I would like to — beforehand — renounce these unauthorized thoughts by… wait, who is it? … oh yeah, me. It is unthinkable to think unthinkable things in times such as these.
1: The Chaos Candidate/President
Upset the apple cart and see what rolls out? Jefferson Airplane sang in their 1969 anthemic song “We Should Be Together” “We are forces of chaos and anarchy… and we are very proud of ourselves.” The Sex Pistols offered the slogan “cash for chaos” and Chaos was a signifier on thousands of punkers tees and leather jackets. Well, we may have learned something about the limits of chaos as applied to practical matters such as political policy and many who loved chaos now curse the Chaos Presidency without looking back… but also, seemingly, without self-reflection.
Trump says whatever the fuck he pleases (well, maybe a bit cautious not to upset Vlad) and seems to enjoy performing provocatively. There’s an inkling of the prankster/trickster spirit. (If you’ve explored the legends of the trickster, you know it is not always or ultimately benign). Sure, he is just a dumpy old scammer, but there’s a bit of the mad glint in the eye when he’s gaslighting the entire world.
It’s problematic of course because it’s bullshit pretending to be facts in a situation that’s consequential but 20th Century countercultures embraced spontaneity and play and Trump’s randomness was appealing to a few old freaks. At a time when parents have been arrested for letting their kids walk down the street and in which “free range kids” has to be enunciated; a time of Tiger Moms and 12 rules for living… and in which “you better watch what you say” has gone from something we freaked out about when Ari Fleischer uttered it during the G.W. Bush years to something that is daily and retroactively enforced by public shaming and worse, the performance of spontaneity is a quality that can attract people and give a dopamine hit of pleasure.
Trump was also up against an uncomfortably constrained, poll-tested, cautious candidate. In contrast to Obama, who could be pretty natural and a bit spontaneous because of natural charisma and because moderation-with-some-progressive-ideals is who he actually is, Ms. Clinton was not just an uncomfortable campaigner. As someone with a managerial temperament, she’d learned and seen too much to not have conservative as well as progressive approaches towards various issues which made her feel conflicted in the role of simple advocacy. In other words, as a true believer, broadly, in the system, she had, from experience, evolved into a full-on neoliberal centrist establishment policy wonk. And she was not having much fun.
Democratic presidential candidates will likely have even more difficulty being spontaneous in 2020 as even the slightest verbal misstep may become a massive trigger.
3: Conspiracy Theory
Many counterculture types are deep — too deep — into conspiracy theory. The President is too deep into conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory is anti-establishment (unless it’s Colin Powell waving a vial of anthrax at the UN to prove something false about Saddam Hussein or … the Russians!). Therefore, such logic dictates, the president is antiestablishment… which he sort of is in a perverse way. He’s against obeying the established norms, but entirely in his own self-interest and in the interest of peculiar notions that 1: aren’t really against the system (well-policed state capitalism) and 2: don’t hold water.
With the recent FDA decision granting a Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA (i.e. Ecstasy) for PTSD, it seems like a fine time to revisit the first ecstasy experience from the unpublished, incomplete MONDO 2000 story (a different sort of MONDO 2000 book is in the works)
While I am thrilled with the continued movement of MDMA and other psychedelics towards social and political acceptance as therapeutic tools, the fact that this is mainly aimed at bringing soldiers to an inward acceptance of the hurt they gathered… and in some case, inflicted… in one of America’s perpetual overseas adventures raises some deep political questions. Not that I would deny our “wounded warriors” relief. They are not to blame for the poor choices of our political leaders. But it does raise the question whether — in a broader philosophical and political sense — we want the burden of going to war to be lightened and to what degree.
It also implies the potential for a drug that makes us calmly transcendent and all self-forgiving even in the act of war. This is, indeed, one of the conditions the military is looking to create for its supersoldiers.
Anyway, here are some excerpts about MDMA from the MONDO 2000 story…
The following entry is from the early part of the MONDO 2000 story, when “Somerset Mau Mau” and I were distributing the first newsprint edition of High Frontiers, the magazine that became MONDO.
From: “Chapter Six: Funky Punk Acid Rag”
A few weeks after publication, Bruce Eisner said that we really needed to hustle down to his and Peter’s hometown of Santa Cruz because there weren’t any copies available in the stores and people had already grabbed the few we had sent them for free. Also, it would be good to meet the folks in the Santa Cruz psychedelic community. We were invited to stay at Peter Stafford’s apartment.
