It’s Only the End of the World, Again: part the second
watch zac calculate innumerable factors and lose his shit completely

As we move past playing out the contradictions in the existing system, it becomes harder to make broad stroke predictions, as the driving forces that take over favour the individual and their actions, as opposed to large bodies such as governments. Indeed, governments will be beginning to unravel at exponential speeds, leaving many people to determine the course of their own lives for the first time.

First, We need to pause to talk about technology for a minute, because by 2011 or so, we’re getting to the sharp turn in the exponential growth curve of computing, biology and a whole host of other things you have new driving forces taking over, namely the individual, empowered by technology vs central authority vs the drive towards decentralisation

A lot of the tension I talked about in terms of the 20th century related to the way technology changed the power relations between the government and the individual. From the printing press, the telegraph, telephone, radio, mass media, and free education, centralised power has been playing catch up to the individual breaking out into new spaces and only just keeping up. and that’s only because we’ve been in the slow part of the curve. It’s happened so slowly that you can forget about the separation of church and state, the growth of literacy and social consciousness, even the idea of rulers being accountable to the ‘public’ is a result of the printing press, for example.

Do you suppose the elites want to tap dance around things like hurricane katrina, and abu ghraib? Of course they don’t, but technology won’t permit them to avoid it. The upheavals of the 1960’s we’re a fore-shock of what happens when you educate a whole generation of first world youth up to a high standard. The rest of the century had been the oligarchical backlash from the unexpected consequences of universal education. And that worked, up to a point, because everyone was still mostly dependant on the central government for structure and direction. A lot of millennial culture is a kind of ironic wallowing in that climate of imposed ignorance and misinformation. But again, that can’t last, nor will it.

For that reason, the principles that hold true are going to be the ones that relate to the way individuals react to change, because things will change, often and significantly.

In the case of major changes you have three general paths it can take for a person; there are those who will embrace the new reality, those who will reject it, and those who either don’t comprehend, or don’t notice it at all.

For example in the case of september 11 you have dramatic polarisation between those who recognise the changes that event wrought on the social, political, and moral landscape, those who see it only as a threat to the status quo, whose implications are to be fought and resisted, and those who don’t really see that anything has changed, except maybe an upping of the intensity of an already existing dynamic.

The neoconservatives have made off like bandits by embracing the post 911 reality, arguably because they helped engineer it in the first place. Meanwhile knowledgeable activists who understand that something like this represents a watershed loss of legitimacy for the United states government and it’s covert policy implementation, have also embraced this new situation at least insofar as it affects the planning they have to implement to lead their lives, and survive into the future.

The greater mass of activists fall into the category of those who go into hysterics over the outrageous excesses of the bush administration, and want everything to go back to the halcyon days of bill clinton and cruise missiles over kosovo, or something. Or they’ve already dug their heels in over 90’s globalisation or nuclear power and would like us to run back the clock to the paleolithic era. Not that ideas like this lack all merit, but it’s clear in many cases that this represents a failure to grasp the true dynamics of the situation.

And lastly some people remain clueless. Things are just as lovely or fucked up as they have ever been and the only change has been a slight shift in the level of loveliness or fucked-up-ness. It’s either the latest battle in the noble struggle to maintain the status quo, or the latest outrage perpetrated by the corrupt bastards who have always run things and probably always will. In either case, nothing to take your mind off what you were already doing, at least not for long.

Now that’s just one example, and for most of the 20th century, these epochal changes tended to be few and far between and easy to overlook for the most part until you were already swimming in them. And that’s fine, but the 21st isn’t going to be like that. It isn’t going to be a major war or catastrophe or technological innovation every ten years or so that you succeed in getting your head around or not. It’ll be one every 2 or 3 years, then every year, then every 6 months, then every time you care to look there will be some radical redefinition of your status quo… IF you’re still willing to look at it, which is the key point.

So really the only question that matters is how much rapid change can any particular person handle before they shut down their awareness of the outside world completely, and go into some self generated cocoon? Before too long technology will make it utterly feasible for the average person to retreat entirely into video games, virtual sex, torrented entertainment and instant messaging. If you have a job at all, you’ll be working from your home, thanks to telepresence technologies, and thus there will be no reason to leave it all.

