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.

 

 

 

sunday mutants may

Scientific American interview with a guy who has been working out in depth plans for how New York could run on 100% renewable energy (wind, water and solar).

*

Jaron Lanier snarks massively as he reveals the feudal nature of the online economy with this damning adapted EULA.

*

Fascinating take on why capitalism won’t save us:

In a capitalist economy, it is not mere necessity, but purchasing-power-weighted necessity that is the mother of invention. American entrepreneurs don’t compete to meet the needs of money-poor Africans or Chinese. Instead, Chinese entrepreneurs compete to meet the needs of citizens of the country money comes from. Within the US, entrepreneurs don’t much innovate to discover and address unmet needs of the poor. That’s a rough business. The poor have more needs than they can pay for already, and entrepreneurs hope to be paid.

*

The Economist on China’s new leader, and the Chinese dream.

*

Russian family lived in complete isolation in the wilderness for 40 years.

Oh, and C02 is about to hit 400ppm…

sunday mutants

Or, my last hour on twitter, reading the last few days of my /mutants list. Really, if you aren’t using Twitter for awesome, you are failing at the interwebs.

 

Dude stops eating food for a month.

There are no meats, fruits, vegetables, or breads here. Besides olive oil for fatty acids and table salt for sodium and chloride nothing is recognizable as food. I researched every substance the body needs to survive, plus a few extras shown to be beneficial, and purchased all of them in nearly raw chemical form from a variety of sources.

Ratting. Dudes remotely hacking your webcams and messing with you. It’s a thiing.

Pornstars before and after makeup.

Microsoft getting closer to figuring out what makes shit go viral. [video]

Magic mushrooms and transhumanism

according to this peer-reviewed paper indexed by the National Institutes of Health, magic mushrooms could be the way to help posthumans retain or regain the morality needed to be good transpersonal godling/citizens.

Human brain cells make mice smart

A team of neuroscientists has grafted human brain cells into the brains of mice and found that the rodents’ rate of learning and memory far surpassed that of ordinary mice.  Remarkably, the cells transplanted were not neurons, but rather types of brain cells, called glia, that are incapable of electrical signaling.  The new findings suggest that information processing in the brain extends beyond the mechanism of electrical signaling between neurons.

A quote that turned up: “Lewis Mumford berated suburban life as “an asylum for the preservation of illusion.” ”

 

Pharmaceutical industry even more corrupt and evil than previously suspected

We of the dancing moose have been tracking the fucked-up-ness of the pharmaceutical industry for quite a while, and even blogged some of it over the last six or seven years. For instance, the inappropriate medicalisation of minor conditions and attendant hard-sell of prescription remedies, manipulating lawmaking, the general desire to screen and drug the whole population, the corrupt links between drug-makers and the psychiatric experts who determine what drug shall be the default prescription, their insane profit driven priorities (erection pills over medicines), noting that legal drugs kill more than illegal, the insane PR lengths the industry goes to, and so forth.

But the latest revelation is actually beyond the fucking pale.

The Guardian’s piece from last week, The drugs don’t work: a modern medical scandal is a really extraordinary expose of big pharmaceutical companies’ practices.

Essentially, those psychiatric drugs that are tested and proven effective? That testing process is dodgy. Intentionally, consciously.

Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques that are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion.

The pharmaceutical companies exercise controls over the process, so that they can kill studies that aren’t going the way they want. They engage in selective reporting – just plain not reporting studies (often larger and more significant than those on which the effectiveness is claimed) which fail to show positive effects.

How broken is this? Industry funded studies are four times more likely to report positive results. This is a total rape of scientific methodology for financial gain. This is dishonesty leading directly to suffering so fucking corporations can make money.

I did everything a doctor is supposed to do. I read all the papers, I critically appraised them, I understood them, I discussed them with the patient and we made a decision together, based on the evidence. In the published data, reboxetine was a safe and effective drug. In reality, it was no better than a sugar pill and, worse, it does more harm than good. As a doctor, I did something that, on the balance of all the evidence, harmed my patient, simply because unflattering data was left unpublished.

