It’s only the end of the world again, part the third.

I’m wired to the world
That’s how I know everything
I’m superbrain
That’s how they made me

Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia


Okay. So far we’ve had the catastrophic dissolution of society as we know it, followed by the dissipative reformation into a post gibsonian neo tribalist global garage sale.

This isn’t even science fiction, really. All you’re doing is playing out what’s already happened in places like the sudan or the former soviet union on a global scale.

All I’ve really added is the ( possibly baseless ) assumption that while many, perhaps even most, human beings are too fucking stupid to think their way out of a dead end of innovation such as our current society represents, quite a few are in fact smart enough. The whole anarcho primitivist position that we’re returning to the dark ages because of diminishing returns in social complexity only holds water if you presume that NOBODY on earth is able to come up with a working idea. Doubtful. We figured a way through the fucking ice age dude. Several of them actually. We bootstrapped our way up from flint cobbles to spaceflight. Take a chill pill and face facts. Humans are smart.

Which is really the point of our final installement. If you look at history, at least from a material standpoint, one thing is quite clear: we have been engaged in what mark pesce would call the progressive ingression of intelligence into matter. We have, essentially, been projecting our minds into the material strata of the word, with ever increasing scope and resolution, from bashing rocks to moving single atoms with lasers. The physical world becomes projection of the mind. And hence, when a new mind comes into this world, it is programmed by the assumptions that we have built into our environment from the ground on up. It’s mcluhan again. It’s all a medium, and it shapes us a surely as we shape it.

You could think of the first cities, or even the first cave art displays as a kind of virtual reality. An intentionally created environment that reflects the contents of mental perception. In spite of all that, our minds have remained more or less our minds as they’ve always been. We’ve completely reformatted the material backdrop, but our organic substrate is pretty much the same as it was when we were dragging an elk carcass over the hill from the paleolithic grassland where we brought it down with our spear.

And in some circles there seems to be the assumption that this is going to carry on right up until we gain complete control of our genetic code, followed shortly by our nanotechnological control of single atoms, until we have the power to turn the entire universe into a reflection of our same old paleolithic hunter gatherer brains.

And this is where transhumanists tend to gap out, because they have no answer to whether it’s a good thing to give million year old killer monkey brains unlimited power. To them, it’s all a question of processing speed, pattern recognition, bandwidth, and computational substrates. The ghost in the machine is a complete mystery.

From the mcluhan perspective, these technologies would be just like any other. Assimilated uncritically, they plunge us into the same unconscious relationship you have with your car or your television, only more pervasive and more utterly invisible to us.

And this is a huge issue, the issue of consciousness. We weren’t, by and large, aware of how language affected our minds, nor writing, nor printing, nor anything else for that matter. It’s our tragic blindspot. We just assume that the ghost in the machine does whatever it is that it’s been doing all along.

But of course that’s not true. When we check out, or at least allow ourselves to forget our awareness of things, we hand ourselves over to deeply ingrained patterns of unconscious habit. And as we’ve discussed elsewhere, these patterns that step in when we step out, are not always in our best individual interest. Further more, they are often much more complex than we would like to admit.

It’s the difference between superintelligence and superconsciousness. Between a technical genius and a zen master. One is an engine built for speed and power, and the other is built for internal transparency and reflective awareness. They are not the same thing and never have been. One does not lead to the other, necessarily. Actually, the tendency is for a real genius to have no idea how he or she does what they do. That’s the very definition of unconsciousness.

For example, you may have heard the adage about ‘it’s steam engines when it’s steam engine time’ ? A lot of major inventions have come about from multiple unconnected sources simultaneously. We have no explanation for that, except maybe that certain ideas emerge at the prompting of some higher order pattern in our collective unconscious. So, at the end of the day, the superbrains jump to the same tune as all the rest of us.

Which is all fine, if you don’t mind our species being steered by a self reinforcing swarm logic that spits out innovations on schedule. We become a howard bloom-esque global superorganism run by archetypal software, while any given one of us is a sleeping ant in the ant hill.