We arrived at Peter’s place, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Entering a spacious two-room apartment with high ceilings and sunlight streaming in through huge picture windows, Eisner greeted us in the living room. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, there seemed to be a mild hubbub going on. We stood making small talk with Bruce as the door to this other room — it soon became clear it was a bedroom — would quickly open and close. Eventually the door opened and we could see a bunch of guys in a sort of ill-formed circle around the very tall Peter Stafford, so that we could just see his naked chest, goofy grinning laughing face and wildly flailing arms. Everybody seemed to be arguing with Peter. Bruce sighed. “Peter likes to get naked when he’s high,” he said. We assured Bruce that we had no problems with anybody greeting us naked. Eventually, Stafford apparently compromised with his friends and came out to great us wearing a pair of white undies. We immediately fell into a rapture with Peter, as he excitedly ran us through a full course in his personal psychedelic history; tossing books he’d written or that he was mentioned in at us and waxing mega-enthusiastic — as I recall — about squeezing mescaline from a cactus among many other trippy matters.
Bruce Eisner: You might say Peter (Stafford) was the prototypical hippie. He probably was the first hippie, in my estimation, because I remember him growing long hair when he was living in Greenwich Village in 1963, 64. And he hitchhiked to Mexico with really long hair, and he was very boyish and good-looking in those days. I think he was one of the first people to really inspire the hippie movement. He actually used to publish these tabloids, in the Village. He published these special ones that looked kind of like The Oracle, but they were “Stafford Specials.”
And then the party began. As I recall, it was just drink and powerful weed. So the next few days were a blur of way-stoned, half-drunk but absolutely lucid lessons in drug history and psychopharmacology as preached by Peter, interrupted by brief forays around Santa Cruz to meet the local heads. Most impressive were two older women, probably in their ’60s or ’70s. Nina Graboi lived in a neatly furnished modest but brightly colored apartment with huichol peyote paintings on the wall. She had been the New York Director for the League of Spiritual Discovery (LSD), Timothy Leary’s earliest attempt at organizing to educate psychedelic explorers and defend their rights to trip. She had also worked with the legendary LSD psychotherapist Stan Grof. Mau Mau and I felt ourselves in the presence of deep psychedelic history.
The other elder was Liz Gips — a funky gal in baggy blue jeans who seemed to have the hint of a southern accent. I remember being very impressed with her intellect as she laid out the Santa Cruz psychoactive scene and told us about the radio show she hosted on a local public radio station. She invited us to come on her show to talk about High Frontiers a couple of days hence.
The last day of our planned visit arrived and I woke up irritated that we’d stayed so loaded that we hadn’t done what we planned to do. — go to the local bookstores and get them to take magazine. Mau Mau’s heavy drinking and lack of discipline weighed on me. People who wanted to just stay high were clearly too irresponsible to stay on mission… even when the mission was pretty simple. As everybody in the house came to consciousness, I pressed my case for getting out right away and getting to Santa Cruz bookstores with copies of the magazine. My plan was hazily agreed to, but bowls of weed were smoked and lazy conversations sputtered along until the morning was completely gone. I finally got openly pissed and Mau Mau and I got ready to haul ass out the door to distribute the ‘zines. Just as we were walking to the door, this absolutely perfect young blonde haired surfer-looking dude with blazing blue eyes and a blinding shiny white toothed grin walked in. “Does anybody want some MDMA?”
Here’s a partial transcript to shed some light on the situation.
The panel discussed the issue of valid data and how companies have become more concerned with whether they can sell an algorithm-driven software product, and less concerned with whether the damned thing works and who its results might affect, should they be inaccurate.
Lisa Rein: Okay first question: Are the software companies who are making these algorithm-based products are just selling them to whomever they can, for whatever they can apply them to? And if so, how can we stop this from happening?
These companies are powerful and getting larger and more powerful all the time. Yet, no one seems to care; even the companies buying the snake oil products; as long as they can resell the services somehow, and the money keeps coming in. What can we do?
Chelsea Manning: Me personally, I think that we in technology have a responsibility to make our own decisions in the workplace – wherever that might be. And to communicate with each other, share notes, talk to each other, and really think – take a moment – and think about what you are doing. What are you doing? Are you helping? Are you harming things? Is it worth it? Is this really what you want to be doing? Are deadlines being prioritized over – good results? Should we do something? I certainly made a decision in my own life to do something. It’s going to be different for every person. But you really need to make your own decision as to what to do, and you don’t have to act individually. We can work as a community. We can work as a collective entity. People in technology, we’re not going to be able to explain to people – all this stuff. People know that everything’s messed up, and they know that things are messed up because of the algorithms that we have. We’ve educated them on that. They understand that. They understand that viscerally, because they see the consequences and the results of these things that are happening every day.
The problem is that people in technology aren’t paying attention, and even some of us who are paying attention, aren’t doing anything about it. We’re waiting for somebody to do something about it. Somebody else isn’t going to do it. We’re going to have to do it ourselves.
