This is the second in a series of many reports. Each entry in the report represents a pattern.
Places for Secrets – Just as certain sorts of knowledge and information lend themselves to a desire by their holders to have their facts be kept hidden from some, certain places also lend themselves towards those that would seek to hide. Low light, obscure vantage points not in the typical lines of sight–these are ways to visibly hide. But a game of epistemological hide and seek is constantly occurring. What places have background noise that would cover a whispered conversation? A crowd that would make a meeting between two subjects seem less than intentional? Light that obscures the work of cameras, that would seek to record a person being in a place as time-stamped, cross-referenceable fact? Weather conditions might play a factor; places that are known to often be socked in by fog or made unpleasant by rain so that a potential spy would have no reason to loiter could be valuable. Any sort of sensory or epistemological interference natural to a place, whether affecting the senses, technological recording devices, or the media of recording itself. What could augment a place so that secrets could be hidden there? Dead drops for paper or other recording media. A single tree in the middle of a field could be a landmark, so that a thing could be hidden a set distance from it. Maybe even a library could be a place for secrets. Amongst a plethora of information, secrets could be hidden as if in plain sight.
by Flickr user Glasseyes View
If/Then – This linguistic and logical construction is known as an antecedent, and a consequent; in other words, from one proposition, logically proceeds another by way of their connection. This is also a form of hypothesis. If a condition forms, we posit that then we may expect a conclusion. It can be a description of causality, but–and this is a large caveat–only if the two things being described are coinciding in time. It is impossible for a causality to occur between two things not coincident in time. Because, time is resolutely causal.
Past/Future – Another pairing, because one denotes the other. Just as causality denotes a temporal coincidence between two things, any sort of temporal singularity, that is to say a moment, automatically implies an extension of similar moments preceding and proceeding from that moment. What is the past’s relationship with the future, outside of metaphysics, and the simple number line of physics’ fourth dimension? Does nostalgia for the past imply hope for the future? Which is more optimistic, and which is more pessimistic? Does positing a time-shift between a “now” and “then” make us less, or more beholden to any standard of truth? And is causality, like history, only written by the victors in the past tense, and like prayer, only proposed for the future by the victims? If we acknowledge trouble in our apprehension of the past and future, what does this mean for our perception of the present? Is there a present?
Live feed – The live feed is closely linked to technology. Telegrams gave way to telegraphs, which gave way to radio. The 24-hour cable news cycle is no different than radio, where the truth occurs as fast as information can be pushed to the announcer on camera/microphone. But the time of absorption has changed. There isn’t additional information to fill up that extra space, there is just a willingness to “clue in” those who are “only just tuning in”. The message repeats, not for mimetic purposes, but to constantly be current. Contrapose this to the live blog, that assembles like a timeline, so that anyone may log in and check the current development, and then re-create this currentness by rewinding as necessary. The consistency of these always-on feeds means that they don’t have to be always on. One can click on and off as they like, filter even. They can binge and purge their information’s currentness. But what is the point? What is the benefit of current? Current information is not always better. But the ability to have it there, is an ability. An epistemological ability to access time with a wide eye. Like a back-up for one’s data–the data that is epistemological awareness. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Apple coyly named their automatic data back-up system the “Time Machine”. Time travel through data is possible, but only to the referential data points of awareness that are of interest. And interest, is currently, taken with currentness. Call it time travel without moving.
Half-tone screen – When printing with a single color of ink, it is possible to create different tones by printing a pattern of dots of varying sizes, rather than a flat expanse of ink. This dot pattern, which blurs to the human eye at a normal distance, is called the screen. Dots of black on white paper make a gray. When two different dot patterns of two different ink are combined, the colors are perceptually blended, e.g. red dots and yellow dots appear to give a space the color of orange. This is called a half-tone screen. Most commercial printing combines four colors, cyan, yellow, magenta, and black, and from these can be created nearly any color of image, including photographic prints that are nearly impossible to distinguish from reality at the typical viewing distance. What is referred to by a customer as “full-color” printing, is most often known to the printing technician as “four-color” printing. One last detail to complete the possible metaphor: when ink is printed in a screen pattern, the ink will bleed into the paper a bit, increasing the size of the dot in a condition known as dot-gain, that is pre-calculated by the printer to make sure the dots end up being the correct size for the material being printed upon, so that the colors don’t end up shifting in tone. Now, this could be a metaphor–a pattern for thinking about the combination of ideas, data points, and reference values. For something involving the mix of two alternating concepts. But then, remember that everything that is printed, anything that you will read or look at and recognize a pattern or a symbol or a word, takes advantage of this same trick upon human visual perception. In every idea there is a bit of difference, and in any text there is the difference between white paper, and black text.
image by Trevor / cdsgraphic
National Epic Media – We propose that Fox News is as close to a national epic poem as we can get in this current era of fragmented culture and alternate viewpoints. According to Bakhtin, the past is the epic’s subject, the national tradition is the epic’s source, and what is epic is the distance between the world of that epic and that of reality. The epic, constrained by those things, cannot be changed by current conditions, and what is current can only be interpreted by the epic, and not the other way around. The position of the epic “is the environment of a man speaking about a past that is to him inaccessible, the reverent point of view of a descendant.” Even the law of the land is reinterpreted on a daily basis–but the national epic is viewed as immutable, and wielded as roughly as if it were so. But how does this happen? Does any nation with a significantly strong sense of self purposefully develop an epic media as some sort of literary ur-ground? Or does that past and national tradition solidify only with enough time gone by, enough tradition built up that the patterned strata of it can be referred to obliquely, and yet be nevertheless as foundational as it is inaccessibly vague? What are the motivations for a constant reference to such an epic media? Clearly, money is a primary. But epics developed before there was such money to be made, and if the form is similar, then oughtn’t the cause be as well?
Modernism – An epoch of art, of architecture, of literature, and less definitional but with no less certain utility, history. What is it about this genre or time period that deserves an “ism” suffix, as if it were less a style, and a belief? It isn’t the only genre to win such notation, and yet, it is a noun, and not an adjective. Such philosophies and ethos often have manifestos, but Modernism is applied only from historical perspective, even if we claim to be part of its age.
Image copyright by GaryReggae, under CC license
Modern – This is the adjectival version, describing the former period. But it is also a temporal adjective, meaning a certain sort of currentness. Is everything that is current also modern? Is everything that is modern also current? Post-modernism, an epoch with an even more oblique set of reference points than Modernism, somehow debilitates the adjectival effect of “modern”. After all, how modern can it be, if something is known to come after it? If the subject of modernity is in the past, then what does “current” mean?
Punk/Not-Punk – The inflection point in a spectrum between what is attractively, authentically agonistic, and what is not. Punk is a genre of many things, but it most often described by rebellion, against a certain “mainstream”, as it were. There may be money in Punk, there may not be. There is ego in it. It often finds its subject in the past. What is Punk against? Ronald Reagan? Disco? Alternative Rock? Victorian History? How defined must something be in its agonism for it to become a full-fledged expression of Punk? How watered down and mainstreamed must Punk be to become Not-Punk? The violation of cultural norms in the search for the authentic. The institution of norms for the violation of cultural norms. A noun, and an adjective.
