Changes, Postmodernism, Counterculture, Ego

Wilder Gonzales Agreda & R.U. Sirius

In 2015, Wilder Gonzales Agreda interviewed me for http://peruavantgarde.blogspot.com. I’m fond enough of the results to present some of the musings here with some updated annotations. Annotations in caps and blue

Why do you think people in general (not elite) tend to avoid changes even if they finally are going to benefit everyone? Why is to so hard to change mentalities? They seem to get frightened always.

Our minds are SEEM TO BE geared, evolutionarily, towards the recognition of patterns and its predictive mechanisms are most naturally geared towards the immediate near situation…  hunting food, avoiding things that might harm you immediately, maybe some gathering, getting shelter and so forth. It’s kind of amazing that we even got to consciously planned agriculture. Now we’re in societies and cultures of astounding complexity, but many of us are still geared towards our immediate comforts and securities. The simplest – or simple-mindedest way to attain those things is to go along with what everyone else is doing and find your place within it. You get a kind of security of the hive, the pack, the tribe. That security is challenged situationally from time to time but the pack basically likes to shoot the messenger. In apocalyptic situations, this tendency may only get worse.

Academics use to say that in current postmodernism people lose faith on ideals, and they live just for the moment, the ego and pleasure. How do you see this situation regarding counterculture ideals and utopias? Or you see we are living a new era?

I’ve never really thought about postmodernism in terms of faith, but I’m sure it would point to and also provoke a lack of it. And I don’t know that postmodernism is particularly a critique of hedonism or spontaneity IF THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE IMPLYING

Academic postmodernism, which has become TO A GENERALIST APPEARS mostly indistinguishable from poststructuralism, culture theory, critical theory, what have you… really, seems to be a dense thicket of illuminating perceptions, fecund horseshit and lots of tangled up nonsense. This is because academics have to produce a lot of words, and because academic postmodernism came out of the demise of the radical left of the 1960s and it’s splintering into oppressed identity formations. Academic pomo — from it’s roots in questioning the highly defined enlightenment paradigm of Western capitalism and it’s Leninist cousin — seems to have constructed some kind of a linguistic/memetic umbrella under which these various strains of obsession with gender, race and colonialism could still be interrelated. Unfortunately, these relations are constructed DESCRIBED through a peculiar elite specialized language that’s only accessible to other members of the academic tribe. Students get infected by it but usually drop it once they start dealing with the actuality of the world and their not-politically-correct sexual desires. IT SEEMS NOW TO BE CONTINUOUSLY UBIQUITOUS IN CERTAIN CIRCLES, ALBEIT IN A SIMPLE FORM OF TOTALISMS AND CERTAINTIES, SOME OF THEM MORE OR LESS ON TARGET. PROBABLY A REACTION TO THE REACTION AND SOMETHING TO DO WITH SOME KIND OF STASIS (ECONOMIC?) PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING POST-COLLEGE THAT KEEPS THEM IN THE SAME CONTEXT

If I could pick out two fundamental ideas from postmodernism that have meaning and appeal for me:

One: it would be the idea that the singular romanticized consistent western classical liberal individual is a limiting construct and not an actual thing. There are no “stand up guys.” Humans are a fluid changeable process and there are multiplicities of selves, particularly amongst people not enslaved by lives of full time labor –- who generally are the only ones that are privileged to have a self or a multiplicity of selves in the first place.

Two: The other appealing aspect of PoMo is the idea that truth is radically contingent. UNFORTUNATELY PICKED UP BY VARIOUS RIGHT WING THINKERS AS A WAY TO SEW CONFUSION IN DOMAINS WHERE FACTS — EVEN APPROXIMATE FACTS — MATTER TO MUCH TO TREAT AS CONTINGENT. That would not necessarily be hard physical truth (if I threatened an academic pomo with a baseball bat, he or she would recognize it’s absoluteness) but philosophical truth, political truth and even scientific truth (the latter is too long an explantion for this discussion). And with the possible exception of scientific proofs, this seems to be palpably (contingently) true. That is sort of the way things are, whether we like it or not. Read more “Changes, Postmodernism, Counterculture, Ego”

Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation

by R.U. Sirius

An interview with Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz & Jake Dunagan

Back in 1990, when MONDO 2000 magazine promised Screaming Memes on its cover, it was more or less a secret argot winking at our technohip Mondoid readers. I mean, sure there was that Dawkins book in which he invented the concept, but it seemed to be a bunch of playful, subversive freaks who were using them to blow open some heads (and maybe sell a few magazines). 

We’ve come a long way baby. Now, the world appears to be defined by memetic warfare and the damage done is real world crisis and horror.

A recent paper by Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan written for the Institute for the Future titled The Biology of Disinformation: memes, media viruses and cultural inoculation describes the contemporary condition and suggests ways to combat this bad operation mindfuck.  

Read The Biology of Disinformation

David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan are both research directors at Institute for the Future and Rushkoff is a research fellow.  MONDOids are, of course, familiar with Pescovitz as one of the founding members of Boing Boing and Rushkoff as the author of many books including the highly relevant Media Virus, from 1994.

We chatted using Slack…

thanks to Satori D for his assistance and participation

R.U. Sirius: In a sense, you’re offering a different model than the one most of us usually think in, as regards memetics. Instead of fighting bad memes with good, or their memes with ours, are you suggesting that we look at memes themselves as viruses attacking us? Is that right?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah, that’s the simplest way of looking at it. That’s why I called memes in media “media viruses.” Even if they end up forcing important ideas into the cultural conversation, and even if they ultimately lead to good things, they do infect us from the outside. They attack our weak code, and continue to replicate until we repair it, or until we come to recognize the “shell” of the virus itself.

I think what makes our analysis unique, compared with a lot of what’s out there, is that we’re not proposing yet another technosolutionist fix. Mark Zuckerberg wants to fight fake news with artificial intelligence. Great. He’s already over his head in a media environment he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know why his platform has led to so many unintended effects. So what’s his solution? Build yet another technology he understands even less to solve the problem with yet another black box.

Even those with the best intentions see all this as a technological problem, when it’s really more a cultural or biological one. The difference in our approach is that we still have faith in the human organism and human society to rise to the occasion and increase their resiliency. So we’re writing for people, not tech companies.

David Pescovitz 

David Pescovitz: I’m also interested in how our networked media environment has evolved to allow this nastiness to occur and, in fact, reward it. During the early days of Twitter and Facebook it was exciting that people were using the platforms to share ideas and “find the others.” But I was also annoyed and later alarmed by the rise in narcissism, emphasis on “personal brands,” and mob mentality. Maybe those people were always like that and social media just amplified those traits. Either way, to me it quickly felt like antisocial media.

Since then, it’s become increasingly clear that the only real way to fix our social media experiences is by fixing ourselves. This is true when it comes to how we interact with other people online but also our own vulnerability to propaganda, disinformation, and coercion. Of course reconnecting with our own humanity is much harder than just giving in to the algorithmically addictive dopamine rush of another retweet or “like.”

Jake Dunagan: There was an old Zuck who swallowed a virus, I don’t know why he swallowed the virus. He swallowed AI to fight the virus…

I was struck by the psychologist Dannagal Young’s point that we quoted in the article: “blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective …somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it. ”

 

Jake Dunagan

This is what Doug is calling our weak code, our vulnerabilities we’ve inherited from evolution and extended by culture. Humor, satire, memes, are exploiting our cognitive weaknesses, and lowering our defenses. I’ve always loved the Mad Magazine, SNL, and Yes Men ways of showing us how the messages we’re hearing are full of shit. Read more “Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation”