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Jul 29 2012

From Psychedelic Magazine With A Tech Gloss To Tech Magazine With A Psychedelic Gloss (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #23)

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Another segment from the rough draft of Use Your Hallucinations: Mondo 2000 in the 20th Century Cyberculture.  Note that “the total fucking transmutation of everything” is established as a conceit early in the narrative, thus its use here reflects on a major theme.

…Meanwhile, we made a rash decision.  Despite High Frontiers relatively successful rise within the ‘zine scene (where 15,000 in sales was a pretty big deal), 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.  His 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.

The Eighties are an era of reassessment, of integration, of hybridized influences, of old notions shaken loose and reinterpreted with a new sophistication 

Cyberpunk favors “crammed” loose: rapid, dizzying bursts of novel information, sensory overIoad that submerges the reader in the literary equivalent of the hard-rock “wall of sound.”  

Well, then…

Also, Jaron Lanier was hanging around some, sharing his lofty goals for virtual reality; and Eric Gullichsen, who was teaming up to do some writing with Timothy Leary — with whom he shared a mutual fascination with drugs, extreme technology and Aleister Crowley — was already even a bit deeper in the mix, while dreaming his own VR schemes.  Various hackers like Bill Me Later and John Draper (Captain Crunch) were popping up with increasing frequency.  Hanging in hacker circles, we were also befriended by John Morgenthaler, who was getting very serious about the exploration of smart drugs.  Something was starting to surface.  Several small subcultures were drifting together, and some of these, at times, esoteric groupings included men (yes, men) who were creating the next economy.  Clearly, we were positioned to become the magazine of a slow baking gestalt.

Other factors played into this change.  While a strutting, pop-intellectual, irreverent psychedelic magazine (in other words, High Frontiers) could surely build an audience somewhat larger than 15,000, we probably weren’t all that far from our optimum, unless we wanted to stifle our Gonzo-meets-Camp writerly excesses and dumb ourselves down to something more like a High Times for psychedelic drugs.  Also, acid dealers didn’t advertise.  The number of potential advertisers for a magazine that revolved primarily around psychedelics was limited, particularly in this “just say no” period. Hell, dope friendly humor was even voluntarily eliminated by Saturday Night Live, the once-hip show inspired by a Lorne Michaels mescaline trip.    And then, admittedly, by emphasizing technology, we could, in theory, put a bit of a buffer zone between ourselves and “the man” — throw him off our druggy tracks while sneaking sideways into the center of the oncoming digital establishment, all the better to affect the total fucking transmutation of everything (bwahaha)… or maybe even make a livelihood!

Lastly, it had really been my intention from the start to create a magazine that (to slightly detourne the original subhead of High Frontiers) was balanced between psychedelics, science, technology, outrageousness and postmodern pop culture.  The psychedelic impulse had gloriously taken center stage for the first four years.  Now it was time to push into new territory.

To consolidate my thoughts about the Reality Hackers, I wrote a small manifesto (a list, really) titled:

What Are The Reality Hackers Doing

1: Using high technology for a life beyond limits

2: Expanding the effectiveness and enjoyment of the human brain, mind, nervous system and senses

3: Blurring the distinction between science fiction and reality

4: Making big bureaucracy impossible

5: Entertaining any notion — using what works

6: Infusing new energy into postmodern culture

7: Using hardcore anthropology to understand human evolution

8: Using media to send out mutational memes (thought viruses)

9: Blurring the distinctions between high technology and magic

10: Replacing nerd mythology with sexy, healthy, aesthetic, & artful techno-magicians of both genders.

With this, I was also aligning the magazine ideologically with a transhumanist agenda.  I’d attended meetings of a nanotechnology interest group hosted by Christine Peterson and, sometimes, Eric Drexler.  I started to see the actual dim outlines of a plausible “total fucking transmutation of everything;” with molecular technology giving us total productive control over matter for unlimited wealth; biotechnology giving us the potential for positive mutations in the human organism; and neurotechnology theoretically allowing us to maximize our intelligence — not too mention cleaner, better highs with no downside.

Of course, we were maybe throwing away four years building a brand but, if we were anything, we were impulsive.

Ken Jopp: Reality Hackers was, to me, inelegantly titled. Still, the cyberpunk thing was revving up.  The weekly tabloid in my town ran a cover story on hackers: teenagers who lugged computers into phone booths, and then, when nobody was looking, they made long-distance calls for free! This was subversive stuff. Off the Establishment! I bought the issue of Reality Hackers and adopted it and its kin as a cultural security blanket.  These proto-Mondo publications, arriving during the Dark Ages of President Ronald Wilson Reagan (666), were a source of what later would become hollowed out to form a tinhorn. I mean, Hope and Change?

Lord Nose: I think it kept getting more and more mainstream in hopes of getting on to the newsstand and getting advertisers. It was being slowly made more palatable — or seemingly palatable — for the corporate interests that had no taste. I mean, it was so different. High Frontiers had a very different thrust.

Jeff Mark: Those of us serious about psychedelic exploration continued. Indeed, there was considerable activity, particularly around Tim Leary and Terence McKenna, but the momentum was spent. People started worrying about making a living.  High Frontiers/Reality Hackers had to get their shit together. 

 

Previous MONDO History Entries

Psychedelic Transpersonal Photography, High Frontiers & MONDO 2000: an Interview with Marc Franklin

Gibson & Leary Audio (MONDO 2000 History Project)

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #3)

Robert Anton Wilson Talks To Reality Hackers Forum (1988 — Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #4)

Smart Drugs & Nutrients In 1991 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #5)

LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6)

William Burroughs For R.U. Sirius’ New World Disorder (1990, Mondo 2000 History Project Entry # 7)

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 1 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 2 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

The Glorious Cyberpunk Handbook Tour (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #9)

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)

The First Virtual War & Other Smart Bombshells (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #12)

Swashbuckling Around The World With Marvin Minsky In How To Mutate & Take Over The World (MONDO 2000 History Project #13)

FAIL! Debbie Does MONDO (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #14)

Paradise Is Santa Cruz: First Ecstasy (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #15)

William Gibson On MONDO 2000 & 90s Cyberculture (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #16)

Ted Nelson & John Perry Barlow For MONDO 2000 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #17)

R.U. A Cyberpunk? Well, Punk? R.U.? (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry # 18

The New Edge At The New Age Convention (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #19)

The Belladonna Shaman (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #20)

NeoPsychedelia & High Frontiers: Memes Leading To MONDO 2000 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #21)

“I’d Never Met A Libertarian Before” (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #22)

 

Jan 16 2012

Le Future According To Val, Part One: When Technologies Meet, Interact, and Things Go Boom.

So here we are in the year 2012, which far too many people predict will be the year the world ends. Some believe in cosmic disaster; some believe aliens will make contact; some believe “God” will “return” and magically wipe away everyone who doesn’t believe “the right things”. All of them share a single common problem — a complete lack of evidence of any sort.

Yet even among those who dismiss these “doomsdagry predictions,” you find those who proclaim dooms of a different sort, such as claims that we are fast approaching the “death of innovation” or even the “death of advanced civilization.” Even these predictions are hindered by a lack of any provable evidence, and joined by a single common theme — fear of the future.

There is a reason for this. The future is a very scary place. Not because we have reached an ending, which in reality, we certainly have, but because so few people can see beyond that ending to the birth that will follow. This isn’t a unique situation, as we’ve been through similar processes previously, most notably following the invention of the printing press that lead to the end of the Catholic Church’s monolithic existence by sparking the protestant revolution; made reading a common skill and enabled the Renaissance. More recently, we experienced the industrial revolution that has lead to our current world. It’s this “world” that is reaching its end. But this is neither doom, nor a disaster, even though it will most certainly be chaotic and sadly cost far too many lives as we make a transition from our present reality into an entirely new and different one.

It’s this new and different reality that I see coming that underlies everything I have written, and that has caused some to call me all sorts of names — from wild eyed optimist to certified lunatic. The names are pretty meaningless, because they simply reflect the inability of many to grasp the connections and implications of the various technologies I report on. For this, I must apologize, since there are so many interconnections that it is hard to give a complete picture. That is, however, the purpose of this two part article — to give a brief overview of the connections and describe how those connections interact to produce the end result that I perceive.

To begin, I view the human animal as driven primarily by two instincts, which in combination produce the overwhelming majority of the complex behaviors of the human race. The first instinct is survival. We are genetically programmed to survive. And as part of this instinct, we form collectives, because collectives are a mechanism that promotes our survival. The second instinct is reproduction. We are genetically programmed to compete for sex. Note I specifically say sex because for the majority of history, mankind has been seeking ways to get more sex without the reproductive aspect coming into play. Sex is the universal drive. Actual reproduction is secondary.

It is the interplay of these two drives that leads us to form collectives to promote our common survival, and then to compete within those collectives for sex, which leads to the creation of Pecking Orders. I discuss this far more fully in my blog post, On Government, which also discusses the interplay of these instincts to create the “Status Game” that underlies much of human activity. The “Status Game” is one of the primary drivers that I look at for analyzing any given technology. In essence, I ask myself “how will this technology be used to increase or decrease an individual’s status, and how will this affect the pecking order.” Almost any technology will have an effect on the pecking order, though that effect is not always immediately apparent. There are many other aspects I examine as well, many of them I covered in my H+ article, “A Peek into the Demoness’s Mind,” but my primary focus is always “how will this affect the status quo” Why? Because it’s the social aspects of technology that truly dictate how a technology will be used, how it will spread through society, and ultimately determine what impact that technology has on our world.

And it’s that social impact that primarily determines what technologies I report on, because certain technologies have the long term effect of being what I call “Great Levelers” in that, regardless what of their immediate short term effects are, in the long term they all show the extreme likelihood of “leveling the field” and effectively removing many of the “Pillars” that support the near vertical pecking order of our current era, and will cause that pecking order to essentially collapse into a nearly horizontal one in the not too distant future, which will directly result in a world in which the overwhelming majority of causes of human suffering, war, crime, and injustice will no longer exist.

So with that clarified, let’s see where it all goes, shall we?

In my initial articles on H+, I opened up with a discussion on VR, and how we have arrived at the stage of “good enough VR,” then proceeded to discuss the “Metaverse” — the combined worldspace of augmented reality, virtual reality and the mirror reality. And then, I finished discussing how I saw VR as the “Gateway” to the “Big Three” of Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics.) Since then I’ve written on the numerous advances in graphene, 3D printers, and the possibility of extreme body modification. Looked at singly, these each have extremely large potential for disruptive upheaval, which I discuss in the relevant article and their commentary, but their largest effects will happen at the intersection where all of these technologies will synergistically magnify their effects on the pecking order. In short, they meet, interact, and things go boom.

You are likely all aware of Moore’s Law and the exponential increase in computing power it has successfully predicted for decades. What you might not be aware of is that once we begin incorporating graphene and CNTs into advanced processors, that law is going to be obsolete because the rate of increasing computing power will likely leap several orders of magnitude almost overnight. That massive increase in computing power in and of itself may not seem that significant until you begin to realize many of the other potentials inherent in the use of graphene electronics, some of which I covered here in “Here Comes Film Computing.” Graphene is not merely useful for making processors, but displays, cameras, lidars, solar cells, and basically nearly every single form of electronic device we currently have figured out how to make. But beyond its uses in electronics, graphene has amazing structural properties. A sheet the thinness of cellophane would be strong enough to support the weight of an elephant while still retaining near perfect optical transparency. As such, it has the potential to replace nearly every material we currently use to construct almost every manufactured product from knick-knacks to skyscrapers. When you combine both of these uses, you might begin grasping some of the massive impact graphene will begin having in the very near future as we begin manufacturing massive quantities of it. Carbon is only the single most abundant element in the world and roll-to-roll manufacturing of massive sheets of graphene has already been accomplished.

So to truly understand the impact that graphene will have requires looking at it from several directions at once, most of which many people find brain bending in the extreme. Imagine a world in which nearly every single manufactured product is not only constructed from graphene, but incorporates graphene electronics, and in which nearly every single visual characteristic is controllable, and likely many non-visual ones as well. Imagine a toothbrush that has bristles you can make soft or stiff as you please, clothes that change their fit and appearance depending on whether you are at work or at the bar. Imagine a world in which all these things are available for minimal cost because they are all made from carbon; and produced on demand using fractions of ounces of actual material. A world in which everything is programmable, customizable, and interactive. Imagine cars that you have to place weights in to keep from blowing away in a strong wind, but which can bounce like rubber when you somehow manage to crash head on into another car, absorbing almost all of the force of impact without harming the passenger while taking no damage from impact. A world in which nothing ever needs a repair because if something malfunctions, you toss it into the recycler and print out a new one. A world in which no product of a material nature has any value at all because it can be instantly reproduced, copied endlessly, and improved upon by anyone, where any product manufactured out of iron or wood or stone is considered junk because it is such an inferior, clunky, and unintelligent material to build from.

Then I would like you to consider the next layer. Add to this world of ultracheap carbon based products, a “Mirror” of reality, a cyber universe that merges the virtual and the real, in which the very world you move through is an interactive computer interface. A world where every person you look at, talk to, or interact with is just as programmable, customizable and interactive as the scenery around you. Where your “personal space” is as malleable as a dreamscape. Imagine a world in which a combination of prosthetics, bioprinters, and even mere virtual costumes could make it possible for every single person in the world to be their own personal “perfect” self, regardless of what that self might be, or even if that self changes from day to day. Imagine a world in which you record your every moment of existence to enable you to possess perfect recall; where even the very sensations you experience could be recorded and replayed whenever you desire. Visualize a world wherein the entirety of all human knowledge is available; in which everyone from adult to child has access to the finest professors of every subject at a mere inquiry. Visualize a world in which science itself is no longer the play-toy of a few; where knowledge is no longer a commodity available to only those who can pay; but free for every single human being on the planet to pursue to their hearts content. Think about a world in which every single desire and fantasy can be fulfilled, in which all the darkest, most secret fantasies you ever masturbated to could be simulated.

