Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

formulating intelligence & unity

Formulating intelligence

To me, the challenge of automating intelligence remains one of the most fascinating, seductive challenges of our world. Conceptual & technological advancements in this direction seem to be quickening, and more & more people seem to be getting seriously interested in it. In recent months and years, the focus of many discussions of AI seems to have shifted from whether it's a realistic possibility to how to minimize the risks it entails.

Formulating unity

Revolutionary Change was Chalmers Johnson's 1966 study of political revolutions throughout history.

Chalmers portrayed the formation of a "revolutionary ideology" as one of the key ingredients in successful revolutions. It seemed to be an important step in uniting the efforts of diverse sets of people and enabling them to cooperate in carrying out a revolution.

For many years, millions have dreamed of and anticipated a new kind of revolution. We imagine an international transformation more novel, of deeper and wider proportions, than any political event in recorded history - a radical shift in favor of freedom, progress, and fun - a new paradigm that constitutes an effective solution to age-old problems like conflict and poverty.

This revolution is being built in billions of ways simultaneously. Every spiritually affirmative experience, every experience from which we learn and grow, increases our ability to coexist harmoniously. There could also be a role for a forthcoming "revolutionary ideology." Narratives could emerge that provide overwhelmingly convincing arguments in favor of abandoning, en masse, certain prevailing control mechanisms, in favor of more efficient and effective practices.

In the meantime

Whether we're talking about AI or Revolution, we may not have overwhelming evidence for or against the proposition that it's possible in the near term, or possible at all. We can't point to any nearby planets with superintelligent machines or utopian societies. But that's been the lonely way of innovation and struggle on this planet all along. We do have what seem to me fairly convincing points in favor of the likelihood that it's quite possible that either milestone could be reached at virtually any time. Given this, and the monumental implications of succeeding in either case, it seems worthwhile to devote effort, attention, thought, contemplation, etc. to these challenges.

People who feel like they're getting close to solutions to these problems may well seem to be neglecting other communications as they devote concentrated attention to these big questions. And to broach such abstract, ambitious subjects has sometimes entailed a risk of appearing delusional or grandiose. But as the pictures come into clearer focus, perhaps a wider consensus will emerge and we'll get better at integrating these lines of inquiry into other aspects of life.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

advertising psychedelics (again)

The Internet and modern computers were built largely by people who were inspired by psychedelics. Steve Jobs, for example. I guess I sometimes assume this is common knowledge, but I've recently been reminded that there's still a lot of misinformation floating around, so some more advertising may be in order.
Here's a video on Karry Mullis, who credited LSD for helping him make a discovery in genetic research that led to a Nobel Prize.
He wrote a book about it, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field:

Of course, musicians and artists are well known for getting inspiration from psychedelics. And scientists get inspiration from music and art. So even if some scientists don't take them (and often they do take them), they're still using the information, the gnosis, that psychedelics have helped provide.

10 Scientific and Technological Visionaries Who Experimented With Drugs:

All this, despite the official suppression and demonization of these compounds. But governments have had obvious tendencies toward shutting down overly novel phenomena that might challenge the governments' authority, and people understand this, and aren't entirely inclined to allow government dictates to define the limits of exploration and creativity.

Here's an interview where Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, speaks about LSD:

The issue of psychedelics is important for many reasons, including for the light it throws on the way we delude ourselves and keep repeating the same scripts, the same opinions, and avoid those aspects of reality that would challenge those habits. The benefits, about which information is abundantly available, are so extreme, that our continued inability to integrate the psychedelic method into our institutions speaks to the limitations, the brittleness, and the problems, of many of those institutions.

A neuroscientist talks about DMT:
And for good measure, here's one more, from good ol' Terence:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Converge with us!

An occupation at a central urban location could serve at least three purposes:

1) Providing safety, community, and other basic aspects of a decent existence, for those who currently lack them.

2) Creating a hub for socializing, coordinating projects, etc. - for any activity that can benefit from the availability of a 24-hour, centrally located meeting place.

3) Spurring progress toward more optimal organizational methods in society at large. Organizational methods centered around violence and domination still hold sway around the world, to different degrees in different places. We can participate in the important and fascinating project of cultural evolution by creating spaces where voluntary, cooperative organizational methods are practiced, refined, and demonstrated.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

sharpie revolution

A couple days ago, or so, I found a sharpie on the ground at a train stop. I tested it, it worked, I put it in my pocket.

