Apr 18 2012

Google Glasses Are Ugly But Important



They are ugly. They are definitely not “cutting edge” hardware. They are so very limited in their “usability”, but none of that really matters. They will still likely replace your current smartphone’s interface over the next five years. They are the “Google Glasses” and you should probably get used to seeing people wearing them.

Why? Because despite their rather primitive state at present, they fulfill a need, and Google is betting that its partners in the android market will find ways to exploit that need. It’s a risk, a search engine company stepping into the manufacturing market, but it’s one they took before and it paid off in spades.

And yes, I am referring to the Google Phone, and despite what you might think, it was one of the single most successful “failures” in history. You see, Google never had any intention of the phone actually being a “success.” It had only one purpose alone and it succeeded brilliantly. Almost overnight, Google shattered the iPhone monopoly on smartphones, and it has been steadily taking that captive market away from them since. That was its sole purpose. In fact, they could have given the phones away and had an even huger success, but they still turned the market on its ear by blowing a hole in Apple’s walled garden that was bigger than what the orcs did to Helm’s Deep. Without Google’s “stupid risk” and “utter failure”, the massive Android market place would not exist.

In much the same way, Google has been slowly building towards a long term goal I believe they have been pursuing for more than a decade. With the Google glasses reveal, I am more certain than ever that Google’s aim is the creation of the “Mirrorworld” I have written about in the past.. They already have an overwhelming majority of the necessary technical hurdles surpassed with the various software packages they have released, such as Google Earth, Google maps, their suite of 3d model building software, and sundry other projects, such as Streetview. I discussed a lot of this in the very first set of articles I wrote for H+ magazine, Virtualization part 1, part 2, and part 3, and this latest glimpse into Google’s plans is simply another piece of the puzzle being put in place.

And you will want to use these glasses. It’s going to look like a perfect solution to a rather large problem, texting while driving. Combined with speech to text apps, these glasses would offer perfect hand’s free texting, not to mention cellular calls. Toss in a GPS map overlay app, and you have a simple way to use Google glasses as a HUD. No more taking your eyes off the road for long seconds to look at the GPS. No fumbling with the phone while driving. No scrunching your neck to try and hold a phone to your ear. With the increasing ability to manufacture displays of nearly any size on flexible plastic, and advances in making plastic electronics, it’s pretty reasonable to expect that in a few years, the cost of a pair of VR lenses with all of the capabilities I described in my article on Quantum Dots will likely fall below the cost of a current smartphone, while far exceeding them in processing power and abilities. This is the gamble Google is taking. It is betting that just like the Google Phone, Google Glasses will create the market. Just the proof that Google is working on VR lenses will inspire other manufactures to enter the market with their own offerings, and push the envelope on the underlying technology.

And Google will be right there, already waiting with dozens of tools and offerings to make those manufacturers jobs easier. And maybe people will talk about how Google had another miserable failure.

Mar 31 2012

Flexible Thought Vs. the Big Mouth in the Sky: The Science Delusion By Rupert Sheldrake

“God is a word, and the argument ends there” – Bill Callahan

I’m up to the tits with this whole God vs. Science thing. It should have been done when Reed Richards stuck the ultimate nullifier in Galactus’s face, but noooo. The transcendental God, who was never more than a beard for the Holy Roman Empire, is still hanging round playgrounds like a seedy vagrant, whispering into the kiddies’ ears about creationism and original sin, just to make sure they know their place.

The problem is, science has fallen for the ruse, and is still attacking religion as if it were a belief system, when it’s no more than the use of myth and ritual to express the ethos of the community –  which community is supposed  not to do that, exactly? — and by doing so, it’s just given Nobodaddy the credibility he wanted.

Time for a new theology of science then.

Into the breach strides Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist best-beloved of the British public for his defense of telepathic dogs, though  also for crowdsourcing evidence for his pet theory of morphic resonance. His new book, The Science Delusion, is one part summary upgrade on his previous works, one part survey of the philsophy of science, and the whole of it a challenge to materialist thinking.

Sheldrake’s key idea, morphic resonance, is best understood as an inverted Platonism that operates on Darwinistic principles. In order for it to work, it has to posit some kind of infranatural layer of reality that logs information and in which patterns tend to establish themselves in the same way that habits do for peoople. In short, the universe learns how to be who it is just like we do, through trial and error and laziness. As above, so below!

Because we’ve grown up with a Platonic vision of an orderly universe (which then transformed under Deism into a mechanistic order), we continue to unconsciously think of this as “laws” of physics as if they were handed down by somebody who knew what they were doing, and with cellular automata ticking along robotically to assemble the great machine that is the world. This is one of the great assumptions Sheldrake wants us to question:

“Most scientists are unconscious of the myths, allegories and assumptions that shape their social roles and political power. These beliefs are implicit rather than explicit. But they are more powerful because they are so habitual. If they are unconscious, they cannot be questioned; and in so far as they are collective, shared by the scientific community, there is no incentive to question them.”

This system of unconscious assumptions he calls materialism, and he has no qualms about conflating the two meanings of the word to create an ethical view of our dominant paradigm as something as soulless, reactive and impersonal as an AK-47 – or as a financial instrument. Gordon Gecko and Isaac Newton merge to become a phildickian demiurge that constrains our view of the world (and ourselves in the world), and preventing us from seeing the whole as an organic living system.

So this is essentially an Integral Studies Guide to the Sciences (where Integral Studies is the reintroduction of Eastern philosophy into Western practice with an eye to holistic synthesis rather than analytic disection); intended to challenge scientific orthodoxy to take personality and interconnectedness wholly on board instead of excluding it.

In an elegant and beguiling prose, Sheldrake touches lightly on the philosophy of science since the Enlightenment, detailing what he takes to be overlooked lacunae: Purpose, the fixity of nature in mechanics and law, the morphogenetic field as final cause, the panpsychism of nature, and the possibility of the non-locality of memory and mind.

And as anyone familiar with Sheldrake’s prior work might expect, there are concerns with treating the universe itself as a singular personal and conscious supraorganism evolving into itself; with various strange consciousness effects (such as telepathy and out of body experiences), and various seemingly strange results (such as unconnected crystals learning the trick of a new formation simultaneously), all of which are supposed to demonstrate morphic resonance at work.

Each of these issues is raised as a confrontation with the metaphor of mechanism, and the heartlessness presumed to keep it company; and an encouragement to imaginative involvement in his own crowdsourcing experiments; so in that spirit, I thought I’d engage wth a couple three of them head on myself.

Is Matter Unconscious? (And Does Consciousness Matter?)

I think Sheldrake tends to do materialism a disservice with the presumption that materialism necessarily denies purpose, consciousness, etc.; whereas it simply excludes them from consideration in order to clarify the model (though this very well may amount to the same thing in the scientist’s habits of mind).

I take his point that this exclusion in itself may lead us into false consciousness, but Sheldrake seems unaware that the strategy of deferring, as it were, the existential science until we have the tools to do the job  –  well, that’s beginning to pay off in, say, Antonio Damasio’s work on neurobiology, which doesn’t shy away from humanistic questions of meeaning.

In Looking for Spinoza, Damasio produces a convincing narrative about consciousness without having to make the mistake of thinking it a noun, and thereby multiply entities. Once we remember Sartre’s thought that we cannot be conscious without being conscious of something, the issue of consciousness pretty much resolves itself.

What we call consciousness is being conscious of being conscious. To put it another way, non-conscious organisms produce elementary models of reality. The maggot only knows light, and to move away from it, the cat knows complex stimuli and complex responses, but sentient beings not only create a virtual reality in their head, they populate that virtual reality with a self-representation, which is attached to various feelings and emotions.

We have no difficulty understanding that self pity is the same as the simple pity (a basic emotional stimulus-response) raised to the level of representation and reflexively redirected. Why do we make any more of a deal about self-consciousness? (Well, because we want to be God’s special snowflake, obviously, but let the rhetorical question stand.)

Sheldrake wants us to take the extra leap of saying that panpsychism is the actual third way between materialism and dualism; but I think rather that having understood the processes of emergence, we can more easily recognize panpsychism as a consequence of emergence; that is, sure, the entire universe is made of the same stuff, and so are we, and at different levels of complexity, that stuff finds new ways to express its nature.

We don’t have to resort to the pathetic fallacy so much as recognize that agency and experience happen at all the levels, and sentient beings just do agency and experience at this level. But at the same time, Schopenhauer’s idea that everything is driven by will, and Dawkin’s anthropomorphic metaphor of the selfish gene can perhaps be combined into the simpler idea that everything wants something. We are all always falling into the void of desire, and subatomic particles are also looking for their missing piece. Everything’s gotta eat!

In the last analysis, Sheldrake points out that either everything’s conscious, or everything’s an automaton. And while this is true, if we remember that there are degrees of consciousness, and that the brain generates consciousness from matter, the simple point is that we either treat the world personally or we don’t. Usually both, in my experience.

Is Nature Purposeless?

To cut to the chase, Sheldrake recasts Aristotle’s teleology in terms of strange attractors; it’s somewhat appealing, although the claim that attractors are ideal rather than material is a bit dodgy. What seems obvious to me is that the attractor is an output of material forces, a model whereby we can see how a combination of least-effort behaviours in nonlinear relationships add up. That is, at the endpoint, we can see the self of self-organization (can you see what it is yet?), but before that, we only see the separate microprocesses doing their thing.

It’s fair to say that the process whereby complex systems find the conformation of minimum energy, but I’m not sure we have to posit an existent morphogenetic field to describe it. Many-worlds theory would suggest that there’s an intrinsic quantum computation across all possible universes taking place, which collapses into the least-effort pattern  — which we then perceive in hindsight as an attractor shape calling the processes into being, when it’s just (!) the multiverse running the numbers.

And here is somewhere that I think Sheldrake’s own imagination falls short, and he falls into dogmatism himself. Many of the issues of considering the universe as a living system fall away when we think of the multiverse as a quantum computer delivering least-effort results. What if lifelike properties are simply an emergent output of an infinite improbability drive? Do we need to project purpose onto an eventuality system at play?

Sheldrake does, because he wants to preserve the idea of a pot of form at the end of the sacred rainbow, drawing us on into its self-becoming. But in this I find the old Victorian “revolt of the soul against the intellect” (as Yeats said about Blake). That’s a fair position as poetry, as we strive to find our place – and indeed ourselves – in the midst of this mess. But I don’t know that it amounts to an alternative vision of how to do science.

