MonthOctober 2008

Long interview with Grant Morrison on All Star Superman

This “holistic”  mode of consciousness (which Luthor experiences briefly at the end of All Star Superman) announces itself as a heartbreaking connection, a oneness, with everything that exists…but you don’t have to be Superman to know what that feeling is like. There are a ton of meditation techniques which can take you to this place. I don’t see it as anything supernatural or religious, in fact, I think it’s nothing more than a developmental level of human consciousness, like the ability to see perspective – which children of 4 cannot do but children of 6 can.

Everyone who’s familiar with this upgrade will tell you the same thing: it feels as if “alien”  or “angelic”  voices – far more intelligent, coherent and kindly than the voices you normally hear in your head – are explaining the structure of time and space and your place in it.
This identification with a timeless supermind containing and resolving within itself all possible thoughts and contradictions, is what many people, unsurprisingly, mistake for an encounter with “God.”  However, given that this totality must logically include and resolve all possible thoughts and concepts, it can also be interpreted as an actual encounter with God, so I’m not here to give anyone a hard time over interpretation.

Full Story: Newsarama

(via Arthur)

Day of the Dead in London

day of the dead london

Tickets available at Dreamflesh

(via Arthur)

Furtive Labors apocalypse fiction contest

Do you have a gruesomely macabre vision of total annihilation? Do you lose sleep over the ominous intricacies of plausible eschatologies intimated in the sub-text of evening network newscasts? Do you spend an inordinate amount of leisure time watching RoboCop on VHS cassette? Then consider entering the Apocalypse Fiction Contest sponsored by Furtive Labors Publishing.
Contest rules

(1) Submissions must be original, previously unpublished works of fiction of less than 500 words. Entries must be science fiction, fantasy or horror and incorporate the theme of apocalypse in some way.

(2) Submissions must be received by Nov. 30, 2008. E-mail submissions to

(3) Submissions will be judged by Furtive Labors editors. Winning stories will be published on our website. The author of the first-place story will receive $20 and a gift bag of Furtive Labors literature.

(4) Winners will be notified by Dec. 10, 2008.

WARNING: Writing about apocalypse may cause confusion, anxiety, paranoia, sensory distortions, “flashbacks”  and chronic recurring auditory and visual hallucinations. The writer may feel detached from his physical environment and at times stare blankly, paralyzed to the point of being unable to move or speak. A writer’s sense of identity, memory and environment may fall apart. Convulsions can occur, followed by loss of consciousness and a “flat-lined”  or near-death experience. A small number of writers have reported dreams involving sexual experiences with the devil, as well as physical symptoms such as head sores, pallor, lethargy, toothache, mouth cankers, bad breath, swollen breasts, short-windedness, flatulence, jaundice, dropsy, gout, bladder infections, kidney stones and infestation with lice or fleas. A cascade of piping hot jissom is a common side effect. This contest is intended for adults with healthy immune systems. To avoid a potentially serious complication, tell your doctor if your immune system isn’t normal because of jock itch, yeast infection, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital warts, syphilis, herpes or a My Little Pony doll permanently lodged in your rectum.

Furtive Labors

The world’s first deliberately evil AI

The hallowed halls of academia are not the place you would expect to find someone obsessed with evil (although some students might disagree). But it is indeed evil”‘or rather trying to get to the roots of evil”‘that fascinates Selmer Bringsjord, a logician, philosopher and chairman of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Cognitive Science here. He’s so intrigued, in fact, that he has developed a sort of checklist for determining whether someone is demonic, and is working with a team of graduate students to create a computerized representation of a purely sinister person.

“I’ve been working on what is evil and how to formally define it,” says Bringsjord, who is also director of the Rensselaer AI & Reasoning Lab (RAIR). “It’s creepy, I know it is.” […]

This exercise resulted in “E,” a computer character first created in 2005 to meet the criteria of Bringsjord’s working definition of evil. Whereas the original E was simply a program designed to respond to questions in a manner consistent with Bringsjord’s definition, the researchers have since given E a physical identity: It’s a relatively young, white man with short black hair and dark stubble on his face. Bringsjord calls E’s appearance “a meaner version” of the character Mr. Perry in the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society. “He is a great example of evil,” Bringsjord says, adding, however, that he is not entirely satisfied with this personification and may make changes.

Full Story: Scientific American

The Triumph of Ignorance

Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves around the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15 year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD(3).

But this merely extends the mystery: how did so many US citizens become so dumb, and so suspicious of intelligence? Susan Jacoby’s book The Age of American Unreason provides the fullest explanation I have read so far. She shows that the degradation of US politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies.