Then I walked a couple blocks, and noticed, in the window of a zine shop, several copies of stolen sharpie revolution A DIY RESOURCE FOR ZINES AND ZINE CULTURE

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

psychedelics as a bellwether issue in advancing the narrative and achieving peace

I've been having some feelings of being kind of sorry for some of the last video that I posted, if I seemed to get kind of flippant about the violence that goes on. You know, I had a kind of thought there about getting paranoid and not getting paranoid.

As of today, April 15th, there is violence ongoing. We're doing a lot of things about it, we're doing a lot of good.

Not to make anybody uncomfortable, but when there are thoughts that people have about it, that seem like they might help the situation, we feel moved sometimes to share those thoughts in hopes of helping manifest the change we want to see, etc.

So what can we do? There's a lot of good, interesting conversations going on. And I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to frame all the issues and make a silver-bullet kind of manifesto, or, you know, transmission, that would help unify efforts, etc. And I'm still pretty optimistic about those sorts of efforts. I think that's possible, anyway. I still think that's possible.

But in the meantime, of all the questions and issues, if we were to talk about - since we've already gone on for a few minutes here - if you were to sort of pick an issue, off the top of one's head, or from the notes one's been making, thinking about these things, what one issue might prove productive in catalyzing cascades of desired advancements in the narrative?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? I've been thinking about psychedelics, in that context of, what issue might we want to focus on, if for no other reason - there probably are other reasons - but if for no other reason than the relative simplicity of the conversation, in view of how concrete a thing it is that we're talking about - relative to things like talking about wages, and legislation, high abstractions like those - the question of: we have substances that produce profound experiences in people who ingest them. Do you ingest them, and how do you approach other people ingesting them?

I've had some conversations recently that have also sort of spurred this line of thought. We may have gotten into a habit of thinking about psychedelics as something so far out -- out there -- I mean, this is sort of the reputation they seem to have on some level, like how Obama just the other day predicted that changes in federal policy on marijuana are a long way off. Yeah. We know the reputation, and what the legislation is currently. But there's such a vast literature available regarding psilocybin, LSD, DMT, etc. And although it's still in large part an outlaw culture, there is a huge, rich, complex, friendly, humorous culture that has been connected with psychedelics. And then, in contrast to that, the types of things that are brought up when people are reacting against psychedelics or against tolerance of psychedelics - well, one person, a few weeks ago, mentioned, in relation to psilocybin mushrooms, that you don't want to "mess up your mind". But then we continued to have a conversation; we talked about dreams, about the value of dreams, sort of an analogy there. And then sometimes the first thing that seems to come to mind for people is people jumping out of windows. So, there seems to be a huge amount of potential here for finalizing the process of spreading the information around - waking up and smelling the mushrooms.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Making all labors "labors of love"

Advocating for a FREE (pay-it-forward) society might seem like unrealistic utopianism, but I'd like to make (part of) a case for it. I'll just touch on some points here, but a more complete case, with fleshed-out explanations and examples, seems ripe for the undertaking.

What's preventing the entire economy from working on a "labor of love" / "pay it forward" basis? Not much, I'd argue, besides the momentum of our assumptions. I think many, many people already feel very attracted to this idea, but when it's been brought up, the reaction against it has often simply been that it's too radically different from the status quo -- it's too different from how people are used to thinking. So it seems that there are many people who are for it, but who assume that too many others won't be for it. If we just take the idea a little more seriously and talk about it more, that tide can start to turn.

The core of the resistance to this turning of the tide seems to involve a suspicion that much of the labor that our civilization depends on is, well, so laborious that no one will do it unless there's direct compensation. In response to that concern, we can observe:
1) People do laborious things without compensation all the time already. Hobbies, volunteering, caregiving, etc.
2) The laboriousness is increased by the profit motive, which incentivizes maximum consumption.
3) We often create employment - create labor - that serves little "objective" purpose besides giving people jobs (and therefore, money).
4) Our system incentivizes the hoarding of work - we actually hoard knowledge and skills and opportunities, as these give us increased access to scarce work.

There are some specific paths that could lead to a post-coercive, post-bureaucratic world. Occupation movements create zones of freedom, allowing the mechanisms of a free society to be practiced, refined, and demonstrated while leaving the political/economic system intact elsewhere. Another possible path is a rapid shift in the attitudes/opinions of large masses of people, such that our systems may be transformed rapidly by general consensus.

Let's keep challenging the assumption that it's impossible, or impossible within our lifetimes. The more we think about it, write about it, talk about it, demonstrate about it, etc., the closer we may come to making it a reality.

Friday, March 20, 2015

phasing out political/financial systems

[video version]

Why support movements and initiatives (occupations, for instance) that could lead to the End of Money?

So often it has been assumed that a massive failure or shutdown of the political/financial system would lead to a collapse of civilization - mass starvation, violence, etc.

