Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement

“I noticed that all but one of them did a version of ‘White Rabbit.’  Jeff Mark

by Jeff Mark & R.U. Sirius

While I am currently working on a book about MONDO 2000 that will be primarily about the ideas that drove the magazine, I have a lot of memoir-ish materials collected from my own writings and interviews with — or writings by — various participants in the project. Jeff Mark was the first person I met through ads in local newsweeklies in 1983 looking for project participants… albeit I wasn’t sure what the project was yet. Just that you should dig RA Wilson, Leary and Bill Burroughs to join in.

These notes — a fragment from the original planned book — from myself and Jeff Mark are about a trip to L.A. to cement our friendship with neopsychedelic movement fellow travelers there. At the time, our magazine was called High Frontiers.

R.U. Sirius

 

R.U. The “Neopsychedelic renaissance” continued apace, with major features in High Times, as well as several long forgotten zines, radio interviews and so on — usually with High Frontiers touted as the reigning representation. It seemed that I was blabbing to someone in the media about it at least a couple of times a month. Soon word hit us that people on the L.A. garage psychedelic scene were being drenched in high quality LSD and diggin’ High Frontiers. Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine was at the center of that scene and he sent us his back issues (which we were already buying, anyway) and suggested we come for a visit. Jeff Mark and I arranged to go down there

Jeff Mark: Winter Solstice 1985, R.U. and I took a trip to Los Angeles. The “Neopsychedelic Revival” was by then a real phenomenon. Newsweek had even done a feature piece on the L.A. manifestation, focusing on Greg Shaw who was putting together some L.A. neopsychedelic ‘zine. R.U.’s intention was to make contact and build a bridge. We hung out for a while with Greg. I think we did a little sightseeing, and then that night we went to see some bands being promoted by him.

The space the bands would play in, around the corner from Hollywood & Vine… well, you couldn’t call it a club. It was just… a room. The entrance was at the top of an external staircase, from which I could see underneath the building, noting with some trepidation that the second floor was supported by a bunch of those steel jacks that builders use to keep a weak ceiling from collapsing. And this would be holding up a couple of hundred dancing humans.

There were maybe four or five different bands, each doing 30-45 minutes or so, and I noticed that all but one of them did a version of “White Rabbit.” I also noticed was that the bands each seemed to be made up of the same seven or eight people in varying combinations of four or five.

Anyway, the building didn’t collapse, and we retired after to some other location lost to history for a party. Everyone was high on MDMA, of course. As the evening progressed, I engaged in conversation with several very nice people, and by way of introducing each other, the usual “so what do you do?” kinds of questions arose. Now, I had a straight job at the time; civil service, thoroughly boring. But the people I spoke with described themselves as “make-up artists” or “costumers” or writers or artists of one flavor or another. I began to realize that vocationally, each of these people depended on all the others, networking (another not-yet-coined-term) to get to work on someone’s project about something; their livelihood depended on their social contacts.

Now, when you think about it, this was Hollywood; that’s how Hollywood works, that’s how creative communities, particularly those in collaborative crafts, operate. That’s how they produce. Obvious to many, but news to me. The pattern-recognition subsystems of my mind began to assemble what I would come to call my “Theory of Scenes”.

A few months later, we returned with (High Frontiers Art Director) Lord Nose to participate in an event that featured a couple of local bands, and somebody wheeling out Sky Saxon  from the Seeds (“Pushing Too Hard”). And it struck me that the 200 or so people at that event, which included almost everyone we’d met in December, comprised the whole of the “neopsychedelic scene” in L.A. That was it. 250 people tops; and they were getting all this media attention. And I realized that’s how it probably was in ’65 as well. There was the Whiskey á Go-Go scene; one or two other places; a dozen or so bands with some duplication among their personnel, various friends and hangers on. In the Haight, the same thing. There was the Fillmore and the Matrix, the Diggers, the Oracle, and it was all the same… what, 300 people? It applies elsewhere also. There’s the NYC comedy scene (which in the 70s gave us SNL, and is now focused around The Daily Show), the Boston Harvard/National Lampoon scene, the L.A. Conception Corporation scene (whence came Spinal Tap). All of these basically, at least in the beginning, were not much more than groups of friends. Even in politics. One of my disappointments as I’ve gotten more sophisticated about politics is the realization that so much of what happens in a place like Washington D.C. takes place in what appears to be a social environment, which is why it reminds us so much of high school. And this was, largely, how MONDO functioned within the context of the Berkeley “scene.” Read more “Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement”

Reality Hackers Soapbox 1989 Information is True Capital

by Jas. Morgan and Accomplices (intro by R.U. Sirius)

This piece, written and published in 1989, ran in Reality Hackers, the forerunner of MONDO 2000. It rather states a premise of the digital revolution that was one of the guiding lights of the MONDOid experience, particularly in its early days. Now I am writing a book that discusses many of the memes and assumptions that undergirded both MONDO and the digital idealism of those times.

