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.)



sunday mutants 14/4/12


* 48 psychological facts about yourself worth knowing

definitely worth the read. far from the usual sort of guff.

* Chris23 summarises the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2011.

well worth reading. short clear but excellent summary of where shit is at, current pressure points in the world system, etc.

* Reality as failed state

interesting analysis of the disconnect between different actors in the world

* old maps online

the largest collection of old maps online

* a downloadable archive of all of the amazing Grey Lodge online magazine

Grey Lodge was one of the first and greatest sources of underground, avant garde, occult culture. some absolute gems in their collection.

* future of publishing news: freemium, a fascinating funding model for writing from China

basically serialised online fiction. free at first. as it gets more popular, you have to pay. seems to be working for some people.

* BBC reports that implanted wireless devices are hackable by McAfee… ie if you have an insulin pump, it can be turned off, or made to release all its contents at once, by external signals…


And, as a follow-up to the last post on economics, here is a nugget from the awesome Nils Gilman:

Stat of the day: Sustaining a 2.3% growth rate to the year 3500 would require us by then to be capturing the entire energy output of the Sun

Capitalism cannot work.


(lots of todays stuff came from catching up on technoccult and URBEINGRECORDED for the first time in ages)

the return of sunday mutants

The world shifted while the moose was loose in the world. Lots of crazy shit happening ever faster in these unfolding interesting times. We missed a lot, and I’m not even going to try to summarise or catch up. But it seems like we are at least coming closer to facing reality.

Anyhow. Here are the results of my first dedicated info trawl in a long long while, scrying the emerging future in the froth of the web… Much of the best of this comes from the already indispensable Innovation Patterns, the rest from the mutants list, and generally revisiting some of my haunts.



Michael Ventura steps into prophet mode again. Three parts, necessary reading/analysis of what the fuck is going. (Subtitle: “The Worldwide End of Capitalism and Its Replacement by a Mode of Commerce for Which, as Yet, There Is No Ism.”) Flash Mob Dance Revolution Parts One Two & Three. Two parts analysis, third part an attempt at solution.


fighting muppetocracy: pretty brutal and punchy look at how fucked we are, well worth reading and distressingly difficult to argue against.

This show brought to you by the international community, by government, by the NGOs, by well-intentioned individuals, by the UN, and all the rest of it. The same cast of clowns that screwed up Haiti.
Get it yet? Is it landing?
We are screwed. We don’t need to speculate on how or why, but we have an absolutely clear and rational expectation that there will be no sudden, effective, global and complete transformation in our global governance systems resulting in an effective resolution to our climate crisis.
We did not do it for poverty.
We do not do it for natural disasters.
We will not do it for climate.
Everything rests on us getting a technological fix for climate, and we’re massively, dramatically underfunding research into those breakthrough technologies in favour of continuing to subsidize oil. These are the facts.

Really worth reading the whole thing for context etc.


kind of an antidote to that: recent interview with zen buddhist master Thich Nhat Hahn :

“Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come,” he warns. “Civilisations have been destroyed many times and this civilisation is no different. It can be destroyed. We can think of time in terms of millions of years and life will resume little by little. The cosmos operates for us very urgently, but geological time is different.

“If you meditate on that, you will not go crazy. You accept that this civilisation could be abolished and life will begin later on after a few thousand years because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope.”


Excellent Foreign Policy article about the logical limits to China’s growth, and the rise of Turkey, India, Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia.


DARPA trying to hack the neurobiology of narrative in order to bring in a whole new generation of propaganda control.

Once scientists have perfected the science of how stories affect our neurochemistry, they will develop tools to “detect narrative influence.” These tools will enable “prevention of negative behavioral outcomes … and generation of positive behavioral outcomes, such as building trust.” In other words, the tools will be used to detect who’s been controlled by subversive ideologies, better allowing the military to drown out that message and win people onto their side.

“The government is already trying to control the message, so why not have the science to do it in a systematic way?” said the researcher familiar with the project.

Um. WTF? Disturbing as fuck anyway.


The Case Against the Spirit World Model of Psychedelic Action

Pretty fascinating/challenging read for entheogenic enthusiasts.


Cyborg future news: A team at at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen says it’s built the foundation for devices to communicate directly with the human brain.

