MonthNovember 2006

Get ready for 24-hour living

Modafinil is just the first of a wave of new lifestyle drugs that promise to do for sleep what the contraceptive pill did for sex – unshackle it from nature. Since time immemorial, humans have structured their lives around sleep. In the near future, we will, for the first time, be able to significantly structure the way we sleep to suit our lifestyles.

Full Story: New Scientist.

(Thanks, Danny Chaoflux).

Counterculture and the Tech Revolution

R.U. Sirius (who before becoming a podcasting pioneer, founded Mondo 2000 magazine) interviews From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism author Fred Turner, and prefaces the interview with some of his own thoughts. Very interesting critiques on both sides. I only wish the interview was longer.

[RU:] I must say honestly that, although I was repulsed by the Gingrich alliance and by much of the corporate rhetoric that emerged, at least in part, out of Brand’s digital elitist clan – I think Brand’s tactics were essentially correct. Turner implies that valuable social change is more likely to happen through political activism than through the invention and distribution of tools and through the whole systems approach that is implicit in that activity. But I think that the internet has – palpably – been much more successful in changing lives than 40 years of left oppositional activism has been. For one example out of thousands, the only reason the means of communication that shapes our cultural and political zeitgeist isn’t COMPLETELY locked down by powerful media corporations is the work that these politically ambiguous freaks have accomplished over the past 40 years. In other words, oppositional activism would be even more occult – more hidden from view – today if not for networks built by hippie types who were not averse to working with DARPA and with big corporations. The world is a complex place.

[…]

FT: The idea of back-to-the-country didn’t work. But I think something deeper didn’t work, and it haunts us today, even as it underlies a lot of what we do. The notion that you can build a community around shared style is a deeply bohemian notion. It runs through all sorts of bohemian worlds. The notion that if you just get the right technology you can then build a unified community is a notion that drove a lot of the rural communal efforts. They thought by changing technological regimes; by going to 19th century technologies; by making their own butter; sewing their own clothes – they would be able to build a new kind of community. What they discovered was that if you don’t do politics – explicitly, directly, through parties, through organizations – if you don’t pay attention to and articulate what’s going on with real material power, communities fail.

So I argue that there’s a fantasy that haunts the internet, and it’s haunted it for at least a decade. And it’s the idea that if we just get the tools right and communicate effectively, we will be able to be intimate with one another and build the kinds of communities that don’t exist outside, in the rest of our lives. And I think that’s a deep failure and a fantasy.

Full Story: 10 Zen Monkeys.

Guerilla neuroscience documentaries online

via Mind Hacks:

Obscured TV is a website that is streaming old TV documentaries. They don’t have permission to do it, but they believe the programmes are too educational to be left gathering dust in a TV company warehouse. As they have so many classic psychology and neuroscience documentaries in their archives, I can only agree.

Just a word of warning if you’re skeptical about these sorts of things – it requires that you install some ActiveX plugin, which is seems painless to install and works OK, but only works in Explorer.

If you’re happy with doing that, have a look at this page which has a list of ‘human interest’ documentaries – largely taken from UK TV.

7 Seconds is a stunning documentary on densely amnesic patients Clive Wearing who has been the subject of some ground-breaking research on the neuropsychology of memory, but also inspires some profound thoughts on identity and remembering.

The Real Rainman, My Family and Autism and Make me Normal profile a number of remarkable individuals with autism, and Teenage Tourettes Camp is a compelling documentary on some UK children with Tourette syndrome who go to a camp in the USA especially for children affected by the disorder (it is both touching and wickedly funny in places).

Another page with documentaries from the Horizon series, includes The Man Who Lost His Body, a documentary about a man who loses his sense of proprioception – the ability to sense where your limbs are, and God on the Brain which contains a memorable scene where Michael Persinger attempts to give Richard Dawkins a religious experience by stimulating his temporal lobes with magnetic fields.

Get them while they’re online, as the site probably won’t stay up for long!

Link to ‘people’ documentaries.
Link to Horizon documentaries.

Bush and his admin immune to charges of their torture

Thanks to Curtis in Montr?al for sending this my way.

The art of Timothy Lantz

Timothy Lantz

Timothy Lantz is a full time web developer/graphic artist with degrees in Art Education and Communications. During his career he has worked on seemingly everything including weather maps, television commercials, book covers and tarot cards. View his Flickr set.

He is also the author/artist of the Archeon Tarot, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. (Visit www.archeontarot.com for more info)

Seeing money can change behavior

The AP reports:

Kathleen Vohs, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues, conducted a series of nine experiments in which people were asked to do puzzles or other tasks and the behavior of people exposed to money was compared to others who were not prompted to think about it.

The two groups acted differently, the researchers report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

“The mere presence of money changes people,” Vohs said. “The effect can be negative, it can be positive. Exposure to money, or the concept of money, elevates a sense of self-sufficiency,” and can make people less social.