Are Minds Confined to Brains?

Sheldrake says:“We see things outside our bodies; we do not experience images inside our heads.”

Well, yes, but no. What we actually experience is the representation of ourself within the representation of the world that we keep inside our heads. This much is obvious to anyone who ever had a dream… well, maybe once it’s been pointed out to them. This is the real miracle of the world, that it contains seven billion worlds inside seven billion heads, and each man’s death kills a whole world.

There’s a simple mistake Sheldrake makes here: what we project with our extended mind is projected within our virtual reality. What’s more interesting here, to me, is what telepathy actually might be: a kind of game in which two or more minds somehow synch to create a shared virtual reality. Stoners and acid heads learn this trick, as did the witnesses of the Miracle of Fatima (which certainly had no objective correlate, but by God everyone saw the sun move!).

Sheldrake notes this as perceptual guided activity, and cites Arva Noë: ‘We are out of our heads. We are in the world and of it. We are patterns of active engagement with fluid boundaries and changing components. We are distributed.”

And well, yes; but we don’t need to posit a neoplatonic essence to achieve distributed mind or accept that our minds are in and out of each other’s pocket universes all the time. That is, after all, how poetry works.

And of course our minds extend in time and space; that’s what the forebrain is there for, to generate predicted outcomes. If we’re good at the rhythms of life — or, like William Blake, have especially vivid visual imaginations — we’ll get more hits than most people. And the point isn’t just that we only remember the times we’re right; it’s that the universe itself is in the business of probabilistically generating outcomes.

All Shall Be Well, And All Shall Be Well…

So in the death, Sheldrake doesn’t quite pull off being the Jesus of a new theosophy so much as look like its Moses, cutting himself down a couple steps short of the promised land. The vision of a universal consciousness, whatever that might be, remains unrealized. Then again, that’s as it should be – he’s only asking us to take it into consideration as a possibility that might spur our imaginations on to a more holistic framework for, if not science per se, then how we engage with what we learn from science.

On the other hand, I find it peculiar that he rails against Dawkins, calling him “a vitalist in molecular clothing” for using “anthropocentric metaphors”. The way I see it, what Sheldrake needs in order to cross into Israel is to take that language at its word, to honour as the metaphor as hidden intention and recognize panpsychism in the unconscious urgency and will of all life (and that we’re personally part of it no more and no less than the selfish genes themselves).

“From a materialist point of view, nonmaterial inheritance is impossible, except for cultural inheritance”, Sheldrake says, urging us to think outside the box. “Everyone agrees that cultural inheritance – say, through language – involves a transfer of information that is not genetic. But all other forms of inheritance must be material: there is no other possibility.”

But why would we not recognize language and culture as material? And is it actually the case that it’s the mathematical mechanists who are Platonic? Or are they, as I see it, the heir to Aristotle, while it’s the idea of morphogenetic fields carries the burden of Ideal form made manifest?

Yearning for an invisible substrate that guarantees morphic resonance strikes me as a kind of reflexively-blind Platonism-in-all-but-name that prevents the emergence of a true postmaterialist theology. What we could hope to grasp is that we might be local negentropic agents of co-creation precisely through our unwitting involvement-through-desire in the multiverse’s constant screen refresh. Well, it makes as much sense as anything these days.

I’m inclined to think the same thing of morphogenetic fields as I do about “God”. If an entity we might recognize as God should prove to exist, it would have to be identical to the universe itself (that is, be the universe considered as a supraorganism we might reasonably treat as personal).

As below, so above. The morphogenetic field is the organism itself in its development, bootstrapping itself into self-organized existence from the genetic base, like the Escher sketch of the hand drawing the hand drawing the hand.

If we want to think of the universe as a personal supraorganism, whether as Dr. Strange’s best bud Eternity or the Qaballah’s Adam Qadmon, best to remember the inner meaning of the incarnation (as we pass the time between the Spring equinox and Easter): that the inner principle of the man is of one substance with the man himself, and requiring of no external hand to guide it. And all manner of things shall be well-formed, according to the principles of their self-organization.

Morphogenesis, from organism to supraorganism, is a word; and the argument ends there.

Mar 30 2012

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

“This was, for me, the meeting that rang true as an energy exchange and creative chaos event, where so many contacts and ideas and plans surfaced or were born, that I consider it on par with what must have happened in Socrates/Plato times, in Gottingen early in the 20th century with the physicists (Bohr etc.), a once in a lifetime creative fire.”


As I explore Mondo 2000 History, I find myself unreasonably surprised by my own recollections — particularly by the degree to which “new age” influences flowed through both the scene and the magazine.  My own exploration of this cultural and memetic milieu  is shaping up to be fairly critical, but in this commentary sent to me for use by the Mondo 2000 History Project, Dutch writer, publisher, and entrepreneur Luc Sala eloquently embraces Mondo as “a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art”… while also noting our distinctions from some of the more formal “spiritual” practitioners.  I’m always happy to have inspired anything… well, just about anything.

Luc sent us a long ramble… a mini-memoir for the project, which he has graciously consented to my publishing here.  I’m going to run it in two parts — today and Friday. I think it provides one of the many flavors of Mondoid reality.

I should add here that some of Luc’s impressions of how Mondo functioned as a business are just that… impressions.  Some aspects were slightly more conventional than he perceived… but that’s part of this project — differing perceptions and memories are part of the narrative.

R.U. Sirius

New Edge
The term New Edge — as in bridging information technology and new age — is a phrase that kind of developed between me and John Barlow and was first used in print in the Ego2000 magazines I published in the Netherlands, and was later used by the Mondo crowd. In the new edge; hacking, virtual reality and alternative (psychedelic) reality came together with the new age ideas of ecology, sustainable ecology, self-development and body awareness. The MONDO 2000 User’s Guide to the New Edge by Rudy Rucker, R. U. Sirius & Queen Mu, came out in 1992 (HarperPerennial). Funny enough, there was no connection with the Bhagwan/Osho  movement. Osho died in 1990 and was a major alternative movement — or with TM (Marahishi).

The new age folks in those days were a bit anti-computer — a kind of neoluddite stance — and certainly didn’t see computers as spiritual and psychological self improvement tools. The New Edge obviously did. The great amalgam of the Web information exchange hadn’t happen and movements developed still more or less independently. The internet at that time was limited (text only… the WWW-internet really started happening in 1993). I remember Barlow at the first (and last) New Edge Conference in Amsterdam that I organized in May 1993 as an evangelist preaching the WWW revolution, validating and appraising the then half-underground pioneering work of Rop Gonggrijp and the Digitale Stad. That I-Conference, in itself , with Lundell and friends, Barlow, the Extropy  and Boing Boing editors (Max Moore and Mark Frauenfelder), Werner Pieper, St.Silicon, Captain Crunch and many others was again an amazing meeting of the high-tech counterculture luminaries of the time.

The convergence, or rather the undercurrent of psychedelic consciousness in the computer scene in the 80s and 90s was not an isolated phenomenon, I have interviewed many luminaries  — like Philip Glass and John Allen of Biosphere 2 — who admitted that LSD or other highs had given them the inspiration for breakthrough work. Stan Grof, the Arica people, the whole new age movement with Esalen (Big Sur) as a focal point was (unofficially) very aware of the potential of the psychoactive substances. XTC and other more chemical entheogen concoctions were coming up in those days. The Shulgins were of course pivotal in that development.

The Mondo crowd was more than familiar with what happened in the psychedelic world, they were the spider in the web. It was of course R.U. who had the best connections with the likes of Leary and McKenna; both flagbearers in the psychedelic movement and both with good contacts in Europe, with Albert Hofmann and Werner Pieper (Grune Zweig) and Fraser Clark and Rupert Sheldrake (and the Huxleys) and the Beckley foundation in the UK. I met Terence and Leary many times, drove the Shulgins around Europe, stayed at Tim’s house, met very interesting people there and was with him at his house some months before he died when was already was very ill.

Tim was a hyper-optimist, always positive and stimulating new ideas and projects. He had his theatrical side. I accompanied him on some of his lecture tours, going from venue to venue, where he was often acting clown-like and over-the-top on stage. In private, and at his Hollywood home, he showed his other personality. He was a great host; had an immensely creative mind and was always open to the new, the hip, the different. He had early seen the importance of information technology as a broad tool and predicted the Cold War would end because of the exchange of information. He developed —  still in the Commodore 64 days —  psychological computer programs, a category that Bruce Ehrlich (Eisner) of the Island group called Mindware. His work in that direction was groundbreaking, but alas the development of mindware has kind of stopped. Here and there, the game industry comes up with psychological profiling and sometimes biofeedback, but the category kind of died out. That is, as publicly available tools, the whole profiling trend with Google and the social networks and the security industry is applied psychology, fishing and mining data like search patterns, contact links for patterns and indicators that predict commercial or other (deviant) behavior.

Tim was very positive and stimulating, when in early 1990 I suggested a VR-conference in Amsterdam. He was enthusiastic, promised to come but also supported my plan/idea about writing a book — at that time conceived as a kind of conference book, and promised to write and send some chapters. He actually did and this convinced and pushed me to actually produce the Virtual Reality book that came out later in 1990. Some of the visits to Tim were with Barlow. I remember we went to LA with Linda Murman and found Eric Gullichsen there, demonstrating his VR gear. Leary was a pioneer thinker and evangelist of how psychedelics and esoteric paradigms fit in with high tech and personal computers. He was well ahead of the world there. The Mondo connection gave him the possibility to spread that insight (or should we say belief) to the world. Tim was, at the end of the eighties, no longer seen as a serious scientist or even opinion leader, but through Mondo he got connected again to at least the mainstream counterculture. There, Mondo was pioneering the spider-approach or what is now called the starfish model of open connectivity (The Starfish Concept by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom). Everybody was equal (until the editing pencil of Queen Mu that is) and although there was a lot of internal struggle (relationships and money usually), towards the external world there was great openness.

Tim Leary was not only a keen observer; he was an optimist, saw a postplanetary future, and can be described as an technologically informed utopist. He believed — and this is were the new edge definition comes up — that technology was the bridge, held the promise for human salvation and happiness. Psychedelics were part of that bridge, but so was  technology like computers, smart drugs, life extension, brain machines, mindware. Although we were all influenced by science fiction, and the SF writers were part of the scene, I personally had some connection with SF author and IT-columnist Jerry Pournelle who also lived in LA. We believed that what is formed in the mind eventually would yield a reality result. The progress in IT was only possible because there were dreams and visions. All the great inventions came from people who dared to dream, the computer interface is a great example.

