Einstein on the prison of the senses

 

‘A human being is part of a whole, called by us “universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’

- Albert Einstein.

Buckminster Fuller on changing perspective

 

“Repeatedly, on different occasions, as I gazed heavenward at the celestial orbs, I struggled to perceive myself as looking “out” instead of “up”.

It worked.

Suddenly, on a drive in the Mojave Desert, there came a moment as sun and horizon began to merge, when I really was looking out from the surface of Spaceship Earth. I found myself feeling for the first time a passenger on a great sphere hurtling through the cosmos. Venus was just coming into view, and the nearly full moon was at the eastern horizon. Sun, moon and planet described the great arc of the ecliptic. At that instant I knew the location of poles and Equator. I felt a sense of place, of proper relation, that I had never known before.

My awareness of the world, the whole universe, was revolutionized, transfigured, in an instant. For the first time, my felt experience of reality was coinciding with what my intellect had long known to be true. It was an initiation, a rite of passage. I felt for the first time a citizen of the cosmos. I was no longer tied to a language-conditioned flat earth.

And there was a sense of communion with all humanity, with all living things, in the knowledge that we were all related through one common center, earth’s center of gravity, all passengers on an infinitely precious star-faring vessel.

I know others who have shared the same experience. It is joyous, in that something old is suddenly seen in a new light. It is awesome, because it affords a glimpse at a reality far grander than we have been conditioned to perceive. And it is sobering, because it reveals how deeply conditioned (mesmerized, if you will) we can all be by habitual patterns of language and thought.”

 

- From Fuller’s Earth – Buckminster Fuller

 

birthday mutants

 

The mental side effects of travelling into space. Interesting historical survey of the break-off phenomenon.

The myth of AI. Jaron Lanier being interestingly iconoclastic again. Watch or read at the link.

I want to go little deeper in it by proposing that the biggest threat of AI is probably the one that’s due to AI not actually existing, to the idea being a fraud, or at least such a poorly constructed idea that it’s phony. In other words, what I’m proposing is that if AI was a real thing, then it probably would be less of a threat to us than it is as a fake thing.

Retired US army general, author of “Why We Lost”, explaining the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that.

The future of autonomous weaponry – the ethics of bombs that pick their own targets.

 

sunday mutants 6-10-14

 

Half the world’s wildlife has died off in the past 40 years.

I don’t even really know where to go from there. That this isn’t screamed on every street corner and causing a shut down of our entire society as we stop and have a hard think about what we are doing tells you that yes we are the bad guys.

As a related one, here is a funding campaign for a doco about the relationship between the Parsi and the vultures which is a fascinating example of our interdependence with nature. When nature dies, we lose too.

* “The largest ever fleet of robotic submarines is setting of from the Isles of Scilly to explore the ocean depths.” – just in case you forgot you were living in the future.

* ISIS selling Iraq’s artifacts on black market

* The Amazon/Hachette battle and politics. Definitely an interesting read for those following this one.

* This is just weird. Scientology and Nation of Islam unite to stop killing in Ferguson?

Though it is pretty hard to imagine Scientology caring about poor clients.

Check out this astounding interview with L Ron Hubbard jr, who details the early days of Scientology, and effectively calls out what works as black magic, and the rest as blackmail and extortion. I can pretty much guarantee it will be the wildest thing you read this week.

* Sexual consent app good2go launches. Definitely interesting, though kinda weird as it logs the yesses and identities…

* Turning down the lights can turn down your emotions.

“Whether you are feeling really good or really bad, emotions are felt more intensely when the ambient lighting is brighter, according to recent research.

Since many decisions are made under strong lighting conditions, turning down the lights may help you make less emotional decisions.”

* An uh-oh moment in the great uncontrolled experiment with our technology and our minds

” For the first time, neuroscientists have found that people who use multiple devices simultaneously have lower gray-matter density in an area of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional control (Loh & Kanai, 2014).”

 

 

late july mutants

Now this is kind of mind-blowing: Global wildlife decline driving slave labor, organized crime.

“Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a policy paper led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.”

Good Amazon: Amazon is making a pilot for a TV show based on Philip K Dick’s The Man in The High Castle.

Bad Amazon: about 900 writers have joined a campaign against Amazon’s treatment of Hachette. This is an interesting flashpoint in the future of publishing.

The times they are a-changing. The editorial board of the New York Times just came out for marijuana reform in America.

