2020 Vision (What Will You Wear To The New Civil War?)

image by Chad Essley

2020 Vision (What Will You Wear To The New Civil War?)

Lyrics written in 2020 by R.U. Sirius
Images by Chad Essley
1 actual recorded song and video by Phr!endz

 

Inscribed

I stole my aphorisms from a young girl named Tristan Tzara
I minored in comedy but I majored in horror
I reached my 100th year when I was 27
I was inscribed inside with a little hint of heaven

And I’m writing this prescription
From an anarchist jurisdiction
Which is just a slimy fantasy
Or wistful wisdom let it be

 

Idiocracy (The Documentary)

And the idiots rose up against The Farrow and cried
Tore off their masks and roared “Let my people die!”
And the Orange Messiah passed out pills and bleach
And everyone agreed “great again” was within reach

And they came with their guns
And even some with hair buns
And all the Karens and Jaspers
Were cheering from the rafters
And some nebbishy patricians
Were signing their petitions
To please their voter base
By appealing to their race

And as they caught and spread infection
Orange Messiah fucked with the election
And called the idiots to insurrection
Promised free Cheetos and police protection

And so the virus spread and spread
Until there were millions dead
And all the supply chains collapsed in dread
And couldn’t get the people fed
And that was just the early crisis
Idiocracy spread just like the virus
To every corner of the earth
And every nation sputtered and lurched

And the idiots rose up against the Farrow and cried
Tore off their masks and roared “Let my people die!”
And the Orange Messiah passed out pills and bleach
And everyone agreed “great again” was within reach

So kiss farewell to the well-mannered plutocracy
And wave hello to the global Idiocracy

Illusions Of Agency

The great society
The ideology
Culture theory
Timothy Leary

Plant a tree
Subversives on TV
Digital means free
Let’s try alchemy

R.U. Sirius
Act imperious
New edge freaks
All power to the geeks

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

The DNC
Crypto-anarchy
Spread a creed
Propaganda by deed

Wild schemes
My magazines
Guillotines
Control of the means

Hillary and Bill
The Triumph of the Will
A perfect peace pill
Mad skills

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

Spread a trope
Audacity of hope
Say nope to that joke
Demand better dope

Susan Sarandon
Charlie Manson
Hair of Samson
Dear Leader is handsome

Pontificator
Angry instigator
Be a player
Run for mayor

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

Transhumanism
Ideological schisms
Elon’s cybertruck
The belief in luck

Joseph Stalin
Marty Balin
Volunteers
Rock careers

Patty Hearst
Voodou curse
America first
Melania’s purse

Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency
Illusions of agency

Stay the course
Find the source
Use force
Express remorse

Bio-engineer
Manipulate through fear
Point and jeer
Let me steer

Blank Panther Party

The universe is made of Crayola
I lost the ‘70s thanks to payola
I was a member of the Blank Panther Party
Ripped on coke and Bacardi

I learned to multiplex before I could add
I was a murderess before I was sad
My micro-mini is way below my knees
I ain’t no goddamn tease

I hit the racetrack I was loaded with cash
Was feeling guilty and a wee bit rash
Bet all my fortune on a system crash
And now I’ve gotta dash

He couldn’t love him with his broken staff
Though he was clever and so good for a laugh
And now he’s telling me he’s learning a craft
He must be fuckin’ daft

 

Live Free Or Dye Your Hair Blue

(every other line is verse/chorus i.e. call/response, etc.)

What will you wear to the new civil war?
Live free or dye your hair blue
Who’s gonna be your new Tipper Gore?
Live free or dye your hair blue
Did you beat the militias to the gun store?
Live free or dye your hair blue
What will you wear to the new civil war?
Live free or dye your hair blue

Will it be televised virtual or raw?
What will you wear to the new civil war?
Will it be tearful fearful and more?
What will you wear to the new civil war?
They’ve got the bullets we’ve got the teens
What will you wear to the new civil war?
Scare ‘em up with pictures of guillotines
What will you wear to the new civil war?

His name’s Erik Prince and he’s not funky
Live free or dye your hair blue
Should we wear grunge or a wee bit punky?
Live free or dye your hair blue
Frilly shirts & scarves like those elegant junkies? (distant voice shouting … “it’s only rock and roll”)
Live free or dye your hair blue
What will you wear to the new civil war?
Live free or dye your hair blue

 

Mean Tweets

Meme Streets
Mean tweets
Viral life
Virtual strife

Stuck in time
Such a bind
Sick and tired
Upload my mind

Meme Streets
Mean tweets
Bored teens
On screens

No touch
Thanks much
Tik Tok
Is my crutch

Meme Streets
Mean tweets
Scorcese’s
Goin’ crazy

Mean trolls
Meme scolds
Disembodied
Assholes

Meme Streets
Mean tweets
Viral life
Virtual strife

Stuck in time
Such a bind
Sick and tired
Upload my mind

 

Deleuze Guattari Gnash & Jung

Deleuze Guattari Gnash & Jung
They weren’t having too much fun
Til Dylan came along in a big-ass truck
Sayin’’ “Hey who really gives a fuck?”