I remember a trip to Las Vegas with Linda Murman and Barlow. We visited Leary on the way from SF via LA, did the Consumer Electronics Show with its gadgets, new electronic wonder-things and some VR demo-ing; the Jan Lewis foot-massage press event in the Landmark hotel across from the Convention Halls; and on the last day bought some cheap watches. We then drove back via Death Valley and took some acid when we went over Daylight pass. In the mood of the moment, we then buried those watches in a ritual attempt to forget about time and tried to get over the Sierra’s passes to the coast. This didn’t work, as they were barred because of snow, so we had to go all the way north past Mono Lake (an impressive salt lake) and up to Lake Tahoe and then back to SF. Barlow, stoned to his ears, tried to cross over before, turned off the car lights in order not to alarm the cops and we drove, in a snow-ridden landscape, in the dark on those mountain road. It was fantastic. We thought we saw UFO’s, discussed the world and then suddenly Barlow stopped, seemingly for no reason. He turned on the lights, and at about 50 yards there was a chain over the road, obviously to prevent cars to cross the mountain pass there. But I will always remember that moment, for if Barlow would not have stopped, we would have hit the chain with maybe fatal results. Was this LSD, God or just luck?

Ars Electronica September 1990; Linz
see also

The Austrian city of Linz had a yearly festival around electronic art — much of it about video and video art, but in 1990 virtual reality was the big thing. The spielmeister was Peter Weibel, who brought together a set of people in a setting I have not seen since — even the much acclaimed TED conferences didn’t bring this kind of creative change agents together. Virtual Reality was already there — and in the USA — as a research and innovation trend in the late eighties — becoming a fashionable thing.  I had seen quite a few demo’s, like the session early January 1990 with Eric Gullichsen at Tim Leary’s Hollywood house. There was a lot of talk; a lot of competition; the big ones like AutoCad and the small upstarts like Sense8 (Eric Gullichsen); Vivid Effect from Canada, and of course, Jaron Lanier, who defended his rights to the word Virtual Reality. This was done mostly by his somewhat deviant wife of the times who was also a guest at my party in 1990 and then took some LSD with Barlow, really scaring my kids when playing out their weird trip in my downstairs salon.

Although it wasn’t made part of the press releases and business plans to attract seed money for VR research, psychedelics played a major role in VR development, oftentimes one experimented with the systems using various substances; also sex (Ted Nelson coined dildonics) was part of the VR fascination. Virtual Reality was seen as a major breakthrough, as the psychedelici realized that this was a way to demonstrate that reality is a construction of the mind and a great tool for psychological (re)programming. This was one of the reasons Leary was so interested, here was potentially a technological drug, an electronic psychedelic.

Linz was an event that has shaped the development of VR, but also the development of Mondo and the New Age movement. It brought together the writers (SF), the techies (developers), the hackers (Chaos Computer Club), the entrepreneurs, the thinkers, the artists, the counterculture press and a couple of real change agents, like Barlow. Later I learned that even people from a whole different realm like Ra Uru Hu, a maverick astrologer who received or imagined the Human Design System, would become a great inspiration for my thinking in later years.

This was, for me, the meeting that rang true as an energy exchange and creative chaos event, where so many contacts and ideas and plans surfaced or were born, that I consider it on par with what must have happened in Socrates/Plato times, in Gottingen early in the 20th century with the physicists (Bohr etc.), a once in a lifetime creative fire. I went there, because some of my friends went there, and found myself amidst the great technominds of that time, but also the literary geniuses and artists. The program itself I hardly followed, but talking with participants, speakers and messing around with the demo equipment, it was an impressive time. I was familiar with many of the speakers and luminaries there, via my Mondo connection, my own publications, my work with brainmachines and my visits to the USA. So I joined the dinners and informal meetings; sitting in very Austrian pubs and places around the Linz market. It was a feast meeting all those people, participating in their discussions and getting inspired about the possibilities of this new way of using and integrating computers and information technology. There were interesting meetings, like with Morgan Russell, an early Mondo dropout who had some rights to the title and later (from Vienna or Hungary I believe) obtained archives and copies of Mondo.

The list of speakers and participants read like a Mondo 2000 article list, with Jaron Lanier, Warren Robinett, Brenda Laurel, Marvin Minsky, Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Jeffrey Shaw, and many, many others like Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder, de Vasulka’s (video pioneers), Richard Teitelbaum, Ivan Sutherland, Scott Fisher, les Virtualistes, Erich Gullichsen, Vivid (Vincent John Vincent), Chuck Blanchard, Scott Fisher, Ron Reisman, Derrick de Kerckhove (M.McLuhan Institute), Rudolf Kapellner, Ernst Graf, David Dunn, the Dutch Bilwet people and also Terence McKenna. Terence and Leary were the acknowledged leaders of the psychedelic movement. Both were well within the Mondo tribe and since Linz, Barlow and Leary started their tours and performances together. I remember how fiercely Barlow attacked Minsky and his meat computer approach. There was the deeper spiritual touch that wasn’t on the program and went mostly unnoticed, but in private conversations all the luminaries familiar with psychedelics expressed their deep spiritual roots, which didn’t surprise me, but enhanced my interest in the whole movement. Quantum Physicist Nick Herbert, later a good friend of mine, was in the program book, but I don’t remember him being there, and when in Amsterdam at my 50th birthday in 1999, he claimed that was his first visit to Europe.

The Ars Electronica festival had presentations, paid tickets for presenters, and awarded prizes like the NICA’s, but they always seemed to have gone to the wrong people. The real change agents were other people and although Linz made this annual festival a kind of hallmark event for the city, with a special museum around it, recently extended, and a Futurelab, I have a feeling they never reached the impact of the 1990 event again.

As I was planning a VR event later that year, I started producing a book about Virtual Reality somewhere in 1990. A few copies were for the party with Leary and Barlow and the famous VR-garden party at my house, basically bringing together all the relevant articles, although translated in Dutch, obviously nobody would give me permission for an English publication. This book, however, is really still the best collection of relevant material about the early VR-thinking and contains many contributions, but also illustrates my main focus always has been “a bit is only information if it bytes” meaning that information is more than data and that our present mountains of digital data have little meaning if they don’t bring real change. In that book many ideas and suggestions about the use of computers and information technology were written up, some so outlandish they have not been realized even today, like the ego-processor unit next to the CPU, GPU and also the general notion of Information as a new religion pops up there.

The VR event did happen, a few weeks after Linz and apart from Leary’s appearance in Paradiso (jointly organized with Ben Posset) the most important meeting was the garden party afterwards in my house. Many people came to Amsterdam after Linz, and they all assembled at my Hilversum house. Barlow, Leary, Lanier’s wife, les Virtualistes, the Vivid people (Vince and Sue), Dusty, many local luminaries like Simon Vinkenoog; quite unexpectedly Ted Nelson showed up… this was the party of my life! Everybody was totally relaxed, everybody mixed and I remember that I was actually watching the crowd form behind the trees in my garden, moved to tears. later I have met people in the USA, who told me that they were once at a party in the Netherlands, that was so impressive and stimulating, they remembered it ten, fifteen years laer. Who the host was, they didn’t know, but they did remembered the place, the people, the atmosphere.


In Europe, there were cyberactivities here and there. The hackers kept busy and had large scale events in Holland (thanks to Rop Gonggrijp cs), some virtual reality events; of course, the New Edge Amsterdam conference in 1993 with Barlow, Max More, Mark Frauenfelder, Lundell, Dusty Parks and many others, there was activity everywhere. I published Ego2000 in 1990. Wave, from Walter de Brouwer, followed in Belgium in 1994 (he has been quite an entrepreneur and figure in cyberspace since). In England good old Fraser Clark was the zippie man. He eventually spent some time with the Mondo crowd in Berkeley. Mondo as such was not widely distributed in Europe, but the cognoscenti knew about it, and through the New Edge Conference in 1993 most of the cyberactivists and hackers came together and mixed. The digital city folks and their crowd, including Mediamatics, Bilwet and de Waag developed and became a scene in itself, quite influential, but relying on government subsidies. Their focus was more on community and art and applied technology, less on the philosophical and esoteric. I myself was more involved with the Ruigoord community and my publishing and entrepreneural activities (for IT-magazines and Ego2000, for my Egosoft shop, my software activities (MSX) and later for the television channel). This did bring me all over the world, also to Japan where I had some contacts with Joey Ito and Kay Nishi. I traveled to Tibet, Nepal and India and usually connected with the alternative scene and writers there.

Mondo compared to other magazines

Apart from the obvious Wired, there were new age magazines and gadget magazines, but the convergence in Mondo was quite unique. Of course there were also hacker magazines and Extropy and Boing Boing, but as nobody really made money, there was no competition, more a camaraderie. As a professional publisher with quite some staff in those days in my Amsterdam operation (some 20 plus) I was amazed at how Mondo operated. They had some administrative people, notably Linda, but I never figured out how sales and acquisition were happening. It was mostly personal contacts I presume, but then I had little daily operational involvement. The Wired people were far more commercial, lied through their teeth about their success, which at a publishing conference in Zurich kind of got debunked publicly. They were not very ethical, but who is in big time publishing? Ad-selling is like that. Many people (Negroponte was also a shareholder and columnist) I assumed (wrongly, Rosetto has pointed out) that Eckhart Wintzen was a private shareholder and used his public company’s ad-budget, he obviously was proud to be involved in some way) used Wired for ego-boosting. Barlow once remarked, in a Wired Video, that media were not about informing, but about selling eyeballs to advertisers, I wonder if he wasn’t poking fun at Wired then. I never liked Wired. It was too material; too hard. Maybe this is because I turned Louis Rosetto and Metcalfe down earlier, but I never trusted the Wired approach and in the end their great plans of going public failed because of those reasons and finally the magazine was sold to a big time publisher, Conde Nast. Jane was a great human contact talent. She made this September 1990 garden party at my house a real success, but I couldn’t afford to hire her longterm. Of course many or in fact most contributors to Mondo ended up writing for Wired (and were paid, something Mondo couldn’t do).