We can understand why people make that assumption.

But consider whether the opposite might be the case.

What would replace money and laws? Trust, relationships, communication, cooperation. Plenty of organizational methods exist that don't utilize political or financial capital. The political/financial systems have often crowded out, or driven out, alternative systems from various niches. Now we may be able to make a conscious, collective choice to retire the systems that evolved in an environment of harshness and mistrust, in favor of the abundantly available alternatives.

Let's remember that receiving or having money, by definition, confers no utility, creates no value, until you exchange the money for something from someone else who has agreed to use this medium. All of the utility of money derives from this agreement among us. We can collectively re-examine this agreement and possibly change or discard it. If we decide to discard it, this could save us a lot of time and energy, considering how pervasive and complex our interactions with money have become.

We've developed complex rules / expectations about when, under what circumstances, money is exchanged. Those rules and expectations are woven into our systems of distributing goods and performing services, but are they an integral part of those systems? I don't think so. In situation after situation, I think we could describe how each particular value-creating activity could proceed more effectively without money. There will be a certain amount of retooling, rethinking, reprogramming involved in this transition, surely. There will be radical reorganizations of many kinds.

I imagine there might be much more to be said about this. I'm interested in your take.

occupation movements

I'd like to dialog on, for instance, occupations of urban parks, vacant buildings. These have seemed to me, you might say, appropriate expressions of popular will, sensible logistical moves, under the circumstances, organized largely in a fashion of solidarity, freedom ("autonomy"), (direct) democracy. Although the occupations of 2011 were naturally reacted against in many ways, failed in many ways... connected by both opponents and some proponents to a distracting "99%" identity... real existential progress, significantly novel phenomena, did seem to emerge from those convergences.

I don't think we have to completely succumb to, accept, reify, our political/financial systems. Memetic engineering, guerrilla ontology, conversation, communication - these could easily (and nearly did) tip the scales in favor of uninstalling the "money"/"Master" programs from the noospheric computer, or obsolescing them, what have you - making room for, accommodating, other, more subtle, modes of organization - unleashing, I predict, a tidal wave of innovation, a renaissance even relative to the recent pace of change, a prigogenic leap.

I can grant the possibility that such leaps could come about even with the persistence of our current political/financial systems. But those systems seem to constitute one of the main constraints in our evolution. They're intimately connected to deeper psychological/social constraints - but noospheric evolution seems to me very possibly likely to include open discussions of the political/financial systems in particular - of whether we want to retain them or not - and to prompt alternative systems to be attempted.

I know that many, many people seem almost hopelessly ideologically invested, but realize also, their very fervor and pigheadedness belies the superficiality & vulnerability of their position. It's a house of cards, I'm trying to say. Those of us with the vision of an emerging, maybe inevitable, new phase of civilization, can help manifest it through dialog.


I think something as complex, and with such far reaching implications, as "the Occupy movement," rather than being treated as a historical phenomenon in which particular people were involved, might better be treated as an ongoing memeplex that we're all cocreating. So many different places have been occupied extralegally, by so many different people, in so many different ways - which of these are we including under "the Occupy movement"? Might it not be wise, compassionate, and forward-looking to voice general support for peaceful, extralegal occupations?

As someone fairly heavily involved in Occupy Portland, I agree that intellectually underdeveloped, politically skewed behavior was plentifully present in the movement (and in the reactions against it). I talked about some of the beautiful and less beautiful things I experienced at the occupation in this interview.

I think people sensed the imminent possibility that the movement would prove fantastically successful, and this contributed to the frequent ugliness in at least two ways:
 * People with longstanding grudges against the world, and ready-made, whiny narratives around those grudges, latched onto the dawning realization that this movement could prove successful in overturning the political/financial systems that they had so long felt oppressed by. Their voices, their ready-made narratives, were often portrayed as "voices of the movement" by media / commentators who felt nervous, ambiguous, or negative toward the occupations.
 * Power systems sensing their vulnerability may well have used various dirty tricks with the intent of defaming and degrading the occupations.

I think we learned some useful things about direct democracy. The general assembly model was given a real college try. In Portland, it gradually gave way to a "spokescouncil" model, then a much more informal "community assembly" model, then an even less formal monthly "meet & greet." In my opinion, the entire process of making formal "proposals" and trying to reach consensus on them was pretty convincingly demonstrated to be another form of bureaucracy that we can do without.

