visible, we are also making the erroneous logic and poor solutions more visible. Since we cannot choose how others will receive these packages of ideas, the greater effect might be something we would not have chosen to contribute towards. Where we liked the criticism of government because we wish to see an end to that institution, others may see a message that says that since government is flawed, we need more government to fix the flawed parts. So our like actually contributes to intellectual and social momentum that goes against our values.
There are likely millions of ways in which our ‘likes’ may have such similar unintended effects. And these effects, though perhaps not intentional, are shaping the world we live in. While using social media reward tools is a conscious action, the outcomes it produces are something far harder to determine. So we should exercise a high degree of awareness about our use of this tool. We should reserve our ‘likes’ for things that we not only truly and actually appreciate, but only for those that we find great meaning in. We have cheapened likes through overuse and as a result it is cheapening our values. We may give these likes with the very best of intentions, but that is merely the content of ‘liking’. Far more influential on the world we live in than content, is context. And the context of the like mechanism is incredibly complex. When something is incredibly complex, it is wise not to use it unless you are certain it is absolutely appropriate.
This is not just nitpicking. Our world is rapidly transforming. The central tenet and ends of this transformation is reputation. Reputation is being constructed from platforms like social media and tools like the like button. If we are not very careful and consciously alert of the world we are shaping with these tools, then we are going to end up a sloppy, gaudy mishmash of accidental values that result in a technological dystopia. We are in a transition period in which the rapid construction of a new era for humanity is being formed through interactions that are happening without a very great degree of awareness. If we do not begin to exercise some self-restraint and control and start to consider our actions in a much larger context, then we are in that proverbial car I mentioned earlier, using our heads to press the acceleration pedal down instead of to look out the windshield and see where we are heading and what else is out there.
I plan to begin using the ‘like’ button much less. Almost not at all. It is unfortunate that some people will find me to be cold and anti-social for doing so. I will almost certainly be measured by the stinginess of my like button usage. My failure to provide reward stimulus in social media forums will probably get me ignored or distrusted and despised. I will likely appear to be a total dick for not playing along with the game of coercive and compulsive liking. Yet I assure you that I do so not because I do not value the contributions and thoughts of others, but because I value them too much to water them down with automata and overly obvious behaviors.
Here is how I will now be using the like button, and suggest others who share my concerns do the same. Only like original content that I completely agree with and support. If I have no connection to the person who created the content, chances are that I will not like it unless the topic/subject and the ideas about them are something I am actually truly and fully amazed by. I will never like a meme, for it comes with its own complex set of problems. I will not like comments, unless they contain content that is absolutely flooring. Liking something just because I agree is intellectually dishonest, condescending and pretentious. I will no longer like anything for a reason other than that I actually specifically and literally like the actual content concerned as well as the context which it belongs in and contributes towards. And while I am certain that this is not going to make me very popular in social media, as least I can be comfortable knowing that I am not contributing to the Idiocracy by misusing and underestimating a very powerful tool that is shaping our future whether we believe and understand that or not.
It is not the things that we intend to do that become ruinous to our species and world- it is the things we do not intend to do, understand that we did, or that produce outcomes contrary to our intent because we didn’t think it far enough through. Humans can no longer just do what feels good and hope for the best. Our civilization is far too complex and becoming increasingly so. We stand now on the precipice of enlightenment or oblivion, and only constant attention to the world around us and making the right choices based on a high degree of understanding will save us from the latter.
Ronda says to the bartender, “Shot of bourbon with a beer back, please.”
Charlie then orders, “Double shot of bourbon, no chaser. I prefer to go bareback.”
Not be outdone, Trump asks the bartender for a triple shot with a vodka chaser, explaining, “Any more than three shots and I usually end up on the floor casting vomit spells the rest of the night, but what the hell, right?”
The bartender pours the drinks and while handing Trump his vodka chaser wryly comments, “May the fourth bewitch you.”
Although my opening pun seems to explain the title of this article, it was not the inspiration for it. The title came from pulling a few keyword subjects out of Google’s biggest searches of 2015. It is an obviously blatant attempt to opportunize on the internet’s most popular themes. And while I will certainly take any traffic that comes this blogs way, I really am trying to make a larger point here. Much of what you see on the internet has its genesis in similar logic. Capitalizing on popularity without much regard to the quality or originality of content. That is what makes ad revenue and that is what gets the greatest response at websites and in social media.
Author Bret Easton Ellis, perhaps best known as author of the cult classic novel American Psycho, recently wrote a piece sharing some of the same concerns I have been having about internet culture. In ‘Living In the Cult of Likability‘ he discusses how technical aspects of social media lend themselves to an ever-narrowing channel of groupthink, compulsive approval and unearned validation. He further goes on to discuss what this means in a Reputation Economy. While I think he is mistaken in suggesting that we already have a RepEcon, he is absolutely right about what this behavior would mean to such a paradigm. A saccharine, plasticine dystopia. In the words of Quasi’s Sam Coomes…
“A cardboard world of painted skies, ’cause we all must agree to believe in the lies.”
Where Ellis misunderstands a reputation economy is that he sees the early evolutionary markers of the thing as the thing itself. A RepEcon is not really possible alongside scarcity and currency-based economics. It cannot be achieved until certain technological and sociopolitical advances come about. Yet despite the fact that we do not have a RepEcon, we do have a lot of the early indicators of one. As I have discussed in the past, online rating and review systems as well as the way that social networks are structured and how monetary rewards for online content operate are all glances into the future in their infancy. In them we can see how a RepEcon might operate, and based on that, Bret is absolutely correct to be concerned and a bit horrified.
Should a future in which reputation is the economic status of the individual ever happen, and that reputation is determined on the metrics, culture and validation symbols that are intrinsic to the burgeoning progenitors we have now, it will be a neon Idiocracy. The internet has become a bastion of pandering, marketing and manipulation. At the same time it has also increasingly become a source of identity, status and passive consensus. The combination of these things is that the most popular content is often the most calculated and manipulative garbage which then becomes culturally canonized by our most basic desire to gain acceptance. It is creating a feedback loop in which what we want and what we are given are increasingly narrowing in scope into the most basic things we can agree upon. We are told what to like, which then sends back a signal about what we like, which then is used to create more of what we were told to like to begin with. And every time these symbols travel around that feedback loop these lose more of their signal and become ever-degrading symbols devoid of any substance except that which can be exploited by opportunists as another way to manipulate us.
The sad part is that in social media, we do most of this to ourselves. The vapid patterns of behavior in Facebook and elsewhere are self-replicating patterns of self-validation and consensus gathering. From posturing the perfect life to expressing ourselves ever more simplistically through the appealing reductivism of memes, we are creating a lowest common denominator of the individual by which we are identified by ourselves and others, especially the predatory opportunists. These forms continue to reduce human experience and distill it into a picture of normality which we are then invited and inspired to achieve. The current forms of online reputation gathering and display work not to create value from the reputation of the individual, but from their acceptance of and aspiration to a false construct of normality.
And there are far more insidious ways that technology is catering to us against our best interest. One researcher believes it will be possible to derive our emotional states from how we are using our mouse. He plans to use this technology as a tool for web designers and marketers to cater to the responses of their users to certain types of content and formatting. Using the information, site administrators, content creators and advertisers can then produce online materials geared for the lowest common denominator. Big Data is watching our every move and figuring out how to best profit from it. It is spawning more and more technologies to measure our responses so they can be used to manipulate us into behaviors that profit those funding Big Data. It does so at the expense of the individual and at the complexity which drives human progress towards greater harmony by creating an illusion of harmony that is nothing more than an intellectual trap.
Where my original vision of the RepEcon was starry-eyed and wistful, I have come to see some of the catastrophic pitfalls should that reputation economy be based on the values perpetuated by the current forms of social media, internet culture and these technologies intrinsic technical structures. A healthy reputation economy requires healthy sets of human values that strive towards higher complexity, not more meaningless consensus constructed from the manipulative paradigms of the industrialist era. If our values do not improve and come to recognize the beauty and strength of outsiders, eccentrics and other staples of a healthy intellectual community, then the RepEcon will evolve humanity into a pitiful Idiocracy of desperate infantile behaviors seeking validation by denying their own individuality.
