First of all, starting this week Mindful Cyborgs has a new regular co-host: Sara M. Watson. This episode, she, Chris Dancy and I interviewed Arran James and Michael Pyska of the “post-nihilist” website Synthetic Zero. We talked about Neitzsch, nihilism, post-nihilism, and Buddhism.
We’ve used the phrase “Present Shock” to describe what Mindful Cyborgs is about since the beginning. So obviously it was great to talk with Douglas Rushkoff, who coined the term in his book of the same title last year.
During the interview, we talked about presentism, e-cigarettes and the “male period” dictated by the lunar calendar.
This week on Mindful Cyborgs, Alex Williams, Chris Dancy and I talked about Hollywood’s obsession with “freakish AI killing off humanity or making love to it”:
We’re just becoming more and more intimate with our machines all the time and I think that’s where that fear of AI’s and that – that’s where those plots are coming from.
On the other hand, a lot of this stuff has been – a lot of these ideas have been around for a long time. I’ve just been reading some of Isaac Asimov’s old stories. I just read his first robot story, Robbie, and it’s all about a parent being afraid that her daughter is spending too much time with a robot companion, which you could totally transfer that to modern days; worried that my kid is spending too much time with her cell phone.
CD: Or on her Xbox, yeah. Insert Gadget X.
KF: Yeah. He also wrote a story – so Robbie was his first robot story. I think it was 1939. He also wrote a story in, I think, 1956 called The Last Question that was essentially a story about the singularity; about the hive mind, artificial intelligence thing that just lives in the – an alternative dimension of the galaxy after humans have become extinct, after humans have become immortal and then left their bodies and essentially just become some sort of thing. This is long before the word ‘singularity’ was on anyone’s lips. These fears and ideas and dreams have been with us for a long time.
Here’s the wrap-up from Defrag, with our new co-host Alex Williams. Lorenda Brandon is our guest. Here’s an excerpt where we talk about whether people can or want to customize their own technology processes:
KF: There’s like a whole school of tech that thinks the opposite is the best way to go. There are opinionated infrastructure is better . . .
CD: I love the name.
KF: Because people don’t want to come up with their own process. They don’t want to decide how to do something. They just want to be able to go to something and do a thing and not have to . . .
LB: I think there’s room for both. To be honest, we in this industry can get a little insular. We sort of have a level of acceptance about technology and about infrastructure that 90% of the population doesn’t have. They don’t have the understanding of how do I design my own process.
CD: I want to interject. I have a neighbor who’s diabetic. She’s 65, African American. Very, very heavy I mean, probably 400, 500 pounds and she needed help a month or so ago and I went over and her internet, her router or something had got jacked up and I just reset it and I was talking to her for a minute and she was telling she didn’t get to Spotify for like 2 hours and her Netflix thing was down and she was describing all these things that she needed the router for and it dawned on me that my 500 pound diabetic neighbor who’s 65 manages more cloud services effectively than most of the organizations I meet.
AW: She’s networked.
CD: Someone said to chief integration officer – We don’t have WAN. They’re everywhere and I think that’s a skill, right? I just said to you earlier, Klint, you’re in IT system, right?
KF: IT department, yeah.
CD: You’re an IT department of Klint. So, the whole IT department there and how do you deal with that but we should put my neighbor in charge of Healthcare.gov.
I sat down with a kid who wasn’t really doing well in school. He wasn’t talking to his dad and I asked his dad I was like “Well, how do you hang out with your kid?” and he says “Well, I don’t really know.” So, I saw the kid on a laptop and I said, “Hey, what are you doing?” and he said, “Well, I’m playing a game” and I said “What game?” and he said, “Club Penguin”. So, I logged on to Club Penguin on my laptop, got myself an account and I said “What’s your username?” and I literally just went in and joined the game with him. And of course I couldn’t show that I never played the game before so I had to catch on really quick. So, initially, what the kid did was, he didn’t really necessarily want to show me around. He just wanted to show me that he was really fast in it and kind of leave me in the dust, so I had to catch up.
And so I caught up and I got control of my virtual self so to speak and then I was comfortable and then at that point I had proven myself and then he started showing me around. He said hey, let’s go over here and let’s do this and then we started doing all these activities together like sliding down a mountain or mining for gold, for instance. We could get upgrades which was difficult for me to watch and also participating.
All these different things we ended up doing and then after a while he started telling me about school that day and how frustrated he was with students and just started spilling everything, just everything came out. It was the equivalent of me in the past being his dad and throwing a softball, a baseball to him. Doing something where you’re walking with somebody. You’re doing something tangential and suddenly all the information comes out.
I later sat down and told his dad. I was like, he’s having trouble in school. Here’s why. If you want to hang out with him . . . you’re in computer software you should be able to figure out how to play Club Penguin.
If you missed me on 90.1 KZSU Stanford ThermoNuclear Bar last week you can now check it out on SoundCloud, or read the transcript below. We talked about the occult, conspiracy theory, EsoZone, Portland, Psychetect, Mindful Cyborgs, the Indie Web.
Here’s a sample:
S1: Where do you see then your variety of your projects going? I mean we have talked about this earlier. I had said that Technoccult was one sphere, and Psychetect was another, Mindful Cyborgs was another. If you saw any relation between the three other than just you happen to be in the middle or do you see any sort of end-goal coming up for you?
KF: In terms of an end-goal, I think the purpose of all of these has always been to find some way to engage with other people in a way that’s meaningful for both of us. I guess, it’s kind of an abstract way of talking about it, but something like Psychetect is just a different way of expressing myself and hopefully of communicating with people. Things like Technoccult and Mindful Cyborgs are more directly communicative projects. I think the only thing that they all have in common is a general interest in thoughts and thinking and consciousness. I guess, the overriding idea of Psychetect is to kind of create audio representations of thoughts or of sort of mental spaces that I don’t feel like I can describe with words. There’s I guess an overlap with something like Mindful Cyborgs where a big part of what we’re talking about is what it feels like to think in a world where you’re always connected to the rest of the world via the Internet and everything you do is being measured by somebody.
I should also mention that PDX Occulture is still sort of around, and that though EsoZone is gone, Weird Shift Con has emerged to fill that void (though I don’t have anything to do with organizing it).