Review: ‘The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity’ – The Atlantic

A pyramid balances on its point, upside down, in the desert with blue sky and small figures including a caravan of camels

“How did we get stuck?” the authors ask—stuck, that is, in a world of “war, greed, exploitation [and] systematic indifference to others’ suffering”? It’s a pretty good question. “If something did go terribly wrong in human history,” they write, “then perhaps it began to go wrong precisely when people started losing that freedom to imagine and enact other forms of social existence.” It isn’t clear to me how many possibilities are left us now, in a world of polities whose populations number in the tens or hundreds of millions. But stuck we certainly are.

Review: ‘The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity’ – The Atlantic

Uprising, Counterinsurgency, and Civil War : Understanding the Rise of the Paramilitary Right

To frame the current conflict as a civil war is to describe the state as a secondary element, rather than the focus of action, and to conceptualize the conflict as a linear struggle between two rigidly identified factions, both of which are defined prior to the opening of hostilities. This approach would produce a social conflict in which the state will inevitably play a role, but in which we will fundamentally misunderstand the terms. Rather than seeking to understand the shifts that have occurred on the level of society and the ways in which the uprising has been successfully defined as an “outside” by the state, we would end up concentrating on only one element of the collaboration between the state and para-state forces. Essentially, we would replace a struggle for everything—for the whole of life itself—with a far less ambitious struggle against other elements in the social terrain.

CrimethInc. : Uprising, Counterinsurgency, and Civil War : Understanding the Rise of the Paramilitary Right

Pandæmic Speculations

“I do not think that COVID-19 introduces a new relationship between humanity and ‘the environment.’ As blessed as we are to have books and other media that transmit knowledge and stretch temporality for us, we are still trapped within the span of an individual lifetime, and a limited perception of history. Even if pandemics happen throughout history, what appears to us in perception appears as a novelty, as a problem for thought, and it indeed has new variables each time. But even the name SARS-CoV-2 signals a repetition. SARS in the early 2000s attacked the lungs quickly, it was easy to spot and quarantine. SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has learnt from that mistake and made itself harder to spot. It is not strictly alive, but nevertheless intelligent. Paleontologist Peter Ward takes a long perspective in The Medea Hypothesis, arguing that life on Earth is suicidal, and most extinctions on the planet were caused by microbes that desire to return to a microbial planetarity. In this hypothesis, animal desire to keep life going and reproduce is counterbalanced by microbial intelligence, which is synthetic and more technical than biological. This might be an ongoing process, even though we experience it as a novelty.

Regarding the wild and the domestic, there’s a great essay called ‘Robot Evolution’ by Emily Monosson that compares viruses to robots and highlights human anxiety around nonhuman replication. Viruses make a fitting template for robot design because they don’t have to be alive to self-replicate. While we perceive automation or ‘technologization’ as an increase in control, the more we automate, the more we do not know what’s going to come out of it:

But perhaps it is not the creation of new life that we fear, so much as the potential for unpredictable emergent behaviour.”

Agosto Foundation :: Pandæmic Speculations

Dancers at the End of Time, Part One: The Flight from Reason

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a school of psychologists known as transactional analysts came up with a narrative approach to neurosis and personality disorders. The very simple version of the story is that they found that people with psychological problems were living out self-defeating scripts:  narratives of which the patients themselves were not conscious, but which exerted a potent gravitational attraction on their interactions with other people. If the patients became conscious of the scripts they were acting out, the spell was broken and they could learn less dysfunctional ways of facing life. Transactional analysis fell out of favor once the pharmaceutical industry got its present stranglehold over the healing professions, but its findings remain telling testimony of the power of narrative to shape values and goals in its own image.

via Dancers at the End of Time, Part One: The Flight from Reason – Ecosophia

US Collapse – the Spectacle of Our Time

The American Empire is failing and flailing. This is the spectacle of our time. The Western mainstream news media are either blind, ignorant or complicit in denying the historic collapse. Such media are indulging reckless fantasies of the US political class to distract from the potential internal implosion. Casting around for scapegoats to “explain” the deep inherent problems, the political class are using Russia and alleged Russian “interference” as a pretext.

World history has reached a foreboding cross-roads due to the collapsing of the American Empire. Can we navigate a safe path forward avoiding catastrophic war that often accompanies the demise of empires?

A lot, it seems, depends on ordinary American people becoming politically organized to challenge their dysfunctional system run by and for the elites. If the American people cannot hold their elites to account and break their corrupt rule, overhauling it with something more equitable and democratic, then the world is in peril of being plunged into total war. We can only but wish our American brothers and sisters solidarity and success.

via US Collapse – the Spectacle of Our Time | Critical Analysis |Axisoflogic.com

The Reality Game

We introduce an evolutionary game with feedback between perception and reality, which we call the reality game. It is a game of chance in which the probabilities for different objective outcomes (e.g., heads or tails in a coin toss) depend on the amount wagered on those outcomes. By varying the `reality map’, which relates the amount wagered to the probability of the outcome, it is possible to move continuously from a purely objective game in which probabilities have no dependence on wagers to a purely subjective game in which probabilities equal the amount wagered. We study self-reinforcing games, in which betting more on an outcome increases its odds, and self-defeating games, in which the opposite is true. This is investigated in and out of equilibrium, with and without rational players, and both numerically and analytically.

via [0902.0100] The Reality Game

The Last Days of Reality

The revelation forces us to confront some unpleasant thoughts about how the world works in 2017, and where things appear to be headed. As problematic as Facebook has become, it represents only one component of a much broader shift into a new human connectivity that is both omnipresent (consider the smartphone) and hypermediated—passing through and massaged by layer upon layer of machinery carefully hidden from view. The upshot is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine what in our interactions is simply human and what is machine-generated. It is becoming difficult to know what is real.

via The Last Days of Reality