“It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

Oh and also, California passed a bill to legalise complementary currencies.

This one is probably the must-read of the batch, and one I will return to when I have a bit more brain focus: Evgeny Morozov on algorythmic regulation. Kinda the convergence point of smart-everything, big data, and social control.

What’s New In Social Science? EDGE curated, 10 speakers, 6 hours of video,  58000 word PDF, all free, “focusing on the state of the art of what the social sciences have to tell us about human nature”.

Saw the excellent doco “Jodorowsky’s Dune” yesterday, about the greatest movie almost made. In synchronicity, came across this quote about Frank Herbert and Dune:

Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.

Buy your own giant plush Ebola Virus toy. No, seriously.

 

 

 

And Earth just had its hottest June ever, boosted by hottest ocean temperatures.

Hmm. That may be enough for an hour and half of trawling, have a few long pieces queued up to read still…

 

midwinter mutants

Mutants trawling has been a bit erratic over the past month or so but here are some of the links that caught my eye:

Brief interview with West African shaman Malidoma Some (author of the mindblowing and hugely recommended by the moose Of Water and the Spirit) about what he experiences when visiting a Western mental hospital.

DARPA have developed a much better ARG than Google Glass: Ultra-Vis, which will soon be part of commercial offerings. Article gets deep into tech wonkery about whys and hows.

12 Data visualisations about current state of world poverty and related issues. (literacy, population growth, GDP, and the excellent “if the world were 100 people”.) Excellent.

Uber has successfully reinvented taxi’s, and transport in cities, with an interesting flexible tech driven model.

Bacteria that live on electricity

Useful summary of USA’s sanctions / financial warfare against Russia over Ukraine.

Massive pre-rainforest human-made earthworks found in the Amazon. No one has any idea.

Tao Lin delivers 30 Terence McKenna quotes. Good stuff for those familiar with McKenna and an easy entry for those who aren’t.

Fasting for three days can regenerate immune system.

 1000 years of European border changes in 3 minutes

This interview between Edward Snowden and John Perry Barlow is pretty awesome.

 

bacterial utopia or oblivion

 

Recently somehow came across this very interesting fellow: Stephen Harrod Buhner. Author of 20 or so books, a wide ranging scholar interested in all kinds of interesting stuff, I recently listened to a couple of interviews with him. Both were wide ranging and there was little overlap between them, and the content was at times so wild and exciting I ordered one of his books, which hasn’t happened in a while.

By way of a sampling of what I mean by wild and exciting: bacteria build cities with streets and buildings; plants take psychotropic drugs and respond to them in much the same way humans do; an apple tree can get itself drunk; if antibiotics stop working in the next 10-15 years, we will also lose surgery, as you can’t cut people open if they are susceptible to infection – the ramifications of this for modern medicine are total, and he argues we will return to herbal etc remedies by necessity, and has written books about herbal antibiotics and antivirals etc…

(A fascinating counterpoint to this is Craig Venter’s current work in creating synthetic life. Essentially, he can now analyse a bacteria, digitize its DNA, send that digital code around the world, and rebuild the organism synthetically from that digital code – while synthetic it will be alive and able to self-replicate etc. The speed with which this is becoming possible is what may save us from the failing of antibiotics. As Howard Bloom argued back in ’98 in Global Brain, we need to get our species wide global brain up and running to combat the billions of year old bacterial global brain that will otherwise kick our ass.

As Buckminster Fuller said, whether it will be utopia or oblivion will be a touch and go relay race until the very end; and this bacterial struggle is one of the clearest illustrations of that.)

Ultimately Buhner argues that the way out of all this is for people to reacquaint themselves with their thinking/feeling/sensing intuitive direct knowing and follow what that tells them. For example, the first generation of psychoanalysts were never trained, they just created the field. We have the ability in ourselves to come up with new things, and need to use it.

The thread of Buhner’s work I found most interesting is the plant intelligence side of things, and it is a fabulous extension of what Jeremy Narby was talking about in Intelligence in Nature back in 2005 and that I was writing about in my main nonfiction book about consciousness back in ’08. His compelling vision is of a very alive and aware cosmos in constant interaction and dialogue with itself, and his reasons for thinking this are electrifying.

So I am awaiting a book in the mail, with a reasonable hope it will be able to live up to expectation. Also, nice to feel intellectual stimulation again.