Full Story: Fox New

Josh Ellis interviews Chuck Pahlahniuk

CL: I did a road trip in March, I went to Trinity, where they did the first nuclear test in ?45. I rented a convertible and drove out there to Los Alamos and hung out at the test site. And there was this weird moment where – I think it’s exactly what you’re talking about – where I was driving through the valley where the Very Large Array is, you know, the large radio telescopes? And I had a Brian Eno album on my car stereo, and it was literally like I walked into this alternate reality.

CP: That is so weird, because I’ve been researching time slips, and time slips are so tied to car trips. They almost always occur as people are driving or just after people have parked and left their vehicles…and then they find themselves in the 15th century or something like that.

CL; Oh, right, like those two women at Versailles….

CP: Exactly! Electrical storms, or they had just left their car. Electrical storms, or cars. Whether it’s theta-level trances we slip into as we’re driving, which is a really common thing-

CL: Hypnogogic states, sure.

CP: Exactly. All of that. So, yeah, very much, that’s another road trip thing, that seems to happen.

CL: And also time slips – not in the sense you’re talking about – but the sense of just losing time. Especially at night, where you find yourself at your destination two hours before you think you’re supposed to be there, but you look down and realize you’ve been driving for two hours and you have no memory of that at all.

CP: In my research, I was finding that was tied into the brainwaves we lapse into during long drives, and that that’s a state that’s exactly what people try to achieve through drumming and chanting.

Full Story: Zenarchery.

(If you like this interview, consider helping to send Josh to Africa for some original reporting).

Nomad economics: pro-markets, anti-profits

Abe Burmeister sums up his renegade economic thinking as “pro-markets, anti-profits”:

In classical economic theory, profit was deeply associated with the figure of the entrepreneur. Profit was how these idealized people would make their way in the world, they would purchase goods, transform or move them and then resell in a market. The difference between their expenses and the selling point, provided it was positive, was profit and this profit functioned as the entrepreneur’s reward, salary and means to continue their business. It’s quite a positive viewpoint of profit, and unfortunately it has little to do with the reality of how business is conducted and profits actually calculated today.

The entrepreneur as mythologized by classical economics barely exists anymore. Even those bold individuals who embrace the title today tend to wrap their enterprises in the protective skin of some form of limited liability corporation rather than proceed as sole proprietors or in traditional partnerships. Profits that pass through these organizations take on a radically different form than they do in the naive view of an entrepreneur. In fact even in a sole proprietorship or partnership profit transforms the minute that salary is introduced to the equation. For salary is after all an expense and profit is from a legal standpoint what occurs after all the expenses are paid. As soon as an entrepreneur is getting a salary, suddenly profit is no longer their just compensation for effort and risk, but in fact what is left over after they have been compensated for their time and work. Some of this profit is reinvested back into the enterprise of course, but all to often it is extracted from the system and into the hands of a limited set of individuals.

Full Story: Abstract Dynamics.

Also, he takes aim at the corporate reasponsibility mania gripping many pundits:

Jim Sinegal, the CEO of Costco, at least talked real numbers as he accepted an award of some sort. He proudly threw up a quote about how it was better to be a Costco employee or customer than a shareholder. The Costco philosophy is to cut costs everywhere except when it comes to employees, who if I remember his sliders correctly represent 70% of the companies operating cost! But even as he deflected personal credit away from him and out towards his entire management team it was quite clear this approach is merely an iteration of the age old concept of the enlightened dictator. The employees/serfs may be happy, but only because the situation is enforced from the top. Like his counterparts at the head of Starbucks and American Apparel, Sinegal has no structure in place to ensure that his enlightened approach can be anything other than a management decision.

This situation has deep roots in the history of management theory, it’s something of a Taylorism versus Fordism approach. Happy employees is clearly a successful business style, but so is the far more exploitative bean counting tight ship way of management. Costco might be better for employees than Wal-Mart, but both still are out there and both perpetuate hierarchies that pump money into a small upper class. Some kings were better to their serfs than others, but either approach meant the existence of a kingdom. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the corporate organizational form emerged just as democracy began to unstabilize the aristocracies of old.

Full Story: Abstract Dynamics.

Hello, U of A students

If anyone is swinging by Technoccult after the talk I gave tonight, follow the link for a couple decent videos which we didn’t have the time to cover in class:

This first video will expand on the practise of the sigil which we covered in the last part of class. This is of Grant Morrison, author and head of the London lodge of the Illuminates of Thanateros. And he’s wearing a Donna Karan suit, mmm yeah:Here are the links to the Marik essays, which are really quite phenomenal pieces on chaos magic in general and should be required reading (not just for you all, but for anyone on this site in general):

Sigils, Servitors, and Godforms

Servitors, Psychodynamics, and Models of Magick

Another pop culture reference, by Nine Inch Nails, where the lyrics are worth more than the visuals, but here it is in its multimedia format from the live show. Listen to the lyrics and refer back to class:

And if you have the time, a good speech put on by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club:

A link to the PDF handout I mentioned for download in class.

The one email in particular I recieved years ago from one student, a science major, who experimented with sigila.

Cheers, everyone!

Don

The World as Hologram

UC Berkeley’s Raphael Bousso presents a friendly introduction to the ideas behind the holographic principle, which may be very important in the hunt for a theory of quantum gravity.

Series: “Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Summer Lecture Series”

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