Swashbuckling Around The World With Marvin Minsky In How To Mutate & Take Over The World (MONDO 2000 History Project #13)
Take the self-enhancement/personal mutation aspect of transhumanism and marry that to the intentions of Anonymous and you have something sort of like what St. Jude and I wanted to achieve with a book titled How To Mutate & Take Over The World.
There were multiple problems with this. For all the huffing and puffing in both transhumanist and hacker circles, at that point any actual plans for mutating and/or taking the world were pretty vague. Smart drugs and meditation techniques? Nutrients for musculature and longevity? What? Where were the madpersons (things?) in secret laboratories diddling around with garage biotech? Clearly we were premature.
Hacker Michael Synergy — who had promised to bring down everything imaginable — governments, banks, what-have-you — with a few lines of code, had slipped away mysteriously amidst rumors of double or triple or quadruple non-so-secret agentry (there’s a very likely rumor that the main character in Burn Notice is based on him.) Whatever. We could have used some of Michael’s bullshit to fertilize the narrative.
And there was the deadline — six months — for a project that really required 2 or 3 years. So we tried to turn it into a sort of role playing game, inviting people on The Well, particularly those in the MONDO 2000 Conference, to take on characters and interact.
It sorta worked. The book is full of wonderful moments. Mock deconstructions of the fictive hacker underground written in trendy overwrought academese. St. Jude’s wonderful tough hacker feminism essays about how grrrls needed modems. Descriptions of fucking robots involved with excremental performance art.
And — perhaps most of all — Patrick Di Justo’s hilarious contributions. Among these, there was an episode in which Terence McKenna and Marvin Minsky crash land and find themselves amongst a primitive tribe and an episode wherein a tiny K. Eric Drexler winds up in a terrarium. Was this maybe a bit too “inside baseball” for a popular audience in the mid-90s?
Anyway, the entire thing turned into a recursive story-within-story-within-story in which two authors of a book struggle against deadlines and book company assassins within a narrative of world takeover ending with the world being smothered in self-replicating Key Lime Pie.
People either loved it or hated it… and the people who loved it were mostly comprised of a small slice of the literary avant garde.
Anyway, presented for your amusement, an excerpt from How To Mutate & Take Over The World by the slightly pseudonymous Patrick Dijuju followed by Di Justo speaking about his participation in How To Mutate & Take Over The World.
Travels With Marvin: Swashbuckling Around The World With Marvin Minsky
by Patrick Dijuju
Slowly regaining consciousness, I opened my eyes to see chunks of the Amazon jungle framed in the remains of the aircraft window. Remembering where I was, I tentatively tried to wiggle my toes and was gratified to feel them scraping the inside of my boot. One fear conquered: I wasn’t paralyzed.
I moved my legs a few inches from side to side. They seemed fine. I diffidently opened my legs wider and felt my crotch Everything seemed in place there. Another sigh of relief.
I looked across the small aisle. Marvin Minsky was sitting bolt upright, fully conscious and still strapped in his seat. The crash had torn huge rents in the fuselage of the plane, and Marvin’s eyes darted around the remains of the cabin and out into the jungle in great sweeping arcs. He resembled a bird of prey on the lookout for anything moving.
“Hey,” he shouted at me when he saw I was awake, “are you all right?”
“I seem to be,” I replied.
“Yeah. I figured when you grabbed your crotch you were OK,” he said. “That seems to be part of the algorithm.”
“What appears to be the ‘Self Test Upon Regaining Consciousness after a Life Threatening Injury’ algorithm. You wiggled your toes first, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“So did I. They you checked to see if your legs worked, and then you grabbed your crotch.”
“Yeah,” I repeated.
“So did I. In that order. You were about to check your head, and save your torso for last, weren’t you?”
“Yeah,” a third time.
“So did I. The algorithm is obviously a collection of smaller building blocks of activity hardwired into our brain. Wiggle the toes. Check the legs. Scope the balls. Pretty interesting. By the way, you have, or you had, a bloody nose.”
I reached up to my face and felt around. My beard and mustache felt hard, crusty and dry. I had obviously had a nosebleed that stopped some time ago. How long had I been unconscious?
“How long have I been unconscious,” I asked Marvin.
“We crashed about an hour ago. Assuming you lost consciousness at or near the moment of impact, about an hour,” Minsky replied.
I had a headache that didn’t seem to be centered in any specific place in my brain; it seemed to be everywhere in my head at once. An hour was plenty of time for a brain concussion to begin its voodoo. For some reason that really bothered me. My brain is my second favorite organ, and to think of it bruised or bleeding upset me greatly.