Caroline Sinders: Even if you feel like a cog in the machine, as a technologist, you aren’t. There are a lot of people like you trying to protest the systems you’re in. Especially in the past year, we’ve heard rumors of widespread groups and meetings of people inside of Facebook, inside of Google, really talking about the ramifications of the U.S. Presidential election, of questioning, “how did this happen inside these platforms?” – of wanting there even to be accountability inside of their own companies. I think it’s really important for us to think about that for a second. That that’s happening right now. That people are starting to organize. That they are starting to ask questions.
I think especially looking at where we are right now in San Francisco – inside the hub of Silicon Valley – in a space where it’s very amenable to protest is very amiable to supporting ethical technology. How do we build more support for other people. Is it going to spaces we’re not usually in? Is it going to other tech meet ups? Maybe. Is it having hard conversations with other technologists? Probably. How do we push the politics of our community into the wider spread community? We have to go and actually evangelize that I think.
Is the company even using the algorithm in the way it was intended to be used? Often a company purchases an algorithm that is made for one kind of analytics and it gets used for a completely different thing, and then you get these really skewed results.
Lisa Rein: Wait a minute. I can’t believe I’m asking this, but, are you saying that, as long as they like the results, nobody cares if the results are accurate?
Caroline Sinders: ‘How sure are we that it’s true?’ is not the question that I’m hearing in the conference room. It’s more like ‘we’ve gotten these results and these people have purchased it.’ or ‘It’s selling really well.’ Cause we are in the age of people building software as a product, capabilities as a product, APIs as a product. (Meaning that you buy access to an API that’s like a pipeline.) And if it’s returning certain results that a company can then use and put in a portfolio to sell to other different kinds of clients, like, it doesn’t actually matter how much it works, if it has the appearance of working; if it’s pumping out ‘results.’ So, I can’t speak to like academic verifiability of different kinds of APIs. I can speak to “that I have not ever heard people really talk about that.
Chelsea Manning: Yeah. I’ve had experience with this in particular… For verifiability of data, it’s purely academic. That’s what I’ve found. When you are working in a corporate or a business setting or whether your are working in a government setting – military context or whatever – it’s ‘results, results, results.’ Nobody cares how verifiable the data is. Everybody’s cutting corners. Everybody’s trying to meet deadlines. That’s why we — people in technology – we need to be thinking more ethically. We need to be very cognizant of the systems that we’re building, and not just sitting there, continually meeting deadline and meeting priorities that our set by our leadership, or by clients or by senior corporate, ya know, C Suite people.
You really need to think about what you’re doing. What the consequences of what you’re doing are. Because these (questions) are not happening, and they should be happening. In many cases, for some of these systems, maybe the question of whether we should be doing a system like this at all is a question that should be asked – at least asked, in some of these rooms. It’s not, and it’s not going to be.
Caroline Sinders: I think there is a big push though, if you work in industry software, to really understand the ethical ramifications of the products your using, or the software that you’re using, and how it effects your users. And how this effects even unintended bystanders – people that have not opted in to the system, or into the product, right? And that’s where you get into like, different surveillance systems, or systems that are in the whole vein of the Internet of Things, right? How many people are “accidentally” a part of a data set that they didn’t get to opt in to.
Kristen Lum: And in some cases, remember, you yourself can act as a sponge for accountability. Because now, let’s say you have a system that’s been purchased, that’s been created by “peer reviewed science” or very expensive technology, and it’s saying to do the thing that your organization kinds of wants to do anyway. Well, maybe do some research and show the people your working with, and say “hey we may be over policing this community.” Because, otherwise, it’s like “Hey, this software we spent all this money on is telling us to do it,” which gives them justification to do what they want to do anyway. So, try to maybe act like a buffer, between these viewpoints, by being able to ask, and question, ‘why are you doing that?’
Lisa Rein: Would opening up the “black box” solve everything?
Chelsea Manning: It’s not just that it’s a black box, even when the code is available to you, sometimes how it’s actually coming up with the predictions it’s coming up with — apart from doing pure math, when you’re trying to come up with something that’s understood by humans for an explanation, it can escape you sometimes. So I think that’s one of the dangers of depending on showing the entire algorithm. We have to fully understand these algorithms and not just see how they work from a code perspective or an algorithmic perspective.
What scares me with that is some of these algorithms being used in like, Bail hearings… You literally changing this person’s life, because they are going to stay in jail, because they are in a bail hearing, where an algorithm — made by some company — decided that you’re more predicted to be arrested. It’s not evidentiary in any way, but it’s being used in an evidentiary manner. It’s just a mathematical prediction based on false data — or poor data — and it’s actually tearing people’s lives apart. And it’s also feeding into this feedback loop, because they’re seen as being re-arrestable. Therefore, it reinforces the data set.
Kristen Lum: There are a lot of models now predicting whether an individual will be re-arrested in the future. Here’s a question: What counts as a “re-arrest?” Say someone fails to appear for court and a bench warrant is issued, and then they are arrested. Should that count? So I don’t see a whole lot of conversation about this data munging.
