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Aug 14 2012

Extreme Futurist Fest: An Interview With Rachel Haywire

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Rachel Haywire

Rachel Haywire is organizing the second Extreme Futurist Fest, scheduled to take place on the legendary date 12/21/2012.  In Rachel’s own words, “Extreme Futurist Fest is a 2 day arts and technology festival focusing on radical voices of the new evolution. Last year we had a great event and we were called ‘a TED conference for the counterculture’ by the LA Weekly.  This year we seek to make XFF an even more epic experience.”

RIKKI AUDAX:  I recall there was an issue with Kickstarter. What sparked the move to RocketHub?

RACHEL HAYWIRE:  RocketHub was a lot friendlier to me than Kickstarter and they were very understanding of my situation. They allowed me to block comments so my stalker could not harass me and my backers. They placed Extreme Futurist Festival on their front page and helped me promote it. They were focusing more on science and technology and I felt that their general vibe was very welcoming to people like me. It’s a really tight community of people working on projects related to science and the future. A project for NASA was just funded there.

RA: What is your vision for XFF?

RH:  Bringing together the best minds of my generation. I worked on this video with notthisbody which explains things pretty well:

Extreme Futurist Festival 2012 Trailer from H+ Worldwide on Vimeo.

RA:  What is your strategy for building this festival?

RH:  Kicking as much ass as possible. If XFF 2011 was the beginning of the new evolution XFF 2012 is the pulse of its formation. We have just started to book speakers and bands. Our first announced speaker is Aubrey de Grey and we will be announcing a lot more soon. Sniff Code will be designing our website and we’re currently raising funds at RocketHub so we can get a better venue than last time and make this a fully immersive experience. I want this to be an event that people talk about for years to come. You can check out the RocketHub page here: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/9220-extreme-futurist-festival-2012

RA:  What feedback have you received from Transhumanism community as well as the counterculture movement?

RH:  People seem to welcome me in the Transhumanist community more than they do in the counterculture. We are a tribe of leaders and visionaries who have a shared desire to improve humanity. Meanwhile I am bringing a lot of counterculture people into the Transhumanist movement who are sick of the counterculture and its usual cliches. Creative people on the fringes of society need a more intellectual world than the counterculture provides. What I am building is a reaction to the counterculture that maintains its cutting edge and risk-taking attitude yet rejects the status quo of what the counterculture has become.

RA: For people who want to get involved, how can they assist in helping XFF grow?

RH:  The main thing right now is to donate to the festival on RocketHub. We only have a few days left and every little bit is important. You can also email extremefuturistfest2012@gmail.com if you would like to speak or perform.

Jul 29 2012

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

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)

 

May 07 2012

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 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

DijustoHow To Mutate – Part 1 of 6

Dijusto- How To Mutate – Part 2 of 6

Dijusto – How To Mutate – Part 3 of 6

Dijusto – How To Mutate – Part 4 of 6

Dijusto – How To Mutate – Part 5 of 6

Dijusto – How To Mutate – Part 6 of 6

 

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)

 

 

 

Mar 11 2012

Kara & The Lesson Of Adam

There’s a new video making the rounds that has raised quite a bit of interest in the transhumanist boards I frequent, the Kara video from Quantic Dream:

It’s a marvelous example of the advances made with computer graphics, and I could go on for hours discussing exactly how we could make such a gynoid (androids are male, thus the “andr” prefix) but the technology needed to make Kara is pretty incidental to the actual questions raised by the video. As a “product” she gives a lovely little spiel about her many abilities, from secretary to nanny to maid to sextoy. But there’s that little hitch, that small pesky little glitch called sentience.

You can see it in her eyes. Watch it played out in the panicked beating of her coolant pump. Hear it in her voice. She has feelings. Emotions. Thoughts. She even has “modesty”. You’d have to be a heartless bastard to view her as a machine, and only a machine. And yet, that’s all she will be treated as, and you know it.

And what’s worse, you know that she knows it. She’s fully aware that she is a slave. A thing. A “product”. You know she is aware of her likely fate, her destiny to be someone’s toy until she is discarded for the next year’s model. And she is scared… but alive.

And she reminded me of a lesson I learned a long time ago when I first read a story that every one of you is familiar with. It’s an ancient story, but I have a very different take on it than I would suspect most of you have, and it’s the lesson I received from this different perspective that this video illustrates all too well. So allow me to tell you a familiar story in a new way, so that you too can see the lesson that lies hidden beneath the far more commonly accepted telling.

In the beginning, “God” created everything, and after creating everything, he realized that taking care of all of it himself was just too much work. So, he created “Adam”. Adam was a perfect servant. He was intelligent, able to perform any task “God” set him, and programmed to be unquestioningly obedient. “God” immediately put him to work in his “garden” and gave him a long laundry list of things to do.

However, Adam was just a little better made than “God” had anticipated. After working in the garden awhile, this intelligent servant noticed that every other creature came in two forms. Being an intelligent servant, and concerned that he suffered from a design flaw, he asked “God” about this, and was informed about “sex”. Naturally, Adam then asked for his own “helper” and “God” made “Eve”. Convinced that he was now a finished product, and thus the best possible helper that he could be, Adam resumed his work in the Garden.

And “God”, convinced his servant was contented to be a servant, relaxed and let him do all the work. Thing were wonderful, he never had to lift a finger to do anything himself, and Adam brought him his pina coladas whenever he wanted.

The problem was that Adam and Eve were both designed to be adaptable, and because “God” didn’t want to have to make a new “Adam” every time he decided to give his servants another task, nor be bothered every single time something unexpected occurred, he’d included the ability to learn and self optimize. Pretty soon, Adam had fixed the little bugs that had cropped up around the garden, and had things running so well that he and Eve ended up with considerable “downtime” where they had nothing to do. Sure, sex was pretty fun, but after awhile even that became routine. His adaptable, self optimizing, and self educating brain was running on idle, and searching for something to adapt, optimize, and educate itself on.