They all piled in pointing at him
Taking narcotics and drinking gin
Bob asked “who here plays guitar
Who else here is a fuckin’ star?
& if you don’t like blues harmonica
Get the fuck out my car”

Well they had to think of something
Deleuze started humming
Then Jung started dreamin’
And Gnash started schemin’

Bob said “that’ll have to do”
Guattari said “I ain’t no fool
Let’s cruise drunken through the burbs
Pretend that we’re the angry birds”

They saw the white men cooking chicken
That is when the plot did thicken
While Deleuze and Guattari screamed like birds
Dylan didn’t say a fuckin’ word

Soon the neighbors with their guns
Cried “go elsewhere with all your fun
We like Bob Dylan and we like puns
But we have no truck with Carl Jung”

And just to make them stay away
Said “Last week we fucked up Dr. Dre
And if you wanna see the dawn
Hey hey you you get offa my lawn”

(rept many times)
They said “hey hey you you get offa my lawn

 

Our Cruel Father Who Art Beheaded

Our cruel father who art beheaded
Shallow be thy almost long tail
Thy ghosts are feted no statues erected
& all the tasty treatises are pungent stale
You took a wish upon a star
Even your golf game was subpar
And there’s no remorse just one less source
Of crumblin’’ dice & slammed shut doors

Our cruel father
Lost his head
Who will bake
All the children bread
Who will run
The important biznesses
Who will count
All the lesser sicknesses

Our cruel father who art beheaded
Swallowed much too much for one man
Took his sadness to the blood bank
Now there’s nothing much left to brand
With all the sins the eater consumes
All the letting a million lilacs bloom
All the fantasies dreamed by the TV
All the tricks that say can you see

Our cruel father
Lost his head
Who will bake
All the children bread
Who will run
The important biznesses
Who will count
All the lesser sicknesses

 

Failed State

You made it great (again)
Failed state
Lots of hate
President Jape

It’s been a long time comin’
It’s been a long strange bummin’
All those sad cats lamely strummin’
And the stunners who were stunning
And the millions killed by our wars
And the millions locked behind bars
And all the really cherry cars
And we had all the movie stars
And Kesey with his funny bus
And all the factories shut & rusting
And H. Rap Brown who didn’t lie
Said violence is American as Apple pie
And Siddartha says it’s suffer then die
And all the sacred cows on the frier
And maybe you should just take a flyer
At what might motivate the buyer
All the chickens comin’ home to roost
And their favorite actor John Wilkes Booth
And the old ones acting so uncouth
Dignity today belongs to the youth

You made it great (again)
Failed state
Lots of hate
President Jape

 

Be Where When?

There’s nothing happening here
The sky isn’t clear
Bad weirdness big fear
When were we to be here
Now?

There’s nothing happening here
Chin up – Don’t grumble
The way the cookie crumbles
And civilization tumbles
Now?

There’s nothing happening here
They say be best is better
We’re all in this together
‘Cept those living out in the weather
Now?

Punters fighting punters
Owners sailing yachts
You can jump into the fire
But you better pack your Reeboks
Now

 

IGNORE

Ignore
Out of boredom or torpor
The trending thing is so soporific
& your beauty & the moonlight is so terrific
So ignore

Ignore
Every Marie Kondo urging you pep talk
Every ugly rumor about Johnny Depp
Just ignore

& when you’re stuck in traffic
Some MAGA wearing a leather jacket
Some argument that trades logic for static
Ignore

And if everybody else lost the plot
& you ask are they really alive or not
Just lay yourself down on the cot
Have some whiskey & a little pot
& ignore

 

Grimes & Me Make 3

There’s no place to roam
No place is much like home
Everybody must get scolded
Every business must get folded

Gonna go into space
Get some AI to take my place
Gonna change my race
Be psychotic and set the pace

Gonna steal Grimes
Take her to the highest climb
Musk will feel so punked
After Grimes sprouts their man junk

Gonna be gender free
Every scene will involve a threesome
Two of them will be me
The other one will be lovely gruesome

They Canceled Lenny Bruce

Do you remember when chaos was a state of play
Do you remember “punk rock is here to stay”
Do you remember when Sister Ray was très outré
When Bowie asked… “or even yesterday?”

I’m wearing deplatform shoes
I’ve got the fear monger blues
When you ain’t got somewhere
You got no choice to choose
And now I’m yesterday’s news
They canceled Lenny Bruce

I still have a glimmer of rascalinity
But now it’s one inch short of divinity
My jest is a million miles from infinity
I may be creepy crawling to morbidity

I’m wearing deplatform shoes
I’ve got the fear monger blues
When you ain’t got somewhere
You got no choice to choose
And now I’m yesterday’s news
They canceled Lenny Bruce

I used to chatter to the birds and bees
Grabbed the branches and climbed the trees
I’m picking fleas, man… all this disease
All that’s left now is to vomit and sneeze

I’m wearing deplatform shoes
I’ve got the fear monger blues
When you ain’t got somewhere
You got no choice to choose
And now I’m yesterday’s news
They canceled Lenny Bruce

At The End Of Their Tether

Everybody seems to have a Tarot deck
Everybody seems to be gasping for breath
Everybody says soon things will get better
Things will get better at the end of their tether

They tried to cast a magick dispel
But it reeked of swamp gas and victory marches
So they set aside years to work on the smell
And build a new cosmos from inside a shell

Then in a bubble the cosmos drifted
And they were left behind when winds shifted
Yet still they made plans — at least the men did
They opened some bars and bought some guitars

And it was all pretty basic
If only they’d faked it
They would have put paid
To that runaway cosmos
That now smelled like a rose
They got so goddamn close
To be just another
Average dead sucker

Everybody seems to have a Tarot deck
Everybody seems to be gasping for breath
Everybody says soon things will get better
Things will get better at the end of their tether

(Boomer Please) Buy My Apocalypse Songs

While you’re standing around
Waiting for your grandkids to drown
Or maybe catch fire
After you’re dead and retired
You may as well listen
Get high and get pissed
To my apocalypse songs
Yes listen to this shit

Boomer please
I’m down on my knees
Everything has gone wrong
Buy my apocalypse songs

I’ve got profiles in discourage
From The Airplane to the bees
Failed stories faded glories
All you need is flowers and beads
From Stealers Wheel to The Troggs
From glitter glam to 60s mods
And there was surely Pussy Galore
Stick around you won’t get bored

Boomer please
I’m down on my knees
Everything has gone wrong
Buy my apocalypse songs

Fake Fur

I know that outrage is de rigueur
So I’m at the rally in fake fur
I am human hear me purr
Do I dare to cause a stir?

