MonthJune 2010

Must-Read Glenn Greenwald on the WikiLeaks Arrest

Exactly what the U.S. Government wanted to happen in order to destroy WikiLeaks has happened here: news reports that a key WikiLeaks source has been identified and arrested, followed by announcements from anonymous government officials that there is now a worldwide “manhunt” for its Editor-in-Chief. Even though WikiLeaks did absolutely nothing (either in this case or ever) to compromise the identity of its source, isn’t it easy to see how these screeching media reports — WikiLeaks source arrested; worldwide manhunt for WikiLeaks; major national security threat — would cause a prospective leaker to WikiLeaks to think twice, at least: exactly as the Pentagon Report sought to achieve? And that Pentagon Report was from 2008, before the Apache Video was released; imagine how intensified is the Pentagon’s desire to destroy WikiLeaks now. Combine that with what both the NYT and Newsweek recently realized is the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistle-blowers, and one can’t overstate the caution that’s merited here before assuming one knows what happened.

And:

If one assumes that this happened as the Wired version claims, what Lamo did here is despicable. He holds himself out as an “award-winning journalist” and told Manning he was one (“I did tell him that I worked as a journalist,” Lamo said). Indeed, Lamo told me (though it doesn’t appear in the chat logs published by Wired) that he told Manning early on that he was a journalist and thus could offer him confidentiality for everything they discussed under California’s shield law. Lamo also said he told Manning that he was an ordained minister and could treat Manning’s talk as a confession, which would then compel Lamo under the law to keep their discussions confidential (early on in their chats, Manning said: “I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you”). In sum, Lamo explicitly led Manning to believe he could trust him and that their discussions would be confidential — perhaps legally required to be kept confidential — only to then report everything Manning said to the Government.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Glenn Greenwald: The strange and consequential case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks

Justin Boland Interview at Boing Boing

Hump Jones

Chris Arkenberg continues to rack-up the interviews:

You’ve released a number of projects under various names. Would you talk a little about these projects and your aliases? Do your avatars embody & express your art in some way?

I suppose they do, man. They definitely embody the fact that my interests are intense and short-lived, that I tend to give all my content away for free, and there’s also a strong whiff of the stubborn stupidity I’m known for. I’ve made music as Wombaticus Rex, as Humpasaur Jones, and as Algorhythms, as well as way, way too much other stuff. I’m somewhere between 50% and 90% of DJ Multiple Sex Partners, depending on the vintage. The Hump Jones project was dangerously stupid, I was really pushing the Total Sexual Freedom meme past legally safe boundaries there, although I will probably still publish the book, Human Sexuality for Filthy Apes, that I was preparing for that. It makes me sound like more of a perv than I am, but that entire project was borne out of a single joke instructional song about anal sex. In retrospect, it was good, loving advice and I stand by it, so perhaps it was not a joke track after all?

Boing Boing: Justin Boland – The indie hip hop game

First Replicating “Creature” Created in Game of Life

A first for the game, the replicator demonstrates how astounding complexity can arise from simple beginnings and processes – an echo of life’s origins, perhaps. It might help us understand how life on Earth began, or even inspire strategies to build tiny computers.

The Game of Life is the best-known example of a cellular automaton, in which patterns form and evolve on a grid according to a few simple rules. You play the game by choosing an initial pattern of “live” cells, and then watch as the configuration changes over many generations as the rules are applied over and over again (see “Take two simple rules”).

The rules of the game were laid down by mathematician John Conway in 1970, but cellular automata first took off in the 1940s when the late mathematician John von Neumann suggested using them to demonstrate self-replication in nature. This lent philosophical undertones to Life, which ended up attracting a cult following.

Life enthusiasts have since catalogued an entire zoo of interesting patterns, such as “spaceships” that travel across the grid, or “guns”, which constantly spawn other patterns. But a pattern that spawned an identical copy of itself proved elusive.

New Scientist:

(Thanks socialfiction)

New Batch of Dossiers: JG Ballard, Manual DeLanda, William Gibson

JG Ballard

Manuel de Landa

William Gibson

JG Ballard

Manuel DeLanda

William Gibson

John Robb interview by Chris Arkenberg at Boing Boing

Los Zetas

How big of a domestic threat is there from the narco-insurgency in Mexico and the growing power of Latin American gangs in America?

Very big. A threat that dwarfs anything we face in Afghanistan (a useless money pit of a war). It’s not a threat that can be solved by conventional military means, since the problem is that Mexico is a hollow state. Unlike a failed state like Somalia (utter chaos), a hollow state still retains the facade of a nation (borders, bureaucracy, etc.). However, a hollow state doesn’t exert any meaningful control over the countryside. It’s not only that the state can’t do it militarily, they don’t have anything they can offer people. So, instead, control is ceded to local groups that can provide basic levels of opt-in security, minimal services, and jobs via new connections to the global economy – think in terms of La Familia in Michoacana.

