Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy Nooyear 2014

To live above with the Saints we love... Ah, that is the purest glory.
To live below with the Saints we know... Ah, that is another story!

May you have good food and spirit.., a soft pillow for your head.
May you be forty years in heaven... 'fore the devil knows you’re DEAD.

Welcome 2015... Year of the Ram.

Here's Five from the 2014 Archives...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cyber-Warfare the Sony Hack the defining salvo?

Here at the close of the tumultuous 2014, it appears that the world has finally moved into the cyber espionage realm, in earnest. Strangely, it was the whole “Sony Hack” debacle that put us over the top, so to speak. President Obama, responding to allegations of the involvement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, typified the Sony Hack as “Cyber-vandalism.” Cyber-crime, cyber-security, cyber-warfare… it’s all shaking out suspiciously close to how “Papa Gibson” described it in his Cyber-punk Sci Fi thrillers of the 1980’s.

Moving into 2015, Gibson’s vision of a gritty, dystopian, cyberpunk existence has indeed come to pass. All the players from Gibson’s novels seem to be in place. Powerful Corporate entities, Governmental Intelligence agencies (the expertise of which seem inferior to corporate interests) Rogue States, console cowboys such as the Anonymous Collective, Black /White/Grey Hat independent operators… all the actors are in place.

Given the extent of available cyber-services, both overt and those available via the so-called Dark-Net, you don’t even need much technical expertise to become an entry level player. One can now simply shop the dark-net and purchase a $250.00 pre-packaged malware kit… easy peasy! This Christmas shopping season, certain vendors on the dark-net were even offering cyber-Monday discounts… talk about (back) door buster deals.

Last week, Federal Bureau of Investigation officially accused the Democratic People's Republic of Korea of instigating the now-infamous hack on Sony Pictures. This from the FBI National Press Office…

Friday, December 19th, 2014:  “Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data. A group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.

As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions. While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on:

Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

Given the files that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden turned over to journalist Glenn Greenwald, we know how invasive and pervasive U.S. government surveillance has become. U.S. officials have said the American government will retaliate for the attacks and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the response would be "proportional." Again, from the FBI:

"Working together, the FBI will identify, pursue, and impose costs and consequences on individuals, groups, or nation states who use cyber means to threaten the United States or U.S. interests" Characteristically,  Sen. John McCain said the cyberattack amounted to "an act of war" on Friday and said the U.S. should retaliate in kind with cyberwarfare.

Even in their official denial of such allegations, the North Korean Government warned that worse is coming. This type of rhetoric, coming from both the US and N Korea… is what we like to call: cyber-escalation… and will only make matters worse. And so it is that Earth’s info-sphere become less stable. News sources are reporting that the frequency of cyber attacks has dramatically increased in the last few weeks.

Check out the link below. It is from the San Mateo CA based cyber-security “live threat intelligence” firm: Norse. From their “About us” page… “Norse is the global leader in live attack intelligence. Norse delivers continuously updated and unique Internet and darknet intel that helps organizations detect and block attacks that other systems miss.” This is not an excerpt from Gibson’s “Neuromancer” …this is the real Dope.

Follow the link and preview this most-interesting live attack monitor… it will give you a glimpse into our brave-new-future.

Update: Sync Alert!

I’m curious what the conspiracy theorists, the synchro-mystic adepts and those who otherwise delve into high weirdness, think about the “Guardians of Peace” AKA: GOP sync? It is commonly postulated that the “Powers That Be” hide their nefarious exploits in plain sight. It is also common conspiratorial wisdom that the PTB (none DARE call them the illuminati!) like to signal their intent through cryptic means.

It is also commonly considered that Sony acts as the Industrial Military Complex’s mouthpiece, within the motion picture industry. Sony CEO, Michael Lynton is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and is on the Board of The Rand Corporation. As such, the Guardians of Peace, AKA: GOP could refer to the “Grand Old Party” …otherwise known as the Republican Party.

So was Sony hacked by the Republicans, as a means to stir up Cyber-war-mongering sentiment?

Please leave your thoughts, theories and wild accusations on the comments section of this post… 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

BigTime TV's Operation MindF#@k.

The newest Video from BigTime TV is a Doozy. Taken from today's headlines, and in the spirit of the truth is far stranger than fiction, BTV-23 has launched a new campaign entitled: "Operation MindF#@k" In the words of BTV-23's channel description... Stay tuned, for... some crazy shit is about to go down!

Big Time Television, Network 23 is a YouTube channel of high weirdness and low brow, created by none other than our own Jack Heart. BTV-23 provides commentary on modern socio-political inequities… especially in the context of the new American Plutocracy… AKA: the 1% …and the rise of the NSA State. BTV-23 uses media appropriation, simple animation and a variety of mash-up techniques to present current events in a (hopefully) entertaining way. It’s political snarkyness and humor aspires to the fine tradition of the likes of Monty Python and The Onion.