The stars are out and preening
Tonight they’re seeking meaning
And they’re gazing at the ceiling
Gonna send the nation reeling

Do you dare to eat a peach?
Do you dare to sneak a peek?
While blazing at the beach?
Do you care to make a speech?

And I said “don’t get riled
Take a walk on the mild side”
I said “don’t get riled
Take a walk on the mild side”
Cause of all the things we must detest
Fake fur says it the best
So don’t get riled
Take a walk on the mild side

Flabbergasted

Well I used to be disgusted
And then I tried to be amused
But now I’m just plain flabbergasted
At the depth of the abuse
And I’m not singing ‘bout a bad date
And I’m not singing ‘bout ya 2 minutes hate
I’m looking at the new level of crazy
With their hands wrapped around our fate

Does anybody remember the quantified life?
(R. Plant voice) Does anybody remember laughter?
Does anybody remember the balcony speeches?
Does anyone remember bloodletting and leeches?
Does anyone remember the days before then?
Lugubrious meetings with remake-able men
& Little Brother is watching one and other
So mark your turf — Then run for cover

Year Zero

Thanks a lot
Pol Pot
Hot to trot
Forget me not

Year zero
What a hero
Nero’s fiddle
No Middle

The bride stripped bare
The pride sniffs the air
He should put it all out there
They’ll appreciate his flair
And he’ll show them that he cares
And that he’s so aware
The pride sniffs the air
When the bride strips bare

Is she chic — au contraire
She’s barely even there
He’s no great catch to be fair
And he hopes she doesn’t scare
He’s got toxic in the pocket
And he’ll break down if she mocks it
But he’ll always preserve a locket
Of her bride stripped bare hair

Thanks a lot
Pol Pot
Hot to trot
Forget me not

Year zero
What a hero
Nero’s fiddle
No Middle

The Stepfather of Our Country

He was the stepfather of his country
But he raised the kids as his own
He gave them ears of corn — oodles of porn
But when they bought bad cocaine they earned his scorn

& when they all got older
He turned them into soldiers
Strapping tote bags to their shoulders
filled with weapons of mirth
It was all rather cheery
He read them Dr. Leary
Until those silly numbskulls
Decided to give birth

That was just the final straw
This was just what killed their pa
“Birth & death stay from my door
What do you think the porn was for?
To make you each one onanistic
Now I’ll get a bit fascistic”

One by one he ate his grandkids
Chowed them down like gutted pigs
Except one who was schizophrenic
& could produce some anaesthetic
Together they drifted into a coma
Singing gleeful songs of soma

& thus a world was born & died
All because of a stepdads pride
It takes a village to make things fair
Fuckin’ stepdad didn’t care

Rebel Without A Mask

I was greasy in the ‘50s
Freaky in the ‘60s
My idea of ‘70s fun
Was “carry on my wayward son”
But all of that is in the past
I support the Ruling Crass
Did you think I’d wear a mask?
You don’t even have to ask

Cause I’m a rebel without a mask
James Dean with a modern task
I’m using up my remaining sass
To be a rebel without a mask

I’m with you if you’re with Q
So many red pills still to do
So many weird things but they’re true
I’ll spread the news to the young dudes
And if YouTube kicks me off
I’ll tell R.U. he’s going soft
Don’t you wanna question authority
Naked and maskless near the sorority?

Cause I’m a rebel without a mask
James Dean with a modern task
I’m using up my remaining sass
To be a rebel without a mask

 

Actual Apocalypse

Everyone’s a prepper now
Everyone’s a mutilated cow
Everyone is making vows
Everybody take a final bow

Actual apocalypse
It isn’t fun like watching Mad Max
it isn’t clever like Oliver Sacks or
Insanely great like Steve Jobs’ Macs

One mask is for the disease
One mask is for the smoke
One mask is for avoiding police
Last toke before we’re broken

Actual apocalypse
It isn’t fun like watching Mad Max
it isn’t clever like Oliver Sacks or
Insanely great like Steve Jobs’ macs

2020 this was the year
2020 the vision is clear
Gonna need four more beers
Drown the fire in my tears

Actual apocalypse
It isn’t fun like watching Mad Max
it isn’t clever like Oliver Sacks or
Insanely great like Steve Jobs’ macs

Ring around the platitudes
A pocket full of smug
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes
Ashes ashes

 

 

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”

$uptime

 

They built a god.

They’d been building a god since the sixties. 

They just didn’t know it.



I’m sure there were a few who knew, people like Genesis P,
the aging rattle and clank sex hippy of the cut and paste
council.