Or at the very least you can fuck off to the countryside and dig a well while things continue to cascade out of control without you. Sadly a lot of primitivists or eco conservatives imagine that when they finally do opt out of the future, then everyone else will have to as well, for the exact same reasons they have, but it just aint true and never has been. It will be true for a lot of people in a lot of places, just like it is right now, but it will never be true everywhere, or even most places.

By way of illustration, lets consider the global milieu a bit. As the slow dwindling of energies and the concomitant destruction of delivery infrastructure by guerrilla warfare and systemic decay marches on, you’ll have a playing out of the no-go zone effect. As the central authorities start to lose the ability to project force and/or deliver services, certain regions will progressively and quietly be dubbed expendable and chucked out of the exit hatch of global monoculture and mass media spectacular discourse. While those that remain will circle the wagons and turn in on themselves.

These lost regions will be treated much like the aftermath of hurricane katrina, or a modern day slum of any stripe. If you happen to live in one of these places, one day the cops and soldiers will stop showing up, the rolling blackouts will start, ( if they haven’t already) , and then become permanent as the utility conglomerates amalgamate and reallocate resources, the local utility company having long since been privatised and gutted. Around the same time the local wallmart will fold up, along with the big grocery store chain, and anything else that relies on trucking or air traffic to supply.

And then what? Then nothing. If you’re still there, they’ll assume it’s your choice to live off the grid and forget about you. You could complain but there won’t be anyone to complain to. You won’t be able to drive anywhere to talk to someone in authority and they wouldn’t be able to do jack shit anyway. And besides, travel in anything but large well armed groups will quickly be an invitation to opportunistic bandit gangs to have their way with you. The public disgrace to the local government will be efficiently ignored and your options will be either shut the fuck up and deal with it, or pull up stakes for somewhere where nobody wants you and nobody has much sympathy left to go around.

On the plus side while you probably won’t be able to fill your gas tank very often, you and everyone you know will already have a number of extremely small, cheap and powerful computing devices on your person at all times, connected by essentially free wireless broadband, and powered by efficient integrated solar panels. If you’re not in the satellite footprint for connectivity you won’t have to go far to do so from a tower. Anything you care to know about pretty much anything will be distributed massively, instantly and for free. Interactive courseware from the major universities will be available to the poorest of the poor, and pretty much everyone who cares to do so will be a producer of culture and media. Any significant event will be broadcast around the world instantly to anyone who cares to know about it. Employers will encourage you to work from your home, to save money and fuel, and most people will be spending a lot of time downloading information on how to grow food and cultivate local economies. High end voice recognition software will make text creation faster than ever. Massively parallel computing will make it possible for anyone with a internet connection to access absurd levels of computational power, such as sequencing a genome in a matter of days, or generating totally lifelike graphics and sound. A lot of fucking power for the individual basically. if you can handle it.

If you’re not living in one of the disappeared no-go zones you’ll be in one of two places probably. On the one hand you have the sustainable ecovillage, where most of the food will eventually be grown. Shoveling horeshit and growing really bitchin tomatoes while the world races toward a technological singularity or something. And they’re not necessarily exclusive either; a lot of people will be picking tomatoes by day and fucking a virtual monica bellucci and/or orlando bloom at night.

The other trend will be for those who have the money to do so, to withdraw into either densly popluated urban centers full of heavily armed cops and soldiers, fed by tributary croplands and urban gardens, or to smaller walled enclaves protected by even more heavily armed private security and fed by still more more tributary croplands.

Said croplands will be administered by the poor and former middle class, who will have decanted there to ‘get back to the land’, only to find that you have to contend with gangs, bandits, starving mobs, and the extortion efforts of the local military outpost. The federal, or even state level government having lost the ability to do much of anything of note, except to maintain the illusion that a singular country is still a reality.

As ghastly and unthinkable as all this sounds, it won’t seem very different to most people. A lot have already checked out of understanding or acknowledging what’s happening around them. Almost by definition the clueless segment of the population have already done that. Don’t know, don’t need to know. Once you jump off the ride, it’s hard to get back on. The same kind of people who don’t notice the erosion of civil liberties now, probably still won’t 10 years from now.