Caroline Sinders: Specifically, I think some of the investigative reporting that Pro Publica has done specifically on this is really worth highlighting.
(Editor’s Note: Parts of this partial transcript were rearranged slightly for flow and readability.)
I should’ve been a guru
Young girls for the pickings
Followers wash my asshole
And grown men weep at my face
I think I could’ve made a go
Smile always and act like I know
The perfect secrets of the cosmic wow
But it’s too late to be a guru now
I should’ve been a guru
Talk shows with Larry King
White robes in a limousine
A long beard and a big ring
I know I could’ve been at peace
A happy face and perfect teeth
Free eats off the sacred cow
But it’s too late to be a guru now
I should’ve been a guru
Sitting still up on a hill
No stress no mess
No sins to confess
No action no friction
Never watched Pulp Fiction
Just laugh while the people bow
But it’s too late to be a guru now
Offer her a lollipop
Offer her some gum
Offer her most anything
Don’t offer her my gun
Offer her de Beauvoir
Or offer her de Sade
Keep your knees together
Have some faith in god
If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s go off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
Such a lovely pair
Offer her a role in porn
Offer her revolt
Offer her most anything
Offer her your scorn
Offer her some Tribe8
Offer her Genet
Keep your shit together
Fall to your knees and pray
If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘Cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s go off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
Such a lovely pair
lyrics from original 1982 version, some not used in this version
He is the air controller
You are the air
The people are proud of their father
He’s got a neutron charge card
He’s a mighty tough customer
He’s the glorious defender of the homeland
He just might play tough with ya
President Mussolini makes the planes run on time
Oh dig it little Arabella
He’s a strong man
Keep ‘em flyin’
Newspapers scream “He’s a winner.”
Nobody’s sayin’ what’s being won
Actor image – no content
What exactly is being done?
Send a little aid down south just to
Kill a few San Salvador nuns
Down in South Africa on civilized business
Trying to get gold for guns
Couldn’t be easier to know just what to do
If you were holding out all the money
Just a-looking for an easy going mechanic of depression
And then to wind up with your teeth against the wire fence
Wind up in the smallest of worlds crotch to the angriest lips
One deadly little spasm in the B.F. Skinner cancerteria
One deadly little spasm and what did this money buy?
Keep ‘em flying
Recorded by R.U. Sirius & Party Dogs, remix by Phriendz
Vocals by R.U. Sirius
Image by Chad Essley
Music by Matt Sabo/Party Dogs, Remix by Tommy McKaughan/Phriendz
Matteo Borri is an inventor and engineer in San Rafael, California that is currently working with NASA and the Mars Society. His chlorophyll detector will be included on the equivalent of the next Mars Rover.
Matteo’s company, Robots Everywhere LLC, has been working with NASA to create three different prototypes for detecting Chlorophyll in unchartered territory. These devices use “chlofluorescence” to detect the presence of Chlorophyll. They are all handheld devices that can be used indoors or outdoors, and are often operated using a simple Android phone.
LR: So how did you discover this technique for detecting Chlorophyll?
MB: I got the idea from an experiment I did in college. I wanted to build a day-for-night filter that didn’t use any post processing. What I ended up with instead was a filter that would show green fabric one color, and green plants of the same hue another color. Adding a laser to that in order to only “trip” the right fluorescent frequency was done by trial and error.
LR: And when we are detecting Chlorophyll, we are essentially looking for “life” on another planet, right? MB: Yes. Mars is not seismically active like for example Europa is, so the Sun would be needed to put energy into anything living. If it doesn’t use chlorophyll, it will use a molecule that has to work in a similar way, so it will have to react to sunlight in a similar way.
LR: So, what’s “chlofluorescence” exactly? Is it as simple as a color shade? Or is there something more complex being detected?
MB: Chlorophyll is a lot more efficient than solar panels, but it’s not 100% efficient. So, it transmits out some of the light it receives back out. The tricky part is detecting it! It’s a bit like trying to see a weak LED turning on or off in sunlight.
LR: So was the review basically: This works great! Except 1) we need to make sure a flourescent green sharpy marker doesn’t work and 2) we need a larger interface to accommodate the astronauts clunky gloves? 🙂
MB: Yes. There are a few false positives, notably green fluorescent markers — not a big surprise there given that they are green and fluorescent! — but if we find those on Mars, well, someone has beat us there. As for the gloves, it was a complaint from a research team: the real instrument is not going to have a touch screen, but it was cheaper to wire in a phone (with a touch screen) as the camera and CPU than work from scratch, for the purpose of this test.
LR: Tell me about this stuff you invented to help Puerto Rico. It is really interesting. The solar cell phone charger and the thing you call a “Vampire Charger,” that enables you to get whatever battery power is left out of any battery without the danger of blowing up your phone if the voltage doesn’t match.
