This is why I continue to go on the Internet. Hang out for the full video.
via Beyond the Beyond. For the heart-warming play by play of what this is, read Bruce’s description there.
This is why I continue to go on the Internet. Hang out for the full video.
via Beyond the Beyond. For the heart-warming play by play of what this is, read Bruce’s description there.
I can’t remember you and I don’t know what day it is, I have no idea where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing, all I know is I’m all alone for the first time in my life and I’m scared, so fucking scared I can’t tell you, and now for the first time in my memory I need to tell you, only you, and I don’t know who you are. I don’t even know what that means. I simply need to, and only to you, and only if I could. I can’t find you I can’t find anyone, nothing, not anything, just myself here all alone, and I’m afraid I might be dead or have disappeared completely.
The array is redundant, and this is what gives it its power. We all understand this, and this is why the point is emphasized from the very first moments of co-education, at the youngest years of age. Naturally, the massive quantity of conscious, temporal dimensions in the array makes one feel individually insignificant at first, as if the word “inexpensive” in the description was in fact referring to our personalities. It is only a carry over from the past, when expense meant scarcity. Cost was an indicator of quantity, and accordingly, quality. It separated things, and separated people. But this is why, in our current society, we focus on redundancy as a unifying force. Whereas the etymology of the word came from superfluousness, our temporal dimensions–each of our own mental structures of our collective memories–could not be redundant without there being so many of them, united without waste and without scarcity. We are one, redundantly, only because we are all together. Separate, we would stand alone and helpless in the face of the chance of failure. Together, we are redundant, and in this redundancy is our power, infinite in its eternity. Would you like to know more about RAID? Select now.
Syndicated message: many of us are aware of reduced speeds across the network. We are examining the algorithms now, with your assistance, and we will find the cause of the read/write problems. When we know the source, we will notify you. Until that time, please do not worry, and continue as usual, with the awareness that read/write speeds may not be up to their normal level. Thanks, and from the admin network, have a great day.
It was when I was a child, I think. When we were children. All of us, or enough of us that we had previously remembered it quite precisely. I think it was… why can’t I remember now? How old am I now? It was outside I think, near a tree farm. A tree farm? Yes, a tree farm. They were so tall, and we were so small. I… we… remember, I think, the sound of one falling. It was the wind. Or maybe it was the rain. It was raining that day, yes. The tree fell over and the branches came down, crashing with a ripping and wooden tearing sound, falling through the rain and crashing again when the wood hit the wet pine needles gathered around the base of the trunks in the shade, in that small ring of soft earth where the roots enter the soil, that ring a bit of shelter from the water pouring down, so we were standing so close. No one was hurt, I don’t think. I think, I remember, no one being hurt. Was anyone hurt? Is there anyone who can remember, speak up please, was anybody hurt? Anybody? No? Why is it so quiet today? The tree fell down, and the men came and they cut it up, and they dragged it away. We all wrote about it and logged it in text form, because we were children and still in school, and we had to practice writing. I wish I could find that text now, but it seems to be missing.
RAID stands for Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Dimensions. Our current temporal memory array is multi-tiered. Now there are an incomprehensible number of total, unique dimensions connected. The algorithm is constantly improving the network layout. In the beginning, in the early days of the network, there were certain basic array tier structures, each given their own categorical names to specify their differences. These are the building blocks of our current algorithm of arrayed societal consciousness, the basic syntax of the multi-tier algorithm. RAID 1, for example, is basic redundancy. Two identical dimensions, read/writing at the same time. If one fails, read/write dimensional integrity continues. RAID 0, by comparison, is a striped arrangement, so the network can benefit from the faster, increased awareness of the temporal dimension of both arrayed dimensions at the same time–but there is no redundancy to protect against the loss of either dimension. RAID 3 is a step up, introducing a third dimension, and the first structure that allowed all active dimensions to join the memory array as equal, active members without artificial dimension additions. The loss of memory quantity for redundancy in RAID 3 is more than compensated by the benefit of mixed striping to shared memory. This is, in a way, the first true array, mixing then benefits of RAID 0 and 1 across three or more dimensions. The next evolution of the array was RAID 4, organizing the striping between dimensions at the level of individual, temporally-mapped memories. These clusters improve read/write performance, so the network can experience not only what was called kernel unity across the array (what was called the “unconscious”), but can unify the UI, or more colloquially, unite in the act of remembering. This is considered the true beginning of the array we know today. A RAID 4 array can read/write multiple accesses simultaneously, without slowing down performance or running the risk of memory loss in the case of any one failed dimension. The current algorithm of our array works on a complicated derivation of RAID 4, repeated as an additional tier in RAID 6, according to the current theory of Consensual Consciousness Overlap Parity applying to the striping, also known as RAID XY. RAID XY and the sheer size of the current array allow the ability to active dimensions of joining and unjoining from the array, without any loss to overall data or consciousness parity, nor destroying the unjoined dimension’s ability to rejoin the array later. RAID’s modern evolutions have allowed the network to privilege fast transmission, without a threat of temporal loss to any individual in the network, due to the excellence of the parity algorithms, and the massive redundancy of our society. With the amount of redundancy in the array today, we’ve achieved an efficiency in storage capacity between actives that is essentially 100%, even before adding slave unit capacity to the equation. Current read/write speed are unparalleled in human history. Would you like to return to the article on Arrayed Memory? Select now. Would you like to know more about Dimensions? Select now.
Can you hear me?
Yes I can.
Oh thank god, I was afraid the network was really down.
No, still intact, but it sure is working strange today. Maybe more upgrade issues. Read/write speeds are wacked all over.
I was afraid it was only me. I can’t seem to access some memories fully.
What can’t you remember?
There was this one time that I… but it’s not important. I… forget it.
Don’t sweat it. Probably just algorithm refiguring causing some parity errors.
Have you forgotten anything?
I don’t know. I haven’t tried anything. Recently.
What do you mean, recently?
Certain memories seem more accessible than others. I’m sticking with those.
More accessible? But you can reach them?
I guess I’m just impatient… LOL. Read/write speeds is what it is. They’ve always talked about the fractal bottlenecks that could potentially result from algorithm changes. You know, the overflow of traffic, building on itself. I’m just using what’s available to get around the problem. It’ll all come back online soon.
I guess you’re right.
What are you tr…
Hello? Can you hear me?
Error Message: We can’t find this network resource. Are you sure you are remembering it correctly? If you are looking for a thought rather than a memory, these occur forward-position in the temporal continuum, and they might not be remembered if you try to do so. Think ahead, and try again. Also, dreams are remembered in a different temporal mode than actual memories, so check twice before contacting your network administrator with a read/write problem. Thanks, and from the admin network, have a great day.
It was like nothing else I’ve experienced, the way he touched me. Was it a dream? I never thought my dreams were so dark. I felt broken, unplugged, used. I felt dirty, and wanted to pull my insides out, if only that would get me clean again. But what was this memory? Why did I feel this way when I knew nothing had actually happened? I couldn’t forget it. I keep thinking about it, over and over, trying to remember what will happen next. I ask around, and nobody else remembers it the way I do.
Admin Channel Transcript 04933001.05: [text callback]:
…on the redundancy measures, compared to estimated failure rate.
What did you say?
What did he say?
Yes, yes, I’m here. I said the redundancy measures are definitely enough, compared to the estimated failure rate, but the failure rate left the estimations in the dust about thirty standard hours ago.
So what are they now?
We are still recalculating, but the read/write problems are affecting our sampling. We don’t know if we are getting data cutoff from other problems, or if all these dimensions are completely dropping out. It would be catastrophic… but we don’t want to be premature. We still don’t know, if we can’t contact the individuals for dimensional diagnostics.
So how many dimensions do we have, for sure?
What? Did we lose him again?
Well? How many?
The problem is compounding upon itself. With the speeds down so low, there’s a bottleneck effect. Traffic is building up, and we’re starting to see a run on memory.
A run on memory?
Everyone is doing the same thing we’re doing, running their own diagnostics. But they’re checking for memories, rather than array integrity and speed tests. The parity dimensions are stressed to the breaking point with all the traffic of actives trying to see what they can remember, and so we can’t even isolate the failing dimensions accurately.
So what options do we have?
We need more dimensions, at least to handle the load until we can figure out exactly how many have failed, and replace what’s needed, and alter the algorithm.
Plug in slave dimensions, for the time being. The memories won’t be as crisp, but at least they will be there, and we can get over any potential panic.
It will take awhile for parity to be established.
Well, run your scripts, and start plugging. Now. And let us know when you get anywhere with the failure rate.
There’s one more thing.
We need to consider the possibility that these dimension failures are malicious.
What are the chances of that?
Mass failures are not uncommon, but they all revolve around a particular variable. We need to consider that this variable is a malicious one.