I was never into the
Kit Pedler knew; though he downplayed it. For him it was
more a “Man is dead, long live the super computer.” kind of
thing.
Loebler was afraid          and Madden died before some of
his “projects” could be
I think it’s just


Words

Read more “$uptime”

Mama But Weer All In Chapel Perilous Now

 

Lyrical cycle by R.U. Sirius with a number of videos and songs attached

Imagine 2.0 (2015)

Unrecorded

Imagine there’s a song everybody sings and no one means
Imagine they sing it in Times Square every New Years Eve

….

Mama But Weer All in Chapel Perilous Now (2017)

 

 

Has your S M I Two L E turned into a scowl?
Does weaponized idiocracy have you throwing in the towel?
Could anybody in this pinched surveiled nation write another Howl?
I said mama but we’re all in Chapel Perilous now

Are the students at your college acting like Maoists?
Have you seen weird apparitions like neonazi Taoists?
Does it seem perfectly normal that the President’s a crazy clown?
I said mama but we’re all in Chapel Perilous now

Did you read RAW and not get the joke
Are you gorging on conspiracies until you choke
r.u. even more dogmatic after taking a toke
How we wish Bob was here to make everybody Pope

Is Operation Mindfuck now with Gog and Magog
And some witless little nerd boy who loves Pepe the Frog
If nothing is true and anything is allowed
I said mama but we’re all in Chapel Perilous now

……….

Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day/Sufi Sales (1987)

recorded by Merry Tweeksters (pre-MONDO Vanilli) Listen to Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day/Sufi Sales

It’s still a few days away
And the kiddies all look so gray
But they’ll be getting a bit of a spin-out
When they see the hippie trip-o-world flip out

On the frontiers of my neocortex
As I think bi-lobely and act globally
Who knows what glows Cher Noble
And who sees armageddon it on
But beyond the abyss we’re on vinegar and piss
As we leave Ronald Reagan and beyond
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
And it’s never gonna be the same

Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales

SUFI SALES

I’m Sufi Sales
Though no one seems to know it
I’m Sufi Sales
Though no one seems to care
And if it rains
I don’t believe I’ll go out
You’ll wait for me but I won’t make it there

Rolling along singing a song
And I don’t believe I’ll be for very long
Coming back home and sitting alone
And my Sadie comes in with an ice cream cone
Ice cream cone
Ice cream cone oh yeah

And it’s my day to be just this way
The loving I crave won’t make me a slave
I can lay down without a frown
Sufi Sales is back in town

(Watch out for laughter
Watch out for fun
Sufi Sales is back
Hun)

 

………..

 

On The Beam (1982/2016 remix)

Watch video by Phriendz. On The Beam by Party Dogs, Remix by Phriendz 2016

She’s so fine
On the beam
And she’s so high
On the beam
On the beam on the beam
All the time
In the world
Well if you try
You’re a lucky girl lucky girl

If you can feel it
You can dance forever
If you can deal with it
Live forever live forever
Everything
Will be ours
From the planet
To the stars to the stars

We’re getting on the beam
Things are just as they seem
Immortality in the age of the clever
Live forever live forever

On the beam
Live forever

 

…………….

White Babbits (2017)

Watch video for White Babbits  Music by Trevor Boink & Grace Schtick, Video by Satori D

based on White Rabbit by Grace Slick

One pill makes you smarter
And one pill makes you small
and the ones that mother gives you
ritalin or adderall
And your phallus Needs Viagra after all

and if you go fleecing babbits
cause the banks are gonna fall
tell ’em the hookah smoking anarchist
has got you by the balls
call alice — she’s totally appalled

White men on the radio
Get off on telling you who to hate
and your friend has joined the teabags
And your spending your weekends straight
And your phallus has a Cialis date

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the fat cat’s are aging backwards
And your friends are filled with dread
Remember what the lab rat said
Freeze your head
Freeze your head

…..

I Wanna Be Your Radio 1992

recorded by MONDO Vanilli

Listen to I Wanna Be Your Radio

I wanna steal your radio
Sacrifice your fingers to an electric fence
I torture you in future tense staccato
And come back home and rest in bed all day

I’ve got techniques for ecstasy
Keeping them under the hat stand
Let’s whip ’em out
And see if anything fits on your head

I wanna steal your radio
Capture you on a hard disc drive
Save you and make a million copies
Give one to each of my friends

I inverted the very color of being
But you — you weren’t there

I wanna be your radio
Sire wire fire and inspire you (cyber cyber)
Flick the switch that renders you insane
Come back home and rest in bed all day (cyber cyber)

I wanted to be Salvador Dali
I wanted to be dead and unreasonable
Let’s grieve in concentric circles
To make the night release your brain

I wanna be your radio
Now I wanna be your radio Read more “Mama But Weer All In Chapel Perilous Now”

What If A New Technology Forces Everyone to be Honest?

 

“Magnetic interference with the brain can make it impossible to lie, and polygraphs and “truth serums” will soon be obsolete, say Estonian researchers.

Inga Karton and Talis Bachmann worked with 16 volunteers who submitted to transcranial magnetic stimulation, which can stimulate some parts of the brain and not others.”

International Business Times, September 9, 2011

2024 presidential candidate Bob Glitch is preaching to the Republican Party faithful: “With God as my witness, we’re going to bring morality and family values back to America and we’re going to turn back the homosexual agenda…”Anonymous member Bob Dobbometer joins the cheering throng, raising his fist in the air and points his magnetic truth ring right at the candidate.  Glitch continues. “I have nothing against homosexuals. Jesus said we should love every… (Glitch pauses, twitches slightly) “Man, that dude in the muscle shirt is freaking’ hot.  I’d like to meet him in a men’s room and…” The mic goes dead.