The researchers’ new graphene-based transistor array is compatible with living biological cells and can, for the first time, record the electrical signals they generate.


Have you missed these posts? Or are you happier not knowing? 😉

(Hell, for that matter, have I missed making these posts, and am I happier not knowing?)



At some point, the alternative currency philosophy was going to hit the open source/p2p movement, and give us a dangerous mutant.

It has arrived in the form of bitcoin.

If you can begin to grasp the implications of an untraceable, untaxable, global, uncontrollable-by-governments currency, you ought to know about this.
Moreso if you can’t.

nearly empty world (Dubai edition) sinking

Way back here we first mentioned The World – an artificial archipelago in the shape of the world built offshore of Dubai.

Turns out it is sinking, both economically and, well, physically.

nearly empty world sinking

I guess this is what you get for being the ideal location for a JG Ballard novel.

review: zeitgeist moving forward [2011]

Went along to the world premiere of Zeitgeist: Moving Forward the other night.

I never saw the first Zeitgeist film, and don’t plan to. I saw the second one, and found it to be a reasonable presentation of issues around the money system – the kind of stuff I have been ranting about for a while now – along with some fun techno-utopian bullshit called the Venus Project.

The third one was long. Four parts, the first focusing on epigenetic effects on behaviour – essentially rejecting genetic determinist type arguments, and arguing for the influence of the environment – and was pretty solid. The second was more on the money system, this time focusing on its role as our environment, and its effects on us. The third part was an interesting if incomplete techno-utopian model of how we could run the world instead once we stop being so f**king stupid, but it struck me as a hyper rationalist vision curiously lacking insight into human values. The fourth part I forget exactly, but it got a bit more peak oil on our asses, and a bit more urgent about the need for change.

For anyone who has been paying attention, there is not much new here. The dude could use an editor/input from someone who isn’t him. From the kinds of things he feels the need to clarify – (eg) this is not communism! – he is clearly operating from deep inside an American consciousness. At times it is preachy, and flawed in its argument. But as a freely available idiot friendly introduction – and one with a lot of momentum behind it – it could be much worse.

As ever, it is easier to critique what is going on than produce alternatives. The critical comments are worth knowing about, and the alternative, while limited and flawed, contains some good stuff, and is more use as a contribution to a conversation rather than a viable model. (Following Monbiot, I feel more than justified in saying this, as most of my writing is about creating viable solutions to this sort of thing. Just need to get them published in some form :/)

Mostly what interested me about it was the social phenomenon. I forget the stats exactly, but the dude who spoke before it played said it was launched on the same day in (something like) 280 cities in 65 countries around the world, via a grassroots movement.

Now that is interesting.

Thing is, the Paramount was *completely* sold out – people sitting in the aisles – sold out with normal looking people, not obvious freaks.

Normally this stuff is encountered alone in your room late at night in front of your computer, or maybe with a few similarly cracked out friends. While widespread, it is underground. It is being thought about and talked about but it is not visible. Bringing thousands of people together, in public, around the world, for a shared experience of this material, interests me – it brings things closer to the “everyone knows that everyone knows that everyone knows” phenomena Clay Shirky talks about in Here Comes Everybody (which I talked about in the last section of this post). It is powerful in some sense.

I don’t know if we will look back on this as some sort of moment that mattered, but it is well named – there is a trend, a movement, a zeitgeist, towards the general awareness that we have comprehensive problems that require comprehensive solutions. Its value is in reaching “the masses”, and opening up these sorts of conversations. In this sense I am not the ideal audience – I am further down the rabbit hole than most people. But those I talked to afterwards had found new thoughts moving in themselves after the film.

It will be available for free download from the 25th of Jan.

Review: We Live in Public [2009]

One of those documentaries in the ‘you have to see it to believe it’ basket.

We Live in Public is the story of Josh Harris, an early dot-com millionaire, who was once worth $80 million, and lost it all.

Part visionary, part madman, part wannabe artist; also a very weird and messed up guy, whose clown alter ego started turning up at business meetings.