Sub-Culture & Alt-Culture – If culture was a narrative, this would be the subversion and the alternative-generation presented to that narrative as counter-narrative. The antithesis, rather than the synthesis. It can be defined in a certain hegemonic separation. A neighborhood full of hip individuals, marked in their individuality by all dressing in a recognizably similar way. A trend is only a pattern, until it becomes a noun, rather than just an adjective. A subject, manifesting creativity, by manifesting imitation. Not for mimetic purposes. An authentic sub-culture cannot be altered by the present. It is locked in the past. It can only be corrupted, and de-authenticized. Like the waxing and waning of the moon, sub-cultures pass from authentic in full, to inauthentically dark.
Posted: May 3rd, 2011
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In order to get you up-to-date, as it were, let me give you Tim Maly’s twin posts about the efficacy of live information.
Information Half-life Part I
Information Half-life Part II
Tim questions exactly what is so important about being absolutely up-to-date about “World Event X”, when the information that is available might only be immediately relevant to a few people, and for those few people, all they really need is an update every 15 minutes or so. And then he speculates, might we even make better decisions if we haven’t been following events so closely? What if the person who was most knowledgeable and was tasked with making the actual decisions was kept in the dark, and then briefed with all known info all at once? This might avoid misinformation that could occur in the meantime. No perception bias would be allowed to form. There would be no old, bad data–only current information.
It is an interesting proposition, and could work well for a turn-based strategy game. Or any game theory application, in which the previous games played could affect the player’s perception of the current game. It takes the meat out of gambling, completely. If one viewed each spin of the roulette wheel as the only game that would ever be played, the odds are much clearer. Unlike, say, after a night of gambling, when one feels that one’s “luck has to change”.
The problem is, that in life there are no turns. There are no preset intervals like turns, or spins of the wheel, or games, at which all preconceived strategies can be cleared from the head, and the “rules of the game” can be conceived as unique and unconstrained by the rest of time.
Time is a continuum of what Henri Bergson called “duration”. If you think of the last fifteen minutes, you do not think of each minute interval separately, stretching backward until you count up to fifteen. You think of a solid duration, formed of the memories that linger from that period, cutting off the duration at some point which you guess to be roughly the same as the elapsing of fifteen minutes on a clock. That period of time is crushed flat in the memory as a chunk, not arrayed on a segmented timeline of numerical values.
In fact, even the order of events in the mind are only ordered in time, in that we construct smaller partial pieces of duration for events, which we then layer as “before” and “after” in the larger durational span. I climbed a ladder; and I fell off a ladder. Because I parcel these as two separate actions, each with their own separate duration, I can understand that I must have completed the former action before the latter, but only because they are related in my mind as an activity with a before and after. Whereas, I might only remember answering the phone before I opened a book, because I also remember walking from the phone over to the book shelf, and so that links a continuum of events that imbued causality.
In the last fifteen minutes, I have climbed a ladder/fallen off a ladder. Now, in the present, my butt is sore. I know why it is sore: because in the duration period preceding “now”, there was a fall from a ladder. But do I still remember that I had to climb the ladder first? Obviously I must have, if I think about it. I understand each of these separate events as tied to way that time unfolds in a “forward” direction. But what is the point of recalling those durations separately? It is easier to compress them together. I might climb the ladder again in the future, and perhaps I will take greater care to avoid a future falling event, because I remember those previous durations, climbing/falling/pain. As those moments of duration replay in my memory, they will link together, and the meaning will be established. But which happened first? It no longer matters precisely, as long as the meaning of what I had learned before still rings clear. Do I remember that I climbed a ladder, fell off a ladder, hurt myself, and resolved to be careful? Or do I simply remember that climbing a ladder can result in pain if one isn’t careful? What is the difference between what actually happened, and the conclusion one draws from it? There is no difference. Unless, of course, we decide to separate everything that has ever happened to us out into these little parcels of cause and effect, of minute succeeding minute, of one turn after the next.
Why don’t we think of each spin of the roulette wheel as a separate probability game? Why? What are we doing on the casino floor to begin with? Why are we even attempting to think of roulette logically, now, if we didn’t think of it logically the last hundred times we have bet this evening? If we don’t think logically about gambling, then why would we be suddenly do so? The duration of each bet is overlapped into a larger duration that refuses to be split: the process of gambling. The game theory player thinks rationally, judging the rules according to durations of probability and risk within a single spin. The gambler, on the other hand, lives in the continuum of playing multiple games, a time-space filled with durations of winning and losing, highs and lows. The game theorist is rational, of course. But what is more reasonable: that humans are all, in essence, Game Theorists, or that casinos will remain open and a profitable business? The data shows that we tend towards irrationalism… towards a subjective, durational model of time and action. Which reality is broken? The one that is real, or the one that is theorized as a perfectly non-existent alternative?
Cable news provides another example. Viewed in its abstract, the programming is asinine. Perhaps fifteen minutes of news is stretched into hours, view repetition, commentary, highlight re-caps, and news tickers. If a person sat there and watched it all, they would be wasting their time, and learning nothing. It is irrational.
However, the day’s news is not released at midnight every day. News, which we might define as information that is “current”, is released at an unpredictable rate around the clock. Because the technology exists to transmit that information around the clock, it broadcasts new information immediately, and must wait for the next piece of news in the meantime, if it wishes to approximate the most current awareness available. In this way, cable news is like the human memory. It records events in duration: in sound bites, in video clips, in produced segments, and edited interviews. It recalls these elements constantly, repeating them as memory, to fill the gaps until there is something new to be perceived and recorded. The news is “current”, like consciousness. It’s nowness is the extent to which it has relevant memories through which to orient its new perceptions. The media that cycles through a cable news channel might be meaningless, or contradictory, or inflammatory. What is relevant to “news”, that informational consciousness, continues to circulate, and rise to the top. So-called “latest pictures” don’t represent any particular logical component of information. Not facts, not measurements, not logical rules. They are perception, flattened to a particular segment of duration, and recalled to consciousness, until they are no longer needed. A history book can recall events in a timeline, process activities according to quantitative turns of the earth, or choices made by individuals at particular intervals. But the news can only direct the eye and the ear. And for some reason, we prefer to watch the news than read history books.
Even when we do read history books, these only join the vast news tickers of the 24-hour cable news channel that is our consciousness. The problem for the nuclear scientists, engineers, and technicians at Fukushima, is that they cannot directly consult the historical timeline of events at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, and immediately know the logical action they ought to make in the present. Of course they can consult those timelines, and I have no doubt that someone was doing so fervently. But the present is always different than the past, separated by the duration between that time and space and this one, as well as all the other durational memories lingering as the substance of our reality. The present requires its own decisions to be made, and past success or failure cannot guarantee the same conditions in the present. The present is always evolving rapidly, and those who need to make the decisions cannot simply collect all the necessary information, and present it as the present. The minute it is all collected, it becomes the past as the present continues to evolve away, out from underneath us. There is no basic state from which we can make our decisions, and trust them to be rational. We can only hope to construct the most intricate understanding of past durations that we can, a network of associations of observations of past events, as complex as it can be while still being useful.
And then we have to pick up the dice…. forced to gamble.
