Something not many people will have known before now but I've always been very active in the cursor & icon community, dating way back to the early 1990s. I can still remember the first time I downloaded Microsoft's neat little cursor & icon creation/editing software suite imagedit & aniedit which sadly doesn't really run anymore even with legacy emulation on Windows 7. With those two programs you could create your own 'official' custom icons & cursors for windows, aniedit even let you make animated cursors frame by frame. 32 X 32 pixels, 16 colors, that was your canvas, that was your pallet. That was back in the day, the golden age of personal computing before everything went to shit. Nowadays icons & cursors are whatever the fuck you want them to be, there's no artistry anymore just a bunch of bullshit effects.
If you go back and look at the icons & cursors that came with Windows up to XP many of them were genuine masterpieces of information density. Within those 1024 pixels a real designer could communicate just about any concept. The restrictions imposed by both the technological limitations and the square aspect of the pixels themselves pushed creativity and visual resourcefulness to its limits. It sounds ridiculous now but there were people who actually got paid good money just to design icons & cursors like it was a mission-critical job lol. Anyway all that is just backstory, I only bring this up because I started this strange tradition where every year I'd design a new set of default cursors & icons for Windows. My last seminal release was in 2008. I pretty much stopped then because I felt like I'd reached perfection. I mean I'd probably been doing this for almost ten years. Some years my sets were just whimsical and for novelty value like "YOSHI" (inspired by the SNES game Yoshi's Island which I never even played but loved the art style of) which was surprisingly utilitarian for being so messy.
All my work had essentially culminated in a set I had titled "VECTOR" which was a reference to the ancient Mac game Spectre VR. Clear primary colors in a stoplight scheme, primal geometry, extreme visibility, maximal utilization of space, it was designed with pure utility in mind but also possessed a fundamental beauty thanks to the harsh elegance of its aesthetic. I used this set literally for years, but it had one gigantic flaw. There is this one thing I have always done, which is to leave my cursor hovering directly over where I am typing in just about every text field. Countless times over the years I have ended up wondering if the text hidden underneath the cursor is typed correctly. There was never really any ideal solution to this problem. Windows even has a setting for this problem 'hide cursor while typing' but it never really worked right. Transparency & inversion were always options but often caused complications due to their dynamic visibility. Always I was drawn to continue working within the 32^2 16 color framework that I had come to love.
Flash forward to 2014, 6 years later I revisited VECTOR one last time, determined to solve this problem once and for all. I also intended to make various fine tweaks to the entire set. It feels great to say that while I made a lot of improvements I now know in my heart that it will never be finished. Always there are subtle flaws doubtlessly originating at the quantum level. Still I believe it is a little better than the 2008 version, so without further preamble I present "VECTOR2014" to my visitors as a free download. Just think of it as a little nostalgic Christmas gift that you might find useful. The picture is kind of useless since the main body of each cursor (excepting Alternate Select) uses 'inverse' pixels. For those who don't know these are basically fully transparent pixels that display as the reverse color of whatever pixel they are covering. While sometimes hard to see (especially on RGB 128, 128, 128 lol), on average inverse pixels are more visible than any one color and provide the additional advantage of never blocking the pixels they are mathematically overlapping.
Status indicators are still present, if less obvious, rather than the entire cursor, which was admittedly a bit heavy handed, they have been reduced to a single color dot which incidentally makes a nice symbolic pointer stem. So far I've found this new schema to be quite amenable. It's no less visible than its predecessor, the dots work just fine for displaying their respective states and even make the cursors easy to find on almost any background. All the other improvements I made also seem to make the set more visually & usably effective overall. Cursors & Icons have come a long way since the 90s, but intrinsically the qualities that made them good or bad have not really changed at all. The cursors & icons that come with Windows 7 are shit, Windows 8's are worse, Windows 10 has not made any real improvements. Even if you don't use my set, I strongly recommend changing the defaults to something that's not such crap. This will probably be my last substantial post for 2014, I think it's a good way to end the year. See you in 2015! Neotoy out.
Honestly I hate 'year in review' things. Fuck 'em. I will say this though, 2014 was/is a key year for me. I think I've made more changes and learned more as a person in this year than probably in the last ten. I think the most important thing I learned all year was to finally realize that the best way to sort all the information in my life was to group it by year. Mail, bookmarks, images, artwork, writing, etc. Both real and virtual. Not only does this create a nice manageable package, it also creates a kind of time-capsule for that period in my life. My only regret is that it took me 35 years to understand how perfect and versatile this system truly is, and 35 years to put it into practice. Moving forward my life will now be organized on an entirely different level than in the past, I have already started reaping the benefits even though I just began this year. This alludes to one of my favorite maxims of all time: When is the best time to plant a tree if not 30 years ago? The answer is: Today. Incidentally I planted my first actual tree in 2014.
