Wednesday, February 28, 2001
paul gives the definitive socioeconomic history of the 90s :)
one market undergod comes up on amazon.co.uk as a suggestion for people who purchased bernard lietaerís the future of money and charles leadbeaterís living on thin air. i just put in an order.
hmmm, it also recommends a day without rain. pretty creepy, my micro-demographic that is. i guess while iím at it check out natural capitalism if you havenít already. whoa, check out the verso litany, too.
computers and humans get along (via robotwiz)
With HR's success firmly established, Colton is now allowing multiple copies of the program to collaborate. He runs four copies of HR (he named them Ramanujan, Littlewood, Wright and Hardy). Each has a distinct "personality" and goes about the work in a different way. Every time one arrives at an interesting conclusion it tells its peers, who react according to their personality. Ramanujan has a short attention span and will fly off on a new tangent every time he sees a new idea. Littlewood, on the other hand, is pickier and will only explore ideas that the others suggest if these are novel and interesting. Wright is a pedantic old soul who tediously examines all his own ideas to the full before considering any ideas proposed by the others. Hardy prefers to explore different shades of the same idea before combining it with other ideas. Colton found that communication is the key to their creativity. "In fact, only if they communicate all the time do they get better results than working on their own," he says.
Tuesday, February 27, 2001
music and the ten thousand things: musical metaphysics in china by kathleen marie higgins (via wood s lot)
started reading permutation city by greg egan. so far itís like this awesomely detailed thought experiment that posits the genesis of (basically) the holodeck in reverse. what if (your) consciousness could be deterministically replicated by a computer? your memories and sense of self spliced together and recombined according to rigorous computational logic and you none the wiser in frame. rather than a launching point for a star trek episode or a veiled morality play against a quasi-fascist regime like in tron or the matrix, it 'simply' explores (so far) what the world might look like with that kind of computing power.
Monday, February 26, 2001
gender equity and quality of life (via zerone!)
[W]e see that the contemporary movement toward gender equity is an integral part of this larger [international as well as familial] partnership movement. This should not surprise us, since the domination of one half of humanity by the other is a basic model for all forms of domination. Conversely, the equal valuing of the two halves of humanity teaches children from early on to value diversity, rather than seeing it as a reason for ranking "superior" people over "inferior" ones. This is why those parts of our world where the movement to raise the status of women has been most successful are also more generally democratic. Even beyond this, a recent statistical survey of eighty-nine countries conducted by the Center for Partnership Studies indicates that if the movement towards sexual equality continues, we can also predict a generally higher quality of life for all.
also a new post by h(er/im) on slashdot, money is an agreement. mentions a few sites,
...that look pretty neat. something about money as a consensual hallucination. our views about money, how we treat it, reflects our values as a society - except it's hard to see which emerges from which. the trick is to (ex)change current conceptions of money for ones that are less divisive and use it as a tool for more constructive relationships. invest currency with a social conscience, beyond the merely economic or something. i guess the point is that if we have moved into a post-scarcity world then it'd be better to consider money as a '?' we share (rather than have or own), a gesture of goodwill without the stigma of it being a "handout" if nothing of "tangible value" is returned. sets the stage for more creative use of resources, like the jungle :)
watched this show about dogs on discovery channel. apparently the smell-centers in a dog's brain is four times as large as it is in humans. they're these dogs that can sniff out a malignant melanoma with 100% accuracy. for unknown reasons there was this dog that could tell ahead of time when its owner was coming home. dogs and humans have been cohabitating with each other for many thousands of years, since even before people knew how to grow plants and stuff.
Friday, February 23, 2001
stories from the third and second world, respectively (via omnivore)
how mugabe came to power
The real irony - and the stroke which sealed Mhanda's fate - was that just as the guerrillas were losing confidence in Mugabe, Machel threw his weight behind him. Mugabe got enormous international exposure as a result of the Geneva talks and even though they failed Machel was now convinced that Zimbabwean independence was just around the corner. In the circumstances the best thing he could do was to make sure he was backing Zimbabwe's first President. This was clear enough to Mugabe and when he returned from Geneva, where he had been furiously brooding over Mhanda's refusal to join the delegation, he told Machel that he must act swiftly to prevent Mhanda and his friends leading a military rebellion. Machel swooped and arrested 600 Zanla guerrillas, including Mhanda and the rest of the high command. The 64 top commanders were kept in jail for three years.
The prisoners were packed into the cells like sardines, they slept on cement floors and weren't allowed to wear clothes. There were no toilets, so they had to defecate on the floor and eat and sleep in their own filth - the cells were cleaned once a month. They were infested with lice, had so little food they would put sand in their rice to bulk it out, had malaria and other fevers and froze in winter. Luckily, someone told Nyerere about the conditions under which they were being held and he prevailed on Machel to relocate them to another camp where life was hard but bearable. They were freed when Lord Carrington insisted that all political prisoners be released at Independence.