But I’m going to presume that ‘any given one of us’ is a bit of a issue, when that given one is you, or me.

Because that pattern protects itself fiercely. It operates on a time table of millenia, and a scale of billions. It doesn’t give a shit about who gets plugged into the swarm. Individual life is cheap and these archetypal cycles swap players in and out like disposable cogs. And any cog that threatens to wake up is a potential danger to the system.

You may be thinking my ‘future time line’ has jumped the fuckin’ tracks just now, but here’s the point: because we’re getting to that point where the end of our current cycle is about to come down on us like an axe. Our unconsciously constructed machine is about to fling itself over the cliff and take us all back to the middle ages till we get it together to try again.

Because it’s an interesting paradox: the overall drift is towards higher consciousness, greater reflection, deeper insight. One need look no further than the works of ken wilber and spiral dynamics for an illustration of this phenomena. But there seems to be a safety mechanism to make sure the rousing monkeys don’t abort the biosphere with their crazy monkey tools. We walk this tightrope between the telos that drags us to a singularity of transcendant hyperconsciousness, and the failsafe that will cut our legs out if we aren’t quite ready to leave the nest. Kind of like a really tough parent confiscating your car keys. You have to prove you can stand on your own, and part of proving that is toppling the scary parent figure who keeps you down. They want you to succeed in the end but they have to make it hard enough that you will learn to survive. And if you can’t hack it, they beat you down, for your own good.

In a nutshell that’s the future; we’re stepping up to take a run at our species rite of passage. We may have already fucked this up and been beaten down before. So long ago we don’t remember, in fact. But here we are again, tools in hand, and brains frothing with millenia of yogic hypertech that we’re not quite sure we know how to use.

And in our path are the archetypal scary parents: Chronus and Absu, Kali and Tiamat. The dragon Sorat, and his twin arms, Lucifer and Ahriman.

All the weird catastrophic fractal complexity up till this point is just the roiling surface of the ocean, as these archetypal leviathans heave themselves up into our view.

In more nuts and bolts human terms, this is what we mean when we talk about the counter initiation. It’s this ongoing backlash against our own process of waking up. It’s the dreaming machine with it’s boot on our necks, and this is when it will show it’s true face.

Most singularity theorists aim for the point when some kind of AI or machine human interface produces a kind of hyperintelligence that tips over the apple cart of human history. The more plausible figures place this event somewhere around the mid to late twenty-first century. But again they’re missing their own blind spot. Long before we have functional AI or universal assemblers or even physical immortality through genetics, we’ll have the capability to make permanent changes to that million year old monkey brain, and those changes will emanate through the material world in turn, and that reformatted world will shape the minds that exist in that medium. In short, the dynamic that has existed since the dawn of humanity will suddenly reverse. Instead of our minds shaping our tools and environment, the tools will now have the power to shape our minds, irrevocably and totally.

This is the real promise and the real danger. No matter how fucked up things have gotten here, our brains are still our brains and every human has essentially the same hardware, and the same potential.

But what happens when the counter initiation gets the ability to hardwire you into some permanent dead-end bliss state that you neither care to leave nor have the wiring to even do so anyway? Your fluid transcendent non material consciousness is untouchable, sure, but even the Buddha in a hopelessly hobbled brain can’t do much. If you’re too zonked by endorphins and frontal lobe reformatting to experience suffering, there’s not much chance you’ll give a damn about ‘enlightenment’ especially when the reality priesthood has told you you’re already enlightened anyway, just like everyone else.

But conversely, there is also the avenue to modify our brains to give us more flexibility, greater potential for consciousness, more room to move. There’s nothing written in stone that human brains have to be wired exactly the way they are. Suppose we had a corpus collosum three times the size of the one we have now? What would you do with that level of hemispheric integration? Or suppose you could shut your predatory lizard brain on and off at will?

And this is the rub. You have the tools to control everything you think and feel. Who holds the controls? I don’t mind modifying my own brain, but I sure as shit don’t want anyone else doing it. And I want the option to reverse it, obviously.