I have a few more upcoming articles about the RepEcon planned for the near future, just as soon as I get done spending the loads of cash that flow in from this blog. Don’t be afraid to click those share buttons just below. 😉
Human beings possess a great number of virtuous characteristics. Much of what makes us unique individuals are the infinite possible combinations and degrees of these virtues (and flaws). Most of the time we are able to recognize the virtues of others and honor them. We generally have no problem appreciating virtues in others that we do not possess ourselves. Yet today there is one virtue that our culture makes a great show of proclaiming the most virtuous of all virtues, while at the same time largely failing to recognize and appreciate it. In fact, those who possess it often become the subject of scorn. That virtue is intelligence.
If I said that I was good at sports or could draw or play the piano well, nobody would accuse me of being an intolerable egomaniac or narcissist. However, if I were to make any claim to, or even insinuate intellectual prowess, I would be derided and despised by people at all levels of the intellectual spectrum. I am intelligent. I worked incredibly hard to get that way for little more reward than the despair entailed by being intelligent in an unappreciative and apathetic society. Just as athletes endure the physical pain of training and artists and musicians endure the emotional pain of bare expression even while practicing, I have put a lot of painful effort into rising above the average intellectual standards of this time and place in history. This is not to say that I am one of the most intelligent people in the world (definitely not) or that it makes me a better overall human being. It is simply a recognition of a virtue I have achieved through a great amount of conscious effort over many years. Yet it is a certainty that this very writing will create the kind of backlash against me that I specifically discuss as being a major problem for our species.
As a writer for CopBlock.org I am regularly subject to attacks against my intelligence. Ignorance can be found in no greater abundance than where it pools up around authoritarianism. These attacks happen in place of a rational rebuttal of the things which I wrote. This alone is often a potent clue as to the intellectual capacity of the commenter, but their intelligence comes into even greater question when you examine the vocabulary, conceptual over-simplicity and logical fallacies that their responses consist of. Even worse is that they judge my intellect (rather than my ideas) not on its own merits, but on the sole basis that I disagree with their opinions and worldview. The wider the intelligence gap between myself and the commenter, the more voraciously vicious and resistant to reason they become.
That some people have a lower capacity for intellectual pursuits is not itself problematic. What is troublesome is the inability for people to recognize intellects greater than their own, and for them to center their attack based on their ignorance of intelligence. I would not expect people to agree with another’s opinions or worldviews based solely on a judgement of their intelligence. Yet when people fail to consider new information and ideas due to an underlying prejudice against those who disagree with them, which they falsely equate with intellectual inferiority, they create a feedback loop of circular reasoning that reinforces and strengthens their ignorance. This is the most surefire way to obtain and maintain a state of stupidity. When you ignore or deny everyone who might be able to teach you something new or how to see things differently, you create yourself a trap in which your evolution and growth are stunted completely. And this is now occurring at an exponential and alarming rate.
This growing pattern has created a hostile and dangerous trend in our society. An increase in the sum of human intelligence does not require everybody to rise above average. History is full of individuals whose singular efforts were able to bring new knowledge and its resulting applications to all of humanity. All that was required of humanity was to recognize, respect and trust those geniuses and their ideas. The dependence on a tiny fraction of individuals to recognize and solve the worlds problems and questions has worked tremendously well in moving our species ever ahead. Yet as the trend of denying and even despising superior individual intelligence has rendered useless a resource that our species has always relied upon most for progress and clarity.
As intelligence itself becomes a less acknowledged and respected trait, it faces extinction. Devaluing it, or instead valuing a false symbolic replacement, means that it will decrease as a selection trait for breeding partners, which leads us down an evolutionary path to self destruction. When we fail to respect and honor intelligence we remove the motivation for individuals to seek it out and attain it through hard work. Finally, it diminishes any examples of intelligence which could inspire future individuals and become a basis for their own explorations. We are quite literally creating the perfect evolutionary conditions by which the virtue of human intelligence could become extinct.
It becomes necessary to ask how we got to this point. While public education, mainstream media and the other tools of the oligarchy are obvious targets, I suspect a far more insidious threat has recently become a massive part of our collective consciousness. The problem I am discussing is our increasing tendency to replace substance with symbols. Like the Scarecrow who can only recognize his own intelligence after the Wizard of Oz gives him a diploma, we have come to identify symbols for intelligence as being intelligence itself. The top down bureaucracy of modern society has created an ideology which reframes intelligence as a commodity. It has become the consumption and acquisition of these symbols that we equate with intelligence. Our lauding of intelligence as the ultimate virtue serves only to pay lip service a concept that has been rendered meaningless in the semiotic confusion surrounding it. We have redefined intelligence in accordance with our widespread vapid consumerism, or at least, have allowed it to be redefined thusly for us by those who profit from that ideology.
No where is this symbol over substance problem more apparent than on the internet, especially in social media and comments sections. The internet has acquired a wealth of symbolic baggage that replaces or attempts to dismiss critical thinking, rational argumentation and the cogent expression of complex ideas. It has become a veritable battleground of compulsive reductivism, where every aspect of human experience is distilled down into a MEME. And when we are not busy oversimplifying complex ideas in image forms, we use a limited vocabulary of buzzwords in place of a rational response. Rather than consider somebody’s thoughts and ideas, we dismiss them as being BUTTHURT and then walk away as though victorious. Since emotional states are subjective individual phenomena, they cannot be measured externally by those not directly experiencing them. So it is logically meaningless to make conjecture about another person’s emotional states for the purpose of attributing the products of their intellect to them.
The internet has created an entire language and method for dismissing those we disagree with for the very worst and most misguided reasons. And since the frequency of this behavior increases all of the time, we are spending ever increasing amounts of time and effort contributing to our own dumbing down. We become ever more proficient at practicing our ignorance with great efficiency, thereby alienating ourselves from and destroying the intelligence needed to save us from this self-perpetuating cycle. Unfortunately, these behaviors are now transcending the internet and becoming part of our in-person interactions and penetrating the entire fabric of our culture.
The fictional world of Mike Judge’s prophetic film ‘Idiocracy’ is increasingly becoming our reality. Ignorance and symbolic impostors of intellect are celebrated, reinforced and rewarded, while genuine intelligence becomes more and more alien and unrecognizable. Many people can no longer even recognize the authentic substance, let alone exercise healthy ways of reacting to it. If Einstein were alive today it is not unthinkable that his genius would be met with the assessment that his ‘shit’s fucked up and he talks like a fag.’ This momentum is creating a real-life Idiocracy that, if unchecked, could lead to the destruction of our entire species and planet. In the modern world, an Idiocracy could not exist long. We rely on intelligence for things as basic as maintaining nuclear power plants which would, without the attention of intelligent humans, create an existential risk of massive proportions. We could very literally self-destruct from our own de-evolution into willful ignorance and prideful stupidity.
Despite the fact that I just went into great detail explaining the grave danger of the rising ignorance of intelligence, I am certain to be subjected to the very behaviors I just warned against. People will still take the opportunity to prove my point by responding in the very ways I have rationally deconstructed for them. Like children at arcade without quarters, they will insist they are winning when they have failed to understand even the most basic facts about the game. Their pointless button-pushing and joystick movements will come in the form of responding with memes or the old ‘yer just butthurt’ and their victory statement will be the frustrated child’s cry of “Nuhn uhn, YER STOOPID!”
And yet I must seriously consider that to be the case. If I were really all that smart I might attempt to destroy the very fabric of the universe and spare us further shame and misery, instead of making feeble attempts to help our species rise above its own ignorance and the doom it entails. Maybe all those super villains had it right.
My interest in the philosophical implications of chaos and order were piqued in 1998 when I first read The Principia Discordia, a humorous book produced by an absurdist religion based on an arcane bit of Greek mythology. Discordianism is the faux worship of Eris, goddess of chaos, and while it is thought by many to be a merely satirical piece of surrealist art, its metaphors resonate on a level of great truth. Yet it would be difficult to understand these truths if one were to hold onto the mainstream misconception of chaos and were unable to distinguish it from disorder.
Let me explain the difference in the most basic terms possible.
Chaos is a large grocery store with every ingredient ever imagined from which an endless amount of possible food combinations could be used to create unique meals.
Order is the shopping list, the recipe and the process of prepping and cooking. And sometimes you get a tasty meal.
Disorder is when you get something else. Disorder is when the meal is inedible or poisonous or burns the kitchen down in the process.
Disorder is what happens when the conversion of chaos to order goes awry. Which becomes more likely each and every time you apply order, and becomes a certainty when you apply it destructively (more on destructive vs. creative order below). Disorder, distinct from chaos, is usually what people actually mean when they use the term chaos. However, the failure to be able to distinguish means that people react to disorder by attempting to bandage the wounds it creates with a misapplication of order.