Posted: March 21st, 2011
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There are the things you think about, and then there are the things you feel. I’d put sex in the category of things that we think about. Sure, we feel a great many things about sex. There are entire realms of feeling beneath the cogent level, and no doubt these deep veins of strata, containing everything from repressed childhood memories to ideas repressed for proprieties’ sake, to the deeper machines actually controlling how our minds work, would be illuminating if we could mine them up, process them, and use them to drive the turbines and engines of our conscious thought. But there is so much of it up here on the surface already that digging below the awareness’ permafrost is more effort than necessary for most of us. We already are thinking about sex all the time, so why find more sex to think about? Our brains are so polluted with the raw material of sex, sometimes it’s a wonder that we can ever think about anything else.
And yet we do. We think about impossibly vast, diverse networks of things. We think about the course our lives ought to take. We think about the many distances separating us from the rest of the things in the world which we are always navigating, seeking to increase and decrease the distance between particular objects and ourselves. We think about what things mean, and how the way we find things in the world changes what they might mean. As if we could ever know. And then we share these ideas with other people.
And then there are the things we feel. These things. Emotions we call them, at least when we can identify them. We’re all a bit more emo than we’d like to be. We feel these things cropping up at the worst possible moment. When having an argument with a lover. When being screamed at by a stranger in the street for no apparent reason. When your boss tells you something only an idiot would need to hear and only something an idiot would say. For the third time that day. And you just sit and listen to it. What would you different if not for emotion? Would you simply tell him or her to fuck off? Or would you not need to say anything at all? There’s absolutely no way to tell.
It’s not all as bad as that though. There are the good emotions too. I don’t need to run through them for you, because there is no need to stew over good emotions. We bask in the sunshine, and we huddle indoors and moan about the rain. We have no problem thinking about nothing when all is well, adopting a zen-like pacifivity to that which we would not seek to change. But we start sharpening knives when things go poorly. We develop a legal suit to indict the entire court of universal fairness. We brood, and write manifestos on the walls of our mental cell, and each trickle of rain water running down the wall is a personal insult and attack upon us.
And then one day it rains fire.
Lots of names for this. Anger. Hate. Terror. Fear. Like ember, like flame, like heat, like smoke. Metaphors and categories. Theories and hierarchies. Cause and effect. Thermodynamics. It’s part of the structure of our psyche’s physics. It’s always been here, and it always will be. Homes burn down every day. Bad wiring in a cheap appliance. Candle left by the bathtub. Dirty flue. Used water on a grease fire. Struck by lightning. Smoking in bed.
And this says nothing of the fires that are set by purpose. A crime with many rationales, and yet one name dedicated to the method. Arson. Maybe for money, maybe for love, maybe for hate itself. Maybe just for fire. To watch the flames consume. To see the historical process writ large in light, the entire life and death of a structure compressed into an hour or two, maybe less. With the lives of humans inside the structure too, maybe. At high enough temperatures, everything burns the same. Breaking down into it’s components, releasing gases, converting molecules into simpler forms. But once you reach much higher temperatures, the process reverses. In the sun, fission turns to fusion, and things get bigger again. Relatively.
And so what does this mean for you? What is the layperson to take from such exhibits? Sure, we can be aware of hydrogen fusion, but on a daily basis, what is the point? Well, it only matters twice a day. When the sun comes up in the morning, and when it goes down at night. These are the transition points, at which we notice, no matter how we try to ignore it, that another day has begun or is ending, during which brief and arbitrary but endlessly repeating period of time, the sun will not crash into the earth. The truly amazing fact of human civilization is that all of the incredibly flammable shit we have built all over the face of the earth is most of the time not on fire. We are more often than not, not rioting, not screaming in panic, not torching the homes of the people we hate, and not burning the evidence of what we refuse to believe in. This is spectacular. It is miraculous. A species capable of so much destruction, fighting daily against the flow of hormones and the fire of synapses within their complicated nervous and endocrine systems that they do not understand, and for whatever reason, and mostly it seems in a complete lack of reason, finding something to distract themselves, something to think about, so that they do not exercise this power. They–we–keep building. We make things more flammable by the minute. We stack up fuel, and we let it dry out. We build our houses bigger, and our cities more tightly packed. We huddle closer together, even though there are no doubt far too many of us in here as it is. And it could all go up at any moment. Evidence is building that eventually, it most certainly will. So what? It’s just a bad day, a bad feeling, a bad idea that we’ll work to correct.
We all have bad days, bad feelings, and bad ideas. Some of us let this bother us, and some of us don’t. Either way, regardless of how you are programmed to react to these facts of life, it will never get better. It will change, no doubt; but this will never be a world that does not have a sun a certain distance away from it, around which we spin, whose fusion furnace we depend on for everything, that causes this planet to grow thick with flammable bodies and materials, explosive gases and minerals, with which we surround ourselves. The potential energy builds. The electrons climb ladders up into the sky. The vibration increases, and the velocity continues to build.
It’s only emotion, I suppose. We should probably just deal with it, get over it, convert that anger and rage into something productive, sublimate the heat from those sparks into growing more fuel. We shouldn’t focus on it too much, because focus concentrates the heat and the light, and then we’re right back in the explosions again. Thousands and thousands of our progenitors before us managed to overcome the brutality of their emotions and live peaceful lives. Or perhaps they simply burst into flame, at such a point that it no longer effected their ability to pass on their emotional genes. More potential energy, building up and passing it along. Up the ladder. A ladder with a top?
If you look out over this continent, you can see the lights of all kinds of fires burning. It sounds romantic and melancholy when I say it, but it’s not. It’s not a metaphor. There is a tractor trailer fire off the side of the road in Wyoming, where a truck filled with who knows what blew off the side of the road and caught. A brush fire starts at a rest area in the Utah desert, sending clouds up over the bluffs and into the air. In many of the Midwest states it’s still legal to burn your garbage in your own backyard. In Florida, and many other eastern states, they burn trash to build steam to run turbines, and use it to generate electricity. I know a story about a truckload of polypropylene that accidentally went to the wrong place and ended up in a trash incinerator. In Ohio, maybe? The plastic burnt so hot that it melted the boilers, fusing them into solid lumps of steel. And you’ve probably heard the one about the burning coal mine in Centralia, Pennsylvannia. Burning underground since 1962. These sorts of things happen in America. I wouldn’t really know, but I would imagine that they happen in most other places too. And if you look out at night, you can see all these fires burning. All kinds of fires burning. All right, so some of those lights are parking lots, cars, street lights, homes, airports, and industrial sites. But if you think any of these are safe from catching fire… well, just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When I look out at these lights, I can’t help but wondering why the fires are so few and far between. The distance that separates them–like that between sunset and sunrise. I wonder what’s going on in that darkness, because fire, at the very least illuminates. Photons set out in jagged harmonic paths from an exothermic oxidation reaction. You can see what burns. But everything else is hidden. Dark as the sea at night.
One of the most dangerous places for fires is at sea. Because there is no where to run on a burning ship. Not to make too gothic a thing of it, but it’s true. Next week, we’ll visit the Museum of Ships at Sea, and Seas as Flat as Parking Lots.
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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.
Posted: August 23rd, 2010
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I’m trying to do less technological speculation that I used to, because frankly, it burns me out. You can spend ten times the speculation for each moment spent actually using technology. Instead, I’m spending my time actually geeking around with tech, which is much more rewarding, personally.
But this needs mention, because it seems like a big deal. And not only that, but it is an interesting demonstration of how technology builds into an object of culture.