Most americans are terrified of random violence already, and used to the encroaching presence of cops and gangs. Whereas the fear was mostly imaginary before, it will now be an accepted fact of life. The people who are really shit out of luck won’t be the ones in the cities, who will remain insulated in their urban paranoia, or the the ones in the country who who will live pretty much the same way feudal serfs have always lived… it will be the people in the fringes. The ones who don’t hold productive land, who don’t live next to a nuclear reactor or port that needs protection, but rather live in some godforsaken hellhole suburb that merits no protection, no resource delivery and sits next to nothing in the way of water or growing plants. Like phoenix, or las vegas. Or maybe you’re the wretched rabble who cling to the old highways, hoping to hijack a supply truck, or waylay some travellers, or raise chickens on wasted scrubland and try to keep the coyotes away.

In every case, you’ll probably still be able to tune in cnn or fox to find out how you favorite political or celebrity scandal is going, or torrent up the latest episode of your favorite cable tv show.

Eventually pretty much everyone who isn’t actively working to adapt and change with the times, or actively fighting it, will have opted out of any meaningful interaction with the future.

…and so it will go, in the ‘civilised’ world.

Meanwhile WW III will still be going on, but it will have mutated into open source tribal slaughter ver3.0. Sunnis will be killing Shiites, rich will be killing poor, races ( however loosely defined) will be killing other races, and any pretext for resentment will be followed by an AK-47 and some improvised explosives. This shit will spread everywhere that it can spread to. The unraveling of governments and resource distribution. and the poor state of the underlying social fabric in many post-colonial countries will make sure of it.

Not that the ‘developed world’ is off the hook either. Most of those countries will be going through a succession of military coups, conservative/luddite/fundamentalist political backlashes, and varying degrees of armed insurgency/domestic terrorism/civil war. Most of this shit will be fuelled by fear, rank stupidity and dashed expectations of the first world citizen to maintain their first world lifestyles without disruption.

As strange as it sounds in a global state of affairs like this one, innovation and technical progress doesn’t slow down. It actually speeds up. A lot. As we’ve said there will always remain pockets of well protected industrial and technical capacity to plug away at the usual obsessions and these will be the last things to lose resources or funding. Do you think they’re going to quit funding DARPA because poor people are starving and lightless? Yeah whatever. They’ll be rushing to perfect targeted bioweapons, microwave crowd suppression technology, and brain implants for soldiers.

And in the fringes things will be going faster and faster as well. As connectivity through computers accelerates, and legal restrictions lose efficacy, you also have the global fire sale as technical equipment from corporations and universities is ‘lost’ in the shuffle and ends up in someone’s basement. You’ll be able to trade a truckload of potatoes for several million dollars worth of gene-sequencing or nano engineering equipment. This stuff will only get smaller, cheaper and more energy efficient as time goes on, after all.

Eventually you’ll have numerous pockets of advanced technical capability running without any oversight or central authority supervising them. When it becomes possible for anyone to engage in virtual dialouge with experts all over the world in many fields anonymously, on all kinds of terms and for all kinds of reasons, things will get very strange very quickly.

Certainly, as just one example, psychedelic subcultures will have a field day in semi-tribal enclaves where you can use lab-grade facilities to mass produce dmt or ayahuasca analogues for whatever purpose. Drug use in general isn’t exactly going to fade away either. In many ways the future will be quite drug-friendly, saturated with dirt cheap crystal meth, lsd or heroin.

In some ways this period can and will be thought of as a dark age, because a lot of what goes on will never be known about by much of the world. Not for lack of communication bandwidth, but simply because everyone will be too immersed in their own concerns to care what someone else is doing. Material life will take on a character of hardship, austerity,and occasional brutality, as people rapidly cobble together piecemeal answers to local resource problems. Meanwhile people’s private lives will be exploding in diversity and strangeness, as escapism and outlet, and playground for creativity where lack of energy and materials makes no difference. Most people will have entire alternate virtual lives, and that will come to be seen by many, possibly most, as the arena where human cultural evolution is truly still taking place.

