MonthSeptember 2006

Nihilism and techno-utopianism

A follow-up to rant against techno-utopianism from the other night. From the Wikipedia article on nihilism (emphasis mine):

Christianity, Platonism, and various political movements that aim toward a distant utopian future, and any other philosophy that devalues human life and the world around us (and any philosophy that devalues the world around us by privileging some other or future world necessarily devalues human life), Nietzsche tells us it is also a threat for humanity’s future. This warning can also be taken as a polemic against 19th and 20th century scientism.

I’m not interested in arguing whether this is actually what Nietzsche actually said/meant. It more or less sums up the problem to me.

Here’s a conversation at World Changing about optimism and pessimism (which also links to this sort of “portal article” about the problems we face and the rate of change). I consider myself a skeptical optimist. I believe we can overcome our current social and environmental problems. But it will take work and adaptation.

Grant Morrison talks about Batman

I haven’t read a Grant Morrison interview in a while… here he is talking about his work on Batman, including a good dig on Frank Miller:

Well, I still intend to do ‘Miller’-style first person narrative captions which give some insight into Batman’s thought processes but it seems more ‘realistic’ to imagine Batman as a hardcore fightin’ man who wouldn’t even notice his injuries until long after the fight was over, so no more of that ‘MY BACK SPLINTERS INTO A THOUSAND SHARDS OF AGONIZED BONE. HE’S GOOD. HE’S YOUNG. HE’S TOUGHER AND YOUNGER THAN ME. AND TOUGHER. DID I MENTION TOUGHER ? MUSN’T BLACK OUT…’ In Batman #657 we see some of the pulp noir narration and non sequitur imagery that goes through Batman’s mind during a fight and keeps him from being distracted by his aches and pains.

There’s some preview images as well (though the issue being previewed’s actually out already).


Techno-utopianism and system fragility

Late night rant about techno-utopianism and passivity in dangerous times:

I think there’s a great value in technology, and I think much of our ability to survive in the future will be based around technological innovation. But a lot of it is going to also have to depend on adaptation. We simply cannot continue our current path and expect technology to solve all our problems. It’s faith in technology for salvation. It’s not science, it’s religion.

Our systems are much more fragile than we often want to think. We talk about how the Internet was designed to keep functioning after a nuclear attack, feeling secure that our drip-feed of information will survive whatever we throw at it. Yet, as Abe Burmeister pointed out in late July, the Internet is already showing strain from global warming:

The current summer heat wave has been blamed for taking out MySpace for 12 hours, and more anecdotally the internet does not seem to be weathering the weather to well. The few mailing lists I subscribe to are filling up with tales of server fires and emails failing or being delayed far more than usual. Tales that are mirrored pretty accurately in my own webhosting and email accounts.

The internet is a big network of servers, and servers are hot. They devour electricity, they run hot and they mainline air conditioning. When the global thermostat goes up, the servers start going down. It is all a bit of sci-fi now, but could it be that one of the big casualties of global warming might just end up being the internet?

That same heat wave took down Dreamhost, which hosts both Abe’s blog and Technoccult (along with many other blogs, like Sauceruney‘s). Wireless mesh networks take some of the pressure off big hot servers, but they will require a pretty radical change in how the internet operates. And without adequate energy, we could all be using low-fi hand-cranked laptops in the future (if we can even build enough to go around). Effecient energy generation is the biggest stumbling block towards a post-scarcity society, and peak oil may already be here.

And, as wu just pointed out, even after 5,506 years of civilization, we still haven’t figured out not to shit where we eat. Forget food replicating machines or whatever the hell, we still need to figure out how to grow food without poisoning ourselves.

So for a moment, can we stop dreaming about a future where all our wants and needs are served by technologies (conveniently created by other people, of course), and start thinking about how we can alter our world *right now* to live both more comfortably and more sustainably? World Changing seems to provide the best resource for this right now.

A couple weeks ago I was asking about post-civilization thinkers, and was kind of dismissive of Terrence McKenna. This was unfair. McKenna was an advocate for a more simple lifestyle, sustainable energy and agriculture, and, most importantly, a sort of DIY approach to utopianism. He really wasn’t into the “kick back and wait for the nanotech revolution” thing. I remember one interview, I think it was in the Archaic Revival, in which he speculated that the “big event” in 2012 might be space travel. He said something about how we would be traveling to the heavens, and that maybe “heaven” isn’t something that we’re meant to just be handed by the gods – but something that we have to build ourselves.

So, on that note: the question is, what can each of us do as individuals to ensure our collective, comfortable survival? Even if we’re not engineers? The answer will be different for everyone, but will likely involve a combination of lifestyle choices and pro-active work.

For my part, I’ve been working on driving less, radically reducing my consumption of meat and other animal products, living in dense housing, and helping out with that whole e-waste thing. It’s a start, I guess. I’m curious about what others are doing. I’m always looking for ideas.