One theme is both familiar and clear: religion – in particular fundamentalist religion – makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.

Full Story: monbiot

(via Robot Wisdom)

Partying Helps Power a Dutch Nightclub

rotterdam club

If you felt that the atmosphere in the new hip Club Watt was somehow electric, you would be right: Watt has a new type of dance floor that harvests the energy generated by jumps and gyrations and transforms it into electricity. It is one of a handful of energy-generating floors in the world, most still experimental.

With its human engineering, Watt partly powers itself: The better the music, the more people dance, the more electricity comes out of the floor.

Full Story: New York Times

(via Grinding)

Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism – Kevin Kelly

I am not the first, nor the only one, to believe a superorganism is emerging from the cloak of wires, radio waves, and electronic nodes wrapping the surface of our planet. No one can dispute the scale or reality of this vast connectivity. What’s uncertain is, what is it? Is this global web of computers, servers and trunk lines a mere mechanical circuit, a very large tool, or does it reach a threshold where something, well, different happens?

So far the proposition that a global superorganism is forming along the internet power lines has been treated as a lyrical metaphor at best, and as a mystical illusion at worst. I’ve decided to treat the idea of a global superorganism seriously, and to see if I could muster a falsifiable claim and evidence for its emergence.

My hypothesis is this: The rapidly increasing sum of all computational devices in the world connected online, including wirelessly, forms a superorganism of computation with its own emergent behaviors.

Full Story: Kevin Kelly

(via Grinding)

Documentary- “Off The Grid: Life On The Mesa”

The image

The current economic crisis has some people showing an an interest in survivalism, frugal lifestyles, etc. This fascinating documentary focuses on one particular group of people who live according to their own rules.

“Twenty-Five miles from town, a million miles from mainstream society, a loose-knit community of eco-pioneers, teenage runaways, war veterans and drop-outs, live on the fringe and off the grid, struggling to survive with little food, less water and no electricity, as they cling to their unique vision of the American dream…”

(“Off The Grid: Life On The Mesa” via Snag Films)

Interview: Investigating the Buddha’s World

“The teachings of the Buddha have been variously understood by scholars, monks, and laypeople over the centuries. But what was it that the Buddha actually taught? While this remains an open and oft-debated question, scholar John Peacocke”‘in his work as both an academic and a dharma teacher”‘asserts that by looking to the history, language, and rich philosophical environment of the Buddha’s day we can uncover what is most distinctive and revolutionary about his teachings. Peacocke, who does not shy away from controversy, argues that in some very important ways, later Buddhist schools depart from early core teachings.

Peacocke has been practicing Buddhism since 1970. He was first exposed to Buddhism at monasteries in South India, where he ordained as a monk in the Tibetan tradition. He later studied in Sri Lanka, where Theravada Buddhism has flourished for centuries. Returning to lay life and his native England, Peacocke went on to receive his Ph.D. in Buddhist studies at the University of Warwick. He currently lectures on Buddhist and Hindu thought at the University of Bristol and next year will begin teaching at the Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy Master of Studies program at Oxford University. A former director of the Sharpham Centre for Buddhist Studies in Devon, England, Peacocke also serves on the teaching council at nearby Gaia House, a retreat center offering instruction in a variety of Buddhist traditions. He now teaches and practices in the Vipassana tradition. Tricycle editor James Shaheen visited with Peacocke near Bristol University in April to discuss what the language of the early Pali and Sanskrit texts tells us about Buddhism today.”

(via Tricycle. h/t: H~Log)

The Psychology of Conmen

“How do conmen convince you to part with your money? Who are they? And how do they choose their victims? Learn their secrets from someone who has studied their dark arts. Magician Nick Johnson has some interesting insights into psychology of scams…and some suggestions on how to stop your money from going up in smoke!

Damien Carrick: Now from secrets that get lifted from government, to how you and I sometimes inadvertently hand over information or money to con men. How do scammers manage to convince people to hand over their hard-earned cash? To find the answer, perhaps we could talk to a police officer or a criminologist. But someone with a lateral take is magician Nicholas Johnson. He reckons that both magicians and scammers use the same box of tools: psychology and sleight of hand. In fact he’s studied the dark arts of the scamster, and has some suggestions on how to stop your money from going up in smoke.

Nicholas Johnson: I think what I love most about con artists and the world of scammers is that they’re criminals who manage to get their victims to hand over their possessions freely. Most thieves and robbers and the like, tend to use force, or deception, in order for them to take things, whereas a con artist manages to get their victim to freely give up their stuff. And I think that’s what really fascinates me the most.”

(via The Law Report. h/t: Schneier on Security)

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