I looked around the remains of the fuselage. “Where’s McKenna?” I asked.
“About time you asked,” Minsky replied. “He went out to reconnoiter, I think he said. Apparently he’s under the impression that he knows, and can speak to, the native people of the area.”
“Well,” I said, unstrapping myself, “I don’t want to sit around here.” I jumped to my feet.
I opened my eyes. I was on my back, staring at the ceiling of the plane.
“Don’t stand up too quickly,” Minsky said, when he saw I had regained consciousness once more. “I’m guessing that you’ve got a bad concussion. You’ll be prone to fainting for the next few days.”
There was a rustle in the leaves outside the cabin. Terence McKenna stepped out of the jungle and hurried to the remains of the airplane.
“Marvin!” he called. “I’ve found them!”
“I have no idea what he’s found,” Minsky whispered to me.
McKenna stuck his head through one of the holes in the fuselage and saw me lying on the floor. “Hello,” he said. “Glad to see you’re up and about. If you are, that is.” He turned to Minsky. “Marvin,” he said breathlessly, “I’ve found some indigenous people of this tropical rain forest.”
“How nice,” Minsky said dryly. “Can they get us to civilization?”
“Oh, you’re such a reductionist,” McKenna snapped.
“It’s my job,” Minsky replied smoothly.
There was another rustle in the jungle, much softer this time, and as if by magic, two native men appeared in our clearing. McKenna pulled his head out of the plane and looked at them.
Minsky stood up and was about to exit the plane when McKenna stopped him.
“Let me, Marvin,” McKenna said. “I know how to talk to these people.”
“Hi,” he said, extending his hand in greeting toward the natives. “Koyan teki. Koyan teki.” The natives looked at McKenna, then at each other.
“What’s he saying,” I asked Dr. Minsky.
“I have no idea,” Minsky said. “But it stands to reason that it’s some form of local greeting.”
“Thanks, Marvin. I figured that out.”
“You’re welcome. Aside from that, I have no data. Come on.”
Marvin helped me slowly to my feet. Supported by his shoulder, I staggered out of the remains of the airplane into the dappled sunshine.
The natives were muscular, brown skinned men wearing nothing but body paint and leather codpieces. They each carried a long, relatively straight, fire hardened pointed stick. Both men did a double take when they saw Marvin.
“Xochipilli,” one whispered to the other. “Xochipilli,” the other answered in agreement.
“Terence, what are they saying,” Marvin asked.
“I don’t know,” McKenna retorted. “I never said I was fluent in their language.”
“No, you never did,” Minsky purred.
McKenna shot Minsky a look. The animosity between them that had begun at the conference was starting to fester now. Great, I thought, this was all we needed.
“Look, fellas,” I said to both intellectuals, “what do we do now?”
The natives took it upon themselves to supply the answer, (though they obviously could not have understood the question) because at that moment they both began talking a mile a minute. I didn’t recognize any words except for the mysterious “Xochipilli, Xochipilli”, which they said every few seconds.
“Terence,” I said, motioning to the two men, “what IS this?”
“Um, they want us to follow them,” McKenna said, struggling to translate their jabbering. “They want to show us something … no, they want to take us to their village chief, and the chief will show us something.”
“Well,” Minsky said, “considering we have no alternative, I suggest we go.”
I only fainted once on the way to the village. When we finally reached the collection of huts that served as the native’s more or less permanent encampment, one of our escorts ran ahead of us, stamping his feet and shouting “Xochipilli, Xochipilli!”
“There’s that word again,” I slurred.
At that moment a large, regal man emerged from the large hut at the far end of the village. He stood well over six feet tall, and was adorned with a variety of feathers, bones, beads and other ornaments. This had to be the village chief. The chief frowned at the man doing all the yelling, then he looked at the three of us. And I’m telling you, when he saw Marvin, his jaws dropped, his eyes popped, his mouth opened.
“Xochipilli,” he whispered reverently.
“Terence,” Minsky said, “if you have ANY idea what this Hochifella stuff means, I’d really appreciate knowing.”
“Look, Marvin,” McKenna snapped, ‘I’m as worried as you are. I don’t know if this word means they’re going to eat us, or sacrifice us, or what. OK? I JUST DON’T KNOW!”
“OK, Terence,” Marvin said placatingly. “Just asking.”
We stopped in the middle of the clearing. The chief motioned to two of his men. They walked to the clump of ferns at the edge of the developed part of the village and quickly prodded and pulled the leaves of the huge plants to the right and left.