The curious may check out the BTV-23 Youtube Channel @ BigTime TV 23

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

LSD-25 and the Therapeutic Psychedelic Underground

After thirty years in the deep freeze, research into the medicinal use of psychedelic drugs, ranging from psilocybin to Ketamine, and from MDMA to LSD, has begun to accelerate. FDA-approved pilot studies and clinical trials using the drugs under controlled conditions and in combination with talk therapy have shown they could be used safely, delivering promising results in a wide range of tough-to-treat maladies, including opiate and tobacco addiction, alcoholism, autism, anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These developments are not surprising to some who remember the first wave of research and even widespread clinical use of psychedelics in the quarter century after the accidental discovery of LSD in 1943. A global review of psychedelic studies and clinical results in 1963 concluded:  “Some spectacular, and almost unbelievable, results have been achieved by using one dose [of the drugs].”

But the powerful drug that was proving surprisingly safe to use in the clinic was creating a panic (in the eyes of the Media & the PTB) when used on the streets. The mushrooming (no pun intended) popular use of psychedelics in the late ’60s, particularly by young people taking it in uncontrolled environments, struck such a sensitive cultural and political nerve that it left the drugs, and the scientists who worked with them, severely stigmatized for more than a generation.

Ironically, the criminalization of the possession of psychedelic drugs in 1970 and the attendant passion of the PTB’ anti-drug crusade did little to slow the spread of recreational use, but effectively shut all research into possible beneficial uses down cold.

In the three decades that followed, an underground network of therapists continued to use the now illegal compounds in treatment of psychological maladies. In the late 1970s, with the rediscovery of the psychoactive effects of the synthetic psychedelic 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, or MDMA, these underground therapists found a compound many felt was even more useful in combination with therapy than the classic psychedelics –– avoiding the unpredictable effects and anxiety-provoking visions that sometimes arose, as well as creating an almost instant bond with the therapist. MDMA also had the advantage of not yet being illegal.

As the government (in its pomposity) prepared to rectify that in 1985, a coalition of credentialed doctors and scientists allied with those in the psychedelic underground to take the attempt to rehabilitate the drugs and bring back the hope of the ’50s and ’60s that they could become a powerful tool in psychotherapy. They sued the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prevent them from placing MDMA on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive category reserved for highly dangerous drugs with no medical benefit.

After months of hearings and volumes of testimony, the presiding judge ruled dramatically in the plaintiffs’ favor –– MDMA he declared, was neither particularly dangerous when used in a clinical setting nor without medical value. The DEA simply ignored the ruling, which was not legally binding, and MDMA therapy went back underground.

But some of those behind the challenge refused to surrender. If they couldn’t prove their case in court, they would do it in the lab. It took more than a decade and a slowly changing culture, but as the 20th Century came to a close, the Food and Drug Administration began to once again approve clinical trials of psychedelics on humans. At a time when half a million veterans have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, contributing tragically to the average of 22 veterans each day who commit suicide, the clinical use of such agents couldn’t come too soon.

The cost to the American taxpayer of giving these vets the medical care they’ve earned will be in the range of a trillion dollars over the next 30 or 40 years. If PTSD could be reliably cured with a short-term treatment using an inexpensive drug like MDMA, those costs could be slashed dramatically. And yet, though the Department of Defense is spending lavishly on speculative development all sorts of untested therapies –– including planting microchips in veterans’ brains –– it has yet to budget a dime for MDMA research, in part, clearly, because the cultural wars of 1970 continue to hold the image of psychedelics hostage.

- The above excerpts are from an article written by Tom Shroder based on his new book: Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hackers: Black Hat vs White Hat

Know yer Hacker

First things first… it needs to be (abundantly clear) that hackers aren’t inherently bad… the word “hacker” doesn’t mean “criminal” or “bad guy.” (All Hackers are not Anonymous and all Anonymous are not hackers.) Geeks and tech writers often refer to “black hat,” “white hat,” and “gray hat” hackers. These terms define different groups of hackers based on their behavior. The (contemporary) definition of the word “hacker” is controversial, and could mean either someone who compromises computer security or a skilled developer in the free software or open-source movements.

Black Hats

Black-hat hackers, or simply “black hats,” are the type of hacker the popular media seems to focus on.  Black-hat hackers violate computer security for personal gain (such as stealing credit card numbers or harvesting personal data for sale to identity thieves) or for pure maliciousness (such as creating a botnet and using that botnet to perform DDOS attacks against websites they don’t like).

Black hats fit the widely-held stereotype that hackers are criminals performing illegal activities for personal gain and attacking others. They’re the alleged computer criminals. A black-hat hacker who finds a new, “zero-day” security vulnerability would sell it to criminal organizations on the black market or use it to compromise computer systems.

