Steal This Singularity – The Yippies Started The Digital Revolution

 Steal This Singularity 1: The notion that the current and future extreme technological society should not be dominated by Big Capital, Authoritarian States or the combination thereof. Also related, a play on the title of a book by 1960s counterculture radical Abbie Hoffman. 2: The notion that in our robotized future, human beings shouldn’t behave robotically. The well-rounded posthuman — if any — should be able to wail like a banshee, dance like James Brown, party like Dionysus, revolt like Joan of Arc and illuminate the irrational like Salvador Dali. 3: The title for a website in which R.U. Sirius says and does as he pleases.

Addendum: Steal This Singularity has almost nothing to do with the notion that we will develop Artificial Intelligences that are smarter than us or that if such a thing were to happen it would be a “singularity.” I just like the name.

In 1971, a revolutionary prankster/celebrity named Abbie Hoffman, who had started the radical group the Yippies (Youth International Party) released Steal This Book, a manual for living on the fringes of a wealthy society by grabbing up some free shit from corporate powers while committing some Blows Against the Empire.

See, 1971 was the last year that the vanguard of the counterculture thought that they were going to make a total cultural and political psychedelic/anarchistic/left wing revolution before realizing… fuck it. Let’s campaign for McGovern.

But more to my point here and the milieu it attempts to speak to… true story… the Yippies started the phreakin’ “digital revolution!” To wit: The hacker culture started as the phone phreak culture. The phone phreak culture came out of the Steal This Book attitude about getting free shit from the detritus of corporate culture, in this case, the phone company. The first legendary phone phreak, John Draper aka Captain Crunch, who built the blue boxes, used to hang out at 9 Bleeker Street, NYC, Yippie headquarters. The first magazine that focused primarily on phone phreaking was YIPL (Youth International Party Line), which was started by Hoffman and “Al Bell.” In 1973, it transmorgified into TAP, which is more broadly remembered as the initiatory phone phreak periodical.

Phone phreaks were computer hackers. Draper famously noted that the phone system “is a computer.” From this milieu, the personal computer arose. Famously, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak funded the birth of the Apple by selling Blue Boxes So, you see, I stand on solid-if-hallucinatory historical ground today as I sound a Hoffmanesque note towards The Singularity Or Something Like It.

See Also Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary (Excerpt)

 

Steal This Singularity Part 1 (2012)

 

To wit: the clever, logical, programming/engineering monkey-mind should not be allowed to instantiate its limited idea of humanity, the universe and everything, on… well… humanity, the universe and everything.

by R.U. Sirius

It was at the end of the first day of the Singularity Summit 2012 when Ben Popper — the dude from The Verge who I’d spoken to by phone approached. “What do you think?” he asked. It’s been pretty interesting, I responded earnestly.

The absence of a superlative was perhaps telling, but I was not in the mood to think on it more deeply. Ben agreed. And then Eve and I made a wrong turn heading back to the North Bay and we found ourselves moving at a crawl through Chinatown.

Chinatown was throbbing with biological life of the human sort. Old Chinese women were inspecting vegetables on display outside of stores. A group of older men stood on a street corner just hanging out and talking.  The streets were packed to overflow with people going about their early Saturday evening activities.  I don’t think I saw anybody smiling, but I had the sense that people were enjoying their familiar activities.

Once home, I decided to finally watch I’m Still Here, the Casey Affleck film documenting Joaquin Phoenix supposed attempt to leave behind his acting career to become a rap star. Fat; with long uncombed hair and scraggly beard, dressed like a particularly disheveled street person — throughout the film, Phoenix, along with some of his handlers, displays a full repertoire of coarse, vulgar, moronic human behaviors as he tries to pursue his new career. He also appears in onstage performances, rapping… badly. Various media commentators suspect that it’s a hoax, but Phoenix remains in character. He puts Ben Stiller — trying to get Phoenix to consider a script — through the ringer. He acts pathetic and nuts in a famous Letterman appearance. He’s trying to get Sean Combs to produce a rap album for him.

Watching this film… unsure myself whether the whole thing was a bit of Andy Kaufman-like performance art; a genuine descent into madness; or both (I was leaning towards both) and seeing how the various players tried to navigate how to respond given that they were experiencing the same uncertainty that I was — I was struck by the wheels-within-wheels-within-wheels multiple strange loopy character of the thing that I was not only witnessing but participating in by being engaged in confusion.  And I was struck by how many layers of uncertainly could emerge out of very stupid behaviors… behaviors, incidentally, that would likely hold little interest to a proper singularitarian; and all of it done for absolutely no rational purpose other than to fuck with people’s heads. For what? To improve them? To teach them something? No. Just to see what happens. Read more “Steal This Singularity Part 1 (2012)”