That last one probably threw you for a loop, didn’t it? But it really shouldn’t have, because I did say at the beginning of this article that sex is one of the primary drivers of human behavior. Seriously, I am a succubus precisely because that fact. I assure you, sex will be a major factor at play in the creation of “perfect selves,” regardless of if that self is merely a perfected version of your basic appearance or if you choose such a radically different appearance such as myself. And this is where the social aspects of all of this technology really begin that synergistic mixing that leads to boom.

Consider a reality in which everyone is Superman. One in which everyone is a “hottie;” in which every single person in the world looks like a porno model, regardless of race sex or species. Because with the combination of graphene processors, 3d printed carbon based “smart materials”, VR, and biomodification via stemcells, that is the inevitable direction I see things progressing.

If you are like many people, you are probably screaming no at the top of your lungs; certain that a world so very radically different than the one you are used to will ever be possible. The problem here is that you don’t truly understand how the “status game” works.  The pecking order exists to enable our DNA to merge “the best” (itself) with “the best” (a mate with superior DNA).  How this drive manifests itself differs in each gender, as well as in how strongly it manifests from person to person, but that is meaningless to the “pecking order,” which is how we decide “superior” from “inferior.” We compete to determine who is “better.” Wealth, power, good looks, and a thousand other “markers” have been created merely to allow our DNA to find and merge with the best other human DNA it can find. That’s it. Everything else is complications we’ve invented as smart apes to hide from each other the fact that all we really want to do is get into each other’s pants. Even us geeks want our chosen mates to desire us for our “big brains” so that we can bump uglies as often as we can. You might want to deny this fact, but I’ll lay you odds that the reason why you want to deny it will be because you will be afraid admitting this truth could lead to less nookie.

So, now that you are suitably outraged, let me direct your attention to an H+ article by my friend Hank Pellissier on Sexbots.

I particularly recommend reading all of the comments, and yes, I am aware it is a very long read since there are a lot of them, because they cover an enormous set of issues, not the least of which is the depth to which people will lie to themselves about sex and gender roles. However, to save time for those of you doing the tl;dr thing, I will quote the original point I made in response, which is far down the page.

“Sex is everywhere. No-one in our culture can avoid being exposed to it. But at the same time, we deny it constantly. Its okay for a kid to watch the cold blooded killing of a hundred people in an action movie, but heaven’s forbid he watches Debbie Does Dallas. Go online, and well, as everyone knows, the internet is for porn.

And even that isn’t the craziest thing we do. Our teens are raised to view dating as a war between a girl trying to stay a virgin, and the boys trying to get her to put out by any means possible. Any girl who fails to stay a virgin is a slut, and any boy who fails to get laid is a faggot.

We worship action heroes who treat the opposite sex as momentary pleasures, and who’s ability to get between their co-stars legs is taken for granted. We tell our kids in every single way possible SEX IS GOOD, while hypocritically trying to tell them it’s bad.

Second Life is often times ridiculed as a “pornoverse” but to be brutally honest about things, SL has sex poses, fetish gear, and everything else you can think of to appeal to the pervert in you for one reason, and one reason alone.

PEOPLE WANTED IT THAT WAY.

Released from the restraints of public hypocrisy people want to release their pent up libidos.

And now we are going to be entering the age of VR. As Joe Quirk said in the latest issue of H+, we’re looking at a future where clothes are going to be a joke. Between those sext messages you sent on your phone, scanning technology that will map your body to the nanometer of accuracy for 3d modeling, and AR that can put those two together to create an “X-ray” app, your modesty will cease to exist.

Sexbots? As controversial as they may sound now. we probably won’t even notice them growing more popular. To many VR people like me will be busy breaking down social taboos and inhibitions to make sexbots seem like much of anything.

And when those sexbots can act as surrogates? XDDDDDD

Needless to say, every last bit of tech applied to sexbots will also end up as a cybernetic enhancement option as well. Can we say the end of erectile dysfunction and the death of K-Y?

So, as a succubus, you could just say I’m simply preparing for the inevitable, and definitely highly sexual, future.”

I am making this point because the ability of all of this emerging technology to create such a “leveling” effect as I discussed earlier is tied into this basic driver of the “Status Game.” Personal appearance is a marker because it determines “sexiness” on one level and “genetic superiority” on another. Wealth is a marker because it is another sign of “genetic superiority”. At every level, the higher up the “pecking order” you are, the more our genetically driven instincts make us want to have sex with you. Additionally, the higher up the pecking order you are, the greater the demands you make for tribute as a reward for being “superior” and the greater the number of people you find to be undeserving “inferior” beings. We are programmed to desire greater status and instinctively embrace anything we perceive as granting it. It’s a pied piper we have chased for all our existence, equaled by only one other desire… immortality.

And it’s the lure that will pull us inevitably towards faster computers, better VR, greater ability to manipulate our own bodies, and better sex. And that is where the consequences come in.

To be continued.