MonthMarch 2014

Fundraiser for an Essay on Technology and the Occult

As long-time readers likely know, my own interest in things magical and occult has largely dissipated. But I know many of you are still interested the intersecton between technology and magic, so a project by my friend Damien Williams may well interest you. He’s raising funds to write a lengthy essay called “Techne: The State of the Art”:

I’ll show what happens when magical ideas intersect with modern technology, looking at things like AI, and why “artificial” might have been a poor choice of adjective. I’ll consider questions like, “What is it that drives humanity to create technology in our image?” “How can stories like the Golem, the Homunculus, or the Tulpa,” (and we’ll get to those) “help us in our search to create AI?” and “Might perspectives such as Jungian psychology’s take on alchemy provide us with tools to better engage our world?”

I’ll also examine the use of cutting edge tech in modern magical practices and vice versa. Musicians, roboticists, and authors who weave magical intentions through electronic music, who use magical theory in the programming of their creations and who see in our world, something like the fulfilment of Arthur C. Clarke’s line that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

You can back the project on Inkshares, a crowdfunding site for the written word.

(I missed it, but Technoccult interview alum David Forbes recently raised some money for an essay of his own about the history of far right politics in science fiction that sounds absolutely fascinating)

Mindful Cyborgs: This Time Let’s Just Sit Quietly and Breathe

This week Chris Dancy, Alex Williams and I talk about the mindfulness racket, cyborg bank robbers, wearable computing going mainstream and more.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: This Time Let’s Just Sit Quietly and Breathe

In Memory of Steve Moore, Unearething by Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins is Now Online for Free

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Alan Moore’s mentor Steve Moore (no blood relation) passed away this month. In his memory, photographer Mitch Jenkins has posted the entirety of his work on the Unearthing, a biography of Steve written by Moore.

Mitch Jenkins: Unearthing

RIP Steve Moore, Comics Author and Fortean Times Co-Founder

Sad news from the Strange Attractor blog:

We’re deeply sad to announce that Steve Moore, author of Somnium and a regular contributor to Strange Attractor Journal, passed away over the weekend, under a beautiful Spring full Moon.

Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more.

Steve was amongst the earliest members of the Gang of Fort, who launched Fortean Times magazine in the early 1970s, and the author of a great many influential comics and short stories for publications including 2000AD, Warrior, Dr Who magazine and, most recently, the Hercules series for Radical Publishing. At the time of his death he was working on a number of new projects, including his ongoing, privately published Tales of Telguuth and The Bumper Book of Magic, with his lifelong friend Alan Moore.

Full Story: Strange Attractor: STEVE MOORE 1949 – 2014

Steve Moore wasn’t related to Alan Moore, but had a profound influence on his career and was the subject of the latter’s audio book Unearthing.

An Open Source Kit for Growing Edible Insects

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My latest for Wired:

The world’s population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, according to a World Resources Institute report published last year, and that means we’ll need to increase food production about 60 percent in the coming decades — a task made all the more difficult by expected shortages in water, fuel, fertilizer, and arable land. One solution could be entomophagy. Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations suggested that insects could be an increasingly important and sustainable food source in the future, and Imrie-Situnayake agrees. Insects are high in protein. They require little space to raise. And they don’t produce much methane or other greenhouse gases.

Two million people around the world already eat insects on a regular basis, and many consider them a delicacy. But here in the West, the situation is very different. Entomophagy is largely taboo, and our culture just isn’t geared towards finding and raising insects for food. That’s why Imrie-Situnayake and Tiny Farms have created what they call Open Bug Farm — a high-tech kit for raising your own edible insects. They’re trying to hack the Western agriculture world, and in true hacker fashion, they plan on open sourcing the kit’s basic design, so that anyone can build their own for free.

Full Story: Wired: Out in the Open: Raise Your Own Edible Insects With This Free Kit

NASA Study: Industrial Civilization Headed for Collapse

Nafeez Ahmed writes:

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

Full Story: The Guardian: Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?

(via Eleanor)

I haven’t had a look at the study yet, but will be published here. It sounds a lot like Peter Turchin’s Cliodynamics research.

