January 07, 2016

Technoccult News: The Rage of The Buddha

So here we are on the other side of the 2015/2016 Gregorian Flip, and already this year is just chock full of fun surprises.

For instance, who could have predicted the irony-laden events out in Oregon, where armed, white militia-affiliated ranchers are occupying a federal government building in protest of having their land "stolen" from them? And did I mention that that building sits on land sacred to Northern Paiute Native American tribe?

I mean, I guess you could have predicted it if you've been paying any attention to the landscape of what constitutes discourse in this country, at all. It really is getting harder and harder to make this stuff up.

Hello from the Southeastern Corner of these United States.

/=/Flying, Self Driving Cars Are Coming for Your Trucking Jobs/=/
You've likely heard by now that there is a Lyft/GM deal in the works, for the American automaker to supply autonomous cars to the main Über competitor. What you may not yet know is that Ford has announced as of yesterday, they want to be more than just an car manufacturer. They're getting into the transportation business. They want to work out ideas like allowing owners to use their vehicles for more than one purpose—business and personal and delivery, et cetera—and they're going to be looking into the production of autonomous vehicles as well.

And my first thought at all of this is, "Shit, here come the wooden shoes."

The expressions of distrust at the increasing prevalence of autonomous systems aren't unfounded, but they rest at the the crux of a particular set of oppositions, two main poles of which are 1) the desires of companies to decrease their labour costs and increase their profits, while 2) they work to sell the public on the idea of cheaper goods and a work-free future. Like, I would love a society in which we automated all the autoamatable jobs, and gave everybody free food and housing, and all the leisure time they could want to pursue literally any- and everything, but I don't think it needs to be said that that line, pedaled to you by any corporation, is a lie.

If you think GM and their partners don't want to perfect the process of automated trucking, you're just kidding yourself. They don't want a work- and money-free future. They want a future where all the benefits of your work go to them.

The more we automate and "disrupt," in this schema, the more people rebel will against it, for the obvious reasons, so this is a very interesting tightrope act. You push people out of the jobs they have, while telling the rest of the public that they'll love how and why it all comes to pass.

Because everybody wants an autonomous flying car, right? Just like the opening credits of The Jetsons! Except "everybody" might not include the people you bled dry to squeeze a little more into your profit margins.

That "bled dry" joke would have landed better, if I'd already told you that the world's largest meatpacking firm is tossing around the idea of automated butchers.

/=/The Things We Can Do/=/
So you know that both the UK and Missouri are underwater, right now, yes? Like, a great deal of muddy, shitty water, in some cases. But look what people do: 'TALES FROM THE HEBDEN BRIDGE FOOD HUB. Read it all and remember what we can be to each other, when it matters. Then remember that it always matters.

Here's some other things we've done for each other, recently:

"The Superintendent Who Turned Around A School District"
'The school district of 3,000 students has taken unprecedented steps, like opening a food pantry to give away food, a shelter for homeless students and a health clinic.
'"My purpose is to remove the challenges that poverty creates," she says. "You cannot expect children to learn at a high level if they come in hungry and tired."'

"Cancer Cells Can't Proliferate and Invade at the Same Time"

"3 Implications of Memory-Boosting Devices"

Chris Novus is reviewing the extremely mixed bag that was the Marvel Comics Civil War event. You know, in case you're unfamiliar with it, and so you don't have to go do the thing, yourself. Trust me, you're grateful.

Randall Munroe gets what's up.

/=/Alchemical Currents, Current Alchemy/=/
This has been a pretty big week for the concept of alchemy, at least in my circles.

Over at Technoccult.net, I did a brief rundown of a 2014 Smithsonian article, "Alchemy May Not Have Been the Pseudoscience We All Thought It Was."

I rewatched pretty much all of season four of Person of Interest, since we last spoke, so I of course went on a small tear about the meeting of The Machine and Samaritan, and the concept of an Alchemical Wedding between the two. It's still possible that this process is underway, in a narrative sense, and as the 5th season is likely to be the last, I have high hopes that they won't shy away from getting really, really weird about how they deal with the concepts of consciousness, reality, identity, and the metaphysical parameters of the networking of all of the above. We'll see.

Most recently, yesterday, Natalie Kane and Tobias Revell released this podcast on Alchemy. It's really quite good, and you should go listen to it, before you read anything I'm about to say.

In this hour, Kane, Revell, and their interview subjects discuss alchemy as, among other things, a pursuit or discipline in lines with a kind of disused technology, something that fells by the wayside, and was then actively ridiculed when something "better" came along. They distance it, at an early stage, from the spiritual practices seen in many hermetic tracts, and don't even really mention the work of Jung, Eliade, or Faivre, in placing the holistic practices of naturphilosophie and western esotericism in context with each other, at the time of their prominence. The disparate practices that we think of, now, as science, magic, religion, art, and philosophy were, in 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, conceived of as a singular practice.