The real danger to the US is that not only will these groups expand into the US (they already have), it is that these groups will accelerate the development of similar homegrown groups in the US as our middle class evaporates.

Boing Boing: John Robb interview: Open Source Warfare & Resilience

My comment, left there:

Robb’s work continues to influence my own thinking. However, I would like to see him answer the criticism presented here: http://reason.com/archives/2008/02/18/open-source-warfare

(If he hasn’t already)

A thought: will legislation (such as that in Arizona) and anti-Latin sentiment lead to alienation that drives the process Robb’s talking about in the US?

To expand a bit: I’m not sure whether Robb’s dire prognosis for North and Latin America is exaggerated or not, but it’s not hard to imagine escalated violence between Latin “gangs” and white “militias” if Latin people are excluded from mainstream culture while the power and influence of Latin drug cartels is increases.

Bruce Sterling Interview on Modern Cities

Bruce Sterling

The state of modern cities, with Bruce Sterling and Boing Boing guest editor Chris Arkenberg (I interviewed Chris a few months ago):

The obviously dangerous aspect of modern cities is urban organized crime, narcoterror, low-intensity warfare, war in urban terrain, favela shoot-’em-ups, whatever faddish name the trouble has this year. Baghdad, Mogadishu, Grozny.

But I’d also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You’re a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You’re not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she’s going there for a reason.

Boing Boing: Bruce Sterling Interview: Cities

Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz – Technoccult interview

David Pescovitz
Photo by Bart Nagel

David Pescovitz (aka Pesco) is an editor of Boing Boing, research director with the Institute for the Future, and editor-at-large for MAKE. Perhaps the most mysterious of the Boingers, Pesco joined me by instant message to talk about his lifelong interest in the weird and wonderful.

Klint Finley: How did you get involved with Boing Boing? Were you a contributor to the original magazine?

David Pescovitz: I read Boing Boing when I was in college in the early 1990s. When I moved to San Francisco in 1993 and started working at Wired, I met Mark because he had just started as an editor there. Mark took me downstairs to meet his wife Carla Sinclair who was running the ‘zine out of a basement office. We quickly became very close friends and I started writing for the print ‘zine. From there, we took it online and the long strange trip continued. Back then, the print ‘zine had maybe 10,000 readers if that. Now the blog has 5 million.

A journalist once asked Timothy Leary what people should do after they “turn on.” Tim said, “Find the others.” Every day, I feel incredibly fortunate that Boing Boing helps me do that.

I’ve noticed that most of the time there’s something about the occult on Boing Boing, it’s posted by you. Sometimes Mark, but mostly you. How did you get interested in the occult? What attracted you to it?

Well, I’ve been interested in weird phenomena and fringe ideas since I was a child. I was always looking up Bigfoot, UFOs, and telekinesis at the library. Now, I realize of course that the Occult doesn’t necessarily connect to those things, and those things don’t necessarily connect to each other. But in my head at least it’s all related as a curiosity about the strange.

Yeah, I think that’s how it starts for a lot of people. It was exactly the same way for me.

Much later, I discovered Robert Anton Wilson and Cosmic Trigger became a port of entry for me. Or maybe a “port of exit.”

Are you now, or have you ever been, a practicing magician or are you just interested in the history, the culture, etc.?

The latter. I find the history, the “characters,” and the aesthetic to be fascinating. I guess I’m a bit of a poseur in that regard.

It reminds me of something that Rudy Rucker once said about the psychedelic side of the early cyberculture. He said he liked reading about people’s drug trips, and hearing what they learned, but didn’t have much interest in taking drugs himself.

That’s how I am now, actually. I tried a lot of magical experiments over the years, but now I’m mostly interested in history and how ideas from the occult have ended up penetrating science and other areas.

Exactly! The historical connections between science, technology, art, and the occult are fascinating. In many ways, it seems that people were using different metaphors to describe the same amazing, wonderful things.

I could be wrong, but it seems like occult related posts on BB have actually increased over the past couple years – you had Mitch Horowitz guest blog there, for instance. Has this raised any eyebrows, elicited any significant negative response?

My interest in the subject, in any subject, ebbs and flows, probably based in part on the people I encounter in the “real world.” And perhaps it’s been flowing again recently.

Boing Boing is a group blog, and we have as many opinions as we do contributors. We usually don’t discuss what any of us are going to post about, and we certainly don’t judge what each other may be interested in at the moment. The only filter I need to have when determining whether to post something is if it’s interesting to me.