Mhanda went back to Zimbabwe and found Mugabe being treated on all sides as a great and magnanimous hero. Machel had tried to make the prisoners' return conditional on their joining Zanu-PF. Mhanda and 26 others refused - which meant that in the first week after Independence they were arrested again and spent ten days on hunger strike before Nkomo intervened. Even so all doors were barred to them and getting a job was impossible. After a year Mhanda met the man in charge of the President's security, who told him that he was 'mad' to hang around, that he must be looking for trouble and that he would certainly get it if he didn't leave the country very soon.
He went to Germany on a scholarship, studied biotechnology, acquired a German girlfriend, was offered a university lectureship in West Berlin: as far as he was concerned he'd emigrated and would never see Zimbabwe again. But the Zimbabwean authorities told the Germans he was a Communist and the lectureship was withdrawn. He shuttled around Europe, wasn't allowed to stay anywhere and in 1988 crept back into Zimbabwe, where eventually a deal was struck allowing him to work provided he stayed out of politics. This deal he has now broken by coming out openly against Mugabe. 'I've got to,' he says. 'Most Zimbabweans agree with me now - and it's important that we stand up and say we are the real war vets, not these criminals who are occupying farms and terrorising the farmers and their workers.' Today he is a passionate believer in all the liberal verities: the importance of the rule of law, of a strong opposition, of free speech and all the rest. He sympathises with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change but is quick to say that if they win power he wants to see a strong opposition to them, too - 'as long as it's not Zanu-PF.'
It's difficult to know what to make of his story. Mhanda doesn't regret being a guerrilla or fighting for independence but it's hard, as you listen to him, not to wonder at the sheer frenzy of it all. Smith and his supporters fought for a white supremacy which was both morally and practically mad. (I talked to Smith a year ago and it's obvious that he now considers universal suffrage perfectly normal: so what was all that murderous lunacy about?) Mugabe and his like fought for a 'scientific socialism' which turned out to be a cover for self-enrichment and authoritarianism. The one thing both sides had in common was their contempt for democracy. Ignorant armies clashed by night and Mhanda - bravely, naively - led one of those armies until his usefulness was over because he hadn't understood the rules.
In the 1970s the battle between the white elite and an army of African nationalists was fought on the lands of the rural peasantry, who paid a heavy price as both sides bullied, tortured and killed in their attempt to get the upper hand. A generation later, the nationalists have turned into fat cats: they have had the cream and nationalised the cream factory. Their control is contested by a new black elite, the trade-union and middle-class 'outs' (those who have no share of the spoils or the patronage) supported by the few whites who have remained in the country and by the mass of the poor who have derived no benefit from independence. Once again the battlefield is in the countryside and once again the people who are getting beaten, tortured and killed are primarily the rural poor.
I've been thinking about what might have happened to Mhanda had he not stuck to his guns and fallen out with Mugabe. His comrade in the Zanla high command, Rex Nhongo, went on to become head of the Army and the biggest landowner in Zimbabwe. Mhanda trained the men who are today the heads of the Air Force and the police: he could have had their jobs, been a cabinet minister or run one of the big state corporations. But he says he has never had the slightest wish to go into politics: he simply grew up surrounded by the mystique of the African freedom fighter and never considered being anything else.
In the end neither Kaunda nor Machel succeeded in making Zimbabwe a client state. If Ian Smith's dream of a white Rhodesia came crashing down, so did the dream of socialism in the neighbouring states. Nkomo became immensely fat and rich but is now seen as having betrayed his Ndebele people. Rex Nhongo was so embarrassed by the whispering about his ill-gotten gains that he changed his name. Tongogara died in mysterious circumstances and some point the finger at Mugabe. As for Mugabe, he has reduced his country to near-ruin and is widely hated. Mhanda still dreams of a peaceful, democratic Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe he fought for. Of the four friends with whom he skipped the country to start his military training, one was killed by Smith's forces, two were killed by Zanla itself; the fourth was killed in a way Mhanda still doesn't understand. 'I have had such a lucky life,' he says: 'I'm the only survivor.'
a conspiracy of optimism (from eXile :)
Russia is turning into Reagan America, only without the GDP to give at least some basis to the happy lie. Itís a horrible imitation of both optimism and Soviet glory, in a country without a single recognizable thing to celebrate. And yet itís working.
And thatís the logic behind this conspiracy of optimism. Russia watchers may remember that as the financial crisis built in 1998, everyone from Michael McFaul to Anatoly Chubais publicly declared, to use McFaulís words, that ďThe perception of reality is more important than reality itself.Ē Many of the reformers who influenced Putinís regime and his subsequent control over the media (such as Gleb Pavlovsky) took McFaulís and othersí words to heart. The experience of the Kosovo War only reinforced that. That false perception of reality, which kept Western public opinion in favor of a disastrous and evil war, eventually translated into a positive realityóVictory. Itís a late 20th Century revision of the old Marxist axiom: a change in perception leads to a change in reality.