I don’t really see this lasting more than twenty years or so. By the 2030’s at the latest, the unraveling will have gone as far as it can, most wars will have simply exhausted themselves in pointless guerrilla bloodbaths, useless and tragic nuclear exchanges, and the odd biowarfare epidemic. Alternative energy will have by this point taken up the slack from oil and gas. It will be then that all the incubating energy-starved strangeness that people have been trying to ignore will explode outward, and the post-powerdown world becomes the world of the posthuman arms race. And it won’t be the sort of thing that anyone will be able to ignore.

next: the pandaemon aeon

12 thoughts on “Full Spectrum Catastrophe

  1. IO! IO! Horus descends and Ma’at with him! IO! IO! Mothership, who needs a fucking mothership? Did you just smoke TAZ-McLuhan freebase?

  2. Oh surely not. i wonder how many people think i’m some kind of unhinged lunatic or drug fiend, when in truth i’m one of the the straightest edge people you’ll ever meet.

    definitely bey. small taste of of mcluhan. bit of ran prieur and mike ruppert, and a little sprinkle of kurzweil.

    mcluhan really comes in the next bit, along with kurzweil in full force. and aliester crowley.

    extra credit question: if the medium is the message, and the medium is pervasive gene and nano tech, then what’s the message when you can recast your entire sensorium?

  3. zac,

    I’ve been going through your site and, since you’re a Buddhist-monk-type, was wondering if you can help me wrap my mind around a certain concept. This idea of sraddha (snkst) or saddha (pali). I know it translates loosely into “faith”, but it that just doesn’t seem to cover it. It seems to be used more like confidence, or maybe persistence. It also seems to denote some sort of belief in the enlightenment of the Buddha and His teachings. But the term “faith,” at least as most Xtians tend to use it, tends to be a dogmatic ego-belief, ie no matter what the evidence says this is True.

    Am I completely off base here…is it more like the Xtian “faith” than I think? Also, does sraddha have a spiritual aspect I’m not seeing by using the term “confidence”? That does seem kind of a weak interpretation as well. Any insight, or even just pointing me to a book or a site, would help a lot. Thanks.

    BTW, I wish I good say good post, but whenever I try to get into the whole projection into the future my eyes usually gloss over. Its one of the reasons I’ve never been able to get into the Singularity stuff. The back of my mind is always, “I get it…the world is going to hell…it may get better afterwords…or it may not…JUST BE FUCKING PREPARED.” At the same time I’m glad there are people out there who’s eyes don’t glaze over, we’re probably gonna need all the insight we can get pretty soon.

    Be Good.

  4. I dunno dude, some folks say we got approx. 50,000 years or so of this shit left – the age of iron and all that…. Hobbesian, nasty brutish and short…

    The good news is, if we are in the Kali Yuga then certain vehicles and siddhis which were not suited for previous yugas become well suited for this one. So, be of good cheer! It ain’t all bad.

    Kali the Mother
    The stars are blotted out,
    Clouds are covering clouds,
    It is darkness, vibrant, sonant.
    In the roaring whirling wind
    Are the souls of million lunatics,
    Just loose from prison house,
    Wrenching trees by the roots,
    Sweeping all from the path.
    The sea has joined the fray,
    And swirls up the mountain-waves,
    To reach the pitchy sky.
    The flash of lurid light
    Reveals on every side
    A thousand, thousand shades
    Of Death begrimed and black –
    Scattering plagues and sorrows,
    Dancing mad with joy,
    Come, Mother, Come!
    For Terror is Thy name,
    Death is in Thy breath,
    And every shaking step
    Destroys a world for e’er.
    Thou ‘Time’, the All-Destroyer
    ! Come, O Mother, Come!

    Who dares misery love,
    And hug the form of death,
    Dance in destruction’s dance
    To him the Mother comes.