Mondo, on the other hand never really was run as a business. It was a hobby; a social engineering venture by people with not so much interest or ability in the competitive world of publishing. Alison spend her heritage (and a lot of energy and talent) on the project. There were sponsors and benefactors, but Mondo was more an art project than a business. The same was true for my Dutch publication Ego2000. We made seven or eight issues and never made money. As the owner of the Sala Communications corporate structure however, it was my prerogative to have a hobby publication and it fitted well with my little Amsterdam cybershop Egosoft and my interests in what happened in the USA with Mondo. The editorial in Ego2000 covered roughly the same subjects as Mondo. I, of course, interviewed many of the Mondo contacts, added local content and articles, my travelogues, meetings all over the world, my hero’s of the time, it was obviously an ego-document. Kyra Kuitert was my main editorial assistant and we had fun making it, nobody asked nasty questions about cost or income. I had the money, the same as with my television channel Kleurnet a few years later. It was my thing and who would stop me, as long as the general Sala Communications corporation (I had shops and many other activities, digital picture library activities, computer shows and publications) made money, who cared? For me, work never was work It was personal development mixed with fun and a chance to meet interesting people. The enormous list of TV interview and programs from those days speaks for itself.

What remains of the Mondo spirit twenty years later is an interesting question. The cyberculture of gadgets and IT-connectivity has become mainstream, the future of Mondo then is a reality now in many respects. Mondo was fundamentally politically incorrect and fearless, now most media are all about fear. The new age has become a movement of fear (health, environment, 2012), not of hope. Society has lost much freedom, traded for the post 9/11 fake security that really hides the police state and the war on people. Freedom and Security have become opposites, not the Plato span of horses with a common goal, profiling the new and sneaky discrimination tool. Cyberspace is not the new democracy Barlow hoped for, but more and more a repression and consumerism tool.

Mondo was a magazine for freethinkers, made by freethinkers and there was a period of about 5 years (1990-1995) that this had a real effect, but then the mood changed, the war on people (war on drugs) intensified, the status of the US as a world opinion leader went down with ever more negative news, eclipsing in the 9/11 situation. Progress since then has been in the technology, internet, mobile computing and multimedia, but what really great music, art, literature or films have we really seen? What new science has evolved? We are stuck, captured in the rational and logical thinking, cut off from the spiritual and in a dead-end alley as far as science, environment and social justice are concerned. The financial crisis is not the result of manipulation by the banks and the system. We, the people, and our greed (hence the focus on the material because of our deep fear and lack of hope) have caused the crisis. The banks and institutions have just provided the tools and instruments. We have lost and cut off the contact with the “other,” the unseen, the irrational, the metaphysical.  We’re busy fighting our fears with our smartphones, social networks and hoping to find a solution in the digital bits. The chance we had to resize our worldview, to accept the adventure of not knowing; of not being safe and thus really learning has been handed over to the always-on security of our smart phones and our monitored world that will eventually lead to stagnation and loss of entrepreneurial initiatives. We are less creative, less daring, and as I personally confront this trend in public appearances and in publications of many kinds I am very disappointed that even the so-called spiritual and cultural leaders of our world are more concerned with their personal ego and maintaining their circles of influence than with new opportunities and vistas.

History now

Energetically, the Virtual Reality wave of the 1988-1994 period has died out. VR is now a technique used in engineering and the medical field but has not reached the wider society (it had some nasty health issues like now 3D) and the IT industry has focused on getting IT everywhere, all-the-time and always on. The adventure of merging and combining new technologies, new thinking, out-of-the box thinking, convergence of ontological views (i.e. the psychedelic) has stopped, we are all high tech neoliberals now (we think forgetting 2/3th of the world population). Mondo was positive, open, while mainstream media mostly have become closed, less pluriform, more politically correct. Mondo was a horizontal magazine, working from the premise (psychedelically inspired) that there is no ultimate truth, no general reality, there is individual truth and reality we can share and enjoy. This more horizontal paradigm does find its way… it’s now very noticeable. I think the (as yet not recognized) changeover from vertical (screen) computing to horizontal touch computing (tablets and pads tilted the interface fundamentally) will have a profound effect on hierarchical organization to come. It’s hard to keep the boss/subordinate model going when discussing things over a pad and with close finger-contact.

The internet has changed the world, and only Boing Boing has remained from those Mondo times. Wired is a gadget-oriented quasi-intellectual mainstream publication, and the Mondo crowd has spread out. Tim, Terence and many others are no longer there, and I am amazed that it took only fifteen years before the academic world started to be interested in what they now call late-century cyberculture and spirit. We will see how accurate and valid they will portray the Mondo and New Edge movement.

Mar 28 2012

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

We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub.”

As I explore Mondo 2000 History, I find myself unreasonably surprised by my own recollections — particularly by the degree to which “new age” influences flowed through both the scene and the magazine.  My own exploration of this cultural and memetic milieu  is shaping up to be fairly critical, but in this commentary sent to me for use by the Mondo 2000 History Project, Dutch writer, publisher, and entrepreneur Luc Sala eloquently embraces Mondo as “a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art”… while also noting our distinctions from some of the more formal “spiritual” practitioners.  I’m always happy to have inspired anything… well, just about anything.

Luc sent us a long ramble… a mini-memoir for the project, which he has graciously consented to my publishing here.  I’m going to run it in two parts — today and Friday. I think it provides one of the many flavors of Mondoid reality.

R.U. Sirius


Mondo 2000 has been, for me, a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art. I believe the magazine and the scene were at the root of the development of the late twentieth century cyberculture and have helped bridge the gap between the more traditional new age (fairly conservatively focused on eastern traditions, health and body; somewhat negative and Luddite about technology) and the computer/information wave.

My involvement with the actual magazine was limited, I sponsored with money and was international distributor (paying in advance helped to print the magazine). My involvement with the people of and around Mondo was what was most important for me, those contacts opened a door into the world of cyberspace, cyberart, psychedelic (ontological) philosophy, design and counterculture. The Mondo scene was where one would meet the great alternative thinkers and writers. They were easy with their contacts and networking; opened many, many doors for me and I am very grateful for what I took home — not so much in material things, but in thinking for myself. Mondo inspired me to publish a similar magazine in Dutch, called Ego2000, and has been a source of contacts and new ideas for my activities in the nineties. Apart from writing and publishing. this encompassed my broadcast television station in Amsterdam. This Kleurnet channel (colored net) produced some 8000 television programs between 1995 and 2001, covering a wide range of subjects, many with a similar focus and taste as to what Mondo offered.

Mondo 2000 was a focal point where the counterculture, psychonauts and mind-researchers met, physically in Berkeley, and at various events in SF and elsewhere. They met in person, but also communicated via the then emerging email and budding internet communications of the times such as The Well. It united the greatest out-of-the box thinkers and change agents of the era, but was not a commercial success. Money to pay the printer had to be found every time. Lack of commercial talent and financial savvy hampered its development so that the newer Wired was able to capture the flag of the cyberculture. Wired was more of a hit, but remained more gadget-oriented and lacked the heart and zeal of the Mondo initiative. Funny enough, founding publishers Louis Rosetto and his partner Jane Metcalfe (after their Electric Word venture in Holland) contacted me in early 1990 to ask for funding for a new magazine in the US, which later became Wired (1991 trial, 1993 first issue). Jane was a great networker and organizer and I actually employed her for a while. She set up the seminal September VR-party in my house in Hilversum, near Amsterdam. I always considered Wired as overly commercial and not so ethical and was proven right when Wired tried to go public and failed because their data were not very honest, to say the least. While many contributors wrote for both magazines, the Wired-Mondo dichotomy; the difference in focus taught me a lot about the soul, the root energy of a venture, how the initial thrust kind of shaped its future. Wired in a sense was a cheap market oriented venture, it lacked the quality and integrity of the Mondo format.

In the early Eighties (1982) I started my computer magazine publishing company, after working as a launch editor and roving reporter for Pat McGovern of IDC/IDG, before that being employed by Fasson, Bruynzeel and Philips. As a then new journalist (I never trained as such) I travelled extensively to the USA, as the rise of the home computer (Commodore, MSX, Apple, PC) was partly a European thing with English makers like Sinclair, but obviously the USA was the motherlode for computernews. I went to shows like the NCC, the Comdex and the CES shows, often in Las Vegas, where I hooked up with the Californian crowd of computer journalists, afficionado’s and hobbyists. Those were exciting years, the computer spread from the highbrow DEC/IBM scene to the home, hobbyists became involved, the Commodore 64 opened a new world of low level ICT. I rode that wave with magazines, end-user shows (PC Dumpdag), books and even a retail operation. I was familiar with computers already during my studies (Physics at Delft University and Economics in Rotterdam), in my early career followed trainings in Industrial Engineering and was groomed by Philips for an executive commercial position in telecom in a year-long worldwide training program. When the personal computer emerged, I jumped in with a 16 KB Philips P2000 unit I used for my first books about home-computers, computer games and programming and then gradually developed my publishing and writing activities in telecom, the home computer field and later in more general ICT. I am happy I went through the rigorous mathematical and physics programs at university, because it taught me to think straight and systematic; this being in line with the slight Asperger syndrom behaviour I sometimes display. Apart from that I have always read extensively and my journalistic and media skills were acquired and learned by doing and supported by some guts, I was always in for a new venture.

Homebrew computers

In my travels for the computer press I met people like Lee Felsenstein, Jan Lewis, Mary Eisenhart (Microtimes), and of course Allan Lundell, Amara Angelica, Saint Silicon (Jeffrey Armstrong) Dusty Parks and friends. We were hanging out together; meeting at the computer shows in the press rooms. We joined the insider parties at these events with what then were budding entrepreneurs like Gates and Philippe Kahn (Borland), and opinion leaders like John Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle. I felt part of the new wave of ICT for the masses, but as an insider. I wasn’t only a journalist and writer, but invested a bit, started trading computers and basically used my publications to get in touch with interesting people. This is something I have always done, even my Kleurnet TV station was a kind of front, a mousetrap to catch the inspiring and interesting ones, the change-agents, the mavericks.

However, in those days it was all very straight; computers, ICT, business, the alternative wasn’t on my mind, but I was connected. This all changed in 1989. I got in touch with new age thinking, had some deep and life-changing personal mystical experiences and opened up to the  alternative side of computers, like brain machines, mindware (Bruce Eisner’s focus) and saw the much broader horizon opening with multimedia, pictures, video. There were visits to Xerox Parc, contacts with fringe scientists, hackers, game-developers… I realized that the days of alphanumeric number-crunching were over. Another notion that dawned upon me then was that data and information are not the same; “a bit is only information if it bytes” was the keyphrase I used and use to make that clear.


