Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Prophecy for the new Gregorian year

I posted this to the 2012 discussion board on

Here is an interesting collection of articles on RIFD technology, aka “The Mark of the Beast.”

For those who haven’t seen it, check out the 2005 UN Ecosystems Assessment here. The oceans are 90% fished out, most of the world’s ecosystems are on the point of collapse, resources severely depleted, etcetera.

It sure is fun – all this speculating about 2012, the return of the Goddess, Thelemic Magick, indigenous prophesies, light working, and all the rest.

However, a question goes unaddressed: How are we going to change the world situation and actually salvage this planet before it is too late? How much time do we have? How are we going to work together to get this done? What is our plan of action?

(In what follows, I am going to use the words “We” and “Our” rhetorically, referring to the group I consider to be the evolutionary edge of the progressive movement, integrating spiritual, ecological, political, social, technological perspectives - represented at Burning Man, on Tribe, etc.)

Our time to come up with a strategy and then flawlessly execute it can probably be measured in months, perhaps a year or two, max.

As we all must know, we are currently in the midst of a mass extinction crisis. David Ulansey has documented this at length: Within thirty years, 25 percent of all species will be extinct. By that point, we may well have entered an inevitable situation of complete biospheric collapse and self-extinction. If we are going to avert the worst and totalizing effects of this crisis, we cannot start in two or three years – we have to start now.

At the same time, we can see that the US Government’s response to New Orleans/Katrina is a template for establishing martial law, Banana-Republic-style, when things start to go haywire due to deteriorating climate and resource-scarcity, which they will soon. The Pentagon may have some extraordinary contingency plans at their disposal. I don’t think we will like them.

Clearly, technology is an important piece of the puzzle in how we can turn this situation around. We have the quickly evolving capacity of the Internet to function as a multimedia hub, and, at the same time, the extraordinary evolution in tools for creating media. There is no longer any use for the corporate media (and I believe they are becoming aware of this), and no way that media monopolization can function, unless the Internet itself is shut down. We are in a short, potentially revolutionary moment when the tools for creating culture have been fully democratized and put in our hands. But as of yet, I see few people putting these tools to the uses that they need to be put if we are going to change/save the situation in the time available to us.

It is not enough to speak to an “in” group, to be witty, to be cute. We have to employ media with the same seductive savvy that the mainstream media has used it – but repurposed to express a new and integrated consciousness: ecological, political, spiritual, social. The nascent awareness I see, at times, on this discussion board – and at events such as Burning Man. But we don’t have the time to distract ourselves anymore. Now is the time for disciplined work and action. There is no time left for sentimentality, navel-gazing, and the like.

In the same way that the tiny coterie of the Beats gave way to the global mass movement of the hippies in just a few short years, those of us who have been studying these ideas and keeping the countercultural flame alive now have the opportunity to inspire a huge upsurge in the collective will, especially among younger people.

Artists and thinkers no longer have any excuses. If your vision is greater or deeper, if it deserves to be heard, now you can prove it – the tools are there for you, and the potential audience is vast. This is your moment. Create the audience you deserve – but put the interests of the planet ahead of your own.

Beyond media, the Net can be used for establishing support and trust-based networks that are a rocket-shot beyond what something like Tribe is capable of. This, also, should be done right away. I am working on some of these ideas with friends, starting a media and membership company, Evolver ( Working on this project has made me painfully aware of how hard it is to get things done at the speed they need to be done, without significant economic support, or without the trust and faith of a larger community willing to give its time and energy to efforts that might be transformative.

If we are going to stop species extinction, evict the current regime from power before it permanently closes down our world, and solve the many other difficult problems facing global humanity (Peak Oil, for instance), we are going to have to learn how to think and work together, how to collaborate and focus, on a much deeper level than we have ever imagined before. Turning back species extinction, for instance, would require a massive redistribution of resources and extraordinary attention to local ecologies across the planet. It can be done – but it will require a huge upgrade in the level and quality human consciousness to make this happen.