Do these ideas still hold up? Please share your thoughts.

R.U. Sirius

Information is true capital. Grain rots, you can’t eat gold, you might not need medicines. All of these commodities, capital, have been used for centuries as barter. But what makes doctors, genetic engineers and, for that matter, plumbers, wealthy? Knowledge, information, data. You can learn to grow crops, mine gold, practice alchemy. Proudhon stated the crux of the matter in three simple koans: “Property is theft. Property is freedom. Property is impossible.” Information equals property.

Property is theft. All that we know, we have learned. All that we have discovered has been extrapolated. We have simply stolen and built upon the ideas of those who have gone before us, from language to the lever, from agriculture to the atom bomb.

Property is freedom. No one can steal your ideas. While others may utilize your concepts for their own gain, you can still profit from them as well. Einstein articulated the concept of General Relativity and atomic theory, which much to his chagrin was used to develop nuclear weaponry. Nobody owns ideas and nobody can control them.

Property is impossible. Information is free. In fact, information is taken for granted, as we daily communicate with symbols and concepts developed by people other than ourselves. We build the tools to build the tools to build the tools. The Zen meditation on Proudhon’s concepts is left to the reader.

The personal computer revolution has vastly empowered the individual. Yet it is a fragile and vulnerable system. Individuals have at their command the means to capriciously misuse the technology. Those who hoard, damage, or destroy signals are committing a crime against Species Intelligence. The hackers are true Prometheans and the guardian of personal liberties. Yet the hackers must forge a new ethic to guide them or they’re in danger of being scapegoated for what is mostly intercorporate sabotage. The communication of ideas is the very essence of this magazine. We promote and endorse maximum neural fluxibility. A continuous stream of data allows you to integrate new models into your self-created reality, and discard outmoded ones. There are those who cling tenaciously to the security of their present belief systems. And there are the intellectual faddists who will exchange their current model in favor of any new model. Reality Hackers believes the best model is what works — more importantly, what works for you.. But be aware. We attempt to widen the bandwidth and present as many and varied ideas as possible. We are willing to entertain nearly any notion provided that it’s resonant and interesting. So don’t believe everything you read. Think for yourself.

by Jas. Morgan and accomplices

 

Zach Leary Remembers Timothy Leary’s Final Years

Interview by R.U. Sirius

Zach Leary is the host of both the “It’s All Happening with Zach Leary” podcast and “The MAPS Podcast.” They have helped to cement him as one of the most thought provoking podcasters in the cultural philosophy genre of podcasting. He’s also a blogger/writer, a futurist, spiritualist, a technology consultant and sociocultural theorist.

Raised from a young age by Timothy Leary and his mother Barbara Leary, Zach had the ultimate front row seat to Dr. Tim’s later years. I’m excited to have him share some of his memories and thoughts with us about Dr. Leary’s final years as he was dying from prostate cancer.

R.U. Sirius: Was there any sign of illness that you were aware of before your stepdad got his diagnosis of prostate cancer? Anything you can tell us about this?

Zach Leary: Looking back on it, it becomes much easier to connect the dots and to make sense of what went on with his sickness and physical deterioration. Before the actual cancer diagnosis occurred, he expressed to me many times how he was brokenhearted and dejected that Barbara (Zach’s mother, Tim’s wife) had left him. I remember one night less than six months after she left where he confessed that he felt a sense of completion and a loss of a will to live. He simply had so many personal heartbreaks in his life that eventually caught up to him. I suspect from that point forward, he let his personal state of mind effect his physical one. He started to get old fast, so by the time the actual diagnosis happened, it didn’t feel terribly out of place. To me it felt like it might have even been what he wanted.

The fascinating part that makes him so different than most people is that he didn’t let it affect his work and prolific output. During the last 3-4 years of the downward life spiral he still found time to produce some of his most compelling work and inspire everyone around him. He had a stiff upper lip and marched forward.

RUS: How did you learn of Timothy’s cancer? How/when did he talk to you about it?

ZL: Honestly, I don’t remember the specific moment. I do remember him letting me know, but I can’t recall it being a formal “sit down.” The more severe talk/disclosure occurred after his one and only chemo treatment. He went to one chemo session and said “FUCK THIS. I’m not going to do it. From here on out, I’m calling my cancer Mademoiselle Cancer and we’re going to make friends with it!”

He did gauge my feedback by having a talk with me that he wasn’t going to get any treatment — which, in turn, meant he was going to let it kill him. I was young and didn’t know what to do with that information. He seemed to be at peace with it so I played along. That said, it took me awhile to really make peace with it. I was just starting to be an adult and the thought of not having his paternal wisdom in my adult life freaked me out. He certainly was very open and vulnerable to anyone wanting to talk about it, that’s for sure. He didn’t hide one bit!