Then around the first big Hacker Conference august 1989 in Amsterdam (Hack-Tic/Paradiso),  I was approached by my friend Allan Lundell (his book Virus was just out… and the famous Captain Crunch — John Draper — was there too) who proposed to me that I support a new magazine which was to be called Mondo 2000 and showed me a mockup. It looked fantastic, desktop publishing really applied to creative publishing, in color, with visual effects that were, at that time, revolution in action. At the closing day of this conference (The Galactic Hacker Conference/ICATA) we had a party at my house in Hilversum (25 km from Amsterdam), where many showed up. The hacker folks, the Chaos Club people with Wau Holland, the local hack and Digitale Stad luminaries like Rop Gonggrijp and Caroline Nevejan came. It was a nice party, that cemented many connections made at the hacker conference, which was in itself a major networking node in the pre-internet times (we had some email, but no web then). Allan and I dropped acid, sitting in the bathtub of my house. We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub. Allan has some video from that party.

Locally this GHC stemmed from Hack-Tic and resulted in what later became XS4all and De Digitale Stad, but I personally had little empathy for what then was labeled as technoanarchistic hacking and focused myself on the USA and international side of things. However, this GHP brought together ‘the crucial network’ as Caroline Nevejan describes this and certainly influenced the cyberculture and cyber-counterculture. She, in a way, sees this as a consciously staged and orchestrated process, bridging the incommensurability (see 1962 Thomas Kuhn ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’) between participants. I tend to see it more as an autoconspiracy (again a notion Barlow inspired), an energetic exchange that fits the times and the place, and kind of inevitable happens. Maybe this is because I always more liked less staged parties and the mixing of people, ideas and disciplines that can then happen, more the be-in philosophy (Michael Bowen 1967). We come together because we had to, and for an outsider this might look like a conspiracy, but it is more a play. There usually is a spielmeister or facilitator, who sets the stage, but does not know or plan the outcome. This all of course has to do with my understanding of time, future and energy and how things come to pass,. The malleability of reality and the laws of nature is a major issue in my further work and development.

These events, like the GHP and the 1990 Linz Ars Electronica were pivotal events. The people that mattered in what later was coined the new edge movement met and started to make it happen.


As a result of meeting the Mondo people in Amsterdam and my promise to help them out financially, somewhat later in 1989 I went to the USA, partly because of my regular visits to computer shows and Silicon valley as a journalist/entrepreneur, but also to renew contact with Lundell and the Mondo crowd. That late summer many things happened in my life. I discovered spirituality and had some amazing mystical experiences, got in touch with the Esalen new age crowd and began to see computers in a much wider and more spiritual context. Before, I was already interested in what computers could do for psychology, like with brainmachines and even started a small shop called Egosoft. There I was selling all kind of mind-enhancing devices, the early smart drugs, and all kinds of brain-tools, hypnotic audio, isolation tanks, even some magic mushrooms — stuff that was totally legal then. But in the late summer of 1989, there came the interest in the more esoteric, even the mystical aspects, like in techno-paganistic work of Marc Pesce (the VRML guy) and how information is a dimension in itself, related to consciousness. These thoughts and notions have kept me busy ’til today, with Infotheism and the legality of Cyberspace still on my mind. Information in that sense is a path, the Silicon path, as in the Silicon Brotherhood Creed from 1989 (see adendum).

In the USofA

In the USA that autumn I got more in touch with the Mondo house and the Mondo crowd, even stayed there for some time. I wasn’t so much working on the magazine but just being helpful, paying for the first Apple Postscript laserprinter, for food and many things — as cash was rather scarce in those days.  R.U. Sirius did have the most amazing collection of weird psychedelics.

It was an old house, above a creek and fairly complex of structure, with offices and rooms tucked away here and there. Alison Kennedy aka Queen Mu and Ken aka R.U. Sirius were living there. Jas Morgan was running around and the whole house was full of rubble, books, stuff, ideas, notes and half-worked articles. Mu and R.U. then were in a strange quasi-relationship. There were lovers and would-be lovers (a guy kind of lived in a van outside); many guests and some people working on the magazine. One of them was Linda Murman, then with Allan Lundell, who did some admin and money chasing. I had a great time there, not doing much apart from sending editorial articles back to my magazine staff. I remember that as the place was messy, even filthy, with rubble everywhere, I tried to clean here and there.

One day I decided to clean out the big fridge in the kitchen, and kind of put aside or in the bin the weird little packages there that I thought were just old pieces of meat or something. This caused a panic, as there wasn’t only a bear’s penis, but also spider venom and a few other outlandish ingredients, related to Queen Mu’s work/hobby. Anyway, I met amazing people there, among them John Perry Barlow, whom I liked and had many and deep conversations with. He had an apartment on Potrero hill in SF, but his family was living in Wyoming. One day he went to visit them. I hitched a ride across the bay, and then our conversation was so animated, that I stayed with him (I could always take a train back was the idea) for the whole trip, some 15 hours through snow and ice, to his family house in Wyoming. I flew back after a nice meeting with his wife and kids. On my 40th birthday, the Mondo people, always in for a party, especially as I was paying for the food and drinks, threw a great birthday dinner for me. Timothy Leary, Barlow, Claudio Naranjo and his wife (Enneagram); the weird professor of Asian religions that Queen Mu was more or less married to (a great dinner entertainer), R.U. Sirius , Linda and some more.

There was a catch, however, as Mu, in her role as grand witch, had secretly decide to match/couple me to Linda. As I was not very experienced with psychedelics at that time, the kind of concoction they half-jokingly slipped me caught me by surprise. Before that summer I had never taken anything, only one toke of a marihuana cigarette when I was 16 or so.

Her recipe in a way worked, I ended up with Linda in bed and for the next few months that was it. She had a house in Boulder Creek, full with Allan’s stuff and took me there. As I had no car, I was kind of stranded for the week out there. I remember how I sifted through Lundell’s gear. He was a writer for electronic and AV magazines, not a great organizer, but assembled the most extensive collection of video gear one could imagine, most lying around in the Boulder Creek house on the hill or stashed in a shed outside. I cleaned out a lot of rubble, read, and watched video’s (no web then!). Sometime in the spring of 1990 I decided to go back to Holland and pick up my activities as publisher. My company kind of ran itself, while away, I just wrote articles and editorials and emailed (complicated procedure in those days with modems and 12kbps connections) them, for the computer magazines we produced, In those days there were magazines for specific machines like Commodore, Atari, PC-DOS, MSX and one about general computer news.

I was (at that time and still) an outspoken and somewhat obnoxious journalist, publisher and entrepreneur and I made money in ICT, and therefore I was a bit the “enemy” of the alternativo’s in the Dutch hacker scene. When the hackers sold out for big money a few years later (Xs4all), I felt they had betrayed their original creed. I however always believed their stance was worth protecting, and the Silicon Brotherhood Creed at the end of my Virtual Reality book (written in 1990, but this creed evolved in and from meeting with Lundell in 1989) acknowledged the importance of the deviant, the alternative, independent hacker).

Barlow was, in those days, a good friend and inspiration. He spent quite some time in SF. We travelled and tripped together, he got me backstage at the Grateful Dead new years concert, we visited trade shows and discussed the world, copyrights, God and psychedelics. His thinking inspired me a lot. I had used so many of his ideas and visions in my VR book, that I decided to put his name on the cover too. We differed in opinion in some ways. I never sided with his belief that copyrights don’t matter, that information should be free. His Cyberspace Independence Declaration/Manifesto was, in the context of his EFF work, a great statement and has been very influential; one of the few articles that really address the need for clear cyberspace rights and laws. It was, at the same time, somewhat naive, expressing a belief in the power of information and freedom that didn’t reckon with the traditions and forces concerning copyrights and the fear of institutions and governments for total freedom. I think Barlow was also inspired by Leary’s Declaration of Evolution (1968). The whole subject of cyberspace rights, legislature and freedom has been the subject of many articles I wrote in Dutch, also in the context of Infotheism and my personal notion of evolution as “a remembrance of the future” and what DNA is (an antenna into the future).

Sacramento 3220

The San Francisco scene in those days had (for me) two poles. One was Henry Dakin’s outfit on Sacramento 3220 (Henry’s Playhouse full with nonprofits and a secret Apple multimedia lab, the SF-Moscow Teleport, Jack Sarfatti and, later, Faustin Bray). The other was the Mondo House, up the hill a bit in Berkeley. Henry was a humble and softspoken millionaire, heir to the Dakin Toys fortune but fascinated by the alternative; be it waterbirth, East-west bridging, dolphins, new physics (Jack Sarfatti), Damanhur or psychedelics. He facilitated so many and was so helpful in organizing, promoting and financing the new, the different, the small and great innovators, I always liked him and his gentle approach. He was easy, slept in the back of my Egosoft new-edge shop in Amsterdam. He was an inspiration for me and many.

The Mondo house, with Queen Mu in charge and at the purse (and the editing!), was a different story. More egocentric, Mondo wasn’t about helping the world. It was an ego-statement by what my kids called catch-up hippies, flippo’s obsessed with the new, the different, who saw the potential of the new technology, as a mind changing and world changing tool. The spirituality that Henry Dakin lived was part of the Mondo culture too, but more as a tool, an experience, as part of the psychedelic awareness, the transcendental in action. Of course the house was full with esoteric art and books. All present were very well read. With people like Claudio Naranjo (enneagram), Barlow and Jaron Lanier around, philosophy and spirituality were part of the daily smorgasboard of discussions and exchanges, but not in a formal way. Although all had some deeper understanding and awareness of the mystical, the transcendental or deep contemplative was not on the agenda. Many had (had) contacts with Alan Watts or John Perry and the beat-generation poets like Ginsberg were not far off, but Mondo was more worldly than that. It made connections with the New Physics crowd via Nick Herbert (and Fred Wolf); dabbled in whatever was new in arts and music, but kind of stayed away from the health scene, the new age body work, Gaia folks and soul searching. But there was enough; the connections from Mondo with what was happening in the Bay area and beyond were fascinating. I really laid the foundation of my network there, which became the basis for my later work (writing, television, esoteric studies) and inspires me till today.


Before Lundell and friends made me aware of Mondo and got me involved, I was familiar with the technological side of things, the ICT industry and its outgrowth into brain machines, mind technology, but was not really hip to the general counterculture of those days. I was more a new age person with an ICT interest. Of course when I got to the Mondo house, I caught up. I have seen and read the earlier publications that R.U. was involved with — High Frontiers and Reality Hackers, but those were more traditional in appearance and layout. It was Mondo (and of course Bart Nagel and Heide Foley who made that jump in layout perspective happen) that really opened up to PostScript and the integrated layout possibilities that so markedly made Mondo 2000 a new wave in publishing.