Specifically, today’s exemptions [to the DMCA by the US Copyright Office] include the following:
Permission for cell phone owners to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers or “jailbreak” their device
Permission to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws
Permission for college professors, film students and documentary filmmakers to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism, commentary and noncommercial videos
Permission to enable an e-book’s read-aloud function or use a screen reader with the e-book, even when built-in access controls prevent this
Permission for computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced
I have this strange tendency (curse?) to find elements of the dialectic everywhere. I think this is why I’ve always been drawn to philosophy; once I absorb a theoretical mind-set, it’s like colored lenses. I see it everywhere, and all shapes conform to the pattern. As long as you remember that it’s all relative, this is rather helpful. Different patterns apply, and each one is only as good as it helps you make sense of what’s going on.
Lately, I’ve been stumbling through a difficult translation (that I found free for use online) of Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. In the first sections, his critique of idealism comes through as a dialectic itself, between the unitary idealism of the Hegelian dialectics, and the dissolution of Adorno’s own negative dialectics, which I can sense looming over the horizon.
To simplify, relatively, this pattern at work–there is a tendency for us to understand diverse attributes as part of a whole: to categorize them, and lump them together as part of an overall, unifying pattern or category. And contrarily, there are parts of the pattern that will fracture and dissolve this consistency and unity. The unifying force will attempt to ignore the dissolving force, and the dissolving force will strike back again. This is a constant process.
This ruling doesn’t seem to say specifically that Apple can’t still make jailbreaking violate their TOS, in others words, it doesn’t mean that Apple “must provide” jailbreaking, more or less. It can still be “Apple Illegal” if not legally illegal.
Apple has a fragile, if beautiful castle with the iPhone. The unique conditions that have formed
it’s success involve the categorical assumption of the unity of this castle, which are made from various walls:
1. Apps make up the core of the unique iPhone user experience.
2. The only apps on the phone come from the App Store.
3. Apple has sole discretion as to what apps are in the Store.
4. iTunes software is the only way to access the Store.
5. The iPhone tech experience is linked to the network strength.
6. The network strength is a level terrain, defined by AT&T.
7. The cost of the iPhone is a level terrain, defined by Apple & AT&T.
8. Any technical problems or successes with the phone are fixed within these bounds: AT&T, Apple, App Store.
All of this comes together to make the “iPhone Product”, which has been a clear success. The simplicity and unity of this system is it attraction for many consumers.
But while none of these are explicitly destroyed by the Copyright Office’s ruling, the threat of legal action for anyone attempting to make in-roads to breeching these walls was de facto mortar holding the bricks together. The dissolving forces that might break down these walls of the iPhone castle were displaced, marginalized as “criminal”, or at least, “liable”. Thus, the legal mortar strengthened the walls, and increased the unity by ignoring any attempt at dissolution. This mortar was just rendered non-existent.
And this is where we veer into speculative terms. Because it is so easy to see an opportunity for dissolution, and then speculate that the dissolution will occur, even though this is strictly fantasy until it actually takes place. And we can only say that the unity is no longer existant when it is no longer unified, because our impression of unity as vulnerable is only as unified as the vulnerabilities are already existant and exploited. In other words, you can’t walk through a castle wall until it’s already tumbled down.
But the mortar is crumbling. These eight walls that I outlined above are now subject to question, and not just by technological speculators, but by actual groups and companies with interest in breaking them down. The new lack of legal constraints on all of these areas could be a big motivator for someone to start exploiting these weaknesses. An alternative App Store is an obvious suggestion. Jailbroken app stores already exist, but now they don’t have to live in the shadow territory. They could be legitimate. More interesting would be jailbroken service providers. Rather than figuring out how to put your phone on T-Mobile yourself–which never really presented much legal hazard to the consumer previously, but rather was just technologically daunting–T-Mobile could provide a jailbreaking service. We’ll have to see which providers want to confront Apple in this way. But what with the widespread use of the iPhone, and widespread interest in alternative service providers, there will no doubt be a market sweet spot for this. Maybe Cricket, or some other regional provider with nothing to lose, but everything to gain. Now that it is deemed not-illegal, this opens the arena up to anyone who might want to get a piece of the iPhone pie, and now has a taste for it that the biggest risk of legal action is now a non-issue.
The onus to speculation is not on the shoulders of this author, but on the wide world of developers, businesses, consumers, and their unity, as a force of dissolution, as a whole. To quote from the announcement:
“…modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses.”
The legal regime of copyright has recognized the right of dissolution to exist, and this is, already, a threat to the unity of the concept. In the same way that philosophy of revolt does not create revolt, but it sure goes a long way into creating cracks in the walls. The castle of the iPhone was built on non-interoperability, and hence, singularity, uniqueness, universality, and market dominance. The Copyright Office has rejected Apple’s legal right to stipulate such a conception of a device, at least with the implicit backing of the legal regime. The dissolution has not so much been allowed, as a means for preventing the erosion has been removed. An Alternative App Store would be just the beginning. This would decrease reliance on iTunes, which is the gateway to not only the App Store, but the iTunes Store. This would allow other operating systems and software to potentially function smoother with iPhone syncing. This would open the door to other operating systems operating on Apple’s hardware. Whether any of this happens, or is even any better than the iPhone is hard to say. But it is leveling the technological playing field, and opening up the castle. The iPhone will not be the thing that is was originally; it will be like any other computer. No doubt many people will purchase it on its merits, and the fact that it remains singular, non-interoperable, and controlled, in the same way many people choose to purchase Mac computers. But the unique market dominance will disappear. The unity of the concept, from a legal point of view, is gone.
My simplification of Adorno is simply a tool for understanding the pattern. The philosophy is only a pattern for understanding the combined unity and dissolution of the world, for reducing the complicated world of the material to systems of ideas we can understand, and hopefully, use to our benefit. The unity of simplification and the corresponding dividing and dissolution of complexity that rebells against our attempts to capture and understand is the motion of the dialectic. The iPhone has tripped over a step in the dialectic–all things that are built, will eventually fall. Whether or not the unity of the concept that is this crazy commodity will fall because of this, or because of other factors of dissolution remain to be seen, but at least ideally, the pattern is breaking down. An antenna fails, software is cracked. A few stones come loose. A few more customers decide to push. I make no claims as to what is ethical, or what outcome will be best. But wearing these glasses, I can see a certain pattern here.
Posted: July 26th, 2010
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I’ve written before about The Orwell Diaries, (somewhat whimsically) which are republishing George Orwell’s diaries sixty years after he wrote them.
Right now, the diaries are in the period of World War Two after France has fallen, but before the Battle of Britain has begun.
Another site, http://xplanes.tumblr.com/, is doing a Battle of Britain retrospective on the same sort of time line right now. They are covering the early history of the Luftwaffe, as a prelude to the Battle itself.
Between the two of these, it is a very interesting sense of history. Previously, we’ve read history as a summation, an analysis, and a critical engagement. This means we can reflect back upon an entire period of history from a vantage point of general awareness. But what blogs and the wide-spread use of syndicated publishing that allows you to take small chunks over a long period of time have introduced, is the ability to experience well-documented history at the same rate it occurred.
I was looking back at the economic crisis of the last couple years, and recalling how now we remember these particular instances of “historic event”. We remember (or I do, because I was reading the economic news every day) the near bankruptcy of Bear Sterns, the seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and AIG, the fall of Lehman Brothers, the -1000 point Dow day. But these all occurred over the course of 9+ months. Now it’s one blip–the economic meltdown. When it happened, however, there were days and weeks of “nothing” in between that are now evaporated from the general historical picture.