White Hats

White-hat hackers are the opposite of the black-hat hackers. They’re the alleged “ethical hackers,” experts in compromising computer security systems who use their abilities for good, ethical, and legal purposes rather than bad, unethical, and criminal purposes.

For example, many white-hat hackers are employed to test an organizations’ computer security systems. The organization authorizes the white-hat hacker to attempt to compromise their systems. The white-hat hacker uses their knowledge of computer security systems to compromise the organization’s systems, just as a black hat hacker would. However, instead of using their access to steal from the organization or vandalize its systems, the white-hat hacker reports back to the organization and informs them of how they gained access, allowing the organization to improve their defenses. This is known as “penetration testing,” and it’s one example of an activity performed by white-hat hackers.

A white-hat hacker who finds a security vulnerability would disclose it to the developer, allowing them to patch their product and improve its security before it’s compromised. Various organizations pay “bounties” or award prizes for revealing such discovered vulnerabilities, compensating white-hats for their work.

Grey Hats

Very few things in life are clear black-and-white categories. In reality, there’s often a gray area. A gray-hat hacker falls somewhere between a black hat and a white hat. A gray hat doesn’t work for their own personal gain or to cause carnage, but they may technically commit crimes and do arguably unethical things.

For example, a black hat hacker would compromise a computer system without permission, stealing the data inside for their own personal gain or vandalizing the system. A white-hat hacker would ask for permission before testing the system’s security and alert the organization after compromising it. A gray-hat hacker might attempt to compromise a computer system without permission, informing the organization after the fact and allowing them to fix the problem. While the gray-hat hacker didn’t use their access for bad purposes, they compromised a security system without permission, which is illegal.

If a gray-hat hacker discovers a security flaw in a piece of software or on a website, they may disclose the flaw publically instead of privately disclosing the flaw to the organization and giving them time to fix it. They wouldn’t take advantage of the flaw for their own personal gain — that would be black-hat behavior — but the public disclosure could cause carnage as black-hat hackers tried to take advantage of the flaw before it was fixed.

“Black hat,” “white hat,” and “gray hat” can also refer to behavior. For example, if someone says “that seems a bit black hat,” that means that the action in question seems unethical.

Editor’s note: At the end of the day… like all things of this Spaceship Earth… Perceived Reality is an ever-changing mosaic of shades of grey. Now the pendulum swings toward the black… now it trends toward the white. Hackers, for good or ill, are the one’s who have “gotten a clue” as to the technological workings of our modern world. That doesn’t mean that they have any better ethical grip… they simply know how to control the artifacts.

Original article by Chris Hoffman

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Mythology of AI

"The distinction between a corporation and an algorithm is fading. Does that make an algorithm a person?"

- Jaron Lanier 

By Jaron Lanier

A lot of us were appalled a few years ago when the American Supreme Court decided, out of the blue, to decide a question it hadn't been asked to decide, and declare that corporations are people. That's a cover for making it easier for big money to have an influence in politics. But there's another angle to it, which I don't think has been considered as much: the tech companies, which are becoming the most profitable, the fastest rising, the richest companies, with the most cash on hand, are essentially people for a different reason than that. They might be people because the Supreme Court said so, but they're essentially algorithms.

Jaron Lanier
If you look at a company like Google or Amazon and many others, they do a little bit of device manufacture, but the only reason they do is to create a channel between people and algorithms. And the algorithms run on these big cloud computer facilities.

The distinction between a corporation and an algorithm is fading. Does that make an algorithm a person? Here we have this interesting confluence between two totally different worlds. We have the world of money and politics and the so-called conservative Supreme Court, with this other world of what we can call artificial intelligence, which is a movement within the technical culture to find an equivalence between computers and people. In both cases, there's an intellectual tradition that goes back many decades. Previously they'd been separated; they'd been worlds apart. Now, suddenly they've been intertwined.

The idea that computers are people has a long and storied history. It goes back to the very origins of computers, and even from before. There's always been a question about whether a program is something alive or not since it intrinsically has some kind of autonomy at the very least, or it wouldn't be a program. There has been a domineering subculture—that's been the most wealthy, prolific, and influential subculture in the technical world—that for a long time has not only promoted the idea that there's an equivalence between algorithms and life, and certain algorithms and people, but a historical determinism that we're inevitably making computers that will be smarter and better than us and will take over from us.

That mythology, in turn, has spurred a reactionary, perpetual spasm from people who are horrified by what they hear. You'll have a figure say, "The computers will take over the Earth, but that's a good thing, because people had their chance and now we should give it to the machines." Then you'll have other people say, "Oh, that's horrible, we must stop these computers." Most recently, some of the most beloved and respected figures in the tech and science world, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have taken that position of: "Oh my God, these things are an existential threat. They must be stopped."

