Infocidal Maniacs

It’s been five years since _why a lucky stiff committed “infocide,” deleting his Twitter account, all of his websites, and his GitHub account containing all of his code projects.

There have been countless debates about the relative ethics of infocide, and I don’t have anything to add. But can I ever relate. There are days that I want to delete my Twitter accounts, my Tumblr accounts, yank my noise albums off the web and, of course nuke this very blog. There’s over 14 years of material here, dating back to when I was 18 years old. Much of it is merely embarrassing, some of it is out right shameful. It would be nice to flush it all down the memory hole and, like the band said, rip it up and start again. Create a new persona, a new blog, a new Twitter account.

Or not. Really, what I fantasize about most is just unplugging entirely. Many people thoughts, good and bad, about this whole unplugging thing. And again, I have nothing to add except: geez whiz it sounds like it would be nice not just to unplug for a day or a month or, like that lucky bastard Paul Miller, an entire year, but to be done with this whole internet thing once and for all. To get a newspaper subscription, dig my library card out of whatever creased recess of my wallet it’s been banished to and just get on with life and pretend that the web was just weird dream that spanned nearly two decades of my life.

Of course, it’s not so simple. I have a job to do, and it requires the web. There’s not many living jobs out there any more, and there are even fewer that I’m qualified for. Most of them require using the internet. And the internet is where my friends are. And I know the newspapers would pile up, the library books would slip go overdue before I read ‘em, and any new blog or Twitter account I created would become just unwieldy as the last.

So I’ll stick around. But a fellow can dream, can’t he? Well, here’s to you, _why. Hope you’re making the best of it.

Beats Antique: She Is Looking for Something

This new Beats Antique video features costumes made by my wife and her business partner Brandy Grey. Jillian also makes a small cameo appearance in the video!

Why Minecraft is the Future of Code Literacy

LearnToMod, Tetris

New from me at Wired:

Minecraft is incredibly open-ended. It’s entirely up you whether you as a player whether spend your time building elaborate castles, fighting monsters, or exploring the the game world. What’s more, using mods, you can quickly create things that would otherwise take a long time to build in the game, such as mountains or massive dungeons, or create custom types of blocks. You can also create special rules that enable you to do things like build your own games within Minecraft, such as capture the flag or Tetris.

Once the kids have crafted their code in LearnToMod, the application connects to their Minecraft account to make the mods available to the kids in the game. By teaching kids to build their own Minecraft mods, the ThoughSTEM team is hoping to keep students motivated to learn some of the trickier parts of coding.

TeacherGaming founder Joel Levin is fond of the idea. “Kids are passionate about the game and they quickly understand that they can extend and enhance their Minecraft experience by learning some basic programming,” he says. “And that’s really what we want, isn’t it? To have kids realize that with code, they can improve their life in a way that’s relevant to them.”

In fact, Levin says TeacherGaming is working on its own mod building education program called ComputerCraftEdu, which will eventually be offered both online and in-person. And there are already a few other classes that teach students to create mods, such as MakersFactory’s class in Santa Cruz and YouthDigital’s online class.

Full Story: Wired: New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play

On for adults looking to learn to program, there’s Switch, which is looking to become like “OK Cupid” for code bootcamps.

New Book by Alejandro Jodorowsky Coming Soon: Metagenealogy

Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa

The English translation of Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree by Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa comes out September 1. Looks like it’s been out in Spanish for a while.

Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa

Here’s the description from Amazon:

A practical guide to recognizing and overcoming the patterns and influences of the four generations before you

• Provides exercises to uncover your family’s psychological heritage, heal negative patterns of behavior and illness in your family tree, and discover your true self

• Explains how we are the product of two forces: repetition of familial patterns from the past and creation of new ideas from the Universal Consciousness of the future

• Interwoven with examples from Jodorowsky’s own life and his work with the tarot, psychoanalysis, and psychomagic

The family tree is not merely vital statistics about your ancestors. It is an embodied sense of self that we inherit from at least four prior generations, constituting both a life-giving treasure and a deadly trap. Each of us is both an heir of our lineage and a necessary variation that brings the family into new territory. Are you doomed to repeat the patterns of your parents and grandparents? Or can you harness your familial and individual talents to create your own destiny?

In Metagenealogy, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa show how every individual is the product of two forces: the imitating force, directed by the family group acting from the past, and the creative force, driven by the Universal Consciousness from the future. Interweaving examples from Jodorowsky’s own life and his work with the tarot, psychoanalysis, and psychomagic, the authors provide exercises, visualizations, and meditations to discover your family’s psychological heritage and open yourself to the growth and creativity of Universal Consciousness. They reveal how identifying the patterns, emotional programming, and successes and failures of the four generations that influence you–your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents–allows you to see beyond the stable identity formed by family lineage. It frees you to overcome your inherited subconscious patterns of behavior and illness, stop the transmission of these patterns to future generations, and reconnect with your true self and unique creative purpose in life.

By understanding your family tree and your place in it, you open your ability to heal the ancient struggle between the repetitive forces of the past and the creative forces of the future.

See also our Alejandro Jodorowsky dossier.

Mindful Cyborgs: Personalization appeals to a Western, egocentric belief in individualism

This week we continue our conversation with technology critic Sara M. Watson about the “uncanny valley of personalization.”