But the RSS-history of X planes and the Orwell Diaries re-introduce these days of “nothing”, which now we can see, are anything but nothing. They are days filled with hope, doubt, criticism, speculation in the face of no new news, predictions, and general rehashing of facts to fill the void. Orwell himself has discussed possibilities ranging from the invasion of Britain on the part of the Nazis, to a peace treaty, to war on the West African coast. We know that these are just speculations, but during the time it happened, speculation was as good as fact.
Think of the BP Oil Disaster. We are in Day 84 now. We might remember the fire, the first signs of leak, the constant revising of the figures, the failure of one method after another. But will we remember the days of waiting, the worry, the speculation of worst and worster case scenarios, the inability to do anything but wait for BP to fix it? How do you analyze that part of history, the slowness of time, in any other way than reliving every day, hour, and moment? Is that important to analyze, or can it be left out? Is anybody recording the camera feeds from the bottom of the ocean? Or is that video just spilling out into time, to dilute and flow away, into an oily mess we will never be able to gather up again?
When I’ve talked about atemporality, I’ve often emphasized the “immediate” nature of the perception of time. History and the world of facts are immediately apparent, and the phenomenological reduction explodes like a collapsing supernova to encompass all awareness. History becomes the entire world as we perceive it, and then our entire perception is historical. All perception, and thus the entire world is encompassed throughout our historical sense.
But it is important to remember that the “instantaneous” aspect of history develops from reducing the span of awareness to particular moments, and then concentrating these moments. In the same way that “fast motioning” a film is not done by increasing the frame rate, but by decreasing the total number of frames. By taking out the frames where “nothing” is happening, our mind perceives that the action is occurring faster, or, “all at once”. In order to trick the mind into believing that it has “total awareness” it must leave things out, or also convince itself that the missing pieces are not important. “Waiting” become irrelevant, if there are other things to do while waiting.
Time is not changing between “slow” and “instantaneous”. What changes is our minds and what we have to work with. Orwell would meditate on the current situation, while we would consider new situation after new situation after new situation. He has time to reduce having already a reduced about of information, whereas we have an infinite amount of information to reduce, already having a reduced amount of time. Is specific analysis any better than generic comparison? What is better, to try and focus the brain to remember something, or to look it up immediately? Does one serve us better, either through results or through pain of practice?
As with any theory of perception, it is important to recognize not only what we are perceiving, but what we are not perceiving. The gaps and the missing information are not just “the cutting room floor”, that which was edited out on purpose and could be archived and one day re-released as the “unedited cut”. That is the action that happens between frames, what is not captured, which depending on how you look at it, may or may not have ever actually happened. Perception is not an illusionists trick, or a special effect. It is a metaphysical category. It is a grounding concept in how we can say that anything exists.
And so, in the modernist era, the “now” was the point of contention. This was the kernel of metaphysical being for so many theories of reality and existence. But in the atemporal era, “now” is stretching to encompass all of history. So what is our kernel? Accessibility? Immediacy, whether now, past, or future? The span of the immediately accessible network?
It’s interesting to speculate about the “dark networks”. Those data that are only accessible to those who look for them, and not in the analysis of the generic network. Information pertaining to a secret history? Or an irrelevant history? How would one know?
What didn’t Orwell write in his diaries? What sort of thoughts did we think that might have been important that we will never think of again?
One more: “90% of company data is written once and never read again.”
What is the unconscious in our current perception of history? Will these dreams ever surface, or will we forget them forever? And what, in an atemporal world, does forever mean? What does “infinite” mean in an unmeasured world?
Posted: July 12th, 2010
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[Thesis and anti-thesis being one of the older patterns we have. Note that the article mentions this term arising in comedy, not drama.]
“In Ancient Greek drama, particularly old comedy (fifth century B.C.), Agon refers to the formal convention according to which the struggle between the characters should be scripted in order to supply the basis of the action. Agon is a formal debate which takes place between the chief characters in a Greek play, protagonist and antagonist, usually with the chorus acting as judge. The character who speaks second always wins the agon, since the last word is always hers or his.”
Posted: June 22nd, 2010
Categories: Feedback Loops
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“Diogenes, explaining why people give to beggars, but not to philosophers:
Because they think it possible that they themselves might become lame or blind, but they do not expect to turn out philosophers.”
via Vanishing Point, by David Markson, which has no Wikipedia entry.
[And a lot of other quotes I've been throwing around in the last week are from the same place.]
Posted: June 21st, 2010
Categories: Feedback Loops
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I’ve always been irritated by the will.
It’s something of an aporia. A vessel into which language flows, and cannot find a way out. Whenever reason comes up against a contradiction it can’t resolve, it resorts to the will. “I want.” How are you supposed to argue against that? Tell someone what they actually want, rather than what they profess to want? Good luck with that.
And the will is deployed in all kinds of situations. In politics, when the unrestrained will is considered both the pinnacle of freedom and the foundation of the state of anarchy and chaos; in the turmoil of aesthetics, when it surfaces as the single ship still floating after a storm of maxims and axions; or in sexual theory, when it is the subtle mask we don over emotion and desire. The will may be a thin veneer, nothing more than a veil over other systems with more obscure functions, but it still returns time and again as the public face of anything in any way human, the figure head of humanity, the obnoxious hero who cannot be defeated, and who has no weakness.
The will also encroaches into science. Science is largely still anthropomorphic, and with the attribution of human qualities to the functions of nature the will must naturally follow. Time and again everything from molecules to mountains “want to” accomplish all kinds of goals, in a teleological expression of nature’s “will” The will is the default causal force, the shadow of a prime mover without which we cannot seem to comprehend any motion. If inertia is a natural state, then to overcome inertia naturally requires someone unnatural to push us away from such entropy, so we might “seek” to return. If nature is the fundamental gravity holding us to the world, then the will is what also to walk over its surface, and what pulls us up by our boot straps.
This is not to say that the will is a fantasy, and that we live in a deterministic world of trains upon rails, that have no destination but destiny itself. Fate is the other hand to the will, its corollary and partner. The vicissitudes of desire find their universal expression in the unity of the will, and their foil in fate, but their mutual plane of existence is time–the axis by which we notice any motion. Whether we give preference to fate or to will, it is always one moving in comparison to the other across the surface of time. To “want” is to envision the future, in a dimension that is not the now when the want is not fulfilled. Fate is just another dimension envisioned, when the want is either fulfilled, or is not. Whether you get to the desired future by will or by fate, it is still the same journey. The rails remain, the only thing changing is the engine.
So what is really going on here? If we damn the will and fate as perceptual reminder points of our sense of space over time, then what are we left with?
Change is perception of a difference in patterns. A shift in the rhythm. We could assume that a change denotes some sort of causality. Something must be responsible for a change, willful or not. The inertia of repetition does not shift without something pushing it.
Or does it? What if change itself was the cause of change? What if iteration was not a state of rest, but a state of generative cycling, from which the perceived stasis of repetition was only a brief plateau in a more complex, evolving process? The flat plane of repetition, is not a solid, but a stutter, a flat spot in the acceleration. We began to see repetition not as a flat plane, but only the static perception of a dynamic process. What if time was not the consistent x-axis upon which we ground motion, but the natural, perceptual extension of the act of viewing motion? Time is the definition of consistency, as we perceive it.