RU:  Was there a slow or immediate transition to “the mother of all parties” — his public celebration of the dying process? Do you remember any complications around that… practically or emotionally?

ZL: As far as I recall, the transition to what you’re calling “the mother of all parties” was immediate. He instantly recognized the juggernaut potential of making the death and dying process into the final act of his life’s work. That’s how I remember it anyway.

Once he decided that he wasn’t going to get any treatment for the cancer there was a short and very much unsustained grieving process. He somehow charmed us into making his dying into a celebration. Had I been older and more mature, I certainly would have handled that differently. His death, while of course profound and inspiring, hit me after the fact in a very challenging way. I was a lost young man with no identity of my own and part of that was due to me never really having much time to feel the loss and process. We had some really sweet father and son moments towards the end that contained some very necessary tears. But overall I think Timmy’s ability to barnstorm through emotionally difficult milestones was ultimately a downfall of his.

I’m glad the whole “designer dying” idea of his found such strong footing and uncovered so many important topics for our culture, but I do wish there was a more sensitive way to offset the public celebration with some compassion for those close to him. Immediately after he died, my life fell apart very quickly — when that happens it’s no ones fault, but I was by no means prepared for life without him.

Read more “Zach Leary Remembers Timothy Leary’s Final Years”

Pariahs Made Me Do It — Of Dali, Warhol & Leary

Excerpt from the original unpublished unfinished MONDO 2000 book. A new one is in the works for Zero Books! Whoo hoo!

R.U. Sirius

As you already have surmised, I came up through the New Left Revolution years. From 1968 – 1971 — during and just after high school, I knew that the revolution had come. Some as yet inchoate mix of left anarchist radicalism and newly psychedelicized youth mutation was simply taking over the world by storm. As Hunter Thompson famously rhapsodized, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.… Our energy would simply prevail…We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.” Right (or left) or wrong, it was exciting and energizing to be a part of it.

But by the mid-70s, people on the left radical countercultural scene had become — at best, mopey and quarrelsome — and, at worst, either criminally insane or very tightly wound politically correct environmentalist/feminist/health-food scolds. People were either bitchy; or they were in retreat smoking pot and listening to the mellow sounds of James Taylor and Carole King.

I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but I needed to create a space within my psyche that liberated me from the constancy of moral judgment and eco-apocalypse mongering — and one that also didn’t represent a retreat into the mediocrity of middle class liberalism.

Thus, I was attracted to flamboyant “hip pariahs” who were very un-left, politically incorrect… even, in some cases, right wing.

There was the glam rock rebellion against blue denim hippie populism. These performers insulted egalitarianism by dressing and performing in ways that set them apart from their generation’s rock audiences . (Naturally, good old Mick Jagger was the major rock god who didn’t need to change to be a part of it.) David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed all nipped — in interviews and lyrics and musical styles — at assumed countercultural values while also mocking, at least, cultural conservatism by their very androgynous existences.

I gobbled up materials on, or by, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali — each, in their way, pariah outcasts from political decency — particularly Dali.

By being an unsane solipsistic monarchist, loving money, supporting the fascist Francisco Franco, Dali seemed to me to be the purest of surrealists, running with his subconscious atavistic impulses against the earlier sympathies of the surrealists with the left and developing an utterly inexcusable (sometimes when I say that aspects of my story and my mind are inexcusable, I’m not just using colorful language. I mean it literally.) but original persona. His autobiographical and philosophic texts defied logic in ways that seemed to me to be more genuinely playful and funny than his former fellow travels in 20th Century Surrealism who had long since denounced him.

Warhol played an even more important role in liberating my soul and psyche from the depths of resentment and rational piety since his very role in art and culture was to create a space free from judgment. While Andy was nominally a liberal, his deadpan consumerist art and aphorisms had a Zen quality — it could, paradoxically, cause you to embrace the flow of frozen moments and artifice for artifice’s sake by inducing silence in the chattering, protesting, judging brain. To properly experience Warhol was to almost stop thinking… in the best possible way… while still hanging on by a thread to a sense of humorous irony.

And then there was Dr. Timothy Leary. There was the legendary Leary… all that stuff about turning on tuning in dropping in the 1960s. I had read and enjoyed his book High Priest, but actually thought of him as something of an old guy who seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the youth culture. It was the Leary of the ‘70s that fascinated me. During the height of my own romantic infatuation with “The Revolution,” Leary had made a heroic prison escape. He had been spirited away by the guerrilla warriors of the Weather Underground and had shown up in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver’s exiled Black Panther chapter, pronouncing unity between the psychedelic and leftist and black revolutions and promising to help Cleaver form a revolutionary US government in exile. At that time, all of these people — Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, Eldridge Cleaver, Timothy Leary, Stew Albert who led a contingent of Yippies over there to cement the alliance — were icons to me, more or less on a par with The Beatles and The Stones (or at least, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix).