I suggest that this upgrade is what is being asked from us, right now.

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Monday, December 12, 2005


Very interesting work by Richard Doyle of Penn State, suggesting LSD and other psychedelics catalyzed engineering breakthroughs by allowing visualization and unleashing of the creative imagination, beyond the limits of verbal or linear logic.


Before their possession became a criminal offense in the United States, tryptamines (e.g. Psilocybin), phenethylamines (e.g. mescaline), and Cannabinoids (e.g. Cannabis Sativa and Indica, THC) were given to engineers and designers to break "creative logjams" and promote innovation in the Cold War United States. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, for example, the Ampex Corporation(inventor of the Video Tape Recorder) studied the effects of LSD and mescaline on their engineers, and the result was a growing body of literature and data on tryptamine and phenethylamine "regimens" and their effects on technical innovation.These regimens included precise and intensive rhetorical practices such as the epigraph above – although essentially ineffable, psychedelic experience was treated as fundamentally and essentially programmable. This talk will look to the history of these highly programmed human subject trials and the role of rhetorical practices in them in order to evaluate more recent claims by inventors and researchers such as Mitch Kapor (Lotus, spreadsheets), Mark Pesce(Virtual Reality Markup Language) and Kary Mullis (Polymerase Chain Reaction) that psychedelics played an integral role in the invention of their breakthrough technologies. Given the importance of programming to psychedelic experience, the talk will suggest that psychedelic adjuncts were useful to engineers and scientists less because they "expanded" consciousness than because they catalyzed a practiced progamming of affect, a programming whose signature is a successful dwelling with massive and often transhuman interconnectivity. Perhaps meditation is the first design practice of an evolutionary response to such a design environment, as one must become still in order to navigate the overwhelming informational landscape that ensues: both the psychedelic and the transhuman condition encounter enormous amounts of information, an onslaught navigable only through a practiced letting go.Successful "programming" of psychedelic experience drew on old code indeed to manage the unfamiliar affects: mystic and shamanic practices have left an archive from which researchers have sampled, a psychedelic commons. Audio and visual adjuncts for psychedelic experience such as chants, music, mantra and imbricated images (such as [mandala]) appeared to work as devices for orienting but not determining the exorbitant and difficult to communicate multiplicity that is psychedelic experience. The talk will close with a sugggestion that users and designers of interactive technologies integrate the tropes of this old code to help highly networked, mobile and volatile wetware adjuncts recall their participation in the biological systems as well as technical systems with which they are enmeshed, "the moist, pulsating pattern." Such psychedelic or "life manifesting" technologies indeed put the ego and its ontologies into dissarray, but in so doing they invite the evolution of dissipative structures capable of a sustainable interaction with complexity, the partipatory and co-evolutionary superorganism Lynn Margulis, James Lovelock and William Golding dubbed "Gaia" in their sampling of Greek tradition. This capacity for consciousness to reflect on and tune its own ecosystemic conditions enables us to become search engines for dissipative structures with an increased capacity to process information through the momentary breakdown of symmetry.TrippingOnThePast

Wiki: EcoDelic

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Grist piece on Ganz

Harvard sociologist Marshall Ganz is interviewed in Grist. A former Civil Rights activist in the 60s, Ganz studies "social movements, and the ways in which leadership and direction are nurtured. Now he focuses on finding ways to revitalize democratic organizations, develop their leadership, and engage their members -- work that he says is critical to rebuilding a base of political power on the left," according to Dicum, of Grist. He has spent the last two years studying the Sierra Club, focusing on how membership organizations such as Sierra can better utilize their human resources to make change. Here are some excerpts from his interview:

Traditionally, membership associations, volunteer organizations, and advocacy organizations provided connective tissue between citizens and government, and public policy in general. There's been a substantial breakdown in that over the last 30 or 40 years, and it's left a vacuum.


The word leadership figures heavily in your work. What do you mean when you use it?