There was no distinction made between them, by those who engaged them, until, as one of Kane and Revell's guests notes, the major scientistic reforms of the 18th century, at which time that which could be replicated and reproduced and weighed and measured became "science" and everything else got its name, according to what it did and how it felt.

That is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but my point is that while many of the voices in that podcast regard alchemy as a failed science with no connection to magic, and regard magic as a perspective which thrives only in secrecy, the record shows that what we think of as magic was certainly a component of the processes of alchemy. And as to the question of magic being that thing that only works when we don't know how it works, I think that's a bit reductive, on the whole.

When you know and can implement the process, then you're a magician. Does that make you no longer susceptible to magic? No, it means you have the tools to fight against magics levelled against you. Say you're an advertising executive, who knows all the tricks. Chances are, you've probably put up a great deal of mental defences and other people's ads don't "work" the same on you, right? Except every so often one still does. Something makes it through, and you have that feeling of desire and affinity for a company or a product, and they've got you.

Magic still works when you know how it works. In the popular conception, it's not the mystery that makes something magic, so much as it's the classification of that mystery as being beyond our understanding. There's a difference, there. When I use the word "magic" to describe a process or an event, I am automatically tapping into something that you think of as different from your every day experience, something that will not be explained according to the rules with which you are presently familiar. This may still be true, even when you know the mechanisms, because your knowledge of them is not immediately a guarantor of either your understanding or belief.

And even when you understand and believe, the rules and the mechanisms may be quite quite different from those to which you are otherwise accustom.

Again, read Faivre, read Jung, read Dee, and read Eliade. Hell, read me (yeah, me), if you still want to, after all of that.

This is what played while I wrote the last section.

Red Red Meat, "There's Always Tomorrow"
Einsturzende Neubauten, "Von Wegen"

Ayreon, "E=MC2"
Android Lust, "Unbeliever"
The Jesus & Mary Chain, "Head On"
Haujobb, "Renegades of Noize"
Android Lust, "Sense of It All"
The Dead Milkmen, "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)"

"E=MC2" coming on right as I was writing about scientism and classification schema is where I started paying attention.

/=/What Connects Us/=/
"Watch a Computer Made Out of Dominoes Do Basic Math"

Uncanny Valley is a short film about a world in which people can get addicted to VR.

"The bigger picture of polyamory" 'I have been polyamorous for most of my adult life. It’s something I grew into gradually, through a lot of questioning an…' An exhortation to live your truth proudly, but doesn't quite take into account cultural differences that might make that dangerous, or even deadly. The impact of culture in Hong Kong, or Kennesaw, for instance, wouldn't exactly look at open polyamory and say "GOOD FOR YOU! Can't wait to meet the family!" Likelihood of persecution or at least ostracization is fairly high in that culture. On the other hand, Decatur GA, Asheville NC, Portland OR, Austin TX? May be more accepting, in the outset.

The Periodic Table has 4 New Elements.

"Like Night And Day: How Two States' Utilities Approach Solar"

"A black American man is applying for refugee status in Canada, citing police racism."

A Woman's DUI Was Dismissed Because Her Body Naturally Brews Alcohol, and I learned a thing about the human body.

"Enzyme tweak boosts precision of CRISPR genome edits: Engineered enzyme drives genome-editing errors below detection limit."

Beauty.ai is creepy as hell. Not because of the idea of AI judging beauty, but because some human being thought that it was important to teach machines how to judge based upon a very narrow band of human-regarded beauty. Also, because if you look at the trail Chris Novus lays out, in that tweet chain, you'll see some very shady business happening in there. Feels like a way to build a free facial features Database.

"Facebook 'tests loyalty' by purposefully crashing app." How Samaritan-esque. Seriously, between this and Google's school tablet program, I'm beginning to think all the worst parts of Person Of Interest got hypersigilized.

New human-sized drone "claims to be able to deliver one human (up to 260 pounds) anywhere within a 10 mile/23 min flight time."

Se above, remebmer what We've already Discussed and Caveat Et Cetera.

/=/Done For Now/=/
Well that's all there is to that, this time, because I just got back from a 2am run to the emergency vet to have my youngest cat evaluated for a hernia. Tomorrow's going to be fun.

(It's tomorrow, now, and exactly as fun as I thought it would be. A manager from a past job is the check in tech for this animal hospital, though. So that was weird.)

I'm still looking for any recommendations you have, regarding literature or narratives that describe the world in a sensory ability mode other than that meant to be immediately recognizable by and sympathetic to the assumed human default.

In the interim, if you like the kinds of things we do around here, and want us to keep being able to have these little chats, well into 2016 and beyond, please feel free to tell your friends about the Patreon. All the other places we do things are accessible either there, or in this very missive! *Dramatic Sting*

And if you don't like what we do here, the Unsubscribe button remains an option. But, really: Look at it. You think a word like "unsubscribe" is just going to let you hit it, without consequences? I dunno, but I sure wouldn't chance it.

Until Next Time.