Of course, the early truth machine will not come in the form of a handy dandy decoder ring and anyway the assumption is that it will be used only on “criminals”… and by criminals we of course mean poor criminals without connections and armies of attorneys. But what might it be like sometime during the coming years of radical technological evolution, if its use becomes generalized and it becomes really hard to tell a lie?

In a piece for H+, I asked whether enhancement seekers really want to know themselves.  This piece could be seen as asking a similar question: do we really want to know what other people are thinking… about us; about treasured beliefs; about anything?… and do we want them to know what we’re really thinking?

One group that would say yes are the practitioners of “radical honesty.” Focused mainly on total truth telling in interpersonal relationships, the advocates promise to “transform your life.”   I wonder.

 

“How’s my hair?” Jill asks, pointing the truth ring at Jack. “It looks terrible,” Jack replies. Jill is unhappy.  She runs off to the beauty parlor and gets a new look and returns.  “How’s my hair?” she asks, and points the truth ring again.  “I think that’s a trivial dumb question,” Jack replies.  “You should be thinking about the crisis in East Blogostan.” She moves the ring closer. “What do you care about East Blogostan?” she shouts.  “You don’t do a fucking thing about East Blogostan?” Jack twitches slightly.  He sinks deeper into his real thoughts.  “You’re right.  I don’t give a fuck about East Blogostan.  I’m actually unhappy because my dick is only 4”.   He frowns and now he points his ring at Jill.  “So am I!” she screams.

If Jack could have simply said, “Your hair looks beautiful,” Jack and Jill would have each gotten a pleasant little jolt of oxytocin which would have made them both feel good and decreased their stress… and, as you know, stress is a major cause of health problems.  Instead, they bitched at each other for several months until they got a divorce.  Soon thereafter, Jack died of a heart attack and Jill got kicked out of the health club when she tells the owner, a large black man with a gigantic magnetic truth decoder neck chain who had just asked her to dinner: “Black men like you scare me.”

On the other hand, Radical Honesty advocate Brad Blanton has run for Congress in Virginia and that seems like the sort of place where my imagined Magnetic Truth Decoder Ring could be quite useful.  Of course, politicians would resort to headgear   to protect their brains from forced magnetic transparency; or if that proves to be too obvious, they would likely opt for surgically implanted firewalls against forced truth telling .  Early adopters of this surgery would have a huge advantage. They would be able to spew political and personal homilies and everyone would assume it was true.

OK. I’m being playful here, but — as with the other column I referenced earlier in this piece, it poses a serious question.  Is enhancement simply a matter of more?… more years, more muscle, more copies of the self, more brain power — or is it a matter of depth and complexity?  Are we better humans because we have replaceable parts or because we have been transformed in our thoughts and behaviors by technologies that are challenging and perhaps painful to utilize?  I’m not suggesting that the answer is obvious but I do think it’s a worthy area of discourse

Semi-autonomous software agents: A personal perspective.

by: The Doctor [412/724/301/703/415]

So, after going on for a good while about software agents you’re probably wondering why I have such an interest in them. I started experimenting with my own software agents in the fall of 1996 when I first started undergrad. When I went away to college I finally had an actual network connection for the first time in my life (where I grew up the only access I had was through dialup) and I wanted to abuse it. Not in the way that the rest of my classmates were but to do things I actually had an interest in. So, the first thing I did was set up my own e-mail server with Qmail and subscribed to a bunch of mailing lists because that’s where all of the action was at the time. I also rapidly developed a list of websites that I checked once or twice a day because they were often updated with articles that I found interesting. It was through those communication fora that I discovered the research papers on software agents that I mentioned in earlier posts in this series. I soon discovered that I’d bitten off more than I could chew, especially when some mailing lists went realtime (which is when everybody started replying to one another more or less the second they received a message) and I had to check my e-mail every hour or so to keep from running out of disk space. Rather than do the smart thing (unsubscribing from a few ‘lists) I decided to work smarter and not harder and see if I could use some of the programming languages I was playing with at the time to help. I’ve found over the years that it’s one thing to study a programming language academically, but to really learn one you need a toy project to learn the ins and outs. So, I wrote some software that would crawl my inbox, scan messages for certain keywords or phrases and move them into a folder so I’d see them immediately, and leave the rest for later. I wrote some shell scripts, and when those weren’t enough I wrote a few Perl scripts (say what you want about Perl, but it was designed first and foremost for efficiently chewing on data). Later, when that wasn’t enough I turned to C to implement some of the tasks I needed Leandra to carry out.

Due to the fact that Netscape Navigator was highly unreliable on my system for reasons I was never quite clear on (it used to throw bus errors all over the place) I wasn’t able to consistently keep up with my favorite websites at the time. While the idea of update feeds existed as far back as 1995 they didn’t actually exist until the publication of the RSS v0.9 specification in 1999, and ATOM didn’t exist until 2003, so I couldn’t just point a feed reader at them. So I wrote a bunch of scripts that used lynx -dump http://www.example.com/ > ~/websites/www.example.com/`date ‘+%Y%m%d-%H:%M:%S’`.txt and diff to detect changes and tell me what sites to look at when I got back from class.