MB: Yes. I named it the “Vampire Charger.” It is an inefficient but flexible device which will take any voltage that you might find in the world – from 1.5 volts to 12 volts – to even 110! (That’s when it stops, as 220 will blow it up, but 220 is not a common voltage in the U.S., so if you’re over here, it’s not a problem. I’ll have to come up with an European adapter 🙂
LR: So this is for when something bad has happened, obviously, and you need whatever power you can get, right?
MB: Yes. The idea is that you can use it with any kind of source of power that still works. You don’t know the voltage, you don’t know the current. You don’t even know which is plus and which is minus. You don’t even know if it’s AC or DC!
Since the early 90’s, publications such as Mondo 2000 have brought a subversive and countercultural relevance to the consistently evolving (yet not always radical) tech industry. Focusing on a passionate new world in which VR, AI, music, visual art, audio experimentation, and live performances combine; mutants/freaks/pioneers in this provocative space between art and technology have carried on the torch to create their own festivals, projects, and temporary autonomous zones.
From tech salons like the BIL Conference and the Extreme Futurist Festival, to electronic music events and communities such as GOGBOT and LoveTech, a new history is being written for makers and innovators who see outside the corporate world of tech. In the accelerating 2000’s, this evolving demographic is leading the charge through an intoxicating fusion of art, science, creativity, AI-generated music, experimental live performances, crypto-communities, biohacking, digital philosophy, fashion technology, and more.
On the front lines of this cultural movement is a collaborative organization in San Francisco called CODAME whose participants are gearing up to throw an ART+TECH Festival in early June of 2018. This ART+TECH event features gallery installations, screenings, and performances @ The Midway from June 4-7, 2018. Their theme this year is #ARTOBOTS, which zooms in on how automatons orchestrate so much of our lives through both our bodies and minds.
From the CODAME website:
“In the daily movements we make, the messages we send, and the sensations we experience, we already collaborate with [bots] in increasingly varied, tactile and tangible ways. Bots mediate our relationships with ourselves, each other and our environments. While many of these interactions are familiar to us, there are a myriad of ways to move, think, sense and feel with our lively machines.”
Events like CODAME are examples of the future going in a new radical direction envisioned by the early adapters of Mondo 2000. Dorkbot and RE/Search Publications also come to mind, as early Bay Area organizations that continue to influence this countercultural space today. Who says that the tech world must be full of boring and soulless robots who aren’t even literally robots? Who says that science can’t be a visionary world of spontaneous emergence and creative expression?
Technology must not lose its visionary edge. If we feel outnumbered, we can work to convert new markets into a more exciting world. We can show the public that technology is about conscious evolution and radical self expression as much as numbers and spreadsheets. We can paint the landscape with #ARTOBOTS and more, providing an electrifying future for our generation to participate in. Through these festivals and communities, our entire species can be radically transformed.
The Annual ARTS + TECH takes place June 4 – June 7 at The Midway in San Francisco
Edward Snowden:Thank you. (Applause.) I’m never going to get used to this. (Standing ovation at the Internet Archive)
There are a lot of things that can be said about John Perry Barlow, or, as I called him, JPB. He was a good man. He was a brave man. He was an original thinker. This was an incredibly talented charismatic individual.
He had no obligation to live a life that was touched by the struggles and challenges and politics that we’re made to deal with and confront every single day. For many of us, it’s not a choice. We have no alternative. We have no special talent. We are not rock stars. But he chose to side with us. He chose that. And it is that shrewdness that I think is the mark of highest distinguishment for his character.
This was a man who actively sought discomfort when he had every opportunity to sort of stay in bed with the wonderful and interesting people that were involved in his life, and he never lost this. In fact, as he got older, in the brief time that I knew, and I had the rare opportunity to share a stage with him, he became ever more politically involved. Ever more politically astute and ever more self-sacrificing.
This was a man who was not afraid to say things that others were not. This was a man who was not afraid to ask questions that would make people uncomfortable, and yet were necessary. And it was this trait that he put into the organization and lives that he was connected to that brought be forward.
One of the stories that is very little told in the media, perhaps untold, is this story: I’m sitting at the NSA as a high school dropout being paid an extraordinary amount of money to help build and run machines to spy on you. And there were over 30,000 people working at the NSA at the time. This was a comfortable life. This was an easy life. And it was certainly the path of least resistance for me.
Now I started out as a true believer.I too, had a choice, butas I climbed higher and higher levels of the government I gained access to more and more highly classified information. And eventually, I reached the sort of highest peak of security clearance. I realized that something wasn’t right. I realized that what was legal was not necessarily what was moral. I realized that what was being made public was not the same as what was true. And eventually this reached the point where we had the most senior intelligence official in the United States government, General James Clapper, who went before Congress, and swore an oath to tell the truth nothing but the truth. You know, we’ve all heard it. And he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA spying on millions, or hundreds of millions, of American’s communications.” The general immediately starts sweating, rubs his head, realizes he’s on camera. Thinks about it for a second. He’s gotten these questions 24 hours in advance. And he says “No. No sir. Not wittingly.”