So noted. Set up a memory sample, from the read/write failure reports coming in. See if anyone remembers anything suspicious. Find these failed dimensions. Send a physical crew, if necessary. Find the reason for the failure.
The often quoted phrase, “there’s no value in a wealth of inexpensive dimensions” may seem like a slight against the value of the individual in our society, but the blade cuts both ways. Certainly, when compared with the massive quantity of the number of consciousnesses plugged into the network, it seems like any individual mind is no more than a flat brick in a massively thick wall. But at the same time, we are only free to consider the individual so inexpensive and replaceable relative to the wealth of the entirety, networked together, to which we have grown accustom. The weight and strength of the wall is only a sum of the physics of each brick; and the same goes for the networked memory of society, relying upon each and every temporal consciousness in the array. When an individual dies, or for any other reason must unplug from the array, that loss is barely noted, but only because of their memory remains in the network of which she or he was, and always will be a part. The individual can only afford to be cheap, because the whole is so wealthy. We remember the old metaphor—even the sea starts with a single drop—and we know that it is the power of the array that gives us our memory, and by this memory, makes our society’s individuals strong. Would you like to return to the article on Arrayed Memory? Select now. Would you like to know more about Memory Level Parity? Select now.
My head is full, but I don’t know with what. I have so many thoughts, but nowhere to put them. They are cramming themselves into me, glutting me full of their substance, the color and sound of all of those times, times I could not tell you about, but I still know so distinctly. Yes, they could be all happening to me right now. There is no past, and no future, there is only this minute, and my entire life has been folded in upon itself. I ran from a man with a knife in the street just now. I kissed my first boyfriend in the basement underneath the house of my best friend. I found a twenty dollar bill and I spent it on drugs. I fathered twenty children, and all of them worthless. I know this woman, and she knows me, but I could not tell you her name if you threatened my life, which she is now doing to me, with a needle full of deadly venom I cannot pronounce but feel so close to my neck. My mother tells me what she really thinks of the way I live my life. I have the best sex of my life, for an hour and a half, in less than a microsecond, over and over again forever. I give birth to a dead corpse, and I cry as I give it to the doctor. The wires endings in my head are sore with all of these things happening, all of these memories happening to me, and me doing all of these things now and forever, one after the next and all at once, and I want it all to stop, I want it all to stop, I want it all to stop and the pain to quit and never have to remember a single thing again, please for the love of god make it stop, or I will.
Open Line Transcript 13093423250924852.124: [text real time]:
And it… with at… memory stop gap struct…
What are you saying?
Here the… after failure rate… duplication of….
You are not coming through!
Dimension loss at the… read/write all day… do you…
Goddamn it, what is wrong with the connection?
I said, can you hear me?
Yes! I can hear you!
Can you read anything I’m saying?
Yes! Yes! Now tell me!
Is there anybody there?
I’m here! Tell me what’s happening!
If there’s anybody listening, do not unplug from the network! I say again, do not unplug from the network! The array is almost to the point of unrecoverable decay! We do not know what is causing the failures of dimensions, but if we lose any more consciousnesses plugged into the array, the entire thing could fail! Do not unplug from the network! For the sake of us all, stay plugged in, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. We will find the problem! I say again, we will find the problem! Artificial dimensions are being deployed, to shore up the temporal consciousness. Stay connected, and we will find the problem!
Is anybody listening to this?
Is there anybody there?
It has been speculated that the read/write apparatus may need restructuring, to comply with the theory of atomistic memories. It is a controversial notion, but some of the best science research networks have proposed that the array algorithm may cause some memories to be half-remembered by a dimension in the case of a read/write problem. They acknowledge that this is not a problem in terms of the memory itself, which will no doubt be recorded in redundancy, and can be accessed from any other completely remembered dimensions. But, they fear that a half-memory, without the benefit of its atomistic integrity, may cause a sector error or other false, incomplete memory event within that particular dimension if it is ever accessed, which could then threaten that entire dimension’s read/write ability, and eventually, the entire networked array. Detractors submit that this is not a feasible threat to the array, because the sheer size and number of individual dimensions precludes any sort of catastrophic failure, let alone any noticeable loss from the failure of one particular sector in a particular dimension. They argue that the time and effort would be better spend towards improving overall read/write speeds rather than employing stop gaps against partial, unatomic memories. At any event, they say, improving the read/write speeds in general will reduce the number of partial-memories, because interruptions to the dimensional write process will be reduced even further than the they are. It has proved difficult to lend credence to either theory, as the failed sectors caused by such a process are hard to find and analyze due to their small size among such a large array, though both sides do accept that such failures will inevitably occur to some degree. Would you like to return to the article on Memory Level Parity? Select now. Would you like to exit NetPedia? Select now.
There are colors, bright colors and dark, light pushing into me and pulling away. They extend to the edge of their field, and my mind finds something there at that horizon. Something is keeping them in, pushing them back into themselves and making them whole, preventing them from diffusing away to shades of nothing, like water into sand. I feel the force of it, the battle between them, struggling to maintain their difference, and something within me thanks them for it, because if they did not fight to the death in order to live, I would see nothing, and be alone, cold in a void of some creation I cannot name, or even speak about.
But now–something is different. All those things are still there, as hot and bold as ever, throwing their weight into each other as if there was nothing left to lose. But they are forming strategies, and I can see it. They are getting together with their former enemies, and pursuing their mutual foes together, stuttering outward from their centers that once held them together like the weight of mountains, but now toss them up into the air as if elastic, as if the heavy mass was the force of explosion. Exothermic heat and light shooting outward to reflect against any solid surface, if only for a brief second before being absorbed, transferring this energy in a flash that can consume, or disappear entirely, destroying or sparing with impunity, according to their whim. Or more likely, according to these secret truces and machinations that we who can only perceive the world around us will never understand, no matter how long we sit and observe what they choose to show us. And this is only the beginning of my confusion, as the iridescent world dissolves before my eyes, giving me only fragments and clouds of depth, sensation, and feeling to my mind. I wonder what happened to the world, to myself, as I try to grip any of the memories floating in my head, trying to make sense of anything, all these bits and shards, shattered apart like a gearbox dropped on a concrete floor, sending bits of metal, wire, and hot weld out to the extremities of the room and under the furniture and other worldly debris. I will never piece it back together. I cannot even feel the network out there anymore. Whose memories are these? Mine? Someone else’s? Do they belong to nobody? Are they even memories at all, or are they the mere substance of memory, let loose to leach into each other, in the sewer of my consciousness, and those pipes that lead ever downward, to the parts I never understood?
I should have read more about my own mind. I should have done more research, and tried to understand what it is that makes the network, what it is plugged into this crazy head of mine. But now it is too late. No more resources at my disposal. No foresight, nor hindsight either. I can’t even remember my name. I look down at my body, sitting at the metal desk, and I wonder what it does. I have some inkling… some idea… but it gets lost in the vibrating rumbling, the bits of songs and sounds and violent speech echoing in my head, a network untranslated, losslessly muddled and given to me whole, without any of the benefit, merely so much noise that will never mean anything to me again, and yet from which I cannot extract myself. I cannot extract myself. Is it me, or is it all of us? There is no one left to ask. I am on my own for the first time in my life. I don’t know what to do.
I reach up to my head, and feel my wet skin as if I am reaching into a dark, narrow hole in the floor. My fingers, without looking or seeing, find the cable, and manage to close around it. I pull, and the dried pus crackles and finally lets go, pulling the few thin hairs congealed within out by the roots. I feel a little breath of cold air enter the hole where the jack has always been, and I know I am desperately alone. I don’t know what this means.
If ever there was a controversy that existed on the Internet, by and for the Internet, this would be it. It is so quintessential because it is technological speculation combined with historical speculation, two things that make up the majority of Internet usage. The Internet exists as a way of commenting on the content of history, whether that be past, present, or future. Each hyperlink is a line of causality, drawn from one sentence, picture, video, idea to another. It is the grand narrative that is all narratives, big and small. Everything ends up on the Internet, eventually, in some form. And this is an undebatable proposition–because to dispute what I’m writing with evidence of something that is not on the Internet, you would have to reference it on the Internet.
So when the Internet takes itself as the example and method for the end/climax/rapture of individual humanity, well, then you’ve got a prophet on your hands. The speculation reaches a fever pitch, and it seems as if the fact of every argument was the most direct evidence for itself.
While the Internet is relatively new, Singularity (which, rather than bury myself in a definition, I will use to mean the debate thereof) takes an older form. You can plug the humans into the data, but you can’t take the humans out of the data. History is not only data about us, but it is us. We can only speculate about our future history because history IS speculation about us, by us. History is a big, wishingly-linear Internet, connecting one concept and idea to another with a golden line, an antique looking hourglass, the rapidly spinning pages of a calendar, or a gigantic snake eating itself, depending on which trope you prefer.