Now, we also post a great deal about traditional science on Boing Boing. And are often critical about organized religion. So some commenters who may be Rationalists or Skeptics (note the capitals) might experience a disconnect when a post about James Randi is followed a few days later by an essay by my friend Jacques Vallee. But in my opinion, that perceived dissonance is part of Boing Boing’s magic. Or rather, magick. ; )

As my friend Jody Radzik of Guruphiliac pointed out to me, Boing Boing as a whole appeals to the full spectrum of “geekdom.” And that spectrum includes scientists, conspiracy theorists, hardcore rationalists, diehard skeptics, New Agers, Forteans, paranormal investigators, cryptozoologists, etc. And I appreciate that diversity!

And while there may not be enough evidence, in my opinion, to support a far-out idea that someone is presenting on Boing Boing, I still enjoy pausing for a moment and saying “What if?”

What is the most far-out, fringe or incredible idea that you think might actually be correct?

From the very first time I encountered Jacques Vallee’s idea that we’re living in a Control System, and also read similar ideas from John Keel, Hans Moravec, Rudy Rucker, and others, I’ve always gone back to that notion whenever I want to blow my own mind.And this was decades before The Matrix.

Could you elaborate on that idea?

In recent years, mathematicians, phlosophers, and physicists like Nick Bostrom, Ed Fredkin, Stephen Wolfram, Seth Lloyd, and others have explored the idea that we’re living in a simulation or that the universe is a quantum computer.

Now, I don’t pretend to understand the physics or math underlying these theories, and I recognize that they are just theories and difficult to prove, but the very fact that so many brilliant people from a variety of disciplines are seriously asking these questions delights me to no end.

You’re the lowest profile of the Boingers. You don’t have any books that you’re promoting on the site, or anything like that. Do you have any books or anything like that coming out?

I don’t have any books in-the-works at the moment. I’ve written several proposals over the years, but was burned out on the ideas by the time I finished the outline. To me, that’s a good sign I haven’t found the right topic yet.

Also, I’m happily busy with my other work outside of Boing Boing, as a research director at Institute for the Future.

The Institute for the Future just finished up its 10 year forecast, correct?

IFTF does a 10 Year Forecast every year. Each year, my colleagues look at the technological and societal trends — from demographics to disease, sustainability to science — most likely to have a large impact on the way we live.

I’m not directly involved in IFTF’s Ten Year Forecast research program, as my work is more focused in the Technology Horizons program.

Are there any interesting trends you’re researching now that you can tell us about?

Actually, my research in the last year or so is related to what we just discussed about life in a “control system.”

My colleagues and I were exploring what a world might look like if “everything is programmable.” As we have access to more data about ourselves and our environment than ever before.

Sensor networks, bio-monitors, pervasive computers, and a host of other new technologies have given us unprecedented insight into the chaos and patterns underlying our world. Once we understand what the data means, we can act on it. We live in a control system and are developing new techniques — from social software to gene therapies to geoengineering — to tweak the dials and see the results in real-time.

And so we’re using genetic engineering to reprogram DNA, drugs to reprogram our brains, digital media to reprogram our social networks, etc.

Pesco with a Dreamachine
Above: Pesco with a Dreamachine

So instead of a control system controlled externally, we’re building a control system of our own design?

To some degree. More that it seems useful as a metaphor, to look at the world through a computational lens. And that metaphor raises huge questions and dilemmas, of course.

How do you make sure it’s not just an elite group that knows how to do the programming? What unintended consequences might emerge when you start fiddling with the knobs of reality?

That reminds me of Burroughs’s idea of the Reality Studio, which reminds me that you’re a fan of Burroughs – would you say his thinking has influenced your own, or do you just find him interesting?

Indeed, Burroughs and Brion Gysin both had a big impact on me. Burroughs’s notion of Control and finding ways to derail it are tremendously provocative. And I think their work with cut-ups predated much of the language of media used by MTV, Madison Avenue, and even the hyperlinked Web.

And as a futurist, I have to love this Burroughs quote: “When you cut into the present, the future leaks out.”

Burroughs also had a terrific sense of humor, of course.
I have art by both Burroughs and Gysin hanging above my desk and it inspires me every day.

Whenever I start to feel a bit too complacent I end up thinking of Burroughs’s writings about control. That usually fires me up a bit.

He was a master at shifting your perception with just a single sentence.

Vale of RE/Search Publishing once told me that Burroughs advised him to always look up a lot when you’re wandering around a city. It’s amazing the things you can see by just looking in non-obvious places.