Adrian Bejan, the founder of Constructal Law, gives us the plane to stand on to view nature as less a monolithic entity requiring will to animate it, but a roiling surface of dynamism, where the clockwork spins away in constant motion, creating the perception of stillness when homogenized into twenty-four frames per second.
“Constructal theory is the view that (i) the generation of images of design (pattern, rhythm) in nature is a phenomenon of physics and (ii) this phenomenon is covered by a principle (the constructal law): ‘for a ﬁnite-size ﬂow system to persist in time (to live) it must evolve such that it provides greater and greater access to the currents that ﬂow through it’. This law is about the necessity of design to occur, and about the time direction of the phenomenon: the tape of the design evolution ‘movie’ runs such that existing conﬁgurations are replaced by globally easier ﬂowing conﬁgurations. The constructal law has two useful sides: the prediction of natural phenomena and the strategic engineering of novel architectures, based on the constructal law, i.e. not by mimicking nature. We show that the emergence of scaling laws in inanimate (geophysical) ﬂow systems is the same phenomenon as the emergence of allometric laws in animate (biological) ﬂow systems. Examples are lung design, animal locomotion, vegetation, river basins, turbulent ﬂow structure, self-lubrication and natural multi-scale porous media.”
from the Abstract of “The Constructal Law of Design and Evolution in Nature”, by Adrian Bejan and Sylvie Lorente, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2010) 365, 1335–1347
For identifiable patterns to have any duration over time–i.e. to have any perceptual ‘stasis’ as we see them–they must be constantly evolving. For two systems to “look like they’re doing the same thing”, they are not “wanting to evolve” any more than they are “wanting to maintain themselves”. They are simply following the same law of perceptual persistence by replacing themselves as best fits their situation, in the perceptual plane of evolutionary stability.
Now, I’m not a physicist, just a humble semiotician, with an eye and interest for new symbols and alternate meanings. When someone like me strays into the territory of science, it is often to steal metaphors, and then run quickly back to the safer domain of philosophical meaning, where everything is loose and free, and we can toss around our terms and examples like playing cards. The great thing about the Constructal Law is that it is not metaphor, but a conclusion of thermodynamic principles. By abandoning the metaphor of will and fate, we on the semiotics side of the fence are able to actually get at the meat of the physics, and appreciate the patterns of the natural world exactly as patterns.
In his latest paper, Adrian Bejan takes on one of the classic metaphors of human technology: the wheel. I’d always assumed that a wheel, and by this I mean a free-spinning, load-bearing surface placed on an axle, did not exist in nature. But what does exist is its pattern.
“An alternative way to predict the wheel is to view the animal as a rolling body.” As the weight falls forward, an animal must bring up a leg to support the weight, just as a wheel brings up a spoke. As leg replaces leg, like spoke replaces spoke, the animals momentum is rolled forward. Wheels evolve to do this task better. As “the highest allowable stresses are distributed more uniformly, the ﬂow of stresses encounters fewer strangulations, and the wheel becomes lighter and less costly in terms of the useful energy destroyed in order to carry it.” The same thing happens with animal legs, evolving to maintain the flow of these stresses, and to carry the weight of the animal as it rolls forward more efficiently.
The pattern replicates itself, allowing the force that shapes it to flow more smoothly, if it is to continue to exist. As interesting as explaining the ubiquitous nature of the wheel and simultaneously, the ubiquitous nature of bipedal animals, is to notice the similarity of the pattern itself. We do not have to assume that an evolutionary animal “wants” to get up and walk on its hind legs or that humans “want” to put wheels on everything. It’s simply what happens, as part of a continuous pattern.
In addition to cleverly dispatching my nemesis, the will, back to the humanistic annals of ethical philosophy, this leads to a new line of thought about one of my other familiar patterns: the left and the right hand. Dualistic thinking, dialectics, and binary notation all have their root in the common semiotic distinction that left is not right. Two sets, of which there can be no union. What is the pattern link between the rotation of a wheel, and the bipedal pattern of left, right, left, right? What ghosts could be dispelled from the surface of this plane, and what mechanisms lie underneath? Could it be that the pattern of dialectics develops as the most efficient way for organizing different mental categories, which keeping the distinction between them, their categorically ideal momentum, in motion, just as the spokes of a wheel do? Perhaps the distinction of duality acts as the bipedal legs of our thought process, the only categorical system capable of transferring concepts back and forth, like pouring water between two pitchers. What would be the “physical” limitations of a binary concept’s ability to let thought flow through it? At what point would a dialectic snap, and require a third term to take the “weight”? Or is the stasis we perceive in our patterns of conscious thought the full progression of its evolution, up until the present time? Will there be further evolution of this bipedal thought, or has it achieved its maximum utility?
These are mere observations of pattern similarities. But what we learn from Constructal Law is that a pattern is not the last output of a causal system, but often it is representative to our perception of the mechanism of the pattern itself. To observe a pattern is to decode the method of the pattern’s creation. And once we have recourse to abandon the will as the kernel point for nature’s motions, as well as our own thought and symbols as part of nature, many potential patterns can be perceived.
“The Constructal Law of Design and Evolution in Nature”, by Adrian Bejan and Sylvie Lorente, The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2010) 365, 1335–1347
“The constructal-law origin of the wheel, size, and skeleton in animal design,” by Adrian Bejan, American Journal of Physics, Vol. 78, No. 7, 1-8
[Links through Constructal.org]
Posted: June 18th, 2010
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[I'm having a hard time figuring out the significance of this--mostly because I know very little about the history of self-replication in the Game of Life. Is this more or less important than the self-replicating synthetic DNA cell? Either way, I'm glad to know that semi-important breakthroughs in self-replication are happening in both the virtual and the actual spheres.]
“New Scientist has a story on a self-replicating entity which inhabits the mathematical universe known as the Game of Life. ‘Dubbed Gemini, [Andrew Wade's] creature is made of two sets of identical structures, which sit at either end of the instruction tape. Each is a fraction of the size of the tape’s length but, made up of two constructor arms and one “destructor,” play a key role. Gemini’s initial state contains three of these structures, plus a fourth that is incomplete. As the simulation progresses the incomplete structure begins to grow, while the structure at the start of the tape is demolished. The original Gemini continues to disassemble as the new one emerges, until after nearly 34 million generations, new life is born.’”
Posted: June 17th, 2010
Categories: Feedback Loops
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“No matter whose books we’ve read, we’re the children of capital; the love of speed is ingrained in us.”
Certain things are appreciable whether or not we’ve really stopped to study them in detail. The days pass into days, whether we are asleep or awake. But there is mistrust of the progressions, an alienation from the day-to-day pattern of metered movement. We become detatched from time, from history, from others, and from ourselves. Perhaps we can get back on the spinning circle, but there will always be that separation. The segments change their length, or we perceive them to do so, whether we study them carefully, measuring them with complex physical instruments or simply with our untrained eye. Sometimes it seems nothing will ever meter out correctly, return when we expect it to, or take as long or short a time as we wish.
But then other times, we feel as if everything is precisely right. We pick up speed, and with this intensity we feel ourselves oscillating correctly. We couldn’t put a number on the speed, or measure it relative to anything. It becomes an irrelative sense of time, relevant to itself and everything we see, but focused in our perception rather than our natural systems of measurement and thought. There is speed, and then there is the sensation of speed. These happen again and again, throughout our lives, and throughout history.