Most of what is interesting about him is how far ahead of the curve he was. He founded an internet TV station and let it run wild years before broadband came along. Then he ran “Quiet”, a bunker with a few hundred people in it, cameras everywhere, interrogations, psychological testing, uniforms, and everything provided free of charge, an experiment that ran for over a month before being shut down by police; a forerunner of reality TV, and a formal experiment in what happens to us as we become socially mediated by technology. After that, he wired up the house he lived in with his girlfriend and put their life live online, interacting with viewers in chat.

All in all it is pretty berserk; thought provoking, unusual, and stimulating. Raises many questions about where we are going with our social media as it becomes a bigger part of our lives; the line between privacy and control. Well worth watching.

(Oh, apparently it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009. I can see why.)

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deviant globalisation: the unpleasant underside of transnational integration

Wow. This is the most interesting what-is-going-on-in-the-world thing I have encountered in a long long time:

Nils Gilman, co-author of deviant globalisation, giving a SALT talk.

There is so much going on in this talk. Seriously check it out. My summary below is incomplete.

Basically he is mapping the vast underside of globalisation – the enormous flow of cash and people engaged in vastly profitable illegal trades – from drugs, to sex tourism, to organ trafficking, to people trafficking, etc,
and the black financial market underlying it, which is as big as the rest combined since it facilitates it – things that will sound familiar – and places them in an utterly fascinating analysis of how and why this happens, and what it means.

Short version: our weird morality causes asymmetry in the world, which produces opportunities for arbitrage – systemic inequalities which can be leveraged for profit – ie what we ban makes it valuable when it crosses the border, which provides incentives to deal in those things – the harder the push to illegalise them, the more profitable they are.

The organisations making use of this systemic leverage are gigantic, and occurring in places in which the development model has failed and which are borderline failed states.

His provocative argument includes saying this is actually what development looks like – this is “actually happening” development, transferring more wealth from the global north to the global south than anything else that is being done.

This is the system, it is not marginal. It is creating a new class of geopolitical actors – what John Robb calls global guerrillas. In many cases they are replacing functions of the state in a privatised form – health clinics, justice, security, parks, schools – not for the public but their own constituents, their community.

While violent since they are outside the law, they are not revolutionary – they are not trying to take over the state. They don’t usually conflict with the state unless the state attacks them – eg a gang shutting down Sao Paolo for 3 days. They are mostly interested in autonomy, while functionally sapping the state in practice.

What does this mean for the future?

We will not make the world like us. However, it will also not descend into anarchy. Deviant globalisation represents an order, just not a liberal order, an illiberal order. It is not ungoverned, but governed by people we don’t like. They are not failed states – that assumes our ideal of a state – but rather a different kind of order outside of liberal states.

What can we do?

We can make judicious choices. Embrace the reality of the system, and what effects our local prohibitions have elsewhere.

The question then becomes what do we worry about more? (eg) our morality of drug use vs slaughter in the supply chain. He thinks these are not easy choices but that they are not going away.


Some thoughts I have about his analysis, however, is that all this arbitrage is parasitic off the liberal global system existing. He is describing something in a dynamic state of evolution, and it is hard to predict where it is going. This is the world system going into flux, losing equilibrium. Tracking it is certainly vital, but prediction is hard, as the out-of-control changes coming to our part of the system (peak oil, climate change, etc) will also affect the deviant global system.

Also, since what he is describing is a system that is effectively unfettered capitalism – unrestricted by any morality – interacting with the arbitrage created by our morality, we could get rid capitalism as an underlying system, thus removing the profit motive, or we can change our morality.

We are defined by what we prohibit; we could change what is allowable. Which brings us back to what is human, what is us, and other, and why, and how do we change that. And all the other stuff in our head, which most of my work for the past few years has been about hacking…

Finally, something I particularly took from it is a map of how and where the warlords of the multi-multi-polar near future are going to evolve.


Interesting mutant recently come across: Vinay Gupta. Basically seems to be doing really onto it risk assessment based analysis of the collapse of things as we know them, with a really interesting practical bent.

This is a PDF of a slideshow for a talk he gave recently, and is the must read of the week. (Lots of slides, not so many words.) About a third of the way in it gets really interesting, and stays that way.

In particular, his concepts of Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps (Slide 82 onward; examples from 134 onwards), and agro-industrial auto-catalysis (slide 113 onward), are really excellent.

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