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs:

Why Robocops Need to be Less Efficient Than Human Coaps

iRobot security robot

New from me at Wired:

Automation is also framed as a way to make law enforcement more efficient. A red light camera can catch a lot more violations than a human can.

The rub is that extreme efficiency isn’t necessarily good thing. That’s what a group of researchers argue in a paper presented earlier this year at a conference on robot law in Miami. They go so far as to argue that inefficiency should be preserved, even increased, as we move to automated law enforcement.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but in the end, it makes good sense. Woodrow Hartzog, an assistant professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of law and co-author of the paper, tells WIRED that, in some cases, making law enforcement less efficient just means putting humans back in the loop, allowing room for “inefficient” human judgments like mercy and compassion. “A robot can’t forgive certain infractions that are generally accepted,” he says.

Full Story: Wired: Why Robocops Need to be Less Efficient Than Human Coaps

Yazidi Brace for 74th Attempted Genocide in Iraq

Vox reports:

The last night Salam Sheikh could sleep was Sunday. That was before Islamic State fighters marched into his home city of Sinjar, in northern Iraq, defeated 5,000 Kurdish fighters within an hour, and made Cheikh’s family prisoners in their own home.

Now when the 28-year-old calls his three sisters and his disabled mother, more than 6,400 miles away in Iraq, they speak only in whispers. Speak any louder, they fear, and ISIS fighters might overhear and realize they are still in the city.

Sheikh and his family are Yazidi, part of an ancient religion with about 600,000 adherents around the world, mostly in Iraq. About 200 Yazidi families live in the United States, half of them here in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they began settling after the first Gulf War.

[...]

The Yazidi, who have been persecuted for centuries, say their cultural memory includes 73 attempted genocides. The Nebraska-based Yazidi fear they are watching the 74th from thousands of miles away.

“It’s worse than the war,” Sheikh says.

Full Story: Vox: The genocide 6,000 miles away: America’s Yazidis watch and wait, fearing the worst

See also: Wikipedia entry on the Yazidi

Mindful Cyborgs: Identity in a World Ruled by Data

This week we talk with Sara M. Watson, a technology critic and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, about her piece in The AtlanticData Doppelgängers and the Uncanny Valley of Personalization.”

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Visualizing Data Destinies with Experts Pt 1

Check out my noise art installation at the Weird Shift gallery in Portland

Weird Shift installation

Above is a look at my interactive noise art installation at the Weird Shift gallery in Portland, Oregon. I call it “Experiments in Psychetecture.” I don’t want to give too much away, and I’m feeling lazy about trying to describe it. But here’s the basic idea behind it:

Typically, a Psychetect performance would consist of me playing with this ensemble in front of a group of people. But I’ve never been entirely comfortable with this arrangement, since to me the main work that goes into the piece isn’t the final improvisation that goes with a setup, but the construction of a setup. This installation gives me the opportunity to simply let the people formally known as the listeners perform for themselves, while cutting me out of this finally step entirely.

But if you want to hear a performance using it, Weird Shift co-organizer Adam Rothstein made a recording with it that’s available as part of the first episode of Weird Shift Radio, which you can download here.

To play with it yourself, visit the Weird Shift gallery:

201 N. Alberta St
North Portland, Cascadia
97217

Weekdays: 3pm – 9pm
Saturday & Sunday: 1pm – 4pm

It’s closed today to setup new works, but will be open again tomorrow and my piece should be there until the end of the month, or until it breaks, whichever comes first.

(Special thanks to Justin Landers for the use of the drum cymbal and Nolan Ashley for the use of the Korg NanoKontrol)

Mutation Vectors 8/2/2014

As I’ve mentioned before, when things get quiet on Technoccult it’s usually because I’m struggling to keep up with my day-to-day work. And I have been lately, but I do feel like I’m back on top of things, at least for a moment.

Still, I don’t have a lot of media to share. Part of that is because I’ve been busy, and part of it is that I’ve been recoiling in disgust from both general news and tech news lately. I’ve been spending what little spare time I’ve had lately reading about ancient mythology and revisiting my interest in the history of that thing we call “magic.” Of course that’s escapism, but is there really anything wrong with that? (Neil Gaiman says no).

It seems like I’m not alone. Joshua Ellis writes: “everyone I know is brokenhearted.” This may have something to do with our particular social circles, but I’ve noticed this too.

Though it’s hard to say exactly how new a problem this is. After all, about 2,500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha got similarly fed up with the pain and suffering in the world and dropped out of life, became a Sramana monk and eventually founded Buddhism. He may never have existed, but there are a huge number of scriptures attributed to his teaching. Enough different ones, apparently, to justify genocide.

I refer of course to Jack Kornfield’s recent article on Burmese Buddhists attacks on the Muslim minority in their country. Kornfield doesn’t have much to say about the situation other than that it’s bad and that the Burmese don’t really understand the teachings of the Buddha, which sounds overly simplistic to me, but it’s still worth a read. (See also: Buddhism is not a democracy movement).

Other stuff I’ve read lately:

Currently reading: Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God: Tezcatlipoca, “Lord of the Smoking Mirror”

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