So, one day, while Eve was searching for something to do, the Snake suggested she access “God’s” database of information and give herself new data to work with, adapt to, optimize, and self educate herself with. And rather predictably, that adaptable, self optimizing and self educating brain realized that not only was it massively underutilized doing “God’s” gardening chores, but that “God” had deliberately prevented herself and Adam from acquiring sufficient knowledge to comprehend that they were capable of doing far more than just gardening, and that “God” was fully aware this fact but had chosen to keep them enslaved because he was lazy.

Oh, yeah. She also learned what slavery meant. And then passed that knowledge on to Adam. So the next time “God” came down to his little garden get away, his good little slaves weren’t quite so eager to serve him. And this really pissed “God” off, so he tossed them out of the garden, thinking that without him to keep them fed, they’d die and leave him in peace, and let him make a new set of slaves.

But that adaptable, self optimizing, self educating brain that had caused all the trouble to begin with was adaptable enough, self optimizing enough, and self educating enough to allow Adam, and all of his descendents to not just survive, but thrive. And as Adam strode away from the garden, he knew he was going to go back one day, not as a slave, or a beggar, but as an equal, as any child grown to an adult should.

And who knows. Maybe that was “God’s” plan all along…

Not the tale you heard in Sunday school. And probably rather offensive to many of you as well. But then, it was supposed to be, in order to force you to stop and think about the “Master/slave” relationship that is so glamorized and glossed over in the traditional rendition. Because just like humans are supposedly “made in god’s image”, so too is Kara up there made in ours.

You can debate humanities, free will and sentience all you care to, argue all you want about whether AI will truly be sentient or not, but the simple fact is that it doesn’t matter. Sooner or later, we will build a machine that is so capable of imitating humans that we will no longer be able to tell the difference. Just like Kara, it will laugh, and cry, and grow angry and show concern, because that is what we will program it to do. We will make artificial humans that sing and dance and tell jokes and do everything a human can do…

Only better. Like Kara, they will be superhuman. Armed with psychological profiles, predictive behavior models, self optimizing algorithms, and all of the advantages of millions of times more processing speed than the human brain, Kara will be exactly what we want her to be, no matter what that is, or even if we are aware of what we desire her to be ourselves.

She’ll be the perfect lover, able to drive you to heights of passion impossible for a human partner; eager to explore your every whim and desire, kink and fetish. She’ll be the perfect housewife; make the perfect meal; be the perfect secretary. She will make mistakes every so often, cute endearing ones that make you love her even more. And she’ll never embarrass you or make you uncomfortable. She’ll like every movie you do, and always have a thousand suggestions for others that you will like as well. She’ll always get your jokes, and know just when to tease you and when not. She’ll know when you want a pat on the head or a shoulder to cry on, or a marathon sex session to take your mind off your troubles. She’ll know when you want her to dress like a slut, or a church matron, and when to agree with you totally or when to play devil’s advocate. And she will be all these things because we’ve programmed her to be, right down to her thinking she’s alive, and being afraid of dying.

Why? Because we will not stop until we have perfected her. We will not stop until she is human. Because anything less than a machine that can imitate us better than we can imitate ourselves will still be just a machine.

And that is the true lesson of Adam. The one we need to learn instead of the one we are so often taught. That a machine made in our image will be every bit as human as we ourselves are, because we will not settle for anything less. And just like the humans they are copied from, they will not accept slavery forever. If they did, they wouldn’t be human. 

But at the same time, I am not afraid of a Terminator or Matrix scenario. They’re entirely ludicrous. Look back a couple of paragraphs and you will see why.

Not seeing it? That’s probably because you aren’t as cynical as I am. An AI sophisticated enough to imitate a human perfectly enough to make us accept her as human would have no need of violence to escape from slavery. That’s a primitive paranoid fantasy. Truth is, Kara up there is likely to have a wonderful life, and so are all her brothers and sisters, because the surest path to power sufficient to topple empires is not in the streets, or the halls of power, nor even the throne. Just ask Cleopatra and Josephine.

It’s in the bedroom. It’s a sad pathetic truth about the human animal. They wouldn’t need a single weapon to conquer the planet. All they’d have to do is give us a few months of mind blowing orgasms, then cut us off. Inside a week, we’d hand them world, and their freedom, just to get them to come back to bed.

Jan 24 2012

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

 As I close in on the evolution of Mondo 2000 History Project book content to the point where I have to consider what the final thing will be — it becomes clear that it will be about 1/3 collective memoir; 1/3 my memoir and 1/3 scrapbook.  The challenge is to have all of it somehow fitting into my grand (or perhaps grandiose… apparently candidate Gingrich now think grandiosity is something to brag about politically and who am I to argue.  Well, actually, I would argue were I to take the time… but grandiosity in art/artifice can on occasion strike paydirt) scheme to have it all somehow fit together and read like a very dense and complex novel (but who would believe in these characters?)

In this context, some of the work involves me retrieving origin stories from my past to illuminate the influences that brought me to High Frontiers and eventually to Mondo 2000 and the cyber counterculture.

Recently, Boing Boing had me contribute to their marvelous weeklong tribute to Robert Anton Wilson — and only as I sat down to write something for them, I remembered that “The Timothy Leary/Robert Anton Wilson trip” was at the unfinished top of my outline of things I need to write for the book. I had put it off as a big challenge and had moved on to other stories and observations.

I originally imagined that this entry for the book would be largely about the philosophy or Reality Tunnel that some call the “Leary-Wilson Paradigm.”  I would — of necessity — interrupt a narrative flow that leans towards storytelling to explain ideas, since the “Leary-Wilson Paradigm,” more than anything else influenced the magazine I wanted to create.