Hidden in the brush was a huge carved stone, approximately fifteen feet high, and a stone slab, about four feet off the ground, six feet long and six feet wide. The slab was covered with a brown, crusty material that looked like dried blood. The large stone had been carved into a statue of a humanoid creature looking up at the sky. The creature was stocky and bald, had enormous eyes and an enormous beak like nose, and looked half man/half bird of prey.
“Mar-vin,” I whispered.
“Hmmm,” Minsky hummed.
“Mar-vin,” McKenna whined, “that looks an awful lot like you.”
“It does, doesn’t it,” Minsky replied in a hushed tone.
“Marvin,” I said hoarsely, “they must think you’re one of their gods.”
“I think you’re right,” Marvin whispered.
As if to punctuate Marvin’s comment, the tribal chief and his followers slowly knelt, then prostrated themselves face down at Marvin’s feet. “Xochipilli,” they chanted, “Xochipilli.”
The three of us were silent for a moment, then McKenna snapped. “JESUS CHRIST!!! MARVIN??? MARVIN MINSKY??? Of the six billion people on this earth they had to choose Marvin MINSKY as their god???” He poked Minsky in the shoulder with a rigid forefinger.
The chief popped his head up and gave McKenna a very nasty look.
“Hey, Terence, cool it,” I warned.
“Jesus Christ. Minsky?! I don’t know why they chose YOU as their god,” McKenna snapped. “I’m the one who’s studied their culture. I’m the one who’s shared their sacraments. I’m the one who’s lived among them.”
“Terence!” Minsky’s voice was like wet ice. “Knock it off!”
The chief muttered some words to his aides. He then stood up, pointed at McKenna, looked at Minsky, and let forth a torrent of speech. He stopped and looked at Minsky inquisitively.
“Notice the universality of body language,” Minsky whispered to me. “We don’t know the words, but by the look on his face, the wide eyes and raised brows, we know that it was a question.”
“What did he ask,” I whispered back.
“I have no idea,” Minsky replied. “Terence, can you translate what the chief said?”
McKenna ignored Marvin’s question.
“Terence,” Minsky said quietly, “did you catch what he said?”
McKenna didn’t say anything for about five seconds. Then he snipped, ”No, I didn’t. And even if I did, I doubt I would tell you.”
Minsky frowned. “We have no data. We can just randomly choose a response, I guess, but in situations like this, I’ve usually found it’s safe to say yes.”
“Are you sure?”
“No,” he replied, “I’m not sure. I’ve just found that ‘Yes’ generally works better than no.”
The tribal chief repeated his question, and once again looked at Marvin with big eyes.
“Terence,” Marvin whispered. “How do you say yes in their lingo?”
“Hei”, McKenna said petulantly.
Marvin sat up straight, looked at the chief and firmly said, “Hei, chief. Hei.”
The chief barked out several short commands to his men. They immediately stood up, grabbed Terence McKenna from behind, gagged him with a leather thong and dragged him to the stone altar.
I jumped to my feet once again. You’d think I would have learned my lesson. As the jungle started to spin I grabbed one of the tree trunks to steady myself and yelled, “Marvin! I think you just gave them permission to sacrifice Terence McKenna to you!!”
Minsky slowly got to his feet. “Hmm,” he said, as he watched the tribesmen tie McKenna to the altar. “It would appear that I did, didn’t I?”
My agitation was making me woozy. “Marvin!”, I yelled with nearly all my strength, “stop them!”
“I’ll try,” Minsky promised. He walked to the altar, looked down at the bound and gagged Terence McKenna and said “Terence, how do you say ‘stop’ in their language?”
McKenna’s eyes blazed as he thrashed around. He was talking a mile a minute behind his gag, but all we heard were muffled nasal “m” sounds and occasional ululations.
The tribal chief took a flint knife out of his belt and majestically strode toward the altar. “Marvin,” I shouted with the final remnants of my strength, ”STOP HIM!”
Minsky turned to me. “It would appear that Terence, who is gagged, is the only one of us who knows the word ‘stop’ in the local language,” he said.
The chief raised his knife over his head as darkness crashed around me…
Patrick Di Justo Recalls His Participation In How To Mutate & Take Over The World
Previous MONDO History Entries
LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6)
Did The CIA Kill JFK Over LSD?, Reproduced Authentic, & Two Heads Talking: David Byrne In Conversation With Timothy Leary (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #10)
Memory & Identity In Relentlessly Fast Forward & Memetically Crowded Times (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #11)