Long before the predicted takeoff point of singularity technology, this question will become the real issue. We’re talking fairly simple single gene manipulations and dead easy brain implants. This could probably, and is probably, being done now. But when it becomes a mass scale phenomena, you’ll have these two massive attractors coming into view; self modifying towards hyperconsciousness, and top down modification towards totally gridlocked hyperconditioning. Anyone subjected to the latter becomes an essentially permanent cog in the global hyperbrain as it spins out it’s archetypal program.

That’s the real singularity, the point beyond which no real prediction is possible, and it’s nature is much different than anyone is imagining. This battle has almost certainly happened before, in some form, on some smaller scale, but now the tools exist to make the victory for one or another all but permanent. Either the dragon devours us and casts us into permanent virtual la la land, a headfucked-drone borg swarm as we lift off into interstellar locust mode… or we unleash the holy guardian angel en masse. The inner genius in us all unchained forever, and set free to make art in this world and all the others, all the way up and down the spiral.

I doubt it will be all or nothing, only nearly so. In the former case it may be tens of thousands of years before one of those headfucked borg drones pulls a Gotama Siddharta and starts the whole thing over again. In the latter, there’s always the chance some new life that we create will take a wrong turn and kick off a new cycle of unconscious pathology, or maybe our transcendent hypercivilisation will fall into some kind of decline and ennui as we get too lazy to network our awakened consciousness efficiently enough to stave off the dragon’s resurgence.

I don’t think there is a final solution, in either case. Only the long game. The real story is always your own, and the ending is what you make it.

17 thoughts on “Into the Vortex

  1. Hello. It’s so wonderful to hear people talking like this. You get it! You’re with the program! You’ve recovered from the shock of realizing what we’re in for, and you’re taking step two and step three, integrating the understanding and trying to build a new worldview. One that might have a chance of saving us.

    Because I do think we’re in a lot of danger. The greatest danger that I see, is the fact itself that we are changing what we are. We are changing what we are without really understanding what we’ve been. Somehow we got this far– as a culture creating inventions, as a species reproducing in this ecosystem, as this ecosystem persisting on this planet. We have no idea how we did it. Now we’re changing the atmosphere, we’re changing how our societies work, and we’re going to start changing the way we think. We have no way to predict whether we’re going to make something that can survive.

    This is what I believe the Singularity is: We fall through the bottom, to the world beyond worlds. This universe is simply a source of energy and matter to structure with it– a dim candle to explore the infinity of abstract possibility. You can write any code into this universe. We know that already, from Turing. There are simply no rules, except for the physical laws of the universe we find ourselves in. Those rules can make any other. It’s a literally infinite situation.

    It’s no secret either how this future is going to be built. We call most of it the internet. It’s going to grow until it’s many times larger inside subjectively than the entire earth, even if physically we turn it into grains of sand. We know what it is right now. Corporate video games. Blogs. Illegal music transfers. Slashdot conversations. It’s a mixed bag, for sure, but I have to say that I like it. That’s where I get hope. We’re doing a lot of good things.

    We’re in this big conversation. We’re focusing collective attention on the situation. We have billions of minds potentially available to add their activities to the hive. We have to scramble very fast, collect a quick response, in order to deal with this tremendous situation.

  2. I agree, mungojelly, that there is great cause for hope. For starters, as you mentioned, we’re all in this conversation. We are turning our attention to it.

    Hurry slowly. We must act with precision and care.

    Zac, I liked that Long Game post of Rev Max’s. Quite a lot.

  3. Either the dragon devours us and casts us into permant virtual la la land, a headfucked-drone borg swarm as we lift off into instellar locust mode… or we unleash the holy gaurdian angel en masse.

    How do you know one or the other hasn’t already happened?

  4. I agree, Kylark. It’s one for the ages.

    …and Slomo, you may notice I did allow for the possibility that it has already happened. several times even, perhaps.

    You do have to wonder where these stories came from in the first place don’t ya?