See also: Ahmed on peak soil.

Happy Pi Day

See also:

The real life inspiration behind the movie Pi

Black Boys Seen as Older, More Responsible for their Actions Than Other Children

From a paper titled “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children”:

The social category “children” defines a group of individuals who are perceived to be distinct, with essential characteristics including innocence and the need for protection (Haslam, Rothschild, & Ernst, 2000). The present research examined whether Black boys are given the protections of childhood equally to their peers. We tested 3 hypotheses: (a) that Black boys are seen as less “childlike” than their White peers, (b) that the characteristics associated with childhood will be applied less when thinking specifically about Black boys relative to White boys, and (c) that these trends would be exacerbated in contexts where Black males are dehumanized by associating them (implicitly) with apes (Goff, Eberhardt, Williams, & Jackson, 2008). We expected, derivative of these 3 principal hypotheses, that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses across 4 studies using laboratory, field, and translational (mixed laboratory/field) methods. We find converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers. Further, our findings demonstrate that the Black/ape association predicted actual racial disparities in police violence toward children. These data represent the first attitude/behavior matching of its kind in a policing context. Taken together, this research suggests that dehumanization is a uniquely dangerous intergroup attitude, that intergroup perception of children is underexplored, and that both topics should be research priorities.

Full Story: Metafilter: “they cry because they are not allowed to be children at all”

This reminds me of how Ron Paul (or whoever was writing his newsletters) that only black male minors should be tried as adults:

We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.

On Gaia tests whether the hypothesis holds up to scientific scrutiny

Scott K. Johnson reviews On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship Between Life and Earth by Toby Tyrrell:

Spiritual groups that hope to attract your interest may exhort you to “Be a part of something bigger than yourself!” But James Lovelock would tell you that you can already check that off your to-do list.

In the early 1970s, Lovelock—with the help of Lynn Margulis—developed the Gaia Hypothesis, which views the Earth and its ecosystems as resembling a sort of superorganism. Lovelock was working for NASA at the time, developing instruments that would aid the Viking landers in looking for signs of life on Mars, so he was thinking about how life interacts with its environment on a planetary scale. And Margulis was famed for her ideas about symbiosis.

This intellectual background led to the idea that organisms are not just passive inhabitants riding a big rock that determined whether they lived or died. Organisms were active participants in the molding of their environment, tweaking and improving conditions as part of a massive, self-regulating system.

In On Gaia: A Critical Investigation of the Relationship Between Life and Earth, University of Southampton Professor Toby Tyrrell sets out to comprehensively put the Gaia Hypothesis to the test, using everything we’ve learned about life and its history on our planet.

Full Story: Ars Technica: On Gaia tests whether the hypothesis holds up to scientific scrutiny

See also:

Creator of the Gaia hypothesis says “enjoy life while you can”

Manuel DeLanda: “Don’t call me Gaia”

Mindful Cyborgs: Interview with Meatspace CEO Jen Fong-Adwent

Meatspace

This week Chris Dancy, Alex Williams and I talk with Jen Fong-Adwent, CEO of the weird new chat app Meatspace. Here’s an exceprt where she explains the origins of the service:

It was actually just an experiment between a colleague and I because she was doing a GIF library with WebRTC for the camera on your browser, and I have been doing chat experiments for a few years now. A lot of mixed media embedded interactions. Basically, experiments with social interaction and very limited forums with very limited effort by the user.

This was the first time around May when I just said hey, you think if you pressed enter and it recorded a few frames of your face as you were reacting as you were typing, we can do that and then my colleague so it was like, yeah, I fixed this. So, we did it and like 2 days we scrapped something together and we played with it internally and then it became public when I spoke in October at Portland and that was when it blew up and it went [unclear 0:02:29] Reddit, everywhere, and there was a lot of people that showed up like the first couple of days and there was a joke that it shut down Silicon Valley because everyone was just so mesmerized by all the GIFs of all these faces and some people were very famous and some people were just normal people. Some people weren’t even tech. It was pretty crazy.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 25 – Meatspace and the Organic Ephemeral Marketplace

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