 

 

 

Reading Feb/March 2014

Missed a month. I doubt anyone noticed.

 

A Life Decoded – Craig Venter

Autobiography by Venter, the scientist who led the team which sequenced the human genome, and is now the only scientist since Louis Pasteur who has his own research institute and enough funding to do whatever he wants. Fascinating insight into the process of big science – the pressures and corruption in both government and private funding – the truly other world billionaires exist in – big pharma being evil, etc. (Venter has been right at the heart of gene patenting issues, since he has identified more genes and synthesised more DNA than anyone else.) It is also an extreme introduction to the state of the art in biotechnology, as he explains what they did and how they did it (which involved inventing techniques and methods etc – forefront of science type stuff.)

Venter himself is an intense, interesting guy. Seems to deal with life crises by going on reckless dangerous boat adventures and achieving epiphanies. Definitely framed by his experiences as a medic in Vietnam. One of the people alive right now to watch, as what he does next has genuinely potential to change the world forever. Currently he is trying to synthesise life in the lab, and create custom bacteria to do useful things.

Richard Yates – Tao Lin

I didn’t finish this tale of a dysfunctional relationship between deeply dysfunctional people. The book reads like Tao Lin is probably mentally ill, and at least autistic. (So did the last one of his I read a few years back, Eeeee Eee Eeee, which I liked a lot more.) Unique prose and sensibility. Occasionally quite funny. But this one was ultimately broken and not giving enough back.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Clark

Last of the Hunger Games books, first I read, as I didn’t feel like waiting for two years and two more movies to find out how it ends. Fast easy enjoyable read. Bloody and surprising. Jennifer Lawrence nails Katniss. Definitely pleased this is mainstream, as it raises enough issues about mediated society and social control etc to make people think a little.

The Charwoman’s Shadow – Lord Dunsany

A classical fairy-tale style novel from Dunsany, steeped in old-fashioned magic and a bygone era. Gorgeously told, simple and wise. The magician is something else; a truly disturbing rendering of an archetype. He looms over the whole story, and at the end, we realise it was his all along.

ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age – Andre Gunder-Frank

Had been meaning to read this for about 15 years. Economic historian argues persuasively that there has been a global economic system for hundreds if not thousands of years, which was always centred on Asia except for the blip of the past two hundred years. Further, he argues that the West’s recent success was not due to Western exceptionalism – ie not due to our values talents or character, in the process demolishing the axiomatic framework of most pillars of western social theory (Marx, Weber, etc) – but rather to the macro scale forces of the global economic system. Excellent stuff. Summation of a life’s work. Gunder-Frank probably died too soon after this came out to really push it as far as it deserves to go. The historical analysis is essential to any serious student of the world, and what is going on.

The Four Hour Body – Tim Ferriss

Life hacking to the extreme. There’s a lot in this volume, and yeah, it seems quite major changes and improvements are possible with surprisingly little effort, but the real value is the underlying philosophy of the Minimum Effective Dose, and finding out what that is for whatever it is your goals are, and just doing that. Definitely recommended for anyone into hacking their diet, fitness, health, etc.

Total I Ching – Stephen Karcher

Kind of the ultimate I Ching book from my favourite interpreter of the I Ching. Great. Though really just opens a window into another culture and world, and makes one realise how vast, complex and coherent it is, and how much further one would have to travel to really grasp it.

Enochian Vision Magick – Lon Milo DuQuette

DuQuette’s introduction to Enochian magic (part of the magical system channelled via angelic communication by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley several hundred years ago.) Grounded, lucid, practical.

The Vision and the Voice – Aleister Crowley

Crowley’s account of performing the Enochian Aethyrs while travelling through North African desert in the early 1900s. Eye-opening.

Poor Charlie’s Almanac – Charles Munger

Sort of legendary book of business and life advice from the guy who is silent investment partner to Warren Buffet. Haven’t quite got to the meat of it yet, but definitely a sharp, if dry, mind.

[untitled]

First read through of the draft of the non-fiction book I wrote late last year which I’m not really talking much about. Pleasingly solid.

The Ebony Tower – John Fowles

Short novel. Astoundingly good piece of fiction addressing big questions about life and art and relationships and meaning and love and the intensities we experience along the way. This ranks way up there as a prose work. Highly recommended.

 

top 3′s of 2013

 

…or a half assed year in review just while it occurs to me off the top of my head and before they crop up everywhere; I am pretty culturally out of sync so this will be stuff I encountered this year maybe rather than was definitely released this year.