Let us examine the Principia Discordia’s retelling of that arcane Greek myth:
THE MYTH OF THE APPLE OF DISCORD It seems that Zeus was preparing a wedding banquet for Peleus and Thetis and did not want to invite Eris because of Her reputation as a trouble maker.
This made Eris angry, and so She fashioned an apple of pure gold and inscribed upon it KALLISTI (“To The Prettiest One”) and on the day of the fete She rolled it into the banquet hall and then left to be alone and joyously partake of a hot dog.
Now, three of the invited goddesses, Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, each immediately claimed it to belong to herself because of the inscription. And they started fighting, and they started throwing punch all over the place and everything.
Finally Zeus calmed things down and declared that an arbitrator must be selected, which was a reasonable suggestion, and all agreed. He sent them to a shepherd of Troy, whose name was Paris because his mother had had a lot of gaul and had married a Frenchman; but each of the sneaky goddesses tried to outwit the others by going early and offering a bribe to Paris.
Athena offered him Heroic War Victories, Hera offered him Great Wealth, and Aphrodite offered him the Most Beautiful Woman on Earth. Being a healthy young Trojan lad, Paris promptly accepted Aphrodite’s bribe and she got the apple and he got screwed.
As she had promised, she maneuvered earthly happenings so that Paris could have Helen (the Helen) then living with her husband Menelaus, King of Sparta. Anyway, everyone knows that the Trojan War followed when Sparta demanded their Queen back and that the Trojan War is said to be The First War among men.
The point here is that by being selective about the guest list, an act of order on Zeus’ part, the conditions were set for the disorder that was the first major imperialist war in our written history. An ever-increasing trend that has done little to enrich our existence.
Perhaps you are familiar with the adage that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could lead to a hurricane halfway across the world. This is known in chaos theory as the Butterfly Effect. It essentially describes the interconnectedness between all things and how even the slightest action could snowball or lead into much greater ones.
Yet we are a universe in motion and have little choice but to remain active. This is why Discordianism suggests that we do not create a dichotomy between chaos and order, but between the creative and the destructive. It is thought that creative chaos is more favorable than destructive order. Yet if we wished to apply this knowledge to our actions, the subjective area where creative/destructive are defined is still problematic.
However, this problem is simple to solve so long as we define the two aspects relative to the theory, and not necessarily with linguistic preciseness. Creativity is that which seeks to enrich the individual (and perhaps others) without intruding upon or limiting the choices of others. Destruction is that which seeks to enrich the individual (and perhaps others) by intruding upon or limiting the choices of others. Creativity requires and nurtures self-discipline. Destruction seeks control. The cost of that control often comes in the form of disorder. Or at least that is how it would be experienced by everybody outside of the destructive force.
It is therefore authority over others which is the destructive force of the universe. Authority is often recognized falsely as a valid attempt at order. But true order, that which is not just a conduit for disorder, comes only from voluntary cooperation and mutual consent. The opposite of mutual and voluntary is aggressive, which takes the forms of force, coercion or compulsion. Our existence as individuals is a strong indicator that whatever our meaning and purpose in this existence are derived from must have something to do with that individuality. When authority organizes force to impede on individuality it doesn’t just violate the meaning and purpose of the individual and existence, it leads us down the destructive path to disorder.
Yet because we have misunderstood all of this, because we have created a false dichotomy between order and chaos and have failed to distinguish between the latter and disorder, we have become blind to our own predicament. As the disorder spawned by our faulty outlook increases, so does entropy. There must be some limit to how much entropy reality can contain. So besides being a philosophical nuisance, the misleading ideologies surrounding these terms and concepts, may actually pose a threat to our existence. We have seen this on a smaller scale. The empires of the past have fallen, such as Rome, collapsing under their own weight. Yet a danger much greater than nation states could befall us. The advancement of our knowledge and technology and other tools of order continues to increase exponentially. The resulting disorder which may follow in the collapse of all of this order may pose a threat to existence itself.
While it is not a certainty in any empirical sense, authority could theoretically collapse our entire universe. Not just in the physical sense, but in the sense that we are conscious beings whose ability to bend our nature to accommodate authority could at some point result in a critical mass. That critical mass might be a psychic implosion of our sentient consciousness, or it might just drive us mad enough to destroy ourselves through desperate attempts to correct our trajectory with yet more destructive acts of order.
Authority is not just the enemy of an individual. It is the enemy of ALL individuals. While it may currently only have the power to damage us one at a time, or in isolated groups, it could very well snowball into a disorderly frenzy of entropy which causes the heat death collapse of our universe, metaphorically or literally. There is a threshold where they become indistinguishable.
Before we can begin to correct the problem we must understand it. And to understand it we must first understand its most basic terms. Familiarize yourself with the distinguishing characteristics of the three terms as I have presented them. Think in them and speak in them and act accordingly to them. See if it doesn’t change your entire worldview. And share them. This one seed of knowledge may be the most important lesson for humanity, a species at the cusp of its own maturity. Peering into the uncertainty of that future is perhaps frightening. Which is why we tend to avoid it at any cost. But we may not always have that luxury.
The favoring of order over chaos, of authority over anarchy, is that final attachment to our immaturity. It is like the fear we face when we first leave our parents home. Yet there comes a time to leave behind certainty and security and head out into the vast possibilities of our own individuality. And even though we may fumble and make great mistakes, we will also be learning and adapting and evolving as individuals. Authority may have been a useful tool for fashioning creative order from chaos, but at some point it becomes a detriment. This is where humanity stands. We can step out from under the safety blanket of authoritarian ideologies and accept the consequences of the learning process, or we can rot in our parents basement while we bleed the household dry with our refusal to seek independence.
Embrace chaos, for in it lies all possibilities, great and tragic. Yet with an attachment to destructive order alone, there is no doubt what the outcome will be for our universe as well as our species and everything else within it. Do not let fear or ignorance keep you dependent on authority and its intrinsic tendency towards disorder.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
The number of earth-like objects being found in photos from the Curiosity Rover continues to rise. Most recently a bear, a dog, a mouse and a bearded man were all supposedly spotted in photographs beamed back to Earth from Mars. While it is entirely possible that these anomalies are simple probable false images or that the interpretation is pareidolia in action, some believe these objects may actually literally exist there. Which is going to sound incredibly reasonable compared to the theory I am about to lay down.
For most of my life I would look into the night sky and marvel at the grandeur of it. The sheer immensity was humbling and afforded enough possibilities to keep my imagination well-stirred. Recently, however, I look out there and wonder if it even exists and is not just an illusion. Is the entire sky and the billions of points of light within it really there, or is it all just a projection of consciousness?
So what of the sky? Was Earth once surrounded by primordial blackness? Did some single phenomena cause the first star to appear, only to be followed by others as that star caused us to consider greater possibilities for the hovering blankness above? Before the invention of telescopes, were there fewer stars in existence? Did creating a tool which would allow us to see more of the sky create an interdependent belief which allowed our consciousness to form more of them? And once we created those pinpricks of light, wasn’t it inevitable that we would try to observe them more closely so we could create more complex beliefs about them, and thus widen the scope of our reality?
So lets say, for arguments sake, that everything that exists is just a manifestation of consciousness. And that the night sky itself is nothing more than a projection of our own beliefs about the night sky. If this were so, and we created tools to go and investigate the manifestations of our belief, what would we see?
What have we seen on Mars so far? Mostly we have seen the things we expected or hoped to see. Very few real surprises have appeared. Rocks, dust and evidence of water. But what if our ‘exploration’ of Mars is really just a creation? What if we are adding complexity to a manifestation by investigating it with tools we believe show us something more real than ‘mere’ conscious projections? And what if by using our consciousness to sculpt this manifestation out of our beliefs, we are mixing in other signals from our consciousness? And what if those symbols are appearing to us in photos as bears, mice, dogs, men and the other number of things we have seen in these photos?
What if existence is not a thing? What if taking reality literally is foolish, yet necessary as a tool for creating it? What if there are no really real things, but only ideological forms of them manifested in the intersection of individual consciousnesses we call reality? And what if Mars is only in our head, along with symbols, like animals and humans and other Earthly objects? What if we are terraforming the red planet with our beliefs and while it is taking place random symbols from our consciousness are filling in the blanks until we create a more complex picture? What if the entire night sky is just a blank canvas which we paint on with our beliefs?
Does that sound crazy?