Leadership is not just someone giving a good speech. Leaders are people actually capable of mobilizing other people and getting them engaged in public life and public action. Participation isn't just a million individuals making individual choices: it's a social activity in which some people take responsibility to mobilize others.

This may sound simplistic, but leadership means knowing how to have a good meeting: how to hear all sides, how to make a decision, how to include different points of view. It's not a particularly mysterious skill set, but if people haven't been trained in it, or they've only learned it as individuals and not as a group, then they don't know how to do it.


do you see as promising sources for leadership on the left? Where do people get it?

I think if the Sierra Club buys into [the idea that it can be an incubator for leadership] it can have a huge impact on the environmental movement. Unions are [also] very important, the SEIU [Service Employees International Union] in particular, and a reenergized labor movement could really help with this. There's a lot of activity in new immigrant communities -- they're much friendlier to this kind of approach and have had more success with it. Churches have a lot of experience in working in the way that I'm describing. That's mainly benefited the right; it could benefit the left.

absent from that list are political parties.

Well, the logical thing would be political parties, and in any other industrial democracy it would be a political party. But we have such a screwy electoral system ... political parties have become marketing instruments: it's all about polling and about message and message delivery. There's really no investment in, interest in, or even understanding of organization building. In the 2004 election, even ACT [America Coming Together] and the other groups were all canvassing operations, which is simply a way of marketing person-to-person as opposed to marketing over the phone. But actually creating collective capacity, organizing groups, developing leadership, and creating organizational capacity? That wasn't happening -- that's what was missing.


For many years, the model of large organization in America was representative organization. Then, toward the end of the 19th century, corporate organization became an alternate model. One was about representation, the other was about control.

So now, as the interests and constituencies represented by large organizations like unions have been losing ground, and as this whole market thing has come to be so dominant since Reagan, and public institutions themselves have been increasingly viewed as illegitimate, everybody says, "Well, we gotta do everything like the private sector; we have to do everything like the market."

It means that creative, intelligent individuals can legitimate a way of operating that doesn't require them to engage with a constituency, to educate, to lead, to bring people together -- to do the kinds of things that people used to have to do to earn leadership in a large organization. It lends itself to a very elitist approach to social change.

Yeah, I've noticed a lot of executive directors recently calling themselves CEOs.

Oh yeah. They call them CEOs, they have marketing plans. See, the language is a real giveaway: the language expresses an understanding of how organizations work that makes them basically a question of command and control. And so you wind up with this pull to make advocacy groups look more and more like firms: with boards of directors, managers, efficiency tests, and so forth -- not as inclusive, mobilizing social movements or democratic organizations, which is a really different proposition.


Ganz's interview is highly pertinent to the Evolver Project, which we hope to develop into a large membership organization. The people involved in this, with a few notable exceptions, do not have the background in the kind of mobilizing organizations that he describes. It will be interesting to see if we can develop those tools and skills for activating other people and nurturing local networks.

climate controls not working

An article in today's times notes that the strategy for creating international protocols for reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses is a failed one. The article notes:

Indeed, from here on, progress on climate is less likely to come from megaconferences like the one in Montreal and more likely from focused initiatives by clusters of countries with common interests, said Mr. Benedick, who is now a consultant and president of the National Council on Science and the Environment, a private group promoting science-based environmental policies.

The only real answer at the moment is still far out on the horizon: nonpolluting energy sources. But the amount of money being devoted to research and develop such technologies, much less install them, is nowhere near the scale of the problem, many experts on energy technology said.

It is increasingly obvious that the massive structural problems facing contemporary society cannot be solved by the institutions and organizations that have contributed to them. We clearly need new systems that can handle the climactic and ecological crisis, which really requires a complete redesign of society. It does seem that the socially networking potentials of the Internet provide the only possible infrastructure for a deep transformation and rational use of the resources and time we have remaining before the global situation disintegrates beyond anyone's control.