Take for example Los Angeles: a clique of corrupt landowners in cahoots with LA Times publisher Harrison Otis conspired 100 years ago to sell that dusty basin of rock and desert as a modern paradise - and eventually, it worked.
Will it work in Russia? Absolutely not. Los Angeles has year-round sunshine and borders one of the most beautiful stretch of beaches in the world; Russia is eleven time zones of mud, ice and mosquitoes.
But theyíre trying to impose optimism here anyway. And thatís the truly bad news.
One of the greatest things that attracted me to Russia in the early 90s was its relative absence of hypocrisy. In America, you either smiled, or you were disappeared. In Russia, at least, you had the right, the duty even, to point out every horrible, miserable detail in life, politics and fate.
Living in a city where unabashed misery was the rule helped to calm down the demons in my head. Lately, they have been returning with a vengeance.
Putinís Russia is quickly becoming an unbearable place to live. A disaster wrapped in a lie wrapped in an imitation of a lie.
also martha c. nussbaum reviews edward w. said's reflections on exile. she says "he is working on a book that will 'affirm the continued relevance of humanism for our time.'"
Thursday, February 22, 2001
rockin evolution debate (via gulfstream, not this one) devolves into a gutter brawl by the end! (arguing over the "adaptive utility" of female sexual orgasm and male nipples :)
relativism rules by john kay. his website is kind of ridiculous.
hey, RAW's website has a new design by patrick s. farley!
watch out for prometheus rising. i was looking around for this book awhile ago, but could never find it. like it's available on online book sites and stuff, but you know.
Wednesday, February 21, 2001
now here is today by stile
Now here is today's sermon. Something that I have been thinking about confession to you all for a long time, but I just couldn't find the words. Read my thoughts. Learn from them, and get out while you still can!
I am an Information Junkie of the worst possible kind.
But I am not alone. We are a new breed of addicts that did not exist fifteen years ago. Once the web was out of it's early infancy, and photographs and multimedia became more prevalent on the web, we started to get addicted.
Once computers were cheap enough for every family to afford one, the addiction started to take hold of me, and our society overall. Forget what you've heard about being addicted to heroin and nicotine, this is far worse, for there is no cure for the Information Junkie. To cure him you would have to replace his brain.
I define an Information Junkie as someone who NEEDS to be near a computer at all times. No other form of mass communication will do. Television? Don't make me fucking laugh.
An Information Junkie is someone who breaks out in a cold sweat when they can't connect to the Internet. Someone who cares more about the people in chat rooms than their real friends, if they have any at all. Someone who knows where to get all the porn they could possible want for free, but doesn't, because they've seen it all before. Someone who has seen every single "funny picture" that your friends forward you in e-mail a million times over, and who's personal hygiene suffers due to laziness.
It was a slow process at first. Maybe your dad brought home a computer from work, or got the family a PC for Christmas. Wow, something to type your essays for school on. Big fucking deal. Then one of your friends might have showed you that you could use your computer for different sorts of things.
I swear to fucking god I never knew that women blew horses when I was 13. Who the hell would have thought that was possible? It wasn't until I was 18 that I realized that men blew horses too! Holy shit! This is fucked up. Stop the press! People have sex with animals?
That's not all they do. The Internet has shown me the darkest side of humanity. More strange and twisted than I ever thought possible. This reminds me of a quote I once heard: When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back into you.
You can't walk away from this without being changed for better or for worse. Every single experience that you have in your life molds your overall psyche, and forms the way you will react to future life experiences. With that said, how do you think being exposed to the darker side of life will change you? Believe me, you won't become no Marry fucking Poppins.
I'm not saying that it's all bad though. I would rather know what happens in this world than live my life in a state of ignorance thinking that everyone is content, bellies are full and one day we'll all join hands and sing in perfect harmony. I don't know why, but I want to know the truth. I can't live a life filled with ignorance and lies.
I think I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's go back a few years, right before I got into High School when people still didn't know what a dot-com was. I was always interested in computers, ever since we had an Atari and Colecovision in the house. I remember getting an Apple IIc for my birthday one year. That was pretty cool. I was 7 years old and still had that sparkle in my eye. But nothing, absolutely nothing prepared me for the Internet.
I was born to do this site. I don't consider myself a writer, webmaster or any of that nonsense.
I consider myself to be the master of ceremonies in the three ring circus of freakshow-like media. I am the grumpy old man in the corner of the pub, commenting in a harsh yet brutally truthful way on everything he sees. No one else was doing it exactly the way I wanted it done, so I just did it myself.
