Gambling With The Future

A few days ago I was on Twitter discussing this terrible headline about AI and libertarianism (it’s from John Stossel so yeah, don’t even bother). This apparently attracted the attention of Zoltan Istvan, Transhumanist author and philosopher, who started following me on Twitter. I followed back and he sent me a link to a free download of his book, The Transhumanist Wager. So I read it. Or tried to anyway.

The problems with The Transhumanist Wager begin with its turgid prose, but they don’t end there.[1] For the unenlightened, Transhumanism is the school of thought that at some near future date, technology will enable humans to achieve a kind of immortality, either by cloning, uploading our minds onto the Internet, or just putting our heads in jars. What sets Transhumanists apart from the science fiction writers who invented these tropes, is that Transhumanists think this is a dandy proposition and we should do everything within our power to make sure that this happens, up to and including bending or breaking a few inconvenient laws.[2] Istvan is a merry proponent of the bending of these laws and moral codes associated with them, on the grounds that well heck, someone is going to do it anyway and the benefits will be pretty cool, so why not?

Because as history has demonstrated time and agin, the primary beneficiaries of technological advances are the 1%. The wealthy elites would get the mind-uploading tech and the customized meat avatars while the rest of us would be left to rot in squaller, if we’re lucky. The unlucky ones would or be press-ganged into becoming indentured code servants for the wealthy. Yes, we’d all get to go live in the Matrix! As some douchebag’s slave, or part of the infrastructure. Instead of being a taxi driver, you’d get to be their car. Or their customized centaur steed. Forever.

Of course Transhumansits claim it will not be so. That ethical progress and libertarian values will prevent this sort of exploitive power play, which as usual, ignores all of human history and seems to apply only to the sort of perfectly spherical humans that exist in these thought exercises. The problem is that true libertarianism can only be attained by a better, more perfect form of human. And they don’t exist. They are is imaginary as the perfected, incorruptible, immortal souls of medieval Catholic theology.

Which is what all this striving for immaculate digital perfection really is, warmed over Christian escapism.[3] Why worry about fixing the world’s problems when we can go hide in the Matrix?

So now my Twitter feed is full of libertarian futurists and their blinkered self-promotion and congratulatory ramblings, all in service of feeding me to the Machine so that the Koch Brothers and Rand Paul can can become immortals. Thanks but no thanks.

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1. All self-described philosophers have a tragic prose style, as if they are trying to sound as “smart” as their ideas and instead, end up sounding like Wittgenstein with a mouthful of marbles.

2. Human cloning has been outlawed in most countries, and by the UN. The sort of experimentation that would be required to create the mind-machine interface technology to allow for mind uploading isn’t illegal because it doesn’t exist, but if it did, would be illegal as it would violate all known guidelines for ethical practices in research.

3. That, mixed with the standard libertarian dream of having middle class vices legalized in order to enjoy them without the guilt of moral transgression.

Everything is Connected

In between feeding and changing a 2 month old’s diapers, here’s a couple of things that have caught my eye around the old Interweb thingy:

The World In Deeper Inspection is a n intriguing web comic by Ashel, which is amazing and beautiful and strange in all the right ways.

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Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. ‘Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay.’ ”

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And another webcomic, this one John Rogers’ Arcanum, from Thrillbent. I like this one not just because Rogers is a fantastic story teller, but because it overlaps a bit in a thematic oblique way, with my own interests  especially the current novel in progress (and even more with the next one I plan to start this Fall). More on both of those projects later but for now, check out all th elinks above. Fun stuff.

Headspace

I’ve been hard at work over the last 2 weeks, revising the novel-in-progress (among other things*) and thought I’d write up a post describing what this looks like to the objective observer, namely, me reading a bunch of weird stuff on the internet:

Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword” is a classic essay by John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons, who was both an acolyte of Aleister Crowley and founder of NASA’s jet Propulsion laboratory.this essay serves as background for the novel but it’s an interesting read on its own, as it pretty handily paints a portrait of the sort of person who doesn’t make a distinction between rocket science and the occult. Parsons hearkens back to the old day, before science and mysticism had completely separated. He was a modern day alchemist. Shame he blew himself up in a lab accident.

Phantom Circuit is in it’s own words:

Phantom Circuit is a programme of strange and wonderful sound waves that you can hear streamed over the internet.