Nobody broke any law in that situation, reboxetine is still on the market and the system that allowed all this to happen is still in play, for all drugs, in all countries in the world.

The author goes on to examine the systemic failings of the system of drug testing and prescription. It is hella worth reading.

 

 

What particularly gets me angry is the misapplication of the disease model of mental illness. We are being lied to about our nature, about our minds, and being drugged with horrible shit that has hideous side effects and often doesn’t help – and this is being done knowingly.

What goes on in our heads is not just a question of brain chemistry; our brain chemistry, and our general state of being, is a result of being human beings embedded in the world, acting and receiving feedback from those actions. Our troubles and their solutions are both to be found in that same domain, not a pill.

-=-=-

Bonus note: most of our drugs are synthesised from plants. The general reductionist belief in isolating a single active ingredient from a plant itself is largely driven by profit, and to make researcher’s lives easy. However, we are complex beings, and plants are complex, and the interactions between them are complex. See this article from Dr Andrew Weil: Why Plants are (usually) better than drugs for some examples of how whole plant remedies work.

War is a force that gives us meaning – Chris Hedges (review)

War is a force that gives us meaning is an extraordinary book. While simply told, it is a complex and deep meditation on the nature of war and humanity. I have never read anything remotely like it, and it feels important. It is all signal, no noise. Ultimately it is a plea to engage with and understand war and what it does to us.

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges spent 20 years reporting from war zones in Africa, the Middle East, South America and Europe (including 15 years working for the New York Times, which he was fired from for speaking out against the war in Iraq). He has a Masters in Divinity, and brings an unflinching moral gaze. He has seen much of the worst of humanity.

Perhaps most shockingly, he is not anti-war. War may sometimes be necessary, but war does not absolve us of responsibility for our acts.

Easy takeaways: the myths we are told of war are lies. The representations in film are lies. The version of war we get in the media is a lie, one which the media is complicit in, caught up in the madness, willingly servicing the myth. Hedges describes the working and importance of those myths, about war, sacrifice and glory, and about nations; how authentic culture is destroyed and replaced by myths, the destruction of memory and reality to allow war to flourish; how those lonely voice that speak out will be ostracised and suffer for it.

The experience of war is both hideous and an ongoing peak experience, for combatants and victims alike. Facing ourselves through the experience of fear and horror reveals how little we are and grants life intensity and meaning. A madness descends as the moral norms of reality are lifted. He writes of the will to die, of reconciling oneself to a senseless death, and the struggle to operate in the normal world afterwards. This is why so many returned soldiers kill themselves. This is why so many war reporters keep going back to war, chasing their own death.

Those who rise to prominence in war are the thugs, criminals and psychos, let loose in the name of a myth, who inevitably turn from the ideal and abuse their power in the most heinous ways.

In particular he confronts that this is in all of us. That when the event descends, those with the moral character to resist are very few and far between. Normal people do unspeakable things, but the aftermath for many is being psychologically and spiritually broken. The worst crimes are often committed by the militias rather than the trained soldiers.

The sheer number and nature of the examples which casually illustrate the book is where much of the force comes in. It is genuinely disturbing. We have an educated guide through hell, who quotes the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare as readily as those who have filled mass graves.

He also speaks of how we come to terms with war and heal from it; how we wake from the madness and resume normality. The process of confronting the past, and memory, and what really happened, and digging up the mass graves which reveal the atrocities we committed. In his experience, nearly everyone in wartime is complicit.

He speaks of the way we project meaning onto conflict, pick sides, and ascribe the side we support our own image and qualities, regardless of the truth of it. He speaks of the frenetic empty sex.

The only solution, of course, is love, the dance between eros and thanatos; but most crucially, to see love in our enemy, and recognise it as the same as the love in ourselves.

Incredible, complex, powerful. A deep meditation on humanity, life, and the capacity for horror in all of us. He speaks of so much more than I have covered here.

This is a book we should all be aware of, and I suspect from this review you will know if you need to read it. If you feel the call, I recommend it extremely highly.

