Meta Intro: On Sync Logs Themselves
First a word or two about sync logs (and a reminder of what Sync is short for)
Synchronicity is a concept first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.
We commence our wandering then with Gordon’s post Super-Asymmetry:
It is the chaos magician’s prerogative to crawl over the literal and metaphoric garbage heaps of western civilisation to salvage parts for her own spaceship, her own gnostic escape pod. If you look at the entirely predictable grumbling emerging from academia around the rise of decentralisation vectors such as academia.edu, you will spy two things. One, the absurdity of their own silly little position -“I don’t like it because it means I am no longer in charge!” Two, a rich vein of valuable garbage for your spaceship…
Adding to the ‘best practice’ model for how we as occultists navigate an increasingly militarised digital infrastructure, we must find the only use for the ‘internet as brain’ metaphor. That of psi. Unpredictable -from this point in the timeline- connections. Unexpected packet transfer. Let the shadow state try attempt information filtration based on a very-probably-wrong materialist model of the brain. Let us attempt it based on a definitely-less-wrong psi model.
We thus have:
- Redundancy in network connectivity/platform agnosticism.
- A network that is earthed in the real world, by design, at at least one point.
- The transmission across these networks of salvaged garbage.
So like, best case with posts like these, that are a serious of associated thoughts, rather than a strict narrative, we’re training the algorithms to think more like US, initiating them into the ancient traditions and such. Which is ya know, nice.
The NYT Labs, meanwhile, have some thoughts on how to write atemporally, breaking up articles into chunks it calls Particles:
News has historically been represented (and read) as a series of articles that report on events as they occur because it was the only way to publish news. The constraints of print media meant that a newspaper was published, at most, twice a day and that once an article was published, it was unalterable. While news organizations have adapted to new media through the creative use of interactivity, video, and audio, even the most innovative formats are still conceived of as dispatches: items that get published once and don’t evolve or accumulate knowledge over time. Any sense of temporality is still closely tied to the rhythms of print.
Creating news for the current and future media landscape means considering the time scales of our reporting in much more innovative ways. Information should accumulate upon itself; documents should have ways of reacting to new reporting or information; and we should consider the consumption behavior of our users as one that takes place at all cadences, not simply as a daily update.
So what does news that is accumulative look like and what is technically required to realize those possibilities? First, let us posit that we’re not talking about transforming news reporting into pure reference material, like a news-based Wikipedia, but rather that this is about leveraging the depth of knowledge from a rich body of reporting to extend and deepen news experiences.
In order to leverage the knowledge that is inside every article published, we need to first encode it in a way that makes it searchable and extractable. This means identifying and annotating the potentially reusable pieces of information within an article as it is being written – bits that we in The New York Times R&D Lab have been calling Particles. This concept builds on ideas that have been discussed under the rubric of the Semantic Web for quite a while, but have not seen universal adoption because of the labor costs involved in doing so. At the Lab, we have been working on approaches to this kind of annotation and tagging that would greatly reduce the burden of work required. Our Editor project, for example, looks at how some forms of granular metadata could be created through collaborative systems that rely heavily on machine learning but allow for editorial input. And more generally, this speaks to an approach where we create systems that piggyback on top of the existing newsroom workflow rather than completely reinventing it, applying computational techniques to augment journalists’ processes.
This appeals to me, because as I’ve been churning out a series of ever vaster screeds of late I’ve caught myself yearning for a simpler time, when one could chow down on some benny balls and just have a series of sweat soaked tshirts drying on a line behind you whilst hammering out the Great Work in one long frantic jazz inspired mental free jam man you know what I mean like dig it baby yeah just let the words flow daddy-o.
WordPress – he types, gazing into the bitstream beneath him – as current ruler of online content management systems definitely seems ready for an overhaul, or a successor, and this seems to point the way.
The idea that I can just write the thing, then have it chunked up, able to take on a life of its own, perhaps calling home every now-and-again and prompting an update or requesting a commentary… I like that.
Because we’re basically already there, anyway – the world’s telephone (my favourite shorthand for the Internet as a Type 1 Civ Comms system) is turning into a bunch of apps too. Let’s duck back to an earlier post of Gordon’s to see what the future holds, in “I’m Going to Show You a World Without Sin”:
[M]y guess is that within three years, it will be normal for news organizations of even modest scale to be publishing to some combination of their own websites, a separate mobile app, Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat, RSS, Facebook Video, Twitter Video, YouTube, Flipboard, and at least one or two major players yet to be named. The biggest publishers will be publishing to all of these simultaneously.This sounds stranger than it will feel: Publishing to these other platforms will be automated. Reporters will write their articles, and their content management system will smoothly hand them to Facebook, Snapchat, or Apple News. There’s nothing new here, really — this is already how RSS feeds work.