    Smell ya later…

  5. not to worry. eyes glazing is perfectly natural. i’d have to say i just need to do it for myself, to first of all grasp my own intuitions of what happens without my input, and then to exapnd to what i might hope to influence or initiate instead. I highly recommend writing your own future, both in the sense of what you think is ‘really’ going to happen, just to see your unexamined assumptions if nothing else, and also the way you want it to be.

    regarding your first question:

    faith in the buddhist sense is a bit different than it tends to be in christianity for sure. in catholicism it tends to be used as bulwark against critical exegesis of the scriptures. my personal feeling is that if something is the truth it can handle criticism.

    the buddha was quite adamant in this regard. do NOTHING that does not agree with your reasoning or does not hold up to questioning. he sometimes would give people shit for just smiling and nodding at his lectures. ie; ‘quit smiling and nodding and saying yes master.. you fucksticks, like you understand; you don’t understand, so get on it’

    and no it wasn’t exactly like that, but that’s what it sounds like to when i read the oral histories.

    but anyway: fatih in the buddha sense comes when you have examined something and reasoned through it enough to at least see the potential utility in it: at this point the buddha counciled faith as being a neccisary precondition for the practice, to undertake tasks which would not neccisarily bear fruit quickly.

    in other words, if it makes sense, be willing to take the time to try it out and see if it really pans out. and if it does pan out, then you have real faith, the kind that comes when you can tell someone that something has worked FOR YOU.

    you may have noticed i take some liberties with the notions of buddhist orthodoxy and propriety. i feel perfectly fine about it becuase i know nothing i do can harm the dharma or my understadning of the truth in the slightest way. i have utter faith in my practice and what i have done with it. in the same sense i have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending certain things becuase I’ve done them and i know that they work for me, and they probably work for anyone who tries them dilligently.

    close enough?

  6. I dunno max, time is very elastic. does it need to litteraly be 50 000 years? five minutes of the smirking chimp feels like long enough. bring on the howling children of the cleft between the worlds already.

  7. The good news is, if we are in the Kali Yuga then certain vehicles and siddhis which were not suited for previous yugas become well suited for this one. So, be of good cheer! It ain’t all bad.

    And some of those vehicles are a hell of a lot of fun.

    I’m not on the “next five years” timeline yet, although I’m also not on Max’s 50,000 years boat either, but botha ya got some fun alternatives to this going with either–two years ago I was certain that this shit was all going to be blown up in six months and as such tried to carve out the shortest path, which at the time meant that my friend Jay Leto used a lot of high doses of drugs strictly for entheogenic purposes and spent every dime chasing those rare books that might offer further advancement, I was imagining gas riots and starving-in-the-USA scheduled for May 2005, although I did lose twenty pounds in about two months because 1. I was broke 2. I thought it would be good practice to live off a twenty pound bag of rice and five pounds of oatmeal as long as possible. So I was wrong, and the more I look into the market, the more I see that in many ways it is a self-conserving structure. Certain very wealthy individuals have very much invested and enough leverage that, even if they do periodically sell short or leave stock speculation temporarily, they act in a manner that perserves things. These are people we might qualify as the ones to go on living in the “go zone” until the world begins to resemble Land of the Dead, with one ultafortified police state surronded by no-go zones and zombie wasteland. But currently the no-go zone hasn’t really vibrated away from the monoculture (no one matches my neologistic fury) either economically or culturally. I would say that we need maybe another generation–Robert Anton Wilson suggested that it usually takes a generation before radical studies and discoveries acutally make effect, which I see as true although damn, iPods are popular–for it to get up and running, and maybe three before the monoculture starts to crack all apart even to itself.

    Also re: 50,000 years, in Ride the Tiger Evola says something like “those who have stay awake through the long night can greet those who wake to the dawn”, which seems to me that he thought either that shit couldn’t go on like this much longer, or that it’d be possible to maintain a tangible chain of intiates through the Kali Yuga, or both. If anything, though, preparing for 50,000 years of spiritual darkness is most certainly playing the long game, something that will benefit all of us greatly. I was thinking, most Future Studies writers recommend conceptualize the “present” as extending out 100 years in either direction. Imagine how prepared for the future, and world-creation, you’d be if your present was 50,000 years. I must think on this further.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s very clear that we’re running out of oil, it’s simply that the market has an amazing propensity to build quickly structures all around the elephant in the living room such that no one notices. Luckily, these structures are made out of china. Unfortunately, they’re self-healing and redundant. Part of the nature of the no-go zone is to be invisible, but I’m pretty damn certain that if an enclave of technically endowed folks had industrial production of all manner of gooides it’d be more apparent to the us, the tastemakers.