Okay, maybe it is…but what if it is also true? What then of alien species? If an alien species were created from our consciousness and beliefs, what would that mean for humanity? Consider a few things here. First, we would have to imagine a species more intelligent than ourselves, as any ‘aliens’ capable of reaching us first would have to be more intelligent, according to the narrative of our beliefs. In artificial intelligence theory, the point at which a computer can create a computer beyond our ability to understand the new technology is called a singularity. There are any number of theories about what would happens to humans after a singularity, after our own intelligence is surpasses by one superior to us. Many of these theories do not bode well for what might become of us, while others just leave us so transformed we would be unrecognizable to our current selves.
So what if we were to manifest a species more intelligent than ourselves, who could then manifest a species more intelligent than itself, and so on? Would this be a way of rapidly increasing the complexity, interconnectedness and size of our own consciousness; or a way toward extinction through obsolescence?
Or what if we are the product of an earlier manifestations consciousness? What if the only thing evolving is consciousness and we take its manifestations so literally that we believe the manifestations are evolving themselves?
So the next time you look at the stars, try not taking them literally. Or anything else for that matter. Even if they do exist as actual matter that preceded human consciousness, you are missing out on a lot of interesting ways to view your tiny little insignificant corner of existence by only experiencing stars, and reality in general, in this way. And that you are experiencing something at all is pretty much all that any of us know for sure.
This is the first in what will be several articles regarding the Game Metaphor, so let me start by explaining that. It is really simple, actually. Just imagine the world, the universe and all of reality is the most complex game in existence. Not literally, but metaphorically. Not that this existence is an actual game, but by studying reality in the language of games, we can understand it in useful ways. Since video games are the most complex form of games, it is that model I have found it most useful to draw metaphors from, even though I am not at all a video game enthusiast.
Further explanation of the Game Model will be provided as we discuss reality through this lens. Where we will begin is via an explanation of the people who exist within this reality. I have long noticed that a great number of people tend to display a lower amount of sentience. They possess less metacognitive facilities (thinking about thinking) and display less awareness of their selves and their environment. However, this distinction is not so much about intelligence as it is about the ability to perceive and process.
For this reason I think that any scale of a persons sentience would be far less like an IQ test and much more like an obstacle course. Highly sentient people move with grace and purpose stealthily through every day life, whereas many people are prodding, poking, fumbling beasts who seem to be navigating the world with toddlers body and mind. I can spot a low sentience being whenever an individual or groups crowds needlessly together, especially in busy passageways or near choke-points like doors or intersections. The highly sentient person cracks a door and slips through, while the low sentient folks open it all the way and then amble through. The lowest sentience types may even just stand in the doorway holding the door, despite the fact that there is a reason that the door exists, which is to separate things inside from those outside, like bugs or temperature. While I used to think that these people were merely stupid or selfish, I now see that they are quite unable to understand the bigger picture and thus the context in which their behavior is not in line with meaning and purpose of things around them. You may think I am just venting about a pet peeve here, but how we react to our environment really is an indicator of our awareness.
If you have ever played a game, you have undoubtedly encountered non-player characters (NPC’s). NPC’s are those figures in a game who do not represent a game player. They make up the shop keepers, the townspeople and the other game characters who are more like props than they are like actual people. They are mere functionaries, serving a specific limited purpose in the game, from selling magic swords to simply filling the empty space. If you have ever watched these characters react to the game environment you have likely noticed that they either have very narrow behavioral patterns and that these are often graceless, blocky and clumsy. Exactly how low sentience humans behave. So this was my first clue that reality may have its own NPC’s, those who I earlier labeled low sentience individuals.
For a long time I have been concerned with predeterminism and free will, specifically, which of these is the correct way to view human behavior. I had argued very heavily against predeterminism, predicated on the fact that I could logically deduce that predeterminism necessitated a serious self-contradiction. However, this was also centered around the idea that humans were logical beings, which was an obviously flawed precept. It was when I began to use the Game Model that I realized it was not an either/or proposition. I began to see us as programmed with a basic set of scripts. Evolutionary traits and instincts are part of every humans composition. Yet in some the ability to break free of this limited programming and act as conscious agents with full volition will occasionally manifest. However, since it does not in most folks, predeterminism really does steer many peoples behavior most of the time. Thus, reality has its own share of NPC’s, that is, individuals with limited scripts and an inability to expand them on their own. Often it seems the only drive for these game entities is to fancy up their Avatars, which is the reason for a civilization increasingly engaged in so much materialism and compulsive consumerism.
And then there are those who, through some combination of accident and self-design, become more aware of the bigger picture. Their own awareness and that of their environment expands until their behavior becomes a measured action in response to their environment and not just a prescribed reaction. Unlike NPC’s who play the board one move at a time, a Player is the person who who looks many moves in advance.
However, there are not just Players and NPC’s, but also Programmers. Where Players are those who evolved beyond their initial conditions as a NPC (the true meaning of Original Sin or the Fall From Grace), Programmers are those who have evolved past merely playing the game into shaping and creating it.
Reality is nothing more than our collection of beliefs about reality. Reality does not exist, but is in a constant shape of flux, being recreated in every moment of our existence. So if you want to change reality, you have to change what we believe about reality. This is not easy, since you cannot change any single aspect of reality on its own. I could not, for example, change the color of the sky simply by getting a majority to believe it was a different color. The color of the sky is an interconnected belief, dependent on many other beliefs about reality. To change the color of the sky you would need the belief that does that to be consistent with other beliefs, which is to say, you would have to change a greater number of beliefs to do so. This is why we cannot magically recreate reality with our will, as some New Age adherents often propose. We cannot do so because every aspect of reality is dependent on many other aspects and requires a great consensus in order to manifest.
And this is the very reason why the world needs NPC’s. They are those whom, by imprinting new beliefs upon them, become the sort of canvas on which reality is painted. They are, in effect, the battery that powers reality through their belief. So while my ranting may seem an effort to justify the superiority of some individuals over the majority, that is not my intention or belief. What I am attempting to illustrate is that our Universe is not an object. Existence is not a thing. It is the numerous manifestations of the consciousness within it, of which we are all agents. And as agents, we have different roles to play. And as such, it is necessary that we not exhibit the same levels of sentience as one another. It is the contrast between levels of awareness which allows the game to evolve, rather than being stuck in the same game screen forever.
This is why certainty is bad. Certainty is a glitch in the programming which prevents evolution. Modern people seek what IS true rather than what CAN or SHOULD or MIGHT be true. However, what IS true once belonged to those other categories. Be defining reality as a permanent structure, we are making it so. By empowering people a sense of false intellectual equality, we are preventing programmers from instigating further evolution by imprinting new realities on NPC’s who think they know it all, or at least that all can be known as eternal objective absolutes.
There is no awakening. There is no spiritual endgame in the works. Quite the opposite is true. Reality is becoming more unstable. It is weighed down by dogmas of objectivity and permanence. It is stuck in its current permutation because a handful of programmers are using the beliefs of the masses not for evolving or improving the game, but to bending it towards their own narrow agendas. Their purpose is not expand the parameters of play, but to narrow them in order that they might exercise power and control.
And this brings us to the final truth, since NPC’s cannot be seen as fully responsible for or able to understand their own actions, they cannot be blamed for what they do. However, the Players and especially Programmers can and should be held accountable for the evils they manifest. That evil takes the form of authority, and so long as the only Programmers that NPC’s recognize are those in authority, the game is going to stagnate. Until at some point it freezes up and we have to power down, blow out the cartridge and restart from the beginning, as has been the case with so many past civilizations. I believe that an awareness of the functions of reality and the individuals within it can disrupt this. Recognition of the game model may be the secret weapon that allows our reality to beat the boss and level up. The goal is not to transform every NPC into a Player or Programmer, not some great awakening, but rather just refocus the content of their beliefs from ideas implanted by authoritarians to those ideas created by the seemingly insane programmers who are seeing a possible future that is at the same time unimaginable and beautiful.
“Reality is what you can get away with.” -Robert Anton Wilson
I have always wondered what a new type of music would sound like. All modern music is an extension of the history of humanity back until our ancestors first made music. I can even imagine that the invention of music is what set our earliest ancestors apart from theirs. Just as a certain physical form is inherent in the hominid species, so might a very simple commonality lie in the musicality of our species and its earliest recognizable ancestors.
It is my theory that music was an organic extension of making tools in groups. When early tool makers worked together, chipping away at stone, a sort of rhythm probably evolved. Since music is pleasing, this would have provided a sort of bonus reward for the act of making tools, besides their practical use. This would have caused tool creation and use to expand, causing a watershed of technological evolution that gave hominids a huge survival advantage. From the basic caveman drum (rock on rock) circle, it is not hard to imagine that vocalizations began to accompany these rhythms, which themselves spiraled off into language.