“Time is out of joint, time is unhinged. The hinges are the axis around which the door turns. Cardo, in Latin, designates the subordination of time to the cardinal points through which the periodical movements that it measures pass. As long as time remains on its hinges, it is subordinate to movement: it is the measure of movement, interval or number. This was the view of ancient philosophy. But time out of joint signifies the reversal of the movement-time relationship. It is now movement which is subordinate to time. Everything changes, including movement. We move from one labyrinth to another. The labyrinth is no longer a circle, or a spiral which would translate its complications, but a thread, a straight line, all the more mysterious for being simple, inexorable as Borges says, ‘the labyrinth which is composed of a single straight line, and which is indivisible, incessant’.”
- Deleuze, preface to “Kant’s Critical Philosophy”
Kant defined time as one of the foundations of transcendental idealism, the other being space. By having these ideals built into the framework of our consciousness, we were able to comprehend and perceive individual objects within time and space. Time was not something simply to be measured, to count in units of seconds and minutes. Time was an infinite length, the passage of which could be divided into units, but only as small subsets of a particular mental acuity. You must feel timeliness, in order to measure the passage of time. In human consciousness, there is a feature of time sensation, which must first exist purely, and then may be quantified. No extent occasion of time exist without it being a fragment of the ideal timeliness. In this way, 12:12 PM on December 21st, 2112 cannot happen more than once, because if you exist at that point in time, you would not confuse that moment with any other moment in history. (A tongue-in-cheek example, to be sure.) Space works in the same way; by every instance of physical, three dimensional space being a portion of the overall concept of space, you can be sure that two solid objects cannot exist in the same time and the same place.
From these transcendentally ideal concepts, we are able to measure the sequence of time and space in ideal units. Because we can think of the extension of a moment into a precise length, which we call a second, we can then measure one second succeeded by the next, and so forth. We can think of the extension of space in a precise length, which we call an inch, and then we can measure one inch succeeded by the next, and so on.
Through Kant, we can see that whereas we naturally think of movement—the measure of space in conjunction with a measure in time—actually requires the ideal concepts of space, and more importantly, time, before it can be perceived. We think of a ball traveling through space requiring physical space as its fundamental requirement for motion. But in actuality, before we perceive it in space, moving or not, we first require within us the sensation of time, because time is internal to us, as much as space is external. Things must be existent in duration, before they can exist in space.
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
-Marx, Thesis on Feuerbach, XI
Movement is change, our way of noticing difference over time. Difference over time, as we make note of it and remember it for ourselves, is history. Marx was interested in history, and specifically, interested in rescuing it from the tradition of German Idealism, born out of thinkers like Kant, who drove us to look internally for our interpretations of the world. Marx wanted us to look back to the outside world, to society, and to history, but naturally he could not completely leave behind the internal world of our transcendental faculties.
Marx’s four fundamental conditions of history are simple, and take root in such material idealisms as basic as time and space to the world of perception and intuition. There are human needs, and with human needs, develop more specific needs. Then there are humans themselves, each existent and fundamentally differentiated from each other as they reproduce; and then more humans, as they run into each other and interact. These humans and their needs must arrange themselves as they seek to fulfill themselves, and so end up with a system of relations between needs, the diversification of needs, humans, and the co-operation between them to negotiate this historical sphere, which we call society.
A need is an attachment to a particular thing more than it is a hole to be filled, as we tend to think of it simply. We may have a hunger for food at a particular time, but the need itself is a desire for food, refracted into beams of light, each shining at a particular time when bent off from the whole of desire. Certain things are illuminated, and then darkened again, but the desire continues within us. We form connections, and then they break off, and perhaps form again in another location or time, driven by the engines of desire constantly running. These connections may be with food itself, or with the land required to grow the food, or with the other humans whose help we require to grow it. This network of connections is constantly oscillating, breaking and then renewing itself, as we travel over our known territories in the material world, moving through physical space and time. Marx calls the connections relations, and equates them with the ideality of language, something appearing only in our consciousness. In his day he assumed only humans (or as he writes, men) had the capacity for communication, and while with idealized communications he may be correct, we have since learned that even bacteria communicate with each other to co-ordinate their needs in space and time. There are millions upon millions of interactions and connections breaking and re-establishing between the teeming life on this planet, all of them furthering the cause of material life.
But Marx wants to juxtapose the material relations with the social relations, because as he sees correctly, there is a distinct breakage occurring between these two, a rhythm that cannot seem to re-establish itself, a timing perpetually out of joint. Nature, the physical world opposed to our mental worlds, “appears to men as a completely alien, all-powerful and unassailable force, with which men’s relations are purely animal and by which they are overawed like beasts,” (German Ideology, 51). Nature and the physical world, does not always adhere to our mental conceptions of it, because our understanding of our ideal faculties is an ongoing process. As such, we oppose nature as a force opposed to our knowledge of it, and we seek to master it as best we can. We develop natural religions, using magic and fetishes and other forms of esoteric knowledge in the attempt to affect the world as best we can. Our desires are routed through our limited knowledge of the stars and the seasons, and blood and other vitreous humors, and the basic social arrangements of the family, the village, the power of humans over humans, and what other sorts of relations as we can devise. We re-territorialize ourselves to our land and each other, organizing our relations through ideas, and our relations with ideas, hoping to somehow overcome this alien force.
And this is simply the beginning. In our effort to reterritorialize, we split our mental and physical efforts into categories, breaking our inherent knowledge of space and time from our measures of physical space and time, separating our needs from our actual work to procure the responses to these needs, and dividing humans and their labors from each other to create new regimes of desires, territories, production, spaces, and times. The division of labor as Marx would have it, but as we are beginning to see, it is something much more cosmologically complicated than that.
Very cosmologically complicated, and of course, we get confused. In the arising regimes of relations, the alien sensation of Nature becomes dislocated, de-territorialized, and routed through different stations and pathways. The productions of product, desire, ideas, and relations become more complicated, and difficult for our minds to hold on to. “The social power, i.e. the multiplied productive force, which arise through the co-operation of different individuals as it is determined by the division of labor, appears to these individuals, since their co-operation is not voluntary but has come about naturally, not as their own united power, but as an alien force existing outside them, of the origin and goal of which they are ignorant, which they thus cannot control, which on the contrary passes through a peculiar series of phases and stages independent of the will and the action of man, nay even being the prime governor of these,” (German Ideology, 54). The social forces have supplanted the minds which brought them about, and its controlling regime is more powerful than those who invented it. Our measures of space and time, and production and people, and desires and relations, are now more powerful our own interior, fundamental concepts of these things. What matter is your sense of time if you are late for work? Who cares about where you consider home if your mortgage is due? What difference does your skill make if you cannot find a job? What is suffering in comparison to GDP? What is sex in relation to society? Who are our friends, next to the power of our enemies? We are alienated from ourselves mentally, and therefore physically, because we cannot orient ourselves to a world that refuses to acknowledge us. Our ideals will never catch up with the physical world, because our conception of the physical world will not allow itself to be caught.
It was a natural religion which first attempted to change the regimes of ideals to match the natural world. Then, it was the State, which for convenience sake, absorbed all territoriality to itself. The it was Capitalism, and the market, which proved itself more efficient and lucrative than even the State. Will we ever catch up? Is it possible to catch up? Or should we listen to Marx, and try to find a new sort of rhythm?