This was a problem that John Perry Barlow understood, even though he didn’t know exactly how that was a lie. He knew it didn’t sit right. He talked to me about this after the fact, after I had come forward. But the idea here is this story from 2013 of the mass surveillance revelations was never about the surveillance. It was about democracy. What does it mean that when we have a system of government? When we have elected officials… when we have the highest powers in our country accountable the lowest standards of behavior. At the same time, if we break the smallest law, as ordinary people, we face the highest consequences.
Well, JPB created this organization, The Electronic Frontier Foundation,with his friends. He created the Freedom of the Press foundation, that I would later join myself and have the privilege of serving on the board with him. And the idea is this…. It’s an argument that he put to me when I shared a stage talking about the future of democracy. And I was talking about sort of where I thought the systems were breaking down; where things were working, and where they weren’t working in a very technical sort of engineer’s way, because I’m not a politician by training. And he said that he thought I was missing the point. He said, in the unique case of these United States the whole question of national security, this entire area of conversation topic, is being misrepresented by the government to the detriment of the public. “National security” doesn’t mean what they try to make you think it means. “National Security” is not about terrorism. “National security” is not about military.
“National Security” means the security of our founding principles. It’s not our borders. It’s not our culture. It’s not anything except those founding documents that we still profess to believe in. According to him. And if we are insecure in our beliefs and our willingness to protect and preserve those beliefs, thatis a threat to national security, and perhaps the only one that matters. Now I’m not even sure he knew this at the time, but when I was going about my sort of dark work at the NSA gathering information about crimes against the public on a previously unprecedented scale, I was wearing a hoodie from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was a parody of the NSA. When I came forward, it was in the very first photograph that was made public of me in Hong Kong, where I was meeting with journalists, to provide them this material, which then I lost access to. Because, I didn’t want to be exploited. I didn’t want to be the person who’s making the choices of what should and should not be made public. I felt this was the role of the fourth estate. This is the proper function; the necessary purpose of press in a free society. To contest the government’s monopoly control of information. As much as it’s wonderful when hackers go out and get this information for us — and as much as I think it is necessary for whistleblowers to share with us the information that we need to know — I wasn’t elected president of disclosure. And I don’t think anyone else is either. This is why the First Amendment is first.
In every free society, the legitimacy of government derives from a single principle; the consent of the governed. But that consent it only meaningful if it’s informed.What happens when we cast votes for politicians who make certain campaign promises, and then, not only do they not deliver on them, they actually expand the surveillance programs that they pledged to terminate. And this is that part of John Perry Barlow’s sincerity that I admired. And this is the reason, ultimately, that led me to many of the choices in life that I have made.
When I was a young man. I was reading his Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, and perhaps that may have been that seed of radicalization. I’ve said before that I used to work for the government and now I work for the public. I’m not sure JPB ever had any other allegiance. His love was for all of us. This is why he spent that long life that could have been so comfortable — so frictionless — constantly searching for the next thing. Constantly searching for the next struggle.
He told me on that same day — on that same stage — one of the things that he struggles with, is people who turn away. People who don’t think. People who are so in love with comfort that they forget that struggle is what drives us forward. He shared with me a saying that he says he got from the Navajo, which is the kind of thing that only an interesting guy like him could just pass off as a throwaway comment: “You can’t awaken somebody who’s pretending to be asleep.”
John Perry Barlow woke me up. He raised a message — sounded an alarm, that I think we all heard. He didn’t save the world. None of us can, but perhaps he started the movement that will. I want to thank him for everything that he did for me, for us, for the United States, and for this world. He was an incredible person. He was an inspiration to me and it was an honor to have known him. There is one thing that I I’d like to say from him, which I will keep with me for the rest of my life as I think about what comes next for myself and hopefully those of you in the room as well.
I said, when we’re looking at all of these problems that face the world today, that face our politics today: the partisanship, incivility, the inhumanity, the injustice that fills every conversation and we try to make the people who are in power confront that and fix it and do their jobs. I struggle with the question of how it is that we correct this. What is it that we’re supposed to do, and why is it that they feel so comfortable. And it came down, finally, to this feeling of immunity, of unaccountability, that these powerful institutions all seemed to enjoy. It didn’t matter whether it was the Attorney General breaking the law. It didn’t matter who was the CEO of Citibank breaking the law. They had a different standard behavior. And when they saw the world… when they saw the system… when they saw how much control they had and how little we had they said, “Well what are you going to do about ?”