If in the beginning of the hominid era success was predicated on the musicality of tool making spiraling into new human innovations and creative outlets, as I suspect it may have been, then we can perhaps suggest that there is always a strong correlation between technology and music. We will explore this important connection more later.
If we could guess what music would sound like tomorrow, we would make it today. That said, there are reasons to think that the rate of innovation will slow down going forward (I know that the chances of me being completely wrong on this are huge).
First, my impression of the history of western art (of which music is a part) is that innovation kicked into high gear somewhere in the early 20th century. Before this, progress had been fairly gradual, with people making tweaks to what came before until things faded into something new, but in the 20th century, it became an explicit purpose of art to push into new territory as fast as possible. Think of art music – what’s called the common practice period, where composers used diatonic harmonies and chord progressions, lasted from around 1600 to around 1900. Then in the early 20th century, we had composers like Strauss (Elektra) starting to break up harmony, with people like Debussy and Stravinsky pushing ahead. As early as the 1920’s Schönberg had finished the job with twelve-tone serialism, and after WWII people like Stockhausen and Xenakis made sure there was nothing left of recognizable harmony, melody or rhythm as we knew it in music. This is an incredibly swift development compared to what had gone before. In the 60’s John Cage finally forced us to include any sound whatsoever in the definition of music.
Jazz saw a parallel development with a culmination in free jazz in the early 60’s, and fusion jazz in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Rock music came along, and in a couple of decades people had pushed that to every conceivable extreme, with prog rock playing as complicated music as possible, doom metal playing as loud and slow as possible, punk rock playing as fast as possible, etc.
Then of course electronic music, which people also quickly used to explore all extremes, from hardcore gabba to almost inaudible minimalism.
My impression, and this might be because I’m getting old and don’t have my ear to the ground anymore, is that most new music during the last decade or two has been recombining previous styles rather than bringing something completely new. My interpretation of this is that the 20th century brought with it a frenzied exploration of the limits of all artforms, which means that what’s left is to find new recombinations within the terrory mapped out by these musicians and artists.
Second, Philip Glass made a good point in a recent interview – he said that really new music only comes along as a result of a new process. In his example, this was the electronic organ which brought with it new playing techniques, which in turn enabled his fast, repetitive music. I think there’s a lot of truth to this – think of the invention of the electric guitar, or the synthesizer, and what huge waves of innovation followed. However, we’ve had computer generated music for a couple of decades now, and this technology enables basically any conceivable sound. It’s hard to see a new innovation that would be as disruptive.
Again, I know that people have predicted the end of innovation countless times, and that I’m very likely making the same mistake, but I hope my arguments can at least spark some discussion.
At this point another Redditor ‘o0lemonlime0o’ shares some doubts about those statements:
That’s a bit of an oversimplification. Music of 1600 is vastly different from music of 1900. It bothers me when people lump all common practice period classical into one category.
That said, I would agree that over the course of history the rate of change of music as a whole has increased dramatically. During the medieval period, centuries went by with little musical development in the western world, and now you can hardly go a year without some new genre or trend being created.
Where we disagree is in your assertion that in the last decade or two, nothing completely new has been created. If you only look at rock music, then this maybe has a certain amount of truth to it (and that’s a big maybe), but tons of incredibly leaps and developments have been made in indie, electronic music and hip hop.
At this point standard_error makes a mathematically based argument about music that is worth thinking about:
Sure, music changed immensely during the common practice period, but it did so gradually and more or less within a single framework. In the early 20th century, the explicit purpose of many composers was to break from that framework in every way possible. It is this change in attitude and purpose that I think is a large part of the reason for why so many things were explored in music during the last century.
As for recent developments, you’re probably right. Still, I can’t help to think that most of what’s new nowadays are new combinations of old ideas. I’m going to use a mathematical analogy – I apologize in advance. Think about music as a multidimensional space, where each dimension is some aspect of music. For simplicity, let’s assume that music is two-dimensional, with consonances-dissonance along the vertical axis, and fast-slow along the horizontal axis. Now every piece of music can be represented as a point on a piece of paper. My claim is that for much of history, composers were pushing further and further out along these axes, into completely uncharted territory. Today, there are points all around the edges, meaning that it’s not really possible to go any further out. On the other hand, the paper is far from black, meaning that there are still many places where new points can be placed. But these new points will mostly lie within the space explored by previous musicians. To generalize, I’m thinking about a multidimensional vector space, the edges of which have now mostly been mapped out, so that new music will mostly lie in the interior, and thus be linear combinations of older pieces.
So, have we really explored the entire area of musical possibility and have only left to fill in the blank spots within those confines?
Avant Garde musicians would argue that there are still limits beyond those boundaries. However, these limits are merely limits of sound. Outlier sound creations are often inaccessible to most people because the intense focus on pushing the boundaries of sounds tends to cast aside the more subjective aspects of music and the emotionally evocative effects that even the most simple music can achieve.
When I wonder what new music might sound like, I am not just referring to the novelty of newness, but what an enduring form might sound like. From the earliest primitive rhythms to the folk music of societies to the royal artistry of classical music, and into all forms of modern music there lies a common set of elements: melody, harmony and hooks. It is these elements which give music its emotional content and ability to endure through repetition. Merely new music is meaningless if it doesn’t gain a large and lasting audience relative to human populations, cultures and societies.
For this reason I think that future music is not necessarily always so much about exploring boundaries, but filling in aural blank spots, as was suggested above by Redditor standard-error.
It is also why I doubt that things like binaural beats will replace music. Not because they do not facilitate emotional or mental state changes, but because they do it directly, and not through the subjective process of interpretation which occurs between artist and listener. While pure forms of sound might someday become a popular thing themselves, I do not think that they are necessarily musical, or at least able to serve the same purpose or create the same kind of meaning. The subjective nature of the observer is an important part of music. It is an area of human experience where the journey really is more important than the destination.
In that same Reddit thread above, the original submitter asks a question I myself have asked: is trying to imagine new music like trying to imagine a color outside of our visual range? If the sonic boundaries have already been located, and technology has already given us the ability to make any audible sound easily accessible to musicians, then have we reached a dead end? Do the limitations of our experience of sound themselves provide the answer to our question?
Imagine that you were slowly going deaf. You were able to hear music for much of your life but it slowly faded and your musical tastes tended to fulfill the increasing limitations of your hearing. Then a new technology restored your hearing, and because the limits of that technology differ from organic hearing, your musical tastes not only changed, but how music itself sounded completely changed.
This was the case for Sam Swiller whose music tastes not only changed to reflect the new heightened boundaries of his hearing while simultaneously becoming limited by the device he now uses to hear. While one set of limitations increased, his ability to hear in general, another decreased, the tonal range of his technologically-facilitated hearing.
Here we find an interesting possibility. If the new hearing technology could limit his audio range, could it eventually be used to increase the human audio range? Many devices have increased our visual range in numbers of ways. We can now see beyond color into thermal and chemical composition. Is it possible we can expand the possible range of sounds we can experience outside of the limits experienced by natural human hearing?
As I mentioned early on, technology is a huge part of human music. The advances we have experienced in musicality have often come along as the result in advances in instrumentation, organization and even the production process itself, all facilitated by new technologies.
So is it possible that we have perhaps reached a limit of musicality that is merely a function of the limits of the human hearing apparatus, and that if we were to improve this experience by creating technological instruments that actually expand the sonic limitations of our hearing, it might allow for new ranges and complexities of sound? Can we not imagine what a new music might sound like because we do not yet have the ability to hear it? Might the re-creation of the physical equipment which facilitates the human experience of sound be the next step in music?
Truly objective absolutes do not exist. Our methods of attempting to harness objectivity largely only exist for expanding our subjective experiences of existence. In the world of forms, our ability to experience anything new is intrinsically limited by the apparatus we use to gather and perceive those experiences. However, our ability to improve, or at least expand the abilities of those apparatuses, does not yet seem to have reached the same sort of critical limits music currently faces.
With music being such an important part of our species heritage and conscious experience, it is unlikely to ever lose its general importance to humanity. Nor will we remain content to simply recombine what is already possible. So it seems inevitable that as a way of increasing subjective experience and human pleasure, we will necessarily have to replace our ears.