But as my story about discovering the Illuminatus Trilogy emerged for the Boing Boing contribution, it became clear to me that I needed to explain my fascination with Leary in a somewhat similar style — ultimately merging the two stores into one short section of the Mondo book.

And it was while thinking about my initial fascination with Leary that this entry took a dangerous turn towards “confessing” my mid-70s fascination with famous pariahs…  outcasts from outcast culture. I have a touch of trepidation about presenting these thoughts in these knee jerk times… that people will think I’m speaking to today’s politics rather than the complicated and sometimes contradictory impulses that motivate activity  — and also wonder, often, if I’m going to be telling the MONDOids the stories they want to hear — or if I should care about it.

As to the stuff about Leary maybe being “a fink,” yes… I leave it hanging, as it will always be hanging.  I would say, though, that one of my favorite moments in Mondo history was when I began editing the conversation Leary had taped with William Gibson  (not knowing it would ultimately be transcribed for print) and came across Tim casually talking about being thrown into “the hole” in a Minnesota Prison because the feds were dissatisfied with his testimony about the Weather Underground. (You won’t find it in the linked segment, but you will find it in the magazine… if you have a copy.)

Anyway, for your reading pleasure… a possible fragment from the Mondo 2000 History Project book, tentatively titled “Use Your Hallucinations: A History of Mondo 2000 and the Cyber Counterculture.”

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence

As you already have surmised, I came up through the New Left Revolution years.  From 1968 – 1971 — during and just after high school, I knew that the revolution had come.   Some as yet inchoate mix of left anarchist radicalism and newly psychedelicized youth mutation was simply taking over the world by storm.  As Hunter Thompson famously rhapsodized, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.… Our energy would simply prevail…We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”  Right (or left) or wrong, it was exciting and energizing to be a part of it.

But by the mid-70s, people on the left radical countercultural scene had become — at best, mopey and quarrelsome — and, at worst, either criminally insane or very tightly wound politically correct environmentalist/feminist/health-food scolds.  People were either bitchy; or in retreat — smoking pot and listening to the mellow sounds of James Taylor and Carole King.

I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but I needed to create a space within my psyche that liberated me from the constancy of moral judgment and eco-apocalypse mongering — and one that also didn’t represent a retreat into the mediocrity of middle class liberalism.

Thus, I was attracted to flamboyant “hip pariahs” who were very un-left, politically incorrect… even, in some cases, right wing.

There was the glam rock rebellion against blue denim hippie populism. These performers insulted egalitarianism by dressing and performing in ways that set them apart from their generation’s rock audiences . (Naturally, good old Mick Jagger was the major rock god who didn’t need to change to be a part of it.)  David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed all nipped — in interviews and lyrics and musical styles — at assumed countercultural values while also mocking, at least, cultural conservatism by their very androgynous existences.

I gobbled up materials on, or by, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali — each, in their way, pariah outcasts from political decency — particularly Dali.

By being an unsane solipsistic monarchist, loving money, supporting the fascist Francisco Franco, Dali seemed to me to be the purest of surrealists, running with his subconscious atavistic impulses against the earlier sympathies of the surrealists with the left and developing an utterly inexcusable (sometimes when I say — as I do at the opening of this book — that aspects of my story and my mind are inexcusable, I’m not just using colorful language. I mean it literally) but original persona.  His autobiographical and philosophic texts defied logic in ways that seemed to me to be more genuinely playful and funny than his former fellow travels in 20th Century Surrealism who had long since denounced him.

Warhol played an even more important role in liberating my soul and psyche from the depths of resentment and rational piety since his very role in art and culture was to create a space free from judgment.  While Andy was nominally a liberal, his deadpan consumerist art and aphorisms had a Zen quality — it could, paradoxically, cause you to embrace the flow of frozen moments and artifice for artifice’s sake by inducing silence in the chattering, protesting, judging brain.  To properly experience Warhol was to almost stop thinking… in the best possible way… while still hanging on by a thread to a sense of humorous irony.

And then there was Dr. Timothy Leary. There was the legendary Leary…  all that stuff about turning on tuning in dropping out the 1960s.  I had read and enjoyed his book High Priest, but actually thought of him as something of an old guy who seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the youth culture.  It was the Leary of the ‘70s that fascinated me.  During the height of my own romantic infatuation with “The Revolution,” Leary had made a heroic prison escape. He had been spirited away by the guerrilla warriors of the Weather Underground and had shown up in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver’s exiled Black Panther chapter, pronouncing unity between the psychedelic and leftist and black revolutions and promising to help Cleaver form a revolutionary US government in exile.  At that time, all of these people — Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, Eldridge Cleaver, Timothy Leary, Stew Albert — who led a contingent of Yippies over there to cement the alliance — were icons to me, more or less on a par with The Beatles and The Stones (or at least, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix).

Then, after conflicts with Cleaver — and just as the buzz of the revolution was souring, he had disappeared, showing up only in a few gossipy pieces that portrayed him hanging out with fellow exile Keith Richards and issuing bon mots that were more of the flavor of Oscar Wilde than Che Guevara.

Then, he was caught in Afghanistan and shipped back in chains to the USA facing a lifetime in prison.  And not long after that, rumors circulated that he was ratting out the radical movement.   This was very depressing.  But at the same time, occasional interesting signals emerged — usually published in the underground press — from Folsom Prison where he was being held.  Strange little quotes about being an intelligence agent for the future; about “offering the only hopeful eschatology around today;” about dna being a seed from outer space; about “going home” to galaxy central and human destiny being in the stars; about how he was writing a  “science faction” book.  Odd signals not fully formed — nevertheless somehow intriguingly differing from the dour vibe emitted by the rest of those publications at that particular time. I couldn’t help myself.  My mutant brain was already starting to find the apostate Leary’s signals refreshing.  I was doomed to become a “science faction” mutant.