    Archetypes are that, precisely because they happen, over and over again…

  5. …and Slomo, you may notice I did allow for the possibility that it has already happened. several times even, perhaps.

    Yeah, I kinda detected that lurking in your text. Just thought I’d drive home the point….

  6. We weren’t, by and large, aware of how language affected our minds, nor writing, nor printing, nor anything else for that matter. It’s our tragic blindspot…

    don’t know if you are familiar with the work of the neurosurgeon Leonard Schlain, but his take on how the linear alphabet moved us more into the left-hemisphere of the brain & patriarchal values is rather interesting.

  7. looks interesting. seems he’s covering similiar ground to mcluhan, although i’m reasonably sure mcluhan never used a term as fuzzy as ‘goddess’

    it’s amazing to see how completely marshall fell off the map, to the extent that people can craft book careers rediscovering ideas that he put forth in books from 1965. although to be fair, mcluhan was a literary scholar and medievalist, not a neurologist. six and one half dozen on the other i suppose.

    but aint that always the way?

  8. Reading Culture is our Business rewired my brain. McLuhan is an artist. I haven’t read his other books, but in Culture he produced an effect, rather than making a declarative statement.

    Could that be the reason for his relative obscurity now? The whole literary-cultural-philosophical academic industry is based on referring to the authority of what’s been done before, and works like Culture are hard to cite.

    I’d like to read more of his stuff, see what his straightforward prose is like.

  9. LOL

    oh dear… i just read ‘straighforward prose’ in relation to marshal mcluhan, and i just started convulsing with laughter…

    i guess he’s not quite as hard to read as the wake, but pretty durn close

    btw there are a few good audio selection to be found. this one is by far my favorite:

  10. wow groovy you quoted that long game post, that is one of the few old entries on that blog that might be worth rescuing

    anywho, i realized what it is about to some extent

    magic is sowing seeds, into the future, to see what grows

    and you need roots to do that

    to sow the seeds, you need roots

    to be tapped into the older thing

    if you don’t have the roots, you don’t have the lever arm to sow with, to cast the seeds

    thus, rootwork is not only about plant roots but also human roots

    it is by grabbing onto the earth with both the plant roots and the ancestral ones that you can reach into the future and pull the toward yourself the one that you want, i think

    because the dead travel fast and they do care, we just need to be like Nokis Kazantskinas (sp?) in saviours of god

    pour a bucket of blood and see who comes forth to speak

    work with the strong shades and dismiss the forlorn ones

    because they are just as eager to preseve this particular planetary game preserve as we are

    Other wise, no roots, no leverage, no ability to sow, cut off, controlled, hypnotized by the idiot box

    at least thats what i see around me

    be well

  11. mcluhan said that the tools we use anesthetise the limb (and neurology….i suppose.) using to tool. the hammer anesthetises the hand, the car anesthetises the legs and the wristwatch anesthetises our sense and wiring of being in the moment. so what does the computer do? on the one hand it`s bringing a new tribalism to bear in modern society making conservative values cartoonlike in the face of the global village awash with new social and political paradigms, and on the other hand we are spiritually dozing off. people don`t care about the meaning of things. the davinci code is a story with tom hanks in it. zzzzzzz.

  12. “Either the dragon devours us and casts us into permanent virtual la la land, a headfucked-drone borg swarm as we lift off into instellar locust mode… or we unleash the holy gaurdian angel en masse. The inner genius in us all unchained forever, and set free to make art in this world and all the others, all the way up and down the spiral.”

    Beautiful quote… but really one in the same as opposed to either/or

    The sad fact is there are too many people with too much $ that wanna see the shit
    hit the fan… I’m not one of them… Too many adherents to the Islamo-Christian-Judiasm
    getup… too many people want the end/beginning. Tooo many people wanna end this fucking thing right. The situation is not hopeless. It all depends on how you look at it.