Hedges wrote this book in response to 9-11, a warning to his nation as it entered the madness of war. He has gone on over the last decade to write a whole bunch of really right-on seeming books dealing with the contemporary issues that need to be addressed yet which rarely are spoken of at all. Check him out.

 

 

 

a simple choice: the economy or the planet

From Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Bill McKibben’s latest blunt assessment of where climate, fossil fuels and politics intersect:

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.

Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically above ground – it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It’s why they’ve worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada’s tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.

So yeah. If we use one fifth of our available fossil fuel reserves we will blow the 2 degree temperature increase that is our bare minimum safety estimate, at which things will be pretty fucked, and beyond which things will be kinda catastrophically fucked.
And he points the finger at the fossil-fuel industry as those whose business model is killing the planet, and urges means to target them, and engage a carbon pricing system that will keep 4/5ths of remaining fossil fuels in the ground. Which is a big ask.
But hey, it seems a simple choice. We can choose a broken economy or the ecological system that allows life as we know it.
The economy, economic value, and money, are not real. The ecological system on which our lives depend is.

Farsight Institute experiment in remote viewing the future

 

The Farsight Institute are interested in scientifically exploring Remote Viewing, and experimenting with it in a really rigorous way. Almost 20 years ago I read Psychic Warrior by David Morehouse, which is the fascinating account of a soldier inducted into military remote viewing program, and remote viewing seems to have come a long way since then. (The US military spent millions on testing remote viewing, a kind of means of gathering information at a distance.) While it is not something I have personal experience of, the concepts are similar enough to lucid dreams, out of body experiences, and shamanic journeying type things, all of which I have experienced, that I am willing to consider the possibility.

This video, from 2010, presents the summary of their research findings from a remote viewing experiment focused on 2008 and two different future 2013s. From the description, it seems about as sane as you could manage to make research of this kind.

It blows me away that this is a real experiment rather than science fiction. The entire thing is deeply fascinating to me, and frankly kind of exciting.

I think it is worth watching, so I am not going to summarise their theory or results. Go in with an open mind. Hell, go in watching it as a short science fiction movie if you like. It will be a worthwhile 18 minutes either way.

One way or another, it will be worth checking back with the project in mid 2013.

The Farsight Institute are currently trying to get support to “organize a tightly controlled, publicly viewable scientific display of the phenomenon of remote viewing in return for mainstream recognition of the validity of the phenomenon itself”, later this year.

I would support that.

 

absolutely staggering footage of CNN faking live gulf war reporting

This is one of the most stunning fails ever.

This footage comes from the Gulf War.

It starts off with the reporter rehearsing on a studio set, then a bunch of goofing off, then the “live on location from Saudi Arabia” footage that went out kicks in around 3.10. By the time they get into sticking gas masks on around the 7 minute mark, the performance moves from surreal to hysterical.

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

Wow. Just wow.

 

belated mutants

Hmm. Some links have stacked up without really trying. (Lots of this via innovation patterns.)

map of europe from 1000AD to present. ch ch ch changes.

Bill Gates’s holiday reading. interesting and obvious trend evident.

pathology of power: really disturbing description of how no one is in control at the US Department of Defense

towards a psychological operations reading list. terrifying amounts of brainfood.

the world’s most powerful mercenary armies.

shift happens: excellent essay on Kuhn and his effect on thought

guess i missed this while traveling: human/animal hybrids being made in labs in the UK.

I figured this was going on in unregulated countries, interesting to see them cop to it.

also, on biology: sequencing the genome has achieved sod all so far.

general support against the notion of reductionism to our genetic code; also notes rise of epigenetics

a really worthwhile four minute video introducing the notion of social and planetary boundaries

cult of economics reaches limits of physics

This is pretty wonderfully mad: black holes in the bazaar.

The excessive speeds being sought to enable financial transactions at every tinier fractions of a second for trading advantage are approaching a level where fluctuations from gravity and other limits of physics may appear.

(For context on this, see this TED talk about algorythms being used to run trade and reshape the world.)

 

 

Next Page »