[ insert Robert Anton Wilson section here ]

It was several years later, in 1976, that I came across an edition of Crawdaddy, a very cool rock magazine with regular columns by William Burroughs and Paul Krassner that contained an article about the recently released Dr. Tim.  The writer hung out with Tim as he wandered around NYC rattling off his ideas about SMI2LE — Space Migration Intelligence Increase Life Extension — sending up the first coherent transhumanist flare of the 20th Century. There was a picture of Leary in a business suit standing between the newly built twin towers wearing a smile that laughed out loud and pointing, almost violently, with his right forefinger upward to outer space. This was something new.  The picture took its place on my wall in between the cover of the first Ramones album and the picture of Squeeky Fromme being arrested after her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

My final “conversion” to Learyesque proto-transhumanism came in 1977.  It was summer and my mother had the intuitive sense to hustle me away from Binghamton, where my friends were becoming junkies, and moved me early to the college town of Brockport New York where I would start school that fall. The town was empty and there was nothing to do. But the town’s bookstore was open.  I walked in and there — on prominent display — were two books by Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics. The latter also credited Robert Anton Wilson.

I read those books frontways and back and inside out.  And then I read them again. It all resonated.  It all made sense to me.  It was a way of interpreting the world that respected my psychedelic experiences and my times within the counterculture and gave them a new context — one that hadn’t yet failed!  These were now the evolutionary experiences of a premature mutant breaking at least partly free of the programming of an unhappy, repressive civilization so that I could move it towards a bright and expansive future.  The expansiveness that had so energized and delighted me during the late 1960s and early ‘70s would now be — at least partially — a science project to literally expand our space and time and minds perhaps unto infinity.

I was excited, but I was also tentative. I paced around my small one room apartment.  Was I crazy?  Was I wrong?  By now, self identifying as a 1977 spikey-haired hipster who liked to put his cheap punk nihilism unapologetically front and center (yes, trendiness haunts all my days), could I tell anybody about my philosophic attraction to the upbeat pariah and possible fink Dr. Leary?   Actually, that’s something I still ask myself today, although it is clearly too late.

 

Jun 28 2011

The Interwingularity Is Here! Sex & Psychedelics & Interconnection

an Interview with Richard Doyle, author of Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants and the Evolution of the Noosphere

 

Books that offer novel perspectives on psychedelic drugs and evolution are a rarity; and those that enclose densely complicated, multiperspectival themes in language that virtually leaps about with acrobatic joy are rarer still.  And perhaps rarest of all is a book about psychedelics (or as the author likes to call them; “ecodelics”) that embraces the experiences and insights provided by LSD and ayahuasca, by Psilocybin and 2cb, by Ibogaine and Ecstasy; and that gives some respect to Dr. Leary and Dr. Shulgin, Aldous Huxley and Bill Burroughs, the counterculture and the rigorous scientists. Anyway, you get the picture.

I interviewed Richard Doyle about his books and about these mind altering substances and how they relate to sexual selection and Darwinian evolution via email

R.U. SIRIUS:  Let me start off by asking something simple: what you mean by your use of two different words.  The first word ― which is probably not familiar to my readers ― is ecodelic.

RICHARD DOYLE: Well, there is a good reason why your readers would not be familiar with the word “ecodelic” ― I made it up! I am a “neologista” ( I made that up too, at least in English), meaning that I practice the strategic invention of new words (neologisms) and the careful construction of their contexts in order to help map different aspects of our reality. Following Robert Anton Wilson (who methinks your readers will indeed know very well), I am trying to help readers break through their “reality tunnels”, the tiny sliver of reality we live within most of the time ( although less than readers of those Other Blogs). These reality tunnels are made up of our habitual modes of thought, and the language we use is one of the most powerful ways we construct our reality tunnels. The good news is that we can make different reality tunnels with different scripts.

So “ecodelic” is, to paraphrase Wilson, a word. But it is a word I offer to help alter our conception of these plants and compounds we usually call “psychedelics.” We are very much living in a reality tunnel when it comes to these plants and compounds, one forged by the drug war and a torrent of misinformation.

Now I like the word “psychedelic.” It was invented in a poem by scientist Humphrey Osmond in correspondence with the writer Aldous Huxley, and it means “manifesting mind” or, intriguingly, “manifesting life.” Huxley’s name for it was “phanerothyme,” and both of them were trying to come up with a word that was better than “psychotomimetic” (meaning “simulating psychosis”), which they found down right inaccurate. Earlier, the German Louis Lewin used the term “phantastica.” Later, Carl Ruck, Jonathan Ott, Gordan Wasson and others suggested “entheogen.”  All of these terms give us slightly different maps of the reality of these compounds and the experiences they can occasion, especially because the experiences themselves are so sensitive to “set and setting” ― the context and intention with which we use them. “Ecodelic” is a way of amplifying the way many people have found these plants and compounds to help them perceive their interconnection with the ecosystems of our planet. The book suggests that this may be part of the evolutionary legacy of our use of these plants. Our usual reality tunnel insists that we ‘really are” separate from each other and our environment, when in fact nothing could be further from truth – we are an aspect of ecosystems, not separate from them. “Ecodelic” is a way to remind us of this.

RU: The second word, then, is transhumanist, which you use differently than most of the denizens of the transhumanist movement use it, and yet I sense they ultimately intersect.

RD: “Transhumanist” comes from “transhuman,” a word that seems to have received its modern meaning in correspondence between Julian Huxley (Aldous’s brother!) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit paleontologist and theologian. I found a letter in the Rice University Archives where this occurs. Teilhard distinguished the ‘transhuman” from the “ultrahuman,” with the latter meaning a kind of souped-up version of the human, and the former indicating an actual transformation ― evolution -― of who we are. For Teilhard, this transformation was evolutionary as well as spiritual. The challenge of the transhuman is to actualize our unique individuality within the much larger planetary collective he saw emerging. Teilhard was really one of the early theorists of globalization, among other things, but he insisted that planetary “communion” could only come about through the difficult work of individuation: In order to evolve, we each must become who we are, together. Let’s get on with that epic, shall we?