A method for focusing magical energies, from the Temple ov Psychick Youth

Here’s an interesting, NLP-esque ritual from TOPY.

This exercise should be repeated every day for 23 days, and at least once per week there after.

Sit comfortably in front ov a mirror.

Move your eyes around, first clockwise direction, then do it in an anti-clockwise direction. Do it a bit longer than you find comfortable. Check your position: are you sitting differently, breathing differently, has soum part ov your body becoum rigid?

Now look into thee mirror and wait until your breathing has becoum even.

Try to put the following expressions into your eyes:






Being there: your Presence in thee eyes.

This should be carried out until you feel that the mirror is definitely staring back at you and that there is soumthing tangible between you and thee mirror.

Pick our one of the first five experiments and try to keep it in your eyes while you look up, down, and to thee sides. Do not look at thee mirror while doing this. Again check your position. Have your facial expressions changed while doing this?

Now relax again. Close your eyes and think ov soum experience which you feel was sad or bad for you. It is very likely that you will have remembered something like that while going through thee first part ov the exercises.

Visualize that experience as clearly as you can and then make it run backwards until you have reached thee point just before thee difficult part started. Keep the image steady then let it fade to WHITE. Slowly. Now build out ov thee white an image ov what you would have liked to happen, soumthing that you feel good. If you are left with a feeling ov relief or exhiliation, allow that feeling to flow through you and then find a spot on one ov your upper arms, preferably where you have a tattoo or birthmark, press it gently with a ginger and then visualize thee feeling being stored in that point.

After doing this for a few times thee spot will in effect becoum a battery or storehouse for that energy and you can press it like a button when you need access to a bit ov optimism and well-being. Sounds stupid? Try, do it, and then report back to us.

Intel developing ‘physical holograms’

Intel is researching dynamic physical rendering, using silicon to create three dimensional objects that can be touched and changed.

The application is still very sci-fi, but the idea behind the project is that it will create what could be described as a touchable, malleable hologram.

Story and video: The Test Bed.

(thanks Wes!)

Send e-mail to your future self

I wish there was some randomization for this. I suppose you could just select something at random and try to forget when it’s coming.

Future Me.

(via Posthuman Blues).

Time Magazine’s obit for Crowley

But the wicked magic of world events made Crowley’s little orgies look tame. He resented it; he was envious. Said he: “Before Hitler was, I am.” But it was no use. He became a fat, olive-skinned man with heavy jowls and mean little eyes which made him look like a stockbroker when the market is bad. He was crushed to hear himself described one day as “a rather harmless old gentleman.”

Last week Death, as it must even to magicians, came to Aleister Crowley. The world of 1947 buried him almost without noticing it, and without a shudder.

Full Story: Time Magazine.

(via: Sauceruney).

Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft? what do these words mean?

The establishment of a new journal titled Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft begs the question: what do these words mean? In what sense do they comprise a useful academic category or field of inquiry? The history of magic and the cultural functions it has played and continues to play in many societies have been a focus of scholarship for well over one hundred years. Grand anthropological and sociological theories developed mostly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries offer clear structures, and the classic definitions of Edward Burnett Taylor, James Frazer, Emile Durkheim, and others still reverberate through much scholarly work on this topic. While aspects of these theories remain useful, more recent studies have tended to take a much narrower approach, examining the specific forms that magic, magical rites, or witchcraft assume and the issues they create in particular periods and within particular societies. This has led to laudable focus and precision, yet it has also stifled communication between scholars working in different periods, regions, or disciplines. This journal is intended to promote such communication, and to provide a forum in which issues common to the study of magic in all contexts can be raised. Therefore, it will prove useful at the outset to present some thoughts about the significance of magic as a category, about the meanings it has carried and the approaches it has evoked, about some of the ways in which the study of magic might be advanced, and about some of the areas to which such further study might contribute.

View or Download the whole article as a PDF
via Nerdshit

The Left Hand Path, by Doze Green

Jonathan LeVine Gallery is proud to announce the opening of The Left Hand Path, a solo exhibition of new works by celebrated artist Doze Green.

His exhibition of new paintings is inspired from roots in modern graffiti and based upon metaphysical and ethereal ideologies.

For The Left Hand Path, Doze Green translates complex metaphysical concepts through his paintings, such as the possible manipulation of energy and matter to create a timeless space.

He explores meditations on matter and anti-matter, layers of consciousness, and different possibilities based on cosmology.

continued via Dexigner

Jonathan LeVine Gallery | 529 West 20th Street | NYC

Creepy Experiment Exposes Paranoia and Sense of Alien Control

The young woman went to doctors to have them probe her brain, to root out where her seizures came from. But unexpectedly, their investigations and the procedure they performed led her to experience the creepy illusion of a person standing behind her, where nobody was actually present.

The patient described the illusory person as young and of indeterminate sex, a “shadow” who did not speak or move. “He is behind me, almost at my body, but I do not feel it,” she reported.

Full Story: Live Science.

(via LVX23).

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