But there will be more of them, and they will matter much more. The RSS audience is small. The off-platform audience will be huge. The publishers of tomorrow will become like the wire services of today, pushing their content across a large number of platforms they don’t control and didn’t design.
The upside of being a wire service is the potential audience: It is vast, and it is diverse. The possible downside is innovation. Wire services have to provide a product all of their subscribers can use — no matter how they publish or design their paper. So wire copy needs to be simple. Stories the Associated Press sends to its customers can’t be as innovative in their form as stories the New York Times or the Washington Post lovingly design for their front pages. [More.]
Let’s look at some of the changes to the digital components of magical discourse over the last couple of years that have either happened or are about to:
- I bemoan it regularly -and still half-think I will one day build a replacement- but the end of Google Reader signified the death of RSS.
- As of February of this year, Google also announced that it will no longer be supporting Feedburner; which is this blog’s RSS platform. I would say around half of my posts now show up about twenty hours late, especially for the sizeable number of you that have subscribed via email.
- Google is ‘shaping’ its ad exchange so that the greatest bid depth is found over ‘quality publisher’ websites and not the wider internet. (I was in the room when they said this, by the way. Don’t look for it.) They have also allocated a few hundred million to assist ‘quality publishers’ make the transition to successful digital publishing. Ie, Google spending Google’s money to make sure CNBC ranks higher than, say, Zero Hedge.
- Google has announced they will de-index or manually reduce the search ranking of content they consider spurious: ‘conspiracy theories’ and the such. Ie information other than what you may find on CNBC or spewing from the psy op morons masquerading as scientists on television. This is going to be a big one for magic, obviously, because magic is self-evidently nonsense.
- Oh, and you just watch as they rig the next election in favour of whichever candidate promises to do whatever they say.
What all of this amounts to in my globally-recognised-expert-opinion-for-which-I-am-very-well-paid is… I don’t know. I don’t actually know what the trajectory is over the next three years for finding the others. The best I can suggest is that we all hold hands and go skydiving above this world without sin.
Online-to-offline is the biggest trend nobody is talking about, because most digital talking heads are over the age of 35, thus their lived experience of the internet is something that you escape to, not escape from…
…it occurs to me there is another way of describing -or at least expanding upon- my regular admonitions to decentralise All The Things. The web as originally conceived built redundancy by network effect: there was nowhere you could go to ‘switch off’ the internet… re-routing was the rule of the road. You and I are now required to replicate this redundancy in an analogue fashion as long as it touches the earth or the ‘real’ somewhere in the network: that means a you-specific network of tweets, emails, brunches, Facebook shares, books, skype calls, smoke signals, string-can phones and P2P financing.
All of which is food for thought, as Æ starts to plot ever more ambitious projects and I write about Infrastructure for Building Through The Collapse in the Plutocratic Exit Strategy series. As we all check out new crypto toys, like Tor Messenger. For the lulz, at first. But also because there is a storm coming.
Which is why pausing to consider the ways & means of Finding the Others and maintaining contact through loosely coupled networks seems like a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.
Which brings us to our free association proper. Thinking about how we think about the future and our place in it, innit.
CARGO CULTS OF THE FUTURE
Who else to lead the way, but Alan Moore (in conversation here with John Higgs):
“1910-1915 America discovers science fiction in the form of Tom Swift. And it is a different thing altogether. It is not about giving dire warnings for the future, it is about saying: look how great America is going to be in the future. It’s almost… I suspect like… the tendency in older nations, when we wanna big ourselves up is to reach back to the past… to something imaginary past, like King Arthur or something like that. America hasn’t got that amount of history to deal with so in some ways what America needs is science fiction. When we’re trying to say “look at what we were” then America more or less has to say “look at what we will be.” And so their science fiction from the 1920s with the boom of the pulp magazines it was all of this bright, optimistic New Frontier stuff. Where it was going to be Cowboys & Indians all over again, only it was going to be Earthman & Neptunians. But you could just go through all of the entire tropes of the Western genre and pioneer fiction, but in space. And it became this… in my opinion it was probably one of the worst things to ever happen to Science Fiction…”
From heroes to peers, then.
My old friend David Forbes in his long form essay eBook, The Old Iron Dream, gives me the language to critique why so much of what passes for SF on TV today is nothing short of Fascist Propaganda. Here illustrating perfectly how Falling Skies (and The Walking Dead, its zombie mirror) encapsulates the old right wing ideology of Heinlein & Co – [obvz I’m adding in the GIF and Clip here to ram home the connection]:
Later, explaining why humans must violently expand forever, Rico states:
“It may be verified by observation that any breed which stops its own increase gets crowded out by breeds which expand. Some human populations did so, in Terran history, and other breeds moved in and engulfed them… . Either we spread and wipe out the Bugs, or they spread and wipe us out—because both races are tough and smart and want the same real estate.”