Let's talk about the constant exchange of thought and emotion with pseudo-friends. Whether you use ICQ, AOL Instant Messenger, chat rooms or e-mail it doesn't matter. The waves of pornography, satire and tech media that washes across your face each day will change you. The socializing and cyber-wars that you take part in online will change you. The comfortably numb feeling you get from having the light from the monitor dance across your face at night will change you. For good or bad, it is really up to you.
You know how they say that the first time you do heroin is the best because you get higher than you will ever get again? The virgin high. That's what it was like for me, young Information Junkie, when I first logged on to the Internet oh-so-many years ago. I've never done heroin, mind you, but I can guarantee you that I wouldn't get addicted. I'd shoot it into my arm and laugh. This is nothing, this is a joke. Why? Because I have an addiction that far outshadows any other addiction that humanity has ever created. Crack and heroin do not hold a candle to seeing every single WHAZZUP! parody under the sun.
This is the kind of addiction that makes you feel empty inside unless you are constantly feeding it. This addiction is of the need to constantly see new media 24/7, every single day for the rest of my life until I die. I consume words, images, videos, audio files... I become one with the media until I can't bare to look at the screen anymore. How did I first know that I had a problem? When I'd start to skip school to come home and use my computer.
You know you have a problem when you'd rather sit at home on a Friday night with your webcam on, dick in your hand, cyber-fucking some middle aged slut from Jamaica than go out with a nubile girl your own age.
What the hell is the matter with me? Most Information Junkies find comfort on the computer. Unfortunately, I do not. At least not anymore. Why do we feel so comfortable and at home in this artificial world? Is it because we can truly be ourselves, yet project a more confident and uninhibited persona to the virtual people that we come in contact with? Is it because even if someone tells you to go fuck yourself, it doesn't really matter because hey, they aren't really real anyhow?
These pseudo-lives and pseudo-relationships that the cultured and wizened Internet user has online are probably not very healthy. Damn, I know they aren't healthy. I refuse to meet anyone that I meet online in real life because I truly feel that it is the last step in fully giving into this addiction and letting it win. I can't remember the last time that I had the urge to go out to a bar with friends (i.e. people I've met in real life) and shoot some pool. I can't remember the last time I was feeling like stirring up some shit in my neighbourhood or going out to smoke a joint with friends then going to see a movie.
More often than not I'm home alone, the only thing keeping me company are images of a scantily clad Britney...
Information Junkies are slowly debilitated by their need to baby-sit their computer at all times. Information Junkies need to hear the constant whirring of the fan inside their computers case. The gentle hypnotic hum that makes us feel secure in our antisocial paradise. I'm sure that one of the reasons I find it so damn hard to leave my computer is because I have become dependent on getting my daily fix of cathode rays from my monitor.
When you are an Internet Junkie personal hygiene no longer exists. It doesn't need to since there is no one near you to tell you that you smell. I find it amazing if I find myself motivated enough to shower once a week. It's a cause for celebration! How do I celebrate you ask? Why, I get on my computer and go to LETSCELEBRATE.COM!
There is a dot-com for EVERYTHING! Backache.com, IHATEMYFAMILY.com, Man-I-Smell.com, UrinaryTractInfection.com, YOUNGBALDINGJEW.com, ImHungry.com, IWantToDie.com, MeSoHorny.com, LifeIsACruelJoke.com, ForgotToTakeMyMedication.com. Seriously, I didn't just make those up.
Most of those companies were funded by drunk Venture Capitalists who would throw their money at anything with a dot and com in it. Most were run by arrogant white people who blew through 100's of millions of dollars in a few months. What do they have to show for it? Fucking sock puppets and coke addictions, pregnant secretaries and empty skyscrapers...
They did it to themselves. It's a shame -- The biggest revolution in communication in the history of humanity, and it's biggest claim to fame is dancing babies, Turkish gigolos and anal sex.
The only dot-com that I haven't seen is one for the treatment of people like me, who need to constantly feed their addiction. Hell, the only reason I started this fucking website was because I was so bored of the Internet. What did I know? I never knew how I would be sucked into this dark void of binary, pandering to the Internet's lowest-common-denominator day after miserable day.
Maybe I should turn Stile Project into an information addiction center? Hell, if you're reading this right now, you qualify for treatment!
Most people that read this page think that I'm some 50 year old fat greaser who smells like rotten clam chowder and has no teeth. You got the smell part right, but I swear, I used to be good looking! I saw the sun once, and it was so beautiful! Big firey ball in the sky, where have you gone? I have even kissed a girl once, and you know what? She tasted like a peach.
Fuck, gotta run. It's been two minutes and I need to check my e-mail again. What if someone sent me that video of the monkey peeing in it's own mouth for the 10,000th time and I miss it? Ho ho. That video sure is funny!