When the Mondo people asked for support, I donated money to help print the first issue, as did John Perry Barlow and I also subsequently helped out here and there with some funds and became international distributor, not with much success. It came down to preordering and prepaying for some 800 issues (and that helped to get it printed anyway) every run, and having them shipped to some distributors in the Netherland and England. However, I never made money out of Mondo and ended up with serious stacks of Mondo’s, still in my cellars.

As R.U. was not only a keen observer and gifted writer, he also supplied all kinds of things to the Bay area cognoscenti and therefore had a real interesting network. Psychedelics were the not so secret but illicit link between the various subworlds of art, literature, music, new age and technology. Morgan Russell, R.U., Queen Mu, St. Jude (Jude Milhon/Hippie) were all broadly interested, but in different directions, with different networks and it was this convergence that was the hallmark of Mondo. They covered the whole gamut of alternativity, with a distinct “highness” underlying the meetings, events and discussions.

As this was the Bay Area and Silicon Valley was close, the link with the computer industry was easy and logical, There was the money and the excitement, in those days everybody looked at the new possibilities, whether it was in music with synthesizers; in broadcasting with digital media; in entertainment with the emerging computer games — and virtual reality was definitely the magic potion that would free us from the limitations of space and time, the ultimate trip, the electronic drug. Most of the people involved had a sixties background, although there were also the catch-up hippies like myself, who missed out on but were fascinated by the likes of Leary and the Zeitgeist of the sixties.

Part 2 will be published Friday, 3/30


The Silicon Br/otherhood :

` We acknowledge the Silicon Path ‘

By Luc Sala and Allan Lundell
Hilversum, August 14, 1989

The computer and information technology, with the word Silicon as its main symbol, is one of the identifiers of the 20th century. This has challenged some to explore its possibilities beyond the mere superficial, utilitarian aspects of it. In arts, media, psychology, Artificial intelligence, consciousness projects, religion and creative crime, new applications are discovered and new interactions mapped. As has happenend in the history mathematics, the quabala, martial arts, building technology etc., such powerful new knowledge is first applied to the relatively mundane fields of economics, warfare and the suppression of people before one acknowlegdes and then explores the transcendental possibilities.

All through the ages people have concentrated on parts of the reality to gain access to the greater or even ultimate reality in themselves and the perennial wisdom of our species and the earth, our Silicon Mother Goddess.

The computer offers us new, and at the same time, age-old, possibilities of concentration and expansion, of communication and isolation, ego-discovery and letting go, that are largely untapped. Those who are now so deeply involved in the computer are, even unconsciously, part of a new tradition, the Silicon Path.

Now we, the initiators, explorers, guardians and even exploiters of the Silicon awareness revolution are concerned about its uses and abuses, and above all, acknowlegde its potential for growing awareness and human transcedence. We owe today’s hackers and whiz- kids, and ourselves, the opportunity to follow the Silicon Path, becoming the magi(cians) and mystics of our times. If the computer is nothing but another way to get in touch with the ultimate reality (and what else could it be), it needs some `small’ br/others to safeguard that path.




Feb 12 2012

There Are Big Differences Between 3d Printing & VR

Recently, Christoper Mims over at Technology Review wrote a piece and noted that he used the opening graphic from my H+ article (Adding Our Way to Abundance) which makes me wonder if he’s directing this article at me about how he is sure that 3d printing will go the way that VR did back in the 90′s, essentially overhyped, then ignored for over a decade.

He’s been rebutted by another writer at Technology Review but there are a few aspects I’d like to focus on in specific:

There are big differences between VR and 3d printing:

1: VR was a “hyped” at a stage where the computer technology simply wasn’t there to support the claims. I was laughing at the rather ridiculous claims being thrown around at the time, because the processing power, bandwidth, and display technology simply didn’t exist to support the hype. While 3d printing is also not completely to the point I describe above, we are far closer to that level than VR was during its initial hype phase. Also, the first “hype phase” for 3d printing occurred ten years ago, it just didn’t reach the same levels that VR did. I have been watching it move from that initial stage to practical application in prototype manufacturing, and it is now in its second hype phase as it is moving from prototype to production level. The reason this initial hype phase never reached the same level is because it was just another victim of the “tech bubble” that burst following 9/11 when every technology company suddenly had to face new “security” measures, and the costs associated with them. They’ve already had their “disinterest” phase and are now emerging into the secondary cycle with practical applications in the immediate present.

2: VR was “hyped” before there was a “high level” demand for it. 3d printing has extremely practical uses, outlined in my article linked above, which makes it a priority for those at the top of the economy. Unlike VR, 3d printing offers enormous benefits to the highest tiers of society, and this is focusing massive pressure on its development. The mutation of the electronics companies from “primary manufacturers” to “design studios” who develop and prototype designs before using 3rd party manufacturers to produce “branded” products has created a “do or die” evolutionary pressure on these 3rd party manufacturers. In order to meet the demands from the corporations for faster production and faster generational turn around, these companies are having little choice but to research and develop 3d manufacturing, and are aware that any of them that comes in last will be eaten.  If you haven’t noticed, most of the more dramatic “printing” breakthroughs are coming from these manufacturers, and not research labs or American manufacturing.

3: Extrusion and Sintering are merely the stage we are at now. Were there not equally dramatic advances taking place in the metamaterials field, as well as electronic “printing.” graphene production and “printing.” not to mention numerous other micro and nanofabrication advances, all occurring simultaneously, I would be more inclined to agree about the timeline as well. However, based on where we are in development on all these other fronts, and given that they will all impact the methods used to “print” 3d objects, the arguments used in Mr. Mims article show such a short and narrow focus that it seems more like a denial of a reality that it’s author doesn’t like than an argument based on observation of all evidence. It’s basically a “We can’t do it now, so it’s impossible” argument, and I’m sad to say I am not as hopeful as he is about how long it will take to develop 3d printing once all the combined factors come into play.

4: VR had no DIY components, because all the devices needed to “make it happen” were very expensive and almost everything had to be built from scratch. There were no “garage engineers” or “backyard prototypers” because the minimum entry level to play was far out of the reach of everyone who didn’t have either a company or government backing. 3d Printers are already far beyond this stage, while VR still has not reached it.  With the Makerbot, and the REP/RAP project, DIY tinkering with printers is already well underway. And if you read my article on printers linked above, you’ll know that I predict the DIY and Open Source movements will eat centralized manufacturing efforts once 3d printing has saturated the manufacturing fields. As the other article rebutting Mim’s points out, a printer can make a 90% finished product which needs minimal “tweaking” via a small scale machine shop, which makes decentralized “Fab shops” as competitive as the large scale manufacturers. There are already innovative products being made for the market by such “little dogs” as Freedom of Creation If the “big dogs” take too long, they will be eaten before they even get off the porch, and they know this.

I’d put more faith in Mims arguments if he had said them ten years ago. But 3d printing is just one part of everything that is occurring that I have researched. By itself, were it the only technology under development, and not under the pressures it’s under to be developed, I would agree with Mr. Mims

Then we, of course, have the flip side of the coin, which is the fact that 3d printers are not limited to manufactured products, but can print biological products as well. As a recent commentor screamed: “and if ‘food’ ever does come from a printer, it won’t be food! It will be processed, toxic muck. Processed food is already the #1 cause of disease in the industrial world.”

The problem with such claims is that it ignores the simple reality that a 3d Organic Printer is not using any of the normal industrial processes that create most of our modern foods. It is merely printing stem cells into a pattern with the needed nutrients to allow those cells to mature and merge to form a complete piece of living tissue. So, if its 100% pure beef tissue, or its 100% pure beef tissue, what does it matter if it came from a cow, or a printer? The tissue is going to be pure cow either way.

Unlike “processed food,” a stem cell printer would use the exact same biological processes to make beef that Bessie does, it merely removes the need to kill Bessie to do so. As I have pointed out repeatedly, a medically viable, functional heart for transplantation is a far more complex task then simple muscle tissue and fat. It’s not a matter of whether or not it is technically possible, that has already been proven. It’s a matter of taking it out of the lab and creating mass production techniques. Studies already exist showing that printing or growing in vitro meats are capable of reducing the costs of production over 90% compared to traditional cattle farming, and produce 90% less waste products.

The UK Guardian reported that a recent study calculates “that cultured meat will have 80-95% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 99″% lower land use and 80-90% lower water use compared to conventionally produced meat in Europe. Every kilo of conventionally produced meat requires 4kg-10kg of feed, whereas cultured meat significantly increases efficiency by using only 2kg of feed. Based on our results, if cultured meat constituted half of all meat consumed we could halve the greenhouse emissions, and increase the forest cover by 50%, which is equivalent to four times of Brazil’s current forest area.

“The measurement of feed for kilogram of meat is for beef.”

Think about that. For the same “cost to produce” meat via traditional cattle farming, we could produce nine times more beef via in vitro and printed meats. In other words, the meat industry could cut the cattle industry out of the picture entirely, make 90% more profits, eliminate any possible source of “diseased meat” and still produce the exact same end product. That’s one hell of an incentive on the part of “the corporations” to fund research into improvements in 3d printing.

Extrapolate that to “hard matter” manufacturing, and the ability to use creative engineering to create products that use 90% less material for the same end product, or even a superior product as 3d printers can create items impossible to manufacture traditionally, and you can see why the push to develop is going to be fast tracked from nearly every angle.

And note, I don’t dispute that “a box in the corner” is many years off. Personal 3d Printers are at least a decade away, as I have also stated previously. But the stages from current capability to the replacement of “production lines” is already underway, and likely to proceed far more rapidly than expected, particularly during the latter half of this decade, and from there, it’s likely to only be a few years to personal fabricators are wide spread. Universal Personal Fabs able to print anything desirable are probably less than two decades down the road, but again, universal adoption will likely take longer, due primarily to the prejudices of those like the commenter I quoted above. However, in the end, those fears will be proven to be unfounded, and caused merely by xenophobia.

Needless to say, 3d printing is not VR, but they are likely to develop hand in hand for the next decade, with innovations in one leading to innovations in the other as we begin the merger of “Physibles” and VR with our “real world.” Mr. Mims is quite welcome to his doubts. I just don’t see reality supporting them.