  13. This one only brings up questions:

    1. What does a hyperconscious, dreaming, post-Nietzschean society look, sound, feel, and act like? It’s easier to imagine the matrix than it is a hyperworld–quite possibly b/c a hyperworld stands so close to the imagination that it’s hard to imagine Yesod descending into Malkuth, if you will, very much like imagining an “Aeon of Ma’at”, collectives of hyper-individuals, is difficult–it very much is like a catastrophic change has to occur to look over the top of the cliff. On the other hand, the majority of my experience in this “enlightenment” game has been solitary, although I have had moments of shared meaning, and it’s always pleasurable to feel that tele-empathic link, hacking a third eye or a heart center, it’s like sharing a body.

    2. Which leads into the second position: if anything will bear the mark of a post-human state, it will likely be our flesh. Three years ago when scientists announced they had use a retrovirus to turn off the gene that restricts muscle growth, experimenting with mice, during the press conference, they said, “further” human testing would be needed although it looked promising… they were doping their own genes, by implication. Once we can break the barrier of meat-bag as self, we can link into others easily. Our gestural capabiities already verge on telepathy–imagine if we actually do flick the bioenergetic switch.

    3. re: How many times has the happened already–how many, indeed. While it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of evidence in the archaeological records, it is clear that the number of unexplained sites (viking hair in china, templar outposts in nova scotia) means that our earth has yet to yield up our history. Indeed, the prescence of a “reptile brain” and the ease with which we can be controlled through such brute modern technologies as “social facts” and less than a hundred years of marketing ought to be indication of something–we’ve been hacked before, I’m saying.

    4. And this technology of control seems to be moving to a head, or at least was. The spread of LSD, and ecstacy, and the work of Pinchbeck and McKenna, while it seems to have lapsed momentarily, looks ready for Dr. McKenna’s revival; the genius of these things is that one or two uses of the high dosage will liquefy so much bad shit, when done right–at the same time, it also primes one for control, hence the Mil-Intel interest in the sixties which *seems* to have died out–TV is easier to use for control than LSD in the water.

    I’m torn between the idea that something is going to happen to us soon, and that we’re going to make something happen. Likely both, in spades.

  14. I’ll try to forgive your mentioning pinchbeck and uncle terrence in the same sentence. I find it odious and terrifying that anyone would even consider pinchbeck as some kind of worthy successor to mckenna. (not that i’m implying that’s what you’re saying mind you)

    as to group enlightenment, I’ve particapted in an aborted exeriment or two and the kind of liminal synchronicity one gets when deep into the solo work spikes exponentially and it often starts to veer into weird emotional power games and boundry violating catharsises until everyone either gets their shit together or bails out in terror. a valuable learning expereince but perhaps a bit premature with the folks i was engaged with.

    as to ‘this shit has happened before’. well… i can only wonder what it must have been like when the first crop of breakaway shamans decided to launch this whole priestly, sedentary urbanised reality tunnel and how that must have fucked with a lot of people’s shit back in the day. certainly you have a more contemporary example in the form the ‘rational enlightenment’ as well.

    or perhaps one might consider what intitiated the mass mutation of the language using center in humans beings. mutagenic foodstuff, the attractor at the end of history, or the luciferian current on wheels?

  15. Sorry about Pinchbeck, I meant him as an example of McKenna’s “revival.” Pinchbeck is hard to draw a bead on, although he does write well.

    Good call on the shamanic shift from hunter-gathering/nomadic to urbanized agriculutral, and on the next one from whatever it was before–it’s hard to categorize–to “rationalism”. In a way, we can sort of see it as a fractal resonance (mmm, shibboleth soup) of a cyclical phenomenon in a linear timeline, with a bunch of white guys fascinated by technology crushing more sane neighbors then having to steal it all back a few years later… 10000 years of farming exhausted its luciferic energy, and 400 years of rationalism–that gives us 25 for this next “revolution” if it goes undirected. I sound like a goddamn 18th Century Freemason by way of Jack Chick mathematical crackpotism.

    Good call on boundary violation–it will be interesting to see how it plays out en masse, or when the no-go zone has moved its pagent of violence and disguise right up to the ever-thinning fortifications…

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