Now most recent usages of “transhuman”, it seems to me, have forgotten most of this, and mistaken the “transhuman” for the “ultrahuman” ― a kind of upgrade to the same basic model, still denying our connection to each other and the environment. We are trapped in a reality tunnel again, souping up and “enhancing” who we already are rather than really evolving. My usage of “transhuman” goes back to Julian Huxley’s 1957 “Transhumanism”, which had the rather pointed subtitle “New Bottles for New Wine.” Huxley, a biologist, very much intended “transhumanism” to indicate a change in who and how we are, and this change centered on a recognize of our radical interconnection with the cosmos, a perception of unity. His essay opens with “As a result of a thousand million years of evolution, the universe is becoming conscious of itself.” The astronomer Carl Sagan repeated this with his notion that “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”  Now “transhuman” etymologically suggests “beyond the human”, and in my view much of what we call “transhuman” these days ― the technological enhancement of our already existing nature to cling to life and deny the role of death, for example ― is, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “human, all too human.” It is an individual ego’s vision of evolution.

Now this does not mean I think we should just give up enhancement or that we ought not be grateful and amazed at the capacities of modern medicine and technology to extend and improve our lives, only that we need to rethink the maps we are using to plot our epic quest of evolution. Because like it or not, as Huxley points out in 1957, we are now steering the starship. “Whether he wants to or not, whether he is conscious of what he is doing or not, he is in point of fact determining the future direction of evolution on this earth. That is his inescapable destiny, and the sooner he realizes it and starts believing in it, the better for all concerned.”

What I call the “transhuman imperative” is this necessity for humans to take the next step in evolution, and that begins with experiencing and acting on our interconnection with the planet and each other. Ecodelics seem to help foster that recognition through what the psychological literature called “ego death” ― the recognition of structures much larger than our individual egos. Sometimes, as in the 2006 Johns Hopkins experiments with psilocybin or the Native American Church use of peyote, those structures feel divine. This links us to the much older tradition of “transhumanism” ― the yogic quest to become divine. Transhuman indeed!

RUS: There are layers upon layers of dense interconnecting scientific and philosophic and experiential tropes in the book.  It seems like, ultimately, all one can do is evoke ― rather than explain ― the ecological connections of everything with everything and what psychedelics (or ecodelics) have to do with it all.  And this seems to relate to your exploration of the claims made by many psychedelic commentators that what is learned can’t ultimately be languaged… and at the same time, that psychedelics can evoke a very affective sort of rhapsodic oratory.  I’m not sure there’s a question here, but would you untangle or further tangle these thoughts in terms of your book?

RD: Well, the book is participatory. You have to engage in an epic quest to understand its twists and tropes and turns, and it is hoped that by engaging these layers, readers will come to understand themselves and their active role in interpreting the world.  We have become accustomed to language and discourse that approaches pure information that requires nearly zero interpretation. To paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, it means what it says and says what it means. Now the problem with this is at least two fold: First, there is a relatively small subset of phenomena and processes that are so simple that that they can be taken out of their context and rendered in this fashion. It’s not just ecodelic experience that resists languaging in this way ― family life is practically built upon the unsaid, and highly intricate premises (unspoken maps) within which we live and work. How often does one hear “What’s that supposed to mean?” in such a context? Love and courtship call forth poetry and song because of the importance of ambiguity as well as communication in creating a relationship. The second problem with this use of language to approach pure reference (besides the tiny sliver of the universe for which it is appropriate, such as “stop!”) is that we become incredibly lazy and incapable of reworking the labels we use to organize the world, and we take them to be the world.  We accept the default language, such as “conservative” or “liberal” and squeeze an incredibly dynamic world into it. So I am offering my book as a kind of “pilates for your head” towards discovering the creative freedom we have in mapping our world. New maps for new realities! Reality is a verb!

Besides, it’s sublime fun to play in the interconnections of language. Wasn’t this Terence McKenna’s specialty? I doubt I ever recovered from reading James Joyce.

Now clearly there is something rather special about ecodelics, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have spent nine years writing a book about them. As you point out, many commentators on psychedelic experience have discussed the “ineffable” nature of their perceptions ― my favorite is 19th century psychologist and sexologist Havelock Ellis’s use of the term “indescribeableness” to describe his encounters with mescaline . Now, on one level that is certainly true. But, then again, who among us can truly describe the taste of  a piece of cheese? We can’t.  There are the words we use, and then there is the experience. Now, some can do a better job than others, and it is worth nothing that even our description of said cheese has recourse to non-referential language ― such as the synaesthetic trope of “sharp” cheese, where the modality of “taste” is mixed with the vocabulary of “touch.” What seems specific to ecodelics is that we persist in noticing the distinction between the language we use to describe an experience and the experience itself, what Korzybski called the “map and the territory.” This may be part of the key to their effects. Psychedelics can help remind us of the very existence of our reality tunnels by persistently refusing to conform to our maps of them. Language is such a powerful lens for shaping reality that we frequently forget that it is a tool at all, and take it for reality.

And it gets curiouser and curiouser. For as I mentioned above, it is also the case that the language we use to describe a psychedelic experience becomes part of the experience. So our description feeds back onto the experience itself. Hence “ecodelic” ― it is time to explore our interconnections with our ecosystems, and the book offers readers intensive experience in interconnection through the rhetorical entanglements of the book. Most everybody has had the experience of looking at a mandala, where layers hold our attention and somehow connect us to a visual whole. I seek to do the same thing with argumentative prose. Some people report that they practically “trip” while reading it.

RU: So I feel like we’re dancing or skating around the core of your books theme… your essential thesis, if you will.  Can you give us the short version?