Elon Musk
In the past, all kinds of different figures have proposed that this kind of thing will happen, using different terminology. Some of them like the idea of the computers taking over, and some of them don't. What I'd like to do here today is propose that the whole basis of the conversation is itself askew, and confuses us, and does real harm to society and to our skills as engineers and scientists.

A good starting point might be the latest round of anxiety about artificial intelligence, which has been stoked by some figures who I respect tremendously, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. And the reason it's an interesting starting point is that it's one entry point into a knot of issues that can be understood in a lot of different ways, but it might be the right entry point for the moment, because it's the one that's resonating with people.

The usual sequence of thoughts you have here is something like: "so-and-so," who's a well-respected expert, is concerned that the machines will become smart, they'll take over, they'll destroy us, something terrible will happen. They're an existential threat, whatever scary language there is. My feeling about that is it's a kind of a non-optimal, silly way of expressing anxiety about where technology is going. The particular thing about it that isn't optimal is the way it talks about an end of human agency.

But it's a call for increased human agency, so in that sense maybe it's functional, but I want to go little deeper in it by proposing that the biggest threat of AI is probably the one that's due to AI not actually existing, to the idea being a fraud, or at least such a poorly constructed idea that it's phony. In other words, what I'm proposing is that if AI was a real thing, then it probably would be less of a threat to us than it is as a fake thing.

What do I mean by AI being a fake thing? That it adds a layer of religious thinking to what otherwise should be a technical field. Now, if we talk about the particular technical challenges that AI researchers might be interested in, we end up with something that sounds a little duller and makes a lot more sense.

For instance, we can talk about pattern classification. Can you get programs that recognize faces, that sort of thing? And that's a field where I've been active. I was the chief scientist of the company Google bought that got them into that particular game some time ago. And I love that stuff. It's a wonderful field, and it's been wonderfully useful.

But when you add to it this religious narrative that's a version of the Frankenstein myth, where you say well, but these things are all leading to a creation of life, and this life will be superior to us and will be dangerous ... when you do all of that, you create a series of negative consequences that undermine engineering practice, and also undermine scientific method, and also undermine the economy.

The problem I see isn't so much with the particular techniques, which I find fascinating and useful, and am very positive about, and should be explored more and developed, but the mythology around them which is destructive. I'm going to go through a couple of layers of how the mythology does harm...

Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, author, and composer. He is one of most celebrated technology writers in the world, and is known for charting a humanistic approach to technology appreciation and criticism. He was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2014. His book "Who Owns the Future?" won Harvard's Goldsmith Book Prize in 2014. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guy Fawkes Revisited

Remember, Remember... the 5th of November...

Many of you remember that line from the film: V for Vendetta. Before the phrase was made infamous in the 2006 Wachowski brothers film, it referred to Bonfire Night, celebrated in the UK. Here is a pertinent snippet from an earlier post...

"Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It marks the downfall of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, in London, United Kingdom. It is primarily marked in the United Kingdom where it was compulsory, by fiat, until 1859, to celebrate the deliverance of the King of Great Britain.

This day was also celebrated in the Colonies and was called "Pope's Day". It was the high point of 'anti-popery' (in the term of the times) in New England. In the 1730's or earlier Boston's artisans commemorated the day with a parade and performances which mocked Catholicism and the Catholic Stuart pretender. It was also the day when the youth and the lower class ruled. They went door to door collecting money from the affluent to finance feasting and drinking."

It seems fitting to remember the 5th of November... the day after election day... here in the US. The American media has been gorging on political punditry for several months... Although this spectacle was billed as a second-rate event... dismissed as mid-term elections... it has dominated the airwaves, none the less. Alas, poor Babylon.

Apparently, those ravenous, rascally republicans have "swept" the mid-terms... taking control of the US Senate, while retaining control of the US House of Representatives. They zealously did this, foaming at the jowls, to save the American public from the Affordable Care Act... from an obviously un-secure border and from "he who must not be xenophobically named" ...President Barack Obama. In other words, "We the People" need to be saved from ourselves. After all, if the government doesn't trust the people, they should dissolve them and elect a new people... Alas poor Babylon.

Not all went the way of the GOP, however... In the Pacific Northwest, Oregon became the third State in these United States to legalize Marijuana for recreational use. In the words of the most-reverend Bob Marley... "Excuse me while i light my spliff." Now cannabis, by virtue of Measure 91, allows production, processing, delivery, possession, sale of marijuana to adults, licensed, regulated by Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). The OLCC collects tax imposed on marijuana producers at different rates for marijuana flowers, leaves and immature plants.

Strange days have found us... Oregon joins Washington State and Colorado in legalizing Pot, while it remains an illegal and controlled substance in the eyes of the Feds. That seems a little schizophrenic to me... The Federal government should make up it's mind on the legalization of Marijuana. As for Washington State, Colorado and now Oregon... the people have spoken.

So now the Oregon State government, under the authority of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, will control and tax Ganja... Alas, poor Babylon.   