    That said, my lucky hand is more actively attempting to restructure my thought and is also pursuing certain unsavory practices such that this future forecast comes true in the best of ways. We’re going to wake that motherfucking elephant up.

    Io Ma’at!

  8. I think the mistake that a lot of the younger genration makes is to presume that becuase very little has substantively changed in our lifetimes, that it isn’t likely to ever substantively change. things have been slow for most of our lives, but they aren’t always slow, and the aren’t as stable as we might like to think.

    I think we blind ourselves to the exponential runaway of certain trends because regardles of how they accelerate, they reamain invisible untill they cross a certain threshold of awareness and then seemingly explode ‘without warning’

    I can’t say i have a lot of confidence in the financier oligarchy to stave off a collapse of confidence in their game of monoply by spending endless stacks of monopoly money. at the precise moment they would most need to spend it, people will have stopped believing in it.

    all of which is really me backpedialing cause i realise that i haven’t explicated my thinking in and behind these matters clearly enough. my recent infirmities mean i have had lots of chances to read and think but very little avenue to write. ideas pile up and i can’t deal with them individualy as their subtlety might warrant.

    good idea to set that straight, innit?

  9. I dunno max, time is very elastic. does it need to litteraly be 50 000 years? five minutes of the smirking chimp feels like long enough. bring on the howling children of the cleft between the worlds already.


    Yeah baby! Bring it on!

    Interestingly enough, as many know in the Hindu pantheon this is the age of the ‘kali yuga’, the dark age of Kali is the ever becoming, ever destroying force of Life. She is both unimaginable horror and abundant bliss.

    Kali is the Holy Paradox, like wild fire that destroys and births the forests. Much like, Jared Diamond and René Guénon before him, seasons of time are said to be historically cyclical not linear.

    Guénon writes in The Crisis of the Modern World and The Reign of Quantity that the modern world has brought about a crisis, conceived by many in terms of apocalypse and the “end times” (the coming dark age of the Kali Yuga in terms of Hindu cyclical cosmology), which can only be resolved by a return of the West to the traditional outlook.

    “So long as western people imagine that there only exists a single type of humanity, that there is only one ‘civilization’, at different stages of development, no mutual understanding will be possible. The truth is that there are many civilizations, developing along very different lines, and that, among these, that of the modern West is strangely exceptional, as some of its characteristics show. Today not everyone would agree to the concept of the “bankruptcy of this civilization”, but the symptoms are there and while trends of this kind go on over a long period, they tend to accelerate towards the end of a cycle. p.10

    Interestingly enough, Hurricane katrina her sister ‘Rita’ may be the ‘kali ma’ in symbolism, the etymology of the word ‘Rita’ means “universal order” .

    After all the impostor kings have been killed, the residents of the cities and towns will feel the breezes carrying the most sacred fragrance of the sandalwood paste and other decorations of Lord Vasudeva, and their minds will thereby become transcendentally pure.

    -The Symptoms
    of Kali-yuga


  10. zac,

    Thanks for your explanation. That explanation of faith seems almost, i dunno, coherent. The current batch of Xtians really fucked it up the concept, didn’t they. It would’ve been better for everyone if they had just gone the “gnosis” route instead of the “pistis” one.

    “…at this point the buddha counciled faith as being a neccisary precondition for the practice, to undertake tasks which would not neccisarily bear fruit quickly.”

    So it seems that faith in itself (ahh, Kant must be smil’n) is essentially a tool to establish the foundation for consistant training. The training will then lead to understanding and knowledge. And I’m pretty sure that the question of whether faith is important after that understanding is reached is completely unanswerable until you’ve reached the undersanding (wha? talk about bad phrasing).

    That seems pretty coherent with my hypothesis of buddhism as being a collection of techniques to rip you out of your ego-mind, rather than it being another idealogy to follow and identify with.

    Oh, and whether the Shakyamuni used the term fucksticks or not, I almost spit my tea all over the screen imagining it. Hell, even if He didn’t, the Buddha I know and love certainly did…

    Be Good.


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