Since October 2008 Phantom Circuit has promoted and supported music that is alien, electronic, exotic, essential.… plus familiar objects viewed from unusual angles… All of it is worth a try, so we hope you will listen in.

They play everything from “coastal slurtronic folk” like Kemper Norton to 96 tears by Question Mark & the Mysterions. I’ve been listening to their mixes for a few days now and they add a nice ambiance of the weird to my dreams at night.

I’ve also ran across this rather exhaustive article on Wikipedia about an old TV show called UFO that is both British and weird and from that bizarre cusp time between the 1960s and 1970s. It was Garry Anderson’s first foray into live action TV, and as he recently passed, his shows are getting some fond remembrances. This one sounds like its right up my alley, with unnamed aliens stealing human organs being fought by the stylish mod heroes of an achronymed agency on the Moon. Besides being a nifty sounding program, click around through the links on the actors and you’ll find that one of the fuchsia wigged, catsuit wearing stars was Benedict Cumberbatch’s mother. Connections are all around, man.

And lastly, for my down time, when I need a bit more grounded and earthly entertainment, I’ve been making my way through all 8 seasons of Magnum PI, now streaming on Netflix. Watching almost 150 episodes strikes me as a bit much, so I did some poking around and found this list of the 40 best episodes. So far, I’m impressed at how edgy and dark a show it actually was, considering it was A) made in the 80s and B) set in Hawaii. Like everybody else, I remember the cheesy jokes and late 70s fashions, the Ferrari and the awesome helicopter shots of the islands, but there’s a surprising bit of existential drama simmering just below the surface. You have an absentee god in the form of Robin masters (a globetrotting novelist who is never there), and a lot of angst centered around the three main characters, Magnum, TC and Rick, who were all special opps vets in Vietnam. The pacing is a bit slow by today’s standards but the stories are surprisingly varied in tone and subject matter. One episode, Magnum will be chasing down the ugliest dog in Hawaii, the next, helping TC save his smack-addled army buddy. Breadth, not necessarily depth but it’s still a surprising find. There are even a few episodes with a bit of weird, supernatural edge to them, like one where a kahuna curses Rick’s club. Definitely worth checking out.

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* Like getting ready for baby. We went to a birthing class last Saturday which was thankfully more informative than we thought it would be.

Various And Sundry

If you think showing the rubes your complete birth certificate will shut them up Obama, you better think again. They won’t be satisfied until you show them a piece of paper certifying that you’re white.

Also, this.

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George R.R. Martin has officially finished the manuscript for Book 5 of the Song of Ice and Fire. I’m just wrapping up book 1, and eagerly anticipating seeing the scenes I’ve just read acted out every week on A Game of Thrones. This is some high grade epic fantasy, with great characters, real solid story telling and genuine twists. He’s managed to do something no other author has done in a long time and that is surprise me. I’m a fairly savvy reader and an usually see a plot turn coming but martin managed to sneak one up on me. That’s rare and special. And I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

And if you aren’t watching Game of Thrones, you are missing out. It’s worth it just for Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. This is a role for the ages.

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The producer of the failed Atlas Shrugged Movie is undaunted in his demented vision to bring this rancid piece of shit to the silver screen. Good on him, I guess? I’m always on the side of the guy willing to tell the world to fuck off and plowing a head to make his art. But I’m also glad I don’t live in the universe where this movie became a Hollywood blockbuster.

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And for your reading pleasure: an essay on Gorillas in comics. Don’t listen to what anyone else says. Wikipedia is awesome.

For the Record

Last week, I’m preparing my resume for a new round of job searching and as is always a good idea, I google my name. Everything is looking normal until I get down to the bottom of the first page of google hits and find that, along with my usual public pages there is a Myspace page for a “Keith K. Kisser.”

This is not me.

I shut down my Myspace account two years ago. Also, my middle initial is not K for reasons that I hope are obvious.

I contact Myspace and ask them to pull the page on the grounds that it’s offensive, thinking it’s a prank or joke in bad taste.*

Turns out, “Keith K. Kisser” is a legit account and the bald gentleman in the pictures who emblazoned Kay Kay Kay across his Myspace page is in a punk band. Myspace won’t take down the page.

For the record: my name is Keith E. Kisser. I am in no way affiliated with Keith K. Kisser.