Some of the most constructive parts of these meetings seemed to be when people would announce "we're going to discuss / work on such & such, at such & such time & place - join us if you're interested."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

today ~ 11:00 to 12:00

Downtown I chat with Ninety Nine outside St. Michael's, and then with Bobby outside Sisters. Dawn is usually with Bobby, but she went to jail over the weekend. He's expecting her to meet up with him there any time. The two of them might be going to Cali soon to stay with Bobby's dad, who went to prison when Bobby was 4 and is still wearing a homing device on his ankle. They haven't seen each other since that incarceration decades ago, but they found each other on Facebook.

Back up north at the New Seasons, my total is $4.20. 'Alright!' I say. 420s have made a couple appearances like that in the last few weeks.
'Something's trying to tell you something?' he says.
'It may be that time.'

Owen is at the New Seasons parking lot entrance, making a big sign that says HUNGRY. His little dog stands on his shoulders. He tells me that two guys including Waffles went to jail for the stabbing of the 'yuppy' who died outside City Hall a few months ago.

Monday, January 26, 2015

canned cocktails

They lounged around a sunny picnic table, drinking canned cocktails.
One of them said:
"Well, I was feeling like sharing what seem like some moments of clarity I've been having recently -- just now -- about how everything really can be done, and done better, without money and things like elections and lawyering -- the mechanisms of centralized authority. EVERYTHING, including safety, including music, including... well, you name it. So about the only thing to do if you agree, I guess -- you can do what I'm doing right now, which is repeating something that's been said many times, many ways. Repeating an idea."
One said:
"People think, if the empire falls, we'll die."
One said:
"They're right! But we will anyway. And If it falls, we'll live longer and better.
Negativity and ego are such subtle mechanisms, that I so often focus on trying to be positive and constructive, that maybe I've often forgotten that sometimes we do have albatrosses around our necks, and that extricating ourselves from drags like that might sometimes be a positive and constructive act. Sometimes the best way to improve a computer's performance is to uninstall something."
A bit later they were back inside, one of them sitting on the couch, and the other on the chair in front of the computer. One got down on the floor and said:
"Man. Let's do a ritual. Let's make a cone of.... of whatever we want. Just a cone. The kind with a circular base, and a point at the top. Well, I guess that's what a cone is, right? Unless you've got the circle at the top or something, and the point at the bottom. But since we're sitting on the floor... and our bodies are kind of like cones, right? Wide on the bottom, coming to almost a point at the top? Okay. A cone around us. Yeah."
They said various other things that afternoon:
"So let's see what I can say to this person, or reptile?, I've been thinking about so often. Of course, now I'm saying it to everybody!! :) Wonderful person. Hah."
"What can this be but a con, a calculation, a trick, a joke, a ploy to elicit a word... well, it could be other things too, and it could function in ways besides being! What? Fixme, maybe. FIXME, that's what I used  to write in my notes to mean, following the convention used by Eric Raymond, who I think I kind of learned it from, 'revisit this in a subsequent draft'."
"Yes. Why not weasel our way out of weaselly words."
"You provoke whatever extent of eloquence ... in a relative sense ... might escape."
"I'll take everything back, sure."
"People, or at least a person, who I saw at a restarurant, a bar, with you, has been posting things online which a couple people have expressed concern about. He provoked a memory of a guy on an AI mailing list a couple years ago, who said he had a brain implant, but seemed to be doing some interesting coding with artificial life forms... "
"Everything is awesome. The legos have that much going."
The sky darkened.
"If you're a continuation of the spacetime, localized spirit, that I mean, then hey. And ... Well? Okay. If I express something here, let's say for now it's experimental, hypothetical, and tentative. For certain limited purposes. I know you somewhat, and these media -- English words, black letters in a white box on a flat screen -- seem to somehow sometimes be optimized for speaking one-on-one, one specific person to another specific person. So by addressing you, I'm trying to work the system. Sorry for the inconvenience! And damn. And rejoice, and ..."
"It's merely an exercise in pouring out truth, reconciliation, onto a forum where it will be effective. Now, let's deal seriously with the eventuality of it being effective."
"Alien to each other, too, I suppose? And maybe less so, more amenable, more compatible, with closer cousins! Unless, un miraculo viene, supongo,"
"Increible, las cosas que BLOCK? la comunicacion. Y ningun acentos aqui?"
"See, I'm sorry. I want to promote tidings of the best wishes and cheers, Christ, all the luminaries, everybody, Muhammad Ali, on and on and on. 100 percent."
"All right. Here's something I've been pondering. Do you ever find that something happened the previous night, or the previous minute, and you swear, or almost swear, that you couldn't have possibly acted so ... like the memories must be false, implanted. Hah, there! My excuse! No, I'm not saying they are implanted. I don't think they are. Necessarily :) Really. I'm saying... What AM I saying?! That... "
"Now, anyone can feel free to decipher this."