Sunday, October 26, 2014

All Hallow's Eve - 2014

As the darkness now draws near...
See the cycle of the year...
As the light now goes within...
Let the hallows dance begin!

Ancient Scotland & Samhain
To the ancient Celts, Samhain was seen as a time when the veil between our world and the Otherworld was thinnest. A time when the 'door' to the Realm of the Dead opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead clan & kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. As such, Samhain has been likened to a festival of the dead, held by many cultures throughout the world in honor or recognition of deceased members of the community.

During this interval the normal order of the universe is suspended, the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are temporarily removed, this side lies open and all divine beings and the spirits of the dead move freely among men and interfere sometimes maliciously, in their affairs"- (Celtic Mythology, p. 127)

Remember, Remember the 5th of November... Bonfire Night is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It marks the downfall of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, in London, United Kingdom.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore... 

A very happy All Hallow's Eve to one and all!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Fast-Track to Singularity

A small team of engineers at a stealth startup called Viv Labs claims to be on the verge of realizing an advanced form of AI that removes previous limitations of applications, such as Apple’s Siri. Whereas Siri can only perform tasks that Apple engineers explicitly implement, this new program, they say, will be able to teach itself, giving it almost limitless capabilities. In time, they assert, their creation will be able to use your personal preferences and a near-infinite web of connections to answer almost any query and perform almost any function.

For the past two years, the team has been working on Viv Labs' product -- also named Viv (after the Latin root meaning live). Their project has been draped in secrecy, but the few outsiders who have gotten a look speak about it in rapturous terms. "The vision is very significant," says Oren Etzioni, a renowned AI expert who heads the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. "If this team is successful, we are looking at the future of intelligent agents and a multibillion-dollar industry."

Like Siri, Google’s competing AI called “Google Now” can't do anything that coders haven't explicitly programmed it to do. Viv breaks through those constraints by generating its own code on the fly, no programmers required.

Viv is an open system that will let innumerable businesses and applications become part of its boundless brain. The technical barriers are minimal, requiring brief "training" (in some cases, minutes) for Viv to understand the jargon of the specific topic. As Viv's knowledge grows, so will its understanding; its creators have designed it based on three principles they call its "pillars": it will be taught by the world, it will know more than it is taught, and it will learn something every day. As with other AI products, that teaching involves using sophisticated algorithms to interpret the language and behaviour of people using the system -- the more people use it, the smarter it gets. By knowing who its users are and which services they interact with, Viv can sift through that vast trove of data and find new ways to connect and manipulate information.

- Written by Steven Levy.
This article was taken from the October 2014 issue of WIRED magazine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Singularity as Antichrist - Part 3

Welcome back to part three of our series "singularity as antichrist" wherein we are exploring the emerging mythology... the alchemical marriage... between technological singularity and Messianic Theology. Although we have examined the concept of messiah and Christ/Antichrist, through the lens of (ultra-violent) desert religions... many religions include a messianic component. The Buddhist Maitreya... the Hindu Kalki... the Zoroastrian Saoshyant... Many religions see the state of the world as hopelessly flawed beyond any aspiration of human rectification. As such, an eschatological intervention through a divinely prophesized messianic figure is seen as not only necessary, but immanent.

In our first installment, we investigated the hypothesis that the exponentially accelerating evolution of technologies such as artificial intelligence will soon cause machine intelligence to exceed that of the human. The emerging AI entity that brings about this epoch ending event will likely be a sentient network of technology, such as the World Wide Web. We further explored the “Big Three” desert religion’s preoccupation with the Messiah/Antichrist eschatology and overlaid this mythology upon technological singularity.

In part two, we toyed with the idea that computer science, as personified by Apple, Inc., metaphorically represented a continuation of humanity's theft of the knowledge of good and evil. This moment, as depicted in the Garden of Eden mythology, is the moment when humanity became conscious or self-aware, thereby separating humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. This allegorical moment represented the pivot point of human self-determination... freeing us from the superstitions of some angry god. It was this act of becoming self-conscious that precipitated our expulsion... more accurately, self-exile... from the garden.

And yet in today's Information Age... That age-old eschatological angst manifests once again in the modernized mythology of "geek rapture." Before we consider such... Consider the following mythology...

The Gods must be Crazy
Certain ancient Gnostic cosmologies depict a deranged, second-string deity known as the Demiurge… roughly equivalent to Jehovah or Yahwah... mistaking itself for the ultimate and unknowable creative, sustaining & returning force of universe (Godhead). In its derangement, Yahwah brings into existence a minor-league creation known as the "material world." The underlying nature of the manifest material world is dualistic... Yin/Yang, Light/Dark, Good/Evil, etc. Consequently, all that is within our materialistic world, shares this dualistic interplay of light and shadow.

