Tagcybernetics

Hypersigils reconsidered

Lain

Above: a still from Serial Experiments Lain

I’ve been thinking recently about Grant Morrison‘s “hypersigil” concept, but considering as not an occult/magical practice, but as as a cybernetic phenomena.*

It started as a conversation between my friends Nabil Maynard and Amber Case on Twitter on the subject of Serial Experiments Lain (which I haven’t seen). Amber said:

There were a ton of parallels between that show and my life, especially now, where my online presence affects offline interactions. [1]

My online presence actually creates who I am. It’s a machine that produces my identity and exists outside of me. [2]

That reminded me of hypersigils. Morrison explained hypersigils thusly:

The “hypersigil” or “supersigil” develops the sigil concept beyond the static image and incorporates elements such as characterization, drama, and plot. The hypersigil is a sigil extended through the fourth dimension. My own comic book series The Invisibles was a six-year long sigil in the form of an occult adventure story which consumed and recreated my life during the period of its composition and execution. The hypersigil is an immensely powerful and sometimes dangerous method for actually altering reality in accordance with intent. Results can be remarkable and shocking.

Experiment:

After becoming familiar with the traditional sigil method, see if you can create your own hypersigil. The hypersigil can take the form of a poem, a story, a song, a dance, or any other extended artistic activity you wish to try. This is a newly developed technology so the parameters remain to be explored. It is important to become utterly absorbed in the hypersigil as it unfolds; this requires a high degree of absorption and concentration (which can lead to obsession but so what? You can always banish at the end) like most works of art. The hypersigil is a dynamic miniature model of the magician’s universe, a hologram, microcosm, or “voodoo doll” which can be manipulated in real time to produce changes in the macrocosmic environment of “real” life.

-“Pop Magic” by Grant Morrison from The Disinfo Book of Lies, pg. 20. (For more information, listen to Morrison’s talk from DisinfoCon (also available on DVD)

Invisibles

Above: an image from The Invisibles. The character in the center wearing a suit is King Mob, the character from Invisibles that Morrison identified himself with. Below: a photograph of Grant Morrison from his web site.

grant morrison

There has been extended internet-drama on occult sites regarding what does and does not count as a hypersigil. I think Morrison is clear that the hypersigil takes the form of a serial narrative – whether that be a comic series, a movie trilogy, a series of songs or albums, or what have you. But others have made a compelling argument that the definition needn’t be so limited. Nick Pell, in his essay “Beyond the Sigil: Creating YR own Mind Viruses” in Magic on the Edge, makes a compelling case for this, using Shepard Fairley‘s “Andre the Giant has a Posse” and “Obey Giant” campaigns as examples of other types of extended, non-static sigils.

However, for purposes of this essay, I’m only going to consider “hypersigils” as narrative works- but I do want to consider narrative beyond strictly fictional narratives. For example, one can create a narrative in a personal blog or Live Journal or their Twitter or Facebook updates.

After suggesting a connection between hypersigils and cybernetics, Nabil replied:

The number of ways that hypersigilism applies to the internet/cybernetics is kind of staggering when you think on it. [1]

Think about something as basic as a myspace/facebook profile, the choices we make defining the online persona [2] which creates a manifest change in the offline world. [3].

The things we choose to place on the internet reflect and magnify the awareness of self to ourselves and those around us. [4]

hypersigil feedback

Above: a diagram I made illustrating feedback loops of perception in hypersigils

The way I see it, the online persona, fictional self, or avatar one creates can create feedback loops to reinforce behaviors and perceptions and have a create significant “real world” changes in a person’s life over time. In the case of Grant Morrison, he was also shaping his persona in the letters column of The Invisibles, in interviews he gave, and his public persona at comic conventions.

Nabil says: “I know of one person who used net-anonymity to explore gender before pursuing changing gender IRL.” [1]. I suspect that’s rather common. Also, to go back to my interview with Amber from last week, in which she gives advice to liberal arts majors looking to establish a career outside academia:

Create an online presence that is ubiquitous and enjoyable to interface with. Let it be known who you want to be. Put that on your business card and on your social profiles.

Which, of course, is exactly how she came to be a “cyborg anthropologist.”

So I find myself wondering: what is and isn’t hypersigilic activity online (and off?) Is creating an avatar on an MMORG? If so, what about playing a character in a pen and paper role playing game?

I think it depends on the role of online and offline feedback involved – if playing a character (online or off) changes the way you think of yourself and *especially* if changes the way OTHER people think about you, then yes – I think it does.

*There was some discussions on cybernetics and complex adaptive systems and the occult at Esozone: The Other Tomorrow lead by Joseph Thiebes, deadletter b, Wes Unruh, and Edward Wilson but I missed them. I suspect the overlaps have been discussed elsewhere, if the curious reader wishes to look.

See Also:

The Other Tomorrow Manifesto

Hypersigil, Hyperstition, or Simply Interesting Living?