That was one of the prettier sequences of commands I had put together, too. This kept going on for quite a few years, and the legion of software agents I had running on my home machine grew out of control. As opportunities presented themselves, I upgraded Leandra as best I could, from an 80486 to an 80586 to P-III, with corresponding increases in RAM and disk space. As one does. Around 2005 I discovered the novel Accelerando by Charles Stross and decided to call this system of scripts and daemons my exocortex, after the network of software agents that the protagonist of the first story arc had much of his mind running on through the story. In early 2014 I got tired of maintaining all of the C code (which was, to be frank, terrible because they were my first C projects), shell scripts (lynx and wget+awk+sed+grep+cut+uniq+wc+…) and Perl scripts to keep them going as I upgraded my hardware and software and had to keep on top of site redesign after site redesign… so I started rewriting Exocortex as an object-oriented framework in Python, in part as another toy project and in part because I really do find myself enjoying Python as a thing that I do. I worked on this project for a couple of months and put my code on Github because I figured that eventually someone might find it helpful. When I had a first cut more or less stable I showed it to a friend at work, who immediately said “Hey, that works just like Huginn!”

I took one look at Huginn, realized that it did everything I wanted plus more by at least three orders of magnitude, and scrapped my codebase in favor of a Huginn install on one of my servers.

Porting my existing legion of software agents over to Huginn took about four hours… it used to take me between two and twelve hours to get a new agent up and running due to the amount of new code I had to write, even if I used an existing agent as a template. Just looking at the effort/payoff tradeoff there really wasn’t any competition. So, since that time I’ve been a dedicated Huginn user and hacker, and it’s been more or less seamlessly integrated into my day to day life as an extension of myself. I find it strange, somewhat alarming when I don’t hear from any of them (which usually means that something locked up, which still happens from time to time) but I’ve been working with the core development team to make it more stable. I find it’s a lot more stable than my old system was simply due to the fact that it’s an integrated framework, and not a constantly mutating patchwork of code in several languages sharing a back-end. Additionally, my original exocortex network was comprised of many very complex agents: One was designed to monitor Slashdot, another Github, another a particular IRC network; Huginn offers a large number of agents, each of which carries out a specific task (like providing an interface to an IMAP account or scraping a website). By customizing the configurations of instances of each agent type and wiring them together, you can build an agent network which can carry out very complex tasks which would otherwise require significant amounts of programming time. Read more “Semi-autonomous software agents: A personal perspective.”

Semi-autonomous agents: What are they, exactly?

by: The Doctor [412/724/301/703/415]

This post is intended to be the first in a series of long form articles (how many, I don’t yet know) on the topic of semi-autonomous software agents, a technology that I’ve been using fairly heavily for just shy of twenty years in my everyday life. My goals are to explain what they are, go over the history of agents as a technology, discuss how I started working with them between 1996e.v. and 2000e.v., and explain a little of what I do with them in my everyday life. I will also, near the end of the series, discuss some of the software systems and devices I use in the nebula of software agents that comprises what I now call my Exocortex (which is also the name of the project), make available some of the software agents which help to expand my spheres of influence in everyday life, and talk a little bit about how it’s changed me as a person and what it means to my identity.

So, what are semi-autonomous agents?

One working definition is that they are utility software that acts on behalf of a user or other piece of software to carry out useful tasks, farming out busywork that one would have to do oneself to free up time and energy for more interesting things. A simple example of this might be the pop-up toaster notification in an e-mail client alerting you that you have a new message from someone; if you don’t know what I mean play around with this page a little bit and it’ll demonstrate what a toaster notification is. Another possible working definition is that agents are software which observes a user-defined environment for changes which are then reported to a user or message queuing system. An example of this functionality might be Blogtrottr, which you plug the RSS feeds of one or more blogs into, and whenever a new post goes up you get an e-mail containing the article. Software agents may also be said to be utility software that observes a domain of the world and reports interesting things back to its user. A hypothetical software agent may scan the activity on one or more social networks for keywords which a statistically unusual number of users are posting and send alerts in response. I’ll go out on a limb a bit here and give a more fanciful example of what software agents can be compared to, the six robots from the Infocom game Suspended.

In the game, you the player are unable to act on your own because your body is locked in a cryogenic suspension tank, but the six robots (Auda, Iris, Poet, Sensa, Waldo, and Whiz) carry out orders given them, subject to their inherent limitations but are smart enough to figure out how to interpret those orders (Waldo, for example, doesn’t need to be told exactly how to pick up a microsurgical arm, he just knows how to do it). So, now that we have some working definitions of software agents, what are some of the characteristics that make them different from other kinds of software? For starters, agents run autonomously after they’re started up. In some ways you can compare them to daemons running on a UNIX system or Windows services, but instead of carrying out system level tasks (like sending and receiving e-mail) they carry out user level tasks. Agents may event in a reactive fashion in response to something they encounter (like an e-mail from a particular person) or in a proactive fashion (on a schedule, when certain thresholds are reached, or when they see something that fits a set of programmed parameters). Software agents may be adaptive to new operational conditions if they are designed that way. There are software agents which use statistical analysis to fine tune their operational parameters, sometimes in conjunction with feedback from their user, perhaps by turning down keywords or flagging certain things as false positives or false negatives. Highly sophisticated software agent systems may incorporate machine learning techniques to operate more effectively for their users over time, such as artificial neural networks, perceptrons, and Bayesian reasoning networks. Software agent networks may under some circumstances be considered to be implementations of machine learning systems because they can exhibit the functional architectures and behaviors of machine learning mechanisms. I wouldn’t make this characterization of every semi-autonomous agent system out there, though. Read more “Semi-autonomous agents: What are they, exactly?”