Now, within this Gnostic mythology, Yahwah itself was brought into existence by a first-string entity known as "Sophia" (There are multiple Gnostic hierarchies of manifest emanations, known as Aeons, which are symbolic abstractions of godhead's divine nature. Aeons are typified as dualistic, male/female in nature... However, we will not expand upon this divine hierarchy here). Sophia is a feminine aspect of Godhead's emanating wisdom. To make a long and somewhat tedious story short, Sophia creates Yahwah without the "assistance" of her masculine balancing counterpart, Theletus. The male aspect Theletus (yang), and the female Sophia (yin), are mythic personifications of the specific aspects of Godhead that when combined, represent: "perfect" (Theletus) "wisdom" (Sophia).

The combined attributes of Theletus and Sophia... Perfect Wisdom... are not handed down to Yahwah, as Sophia acted alone in her creation. Hence the material world is an imperfect manifestation of an imperfect (the Gnostics maintain: deranged) entity... Yahwah. Thus the ancient Gnostics elegantly explain, through their mythology, why the world we live in seems at times to be so heartless, so full of pain and suffering, so brutal... so insane.

And so, with the creation of our imperfect world, a great disturbance came into "the force." Upon sensing this disturbance, Godhead, in its unfathomable wisdom, dispatches two great savior Aeons... The Holy Ghost (called Kundalini by the Hindus) and a great redeeming Jedi Christ. This Christ Aeon takes human form, thereby becoming the messiah. The messiah redeems our broken world by revealing Gnosis or knowledge to humanity, thereby saving us from Yehwah's folly.

As the Gnostics considered Yahwah, or the God of the Old Testament and the bible to be insane, one can see how this could "ruffle the feathers" of the early church fathers. It is not surprising that these teachings were deemed heretical, and the Gnostics were expelled from the early church as heretics. One more facet of interest needs to be mentioned concerning these ancient Gnostics...

Gnostic eschatology is rather unusual... for its depiction of the "end times" does not culminate in an Apocalyptic battle, but rather as a... "steady increase of light through which darkness is made to disappear" or in which iniquity (wickedness) dissolves... "just as the smoke rising into the air eventually dissipates." The Gnostic vision of redemption is simply a change in focus from folly to wisdom, and therefore righteousness. Heresy indeed.

Geek Rapture
During this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival which took place on Northwestern University’s campus, Sci Fi Author and reluctant father of cyberspace, William Gibson had this to say about the hullabaloo surrounding technological singularity… The Singularity, he said, is the Geek Rapture. The world will not change in that way. Like our gradual entrance into cyberspace, now complete enough that marking this world with a separate term seems quaint, Gibson said we will eventually find ourselves sitting on the other side of a whole bunch of cool hardware. But, he feels our belief that it will be a sudden, quasi-religious transformation is positively 4th century in its thinking.

So it is with the above in mind that we finally arrive at the reworked and modernized eschatology of technological singularity. It can be argued that singularity, when it arrives, will contain few of the technological nightmares that the over active human imagination can conjure. Nor will it likely usher in a golden, transhuman age. Singularity may trickle in, as Gibson seems to think. In fact, singularity may not look like anything we can imagine. As the old saying goes... the truth is far stranger than fiction.

In terms of human intelligence, singularity perhaps becomes a fulcrum point of equilibrium. The place... or perhaps the moment... when our artifacts become as consequential as our imagination. At the end of the day, technological eschatology is but a shadow. It is our worst fears that we place upon singularity, that tip the scale toward darkness. Likewise, it is our greatest hopes and aspirations that tip the balance toward the light. And isn't that what the Messiah/Antichrist mythology is all about …the balance of shadow and light? Our worst fears, hulking in the shadow, become the Antichrist... Our hopes and aspirations, basking in the light, become our savior.

It has been said that (hu)man created God in his own image. The fractured demiurge thereby looks suspiciously like the personification, told through the medium of a creation myth, of not only our archaic understandings of the inception of universe, but of our collective fear of the terrifying, carless workings of universe. In this new and improved geek rapture mythology, the new point-counterpoint becomes man vs machine. But if like God, we created machines in our own image, than the machine is our own reflection, made dark or light by our own imagination.

Like the Aeons of legend, humanity and technology increasingly become a counter-balancing expression of the inner and outer human condition. As to the eschatology of the geek rapture... the technological reckoning... we could take a page from the ancient Gnostic’s view of the apocalypse… Let us all pull together to create a technological singularity that facilitates that steady increase of light through which darkness is made to disappear. Let us co-create a future when iniquity dissolves... just as the smoke rising into the air eventually dissipates. 

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Open Internet Is Essential to a Free Internet: Why Net Neutrality Should Matter To Everyone!

Right now the FCC is considering a set of rules that would allow Internet providers to offer faster access to some websites that can afford to pay.  We need to stop them.