 

Film

1. The Act of Killing

Perhaps the most astounding, powerful and indescribable documentary – and film in general – I have ever seen. Reviewed back here. Incredible. See it.

2. War Witch (Rebelle)

Phenomenal film about a young girl forced into becoming a child soldier in Africa. And then it goes deeply weird, entering another magical yet completely grounded African reality. Wonderful, intense, bizarre.

3. John Dies at the End

Ridiculous amounts of fun from Don Coscarelli. Not actually sure when this came out but I saw it early this year. Really really fun. Reviewed back here.

 

TV

1. John From Cincinnati

Stoner surfer mystic madness. Possibly the best thing ever. Ten episodes of sheer joy. See it.

2. I think Game of Thrones is the only other thing I have watched.

 

Books

Ouch. Now this will be challenging. These are probably the three that have stayed with me and formed the basis of multiple conversations.

1. Exterminate All the Brutes – Sven Lindqvist

Incredible and unsettling account of the Western colonial expansion and genocide of Africa; and so much more. Reviewed in detail here.

2. The God Problem – Howard Bloom

Bloom is perhaps the most multidisciplinary genius thinker out there, and this is his magnum opus; a synthesis of human exploration and insight into the nature of the universe and its workings, told as a rollicking story through a historical anthropological historical scientific humanistic philosophical biological conceptual &c blend, with remarkable verve and vigour. Epic learnings.

3. Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master Speaks

Singapore’s eminent respected genius leader’s take on pretty much everything that matters about the current state of play in world affairs. An absolute masterclass in what is going on, from someone who knows all the key decision makers, and has been wildly successful at negotiating power at the highest levels for forty years, all in under 200 pages.

 

Music

1. 3 Organic Experiences – Aglaia

Ambient. Lush. Beautiful.

2. Ambiant Otaku – Tetsu Inoue

Ambient. Serene. Beautiful.

3. Toucan Stubbs.

Don’t know that they have released anything. Most interesting live act in Wellington at the moment. Multi-instrumentalist folk duo doing… things. Live. Wonderful things, in strange places.

 

reading September 2013

Stealing Fire From the Gods – James Bonnet

Very much in the Jungian side of archetypal story analysis, building from Joseph Campbell et al but generating a quite remarkably comprehensive model of the nature of story. A hell of a lot in it, perhaps my favourite of these kinds of books* (though hi recency bias), along with The Seven Basic Plots; though I suspect this one is a great deal more practical. Something I will return to. Though also, he crams a lot of high concept stuff into not many pages, and if you don’t already have a solid grounding in Jung/Campbell etc it may be a bit much.

* On the whole I get more out of ones focused on story as a whole rather than script-focused story-structure books, as I don’t think film really matters per se, and the modern era of film introduces many artificial limitations into the nature of stories told; whereas stories themselves, and why we tell them, do matter; story is an essence which pours itself into many forms.

Shoninki: the secret teachings of the ninja: the 17th century manual on the art of concealment – Natori Masazumi

Comes across as strangely humorous several centuries later. I guess if you were raised as a cold-war kid the levels of paranoia and subterfuge around spying that seem normal are high. This ninja manual is oddly genteel, though has its moments of insight.

Magic For Beginners – Kelly Link

Joyously wonderful fresh and weird short stories. Deliriously delightful. The title story in particular is extraordinary. Her voice is idiosyncratic and lively and her stories are very weird, and not always successful, but those that are win so hard it is frightening.

Brain Magick – Philip Farber

NLP, neuropsychology and magick rolled into one, with a particular focus on invocation, by one of the most lucid explorers of these realms. Found it a fun and easy read, but I am primed for these areas.

Stranger Things Happen – Kelly Link

Earlier short story collection from Link. Still enjoying them. Which is an achievement, since short fiction is not my medium, and for me to read two books by anyone in a row is pretty rare. A real and definite original.

.

In other media, watched Season One of Battlestar Galactica. Really enjoyed the pilot and first episode. Descended into episodic malarkey and hokey-ness a wee bit, but still pretty solid. A curious blend of SF and fantasy/metaphysical elements, saddled with some heavy handed commentary on the war on terror which plays more absurdly now than it would have at the time it came out. Will probably keep going with it, since the finale made a right mess of things. And yes, Tamsyn, the music is amazing.

 

Next Page »