And he sat, and he thought. Just a long pause on stage in front of so many people which is the kind of thing that only somebody like him could really get away with. I know I personally feel obligation to fill the silence. Then he said “The United States such as it is today exists to look at precisely that claim. “What are you going to do about it? And to answer that question, and to answer it right.”
Ladies and gentlemen the life of John Perry Barlow was an example to everybody. Thank you.
An interesting point was raised in a comment on an earlier article published at Mondo: To help even the playing ground, why don’t companies offer cash rewards for vulnerabilities so they can be patched prior to publication? This is not a new idea. Such operations are called bug bounty programs and have been around since 1995. the very first bug bounty program was instituted by Netscape (remember that?) as a way of improving their flagship product, Netscape Navigator. Other companies you may have heard of started doing the same thing about ten years later, in a much higher profile way. Github has one, Google and Facebook have them, some banks have them… I could go on and on, but there’s little point. There are even companies that specialize in running bug bounty programs, in effect administration, bounty payment and legal hassles.
Here’s the thing: They’re pointless.
Bug bounty programs are a feel-good way for wannabe white hats to find vulns and make a little pocket money on the side, with reduced risk of being sued or arrested. There are, of course, always exceptions to this rule because you can’t trust anybody or anything out to turn a profit. Typically, bug bounty reports require that an NDA be signed when submitting proof, which can mean that the hacker is forbidden from publishing their work on their own, and sometimes even talking about it. If you’re looking to build your rep and maybe pad your resume a little, unless you get the go-ahead after publication you wasted your time. There is also only the say-so of the company running the program that any bugs found will actually be fixed which, if the internet of shit community is any indication, more than a wish and less than a fart. Even governments and militaries have gotten into the cash-for-vulns business.
It is common for bug bounty programs to declare anything really interesting or sensitive off limits. Of course, this means that anything with a security classification, personnel records, schedules, medical records… things they actually need to worry about protecting don’t get probed by anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in taking them for all they’ve got and staying out of sight. While there is some value in probing only public facing services, as we learned from Gary McKinnon it’s off the reservation where the really interesting things are hiding. As if that wasn’t enough, a lot of bug bounties pay a pittance at best. For the longest time Yahoo (for example) would pay at most $12.50us for a vulnerability found anywhere in their infrastructure, and that was after people got fed up with their crappy t-shirts that only lasted two washes.
Of course, if you just want to earn some decent money for your work – fame being one of the enemies of the hacker at large, of course – you can sell weaponized 0-days on the black market for several tens of thousands of dollars if you don’t want to go into business for yourself building and running botnets or extortion rackets. Governments are sometimes, depending on the severity and overall utility of the vuln willing to pay in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars for 0-days that can be used offensively. It is rumored that the United States government paid $100,000us for a working copy of the infamous MS08-067 vulnerability almost a year before Microsoft found out about it. I haven’t been able to confirm this (mostly because the person who originally found it politely turned down the job I offered him.) Apple’s iOS, which is widely touted as the most secure mobile OS definitely has at least one true 0-day in each release (otherwise there wouldn’t be any such thing as jailbreaking), but why in the world would you sell your work to Apple when you could sell it to a vulnerability reseller and make well over a million dollars for a couple of days of dicking around?
A couple of hundred bucks at most compared to more significant digits than most people will ever see in their whole lives. The math’s not hard.
Renketsu Link is one of the senior otaku of the Tanpa Supai Kai, an industrial espionage contractor headquartered in Hokkaido, Nihon. Beginning as a lowly copy protection cracker, Link swiftly rose to the position of chief network infiltration specialist with a concentration on data exfiltration. Link has pioneered multiple strategies and techniques for making CISOs commit seppuku and BOFHs go on shooting rampages in the NOC before swallowing thermite grenades.
John Gilmore, EFF Co-founder and MAPS Board Member, joined the stage with Shari Steele (Executive Director, Tor Project, Former Executive Director, EFF), Joi Ito (Director of the MIT Media Lab), and author Steven Levy. Most of the day was about cyberspace rights and the First Amendment, but then the conversation took a fitting turn toward psychedelics and consciousness, specifically: data, information, experience, and the differences between them.
There are probably 25 million Americans who have taken LSD. They would, if hard pressed in private, also tell you that it profoundly changed their lives, and not necessarily for the worse. I will readily grant that some of these are hopeless crystal worshippers or psychedelic derelicts creeping the Oregon woods, but far more of them are successful members of society — CEOs, politicians, ministers and community leaders. This is true whether we want it to be or not, but the fact that so few among those millions dare utter this truth is, in a supposedly free country, a symptom of collective mental illness.