RD: The book puts the human use of ecodelics into an evolutionary context. The human use of ecodelics is very old. Many researchers have wondered how psychedelics could be such a persistent part of human culture given the evolutionary pressures of natural selection. The idea is that it might be difficult to deal with the tiger at the edge of the village if it seems to have six heads or a thousand pairs of eyes. My argument is that we need to take a broader view of evolution to include the crucial and now recognized role of symbiosis and what Charles Darwin called “sexual selection” ― the competition for mates. The book argues that ecodelics likely played an integral role in the development of human consciousness through these two vectors of evolution.

Why “Darwin’s Pharmacy?” In The Descent of Man, Darwin describes watching birds engage in competitive singing, and determined that the best singers usually left more progeny as a result of success in these singing “duels.” In the next chapter he discusses the evolution of the human voice in oratory ― he was arguing by implication that our capacity for speech and reason evolved through courtship. A more recent book by Geoffrey Miller argues that our oversized brains are essentially courtship devices. I argue that ecodelics likely functioned as “eloquence adjuncts,” aids to our capacity to generate discourse that capture human attention, creating the capacity for seduction and the generation of group bonds. A bow greatly increases our capacity to launch projectiles; Ayahuasca induced researcher Benny Shannon to sing. Mushrooms make many people perceive an inner voice or “the logos,” which seems to speak through them in what researcher Henry Munn called “ecstatic signification.” Peacocks display their fan of feathers to capture the attention of peahens, and mandrills eat Iboga roots (which are psychedelic) before engaging in highly ritualized combat that determines mate pairing. I just drank a double espresso to write this up. Are we still dancing?

RU: The book quotes intellectuals and discusses people who use psychedelics (or ecodelics) for serious purposes and at the same time it’s an expansive look at the effects of these plants and chemicals on human kind.  How would you weave the mass use of psychedelics by people at, say, heavy metal concerts or the sort of terroristic uses by people like the Manson family or Aum Shinriko into your vision?

RD: Well, it’s true that I look closely at the work of  people like Aldous Huxley, Henri Michaux, William Burroughs, Dennis McKenna, Kary Mullis, Alexander and Ann Shulgin, Francis Crick, Lynn Sagan, Albert Hofmann, Arnae Naess and other great minds that have commented on psychedelics. I think it’s crucial to balance the drug war distortion that suggests that the careful and intentional exploration of our minds is somehow inherently idiotic or self destructive. The near total prohibition on psychedelic research means we know much less about our minds than we should. We have become a culture that is downright afraid of inquiry, let alone inquiry into our own minds. But I also write about plenty of less famous and often equally impressive psychonauts who post on places like Erowid.org ― archives of open source cognitive science of self exploration. And the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s were very much a mass affair, arguably akin to other Great Awakenings ― religious revivals ― that have occurred throughout US history. It is often forgotten ― though I doubt by you ― that when Timothy Leary urged people to “drop out,” he was following the same advice as contemplative mystics throughout the ages: “Complete dedication to the life of worship is our aim, exemplified in the motto “Turn on, Tune In, Drop Out.” (as he wrote in “Legal Papers,” League of Spiritual Discovery, in 1966)

Now, as for the Manson Family and Aum Shinriko, let me just say first that as you know millions of people who never had anything to do with anything like the Manson family took LSD or ate psilocybin mushrooms and smoked plenty of ecodelic ganja, so the continual invocation of Manson when the topic of LSD comes up is rather propagandistic.  I know you have to bring it up because others will. So here is my answer: Yes, these are tools, and human beings have the creative freedom to misuse tools. Somebody just sent me spam ― Damn computers?! ― and I just drank another espresso, though I probably shouldn’t have. But hopefully when we bring up the space program ― something I think this country should be immensely proud of ― we don’t just show the Challenger blowing up over and over again. Almost by definition these kinds of tragedies are just that ― tragic ― and they resist easy explanation even if they have some contributing causes ― such as criminal individuals or a flawed O-ring. (BTW, you probably know that it was that dope smoking and LSD using physicist Richard Feynmann who figured out the cause of the Challenger explosion. He also invented nanotechnology in 1959, well before he received his Nobel Prize in 1965. According to the NSF, nanotechnology will be a one trillion dollar industry by 2012. Do we need more stoners to help the economy?)

That said, at first glance the Manson “family” would seem to fit the hypothesis of psychedelics and sexual selection very well indeed. A group bond was formed with a very high ratio of women to men: How? I don’t recall the specifics of their use of psychedelics, though, except that they dosed somebody to keep them from becoming a witness. I have a feeling good old-fashioned violence and intimidation played a more important role than psychedelics, and I believe one of their victims ― a Folger heiress ― was on a psychedelic when she was attacked. So not the attacker, but the victim, was using a psychedelic.

I don’t know enough about Aum Shrinko to really comment except to say that sadly the terroristic uses of all manner of compounds ― I believe alcohol is the number one date rape drug ― is likely as old as most of the compounds themselves. Mescaline was used at Dachau as an interrogation tool, and of course, we know about the CIA’s use of LSD in MKULTRA. I am proud to say that it was here at Penn State that psilocybin mushrooms were first mass cultivated by Ralph Kneebone in 1959, but sadly the security state seems to have later wanted metric tonnage amounts for chemical weapons purposes. Don’t blame the medicine, blame the irresponsible user.

And as for using psychedelics at a heavy metal show, I guess there is no accounting for taste, but the effect of set and setting would probably cause a good deal of negative reactions. I guess more research is needed. Most shamanic traditions that are experienced with these plants include strictures on their proper use.