Then, after conflicts with Cleaver — and just as the buzz of the revolution was souring, he had disappeared, showing up only in a few gossipy pieces that portrayed him hanging out with fellow exile Keith Richards and issuing bon mots that were more of the flavor of Oscar Wilde than Che Guevara.

Then, he was caught in Afghanistan and shipped back in chains to the USA facing a lifetime in prison. And not long after that, rumors circulated that he was ratting out the radical movement. This was very depressing. But at the same time, occasional interesting signals emerged — usually published in the underground press — from Folsom Prison where he was being held. Strange little quotes about being an intelligence agent for the future; about “offering the only hopeful eschatology around today;” about dna being a seed from outer space; about “going home” to galaxy central and human destiny being in the stars; about how he was writing a “science faction” book. Odd signals not fully formed — nevertheless somehow intriguingly differing from the dour vibe emitted by the rest of those publications at that particular time. I couldn’t help myself. My mutant brain was already starting to find the apostate Leary’s signals refreshing. I was doomed to become a “science faction” mutant.

It was several years later, in 1976, that I came across an edition of Crawdaddy, a very cool rock magazine with regular columns by William Burroughs and Paul Krassner, that contained an article about the recently released Dr. Tim. The writer hung out with Tim as he wandered around NYC rattling off his ideas about SMI2LE — Space Migration Intelligence Increase Life Extension — sending up the first coherent transhumanist flare of the 20th Century. There was a picture of Leary in a business suit standing between the newly built twin towers wearing a smile that laughed out loud and pointing, almost violently, with his right forefinger upward to outer space. This was something new. The picture took its place on my wall in between the cover of the first Ramones album and the picture of Squeeky Fromme being arrested after her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

My final “conversion” to Learyesque transhumanism came in 1977. It was summer and my mother had the intuitive sense to hustle me away from Binghamton, where my friends were becoming junkies, and moved me early to the college town of Brockport New York where I would start school that fall. The town was empty and there was nothing to do. But there was a bookstore. I walked in and there — on prominent display — were two books by Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics. The latter also credited Robert Anton Wilson.

I read those books frontways and back and inside out. And then I read them again. It all resonated. It all made sense to me. It was a way of interpreting the world that respected my psychedelic experiences and my times within the counterculture and gave them a new context — one that hadn’t yet failed! These were now the evolutionary experiences of a premature mutant breaking at least partly free of the programming of an unhappy, repressive civilization so that I could move it towards a bright and expansive future. The expansiveness that had so energized and delighted me during the late 1960s and early ‘70s would now be — at least partially — a science project to literally expand our space and time and minds perhaps unto infinity.

I was excited, but I was also tentative. I paced around my small one room apartment. Was I crazy? Was I wrong? By now, self identifying as a 1977 spikey-haired hipster who liked to put his cheap punk nihilism unapologetically front and center (yes, trendiness haunts all my days), could I tell anybody about my philosophic attraction to the upbeat pariah and possible fink Dr. Leary? Actually, that’s something I still ask myself today, although it is clearly too late.

One final thought. Digging the works of all three of these characters are considered by many to be a display of bad taste. This was perhaps the greatest attraction — not just creating a mental space for from the maddening aging “new left,” but also thumbing my nose at intellectuals and critics.

Timothy Leary’s Great-ish Escape

An interview with Steven L. Davis, co-author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD.

On September 13, 1970, Timothy Leary escaped from a low security California prison by pulling himself on a high wire over a 12 foot chain linked fence topped with barbed wire. He was ferreted underground by the radical Weather Underground who helped him escape America. He ended up in Algeria with an exiled chapter of the Black Panther Party lead by Eldridge Cleaver.

All MONDO readers probably know this, but I thought I’d set the scene a bit.

While I was a participant in the late 1960s counterculture — to the extent that a high school student in a smallish town could be — I wasn’t particularly obsessed with Leary. I enjoyed reading his occasional piece in the underground press, but Abbie Hoffman was more my thing. Until the escape. After that, I developed a lifelong interest in his action adventure episode and how it impacted on his philosophical ideas.

That’s why I was excited to learn of the publication of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD  by Bill Minutaglio and Steve Davis.  The book doesn’t disappoint. The narrative is in present tense and fast forward. It’s a ripping yarn that bounces back and forth between Leary’s life on the lam and President Richard Nixon’s own personal delirium as he copes with the Vietnam war, extreme rebellion in the streets of America and his own obsession with capturing Leary. 