Now that the worst of the war between the 50s and the 60s may be over, perhaps it may become possible. Many people may be able to do as they ought to have done decades ago. Like the peculiarly honest Steve Jobs and the peculiarly lucid John Perry Barlow and the peculiarly persistent Rick Doblin and the merely peculiar John Gilmore, and say in public there was a moment, years ago, when I took LSD, and whatever the immediate consequences, it made of me a different person than I would have been, and different in ways I have been grateful for all this time. By the way, everything I’ve said so far is literal quotes from Barlow, just slightly rearranged.
And so is this: “One can make a non-ludicrous case that the most important event in the cultural history of America since the 1860s was the introduction of LSD. Before acid hit American culture, even the rebels believed, as Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman implicitly did, in something like God-given authority. Authority, all agreed. derived from a system wherein God, or dad… or more often both, was on top and you were on the bottom. And it was no joke. Whatever else one might think of authority; it was not funny. But after one had rewired oneself with LSD, authority, with its preening pomp, its affection for ridiculous rituals of office, Its fulsome grandiloquence and, sublimely, its tarantella around mutually assured destruction, became hilarious to us… and there wasn’t much we could do about it.
No matter how huge and fearsome the puppets, once one’s perceptions were wiped clean enough by the psychedelic solvent to behold their strings and the mechanical jerkiness of their behavior, it was hard to suppress the giggles. Though our hilarity has since been leavened with tragedy and loss, and a more appropriate sense of our own foolishness; we’re laughing still. LSD is illegal primarily because it threatens the dominant American culture. The culture of control.
Well that’s what Barlow thought, and after studying how to end the drug war for a few decades, I tend to agree. I think that Rick Doblin’s approach is the most promising path toward ending the collective mental illness that Barlow diagnosed. Rick is using psychedelics in FDA approved clinical trials, successfully treating traumatized, out of control women and soldiers, bringing them back into self control. This is gradually removing psychedelics from the counterculture and making them less threatening to the culture. Read more “The Difference Between Data, Information & Experience As ‘Splained by J.P. Barlow”
At this stage of the adventure, we’re still running a magazine called High Frontiers, getting towards our second edition or maybe just after it, which took over a year. When I started the adventure that became MONDO, I was imagining philosophizing and publishing and tripping only occasionally. Fortunately, at least from an experiential point of view something like the reverse actually took place for the first several years.
The following is excerpted
One of the longest strangest trips during this time really didn’t happen during the peak of the experience but during the sleepless day following it. We’d taken a strong acid dose the previous evening up at Tennessee Valley, and us three High Frontiers mainmen (Lord Nose, Mau Mau and myself) started to make our way down to Lord Nose’s car for our return to civilization. At some point, as we walked along the trail, we all had the same uncanny sense that we were coming down into a different universe than the one that we had started in — like we were characters in a Philip K. Dick novel. We sort of all started expressing this at the same time. We were reassured when we got in the car and found our way back to Mill Valley and nothing in that quaint little upscale village appeared to have changed. Lord Nose dropped us off at Mau Mau’s place and headed home for San Francisco. By the time we’d settled in, it was around 11 am so we stopped at this great little quickie burrito spot. We walked in and the guy in front of us on line was naked! We tittered… but we were both thinking, “Oh, OK. We actually did come down into an alternate universe.” The guy behind the counter just shrugged and said, “He does that all the time.” I’d never seen him before and I haven’t seen him since.
We got over the naked guy but we were still wide awake. I called Terence McKenna from a pay phone to get his take on whether we had come down into some kind of parallel reality. He howled with laughter. So we bought a six pack of beer and went to this sort of wretched little beach that’s right next to San Quentin Prison. It’s a rather horrendous location. We sat and brownbagged beers and listened to the San Francisco new wave station on my boombox.
We had recently become aware that Robert Anton Wilson was available to speak. He was touring around, setting up speaking engagements in a really cheap DIY operation — it wasn’t through an agency or anything like that. He was available to speak for $500.
Somehow we had got the idea that we should do it on a houseboat in Sausalito where Alan Watts — America’s most original and most eloquent sort of psychedelic Zen philosopher — had lived and held court for many years. And we got it in our head to go over there right then and check it out — see who was there or what was up with this semi-famous locale.
So there we were, still loaded from the strong acid, and having downed three beers each — and when you do that, the sort of acid trails that trippers are familiar with become sort of pleasantly blotchy. And we got to the houseboat, knocked on the door and this very wiry old women, sort of hunched over, looking very brittle, with a long nose and scratchy voice answered. Or at least that’s how she seemed to me in the moment — she was like the spitting image of an old crone. She told us she was the current caretaker for the place and she was very down and unhappy. The houseboat, she told us, was going to be taken away by some nefarious schemers. She went on with a litany of miseries and complaints for probably an hour while we just stood there in the doorway dumbfounded. Even the sky went from sunny to overcast. It was spooky.
(We later learned that she was at some intersection between a housesitter and a squatter)