Feb 06 2012

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

By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years).  Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it… with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.

I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day.  Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect.  As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well…  recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.

In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down.  One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, ‘Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…’ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ‘Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day.’ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to  be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ‘Well, I’m beyond that.’

“The hipster crowd backed away. ‘I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”

Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types not “hippies,” mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.

Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients— some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing.  Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected.  People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, so don’t blame the contributors below if it bothers you.  Blame yourself.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)

I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine,Piracetam,Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids.  Any experiences you would like to share for publication?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#1 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:26 PM)

Yesterday, I drank a packet of Dirk and Sandy’s *Focus* plus a packet of *Go For It*.  This translates into a big dose of choline and Phenylalanine, plus cofactors.  I felt a big lift and worked for many more hours than usual.

Today, I spoke with a nutritionist at UCSF who assured me that no scientific evidence exists linking amino acids to psychoactive effects.  I also read several scientific papers asserting that the effects of nootropics such as piracetam have not yet been conclusively demonstrated.  Am I experiencing a placebo effect?  Also, I recently went to a party where various smart drugs were served to a hip, young, club-hopping crowd.  I wonder if these mild forms of recreational pharmaceuticals will capture their interest.  Tonight, I drank a packet of Dirk and Sandy’s *Be Your Best*, which contains arginine, and then went to the gym and played two hours of basketball.  I didn’t notice much of an effect.  Perhaps a little extra perspiration.  I also have ten piracetam tablets hanging around and am waiting for an appropriate moment to take them. I understand that they should be followed up with regular doses.  Comments?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#4 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Thu 02 May 1991 (10:07 AM)

My understanding is that Dirk and Sandy license their name to a variety of retail companies.  *Focus* appears to be identical to *Memory Fuel* and *Go For it* is similar to *Rise and Shine*  I have noticed no effects on my libido.  I have noticed an appetite suppressing effect.  I only at one small meal yesterday, which is highly unusual.  This morning I am drinking *Rise and Shine* and *Memory Fuel.*  The experiment continues…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#5 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Thu 02 May 1991 (12:12 PM)

Nootropil/Piracetam works works WORKS!!!  Order it from  InHome Health Services  Box 3112  2800 Delemont  Switzerland.

Tell the nutritionist over at UCSF that, unless your dead, EVERYTHING IS PSYCHOACTIVE!!!

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#8 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Fri 03 May 1991 (01:41 PM)

.. the story is for Rolling Stone.  I would still love to hear about any experiences with smart drugs.  I suspect that there are some dedicated users out there.  The scientific evidence I have read so far seems inconclusive.  Piracetam and Hydergine definately have some effect, but the exact mechanisms are unknown and the effects vary from person to person.  Some feel nothing, some are blown away.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#13 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Sat 04 May 1991 (11:29 PM)

The measurement for intelligence is slippery, memory less slippery but a little wavy nonetheless.  I know pyschoactivity when I experience it though.  Can’t testify to the long term effects of this stuff though.

Smart Drugs are about to get alot of media-this year’s “virtual reality”.  & I think that smart drugs will come closer to living up to the promise & the hype, particularly if people go for Piracetan.  Remember LSD.  Chemistry is a most awesome kind of technology…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#14 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Sun 05 May 1991 (10:34 PM)

I just spent a day in Santa Cruz with John Morgenthaller, who very generously went through his files with me and pulled some of the papers cited in his book.

We picked up three college-age hitchhikers in Santa Cruz today.  All were clean cut students who used recreational drugs regularly– the war on drugs hasn’t done so good down there

I guess.  We asked if they would be interested in smart drugs.  All of them said they wouldn’t take them without a recommendation from a friend.  An anecdote, in other words.  It’s not scientific, but its how we decide.

I also did Vasopressin for the first time today.  It had a definate, but subtle, effect.  My dose was fairly small.  I suspect this is going to be one of the popular ones.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrient

#mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#46 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Thu 06 Jun 1991 (10:47 AM)

Question: How does Vasopressin work.  I had the pleasure of four big squirts courtesy of R.U. and now I’m curious.  It was a very pleasant experience.  I know it’s a synthetic pituitary hormone, but why should that make me happy?

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#77 of 633: Flem (flem) Sun 13 Oct 1991 (06:57 PM)

I bought some Vasopressin from Interlab.  It works best for me when I am burnt out.  It doesn’t do anything if I’m already alert.  It burns my nostrils and smells like burnt matches.  I can’t wait to get more.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#108 of 633: Judith Milhon (stjude) Wed 22 Jan 1992 (11:27 PM)

i keep asking myself, is dilanting making me more creative, or is it just my imagination? why are all you non-epileptics doing dilantin? i have my own ideas on this, but the literature is so VAGUE. anecdotes are sweet, but can anybody sum up their experiences in the abstract, so i can understand them?

I think that dilantin focusses my attention while maintaining the latitutde and depth of that attention, unlike most stimulants.

I think that dilantin gives me an emotional detachment from tasks and events. hoop-la: it’s not an anti-depressant, but an anti-neurotic.

Anybody have any ideas on this?

After much talk about the Placebo effect, I lashed out…

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#113 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Tue 28 Jan 1992 (12:14 PM)

I’ll repeat myself again.  I’ve been taking drugs *seriously* for 25 years now and I know how to tell genuine psychoactive effects from wishful thinking.

See back when I bought that clump of rat shit in the park in Cambridge in ’68 we didn’t know from a placebo effect.  We called it “getting burned.”  I’m not a mark, I’m extremely skeptical and I find this no-nothing dismissiveness … well, exactly what it is.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#114 of 633: Eugene Schoenfeld (genial) Tue 28 Jan 1992 (03:06 PM)

Ken with drugs like cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, DMT, even caffeine, the effects are so distinct that virtually all users note the effect. Among the so-called “smart” drugs, only vassopressin and the ephedrine(or other caffeine-like compounds) consistently produce notable effects, according to reports posted here on the Well(except for your reports).

I know you are aware that anecdotal reports are suspect because they don’t eliminate the placebo effect. That’s why scientifically valid studies are useful. Also, when one has a vested interest in a product, judgement is affected. Another reason for impartial trials.

So, what is the evidence that “smart” drugs have an effect, apart from the stimulants? You FEEL that they do? Come on, Ken, you’re smarter than that.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#283 of 633: magdalen (mdln) Thu 23 Jul 1992 (10:43 PM)

I think I fall into the ‘smart drugs, dumb users’ category, myself… my experimentation has been quite limited and very random.  The interesting thing about this approach is that it’s much like a double-blind test.  I ws taking L-Phenyalanine without much of an idea of what it was supposed to DO; it just seemed like some generic smart drug to try.

I turned into a raving, seething, foaming at the mouth bitch for about five days before I connected my moods to the L-pheny.  I haven’t taken it since, though I have found that L-Cysteine is a pleasing accompaniment to long evenings of hardcore partying (like I said, I’m a dumb user), and it’s nice to take some the morning after as well with my first cup of coffee.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

# 285 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Fri 24 Jul 1992 (10:53 AM)

I *like* raving, seething, foaming  at the mouth bitches.


This being Mondo, the talk turns naturally to LSD


mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

# 423 of 633: Mondo 2000 (rusirius) Tue 01 Dec 1992 (02:02 AM)

A friend of mine took 1/4 hit ie 25 mics a day for awhile and found it useful.  After about a month though everything started to seem too… um *significant* and he stopped.

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#437 of 633: magdalen (mdln)  Fri 04 Dec 1992 (01:08 PM)

I used LSD as a study aid through my last two years of high school, and found it to be quite effective and, much more importantly, entertaining in that role.  I’d do 1/4 to 2/3 blotter hits as a ‘pick-me-up’ and then wander off to English class, or say write a six-page essay on _Heart of Darkness_ on a full hit.  Admittedly, this was public high school and I probably could’ve passed the courses by turning in fingerpaintings, but I found LSD to be most compatible with Humanities work.

I’ve also been known to use the sub-tripping acid technique in theatre rehearsals, both as an actor and as a director, with absolutely wonderful results.

Problems only arose when I’d try this with a batch I hadn’t yet sampled.  I remember taking the tiniest sliver of a hit to get me through an all-night pasteup session when I was editor of my school paper.  Around midnight, the editor starts fully tripping!  Yikes!  The staff was staring at me as I spent fifteen minutes absorbed in playing with a roll of Zip-o-Line…

thanks to Gary Wolf and Eugene Schoenfeld for permission to use their words and to two other friends for permission to use their words as well.

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.


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.

Jan 02 2012

An Insufficiently Advanced Technology For McKenna’s Magical 2012

By now, everybody knows that there’s a big crowd of folks who think something really big is going to happen this year because the Mayan Calendar allegedly ended in 2012 — specifically December 21, 2012

Less well known amongst the masses that are vaguely familiar with the meme is the fact that psychedelic/cyberdelic philosopher Terence McKenna was the original primary source for this notion and for this particular date. (If my memory serves, Jose Arguelles — the recently deceased new age guru perhaps best known for 1987′s “Harmonic Convergence” — originally set a different date for this Mayan-influenced ending of all endings, but if you try to google for data… at least to the limits of my patience…  you’ll find that any notice of this is buried beneath the now unified meme that December 21 is the hot date with destiny.)

Both men envisioned not an apocalypse (as per the current dominant meme) but some sort of transmutation of the human condition (a positive apocalypse).  While Arguelles’s perceptions were largely influenced by mystical esoterica, McKenna’s vision was much more a hybrid of the mystical and the technological.

Like Ray Kurzweil, McKenna foresaw a world in which technical evolution (he liked to use the word novelty) would keep doubling at an exponential rate until we would hit a singularity.  Only McKenna originally envisioned this constant and ever-quicker exponential doubling not by charting technical evolution but by “channeling” the “logos” behind huge quantities of tryptamine hallucinogens in the Amazon.

In McKenna’s singularity, we would unite with “the logos,” after which all of human history and materiality itself would be seen platonically as an idea space and everything — including all proceeding time and human experience — would become, in some sense, our plaything.   And this would happen on December 21, 2012.

While McKenna divined much of his theory from such mystical sources as the i Ching and ideas taken from psychedelic shamanism as practiced in the Amazon, he was also an astute student of developments in hard science, technology and culture and his sense of this drive towards the singularity was at least somewhat “grounded” in how he saw real material and cultural developments.