For those MONDO readers, who have followed Leary’s philosophical musings over the years, this period is kind of the last phase of Tim’s cosmic hippieishness. He comes across as deep into  mysticism; consulting the i Ching and the Tarot for strategic decisions and so forth. In some ways, his intellectual credibility would rely on things he wrote before this time and after it. And yet, I think he gained a lot, in terms of sophistication and insight from the experience, that showed up in his later writing.

I interviewed Steve Davis about the book via email

R.U. Sirius

Timothy and Rosemary Leary in disguise, leaving “Amerika”

R.U. There are a number of things that are illuminated for Leary fanatics (as many Mondo readers are) by your book. One of them is the degree to which many of the ultra-radicals of that crazy period in the early 1970s were not really Tim’s friends. Particularly the lawyer, Michael Kennedy. What can you tell us about this “alliance”?

Steve Davis: Well, you can see this alliance of “dope and dynamite,” as Michael Kennedy enjoyed calling it, play out throughout the book. In some sense both Tim and the radical left were using each other for their own purposes. For Tim, of course, the revolutionary outlaws provided the means for his escape from prison – something he wanted desperately. But then of course once he climbed over the prison fence he entered a blind maze of new prisons – and as you say, these people did not have Timothy Leary’s best interests in mind, from the Weather Undeground demanding his rhetorical fealty to their vision of a violent revolution to Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers demanding that Tim renounce LSD and join them in calling for Death to the Fascists. On and on it went. Tim had to keep shape-shifting to save his own skin. He basically became a pawn of both the far left and the far right (Nixon and his cronies) during this era – and of course when everything ended and he looked back on it, he realized that the law-and-order struggles between the far left and the far right were two sides of the same coin. I think the experience made him suspicious of any alliance after that. Hell, it would do the same to any of us! Read more “Timothy Leary’s Great-ish Escape”

No. I’m not on Facebook

Chamath Palihapitiya

by Woody Evans

After watching this interview with Chamath Palihapitiya a couple of weeks ago, one of the early developers of Facebook, I deleted my social media accounts.  Well, I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I had to keep my Goodreads (I’m a librarian, suckers!).

Palihapitiya talks about the deliberate use of dopamine and positive feedback built into social media — we get a buzz when we’re friended or liked — and he talks about the dangers of that model for individuals and society.  I realized that I was checking in on Facebook and Twitter several times a day and getting almost nothing from it.  A meme from my wife now and then, a like from a distant cousin or loving Auntee if I posted a pic of my son, or a 💖on Twitter for floating some political pith: gossamer bits of external validation through a screen that fits in my pocket.  So I dropped it.

Immediately I wanted to share things!  I wanted to tweet out fundraising campaigns for political issues important to me, and I found myself longing to amber fleeting family moments into Facebook posts — my son fencing a dry bout at a local gym, my wife’s work on a new knitted shawl, my cat peeking out above a paper screen.  It was less about the ‘like’ and the retweet, and more about the archiving of these passing intimacies.  Not relying on a living, multi-media scrapbook, as I had done for some ten years, how would I organize what was important enough to ‘share’?  How did my memory work before 2006, and how would it work differently in 2018 and beyond?  I’m going to carry these concerns around for a while, no doubt, but the possible value of this cold turkey experiment seems worth it to me — though the librarian in me wants the archive, of course.

My demeanor is mellowing.  My outrage is becoming less spikey and more ember-like.  Rather than tweeting my representatives in government, I’ve called their offices and written to them more often.  And rather than watching my homelife for “social media moments”, I’m sinking more deeply into the baldness of chopping onions, of dusting picture frames, and of petting my dog.  For years I’ve blabbered plenty about the importance of living in the here and now, all the while letting a layer of “there” and “then” mediate my private moments — a sense of performance had crept into things.  The mediating filter, by letting more and more through, had altogether stopped doing its job.

I don’t know which way this may snap and mutate, but for now, for today, I am having conversations in real time with real people, or spending purposeful time on emails and pen-and-ink correspondence, and taking things more slowly.

I know that I’m going to miss a lot of breaking news, a lot of cool pics and poems, and a lot of smart retorts.  I also know I can live with that deficit.

 

Woody Evans is a librarian from Southern Mississippi living now in North Texas.  His work appears in Blunderbuss Magazine, Boing Boing, Rain Taxi Review, Teknokulturaand many others

See Also Previous Woody Evans Article

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Pink Lexical Goop: The Dark Side of Autocorrect

 

By Dmitry Mazin.

Illustrations by Sean McOmber.

We’ve awaited the age of artificial intelligence for decades. In our fantasies, AI is usually humanoid, straight out of the Jetsons. But while we anticipate the great arrival of the robotic butlers, AI has, in fact, already quietly permeated the fabric of our daily lives — from shopping, to driving, to communication.

