August 23, 2015

Technoccult News: Shall Do What Thou Wilt Be the Whole of the Tech?

There are going to be a lot of links this week. I mention that because I know that most everyone reading newsletters is doing so for the original content, but the fact of the matter is (I use that phrase a lot, don't I?) that there are no new thoughts without input. And this week's input is all about Magick and tech and thought and value. Hence the picture.

Hello from the Southeastern Corner of these United States.
-----------Time and will and energy------------

Earlier, I said that I need some more zeit in this zeitgeist, and Steen said, "lord knows we got plenty of geist." And I'm reminded of the idea that, as we get closer to the end of the world or death, which is the same thing, just on a more intimate scale, that things always seem to move more quickly, and feel more full of potent portent. Or, as Calvin said to Hobbes, "The days are just Packed."

And then we find ourselves in the flow of things—Superflow, synchronicity highway, Pronoia paths, whatever. We've talked about these before, and they're these linkages of thought and symbol and meaning. On Sunday, I listened to Mindful Cyborgs ep 63, wherein Ingrid Burrington talks about magick and infrastructure and Magick.Codes, the miniconference she put on, last December, which I regard as a major watershed moment in my and a lot of other people's lives.

Monday, the very first day of classes, someone who doesn't know me and whom I've never met reposts from me the video "Invocation to Papa Legba," as sung by Deborah Harry, with my attendant addition:

"I look upon the path behind me. Please: Make clear the way.
I look upon the paths around me. Please: Make clear the way.
I look up on the path before me. Please: Make clear the way."

I first made that post… on December5th, 2014. The day before I got on a plane to go to Magick.Codes.
Also on Monday, Mindful Cyborgs ep 64 Ingrid Burrington part 2 goes live, but I don't listen to it until Tuesday.

And then, today, M1k3y tells me about K- Hole #5. That's a rather large pdf, so be careful. My point is, the geist in this zeit is magick entire. But you knew that, already, because you're here.
-----------Feeling in the moment------------

There is nothing that is not magick, if apprehended correctly, and there is nothing that is not technology for the same reasons. I've mentioned, before, that the roots for both technology and magick are in "craft." The Greek root for this is "Techne," and you can look to Athena and Hekate and Hermes and Hephaestus and see deities of both Art and Artifice, skill and cunning and language and creation and weaving—stories and textiles—and theft and all of these things are bound together. This is part of why we talk, here, about magic and technology, and what "artificial intelligence" really means when we break it down.

But the Western world's Greek ancestors aren't the only ones who bound their technology and their magic together. Egypt saw Thoth creating language and magic, being a god of technology and the repository of all memory and knowledge. Odin is the Master Speller and the great artificer (and thief and Cunning Man). Legba and Ellegua are spiritually tied to crossroads, thresholds, beginnings, endings, and communications, making the Lwa the obvious choice for Gibson to map onto the Internet.

And in all of this we have the root technology of language. The manipulation of words and memories and "spelling" and, again, "craft." Kim Boekbinder reminded us, this week, that, "Songs are spells, incantations. Careful what you sing for. Songs are spells. Be mindful of what you listen to." And we're back around to phonomancy, again. But these are the more poetic uses on language, and their intent, as stated, is to hit you in the heart, in the viscera, in the instinct. Less prosaic, but no less powerful uses of language are laws.

The law is a spell that works on you, at every moment, whether you will it or not. Laws are the codification and concretization of moral codes and systems of justice, all of which are derivations of a society's values. They are the concentrated beliefs and essences of what people think and feel and believe are best, and their particular parsing and deployment can have long lasting, permanent effects on your life, even at great distance from you, and without your conscious knowledge. But, just like other forms of magick, the law can be learned, can be understood, and in most cultures, one can even become fully initiated into its mysteries. And when you know the law, you can use it to your own advantage.

The law is alive, and somewhat adaptable, but it's also rigid, the pace of its change is often glacial, and its outcomes are not always Justice. The knowledge and recognition of that last fact allows for those who see antiquated and even repressive expressions of the law to do things like erecting a 9-foot-tall Baphomet Statue, and carrying it around the country to places where one religion's views seem to be given state-sanctioned preference. Or Wiccans and Pagans working out how best to use various "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts" against the people who only ever seem to mean Christian religious freedom.

The law as a technology of social control.
-----------All watched over by…------------

I had planned to finish compiling this on Thursday, the 20th, and I'm glad I didn't because the episode of NPR's fresh air that came on, that night, was another component of the zeitgeist. Terry Gross interviewed John Markoff about machine intelligence ("AI"), intelligence augmentation ("IA;" via mediated assistive tech), deep learning algorithms, and virtual and augmented reality.

I was a little surprised that Markoff didn't talk about the efforts in physically immediating the link between human and tech, especially because he says at one point that the goal of the augmented reality firms he's talked to is to have the experience of the internet fade into the background "and become magic." So, in linking that drive and impulse to what he rightly identifies as this extremely important moment in which developers of "AI" and "IA" need to blend their goals, why not take further step and talk about the blending blurring lines of human augmentation technology and machine intelligence?

I use the word "immediate" as a verb, here, because we're actively removing layers of distinction and separation, breaking down walls between what we think of as ourselves and what we think of as our technology. When it's immediated, it's not "our tech," anymore; it's just us.

Placing this in context with how much Terry worries about the disconnection between the driverless car and the humans in them, or the pedestrians on the street, we can start to ask questions about the point at which the driver's sensorium and the car's are the same. A ways off, yes, but something to think about and possibly work toward, in advance
-----------Keeping up appearances------------

I gave a list, last week, of the places I can be found during Dragon Con. That's changed a bit, so I'll refer you to this link right here: 2015 Comics and Popular Arts Conference Panel Schedule.

Check back with that link to keep up with any changes.
-----------And we're out------------

Partially prompted by K-Hole #5, I've got the term "confrontational typography"—and  subsequently design as a whole—running through my head. Mark Z Danielewski would be another example. Layouts that are meant to frustrate and challenge and provoke, to see what kinds of thoughts, feelings, or impressions you create within yourself, in that space. Less confrontational but still intensely purposeful would be Douglas Hofstadter's work in Gödel, Escher, Bach.

Tonight's #HugoAwards results have been just…just utterly fantastic.

But Siouxsie's singing to me about Green Fingers, and I think that'll be the whole of this one. As always, if you like what we do here, go on and tell your friends about us, and ask 'em to join in, either here or at the Patreon.

If you don't like what we do here, then go right ahead and click "unsubscribe," and hopefully that cursed monkey's paw I hooked up to a random number generator won't cancel every subscription you've ever had or ever try to establish.

And either way: Thank you.

Until Next Time.