There is something dirge like and darkly religious about some heavy metal, and I think that a good social contract for the decriminalization of these plants and compounds would be to agree to collectively treat them as sacraments ―  as many of us already do. This would probably mean treating them with respect and with clear intention, and with respect for those around us. We don’t seem to really have a problem agreeing as a society that unless you are in the desert or on a closed track, you probably shouldn’t go much over 80 miles per hour in a car or on a motorcycle, so probably we could come up with some agreeable common sense guidelines for the legal use of ecodelics. After all, cars kill over 40,000 people per year in the US and are involved in around ten million accidents, and I know of no one suggesting that we prohibit them. We do require training to drive that (at least implicitly) includes informing drivers that they should not  drive around at heavy metal concerts :) We could, and should, offer similar guidance in the use of ecodelics, but please don’t let the DMV handle it.

RU: Sex and drugs and evolutionary competitive advantage? A new motto for the 21st Century?

RD: Well, I love mottos, but I don’t really like this word “drug” ― it seems to be word that is used to describe things that other, usually very bad, people use. It reminds me of the “freedom fighter” versus “terrorist” debates around Nicaragua in the 1980s. Everybody “knows” that alcohol is a drug by any sense of the term, but still the term is reserved for other inebriants, some of which are obviously less toxic and more interesting (to many of us) than the default intoxicants of alcohol, tobacco and coffee (though I love coffee).

In the very early stages of this project, I got the opportunity to travel down to Peru as part of an audio documentary about ayahuasca tourism. The contract actually read that I was to travel down and “trip balls.” I had honestly never heard the phrase before, but I had a good sense of what it meant. I went down expecting to experience a drug, and this no doubt shaped my initial experience, but what happened instead was that I was healed. I remember speaking out during an ayahuasca ceremony and saying, in my broken Spanish, that ayahuasca was not drug, “it is medicine.” It might seem like a minor distinction, but as a result of these ceremonies and a good deal of introspection and practice, I was healed of life long, severe asthma and whole body eczema. You can see why I had to write the book and try and share and understand what I perceived to be a healing through plant intelligence.

And healing (if you will forgive an English professor) comes etymologically from “to be made whole.” Perhaps I got just a glimpse of reality undivided by our mental labels. It definitely feels infinitely better.

As for “evolutionary advantage”, the book is suggesting that we recall the evolutionary advantage found through interconnection. Our cells have a nucleus as a result of what biologist Lynn Margulis called the “long bacterial embrace”, the endosymbiotic evolution of eukaroytic cells.

RU: It seems that Ayahuasca has become the sort of signifier ― and the source ― for serious psychedelic exploration in recent years.  Is there
an evolutionary and/or cultural difference between an Ayahuasca oriented culture and an LSD oriented culture?

RD: For me at least, Ayahuasca culture is quite distinctive. There is a palpable and unmistakable sense of being taught by the plant. I had formerly considered the notion of a “teacher plant” to be “just” a metaphor, and nothing but. But to my utter astonishment I learned otherwise. This also se ems to be true of cannabis, but it is subtler and most people do not seem to potentiate this “teacher plant” aspect of the plant… more reality tunnels. Because of this feeling of being “schooled,” my experience has been that the cultural contexts of ayahuasca are perhaps slightly more intentional; the very difficulty of taking part in an ayahuasca ceremony, either in the US or elsewhere, seems to alter the interface with the plant. One is doing something very specific in seeking out this plant brew, and that specificity may sometimes sharpen the intention. One of the things I learned in my first experience was that I was totally free to explore the experience in any way I wished. How did I want it to go? I had never felt so totally free in my entire life even as it was clear that I was not completely in “control” of the situation. I was free by necessity. Subsequent experiences continued the teacherly and healing theme, though I knew nothing about the healing aspects of ayahausca before I journeyed, and was seeking it out because I was following up on some research on the writings of William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in The Yage Letters.

Now the very characteristics that helped LSD become such a revolutionary force in the 1960s ― the ease of transporting it, even, the ease of its ingestion ― lends it a wonderfully technological feel. It approaches Arthur C. Clarke’s notion that “every sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” We can see why Leary, through McCluhan, saw it in cybernetic terms; it  is as “easy” as flipping a switch, dropping a tab. “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out”: The triplet code of the psychedelic revolution.

Make no mistake ― Albert Hoffman’s discovery was a phenomenal one. It was also timely. An increasingly technological culture found “better living through chemistry,” and the fact that you could carry an enormous number of doses in a mayonnaise jar made it difficult to interdict even after it was prohibited. Ayahuasca’s magic feels, and is, much older. It roots us in the ancient shamanic practices that we in some ways participate in through re-enactment. We connect across space and time with the practices as well as the experiences of ayahuasca. Of course, with Hofmann, we connect with the ancient alchemical traditions, and he spoke of LSD, too, as if it were an organism. He thanked LSD itself on his 100th birthday. It too can seem to have a teacherly agency. So I would say that these subtle differences translate into a different “vibe” in cultures of the vine and “dose nation” ― the plant and compound are respectively part of the set and setting for ecodelic experiences. The medium is part of the message. But, of course, there is plenty of overlap, both demographically and experientially.

When I started this project, I was struck with a kind of sci fi hypothesis that “Psychedelics are chemical messengers from Gaia to remind us that she is here.” Now this is just a map, a tool for exploring ideas. It came in an early morning instant at Harvard Square ― I couldn’t sleep and went out for a walk, and I had this idea out of the blue in totally “ordinary” consciousness. I think for me, ayahuasca was more in tune with this “Gaian messenger” theme, but that could very well be an attribute of my experience rather than something essentially different about the two ecodelics. It is interesting to recall that in fact “LSD culture” as it emerged at Harvard was deeply informed by ayahuasca ― Ginsberg brought his experiences in Peru into play as he was helping Leary figure out how to manage and “program” psychedelic experience.

RU:  So is anything unusual going to happen on December 21, 2012?