Consider autocorrect, an AI-driven input assistant so ubiquitous that you likely don’t even realize how much it impacts your life. Without it, typing on a smartphone would be exceedingly difficult. That utility comes with a price, however, as autocorrect has begun to significantly alter the way we communicate.

Though you probably first encountered autocorrect as telltale squiggly red lines under your spelling mistakes, its breakthrough came with the smartphone. As you mash the tiny keys on your phone’s virtual keyboard, a sophisticated language model, working behind the scenes, determines which keys you actually intended to press. The iPhone, for example, invisibly enlarges those keys you are likely to hit next, so they are harder to miss[1]. Naturally, spelling is automatically checked in the process. This hybrid of input assistance and spellchecking is what we now know as autocorrect.

Prior to autocorrect, spellcheck was constrained to word processors. Its impact was limited, affecting primarily formal documents like letters and essays. Now, thanks to autocorrect, which mediates everything typed on a smartphone — casual and formal speech included — spellcheck is essentially universal. While the Standard English which spell check enforces may be preferable within the context of a formal document, this isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere.

Autocorrect’s insistence on “ducking” (instead of the much coarser exclamation) is infamous, but its rigidity goes beyond cursing. If you actually prefer the spelling “miniscule,” you must wrestle with autocorrect. And because actual humans adapt quickly to change (and even anticipate it), a human-edited dictionary like Merriam-Webster actually includes words that autocorrect doesn’t, such as “abridgement.”

Autocorrect fundamentally alters English. Since there are many ways to spell most English sounds, its spelling tends to drift. Autocorrect slows this evolution, enforcing Standard English in spaces where novel or informal spellings would have previously gone unmolested. Indeed, a 2011 study concluded that in a 20-year period prior to the introduction of autocorrect, spellcheck was already largely responsible for an accelerating death of English words, while the creation of new words contracted sharply, causing an actual shrinkage of the English lexicon[2].

Nevertheless, autocorrect undeniably provides a net benefit. Using our smartphones would simply be intractable without it. However, a new class of input assistant AIs operates on a level beyond spelling, affecting the very way we choose our words. These AIs cross into dangerous territory, threatening to render the English language into lexical pink slime.

In 2014, years after the iPhone’s initial release, typing on a smartphone apparently remained too slow[3]. With iOS 9, Apple launched a new product called QuickType, a small bar above the keyboard which automatically suggests the next word in a sentence, dramatically reducing the need for typing itself. “Typing as you know it might soon be a thing of the past,” Apple promised[4]. For simple phrases like “on my way,” QuickType works perfectly, and for more complex phrases, its suggestions are often good enough. Read more “Pink Lexical Goop: The Dark Side of Autocorrect”

Facecatraz: Becoming the Warden or Facebook as Penal Colony

or

How Facebook is becoming the digital Alcatraz of Social Media

by E.F Fluff

Written early 2016, extract from a larger work

A few weeks ago, for reasons still unknown to me, my Facebook account was suspended. Upon attempting to login, I was directed to a page requesting various types of ID to prove I was who my profile said I was. The foremost of these request was a scan of my passport with its ID number unobscured.

I am remaining anonymous for a variety of reasons including but not limited to needing to remain hidden from the man who attempted to blind and kill me. The same man I am trying to prosecute; the same man who has since been convicted of unrelated attempted manslaughter. With no information privacy or safety guarantees and the knowledge that this information would be handled by obtuse “subcontractors” and given their poor track record in everything, I provided Facebook with real documents with the artist pseudonym I have used for over seven years. None of them included a photo, as I have never linked a photo to that account.

Other equally intrusive options are available, though a quick search of the net will tell you depressing stories of people whose IDs were not accepted, even one or two whose passport were, apparently, not accepted. In some cases, people are using their real names or names slightly altered, (middle name spelt different, a common nickname such as Bob, no surname etc.).

There are very few times in life you will ever be required to provide your passport with its number.

Border control upon entering and leaving a country. Registering as a foreign resident in a country. Opening a bank account in a foreign country as a freelance worker. In some places, dealings with welfare or perhaps, when going to prison.

The passport is a very important document and was historically a document of “safe conduct.” Passport-like documents can be traced back to the Bible. With the current refugee crisis, it is clear the importance of the document has not diminished.

For example, in Finland, male citizens aged 18–30 years require military approval, or must prove that they have completed, or are exempt from, their obligatory military service to be granted an unrestricted passport. Otherwise, to ensure that they return to carry out military service, a passport is issued that is valid only until the end of their 28th year. Other countries with obligatory military service, such as Syria, have similar requirements. In Ireland, you do not own your passport; it is essentially on loan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Government.

For a company such as Facebook to begin requesting passports, drivers licenses, employment pay stubs and other varied forms of confidential ID, you would think they were an extension of a State body rather than a stealth advertising company whose largest commodity is its “free” users. Users whose information it corrals and spins into billions. Some people are there by choice, other’s are there against their better judgement but feel compelled to use it due to its huge reach. One could possible draw analogies to the Prison-Industrial Complex, where prisoners become the bread and butter commodity, spinning money any way they are turned, in subsidies, contracts and penal labour.