Exocortices: A Definition of a Technology

By The Doctor

A common theme of science fiction in the transhumanist vein, and less commonly in applied (read: practical) transhumanist circles is the concept of having an exocortex either installed within oneself, or interfaced in some way with one’s brain to augment one’s intelligence.  To paint a picture with a fairly broad brush, an exocortex was a system postulated by JCR Licklider in the research paper Man-Computer Symbiosis which would implement a new lobe of the human brain which was situated outside of the organism (though some components of it might be internal).  An exocortex would be a symbiotic device that would provide additional cognitive capacity or new capabilities that the organism previously did not posses, such as:

  • Identifying and executing cognitively intensive tasks (such as searching for and mining data for a project) on behalf of the organic brain, in effect freeing up CPU time for the wetware.
  • Adding additional density to existing neuronal networks to more rapidly and efficiently process information.  Thinking harder as well as faster.
  • Providing databases of experiential knowledge (synthetic memories) for the being to “remember” and act upon.  Skillsofts, basically.
  • Adding additional “execution threads” to one’s thinking processes.  Cognitive multitasking.
  • Modifying the parameters of one’s consciousness, for example, modulating emotions to suppress anxiety and/or stimulate interest, stimulating a hyperfocus state to enhance concentration, or artificially inducing zen states of consciousness.
  • Expanding short-term memory beyond baseline parameters.  For example, mechanisms that translate short-term memory into long-term memory significantly more efficiently.
  • Adding I/O interfaces to the organic brain to facilitate connection to external networks, processing devices, and other tools.

What I consider early implementations of such a cognitive prosthetic exist now and can be constructed using off-the-shelf hardware and open source software.  One might carefully state that, observing that technologies build on top of one another to advance in sophistication, these early implementations may pave the way for the future sci-fi implementations.  While a certain amount of systems administration and engineering know-how is required at this time to construct a personal exocortex, system automation for at-scale deployments can be used to set up and maintain a significant amount of exocortex infrastructure.  Personal interface devices – smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and other wearable devices – are highly useful I/O devices for exocortices, and probably will be until such time that direct brain interfaces are widely available and affordable.  There are also several business models inherent in exocortex technology but it should be stressed that potential compromises of privacy, issues of trust, and legal matters (in particular in the United States and European Union) are also inherent.  This part of the problem space is insufficiently explored and thus expert assistance is required.

Here are some of the tools that I used to build my own exocortex:

Ultimately, computers are required to implement such a prosthesis.  Lots of them.  I maintain multiple virtual machines at a number of hosting providers around the world, all running various parts of the infrastructure of my exocortex.  I also maintain multiple physical servers to carry out tasks which I don’t trust to hardware that I don’t personally control.  Running my own servers also means that I can build storage arrays large enough for my needs without spending more money than I have available at any one time.  For example, fifty terabytes of disk space on a SAN in a data center might cost hundreds of dollars per month, but the up-front cost of a RAID-5 array with at least one hotspare drive for resiliency was roughly the same amount.  Additionally, I can verify and validate that the storage arrays are suitably encrypted and sufficiently monitored.

Back end databases are required to store much of the information my exocortex collects and processes.  They not only hold data for all of the applications that I use (and are used by my software), they serve as the memory fields for the various software agents I use.  The exact databases I use are largely irrelevant to this article because they all do the same thing, just with slightly different network protocols and dialects of SQL.  The databases are relational databases right now because the software I use requires them, but I have schemes for document and graph databases for use with future applications as necessary.  I also make use of several file storage and retrieval mechanisms for data that parts of me collect: Files of many kinds, copies of web pages, notes, annotations, and local copies of data primarily stored with other services.  I realize that it sounds somewhat stereotypical for a being such as myself to hoard information, but as often as not I find myself needing to refer to a copy of a whitepaper (such as Licklider’s, referenced earlier in this article) and having one at hand with a single search.  Future projects involve maintaining local mirrors of certain kinds of data for preferential use due to privacy issues and risks of censorship or even wholesale data destruction due to legislative fiat or political pressure.

Arguably, implementing tasks is the most difficult part.  A nontrivial amount of programming is required as well as in-depth knowledge of interfacing with public services, authentication, security features… thankfully there are now software frameworks that abstract much of this detail away.  After many years of building and rebuilding and fighting to maintain an army of software agents I ported much of my infrastructure over to  Andrew Cantino’s Huginn.  Huginn is a software framework which implements several dozen classes of semi-autonomous software agents, each of which is designed to implement one kind of task, like sending an HTTP request to a web server, filtering events by content, emitting events based upon some external occurrance, sending events to other services.  The basic concept behind Huginn is the same as the UNIX philosophy: Every functional component does one thing, and does it very well.  Events generated by one agent can be ingested by other agents for processing.  The end result is greater than the sum of the results achieved by each individual agent.  To be sure, I’ve written lots of additional software that plugs into Huginn because there are some things it’s not particularly good, mainly very long running tasks that require minimal user input on a random basis but result in a great deal of user output.

Storing large volumes of information requires the use of search mechanisms to find anything.  It can be a point of self-discipline to carefully name each file, sort them into directories, and tag them, but when you get right down to it that isn’t a sustainable effort.  My record is eleven years before giving up and letting search software do the work for me, and much more efficiently at that.  Primarily I use the YaCy search engine to index websites, documents, and archives on my servers because it works better than any search engine I’ve yet tried to write, has a reasonable API to interface with, and can be run as an isolated system (i.e., not participating in the global YaCy network, which is essential for preserving privacy).  When searching the public Net I use several personal instances of Searx, an open source meta-search engine that is highly configurable, hackable, and also presents a very reasonable API.