Also for the record: Myspace is well past it’s sell by date and should be shunned like lepers.
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*Last month, I had a troll on my blog write a three part rant about how I was racist because I was opposed to the censoring of Huck Finn by replacing the N word with “slave”. I assumed at first it was this troll, trying to punk me.

Beware of This and That

I meant to post this a few weeks ago, when it was still on the front page of 3 Quarks Daily, but it’s one of those timeless essays that you can enjoy even after the Internet ADHD has kicked in: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Weather, by Alyssa Pelish. You’ll never think about random comments about the weather the same way again.

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The Found Objects blog describes itself as a hauntological dumping ground, which is as apt a description as any for the likes of the Number Lady:

Title sequence to never-broadcast TV series. Filmed by Southern TV in 1975, and abandoned for reasons that have never been fully explained (though all sorts of rumours abound). Even the subject of the series is unclear, some claiming it is a straightforward drama about shortwave number stations, and others that it’s a supernatural story about a a boy who can communicate with ghosts that have been trapped by pylons in a field near his home.

Either would be amazing and make Lost look like the paper thin soap opera we always suspected it really was.

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Speaking of blogs full of interesting, discarded bits of culture: If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats is about stuff. Also: things. It’s web archaeology with impeccable taste.

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I don’t know what to make of this. Maybe you can figure it out.

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And if you want to be a better writer, or just a better person, you need to bookmark this page on Wikipedia, describing the most common misconceptions. It’s got a little bit of everything, from Archimedes’ death ray and how it could never work to why Napoleon wasn’t really all that short.

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The weather has been rather peculiar today. Woke up to big fat fluffy snow falling like doomsday. Shortly before lunch, the sun came out. Then it got cloudy and hailed for almost an hour, covering the street outside my house with a fine blanket of ice. Now the sun is back out. But remember: global climate change is just a leftist plot against capitalism.

And the Buddha Has Robin’s Back

We’re heading down to Comic Con this week. As usual, you can keep up with the hijinks on Twitter. I’ve finally gotten around to setting up twitpic, so there will be photographic evidence that I am in fact, a gigantic nerd.

As you may or may not have heard, Fred Phelps and his cretin brigade are going to be there as well. And while engaging these stratospheric bigots is a no-no (litigious bastards, that they are)  Kelly Sue DeConnick has devised an alternate plan:

We need some help in the form of a time-keeper or two, letting us know exactly how long the patron saint of backwards thinking and his family manage to stand and scream in the California sun.  Then, by all means, do stare–at your watch!  Make a note of what time it is and alert the internet that they’re there/still there.  (But do it quietly and from a polite distance, will you?)  Go get yourself a cold drink and check back every now and then until we have an approximate time count.  Like… here would be good.  Or on Twitter, with the hashtag #godlovesbatman

Why?  Because in the spirit of love, we are pledging to donate $50 to amfAR if Phelps and his crew actually show up (often they don’t) and $10 an hour additional to amfAR for every hour they stay.  And we’ll make our donation in Fred’s name.

We’d love you to join us.

(And we’d really love to be able to post a tally of how much we’ve raised.)

Repost far and wide, my pretties.

So, keep a weather eye peeled for bigots and tweet their times and locations as you do. And if you can spare a few dollars for the cause, that would be lovely as well.

See you in the thick of it!

Brain Spill

Here’s a bunch of links to stuff. I’m dumping them here, so I know where to find it all later. It doesn’t all fit together in any sort of meaningful way, unless it does.

Buddha Machine – a little box that loops an MP3 of monks chanting or ambient music. Not only is the idea cool, I love the name. Buddha Machine. It could be a band or the title for a future book.

Ghost States – What happens when your tiny island nation is drowned completely by global warming-swelled seas but all the members of that nation want to keep their cultural identity and political power? You’re now a Ghost State, that’s what.

Ghost Fleet of the Recession:

Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of , is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers – all should be steaming fully laden between , Britain, and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.

They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia’s rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.

From BoingBoing, a story (possibly apocryphal) about a neo-Amazonian movement of Ukranian women trying to escape that country’s hideous human trafficking problem. If it isn’t true, it should be.

Double barrels of io9, who recently ran a whole series on sci-fi urban planning: Megalopolisomancy (how cities are haunted by history) and cities as battlesuit against the future.

The up side of smartphones in rural places with no place on the map.

Whitopia– where subconscious racism and the banal horror of exurbia meet.