Bluntly stated, this is the ideology of lebensraum or, if you’d like, manifest destiny…
Heinlein’s worldview isn’t fascism, but like that of a lot of far-right sci-fi writers, it draws from many of the same urges: a dismissal of the average person, and a belief that the only viable future is one in which most people don’t get to vote and a state backed by a strong military expands forever at the expense of other “breeds.” Johnny Rico’s society might welcome people of all races into its military aristocracy, but only as long as they join in slaughtering faceless enemies and creating galactic lebensraum…
For even the more open-minded of the right-wing crew, like Heinlein, envisioned a future that in many ways resembled the world that had treated them, in particular, so well. Men would still be men, and women women. Midcentury American capitalism, largely run by strong-willed white men, would continue forever and spread throughout the stars, in its magnanimity allowing the participation of other ethnicities and women who adopted its culture, and maybe liberalizing its attitudes on open marriages and drugs, but largely remaining unchanged.
There was, in short, a belief that the technological future they predicted would reinforce and forever preserve existing social boundaries, rather than upend them.
The epilogue shows society rebuilding quickly, restoring electricity and methane tractors, everyone committed to doing the work necessary to re-establish society. Prisoners are used as slave labor. Civilization has survived in conservative hotbeds like the San Joaquin Valley and Colorado Springs, while Pournelle and Niven have the liberal cities destroyed utterly. The novel ends on a note of optimism. With society swept clear of billions of inconvenient people and the right ones now in charge, the old iron dream might finally have the world it deserves. It was, Pournelle would say later, a novel with a strong “pro-technology message.
How about some freshly updated technocratic mythologies then? At the end of SAPIENS, after sketching out a broad, global narrative for our species that begins at the very edges of pre-history, Yuval Noah Harari turns his gaze to towards our almost unimaginable bifurcating future. That, in fact, is his entire point:
Our late modern world prides itself on recognising, for the first time in history, the basic equality of all humans, yet it might be poised to create the most unequal of all societies. Throughout history, the upper classes always claimed to be smarter, stronger and generally better than the underclass. They were usually deluding themselves. A baby born to a poor peasant family was likely to be as intelligent as the crown prince. With the help of new medical capabilities, the pretensions of the upper classes might soon become an objective reality.
This is not science fiction. Most science-fiction plots describe a world in which Sapiens – identical to us – enjoy superior technology such as light-speed spaceships and laser guns. The ethical and political dilemmas central to these plots are taken from our own world, and they merely recreate our emotional and social tensions against a futuristic backdrop. Yet the real potential of future technologies is to change Homo sapiens itself, including our emotions and desires, and not merely our vehicles and weapons. What is a spaceship compared to an eternally young cyborg who does not breed and has no sexuality, who can share thoughts directly with other beings, whose abilities to focus and remember are a thousand times greater than our own, and who is never angry or sad, but has emotions and desires that we cannot begin to imagine?
Science fiction rarely describes such a future, because an accurate description is by definition incomprehensible. Producing a film about the life of some super-cyborg is akin to producing Hamlet for an audience of Neanderthals. Indeed, the future masters of the world will probably be more different from us than we are from Neanderthals. Whereas we and the Neanderthals are at least human, our inheritors will be godlike.
Physicists define the Big Bang as a singularity. It is a point at which all the known laws of nature did not exist. Time too did not exist. It is thus meaningless to say that anything existed ‘before’ the Big Bang. We may be fast approaching a new singularity, when all the concepts that give meaning to our world – me, you, men, women, love and hate – will become irrelevant. Anything happening beyond that point is meaningless to us.
The near-impossibility then, of charting a course into the near future, knowing our entire science fictional legacy is largely corrupt and yet still largely the only available grammar available to us to describe of present condition…
where we just celebrated the entire fictional universe of Back To The Future moving into our past…
and are already counting the days ’til Bladerunner is officially #thenow…
How to do we document this? Like, really?