So then what of our other sensory apparatus? Will it be necessary to someday expand our taste palettes by replacing taste buds with more sensitive instruments, once we have combined all the known flavors and can no longer generate new flavor experiences through recombination? Sight, smell and touch might also themselves be enhanced and expanded in the future by new technologies.
Our subjective experiences create meaning, pleasure and pain, joy and misery. They are the guides by which we hack out a path into the future. In a world where technology has facilitated such rapid advances in art, our ability to experience the new and novel will have to eventually be supplanted with technologies that expand our perceptive abilities.
So does the question “What would a new kind of music sound like?” lead us to the inevitability of transhuman technology? Can we physically evolve fast enough to meet the needs of our rapidly expanding consciousness, or will it become necessary to replace biological processes by technological ones in order to continue creating meaning and purpose in our lives? And given that we must do so, what will that do to the meaning and purpose we have already created through the biological processes we have evolved through since our very inception as distinct physical entities?
And if even our core values must change to facilitate our future evolution, what can we say about the permanence of anything? Are there objectively positive and negative human experiences, or are these themselves entirely impermanent conditions? Is anything always good/true/etc. or is human experience itself a creative process facilitating its own methods of evolution?
“They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.” -Charlie Parker
In 2012 Adam Smith, 37, posted the video below of a confrontation he instigated with an employee at a Chic-Fil-A drive-thru. From his self-righteous mobile soapbox he berated the woman about the companies controversial stance on homosexuality, as if the befuddled woman had anything to do with it. Adam goes on to suggest that the employee is complicit by association, assuming that she decided to work at Chic-Fil-A in order to spread their philosophy, rather than because yuppie douchebags like him thrive on the upward redistribution of wealth created by the service industry, which forces a sector of the population to have to endure a lifetime of meaningless labor in which they are repeatedly forced to deal with entitled assholes like him. The video immediately went viral and ruined Adam’s career. See, there is hope for humanity!
Adam is now on food stamps and is widely held as unemployable. Mr. Smith destroyed his own reputation and the consequences were instant and will be long-lasting. In a reputation economy, such grossly narcissistic actions will not be coefficient with economic well being and survival.
Review sellers are those who work with online merchants to give their products positive ratings, even though they have not actually purchased the product, and if they had, would still be reviewing it with the bias of profit motive. This undermines the entire system of customer ratings and reviews and creates inaccurate information about products which undermines free market practices that help bring us better goods at better prices and which reflect our values, ethics and morals.
The reputation economy will be built around reviews and ratings. If Amazon is able to win these lawsuits, it will set a legal precedence which will safeguard review systems from corruption. Eventually these laws will become cultural habits that will prevent us from damaging our reputation by tinkering with the systems that measure it. Of course, that is not always going to work. It will also be necessary to employ technologies that secure rating and reviews from tampering. Like, you know, encryption…
A new company has emerged that wants to use the same kind of encryption systems used in manufacturing cyber-currency to create a reputation aggregate for encryption currency users. Shit just got seriously meta. The company, Bitrated, noted that there existed a basic lack of trust in Bitcoin and other crypto-currency users. The anonymity of these systems provides few means of dealing with those who decide to abuse it, or are using it in unethical ways. Recognizing this problem, Bitrated has created a user rating system which will allow a community of users to trade with greater confidence and some vestige of transparency.
I have argued for awhile that crypto currency itself is just a means to an end. A step of a trend or process which will make currency obsolete. As currency, it invites a lot of great minds who are interested in technology and profits. Yet what is learned about encryption will likely be used in myriads of other ways, in much the same way that NASA invents things astronauts will never use, or pornography drove the technology of the internet. The value of crypto currencies is not the currency part, but the encryption part. The reputation economy will rely on technologies that can provide accurate information about the reputation of an individual or enterprise. Encryption will help insure that fake reviews do not cloud our information, so that when some sociopathic suit trash starts crawling up your ass, your review of him will be sure to totally and reliably fuck him economically.
I am both a huge fan of the Star Trek Franchise (especially TNG) and a huge critic of the widespread interpretation of the show as some sort of perfect and attainable utopia. Widespread militarization, existential malaise and a number of other issues actually depict a sort of perverse, juvenile sketch of utopia. Yet there is no doubt that it has been highly influential in how we think about the future as well as an inspiration in the development of technologies.
The most common reason given for the perfection of the fictional Star Trek universe is that it has evolved past money. It is often suggested that money was the greatest cause of past evils and ridding our species of its use allowed us to make leaps and bounds forward. This is a rather unsophisticated simplification of human economies that does not apply to current humans who do not possess the technologies that make Star Trek possible. However, we are beginning to see some of the technologies in the show become real possibilities. Take the medical device, the Tricorder, which inches closer every year thanks to the sort of competition that people in the ST universe are too evolved for.
Yet the real reason that the ST universe can afford the luxury of abandoning currency lies mostly in the very specific technology of the replicator, which can provide humans with basic needs with matter created from unlimited energy. Well, it seems that we may be close to taking some of the first steps towards replicators as scientists claim they will soon be able to create matter from light. Now all we need is the free unlimited energy to power it and Voilà! Utopia.
As other technologies already available begin to make large scale production and centralized political and economic systems obsolete, we are already beginning to see the rise of new economic paradigms. It has suddenly become likely that the luxuries afforded to the ST universe will be available to us in the near future. As that luxury increases we will move away from Industrialism and most of its economic paradigms, as well as its social and political ones. Soon it may be possible toleave the slavery of wage employment and produce things of value to ourselves and others, not for mere survival, but for living.
The chronological displacement field (CDF) has undoubtedly been one of the most novel discoveries of the 21st Century. When the two physicists, Timea Kolchik and Robert Dupast stumbled across the ability to use wormholes to remotely view past events it changed our understanding of human history almost overnight. Religion and science were dealt some crushing blows, as investigations into their claims began to overturn much unexpected evidence against them. As we came to know the historical figures and our ancestors and how their lives differed from our accounts we began to see the absurdities of our own mythologies. The CDF was so informative that humanity was transformed in ways that prevented its impending doom. Through such deep introspection of the past, we were able to see ourselves more clearly and we responded by changing our deleterious course. And yet for all that humanity gained we are still human beings and it was not long before this new technology began to be perverted in a most undignified way.
Historical Reality Television has inarguably been the most monumental entertainment trend for the last few years. While scientists, theologians, historians and anthropologists had already made most well know historical accounts available for public viewing, there exists an almost infinite amount of potential entertainment content in humanities past. Especially in the recent past. In the century before our transformation, humanity had become increasingly volatile. And in retrospect the results were often hilarious.
Human economies have shifted largely into a loose system of commerce centered mostly around the sharing of information. Information is discovered, created and consumed in lieu of most physical and service labor from the past as a result of automation and energy to matter converters. Where before mankind had toiled with time and energy over resources and more energy, man now subsists from the eventual benefits of industrialism and bases his worth on his reputation by means of his ability to add to the information market. When CDF technology became available to every gal and guy, many of them used it as a data mining device, combing the lives of human beings past in order to glean from them moments which could be edited into an entertaining package. Suddenly, every human being who had ever lived might possibly become the subject of a historical reality television show.
The first popular video series depicting actual historical people in a humorous entertainment context was ‘Kick Boxing with Chet and Linda’. Chet and Linda were a married couple who lived in the mid nineteen nineties amidst a Midwestern US meth craze. In the introduction to the series we see a young Chet and Linda full of love and life and dreams. But as the opening sequence moves along we see a series of unfortunate luck and poor decisions transform Chet and Linda from young lovers to maniacal middle aged meth addicts with a propensity for colorful tirades and (sometimes extreme) violence against one another. In this way, from the most poignant moments of their existence, we have become voyeurs into the tragic comedy that Chet and Linda never meant to become in their sad lives. This is a scene from the fourth episode.
Chet- “Bitch, you better leave me that last line or I am gonna shove my foot up your rotten cunt and walk you around like a god damned snowshoe.” [Chet jumps across the room in a flying kick maneuver and yells] “KI-YAH!”
Linda- “Well shit, Chet, that shoe would be the hardest thing you tried to put in my pussy for five years.” [Linda let’s out a bloodcurdling scream and throws an ashtray at Chet. In his moment of confusion she bends over and snorts the last line of meth.] “What you gonna do, shoelace dick?”