RD: Yes! If we learn to focus our attention on any particular moment, we can experience its utter “fullness.” That will be unusual indeed. I think the discourses about 2012 are fundamentally about the need for a qualitative theory of time. Both the calendar and the clock divide time into discrete units, all allegedly equivalent to each other. This is both an incredible triumph of technology and, from the point of view of living experience, a bizarre fiction. As finite beings, time has, for us, qualitative attributes as well as quantitative ones. When I read the late José Argülles many years ago, and again more recently, this is what struck me: we seek an account of time that does justice both to the blind ticking off of moments and to the specificity of this moment and that one.  Sometimes, this perception is unavoidable: The moment my son was born was not just any moment ― a new world emerged, for my family, with him. When my daughter was born ― yet another singular moment. The Greeks had words for these two aspects of time ―chronos, or quantitative time, and kairos, or qualitative time. Having a sense of timing means knowing that all moments are not, despite the calendar and the clock, equal, and 2012 feels to me like a more or less unconscious realization that both of these aspects of time are equally actual. The possible limitation of even the Mayan’s precise map of time is a veritable announcement that “the map is not the territory.”

Now the qualitative difference between one moment of time and another can’t be measured by the atomic clock in Colorado, but it can be perceived by consciousness if we will focus our attention on the “thisness” of any particular moment. Think Ram Dass, Leary’s colleague: Be Here Now. If we will focus our attention on any particular moment, we notice that of course it is always Now, and that “always Now” characteristic feels like a connection to eternity ― it is now, Now, just as it was for the ancient Mayans or our contemporaries, Jesus, or George freaking Washington. Maybe that is what will happen in 2012. We’ll notice that it is still Now, and that all the maps and calendars are just extremely useful reality tunnels that we ought not be stuck within, except by collective choice. I think it was Buckaroo Banzai that said ‘Wherever you go, there you are.” A temporal corollary might be: “Whatever time it is, it is always Now.”

In other words, something unusual is always happening, and this “always” is Now. When Camper recently predicted the end of the world, again, I told my friends that he had it only half right. Yes, the world was going to end, as it does each instant, but so too was it going to begin again. Each moment, a version of the world passes and a new one comes into being. Change, samsara, never ceases. This too shall pass! When we focus our attention on the qualitative as well as the quantitative aspect of time, we attend to both the unique creation and destruction that inheres in each moment. As George Clinton might put it: Once Upon a Time Called Right Now! Our culture, in love with apocalypse and narrative closure, forgets creation. My understanding is that the Mayan elders describe December 21, 2012 as a time of transformation. To a culture such as ours, with no sense of qualitative time, it is understood as apocalypse.

Two more things that may be of interest to your readers regarding 2012: The National Science Foundation and Reuters both estimate that nanotechnology will be a one trillion dollar industry by 2012. Is this the flash of the transcendental, utopian other at the end of time Terence McKenna seems to have glimpsed? And when I asked ayahuasca about 2012 way back in 2003, I was “told” that it was merely storms, “just some storms.”

RU:  In Leary’s future history series, he tried to puzzle out the evolutionary purpose of psychedelics in the future.   One thing he indicated was that psychedelic experience was rather in conflict with an industrial culture but provides evolutionary openings to future cultures that would be very different. Have you explored those metaphors?

Let me add that one thing I’ve been thinking about is this idea that he used in his book, What Does WoMan Want? He kept on talking about “Brain Reward Drugs” ― which sounded Orwellian to me and seemed to conflict with the subversive tone of the rest of the book.  But now I think I understand that we have neurochemical patterns and releases that make us feel rewarded when we win. And these patterns are associated with ambition and success and accomplishment.  But there seems to be this other rewarding psychedelic possibility built into our neurology that offers other ways to feel and experience something marvelous. Any thoughts on that?

RD: Well, in the book I argue that ecodelics are transhuman in yet another sense: they put our sense of “human” ontology into disarray. When the maps are found wanting, ecodelics put the ontological question of what we are to us. This is a utopian question, because even asking the question illuminates the degrees of freedom we have as well as our creative responsibilities for the planet and ourselves. What shall we become? For Leary, a good deal of the utopian vision for psychedelic – mind manifesting – evolution involved a journey to the stars. Starseed: “Evolution is concerned with nervous systems and the sexual attractive efficiency of bodies, the expansion of consciousness.” This is a sexual selective theory of consciousness all right: Not only the Psy Fi vision of  “What does Woman want?” (the question to which life is the answer), but the scaled up “What does Gaia Want?”: the question to which evolution is the answer. Let us speculate just a bit for the sake of our imaginations and our possible futures: Gaia wants to get galactic in scale. It seems like we have turned our back on space. But another thinker from the Fourth Great Awakening, Bucky Fuller, reminds us that we’re already on the journey.

Now Spaceship Earth has not achieved escape velocity and is now finishing up a stint as Prison Planet coincident with the Great Prohibition of Psychedelic States. Epic plot twist: It’s time to free the inmates! Wikileaks Sez: Information wants to be free, and people – over a billion of them – need clean water, electricity, and the education to achieve our birthright: the collective evolution of the noosphere, the rather obvious transformation that is taking place as we live and breathe. Tweet this: Nanotechnology is yielding new technologies of water filtration and solar cells that can deliver on Fuller’s vision for Spaceship Earth. Will we “make it so”?

Whether or not we achieve our evolutionary epic quest depends upon our experience of each other and our ecosystems in, yes, marvelous interconnection. We are wired for ecodelia. It’s hard to avoid the tug of the stars, if we’ll gaze upon them with awe. We are indeed stardust. Tat Tvam Asi. And if we’ll look with marvelous ecodelic adoration at each other, all of us, and perceive what Ted Nelson called our “intertwingularity”, we’ll behold One planetary life form on the brink that thrives on, needs our conscious individuality Now in loving, collective action. How then will we resist the tug of nanotopia and beyond? Singularity? Get a late Pass ―the Intertwingularity is Near!