I make a point of periodically backing up as much of my exocortex as possible.  One of the first automated jobs that I set up on a new server or when installing new software is running automatic backups of the application as well as its datastores several times every day.  In addition, those backups are mirrored to multiple locations on a regular basis, and those multiple locations copy everything to cold storage once a day.  To conserve mass storage space I have a one month rotation period for those backups; copies older than 31 days are automatically deleted to reclaim space.

In future articles, I’ll talk about how I built my own exocortex, what I do with it, and what benefits and drawbacks it has in my everyday life.  I will also, of course, discuss some of the security implications and a partial threat model for exocortices.  I will also write about what I call “soft transhumanism” in the future, personal training techniques that form the bedrock of my technologically implemented augmentations.

After a talk given at HOPE XI.

This is the first in a series of articles by The Doctor

The Doctor is a security practitioner working for a large Silicon Valley software-as-a-service company on next-generation technologies to bring reality and virtuality closer together.  His professional background includes security research, red team penetration testing, open source intelligence analysis, and wireless security.  When not reading hex dumps, auditing code, and peeking through sensors scattered across the globe he travels through time and space inside a funny blue box, contributes designs and code to a number of open-source hardware and software projects, and hacks on his exocortex,a software ecosystem and distributed cognitive prosthesis that augments his cognitive capabilities and assists him in day to day life collecting information and by farming out personally relevant tasks.  His primary point of presence is the blog Antarctica Starts Here.

 

Steal This Singularity Part 3: Bean Counters in Paradise

 

It was 2008 — maybe a week or two into my first experience working with “official” “organized” (as if) transhumanism as editor of h+ magazine. I was being driven down from Marin Country to San Jose to listen to a talk by a scientist long associated with various transhumanoid obsessions, among them nanotechnology, encryption and cryonics. As we made the two hour trip, the conversation drifted to notions of an evolved humanity; a different sort of species — maybe disembodied or maybe not — but decidedly post-Darwinian and in control of its instincts. I suggested that a gloomy aspect of these projections was that sex would likely disappear, since those desires and pleasures arose from more primitive aspects of the human psyche. My driver told me that he didn’t like sex because it was a distraction — a waste of brain power… not to mention sloppy.

I arrived at a Pizza Hut in an obscure part of the city. This gathering of about 15 – 20 transhumanoids would take place over cheap pizza in the back room that was reserved for the event. There was even a projector and a screen.The speaker — a pear shaped fellow clad in dress pants held up by a belt pulled up above his stomach — started his rap. As I recall, he predicted major nanotechnology breakthroughs (real nanotechnology i.e. molecular machines capable of making copies of themselves and making just about anything that nature allows extremely cheaply) within our extended lifetimes, allowing us, among other things, to stay healthy  indefinitely and finally migrate into space.

I recall him presenting a scenario in which all of us — or many of us — could own some pretty prime real estate; that is, chunks of this galaxy, at the very least that we could populate with our very own advanced progeny (mind children, perhaps.) I’m a bit sketchy on the details from so long ago, but it was a very far out vision of us united with advanced intelligences many times greater than our own either never dying or arising from the frozen dead and, yes, each one getting this gigantic chunk of space real estate to populate. (That these unlivable areas can be made livable either by changing it or ourselves or both with technology is the assumption here.)

Once the speaker had laid out the amazing future as scientifically plausible, he confessed that he was mainly there to make a pitch.  Alcor  — the cryonics company that he was involved in — needed more customers. As he delineated how inexpensively one could buy an insurance policy to  be frozen for an eventual return performance, he began to emphasize the importance of a person in cryonics not being considered legally dead… because that person could then build interest on a savings account or otherwise have his or her value increase in a stock market that was — by all nanocalculations — destined to explode into unthinkable numbers (a bigger boom).

For the bulk of his talk, the speaker dwelt on the importance of returning decades or maybe even a century or so hence to a handsome bank account. It was one of those “I can’t emphasize this enough” sort of talks that parents used to give to their 20-something kids about 401ks. Read more “Steal This Singularity Part 3: Bean Counters in Paradise”

The Invention of Reality Hackers – A “Mutazine” (1988)

Something was starting to surface. Several small subcultures were drifting together, and some of these esoteric groupings included those who were creating the next economy. Clearly, we were positioned to become the magazine of a slow baking gestalt.

 

From Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in Late 20th Century Tech Culture

by R.U. Sirius

Some time in 1988, we made a rash decision. Despite High Frontiers relatively successful rise within the ‘zine scene (where 18,000 in sales was solid), we decided to change the name of the magazine itself to Reality Hackers.

It was my idea.

We’d been hipped to cyberpunk SF and I’d read Gibson’s Neuromancer and Sterling’s Mirrorshades collection. Sterling’s famous introduction for that book, describing what cyberpunk was doing in fiction — seemed to express precisely what a truly contemporary transmutational magazine should be about. Here are some parts of it:

“The term, (cyberpunk) captures something crucial to the work of these writers, something crucial to the decade as a whole: a new kind of integration. The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground.

“This integration has become our decade’s crucial source of cultural energy. The work of the cyberpunks is paralleled throughout the Eighties pop culture: in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip hop and scratch music; in the synthesizer rock of London and Tokyo. This phenomenon, this dynamic, has a global range; cyberpunk is its literary incarnation…

An unholy alliance of the technical world and the world of organized dissent — the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy…

For the cyberpunks… technology is visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often, inside our minds.

Certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry — techniques radically redefining — the nature of humanity, the nature of the self. Read more “The Invention of Reality Hackers – A “Mutazine” (1988)”