Thus, when McKenna described his upcoming singularity as a place where the boundary between the exterior and interior collapses and what you imagine “simply comes to be,” it was not just mystical intuition. He would also be following movements towards technologies that allow us to control other technologies with our minds, he would be getting excited about K. Eric Drexler’s prediction of molecular control of the structure of matter; and he would be thrilling to predictions of desktop manufacturing (If you put those three things together, you get something like a world where what you imagine “simply comes to be.).  He also jumped on the Virtual Reality train in the early ’90s, as that would be a kind of ecology of mind where this vision would be even easier to realize.

McKenna’s technophilia — to the extend he was a technophile — was not without its ambiguities. He believed technological advance without the intervention of spiritual, psychedelic consciousness and values would be both ugly and lethal.

Still, it would probably be a mistake — one that seems to be made by many current McKenna-philes — to think that Terence would feel confident that this grand transmutation based, only in part, on the Mayan Calendar was going to occur on time despite the fact that the technological training wheels needed to boost us into this platonic state have not yet sufficiently developed (if ever).

McKenna never took his role as a prophet as seriously as some of his disciples now appear to.  As a self-admitted “carnival barker” (and how self righteous and humorless have we become that many reading this will find this reason to dismiss him entirely?), there’s a pretty good chance that he would have hopped aboard the 2012 circus for purposes of livelihood and as a context for spreading other aspects of his philosophy, and he probably would have been available to be propped up on a hemp-woven throne at the stroke of midnight at the 12.21.12 global rave, but I feel certain that he would have been much more surprised if December 21, 2012 turns out to be a day of magical transmutation than he would have been disappointed if it does not.


Dec 29 2011

Welcome To The Mirror

“Such lenses — when coupled with a next generation smartphone — will enable us to simultaneously exist in both the “Real” and the “Mirror,” with a plethora of “superpowers” at our disposal, all enabled by augmented reality apps as well as real time mapping to virtual space…”


Welcome to the Mirror.

You are probably going “huh” right about now, but relax, sit back, and play Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

Then read this article.

Way back when, over two years ago, in the second article I wrote for H+ magazine, I spoke about a video game called Fallen Earth that used real topographic maps, and discussed the fact that Google was in the process of creating a “Mirror World” of the entire Earth. At the time, they were close to finishing the complete “street view” project. Well that project is finished, and as predicted, Google didn’t stop…

And if you read the previous article of mine, you’ll also recall I mentioned mapping the insides of buildings? Yes, Google is doing that as well.  In addition, browsing Google maps and Google Earth are becoming popular pastimes as people use the imagery to track down and share “geo-oddities”

I’ve also previously reported on Google’s plan for using quadrotors, the creation of low level aerial photos of all those areas which currently lack them, as well as the constantly growing number of 3d rendered buildings being added to the database daily by millions of Google users. Nor are they the sole player in this particular game, as C3 is offering ultra high quality 3d maps as well, based on declassified government reconnaissance technology, and even Microsoft is working on similar technology.

All of which brings us right back around again to the first link I provided up there. Sure, it’s a pretty lame game, more of a demonstration of the concept than a real First Person Shooter, but it’s the first of what is likely to be a completely new generation of games, and of game graphics engines, driven by real world data. Imagine merging the latest Call of Duty graphics engine with a Google mapped locale, enabling you to stage a “block war” with your friends, using your own neighborhood as a combat zone.

Sounds fun, hum? Now let me toss in another element to it — a Quadrotor. Imagine that not only are you using the Google maps recreation of your neighborhood for your shootout, but that you’re also using a quadrotor as your telepresence unit. Imagine that in addition to the static scenery like trees and houses, your game is real time, and the cars moving in the street and current activities around the neighborhood are also included and potential game changers. With a quadrotor as your POV cam, tracking your virtual avatar in the real neighborhood to provide that real time data for your “Mirrorworld” game, it’s more than possible — it’s likely to be a feature.

But such games are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. I’ve talked previously about using such “Mirror” technology to enable you to visit an office halfway around the world to discuss business as if you were personally there. The needed sensor technology already exists, in the Kinect, to make it possible to animate a “real time” virtual avatar. We will inevitably create more advanced versions of the Kinect, and the adding of this technology to quadrotors has already happened in the lab.

When you also add in the latest developments in QLED displays, the probability of ultralight “VR” lenses should be readily apparent. That makes the use of “Avatars” even more likely, as we will need a “presence” in the “Mirror” outside of games. Such lenses — when coupled with a next generation smartphone — will enable us to simultaneously exist in both the “Real” and the “Mirror,” with a plethora of “superpowers” at our disposal, all enabled by augmented reality apps as well as real time mapping to virtual space, and inspired by a slew of video game “conveniences”, like “title bars” “tool tips” “minimaps”, and even “superhuman” vision, like telescopic, x-ray, microscopic, or low light vision. With a pair of lenses and a fully developed “Mirrorworld” such feats would be trivial.  The same goes for even more outlandish abilities such as “teleportation” that enables you to stay at home and visit anywhere in the world.

And if gaming, business, and all the rest leaves you cold, then imagine the educational potential of the “Mirror”. Not long ago, I spent a couple of hours touring Pompeii. I could do the same with NYC and Moscow, even Washington DC. In the not too distant future, I could likely do the same with the Guggenheim, or the Louvre. Imagine every museum and monument in the world — from the Forbidden Palace to the Sistine Chapel to the Taj Mahal — instantly accessible to any child in any school in any country. Imagine practicing your Japanese with a real Japanese tutor, or being given a tour of the Pyramids by an archeologist. With real time “Mirroring,” the entire world becomes an educational resource. Static photos will never convey the same impression of “being there” the way the “Mirror” will.

So yes, Welcome to the Mirror. Get comfortable. You are going to be living here soon.

Dec 06 2011

Why Second Life Has Succeeded Beyond Anybody’s Wildest Expectations

A recent article on Slate proclaims “Why Second Life Failed.”  Assuming you buy into the author’s overall viewpoint, it makes a decent case. In essence, SL was touted as a “revolutionary solution” for a job it really wasn’t qualified to do. The problem is that this viewpoint shows a profoundly limited understanding of what Second Life is compared to what it was hyped to be.

Giulio Prisco and I have discussed this previously in commentary on his blog, and he makes some very good points about why businesses didn’t do well in SL — causes ranging from a lack of needed controls over their “space” to prevent griefing to a need for greater stability to better conferencing, but there is one very big reason that I believe explains why most current “business models” failed in S. It’s one I’ve discussed in my H+ article on 3d printers adding our way to abundance. SL is a prototype of an economy of abundance, and as such, inherently hostile to business strategies based on scarcity. It is not a “business tool” that the majority of current corporate structures can use simply because those structures are dependent on levels of centralized control and restriction to access to product that are impossible to maintain in a world in which everyone has access to the same basic ability to manufacture any desired item.

Modern businesses are essentially based on the “gatekeeper” model. They offer a “product” that they know you want, but which is either not easily made by you, or which cannot be obtained except through them. The example used in the Slate article is the “Milkshake.” We could easily make milkshakes at home, provided we had the ingredients and a blender, but the effort involved for most of us is prohibitive. It’s simply easier to go to the local fast food place and buy one than it is to go to the store and get all the ingredients and make them ourselves. As silly as saying that may sound, it’s true. (yes I know that is not the point made by the example made in the article, but I’m discussing factors that they are overlooking.) The point is the “business” provides “access” to something in a manner that is more convenient than making it ourselves, setting up a “tollbooth” between us and the item we desire.

This same “gatekeeper” model underlies nearly all current business models. It works so long as the “product” is easier to get by going through the “gate” than by making it ourselves or acquiring it from some other source. It’s this business model that doesn’t work in SL because in many cases the “product” is easier to get by either making it yourself, or by finding a nearly identical product offered by a different “vendor” for less than the prices demanded by the “Brand Names.” In fact, given the innovation and ingenuity displayed by some designers in SL, many of those “Brand Names” came up severely lacking. Coupled with the lack of those features Giulio discusses, I am not surprised that the originally hyped dreams for what SL would become failed, and failed miserably.

So yes, if you buy the model used in the Slate article, it is easy to claim that Second Life “failed.” But if you look at it not as a business platform, but as what it truly is — a “Virtual Reality Prototype Testing Laboratory” in which many of the issues we will face in the not very distant future as VR, nanotech, genetic manipulation and robotics technology begin to invade our day to day reality are already under investigation, then I would have to say that SL has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

No, it is not a perfect “prototype” because it does indeed fail to incorporate many activities that have become commonplace, like the social networking abilities of Facebook, or the ability to add in modular “apps” and such, but considering that those “products” came into existence after the creation of Second Life, that’s forgivable. What is remarkable is the prescient way in which the 3D manufacturing/nanofactory revolution is present in the object creation system, enabling anyone to have access to the “means of production.” While this system does require knowledge to use, the availability of online tutorials is phenomenal, and many of them use Second Life “actors” as tutors. Additionally, as time has passed and enhanced features have become available, such as better scripts, sculpted prims and the latest addition of meshes, the range of items that can be created has expanded enormously. And despite the massive variety of items and scripts already available, there are still nearly unlimited possibilities for a creative designer to create a unique and desirable product. This ability is the very reason that the “gatekeeper” model of business is impossible to implement in Second Life.

But even that pales compared to the social impacts that morphological freedom will have on humanity, and it is so integral to Second Life that even the Slate article mentions it in passing. I’ve discussed this frequently in other articles, but it bears repeating. There is no better laboratory in the world today for exploring the potentials and consequences of the ability to reshape our bodies as we wish. There are endless articles on “Digital people” and other “non human” entities that populate Second Life, offering us insights into what the reality of such “shape shifting” abilities will bring. Indeed, we are already beginning to see such “pop icons” as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, (and, of course, Rachel Haywire) sporting hair styles and fashion designs that seem very SL inspired.

So yes, if all you think of Second Life as is a “business platform”, it’s easy to view it as a failed technology. But if you look beyond such a shallow framework, and look at the deeper implications of this “prototype of the future” it’s hard to see it as anything but a very rare and valuable opportunity to study the challenges and promises of a future beyond anything we have ever experienced in all of history. It’s the closest thing we have to a “working model” of Post Singularity reality, a simulation which could enable us to foresee the perils and pitfalls, to make mistakes and find solutions, all without suffering the consequences of making those mistakes in “First Life.”

It’s basically a matter of whether your only concern is immediate profit or the long term benefits it could provide to the entire human race.