In these days of doxxing, identity theft and swatting, the maxim should be, “You don’t know me, and that, unless I decide otherwise, is the way I want it.” Indeed, we should encourage obfuscation of identity, for safety, for cultural richness and truth-telling.

Increasingly, Facebook is being used as a means to background and credit check. Now, unless carefully hidden with maintained privacy and anonymity settings, soon your disparate Read more “Facecatraz: Becoming the Warden or Facebook as Penal Colony”

Richard Stallman : Last of The True Hackers? (MONDO 2000 flashback 1989)

When Richard Stallman first arrived at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab there were no officially sanctioned users of the equipment, no passwords, no security, no special privileges. Stallman liked it that way. But the retrenchment that was the 70s hit the MIT lab a few years after Stallman’s arrival. Passwords were assigned to Officially Sanctioned Users. So Stallman broke the computer’s encryption code and was able to get to the protected file that held people’s passwords. Stallman started sending people messages which would appear on the screen when they logged onto the system: “I see your password is (such and such). I suggest that you switch to the password ‘carriage return.’ It’s much easier to type, and also it stands up to the principle that there should be no passwords.”

Stallman is the inventor of the original, much-imitated EMACS editor. He also worked on the Lisp operating system and has worked extensively on compilers, editors, debuggers, command interpreters and the Incompatible Timesharing System. His current project is GNU “What’s GNU? GNU’s Not Unix. It’s a complete Unixcompatible software system that’s being written to give away free to everyone who can use it.”

R.U. Sirius

 

THE ORIGINAL HACKERS


MONDO 2000:
We are talking to the last of the hackers.

RICHARD STALLMAN: My name is Richard Stallman, my rank is general nuisance, my cereal is frosted flakes. The term hackers was invented by Steve Levy. According to him, the true hackers were the ones at universities in the mid 60’s and into the early 70’s —they were working on large computers. Then the hardware hackers who designed the personal computers in the 70’s —they’re second generation. The third generation is the game hackers of the late 70’s and 80’s. So when he calls me last of the true hackers he means the last of that generation, the last person carrying on the attitudes and spirit of that generation.

M2: Would you agree that you’re the last holdout from that generation in terms of staying true to the hacker’s ethic ?

RS: It’s certainly true that a lot of them sold out. I don’t know if there actually is a hacker’s ethic as such but there sure was an MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab ethic. This was that bureaucracy should not be allowed to get in the way of doing anything useful. Rules did not matter —results mattered. Rules, in the form of computer security or locks on doors, were held in total, absolute disrespect. We would be proud of how quickly we would sweep away whatever little piece of bureaucracy was getting in the way, how little time it forced you to waste. Anyone who dared to lock a terminal in his office, say because he was a professor and thought he was more important than other people, would likely find his door left open the next morning. I would just climb over the ceiling or under the floor, move the terminal out, or leave the door open with a note saying what a big inconvenience it is to have to go under the floor . . . “so please do not inconvenience people by locking the door any longer.” Even now, there is a big wrench at the AI lab which is entitled “the 7th floor master key” to be used in case anyone dares to lock up one of the more fancy terminals.

 

The original hackers didn’t break security just to be naughty.

M2: So the ethic, to some extent, lives on. Would you say it permeates the computer industry, or a large portion of it ?

RS: The basic desire is widespread. But most people just think, “Boy, this company is stupid. They pay me a lot of money and then arrange for me to waste a lot of my time. Aren’t they silly? Well, it is their money.” So they’re bought and no longer have the morale to say, “Shit —I am not going to put up with this bureaucracy.”

The term hacker has come to be associated exclusively with breaking security. That isn’t what it is at all, but hackers were willing to state their total contempt for security people, because security was one form of bureaucracy.

First generation hackers would break security because it was in the way of doing something useful. Now a lot of kids do it ’cause it’s naughty. Though it is true that showing that you can break security that’s said to be unbreakable is a nice hack, the original hackers did not break security just to be naughty. We broke security if somebody had locked up a tool that you needed to use.

M2: A lot of kids who break security think of it as a challenge to get into a system.

RS: They’re caught up in playing a game where they and a system administrator are trying to show who’s more powerful. Which is a waste of time, and that’s the exact opposite of the original hackers’ intention. What happens is a system administrator puts in more security measures, and then the security breaker tries to beat those. It’s a waste of time and energy. A tedious, sick game.