“Capitalism is a bet about tomorrow—and it’s always the same bet. Tomorrow will be “better” than today. More wealth will be created, more resources will be used, and, excepting recessions, the economy will continue growing forever. The bet takes the form of credit and investment—you lend or invest a sum today to get back a larger sum tomorrow, because tomorrow there will be more of everything (except oil, old-growth forest, et cetera).”
Few, other than the lovely N+1 publication of course, are actually interested in review the ideal relations we have regarding our material conditions. It is a big project of course, and there is little way to tell when we are right in diagnosing a neurotic pathway of our consciousnesses, forever banging its head into some material wall because of something territorialized wrongly in one of those less-than-conscious pathways and relations. We can tell when we’re banging our heads of course, but why? And what will make it stop? Who knows, right?
But on the other hand, we have no trouble keeping up with the speed of the times. Change is constant, and we’re on top of that. We can adapt to the newest technologies without batting an eye, and we can be the early adopters, who go out and write long treatises and tutorials for our friends, with no motivation other than helping everyone out, and helping us reterritorialize to a new geography of ideas, spread over a material network moving at an incredible rate of speed. We can make social-tools of connection and communication a radical part of our lives, for whatever benefit there might be. Is there a benefit? Who knows, but we certainly won’t be left behind when we all find out. We’ll be there, and be on the forefront, in the vanguard of… what is it? Ah yes, an archaic term—history. We will be the ones making a change, and we won’t even have to change, because change will become what we are, moving at the speed of thought.
But this is not real movement. This speed we think we are feeling is just an ideal increase of our time ideal. It is a sensation of always being in the present, and of history increasing its speed, and of us hanging on for dear life. But we are not moving. Society is much the same as it ever was, and it is only our relative sensation of speed which has decreased. As we shrink our quantitative segment of time, we assume, according to our material model of the world, that we are speeding up. We are not going faster, only our world is getting smaller. We are completely ignoring our acuity for ideal timeliness, and focusing on the passage of quantitative time segments before our eyes. We have rejected the ideal realm completely, and look to society for what we should think and feel. We have thrown away the idealism of Kant, instead trusting our most basic empiricism, as dictated to us by societies regimes. Society says Twitter is new, Twitter is fast, and Twitter is hot. But does it ever say why? Some completely ignore this toy train, but others grab a hold of it, shrieking with delight at the speed they are told they are feeling.
Marx would be appalled that we have become so propertyless, and yet our consciousnesses tell us we are rich. We have less, and are told it is more. History is stretched out to the breaking point, and we are told we are moving faster than ever before. We are so used to being deterritorialized, and having our world dragged out from under us, that we barely wake, instead just rolling over and going back to sleep.
And yet, the world is changing. We have new realms for society to inhabit, electronic realms that are virtually infinite in size. Our ideal concept of space itself becomes irrelevant to these sorts of connections and relations. Our ideal concept of time is left at the station, unable to feel any sort of time in relation to instant communication. Perhaps it is a state of constant deterritorialization, except that there are all these connections being made. All of this progress—perhaps not in a direction, or with any measureable rate of change, but change all the same. There is something happening, but we are not sure what. We connect, and others connect, and we engage, and we share, and we co-operate, and we produce, to what? What sort of production is this? The division of labor has grown into a division of cosmology, and one industry of cosmological progress cannot unify itself with the others.
The history, left confused and spinning in the dust, catches onto a gear and is pulled again into the machine. It is spread out, stretched, and multiplied, found in the strangest of places. In an article off in a corner of the Internet, an unnamed author calls out a particular social relation, explaining how it is a dirty trick, taking advantage of its participants for the benefit of a few individuals. Elsewhere, in a multi-party discussion on a web page, conclusions are offered about the future of a particular technology for connecting individuals across the world in archivable discussion. And then somewhere else, a particular person discovers a way to broadcast her personal opinion to a large number of people from her cell phone. She does so, serendipitously mentioning these two previous things, which she just so happened to witness unfolding on the Internet. Then, in a month, when the previously mentioned technology becomes available, someone searching for information about it happens across the old posts, and sees the evidence of the social injustice, and begins to test a third-party app for protesters to use with the new technology. The rest, as they say, is history.
But what sort of history is this? A history that is taggable, multi-user, archivable, constantly evolving with new uses and new developers, the very accessible fabric of which is constantly under revision, restructuring, retirement, and rerouting. Every person whose thought is routed through these series of connections becomes a part of this history instantly, though in what quantitative measurement, and to what isolated, casual effect is impossible to say. But there is an effect, there is no doubt about it.
“The real intellectual wealth of the individual depends entirely on the wealth of his real connections. Only then will the separate individuals be liberated from the various national and local barriers, be brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world and be put in a position to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man). All-round dependence, this natural form of the world-historical co-operation of individuals, will be transformed by this communist revolution into the control and conscious mastery of these powers, which, born of the action of men on one another, have till now overawed and governed men as powers completely alien to them.”
- Marx, in The German Ideology, 55
We always seem to return to our history. Only now our history is globalized, but split into fragments, not determined by the national and local lines of our previous history. It is stratified, but its stratification is one of connections, not of divisions. Our connections will not unify our history, but they can make a divisive rift impossible to maintain. Once the center could not hold, but now it is the splits and segments that will always shatter. The network is always on, and always connecting. Access is the principle, rather than the exception.
Our ideal concepts of time and space may just return, once the quantitative segments we have replaced them with in our minds refuse to stay ideal. Those primary principles will help us form territorializations and connections rather than needing to be paved over. What is the day to a world constantly online? What is a border to an anonymous chat? The real ideals may return, and we will remember than time is anything contemporaneous, and space is anything simultaneous, and with ideal time and space, flows ourselves. We will no longer feel society condensing us to singularities of infinite speed, but feel ourselves expanding to moments of pure totality, as far as we can reach. We can’t connect with everything it the world, but we will have occasion to connect with the right things, the positive things, and that which can help us all, cooperatively. The infinite will return to its proper place inside us, and we will be free to engage with the finitudes of space and time in the world. We can deal with finite needs, finite desires, and finite space and time in which to affect them. We can make the proper connections and territorializations, not simply unified or totalized connections with regimes of control. The ideal will be brought back into proper relation with the material, and while it will never be a unified partnership, the alienation will stop shifting from one side to the other, and can be parceled out as it should be. There will be no moment of eternal, ahistorical self-consciousness, but rather a continuous unfolding and production of timeliness against time, and existence against space, and world-historiality against the tragedies of history.
It remains on the “real ground of history,” the surmounting of ideal and material obstacles by human beings. It is production, and relation, and resolution, and consumption combined into movement, the pure movement of ideal space over ideal time, and therefore, material space over material time. It is a passing-over, a constant presence of returning, a timeliness in atemporality, and a existential nonexistence in our spaces and bodies. By feeling the speed within us, we can properly measure it outside of us, not for a unification of quantitative segments with any particular regime, but to build from the segments something we can use.
But, Marx and Kant both knew its not something that exists apart from us. Technology dramatically changes the world, but only inside our heads can we really change ourselves. And then, once we have become the change in ourselves, perhaps there will be material change we can notice.
Posted: October 1st, 2009
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