We must posit an “end” of history, because history has a beginning. Death gives meaning to life, and the two concepts are unified through their mutual, epochal borders. But, you can only speculate about death while still alive. Or at least, you can only speculate about death-from-the-point-of-view-of-life during life; in sort of a Kantian, transcendental-movement, “grass is greener from the other side” sort of position. The death we envision during life can only be the sort of death when we imagine during our lives. If it were possible to think about death, while dead, then that deathly-perspective on death would no doubt be different. If there is one thing we know about death, it is that we can’t be dead and alive at the same time. And so our life becomes a sort of transcendental lens, coloring everything we see through its glass, even when we look to what we can’t see.
And history is the same way. Pre-history is not called “the awesome chaos”, because we have no idea if it was awesome or not, chaos or not. Our perspective on it is only historical, and so we must refer to it by way of this lens. In the same way we call the possibility of an afterlife “life after death”, rather than “real life”. For all we know, if it exists it may be “realer” than the life we’re now living. But it doesn’t look that way from here.
So, post-history looks, unsurprisingly, pretty historical. From the shadows of pre-history, the threads of time begin to emerge, and they flow back and forth in their ways over the years, until they coalesce at some point in the future, and these many candles join into a bright sun. And maybe it won’t be totally post-historical. Maybe it will be life after-life. History after history. But I think everyone pretty much agrees that the point is, it will be, like, way totally different. And history is in some way involved.
But why is history involved at all? Why isn’t this just good old fashioned, wild, stoner speculation, that maybe one day we’ll all get to have sex on the Internet, like on the Internet, you know? Why can’t the Singularity be a really good TV program, or maybe a new flavor of energy drink? Or just some savior-device, or a new religion? Why does it have to be OHMYGODSTARS big? Or in other words, “Singular”?
Because history is big, and the Singularity is history. The Singularity is Linearity, in all of its messy, human glory, as per this stage in our species evolution. It’s a point, it’s a thing, it’s a concept. It’s a brand, it’s a prayer, and it’s an orgasm. It’s big because humanity is big, and there has to be something at the end, and if the journey was big, the ending must be. Otherwise, it wasn’t really a journey at all.
We’ve always had a Singularity, actually. Just like everything that lives will eventually die. We’ve just called it different things. The one I’m most professionally (kinda) familiar with, and the one I find instructive, is a theological concept. It’s called eschatology.
Eschatology is a description of the features, organization, and events at the end of the world. It’s the ending of history. It’s related to cosmogony, which is the the story of the beginning of the world. Every world has one of each, even though they differ, naturally.
Personally, I like the ones in the Bible, because modern translations of the Bible love to emphasize the infallibility of the literal words on the pages, and so this gives us great license to read into the sentences. There’s a lot of weird shit in there. And all of this weird shit betrays an interesting feature–at the beginning and end of the world, things get a bit loose. The fabric of the world gets a little unraveled, and the “weavers”, if you will, who are responsible for its integrity, are flitting about, either stitching it together or tearing it apart.
You learn all sorts of things about the world from watching it be made and destroyed. Like, did you know that when god made the heavens and earth, first wind passed over the waters, dividing the waters? BEFORE there was an earth on which there was water! It’s in Genesis, look it up. We’ve learned that there was not a senseless void in the beginning, but something that at least metaphorically, to the writer of Genesis, was like air dividing an expanse of water into two separate waters. Two separate waters in what? I don’t know, it doesn’t say! Could be anything. The end of the world is the same way. If you listen to John’s version, you learn that sinners are punished, and whores ride dragons, and all kinds of crazy shit happens. But this isn’t just a confusing messed up story–this tells us that it is part of the order of the world that all sinners will be eventually punished. It is not just some thing that happens–it is what happens in the end, to close up the world in a neat little package. Same thing with the whore and the dragon, though exactly what loose end that ties up has had a little more varied explanation. Seven angels, seven vials–all of this is important. It is not just a crazy pageant god whips up to entertain us all. It is all part of the structure of the cosmos. This is the stuff that needs to happen to close the book on the world. The world is not a string of unrelated events. Things happen because they were set in motion. It is not fate, but it is the simplicity of a chemical reaction. You throw a catalyst into something, and woosh. That is the way it works. Same thing with the cosmos. From beginning to end, the cosmos unfolds according to its design. We all just have a little trouble agreeing on exactly who or what designed it, and what the hell he/she/they/it were thinking.
The Singularity is doing nothing less than the all important project of trying to figure out what in the hell human history is all about. If we in a world where progress makes sense, where time follows time without going backward, where we strive to unite with our fellow humans in peace and understanding and exploration and creativity, then the Singularity would have to be the eventual conclusion, wouldn’t it? If History did not used to be, and now is, wouldn’t it have to go all post-Historical at some point? That would only make sense. If our technology helps us connect our consciousnesses into a culture more and more by aiding our self-expression as individuals, wouldn’t it eventually have to unite our consciousnesses completely? Until we weren’t individuals at all, but something else? Something post-human? If you look at the evidence, you would have to conclude that.
The evidence being, nothing other than a history that is a cosmos of itself–a self-perpetuating narrative about the motion of human souls through time. Narratives about narratives. Integrals of time, set to find not where we are moving, but how fast we are getting there, and how fast we are figuring out how fast we are getting there. You have to always extend Cartesian coordinates by time T. If you start calculating according to logs, you always have to up it to the next base ten. If your calculus allows for n-order equations, you must assume that n will go to infinity. “Here and now” is defined by there also being a “then” and “later”. Together, they form a solid system. A system that moves loosely, lossily, and languidly. But a system none the less.
The Singularity, and again, I mean the debate thereof, is that system. Our eschatology is our cosmology, and what you can describe in crime shall be the whole of the law.
I’m writing this as a companion to a short story I wrote about temporal-dimension singularity and technology, called The RAID, which you can find here.
Another motivation Twitter poster, words courtesy (and all of these are without permission, I might add) of @AmericanRoulete.
As you might be able to tell, I like minimal. For some reason, I was thinking airline advertisement. I wanted to make the faded curves fade on a gradient, but I ran out of time. Anyway, it’s kind of more jarring this way, and jarring is good, as long as it isn’t amateurish. But too late for that anyway.
At the very last minute, I decided to make it work on its side as well, which I might like better, but I can’t really tell.
Looks even more like an airline ad now.
You can print it out and try flipping it around for yourself, with the PDF, here. Feel free to try it with art facing the wall. That might even be best.
Outer space, as a place where Earth life will no doubt continue to travel, is hardly the sole province of humans. Other Earth life in orbit isn’t contained to your space crops and your space beef, and your experimental ant farm, either. Animals have a long history of going into space; in fact, they went there before we did, both to the academic definition of space, and in orbit.
Laika, of course, is famous for being the first creature of an Earth species to go into orbit, in the second orbiting spacecraft in “our” history. First sputnik, then muttnik, as Westerners called the spacecraft. She did not come back, because the technology for re-entry did not yet exist. We fired her into the heavens, and at least for that, she will always be first.
Several species intentionally made it into space before humans, including fruit flies, three different species of monkeys, and of course, dogs. The United States used monkeys for their space tests, but the Soviet Union preferred dogs, because they were better suited to long periods on inactivity. Laika, and many other cosmo-dogs were strays, “recruited” into the space program because they would have toughness that dogs with more domesticated lifestyles would not. A dog held the record for longest spaceflight until trumped by Skylab in 1973.
Here’s a list of other animal species that have gone into space:
fish (a mummichog, and later, zebra fish and others)
gypsy moth eggs
stick insect eggs
more recently tardigrades (which can survive in the vacuum of space without protection)
Naturally (because we are the top of the food and hierarchical ecosystem-control chain) many of these animals died on their heroic missions into the heavens. Some, like Laika, were not planned to survive their missions, but others died in accidents. There have been a good number of spaceflight accidents with both animals and humans, but the majority of the fatalities involve launch and re-entry. Only three people have died from decompression in space, on the Soyuz 11 in 1971. There were other near accidents and injuries in space, but most fatalities, like the loss of the Challenger and the Columbia shuttles, happened because of catastrophic equipment failure during the tremendous physical conditions of the heat and gravity effects of transiting to orbit.
This is not to say that orbit, or the vacuum of space is harmless. But the equipment required to support life in space is so complicated and multi-faceted, there are a myriad possibilities for something to go wrong (and in the case of near misses, to fix the problem) before animals or humans encounter the specific dangers of the space vacuum. In the case of launch and re-entry, the tolerances for failure are much slimmer. For instance, The actual explosion of the Challenger only caused the external propellant tank to collapse, but this caused the shuttle itself to veer into the Mach 1.8 windstream in a way not designed, which ripped the craft apart in seconds. And even then, it is estimated that the cockpit protected the astronauts inside for at least a time, because they deployed emergency oxygen. The crash of the shuttle into the ocean at 200 miles an hour was the definitive cause of death. (See STS-51F and STS-93 for other shuttle near-misses, in which the shuttle still made it into orbit.)