Let’s start with the obvious: The Internet is how we communicate and how we work, learn new things, and find out where to go and how to get there. It keeps us connected to those we love and informed of political events that affect our everyday lives.

At EFF, we have fought for almost 25 years to protect a free and open Internet.  We depend on the Internet for everything we do, from our efforts to reform broken copyright laws, to our ongoing battles to end the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance.  More fundamentally, we know that the open Internet makes possible not just our activism, but the work of many others around the world.

That’s why we’re fighting tooth and nail to defend a concept known as net neutrality. Net neutrality means that Internet providers should treat all data that travels over their networks equally, rather than slowing down or even blocking access to sites of their choosing.

Good net neutrality rules would forbid Internet providers from discriminating against sites that cannot afford to pay a toll for preferential treatment, or sites that are critical of Internet providers or undermine their business models.

Join us as we call on the FCC to do the right thing: treat all traffic that travels over the Internet equally. The Internet is our future. It’s how we communicate, innovate, and organize to better our world. Take action now, before it’s too late!

Note: This article originally appeared on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website. Complete article here.

The FCC has asked for public comment on new rules about net neutrality. Use the EFF's handy on-line form, found here, to contact the FCC & give them the direction they so desperately need! Do it today!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Singularity as Antichrist - Part 2

"Tudásszomj" by Sipos Ferenc.

Is technological singularity the long-anticipated, AI driven, yet zealously prophesized end of the world as we know it? Are we about to enter into a “rise of the machines” version of the apocalypse? Can an eschatological spin be put upon the human/machine dichotomy to suggest some messiah/antichrist geek rapture? …or is this just more of the same apocalyptic fever?

In our first installment, we investigated the hypothesis that the exponentially accelerating evolution of technologies such as artificial intelligence will soon cause non-human intelligence to exceed human intelligence. The singularity camp contends that when we reach this omega point… this timewave zero… circa: 2045ce… the human era ends. The emerging AI entity that brings about this epoch ending event will likely be a sentient network of technology, such as the World Wide Web.

We further explored the “Big Three” desert religion’s preoccupation with the Messiah/Antichrist eschatology and overlaid this mythology upon technological singularity. If singularity is indeed the event prophesized in the Old Testament and elsewhere, who or what would be the personification of this event? For entertainment’s sake, let us propose a symbolically potent candidate.

The Fruit of Knowledge
The Apple 1 computer went on sale in July, 1976. The initial units were hand-built by Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. Approx. 200 units were assembled in the first 10 months and were sold with a price tag of… $666.66 each. The original Apple Logo featured Sir Isaac Newton, the last great magician, sitting under the proverbial apple tree. Interestingly, in a manuscript he wrote in 1704, Newton describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible, wherein he estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

Newton’s eschatology aside, the broader connotation of the apple tree, is its association with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is, of course, the tree situated in the Garden of Eden, which, it turns out, is co-inhabited by that rascally old trickster, the serpent. After some spirited discourse, the serpent convinces Eve and Adam to eat the fruit of knowledge. This enrages the local Deity, Yahweh who sends down an Angel with a flaming sword to evict the impertinent first human couple.

And so out our mythical progenitors go… into the cold, hard world… to find their own way.

Almost immediately after introducing the Apple 1, Steve Jobs replaced the “Newton” logo with the rainbow apple. Those of you who know ancient Hebrew mythology will remember that the rainbow was sent to Adam’s direct descendant, Noah, as a sign that “never again” would his angry God destroy the Earth… but I digress.

As you know, the now-famous apple logo has a bite taken out of it. The bite out of apple’s logo signifies knowledge stolen from an angry and deranged God, as offered to humanity by the snake, or the old wisdom, which was entwined around the tree of life.

John Sculley, the executive of the Apple Company from 1983-93, was asked about his thoughts on the logo. He answered: "One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge bitten into… all crossed with the colors of rainbow in the wrong order. And you couldn't dream of more appropriate logo pointing (toward) lust, knowledge, hope and anarchy.”

Culture historian,Theodore Roszak made the point that the Apple Computers emerged, from within the west-coast counter culture. It is widely held that Steve Jobs was an “Acid Head” …in that he not only used LSD-25, he advocated it’s use for deep, personal processing and introspection.

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important… creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

- Steve Jobs

The Anthropologist, Jeremy Narby said in his book “The Cosmic Serpent” states that select plants, carefully prepared, communicate directly with humanity through imagery, feelings and language, during Ayahuasca ritual sessions. The hallucinogenic thorn apples, the fruit of the Datura Plant, might be the real fruit from the 'Tree of Knowledge', from the Garden of Eden mythology. He further stated that the hallucinogenic drug has a long history of getting the user in contact with the Cosmic Serpent.

Eight Circuits
But more interestingly, let us the look at the stolen bite… or more significantly, the byte… in the Apple's Logo…

The byte is a unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer.