System administrators don’t realize that by playing the game they keep it going. Most security measures don’t provide security. They simply raise the level of sophistication at which the game is played. The game gets in the way of people trying to do any work. Read more “Richard Stallman : Last of The True Hackers? (MONDO 2000 flashback 1989)”

Excerpt from 3 Essays on Virtual Reality: Overlords, Civilization, and Escape

by Eliott Edge

 

It is worth pointing out that we have been making virtual realities for a very, very long time. That language, spoken language, is the original code for hacking virtual reality. When you sit the children down around the fire and begin to tell the old, old stories and pictures rise out of the flames—that is virtual reality

We live in a condensation of our imagination.”

Terence McKenna

An idea that tended to ride alongside this “VR is covertly equivalent to civilization” reading arrived through my years in psychedelic publishing and research. I picked up a line supposedly attributed to Timothy Leary, but popularized by Robert Anton Wilson—Reality Tunnels. A reality tunnel refers to the cultural virtual reality and the belief system that you acquire through socialization, conditioning, and exposure; the psychosocial orthodoxy that arrives thanks to everything from your local place of worship, to your language, to the shape of your home. You are what your neighborhoods make you. We become our scenery and our scenes. We become the local VR. Indeed, VR headset technology is designed to throw us into a reality tunnel in the exact same way that walking through a metropolitan street boggles our senses into a very particular worldview.

One of Wilson’s well-known remarks on the reality tunnel:

We’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels. And when we begin to realize that we’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels, we find that it is much easier to understand where other people are coming from. All the ones who don’t have the same reality tunnel as us do not seem ignorant, or deliberately perverse, or lying, or hypnotized by some mad ideology, they just have a different reality tunnel. And every reality tunnel might tell us something interesting about our world, if we’re willing to listen.

Wilson also observed: “‘reality’ is always plural and mutable.”

I think that culturally, once early humans started speaking and thinking in terms of an animal world and a spirit world, or distinguishing between a waking world and a dream world, we began to plant the seeds of the VR dialogue. VR then, is a way of discussing the multilayered shared fantasy called the human world.

Appreciating the worldview-generating effects of reality tunnels, civilization, language, culture, media, architecture, and seeing how they were all very much like VR, captured my imagination. Even the otherwise simple standing stones dotting the British countryside have VR-generating “magical” effects. They activate the imagination. It wasn’t long after that the observation came to mind: “There is likely no more singularly important consideration than the consideration of alternative worlds, illusory worlds, projected worlds, and manipulable worlds.” That is—there is likely no deeper issue, in philosophy or otherwise, than that of the possibility of more than one world or one worldview. For a worldview is merely a virtual reality. This is Plato and his Cave.

Yet another event that pushed me beyond the veil of hyperspace was the fateful arrival into my reality tunnel of Tom Campbell, a NASA, Department of Defense, Army Technical Intelligence nuclear physicist and consciousness researcher who I discovered around 2008. Campbell, who has a résumé longer than most people’s arm, published a model of the universe as a virtual reality simulation in 2007 called My Big TOE: A Trilogy Unifying Philosophy, Physics, and Metaphysics. In it he describes the universe as a simulation, and our consciousness as the nonphysical computer that “renders” the physical universe into existence via the act of what physicists call “measurement.” Campbell’s major follow up to his book was a paper published online in March 2017, in the International Journal of Quantum Foundations, called “On Testing the Simulation Hypothesis,” which also focused on the issue of measurement and “wave collapse.” After Campbell, I started reading other scientists who wrote about nature and computation, virtual reality worlds, simulated universes, digital mechanics, video game thought experiments, and observations in nature that we have historically branded with the moniker ‘spooky.’ I devoured Nick Bostrom, Edward Fredkin, Brian Whitworth, Seth Lloyd, David Chalmers, Sylvester James Gates, Roger Penrose, Paola Zizzi, Zohreh Davoudi, John A. Wheeler, and other mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers who were also absorbed in the issues of computation, simulation, and virtual worlds. Brian Whitworth may have summarized the longstanding problems in physics best when he wrote in his essay Simulating Space and Time:

VR theory is only on the table because objective reality theory doesn’t explain modern physics. In an objective reality time does not dilate, space doesn’t bend, objects don’t teleport and universes don’t pop into existence from nowhere. We would not doubt the world’s objective reality if only it behaved so physically, but it does not. Adjectives like “strange”, “spooky”  and “weird” apply, and common sense concepts like object, location, existence, time and space simply don’t work. The world of modern physics doesn’t behave at all as an objective reality should.

It became clear that virtual reality was not just a philosophical or cultural issue; it was a deeply scientific one as well.

After all, a universe popping into existence seemingly out of nowhere for apparently no reason—completely with freakishly fine-tuned physical laws, as well as with all the matter and energy that will ever exist simultaneously—makes a hell of a lot more sense once you think of a computer hitting GO.

Read more “Excerpt from 3 Essays on Virtual Reality: Overlords, Civilization, and Escape”