And a flicker set of photos form a recent red sand storm in Australia, that looks like something out of Mad Max.

Reason #5,203 I love the Internet

This page from the TV Tropes and Idioms Wiki, on James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, written entirely in Wakese.*

It’s brilliant, not only because it’s so fiendishly hard to write in Wakese at any great length, but because there’s absolutely no reason to do so, especially on a wiki ostensibly dedicated to cataloging tropes found in popular entertainment. It’s an obvious labor of love by a truefan who did it just for their own pleasure in doing something creative in honor of a work of art they clearly love. Which makes it all the more wonderful.

*Joycean prose made up entirely of literary and mythic allusion and portmanteau of English, Latin, Gaelic and French words.

The Scarlett Galabekian Connundrum

PZ Myers and I apparently have the same fans. Or we get hit by the same spam, which is the same thing right? Don’t believe me? This email from our mutual pal, Serge assures us that Scarlett Johansson is really a clone of some woman named Scarlett Galabekian and that, being the same perso, Scarlett Johansson should be set free, or incur the wrath of… Serge:

IT IS NOT A SPAM, but if you received that message second and plus time JUST CLICK ?DELETE? button and have a nice day. Don’t feel bad, please understand original Scarlett’s family very desperate to shut down that humiliating antichristian “actress” clones line career development. Hello dear Ladies and Gentlemen! I would like inform you that Scarlett Johansson ?actress? actually is a clone from original person Scarlett Galabekian last name, who has nothing with acting career, surname Galabekian, because of adoption happened in 1992. Clones was created illegally by using stolen biological material. Original person is very nice (not d**n sexy),most important – CHRISTIAN young lady! I’ll tell you more,those clones (it’s not only one) made in GERMANY – world leader manufacturer of humans clones, it is in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Mr. Helmut Kohl home town. You can not even imaging the scale of the cloning activity. But warning! Helmut Kohl clone staff strictly controlling all their clones (at least they trying) spreading around the world, they are very accurate with that, some of them are still NAZI type disciplined and mind controlled clones, so be careful get close with clones you will be controlled as well. Original person is not happy with those movies, images, video, rumors and etc. spreading on media in that way it would be really nice if we all will try slow down that ”actress” career development, original Scarlett will really appreciated that. Please remember that original Scarlett Galabekian family did not authorize any activity with stolen biological materials, no matter what form it was created in it was and it is stolen. It all need to be delivered to authorize personals control in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Original Scarlett never was engaged, by the way! Her close friend Serge G. P.S. CONTROLLING ACTIVITY OF ANY CLONES IS US MILITARY OPERATION. Check also here: http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2008/10/warning_stolen_biological_mate.html H.R. 534, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on February 5, 2003. After discussion, it was passed on February 27 by a vote of 241-155. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration. This bill makes it unlawful for any person or entity to perform or participate in human cloning, or to ship or receive embryos produced by human cloning. The penalties are imprisonment of up to 10 years and fines of $1 million or more. These now join other nations as diverse as Norway, Australia, and many other countries, which had already added cloning for any purpose to their criminal code. And in Germany where it carries a penalty of five years imprisonment they know a thing or two about unethical science.

You’ll notice some subtle variations in the grammar and sentence structure of the email that PZ received and the above email I recieved and which is assuredly not spam, as it says so in the first line, ALL IN CAPITOL LETTERS. Therefore! We can deduce that this is not merely a hoax or some far fetched lunatic’s ramblings, sent out across the flurosphere in widiening gyres of intensity. No! This is the Truth, in all it’s glory and majesty.

But what to do about the Scarlett Johansson/ Scarlett Galabekian connumdrum? Obviosuly, some poor woman (who is nice and not  d**n sexy), has been mercilessly cloned in a fashion that is not at all the method prefered by Jesus and now there’s an army of evil (and d**n sexy) clones running aorund, making a spectacle and ruining the very niceand Christian name of Scarlett by being an army of well regarded profeshional actresses married to a Canadian. A Canadian! This will not stand, people! We must send the military to stop Woody Allen from continuing to employ these Scarletts Johanson in another one of his film. That is clearly the only way to end the reign of these not nice and d**n sexy actress Nazi clones who are ruing the life of some completely obscure and not at all fictitious Christian woman, who just wants to live her life and be nice and not at all d**n sexy.

Fuckign hot Nazi clones. When will they learn?