Pesco on The World as a Wunderkammer at TEDx SoMa

L. Ron Hubbard Movie to be Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson the Master

Paul Thomas Anderson is working on a film, working title The Master to star Philip Seymour Hoffman as a L. Ron Hubbard analogue:

Let’s look at what we know about the P.T. Anderson project. It centers around a man (Philip Seymour Hoffman, the only name currently attached to the film) who starts a faith-based organization that becomes popular in 1952 America — exactly the year L. Rob Hubbard expanded his Dianetics self-help system and established the Church of Scientology. The film explores “The Master’s” relationship with a young drifter named Freddie who joins the fold and becomes his Number 2 officer, only to later question both the faith and its figurehead in later years — something plenty of high and low ranking Scientologists alike have done over the years, many publicly denouncing the organization on their way out. The Master employs interrogation-style psychotherapy procedures not unlike the “audit” process basic to Scientology, and spends time living in seclusion with his inner circle on a ship, which Hubbard himself did in the 1960s. […] More recently, trade paper Production Weekly reported that Reese Witherspoon had been offered a role in The Master; The Wrap’s Deal Central speculated she would play Mary Sue, the young, pregnant wife of Hoffman’s character. Mary Sue Whipp, of course, was the name of Hubbard’s much younger third wife who became involved in Dianetics in the 1950s and helped him run his Scientology empire. The role of The Master’s daughter is also being cast, with Amanda Seyfried, Emma Stone, and Deborah Ann Woll rumored to be in the running. Also linked to the project is Jeremy Renner, who had been up for the role of Freddie, though his involvement is as yet unconfirmed.

Film.com: Will Scientologists Declare War on Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master?

Playlists’s comparisons between the movie and Hubbard’s life

Universal passed on the film, reportedly balking at the $35 million budget, but of course there’s rampant speculation that the budget wasn’t the only reason. The Wrap reports that River Road picked up the film instead.

(via VBS)

Jack Sarfatti Interview in the SF Gate

Jack Sarfatti

Q: Let’s begin with the paradigm of the two cultures. I think most of us who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s were taught that in the intellectual world, science and the humanities were radically different.

A: The literary culture was thought to be more of a culture of feeling and intuition, where science was cold and calculated. I think that was really the basic thing. Science was highly mathematical, linear thinking, where the artistic and the creative side, the poetry, was all in the nonscientific world.

Q: Intellectuals in science and in the nonscientific fields didn’t talk to each other very much?

A: Not only did they not talk to each other, as I can remember from my own adolescence and attitude. . . . But at Cornell in the 1950s, all these bright science kids on full scholarship funded by the Defense Department would go on and on about how weak-minded and un-macho the literature students were. There was a definite sense of superiority, involving both sides against each other. There was a real split.

Q: Cornell had great scientific figures in the physics department, like Hans Bethe and Philip Morrison, and in the literature department, you had Vladimir Nabokov, one of the greatest modern authors. So there was ground on both sides of the divide for a certain arrogance.

A: Among the undergraduates, but even among the professors. If you look at Richard Feynman’s books, and Feynman was a great mathematical and physics genius, he talks about the philosophers, and he makes fun of the Cornell philosophy department. You can see the conflict, the divide, in Feynman’s autobiography, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” which sold millions of copies.

SF Gate: Sunday Interview

(via Sauceruney)

Pentagon Engages Manhunt for Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.

The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.

The Daily Beast: Pentagon Manhunt

The Daily Beast also interviewed Pentagon papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, who says that national security probably isn’t in danger, but Assange probably is:

The Daily Beast: Could the release of the diplomatic cables said to be in the possession of Wikileaks endanger national security?

Daniel Ellsberg: Any serious risk to that national security is extremely low. There may be 260,000 diplomatic cables. It’s very hard to think of any of that which could be plausibly described as a national security risk. Will it embarrass diplomatic relationships? Sure, very likely—all to the good of our democratic functioning. The embarrassment would be our awareness that we are supporting and facilitating dictators and corrupt and murderous governments, and we are quite aware of their nature.

An example would be surrounding a visit of Hamid Karzai to this country…where he is given a special audience with the president. We know that privately he is seen realistically. We know that because of the leak, which I think started out of this investigation. We know that because of the leak from Ambassador Eikenberry. He describes him as irredeemably corrupt, not an appropriate partner for a pacification program, and cannot change.

They would regard this as very embarrassing, [since publicly they’ve been] saying, he is a perfectly suitable partner for pacification, working on corruption…Ha ha….Bullshit.

Do you think Assange is in danger?

I happen to have been the target of a White House hit squad myself. On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to “incapacitate me totally.” I said to the prosecutor, “What does that mean? Kill me.” He said, “It means to incapacitate you totally. But you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’”

I’ve read, but can’t confirm since I don’t have it running on my computer now, that an entire backup of Wikileaks is available on Freenet. (More info on Freenet: here)

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