Chet- [After rubbing his shoulder where the ashtray struck, he lunges over the table at Linda in another flying kick maneuver.] “That’s it whoremouth, time to teach you some respect!” [But before he can land the kick, Linda moves to the side and grabs a beer bottle from the table. As she raises it overhead he lets out one last threat.] “You better knock me the fuck out with that bottle or I am gonna fuck you in the ass with it, you trechr’us skank!” [The bottle lands squarely against the side of his head and despite all the meth already in his system, he is knocked the fuck out.]
Linda- (to no one) “Fuck, now I’m horny.”
This was the most popular video in the world last year. It has been viewed by over 4 billion people. It won numerous awards for the greatest video series in several categories ranging from historical reality to humor. Last fall Chet and Linda were the most popular Halloween costume design available on-line. Chet and Linda have become icons of our time. Their entire existence reduced to technological schadenfreuade. Yet in their own lives they were subjects of poverty, addiction, violence and other maladies that humanity has mostly treated. Yet still, having evolved beyond those horrors, we still take pleasure in the suffering they inflicted and endured.
Let us look at another popular video series in the genre of historical reality television. The series ‘Uh, Oh!’ follows some of the most horrific crimes of the last century. In the series we are shown a person stalking another person about to commit an atrocious act. During this footage a narrator tells us about the people involved and suggests some details about what is about to happen. And just as the perpetrator lunges at their victim the video cuts to scenes from the criminals past. The scenes are comic, like a blooper reel, depicting the attacker as an impossible oaf. And while this is happening the narrator gives a chilling account of what happened to the victim(s). Every episode ends with a little musical number with lyrics containing a number of tasteless puns depicting the events of the episode in any number of musical styles.
Probably the most undignified show is the niche-popular ‘Homelessexuals’ which depicts the romantic and sexual escapades of men and women who suffered through the most extreme forms of poverty before it was eradicated. Because those men and women often also suffered from mental illness, addictions, tendencies towards social deviancies or just plain bizarre social skills; the content of their sex lives was often even more revealing and awkward than healthy adjusted folks whose sex lives are riddled with all sorts of strangeness and faux paus. A memorable scene from the series shows two rather large and hairy men huddled in a tent just prior to coitus.
Man 1- “Alrighty, heads I go first, tails its my tail.” [Man flips coin into the air. It lands in his palm and he flips it over onto the top of his other hand. Both men look excited and nervous and intoxicated.]
Man 2- “Okay already, what is it?” [He pulls the other mans hand up, revealing the coin. It is heads.] “Oh Jesus Christ, I shoulda never taken that halfa pill ya gave me.”
Man 1- “Hey, I didn’t know it were a Viagra.”
There is no doubt that these shows are funny. Often even hilarious. I have watched them myself and was not immune to great bouts of laughter. What our species endured before our transformation was awful. Several forces aligned against the individual to create billions of unique manias. While I understand that it is the nature of humor to explore the incongruency between our values/expectations and phenomena outside of them, I worry more that what we have done is exploitative. The lives of those who suffered to carry us towards the more hopeful era we now live in were often comic in their tragedy, but to entertain ourselves at their expense WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION is such an obviously immoral trespass that it betrays how much work humanity still has to do. We have dissolved non-consensual surveillance in our time and worked as brothers and sisters to balance our privacy with the necessary visibility of the information age. We have failed to give our ancestors the same ethical consideration that we now consider the inherent right of every living being.
This is why I call on you to help me end the exploitation of CDF technologies to invade the privacy of those who came before us for undignified entertainment value. While this technology has been fundamental in our progress towards a harmonious and sustainable existence, it also invites some very ethical trespass against real human beings, even if they are long dead. We must start by boycotting any such works and by down-voting them so as to discourage their creators from that content. Together, we must intellectually explore and create an ethical framework by which this technology can be employed productively without being used as a weapon of moral destruction for our entertainment. I call on all who hear this to come together and use peaceful market forces to discourage the continued production and consumption of Historical Reality Television or any other dubious usage of the Chronological Displacement Field.
Maxr Toobin, People Against the Exploitation of Historical Peoples, May 2042
I cannot help but to notice more and more people awakening to new spiritual ideas. The surprising thing is how most of these people are coming at their truths independently and not as the result of some group or movement. I feel very strongly that humanity, nay, Universe, is on the cusp of a great evolutionary leap in consciousness.
I have talked about many of my ideas about this coming paradigm here and elsewhere sand intend to expand upon them more in the future, so there is no need to type them here. The interesting thing is how closely the things I hear more and more of begin to echo my own prior thoughts. Sometimes the language is slightly different and sometimes the similarities lie more in metaphors than direct ideas, but we are often barking up the same tree.
The closer the singularity comes the faster humanity will change as individuals and as a species. Where the human biological form has shown increasing mutations we begin to see other differences begin to emerge. I have long argued that autism is a harbinger of something in storefor humanity. As the Human Singularity comes closer I expect we will begin to see more anomalistic and Fortean style phenomena occur as well as major changes to the total human form.
The BotLit Manifesto aims to construct a simple methodology by which literature can be created using crude forms of artificial intelligence such as chatterbots and text generators.
The BotLit Manifesto recognizes the validity of the generation of random prose and seeks to use these tools to expand upon the literary efforts of human beings in the name of artistic exploration.
Below is a list of general guidelines and rules for creating literature using these tools for those who wish to experiment in the BotLit Manifesto Movement.
1) At least half of the text must be randomly generated by two or more generation tools.
2) You must attempt to keep the randomly generated texts within their original context as far as is possible.
3) You may not edit a sentence by changing, adding or removing words. (unless you are removing an incomplete ending from an otherwise complete sentence)
4) You may edit a sentence using punctuation, capitalization or other text attributes such as italics.
5) You may edit a paragraph by removing whole sentences.
6) You do not have to use all texts generated.
7) You may change the order of texts if necessary for improving and/or strengthening the thematic elements of the random texts.
8) You must differentiate between texts generated by different tools and also between the random texts and the originally authored ones by using different formatting for the different texts used. Formatting options, such as font, font size, bold and italics can be used to do so at your discretion.
9) You may use any random text generation method powered by computers, even those you construct yourself.
10) You must register your BotLit with AdvancedApe and advertise your literature as BotLit, as well as following the rules and guidleines, in order to participate in the BotLit Manifesto Movement.
By doing this in an environment where the consequences for failing in this type of economic exchange are nil, we are learning the basic ideas we would need to construct a reputation economy which uses a mixture of social networking and reviews in order to generate reputation scores, or some other similar idea. With encryption and free market variety, these economic and social paradigms are becoming a real possibility in our lifetimes.
I just hope that Zuckerberg is not in charge. The things he has done with Facebook indicate that he is not fully seeing beyond the unsustainable endless growth paradigm of the dying industrial age.
As I have previously outlined and further discussed, the coming of the Information Age will be the dawn of new economic systems that hinge on reputation. More and more of this development continues to peek back at us from the future in new commentaries and developments. Here are some recent additions to that list.
While this article does not directly discuss a reputation economy, it does discuss many industrial, political and social trends leading to the obsolescence of the old systems. More than just that, it discusses how young people are influenced by these developments and how it has shaped their realities and goals and hints at how that might play out. The Third Industrial Revolution
This final link is a talk from a Google executive about link building. It is mostly boring technical stuff that only webmasters would understand. In short, in order to get your webpage to have have good search results in Googles search engine, it was once a simple task of getting your websites address linked in as many places as you could on the internet. Years after this ignited a spam war in every comments section on the internet, Google has begun changing the terms by which a website will receive search result listings within the first few pages of a search. Rather than the brute force of numbers, Google is working towards a system which only gives high rankings and displays to reputable links. Which is to say, links which are shared as content by webmasters on their page, rather than those just haphazardly strewn across webspace. The implication here is that in an Information Age, when we trade primarily in information using these technologies, your reputation will depend on horizontal networks created through voluntary partnerships which rely on quality and reliability. This is just one more way in which the economic systems of humans are moving from currencies towards reputations. The plot continues to thicken! Googles Matt Cutts: Link Building Is Sweat Plus Creativity
The Rant- Just this very morning I sat in a twenty minute trance, wondering- is it okay if I wear my rabbit fur codpiece to work today? Unfortunately, after checking the internet, there were no campaigns reassuring that my personal choices were permissible. Result? No codpiece for this guy today.
Now that I think about it, how many things do I do throughout the day which have not been validated by awareness campaigns? Am I a fucking maniac, or what? How would I know what things are socially acceptable if a group of touchy-feely validation cheerleaders did not specifically communicate to me what is okay?