Geordi LaForge video-to-brain rig built at MIT

retinal implant

MIT boffins have devised a method of fitting a chip on the end of the optical nerve which can be used to input electronic images directly into the brain without any need for an eyeball. The technique could offer blind people a degree of vision using head-mounted camera/sensor equipment, in the style of Geordi LaForge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. […]

For now, however, the system has only been tried out in Yucatan minipigs. Three of the diminutive Mexican porkers have had the Star Trek/Gibsonesque implants for seven months, but as yet it’s difficult to tell just how well they work – as the pigs aren’t talking. The MIT boffins have fitted them with instrumented-up contact lenses to try to get an idea of what effects the implants have.

The Register: Geordi LaForge video-to-brain rig built at MIT

(via Grinding)

Bionic ‘sex chip’ that stimulates pleasure centre in brain developed by scientists

Scientists are developing an electronic ‘sex chip’ that works by stimulating the pleasure centres in the brain.

The technology, which creates tiny shocks deep in the brain, has already been used in America to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Now researchers are focusing on the orbitofrontal cortex, which is associated with feelings of pleasure caused by eating and sex.

Full Story: Daily Mail

(via Grinding)

Klintron speaking at CyborgCamp next month

cyborgcamp

At CyborgCamp next month I will lead a discussion called “Left Behind: the Singularity and the Developing World”:

How do technological breakthroughs impact the world’s poor? Can we apply transhumanist technology universally, or will they be accessible only to the rich? What can we learn from the bottom-up innovation of the developing world? Klint Finley will present a brief introduction to these issues and moderate an open discussion.

More info: CyborgCamp blog and CyborgCamp wiki

Time Magazine: The Army’s Totally Serious Mind-Control Project

army_brain_wave_0912

Soldiers barking orders at each other is so 20th Century. That’s why the U.S. Army has just awarded a $4 million contract to begin developing “thought helmets” that would harness silent brain waves for secure communication among troops. Ultimately, the Army hopes the project will “lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone.”

If this sounds insane, it would have been as recently as a few years ago. But improvements in computing power and a better understanding of how the brain works have scientists busy hunting for the distinctive neural fingerprints that flash through a brain when a person is talking to himself. The Army’s initial goal is to capture those brain waves with incredibly sophisticated software that then translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. “It’d be radio without a microphone, ” says Dr. Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program. “Because soldiers are already trained to talk in clean, clear and formulaic ways, it would be a very small step to have them think that way.”

Full Story: Time

Bionic arm now with spatial and neural interfaces

luke-arm-neural-interface

More Pics: Engadget

(via Grinding)

Monkeys control robots with their minds

monkeys control robots with their minds

Scientists have trained a group of monkeys to feed themselves marshmallows using a robot arm controlled by sensors implanted in their brains, a feat that could one day help paralyzed people operate prosthetic limbs on their own, according to a study out Thursday.

Lead researcher Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh said he believes it won’t be long before the technology is tested in humans, although he predicts it will be longer before the devices are used in actual patients with disabilities.

Full Story: CNN

(Thanks Bill!)

A robotic brain-computer interface

robot_as_brain_computer_interface

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) engineers have developed a robotic device able to act as a brain-computer interface. This is the ‘first robotic approach to establishing an interface between computers and the brain by positioning electrodes in neural tissue.’ According to the researchers, their approach ‘could enhance the performance and longevity of emerging neural prosthetics, which allow paralyzed people to operate computers and robots with their minds.’ But read more…

Full Story: Primidi

(via Grinding)

First brain implant research with human subjects

Researchers at Osaka University are stepping up efforts to develop robotic body parts controlled by thought, by placing electrode sheets directly on the surface of the brain. Led by Osaka University Medical School neurosurgery professor Toshiki Yoshimine, the research marks Japan’s first foray into invasive (i.e. requiring open-skull surgery) brain-machine interface research on human test subjects. The aim of the research is to develop real-time mind-controlled robotic limbs for the disabled, according to an announcement made at an April 16 symposium in Aichi prefecture.

Full Story: Pink Tentacle.

(via Grinding)

Those not wanting to cut open their skulls might want to take a look at the less intrusive Emotiv EPOC Neuroheadset, which will is scheduled to be available commercially by Christmas of 2008 for $299.

Enhancing Humanity

“There is increasing concern amongst a wide range of commentators that human nature is in the process of being irrevocably changed by technological advances which either have been achieved or are in the pipeline. According to a multitude of op-ed writers, cultural critics, social scientists and philosophers, we have not faced up to the grave implications of what is happening. We are sleep-walking and need to wake up. Human life is being so radically transformed that our very essence as human beings is under threat.

Of course, apocalypse sells product, and one should not regard the epidemiology of panic as a guide to social or any other kind of reality. The fact that one of the most quoted panickers about the future is Francis Fukuyama, who has got both the past wrong (The End of History) and the present wrong (recovered neo-con Pentagon hawk), should itself be reassurance enough. Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile challenging the assumptions of those such as Fukuyama who are trying to persuade us to be queasy about the consequences of the various technologies that have brought about enhancement of human possibility and, indeed, want to call a halt to certain lines of inquiry, notably in biotechnology.”

(via Philosophy Now)

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