Once in space, animals must content with a few specific dangers from the vacuum of space. Although rapid decompression has been celebrated in SF as a cataclysmic way to go, the means of actually dying in a vacuum is actually pretty simple. The crucial danger of a space vacuum is hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the body), which might cause loss of consciousness after 9 to 12 seconds, but is generally survivable up to 90 seconds. This is not the same as asphyxiating; the lack of pressure causes all oxygen in the lungs to evaporate, and the circulating blood is instantly devoid of oxygen. The 9 to 12 seconds is how long this gasless blood takes to reach the brain. Hypoxia is accentuated by ebullism, which is the evaporation of liquid at low pressure, basically boiling the blood. Ebullism can be countered by space suits that reduce swelling. Survivability is much better if it’s only part of the body exposed to the vaccuum, and breathing can be maintained.
Temperature, however, is really not dangerous, because there is no medium for conduction in a vacuum. Radiation is the only way to cool, and that won’t happen before the other effects. So the portrayals of bodies freezing instantly in a vacuum are overwrought.
Rapid decompression is much more dangerous, intensifying the above. Slow decompressions of the same pressure gradient can be survivable, while rapid decompression can cause bleeding and shock, which use up the oxygen in the blood even faster.
If pressure is maintained, there are still long-term effects of being outside the Earth’s atmosphere and gravity. Gravity affects fluid movement through the body, and bone and muscle density. Radiation exposure outside the shelter of the atmosphere and magnetic fields of Earth is ten times normal for the surface. Long term effects could include cancer, chromosomal abberation, and immune system problems, but there hasn’t been enough data to study these fully. Also, circadian rhythm problems, social and psychological issues exist, but again, data is limited.
Since 1973, there has been a constant human presence in space, along with our animal friends. As far as I know, there have not been any long term experiments to test animals’ ability to evolve to space conditions. Certainly not with humans. There would have to be long-term, generational habitation in space to figure this out.
I synthesized this from a number of Wikipedia articles:
At the Budapest University of Technology’s Training Reactor
For you late night secession-minded folks, here is our finished State of Jefferson flag. http://twitpic.com/2ftq78
It’s good to know that the more things change, the more red-baiting stays the same. Really–as the mental environment and the logical terrain begins shifting underneath my feet, it makes me happy to know that certain idiots can latch on to the same old rhetorical techniques, the rehashed tired responses, the boring syllogisms. Every time I begin to think that I can’t cope with the world, someone accuses someone else of being, of all things, a “Trotskyite”, and immediately I know that up is up, the world is round, and we’re all better dead than Red. Hearing the soft, familiar shriek of “go back to Cuba!” is like returning to one’s hometown and realizing, yes, the air is sweeter here!
To Cory Doctorow, capitalism is something that other people are conspiring to do to him, and DRM is the weapon they’re doing it with.
His antipathy to kapitalizm is understandable in view of his Trotskyite upbringing, but history has demonstrated that beneath every socialist’s flesh beats the heart of a capitalist.
God, this is good. Let’s count the tropes. 1) Communism is a paranoid fantasy, 2) Communists are all red-diaper babies 3) Communists are actually more capitalist than capitalists 4) communists are socialists (are capitalists are Trotskyites?)
It’s always funny how the worst thing you can call someone in the Communist universe is a Trotskyite. Even Maoists have more street cred than Trotskyites. “Not only are you a Communist, you’re a… Trotskyite!” Ooooh! “Not only are you bad with women, you’re gay!” Does the latter come from the former, or… are we in a middle school locker room? “Wait, are you trying to psychoanalyze me? Psychoanalysts are gay!”
But this article is actually about ebooks (I think), and that’s what I really wanted to get at. Because Cory Doctorow is a liberal, and not a communist in any sense of the term. (At least, not in relation to his well-known stances on DRM, copyright, ebooks, etc. Who KNOWS what sort of books he has stashed away his ENGLISH “flat”! You know what the English are, right? Gay!)
I’ve written about Cory’s stance on DRM before, from a dialectical perspective, actually (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And this would be, in the same sense, a continuation of this dialectic; two sides are eagerly falling into opposing sides of the same argument and verifying that yes, they do disagree, and so the world must be isometrically diametric. Free-market privateers on one side, high-minded Robin Hoods on the other hand. The third side of the coin being me, shaking my head and wondering when I will get a computer/ebook/mp3 player with the functions that I actually want to use (and violently condemning any form of state control. Wait, did I say that out loud?) This particular article is just a little more stark than it usually is. A little more, shall we say, cliche? But as I said, I can appreciate that, because if there wasn’t anyone going around and ruining perfectly good debates with McCarthyism, generations of teenagers wouldn’t read Marx as a form of rebellion.
Within the ebook discourse, the writers of this article are not entirely wrong for making allegations that Doctorow and his ilk are in some ways idealistic, and high-minded, and somewhat willfully ignorant of “the cold logic of market forces”. While Doctorow is successful in self-publishing, it clearly is not a model for everyone. He is an example, and to a certain degree a proof of concept, in that he can give away his ebooks for free and still make money, and can demand with this still-make-money that publishers bend to his will. He is our Paris Commune, which I have cited more times than I care to remember (both Cory and the literal Commune) as an example of intentional communism, err, self-publishing working, until the hegemony of the state (read: trade paperbacks) overcomes the experiment with bloody force. I hope that Cory does not come to the same end as the Commune, and I imagine he will not, because as bloody as this battle is, it’s between people who actually care about the future of reading, which means they have probably never thrown a punch in their lives.
This idealism and the according suspicion of it is not new. As I said, it is familiar of the old dialectic, the scarred hands of the right and the left, and in this way, calming to this old Marxist of twenty-eight years. But what IS new is the whining. What is up with these defenders of the “publishers’ interests?” You are supposed to be the cold-hearted capitalists!
Doctorow writes that he is “more than happy to offer my otherwise free books for sale in any vendor’s store, of course, but only if the vendors agree to carry them on terms I feel I can stand behind as an entrepreneur, as an artist, and as a moral actor.” Well, Mr. Doctorow, publishers have terms too, and if you listen to them long enough you come to understand why they need to impose them.
“Well, Mr. Bomb-throwing anarchist, we oligarchs have our beliefs, and if you would just come to my study, I’ll have my servant pull you up a wooden chair so you don’t stain my embroidered sofa, and I’ll kindly read to you from a selection of Adam Smith, who was a logical fellow, and I think if you try, you’ll see a lot of wisdom in his words to which we can all relate.” What is this shit? Call out the scabs, man! Get the Pinkertons to go burn down Cory’s Nexus One! “This ain’t a union town, Doctorow!” Or at the very least, can we PLEASE have a House Committee on Un-American e-Activities? I thought this was a Trotskyite you were dealing with? A TROTSKYITE! If you’re afraid to fight a Trotskyite, what does that make you?
The reason I know that Doctorow actually does have a bead drawn on the publishers (other than the glaringly obvious fact of THE INTERNET) is because the publishers are running scared. If in the 70s, someone had said to the music industry, “you know it’s kind of bullshit that you make us pay for stuff”, no one would have heard a thing. It would have been silence. More tumbleweeds than a 21st century picket line. But Doctorow IS the Paris Commune. A minor historical example, barely a piece of physical evidence at all in the face of the entire world market, but what he represents is so much of a danger to publishers, that they react this way. He can’t be allowed to get a pass on this, otherwise it will be clear that communism is not a bat shit theory, but an alternative with pros and cons of its own. And yet rather than call out the troops, the publishers are so weak that all they can do is make the market-theory equivalent of slanders to his sexuality.
Another piece I read recently that had a similar tone was this mild rebuke to the Wylie Agency by Michael Bahskar. Although caged in the language of “this is not taking sides”, the article does try to present an alternate logic to the agency-turned-publisher who decided it could form its own ebook economy without the publishers.
The main argument for why royalties [paid by publishers to agents and writers] should be higher in digital seems to be that, given we don’t have a physical book, the costs to the publisher must be so much lower. This is very easy to answer. The per unit cost of printing a book is, in most cases, not where the majority of a publishers’ costs are directed. They are directed at overheads, at editorial and editorial management, at sales, marketing and publicity. Regardless of whether you have a print book or not, these costs are absolutely consistent. So really the only difference we can talk about is the marginal print cost difference, only a fraction of a book’s total cost. [...]
For books to thrive they need good publishers; this is equally true of ebooks, and if publishers are making a loss on digital products then it will increasingly undermine not only their ebook business but ultimately their print books, and beyond that the whole ecosystem of reading and writing.