8 (Eight) bits… equates to one binary digit, which can be used to represent… two states of information...


The more bytes, more intelligence, the more information you can store or process faster.

Thus does the Byte of intelligence align with the ancient “law of eights” as illustrated in everything from the musical octave, the i-ching’s eight bagua, to Dr. Leary’s Leary’s Eight Circuits of Consciousness. In this way, computer science, through its smallest symbol of communication, aligns with humanity’s most ancient eight-fold quest for knowledge. Computers become the most recent artifacts of intelligence.

The binary nature of ignorance/knowledge… on/off… yin/yang… good vs evil… brings us back to the topic at hand… Singularity as Antichrist. Humanity’s original sin has progressed, as told through the medium of myth, from the Garden to technology run-amok. It is the same fear of the snake that invokes dread in “the coming” of technological singularity.

No single tech company can better represent the current state of humanity’s technological advances, than Apple, Inc. Apple is the epitome, the apex of human’s quest for knowledge… technologically, culturally and symbolically. Nobody does it better than Apple… the “Prometheus” of the tech world.

What does all of this have to do with the Antichrist? I don’t know… yet. I’ll have to ponder these questions for a... bit. In our next installment, we will more fully examine how computers, as an artifact of humanity, could be equated with ancient prophecy. Stay (i) tuned.

Note: Much of the material herein was inspired by and taken from materials presented by  vishanth V Panakkal

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Singularity as Antichrist - Part 1

So our old friend Technological Singularity continues to be of eschatological interest here at tek-gnostics. It was the Godfather’s Michael Corleone who said… “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Like a bad penny, singularity rears its cybernetic head once again. We have examined singularity from the perspective of pop culture, as well as from more esoteric points of view. From an earlier post

Like religion, singularity inspires a sense of foreboding among the partially informed. People read an excerpt from Vernor Vinge discussing the end of the human era and think… oh my god… apocalypse now!!! The concept of apocalypse has been with us as far back as human history goes… and will continue to be part of our collective psyche as evidenced by the singularity concept itself. The end will always be near. Once we find our way past the singularity event horizon, we will be anticipating the next post-singularity event, and so on, ad infinitum.

As we had further pointed out in that post, “Riding along-side apocalypse is the companion horseman known as Armageddon. Many religious sects believe in a last battle between good and evil, at… or as a result… of apocalypse. The final conflict is known as Armageddon or the end-time.”  The big three desert religions (Judaism, Christianity & Islam) all contain very colorful depictions of "end-times prophecy" including a final, global, redemptive war.

In those mythologies, the personification of good is often described as the Messiah or savior, who, it was prophesized, would liberate the chosen few in those end-times. The Messiah’s figurative twin, the accompanying personification of evil, is likewise depicted as the false messiah or Antichrist.

In an exceedingly interesting exchange of ideas, over at one of our favorite blogs: Groupname for Grapejuice, a comment was posted by (that rascally persona) anonymous, stating that:

“I just wanted to bring up something I've been thinking about and I thought if anyone would be able to find a deeper revelation to it, it would be you.” (here “anonymous is speaking to Znore, the blog’s author and moderator – Ed) “You've mentioned before about the giant baby face that was displayed at the London Olympics, and the idea that it was representing the Antichrist, or preferably, the son of perdition being born in 2012. The common belief is that Yeshua was 33 years old when He was crucified (which is not stated in the Bible and is obviously an esoteric number). Also according to popular belief, the Antichrist is supposed to be similar to Yeshua, as represented by the White Horse in Revelation (again something I don't believe, but is strongly held by a large majority of "Christians"). Anyways, 33 years after 2012 is 2045, Ray Kurzweil's sacred year of the singularity. And of course 2+4+5=11, another esoteric number. Revelation 13:15 says "And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." That sounds a lot like some sort of artificial intelligence to me.”

Wicked, right? So… The technological singularity camp declares that when we reach that moment… (approx. 2045, CE) the human era ends. The emerging AI entity will likely be a sentient network of technology, such as the World Wide Web 2.0

 …So putting an eschatological spin on technological singularity… the Messiah is considered as the archetypical man, the redeemer or Christ figure. A sentient AI or computer network would be about as opposite as you can get from the redeemer. This non-human intelligence thus becomes the false messiah or Antichrist. This tech-driven prophecy certainly puts a new face on fundamentalist Eschatology. The rise of artificial sentience as antichrist, conjures vivid man vs machine imagery, ala the Terminator franchise.

Some contend that messiah and antichrist are two aspects of the same phenomenon. Light vs darkness… yin vs yang. In this regard, AI or non-human intelligence counter-balances human or biological intelligence.

Or is this just more of the same apocalyptic fever?

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this most fascinating of topics. Please add your opinion using the comments feature at the bottom of this post…

You can review our exploits concerning singularity HERE

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3