I don’t like people telling me what I can and can not do. And when you tell me what I can do, you are merely implying that there is a perceived wrongness about it. You are sending a contextual message that the permitted behavior has some inherent wrongness about it, which requires special permission.
This is not about empowering boys to be themselves. This is about encouraging them not to be. When you give a child such praising and loving signals that a behavior is okay you are essentially encouraging the behavior. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a boy wearing pink, there is certainly a problem with the systematic emasculation of faux-feminism.
Bullshit like this does not empower anybody. It is merely an attempt by certain groups to recreate social norms in their image. It is cultural bullying. And worse yet, this emasculation is harmful to boys and likely to create confused and existentially unanchored adult males. I predict that the long term consequences of such pushy gender obfuscation will eventually create a new kind of male violence. One precipitated on a foundation of men who were bombarded with the seemingly innocuous message that it is okay (hint: better) to not be a man at all if you don’t want to.
Before I can tell you what Face Value is it will be necessary to explain the reasons why I began to envision it in the first place. I began my political philosophy very young as an anarchist and as I went through the growing pains of critical thinking I drifted into the stateless left until I could find no way in which those ideas did not necessitate a state of sorts. So eventually I began to adopt the ideas of an free market voluntaryist, individualist anarchist and/or libertarian. In the recent past I have disregarded the leftist idea that money is a social curse and stuck close to Austrian economics and free market ideology. Recently this began to bother me. No matter how I tried to reconcile the rest of the ideas about liberty with the idea of money, I could not make them stick. The problem itself is not political one, I realized, but a human one. Money itself rewards immorality. It is easily hoarded by those most willing to step on their fellow humans for it. And at the same time I can not believe that humans are themselves evil. Of course a small percent of them have psychotic or sociopathic tendencies, but overall humans were better than money disparity could account for. So I looked at money itself as the cause of the strife and suffering that it brings humanity. If the fatal flaw in money was that its acquisition creates immoral behavior then indeed the old saying was true. Money is the root of all evil.
Now, lets take a look at a snippet of the history and mechanics of money. During the dawn of the Agricultural Age humans began to specialize. In doing so it often became necessary to trade indirectly for a few reasons. First, commodities like carrots grown by a farmer would not be available to trade in the middle of winter. It would be convenient to tally the farmers contribution to his community in his time of abundance so that he could still purchase goods in the off season. Secondly, direct trade would mean that trade was only possible when both parties wanted each others goods or services. In order that everyone could trade their own production for that which they chose, the market created money as a sort of placeholder for production.
At first it was simple enough to trade with abstract items chosen by the society to represent wealth. As communities began to trade with one another it was necessary for a currency itself to carry the value which it was intended to represent. Therefore money soon became commodities itself, like gold or silver. Things whose scarcity gave them a sort of universal value. While this guaranteed that the money was of permanent value, it also opened up a new game. If commodities like gold could be used to exchange for the production of others, then one could expend effort simply in collecting the exchange commodity without the need of producing things of practical human value, which is far more work. So slowly a few clever humans began collecting money itself and with it they bought power and influence and eventually they created the state to protect their money and to gain more power. Eventually the state just issued abstract currencies which represented the sum of its own vast wealth. And so the production of the average man became just a way of growing the markets to collect more wealth for the state and the elites who control it while the average man was left to fight over the meaningless and intrinsically valueless pieces of paper the state issues us to create the illusion we are not just doing their bidding while we spend their pretend money in their company stores.
Yet if this seemed dishonest, the next step in money was even more delusional. Realizing the limits of commodities to back up money among growing populations, yet under its spell, the elite began to issue their own currency apart from the state. This new currency was based purely upon speculation. The bankers provided the speculation and in return charged interest on the usage of their currency. When populations soared and more money was needed they simply devalued the currency already in circulation to lend its value to newly minted currency and charged interest. The more the bankers speculated on the amount of trade and the necessary amount and value of currency, the more interest they collected. But they had speculated nothing, because if you haven’t guessed, this game is rigged. So now the elite not only had most of the worlds wealth in assets, they had also figured out how to steal back even the fake money they issued us. Yet we are forced to toil harder all the time just get some more of that bogus money to pass back to them in order that we might have food, shelter and fuel enough to survive. Even amongst the riches of our world. Think of a slave master who would issue his slaves money, let them compete over the easiest jobs and leave them no choice but to make all purchases from the masters very own store. This is where we are at.
And what of all these jobs? Today the politicians cry is jobs. The people beg for more jobs. Yet these jobs are often meaningless and unfulfilling. They are busywork. An economic shuffle to keep us in our place. To keep us from creating our own lives and our own purpose so that they would not interfere with theirs. And jobs themselves are becoming obsolete. Even today most work is unnecessary, and quickly becoming more so in due to technological innovations which lead to automation and at home production. Jobs are finite because there are far more humans alive today than there are necessary things to be done. The elite have created an endless menu of meaningless labor that destroys the very soul of the individual forced into the elites economic system through means of aggression.
As human civilization evolves again, as it has in ages past, we are coming upon a time in which information itself will be the most valuable commodity. Information itself is infinite, so it leaves the ability for every individual to create information and thus value infinitely. But value itself is still vague. If value is not represented by resources, commodities or labor, then what? To answer that question I must ask another. What gave resources, commodities or labor any value to begin with? The answer is simple. Consent. Consent that is not manufactured by an outside agenda is created through interactions between individuals in the form of morals, ethics and social values. In the final perspective it is human morality, ethics and morals which creates all economic value. How strange then that money led us astray from its very foundation.
So what then if moral and ethical behavior was in fact currency itself? How then could a few psychopaths and sociopaths prey upon the majority of us if their immoral and unethical behavior intrinsically prevented them from gaining any economic value with the rest of us? Why then would anyone ever collude with their evil for personal benefit if there were no benefits but were strong economic repercussions for inhumane activity? If good deeds created economic prosperity not only would it require moral and ethical behavior, but it would cripple the avarice and hubris created in others by the trap of money.
Now before I tell you what Face Value is, let me be very clear about what it is not. It is not the means to the end itself. It is not a final solution. It is not a new master.
Face Value is simply a means towards a society without money and the state. A beginning of the journey into the future of humanity. A tool using the best current technologies to open us up to the idea of doing future human economic interactions via morality and ethics by playacting them first in a purely social environment. Face Value is a new social networking site turned upside down. Instead of you telling everyone about yourself, everyone else uses it to tell everyone else about you. In this way, much like the rating systems at Amazon, Angie’s List and Rate Your Professor, every user would build up a rating based on a number of criteria and on their interactions with others online and in real life. This is essentially putting both individuals and human morals, ethics and values on the free market to determine the kinds of traits and activities human consensus finds worthy of rewarding us for.
Now before you begin to point out all of the awful ways this will inevitably be used at first, let me remind you that the plan is a long term one. Along the way we will work out the bugs and hopefully others will create similar systems to compete with Face Value and push the forward more quickly with more great human minds working on the problem. But to ease your mind just a bit let me explain some of the measures we have already thought of. First of all, you could not ever delete another persons rating or review. Should you choose to dispute it then it would go into a disputed section and the two parties would be forced to seek out a third party mediator which they both agreed upon and whose ruling they agreed to follow, who would then make a ruling on the case and the disputed rating or review would then either be deleted by the posting party or it would go on permanent display on your Face Value profile.
Everything in your profile will include specifics so that you may be judged not on merely an average of responses but also on the content and context of them. And even though Face Value would rely most heavily on ratings and reviews you could still list personal achievements, ideas or attitudes for others to help determine your character. In time, we hope, this would weed out not only immoral and unethical behavior; but it would also decide which morals and ethics are important.
We do not think that bigotry, hatred or greed could survive very well in such conditions. We do not think that the authoritarian state could survive very long if those interested in administering such a thing were prevented the ability to act improperly. Why would power or protection or war be needed when every individual and action was being judged and those who acted inhumanely were sanctioned for it? We do not believe that the vulgarity of excess created by human markets in which wealth and power for the few was the main agenda could survive for long. These processes destroy our world, our humanity and civilization itself. And if they are not curtailed, they will eventually destroy our species and much more. The destructive force of money combined with the exponential growth of human populations is a recipe for disaster. In order to survive this transition from the Industrial to the Information Age we must rethink economies that enslave and pillage. We must begin to drift away from a medium of exchange predicated upon a currency which invites our destruction and towards one based upon the value of each individual based upon their deeds and contribution to their community. Not on whats in our accounts or in our pockets but by the Face Value of the very lives that we lead.