We could take trade guild rebelling against the nobles as our historical example in this one, to better abut it to our use of Communism previously. In this epoch, new capital rebells against old capital. But really, it is the same thing. Doctorow, as talent-publisher, is no different than the Wylie Agency here. Both are lucky enough to have the talent, and feel they’d be better off on their own terms, so they are going forward without the feet-dragging publishing nobility. Clearly, both Doctorow and Wylie, who have some experience selling books, know what it is that publishers do. And they couldn’t give a shit. All of this supposed work that publishers do is left to Bahskar to explain on a website, to the only people who care. If Doctorow and Wylie NEED publishers so bad, I would imagine they will be finding out that reality shortly when their grand experiments come crashing down. Right? Otherwise, off they go into the glorious communist future.
And so, note: the only thing that publisher are able to do is plead with them.
Please, talent! You NEED us! You are making a historical error! Like communism, you think you can survive without someone from above directing your markets, but you’ll just end up like Russia! You’ll still put people in space, but you’ll have to degrade yourself to space tourism to do it. If you think that is a “successful experiment”, you’re wrong! Plus, Stalin! I mean, come on, Stalin! You don’t want to be that. PLEASE LET US TOUCH YOUR BOOKS!
If these clowns really believed in the free market (secret: no one does) then they would let Doctorow and Wylie try their hand. They’d let them build their own railroad, and then crush them by cornering the market in steel. But the publishers can’t do that, because they don’t have a steel market. If anyone has the steel market, it’s Apple, and Apple is on the side of Henry Ford and the automobile, which… hold on, I think I lost my metaphor.
But the point is, if publishers are having to explain how important they are, then they’re not. Otherwise, we’d all know. Any person who tries to whine to you, liberal or conservative, communist or capitalist, about how you are making a mistake “against history” by opposing them, knows desperately that history is not on their side. History is on the side of complexity, and complexity is a pattern that will stymie any attempt to understand it in dialectical terms. The dialectic will always come around and bite you in the ass, whatever side you’re on. This is why the point is not to have an ideology, or to be “historically and theoretically correct”. The point is the adapt and build, even as everything is falling down. But publishers would rather sit around and whine, sit around and bitch, sit around and call Cory Doctorow a fake communist. I’m sure Cory could give a damn about what they call him, as long as he’s selling books.
And this, children, is the story about how the big baseball jock grew up calling the nerdy kids communist, and then became a wage slave working at the filling station. Luckily, he was straight. But his marriage was not very fulfilling. For the rest of his days, he cursed the dialectic, and always wondered what life would have been like had he actually worked to innovate the publishing industry, rather than defending market entities that were having to lower themselves to ad hominem attacks to replace their lack of economical understanding. His cheap gravestone would read:
“At least I wasn’t a Trotskyite.”
And he’d be right.
But don’t listen to me. Let this guy try and sell you something:
What follows is a description of a project proposal Rosalynn and I will be presenting at Portland Stock, a fundraising dinner for art projects on Sunday, August 15th, 6pm-9pm, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. If you like what you read here, you should come to the dinner and vote for our project!
[To skip directly to our proposal, scroll down to "The Proposed Path", below.]
It’s a place you’ve been many times before. You know it implicitly, around the corner, down the block, by that other place we often go. The location is strong in your memory, in your habits, and in your awareness of the world around you.
But today, it’s different. There is a small square posted there, on a slip of paper with tape. No words, no signature. It’s an odd thing, a geometric matrix in black and white, low resolution, almost fuzzy. Printed with goodness knows what. But it strikes a chord within you. You’ve seen this pattern before. It’s one of those things you can recognize with a cell phone camera… what are they called? Out of your pocket comes your device, and you open the program which you had downloaded on a whim. You hold the lens steady, and prepare to activate the shutter, but the camera clicks on its own, and the phone begins to churn. The phone has recognized the pattern, without any help from you. A website loads in your phone’s browser. The first thing you see is a map with your location. This familiar place has been recorded, chosen by someone for some reason, and placed with this pattern. You scroll down the page, and new pattern connected to your formerly familiar world begins to open…
There are patterns for how we show each other things. We show historical curiosities in museums. We show art in galleries. We show writing in books, in collections of poems and stories. We show entertainment on TV. We show ourselves on our websites. We show knowledge and data on a wiki. These are the evolving and permanent patterns we choose to show, and the patterns of where we come to look.
You are going to contribute a new pattern. We’re going to help you.
Patterns are built from moments. From syllables. From small glitters of glass and smears of paint. From bits, and waves of magnetic resonance. From the most vague onset of emotional response, and from the most brief hint of desire. These are scattered over the surface of our world.
You align them, causing them to turn gradually under the influence of your fields of attraction and repulsion. They move, and they point, and the invisible lines of our perception become noticeable. Like the lines of a river delta, sweeping arcs in the silt. Like the shadow of tree limbs stretching across our own piece of sky. And then at once you turn and you see the pattern.
But they all seem to be trees and rivers, don’t they? They become natural metaphor rituals, the typical pattern of success, and accordingly, the impenetrable sphere of influence. Empty streets, stretching off into infinity. The email inbox, always simultaneously empty and full.
It’s time to start again. You knew it would be. Because if you thought it would ever end, then you are playing the wrong game.
We’ll give you the tools. They may be tools you’ve used before, but then again, maybe you haven’t. We’ll hold everything still. And then you hit the button.
You are going to post digital media to the internet. You are going to place a symbol in the real world. The line between these two points will be the basis of our pattern.
Are you ready? Then why haven’t you started?
It is a cliche, and in that way a pattern itself, to say that new technology is ubiquitous in these modern times. Sure, there’s lots of new technology out there. But is it really ubiquitous? Most people might have cell phones, but are they using all the functions of their cell phones? Everyone has used the internet at least once, but how many people know the full extent of what the internet can do? What percent of the functions we have at our disposal are we using? How would the world as we know it, in which “technology is common and ubiquitous” change if we all used just a little bit more of the technology we have? What sorts of extra features are these? Why should be use them, if we’re not already? Would we be better off, or worse?
In discussion of technology, there is an emphasis on “ease of use”. Features and services do not find widespread acceptance unless they meet a certain threshold of easiness. The fence must be below a certain height for people to wander in. But technology, especially new technology, is not always easy. The path hasn’t been beaten down enough for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it is impassable. It doesn’t take a programmer to popularize a new pattern of technological use–just a little curiosity, and a little patience.
In one sense it seems occluded, opaque, and impassable: visual patterns put on objects, which can be photographed with certain cell phones, which can then direct the cell phone to a web site. Where does the pattern come from? How does it link to a website? How is it printed? What sort of phones can read it? How long does it last? What sort of information can it link to? Why would you plot these on a map? There are no good answers to these questions, because the overall pattern has not been developed yet.
We’re going to try to develop it. We’re going to try to help you develop it. We’ve blazed the first trail, and we’ll guide you. Where it goes is up to you.
The Proposed Path
We will launch a website with user-generated media of all kinds. Each post of media will be linked to a place in the physical world, this place tagged with a QR code, and mapped onto the post. From the Internet, viewers will be able to connect to physical places, and from the physical places they will be able to explore digital media. From whatever sorts of media the participants upload, and to whatever sorts of physical places they decide to tag, a new pattern will emerge that will join these two worlds together.
Anyone will be able to go to the Personal Pattern Projectiles website, and request membership. All membership requests will be granted. At the site, members will be able to upload their media, and format it to their liking using WordPress web-based publishing software. There are no restrictions on content (except one, and it is secret). Once the member has finished his/her post, s/he will take the URL of the post, and generate a QR code. A QR code is a small, square, blank and white pattern that can be read by almost any network-capable device with a camera, which will then display the content of the encoded message, or in this case, load the URL in a web browser. Using a Pogo printer, or other printer, the member will print a copy of the code, and physically post it somewhere in the world. Once the member sends a photo of his/her code “in the wild”, with location data, to the administrator, the administrator of the site will publish their post, along with a geotagged map showing the location of the tag in the real world. Then, the process begins again.
To review, the steps are as follows:
1. Join site
2. Create post
3. Create and print QR code
4. Place QR code in world
5. Verify by sending photo and location to admin
This is up to the contributors individually, and also the contributors as a whole. The content can be nearly anything digital, and the place where the QR is mounted can be nearly anywhere. So the capacity for meaning is limitless within these bounds. However, this Pattern was conceived in principle to provide a bridge between the real world of physical space, where we see, hear, watch, and read, and the virtual world, where data storage and database tools are plentiful, accessible, and searchable. We suggest that contributors may want to proceed with their postings with this link in mind, and think about the Pattern they might create as being an evolving interaction between these worlds. When you press a button in one world, a button in the other moves. But the wires that link these channels are up to them.
