How Civilization Started 

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.

”This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire.

Source: How Civilization Started | The New Yorker

Of, for, and by the people: the legal lacuna of synthetic persons 

Conferring legal personhood on purely synthetic entities is a very real legal possibility, one under consideration presently by the European Union. We show here that such legislative action would be morally unnecessary and legally troublesome. While AI legal personhood may have some emotional or economic appeal, so do many superficially desirable hazards against which the law protects us. We review the utility and history of legal fictions of personhood, discussing salient precedents where such fictions resulted in abuse or incoherence. We conclude that difficulties in holding “electronic persons” accountable when they violate the rights of others outweigh the highly precarious moral interests that AI legal personhood might protect.

Source: Of, for, and by the people: the legal lacuna of synthetic persons | SpringerLink

Black Sun: The singularity at the heart of the Anthropocene 

Source: Black Sun: The singularity at the heart of the Anthropocene – Institute for Interdisciplinary Research into the Anthropocene

 the Addictive Power of Memes 

OV: If you’re asking me about the current US media landscape, I think Donald Trump is a good example. Why did he have so much more media coverage in comparison to the other candidates? While others tried to make arguments, Trump looked at the form. He was constantly serving small, crazy and controversial bits that were picked up by the media. These memes then unleashed other messages. The left should think much more about pleasure and the pharmacological aspects of media, design and communication and after that about arguments. The current US media works like a drug in the literal sense. Trump was good at keeping millions of people high, even tough it was a bad high. I agree with Bernard Stiegler when he speaks about destruction of attention and the resulting destruction of care. Technology enables this every day. The atomizing digital sphere does what Hollywood entertainment could not do now. What’s left is an addicted population. Technology can be added to the list of other drugs, especially pharmaceuticals and bad food. Memes seem to like an environment dominated by any kind of drugs. Unfortunately, bad memes result largely from a culture dominated by social networks like Facebook, produced and consumed by people on bad drugs.

While memes can build stories, todays data/media sphere is largely loosing its narrative. Trump acts without a narrative and this seems to correspond with how the media, especially social media, operate. The destruction of the narrative corresponds with what Rushkoff calls “the constant now”. In order to replicate the feeing of pleasure that we gain from the states of being in the constant now, we need to be fed bits of media without a narrative context because the instant, temporal gratification is what brings pleasure. Franco Berardi (Bifo) has been writing about the rise of use of cocaine in the creative industries because this helped people to focus attention. Have you seen the current fidget spinner craze?

Cocaine is still there, but as cocaine makes people high, so does media—and this is not new—we accept that never before media operated as explicitly as a drug and it never operated as a drug with such an addictive potential with such immense social costs. The USA is the most drugged nation in the world. Memes like this because with slight mutations they can travel fast and wide until they are able to make people high.

Source: Geert | Interview with Oliver Vodeb (Memefest) on the Addictive Power of Memes Today

Re-thinking ‘Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection’ in the Age of Fake News

I am convinced that it is not a specific task for some “trained elite task force” to monitor all of the world for a specific outbreak of rhetoric — instead this awareness of the danger of these memes should be widespread. As I wrote above, the greater the amount of believed bullshit there is in the world the more it undermines our very foundation as a society.

The definition of genocide itself, the eight stages of genocide, the twelve steps of genocide denial, and the psychology of evil — all of this should be common education so we prepare to meet these eternal, insidious forces. The only effective inoculation is the one which reaches the largest selection of at-risk population. With economic hardship, the American cultural landscape is fertile ground for 5GW recruiting and the rhetorical tropes in use.

The language of recruitment is rooted in dehumanization — which itself is the transactional language of cognitive deconstruction. In essence, suicidal ideation and other mental illnesses can be weaponized through rhetorical triggers. Bullshit is a weapon, and will cause more and more acts of increasingly violent mass killings.

Source: Re-thinking ‘Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection’ in the Age of Fake News