The character U, in SATIN ISLAND, faces this exact struggle… in writing The Great Report; in struggling with its form and composition:
I imagined cells of clandestine new-ethnographic operators doing strange things in deliberate, strategic ways, like those conceptual artists from the sixties who made careers out of following strangers around for hours on end or triggering unusual events, specific situations (fainting, or rather pretending to, or simply lying down, in a busy street, say, or staging a quarrel in a café)… Could that kind of stuff, that kind of practice, be applied to modern life? And then, as Present-Tense Anthropology™, could it be somehow passed on, communicated to (or even replicated by) collaborators who might, through the very act of recognizing it, cause it to be simultaneously registered, logged, archived … Could that be it …? How would it work …? I tried to picture cells, “chapters” of new-ethnographic agents, like you get with biker-gangs and spies, each of them primed, initiated, privy to a set of protocols and gestures, that a tacit call to order might activate, and re-activate time and again … And then the rituals and ceremonies that ensued—might that be the Report …? Would this new Order then, like a cult gestating in the catacombs of some great city it will one day come to dominate, pulsate and grow with each one of these covert iterations—until, eventually, it might, yes, fulgurate: erupt, break cover, soar upwards and, in the light of full, unhindered proclamation, found its Church?
Later, after reciting the textbook entry for the Cargo Cult – here, just watch a documentary if you so choose…
…U – or rather it’s his boss, Peyman, who delivers the kicker – goes on to make the following highly relevant observation – especially given the entire thesis of SAPIENS is also that we’re a species ruled by our fictions:
The anthropologists who first reported on these cargo cultists treated them with a mixture of amusement and derision. Special chuckles were reserved for the ceremonial name, or title, that was given to the emissary who (it was hoped) would be the first one to return, and whose appearance would herald the onset of a new age of material prosperity: John Frumm. The name, the ethnographers had ascertained through interviewing older islanders, was derived from that of one of the regular cargo handlers or bat-wavers during the golden era of the occupation, who identified himself as simply John from America—a name the Vanuatans, in their patois, had contracted to John Frumm. But when a second wave of ethnographers came to the island, and revisited, in the light of the new research they conducted there, the first wave’s studies, they criticized the colonialist arrogance of their predecessors. More than that: speaking of motes and beams, they urged humility. For hadn’t the West also been awaiting a re-arrival from the skies, and not just for fifty years? Didn’t we, too, have our own, Nazarene John Frumm? They were, of course, correct. Nor was this Messianism confined to Christians. It strikes me that our entire social organism—its economy, its social policy, its civil order—that these don’t implode, hurling us all into a wild abyss of plunder, rape and burning, is down to their being reined in, held in alignment, by a yoking to this notion of the Future; and humanity, its gaze fixed on this apparition hovering just over the horizon, is thus herded along the requisite channels, its anarchic inclinations kept in check. Certainly, each brief the Company worked on, every pitch we made, involved an invocation of, a genuflection to, the Future: explaining how social media will become the new press-baronage, or suburbia the new town centre, or how emerging economies would bypass the analogue to plunge straight into the post-digital phase—using the Future to confer the seal of truth on these scenarios and assertions, making them absolute and objective simply by placing them within this Future: that’s how we won contracts. Everything, as Peyman said, may be a fiction but the Future is the biggest shaggy-dog story of all.
Aren’t we all really in the Cargo Cult of the Future then?
And so we close the loop, coming back to just why we’re stringing these thoughts together. Applying magical reasoning wherever possible. Constantly trying on new fiction suits. Generally being not so covert chaos magicians. Just as Yuval Harari documents the waves of history our ancestors have ridden, Gordon again points backwards to show us the way forward… as the members of secret, underground gnostic tribes:
Clearly, ‘they’ want ‘us’ to consume digital content in a socialised stream of nonsense -sped up more than the wilds of the internet and in as frictionless way as possible- and most people are. But then, as Chris Knowles points out, ‘most people’ weren’t those wackadoo early Christians kicking about in Roman catacombs, smashing together necromancy and what might be a pre-industrial UFO cult.
Go forth. Find the others.
Leave chalk marks with secret sigils, bread crumb data trials and actual messages in bottles wherever you can. However you’re able.
There are resistance organisations and freedom fighters operating in plain sight too.
OM was originally instigated by Ho Chi Zen, of the Erisian Liberation Front, who is the same person but not the same individual as Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, author of The Honest Book of Truth. The guiding philosophy is that originally proposed in The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by von Neumann and Morgenstern: namely, that the only strategy which an opponent cannot predict is a random strategy. The foundation had already been laid by the late Malaclypse the Younger, K.S.C., when he proclaimed, “We Discordians must all stick apart.” This radical decentralization of all Discordian enterprises created a built-in random factor even before Operation Mindfuck was proposed. To this day, neither Ho Chi Zen himself nor any other Discordian apostle knows for sure who is or is not involved in any phase of Operation Mindfuck or what activities they are or are not involved in as part of that project. Thus, the outsider is immediately trapped in a double-bind: the only safe assumption is that anything a Discordian does is somehow related to OM, but, since this leads directly to paranoia, this is not a “safe” assumption after all, and the “risky” hypothesis that whatever the Discordians are doing is harmless may be “safer” in the long run, perhaps. Every aspect of OM follows, or accentuates, this double-bind.