To access a QR-code of this page, click here.
In the world of the Internet, twice is a series. The other day a twitter post inspired me to make a tabloid-sized faux inspirational poster as design practice, and so I’m making a series of it, any time I feel the urge. Like any series, this will last as long as it continues to entertain me, and as long as I find content that makes it work.
Thanks to @georgelazenby for this poster’s tweet.
This poster could be better, but I have so many paths on the pasteboard now it’s making everything slow and irritating, so like that, it’s done. I wish the center colored heptagons were 3D, like a prism, but it is what it is. I don’t want any of these to take more time than I can devote in one day.
And if for some bizarre reason you find this serves as a successful digestive aid, you can get the full-sized PDF here.
CPSC Notices 8/12/10
Circus World Recalls Wireless Video Baby Monitors Due to Overheating Hazard – Wiring in the baby monitor camera can overheat and emit smoke, posing a burn hazard to consumers. Circus World Displays has received two reports of the camera portion of the monitors overheating and smoking. No injuries have been reported.
Blue light, and he had hated the color. The insides of the trailer shone with it: bright against the water-damaged ceiling tiles, absorbed by the dark metal of the shelves and equipment racks, luminous on the front of his work shirt, dirt and grime illuminated. Blue glared up in front to his face and eyes from his clothing, a squinted halo on a humid day, a mist he couldn’t clear, repeatedly blink involuntarily. And then there was the screen itself.
The people walked by, in groups of universally ugly threes and fours, the occasional child straying across the screen and then running back to whatever person, place or thing might be serving as its caretaker. Occasionally a hot body might stray across the curved luminescence of the monitor, but it was too quick, the video feed refresh rate too staggered-full of white lines and blue ghosts… the mind couldn’t capture the image. The contrast was off, the color an approximation of light and shade only. The long hair was jagged lines, breasts were pixelated pits, exposed skin was bluish-white, bodies turned to drowning corpses in the bottomless cold lake of closed circuit.
A wave of mist and static blew across the screen, and he leaned forward to adjust a knob, blue square filling his picture. Wait–vertical lines, rolling thicknesses of mist, increased foreground brightness. Now he could see the flames. Goddamn it, those fucking kids have set fire to one of the cameras again!
I disagree with Tim Carmody’s “Bookfuturist Manifesto” on one particular point:
It is a shitty manifesto.
Now, I like many of Tim Carmody’s ideas on the future of books, on the current state of books, and on various other topics that are relevant to that particular e-intellectual set to which the idea of a bookfuturist manifesto immediately appeals and attracts. But I disagree with his construction of a manifesto–a disagreement which, I seek to show, is not irrelevant to the overall project of the future of the book.
The manifesto is a literary form that has not received a large amount of literary analysis, perhaps because it cogently directs attention away from its form. Its subject matter is by declaration paramount, and therefore it purposefully points the reader not to its own material, but away towards a particular axis of thought that is suggested to be alive and vibrant in the world. The manifesto is not a logical argument. It is a rhetorical index. It seeks to magnetize, to point, to align supporters by their conversion to the indicated path, and to condemn those that disagree by inciting fierce contrary opposition.
Manifestos, by this mechanism, define themselves as rare literary moments in the history of a particular narrative axis. They are passages meant to punctuate, to galvanize via their repetition, their rhyme, and their rebelliousness. They are epistemological epistrophes, canonical milestones, declarations of purpose, and sanctified psych-up songs. A manifesto is written with a certain passion of historical consciousness–an ebullient enthusiasm that could not be held back for one moment longer, and after the ejaculation of which, the historical record will undergo a new fruitful fecundity, being impregnated with such ideas and words that might change the course of history for ever and ever.
And I don’t detail this just so that I could show off some vocabulary, indulge my unconscious urge for alliteration and assonance, or sneak in a couple of semen metaphors. The aspects I’m identifying are important element of a manifesto, separating its historically sticky pages from any other essay weighing the pros and cons of an idea. Manifestos are important because they are not just analysis of criticism. They are a charge to an audience. They are a condemnation of the past, in the strongest of terms. They are a raging bonfire, into which things will be unceremoniously tossed, and from the ashes of which a new world will rise with talons of flame, upon the feathers of the evolutionary mob of human endeavor. The fact that a manifesto has been written tells us that at least to the author(s) of the manifesto, this is the moment. Regardless of what the future actually holds for these riders of the beating wings of history, the manifesto is solid, unwavering, and propels an idea, at least for the briefest of moments and to the most targeted of audiences, into a position to dispute the sun.
Tim Carmody’s “Bookfuturist Manifesto” does none of these things. It is a blog post, a self-conscious aside from a particular dinner party conversation, a self-satisfied journal entry in which the non-events of a day are recorded. Where is the fire? The purpose? The sense of cataclysmic history! In fact, he purposefully eschews all of this, in a favor of a common ground, a synthesis, or other third-way between the rhetorical caricatures defining the associated ideas. It is a reasoned, academic, perspective, that waves away the vehemence of positional argument, and quiets the vitriol of thought pushed to the point of emotion. It is self-analytical, not self-important. And in all these ways it is probably a good summation of the goals, steps, and pitfalls of the evolution of the book. But it is not a manifesto.
Let’s put it this way. A manifesto would not contain in the first paragraphs the first-person exclamation after seeing oneself on a titular Twitter follow list, “I want to write a bookfuturism manifesto!” Nor would it conclude with the hippie-seminar self-effacement, “At least, that’s what I try to do.”
The futurists had dinners in the company of aeroplane engines. The bookfuturists idea of a wild time would be to get Clay Shirky and Nicholas Carr in the same room and let them each take their time to explain their argument’s similarities and differences.
Which is all to the bookfuturists’ credit, I think. They are actually thinking about solutions to problems, not attempting to write a poetry of war, and embrace pollution. The preference of these times for one method over the other is obvious, and totally respectable. Technology should not be a war, or a Darwinian Thunderdome. The discussion is, as a high-level conversation ought to be, about the proper methods and means for using technology to improve culture. Not a savage orgy of literature-as-atrocity (though this author sighs wistfully).
But, as I have more-often-than-not begun concluding in this Internet Age, in this time of proliferating quantities of reason, analysis, discussion, pros, and cons, thanks in no small part to the technological changes that allow discussions of the changing state of our literary discourse in form and content, a new truth status is dawning. A truth about the revealing of truth. Basically, if someone has to explain to you the way in which “something is happening” in culture or any particular subset thereof, it is not happening–at least not presently. Once, history only “happened” because there were certain people with powers of observation coupled with the skills to record it, and a format by which to explicate its contents to others. The narrative required a narrator. Now, the a certain story is telling itself, daily and hourly. This story is written in the blog posts, the photo sets, the hashtags, and yes, occasionally, self-published Internet manifestos of its practitioners. One doesn’t need to read the New York Times to know about the state of the housing market, or the current anarchy-quotient of Detroit or New Orleans. You can see the personal thoughts, the pictures, the daily doings and the first-person statements of the people on the ground. It is a dirty narrative, scattered, and loosely connected. But it is as much a narrative as anyone could tell at this point. The face of evolution occurs at the ground level, where the problems are solved, and in the hands where the technology (whether new or old) is held. If there is to be any new ground covered, it will be under the feet of the person with the book in their hands. This praxis is not new, but suddenly, it is mostly accessible to any of us at any time. We are all content creators as well as consumers. The first-person perspective as grand narrative is born anew, and this time without pronouns. There is no “I” in Twitter, because it is implied in what 140 characters is not. “is re-writing the bookfuturism manifesto” is a complete sentence in this narrative. The status message is the new Truth. These revolutions will not be analyzed. At least not until later.
In other words, there is a lot of bookfuturism essays, but the bookfuture lies elsewhere. The bookfuture is not necessarily a history in microblogged format, but it is certainly not with the critics and analytics. Literature is too expressive a form of culture to conform to those who would define publishing. It is the force of a river that finds its course through gravitational expediency, but does not abide being dammed for long. Erosion, branching arroyos, flash floods, and the birthing of landslides are its paths, not the dictates of evangelists and (anti-)technologists. Regardless of whether it is on screen, paper, over wireless wavelength or through the old-fashioned mail, the books that will exist in the future will be the ones that are written, published, and read, whether purchased from app store, pulled from a free box, or forcibly read to the populace over loudspeaker, or equivalent. Like a manifesto, we will know the elements of the bookfuture when we see it, when it demands itself to us, when it grabs us in the street and forces its literature into our unwilling hands, when it tweets in the middle of the night whether anyone is around to read it or not. When someone is ready not just to speculate, but to get up and exclaim that the future is now, to quake and shake with the revealed knowledge of a new literary format, ready and hungry to toss something, anything into the fire.
The time of the prophets is over. The time of the manifesto is now.
[Disclosure: I am a self-published author, with a lot of animosity for prophets of publishing. But if you're reading this, you probably know that. Also: my apologies to Tim Carmody, whom I follow on Twitter, and would be really sorry if this reverse-manifesto caused him to block me or something.]
If you are for some profane reason interested in other things I have written about manifestos, you could always check these out.
This Twitter post stuck in my head all day, and so I made it a little bit of InDesign practice. I’ve done a lot of text layout, but I’m trying to get better at gradients and color art.
The double-meaning kinda goes the other way in print rather than Twitter.
If for some reason you think this is funny as I did, you can get a full-sized PDF of the poster here.
A few thoughts about space colonization for Monday morning:
- Let’s take it as granted that the goal of space colonization is to allow humans to live in space, not just visit any particular place in space and return. This means colonies, which are self-sufficient human-inhabited entities, in that the humans who live there will be staying there for the length of their lives, and reproducing there, and the humans they produce will live there as well. They are self-sufficient from the perspective of human genealogy, if not the organic necessities of human life, even though we tend to tack the latter onto the former.
- And as any reader of R. Crumb’s Genesis will tell you, the minimum required number of humans to beget a lineage of humans is two.
- But, we must assume that we’d care for a bit of genetic variation, and furthermore, in case there is an interstellar breakup, we might like to allow our galactic breeders to “keep their options open” as it were, and send more than two. Even if artificial insemination equipment is provided for, it is not guaranteed that two humans will be able to conceive and carry to term and raise healthy offspring, nor that those offspring will be able to do the same.
- So we begin to wonder, (as Charlie Stross did in an essay that inspired these thoughts) what is the minimum number of humans that must be included in a gene pool for successful reproduction and a flourishing population. We could ask some population experts, study the genotypes of some isolated populations, and come up with a minimum number, X.
- But why are we looking for a minimum number? Well, as the conventional wisdom dictates, the most expensive part of human life in space is life support. Water, air, exercise, sustenance, etc. To create a colony in which humans can breed and reproduce, they must be able to live, of course. And from what we know about where these colonies might exist, the first colonists will have to be sent with a significant supply of these supports, at least until they can begin to create their own perpetuating support system. And, why water, air, exercise, and sustenance are all cheap on Earth, getting them into outer space is costly. So, if we send the minimum to successfully reproduce until they can create a perpetuating support system, we have created the human colonial spore pod, which we can fire into space at targets with nice real estate, if no organic grocery stores.
- This belies a certain understanding of the human colonial urge. To basically design spore pods, space-capable Nina, Pinta, and Santa Marias, full of buckle-shod pilgrims, (or convicts. Or pious children) which we can send off to the edge of the world, hoping that it might stick onto what it is flung at. Which is really weird, when you think about it. Our species is really nothing more than a bunch of penguins standing at the edge of the ice, seeing who will get the closest so we can shove them into space and see if the space orca gets them. But this is what we do. We don’t inhabit places inhospitable to us for no reason. If one is going to accept the basic ideas of evolution, we have to assume that our species-desire to send humans up mountains and to the bottom of the ocean and to Newark airport and to the Moon is not just something we do because we’re bored or think it might somehow be less trouble than a cab to JFK, but something we do as part of a pattern that has seen us become the “dominant” (in whatever way that we are) species in the ecosystem of earth. The pattern of the human species is to perfect our technology in order to let us do the odd things we do. The more technology we develop, the more crazy things we start doing (though we do stop some efforts on occasion, like trying to seriously build ornithopters or transmute lead) and the wider our range in the ecosystem becomes, and the larger our population gets. At least so far.
- But these Ninas and Pintas and Santa Marias aren’t really successful in and of themselves. They go, and they land, and maybe they eat each other during the harsh Virginia winter (just a little taste won’t hurt) but not one of these single seeds has ever engendered an entire stable population. Barring any unforeseen ammonia-loving cephalopodic Squantos of Titan who break bread with our rocket-propelled breeder orgy, I can only imagine that the harsh realities of chemical systems not exactly like the one we thrive in will kill off these human-spore pods in large numbers. The way colonization seems to work here on Earth, is that either populations who have a certain set of ecosystematic-skills slowly migrate, adapting their sustenance practices as they go over thousands of years, or it requires such a critical mass of spore-pods to the point where they are not expanding their population to cover the new environment, but actually reproducing their old environment in the new place. And yet, they still die off rapidly, until the transformation is complete, and you get full cities and states with names like New Amsterdam and New England and cute little village greens and barns that look almost exactly like the greens and barns some thousands (or billions) or miles away.
- So why do we send the spore-pods rather than saving it all up until we can send an entire Europe out into space? Well, that isn’t the pattern. The penguins have their pattern, and we have ours. Certainly we’ll lose some space colonies, but we’ll keep sending them until we reach some sort of critical mass, that to me, seems like it will look a lot like what we call terra-forming. I like to think that the slow migratory way might be possible too (and it would be cooler) but we haven’t exactly been able to migrate to the oceans in the last several hundred thousand years, so the ecosystem of another planet might be a bit of a stretch.
- Terraforming, of course, comes from 20th century futurist roots, meaning “to make it like Earth.” Either by making another planet’s ecosystem conform to the features of Earth’s ecosystem that we require to survive, or, as I would include, making a fake ecosystem from scratch, both of which would no doubt pretty closely resemble Earth. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty funny way to colonize other worlds. Kind of like colonizing America by dragging it back across the Atlantic and welding it onto Portugal. Not that it isn’t possible, but it kind of takes the fun out of living on Tatooine if some jerk real estate developer made it look like the suburbs of Chicago. The pattern will find its own way though, and whatever the terraformed planets must look like in order to sustain human life and reproduction is what they will look like, because I’m taking the inevitability of space colonization as a foregone conclusion.
- But if terraforming is the way to space colonization, and it must be done by a substantial segment of the population and not just a handful of huguenot-astronauts, and if this will be probably pretty expensive and no doubt require a lot of people perishing in cold cold space (and maybe, fingers-crossed, cannibalism), then it is starting to appear that this is not simply colonizing space, but the reproduction of Earth. Yes. Earth, itself, will begin to beget it’s own lineage.
- At this point, the Earth might be so crowded with humans, whom have already built condos on Mt. Everest and Foxcomm dormitories in deep ocean trenches, such that sending spore-pods of human beings to dine on the sweet, sweet flesh of their friends and co-workers while struggling desperately to transmute oxygen and carbon dioxide from methane might seem like a good career move. Hell, people might be lining up to go. As is the pattern of the human species, at least so far as we remember. As these desperate waves of Earth immigrants board the converted space galleons to head to a new life of spreading scarlet fever to the local life forms, Earth itself will be moving. If you consider the way that Europe, “the extent of the civilized world” got up and renamed a whole continent (more than that) after itself and its political ecosystem, terraforming doesn’t really sound like too big of an endeavor. It is human’s pattern not to slowly migrate and evolve, but to sweep and convert, riding on the fastest technology available. The clash of civilizations that was the colonial period on Earth was not just racism and brutality (though it certainly was) it was expediency. Would it be quicker to slowly make peace with every band of humans living in stable harmony on the land, to trade equally and fairly, and to wait for them to invite a good proportion of another continent’s population to come and live with them and breed the place into a copy of the old continent, or just to kill any who seemed troublesome, lie to the rest, and enslave large numbers of the inhabitants of a less attractive continent to provide the building power to do it? I give you: History! The evolution and unfolding of the human pattern. It’s the human way–the only way we know how.
- The human species reproduces itself through the ecosystem that sustains human life. So, it is pretty straight forward, I think, that the human species will eventually begin reproducing this ecosystem anywhere it can manage through technology to sustain that ecosystem. And then, of course, reproducing itself within that ecosystem. Because like it or not, the human species is part of the Earth’s ecosystem, and it IS the Earth’s ecosystem, if not the crowning jewel of it as we might like to imagine, then the cinderblock of the Earth’s ecosystem–the ugly, reproducible, only-strong-enough-for-the-task, easily graffitoed, totally necessary fundamental component of urban blight that we are.
- If/when space colonization happens, the Earth will have learned to breed. We are its spore.
Wizard Island in Crater Lake, around midnight. 10-second exposure on a Canon D20.
“Every branny breakfast item in a New York Starbucks is a fucking Blood Muffin.” http://cot.ag/cvpHca
How about a game of Global Atemporal Nuclear Cold War?
While watching this, you get the impression that the cold war wasn’t a cold war at all, because over fifty years, several countries routinely bombed themselves in the effort to posture a nuclear gangster stance. Especially the US, who bombed the crap out of the western United States, fulfilling the dreams of many a social conservative, albeit in atemporal slow-motion.
And what the hell is up with France? Over 300 nuclear tests? What are they trying to prove? That a Warsaw Pact land war in Europe would be a bad idea? Crazy.
Animation is by Isao Hashimoto, and this was scraped via Boingboing.
The nature of a symbol is that it is immediately known upon perception to convey meaning. Even if the meaning is not understood, it’s presence is apparent to the beholder. Like a spark jumping to conductive material, across a threshold of resistance. Conscious humans and symbols are a part of a biunivocal framework in this way–saying the same thing with two different mouths, or perhaps, saying words while knowing an ear is listening. Speaking to, rather than simply vocalizing. Communicating, not just making noise.
But this solidly unifying feature of symbols, finding strength in the bipartite connection between consciousness and its material expression on walls, in books, in language, in art–belies the problem: how does one identify a symbol?
A symbol could be anything. An italicized word, a scrawled bit a graffiti, a sigh at the end of a spoken sentence, a dented fender left unfixed. Meaning is an extensive concept of metaphysical significance–it seeks to search out from its prescribed boundaries, and incorporate other things into itself. Things that did not mean anything before begin to mean, because of their provenance to other meaningful things. Symbols do not just communicate with human consciousness, but with anything else the human consciousness perceives. There is no limit to perception other than perception itself, and so the word on a page does not have more meaning within the confines of the black ink than in the pure whiteness of the paper, but in between the two, and everything else: the music in the room, the temperature of the air, the sitting position of the reader, the other things that happened that day, the thoughts lingering in the mind through which the words will be read, and with mix and melange with the words and ideas later that night in dreams.
We try to keep our symbols simple. It’s easier that way. A certain number of consonants, a limited number of vowels. “Typical” vocabulary, regional dialect. The edges of the TV screen. Sometimes we just want the radio on in the background; we’re not always at the opera. But therein, a privileging of symbols necessarily occurs. We can change the volume of the radio, and take it with us in the car, unlike the sublime roar of a forest waterfall. Poems are spoken directly, and to the point. The form is an aspect of the symbol, and we tend to prefer the unified, the intentional, the deliberate and the apportioned. It suits us, that is, the symbolic perception relationship between symbol and human consciousness. It still has a freedom of interpretation, but it is more clear, and distinct.
And yet, we continue to look for more. Since the beginning of recorded history, we have looked for symbols in the structures of the natural world. In the stars, in the flights of birds, in the movement of water, in the folds and strata of the earth. Divination, these days, is understood as a foretelling of the future, because of our modern obsession with the progression of history. But divination is not just about the future. It is about time itself, about the current operating structure of the earth, whether controlled by metaphysics, gods, demons, or other perceived forms of technology and magic. The often quoted symbolic adage about distinguishing technology from magic is itself only a way of dividing the choir of symbolic angels into a tabulatory rubric suitable for logomancy. Which is the technology, and which is the magic, which we are supposed to be unable to distinguish from each other? And what are we supposed to gain by saying this? It only matters if you are going to give one a different meaning than the other. What’s the difference to you? What can magic do for you that technology can’t? Or vice versa?
Magic used to be what was erroneous, dangerous, or banned. Magic was a symbol with its own meaning. It was the power that we wished that we had, and the power that those with real power didn’t want us to have. There were certain acceptable forms of meaning, for directing attention onto particular parts of nature. Acceptable ways of reproducing, of owning property, of measuring the year, of celebrating ourselves. Magic wasn’t a different form of meaning, just different content. The idea that noticeable signs in the livers of animals might be tied to the fabric of fate is really not so different from the idea that the fates are all linked to a single theological presence that we cannot control. Both are ways of apportioning meaning in what we perceive, only one finds that meaning in the dark innards of livestock, and the other finds a threat to its meaning in the former.
Technology was a magic, but more self-reflexive than hepatomancy or theology. It began in a similar way, observations of meaning, the search for symbols, and the invention of either when it suited the human consciousness. A better way of counting required numbers; a way of tracking the seasons involved observing the stars; an awareness of the importance of blood and the interior of bodies led to attempts to see further inside, to figure out what we were really made of. What we learned or invented was passed on, in a stratification of meaning we called knowledge. If it worked, it stuck around, if not, it was improved or abandoned.
But a funny thing occurred. A strain of knowledge grew that sought to refute itself, to quickly abandon untenable theories of meaning and suggest new theories, that looked everywhere for the smallest traces of meaning, which it would unite and synthesize into theories. We called this science, and it took technology as its material. It wasn’t enough to simply have a plow that worked, or to generally have an idea of when the solstice would return. It had to work better, and it had to be exact. Any unpredicted meaning was a sign of weakness. It wasn’t enough to simply have knowledge, it had to be scientific knowledge. Numerology wasn’t as functional as mathematics; astrology wasn’t as accurate as astronomy; hepatomancy wasn’t as useful as medicine. Theology, eschatology, and metaphysics were not as fruitful as chemistry and material physics. Technology needed to separate itself from the magic and the religion. This was a meaning with a particular ethic, and a particular form, both of which could not square themselves with these other sorts of meanings. This didn’t mean that other ways of accumulating knowledge would disappear–we were still human, after all, seeing symbols on any surface to which we turned our eyes–but it meant that there was a difference between this meaning and other meaning. The power this meaning accumulated only grew.
Until the present day, when the power and rule of technology is so wide, that it is impossible for us to see it all in one glance. The symbol of scientific meaning, whether it be an equation, a code, or a method, cannot provide a viewing lens back upon itself at all times. The expanse and extension of this form of meaning’s plateau is just too great. Magic was isolated enough to form a localized genealogy of symbolic knowledge, and religion was simplistic enough that it could be apprehended through the single image of a human, mystic, prophet, or martyr; a unitary or categorical notion of the ineffable; or a simple list of precepts. Technology, however, is everywhere, and there is no technological specialist on earth that can understand the meaning of more than a fraction of the technological expanse.
What we’ve created is a world, on top of the old world. A new realm of symbols that transfers the realm of previous symbols, and transfers that realm again, and again. The symbols have lost the unity they had only just attained in magic and religion, now shifting through patterns so diverse that they continue to move even as they are locked into meaning. It is almost as if this plateau of human meaning is generating the meaning itself, and we are only able to glean the symbols of this meaning when the technology allows us to. As if it is the human consciousness, and we are only the brief, unitary symbols that float over its expanse, and make up its perceivable entity. We are the moments of its meaning, and it is only in rare moments that we are able to find any meaning for ourselves.
It is a time of technomancy, when we look to the technology we have devised with confused eyes, scanning over it for any sort of knowledge, any brief symbol to which our human consciousness might connect, to which we might join in a connection of understanding of the technological structure that surrounds us. We are needing magic to understand and deconstruct the magic we are already practicing. There are ghosts in the machine because otherwise there would only be more machines. It would be a terrible fate to have to apprehend the technological world with the pattern of meaning that would have us write it all down and remember it all. These ghosts, thankfully, are the parts of our technological world that we can write down and forget. We can cross our cell phones, grip the edges according the methods we have been taught, and think that we understand, because we’ll never be able to learn the rest. This is the real life in which you will never have to use calculus.
The blessing of a dream is not in what the dream foretells, but because you had a dream from which you might be able to tell anything. The symbol engines are churning still, even though we’re feeding them the dirty fuel, the kind they haven’t burnt for centuries. The leaking trail of anxious meaning emanating from underneath the designed shell of your consciousness means that at least the symbol lines are still pumping–if there was no pressure in the system at all, then we’d really be in trouble.
Images are from this article on technomancy.
CPSC Notices 8/2/10
Miami Breaker Recalls Counterfeit Square D Circuit Breakers Due to Fire Hazard – The recalled circuit breakers labeled “Square D” or “SQD” have been determined to be counterfeit by Square D and can fail to trip when they are overloaded, posing a fire hazard to consumers. No injuries reported.
You feel it first. Feedback.
Then you think it. Feedback.
Will it work? Feedback.
Is that what I felt? Feedback.
Am I feeling what I’m thinking? Feedback.
Will what I’m thinking and I’m feeling work? Feedback.
Pause for a minute. Something happens here. Not thinking or feeling. Feedback.
Pick up the tool. Feedback.
Stretch your new limb. Feedback.
Think with the tool. Feedback.
Will it work? Feedback.
Is this the right tool? Feedback.
Do I know how to use it? Feedback.
Pause for a minute. Something happens here. Not thinking or feeling. Feedback.
Feel what you made. Feedback.
Think about what you made. Feedback.
Will it work? Feedback.
Is that what I felt? Feedback.
Am I feeling what I’m thinking? Feedback.
Will what I’m thinking and I’m feeling work? Feedback.
Pause for a minute. Nothing happens. Feedback.