Neotoy itself has made a lot of progress in 2014, maps, architecture, guidelines, assets. The city-planet has never been more clearly defined. I almost feel as though were I to die today, someone could probably finish my life's work from my notes alone. Even though I doubt anyone ever would, it is still a good feeling to have come this far. If I have one resolution for 2015 it is to spend more and more time working on neotoy. My short-term goal is really to get it to the proof-of-concept phase, where I can actually begin to build small scale environments that are totally derived from my research. Creating those in a virtual world will establish a model that other people can explore. I believe that this is all it will take to introduce the neotonian aesthetic into the real world. As VR & AR gain traction the inherent pragmatism of my designs will be revealed through their use. If they truly have merit I think it's only a matter of time before they migrate to the material plane. I've been living in the distant future for a very long while, I only hope that it manages to catch up to me in my lifetime.
Of course not everything is good news, the future looks pretty dim right now, on both a personal and ecological front. Still I did have an epiphany the other day when I realized that it's impossible to say that the human race is doing nothing to prevent the apocalypse. The truth is 'we' are doing quite a lot, in virtually every field. Given the enormous pressure to sustain the culture of nihilism generated by commercialism and industrialization, this is a miraculous feat that gives me a great deal of hope. Even if the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against us, even if the numbers all but ensure annihilation; good people are still fighting, still striving to do what is ultimately right. No one can deny this. It is not a one-sided battle. The fate of humanity is not sealed. The probability of our continued existence is not zero. I struggle to keep this in mind on a daily basis, since it is so easy to succumb to feelings of futility. There are ways of living within the context of the modern world that oppose the predominant human psychosis.
Science has made great strides in 2014, as always it feels as though we're living on the cusp of a great societal transformation that never seems to come. Just like the totalitarian surveillance state that always seems right around the corner. I predict a dramatic convergence of these twin forces, along with a third which is represented by the probable collapse of the ecosystem. But that is not actually scheduled until 2017, so we have at least 2-3 more years of biting our nails before all hell possibly breaks loose. Me personally, I have another 12 months before I run out of money and either end up homeless or dead. Given what the last 35 years have been like I'm having a lot of trouble even comprehending what that means. My existential crisis continues to drag its feet and I honestly have no idea why I'm alive or if being alive means anything beyond itself. Ironically that's not as horrifying as it sounds, I actually feel comforted by this fact; my catch phrase of choice for everything has become "No One Knows." and I stand by it.
Oh, one final thing I forgot to mention before I sign off. Another revelation I experienced the other day, a piece of the puzzle fitting neatly into place, from the neotoy origin dream. That girl I rescued, I think she was autistic! When I had that dream, I didn't even know that autism existed, but looking back it seems to make perfect sense. She seemed to live in another world psychologically, she was abandoned by her family, she had very abnormal verbal skills. Extremely high intelligence, I would characterize as savant, but basically unable to communicate normally. Total unawareness of danger coupled with a benign passivity, inability to make eye contact. The more I thought about it, comparing what I remembered of the 'vision', the more I began to believe that there was no doubt. In the near future an extreme portion of the population will be autistic, it's up 600% year to date, half of all US children will be on the spectrum by 2050 2025. Pretty obvious how this will play out, we're going to end up with autistic families with autistic children. She is almost certainly one of those kids.
People think autism is a threat, a disorder. That's true in a sense, but it's wrong to think that autistic kids can't normally survive in this world, they just need to be taken out of the toxic and intrinsically suicidal urban environment. They are basically animalized humans, as such they are perfectly suited to live in nature, in fact their psychology makes them better adapted to living in nature than conventional humans. In my dream I was taking this girl away from the dead city and back into living nature, to some kind of place that was powered by ecology rather than industry. As someone who is on the autism spectrum yet is atypically high-functioning I can see this very clearly from both sides, fundamentally I understand autism in ways that neurotypicals cannot, and I understand neurotypicals in ways that autistic people never will. I think this was a good solution and probably the right thing to do. As autism becomes increasingly prevalent it's going to become painfully clear just how untenable industrial urbanization truly is.
The bucko stood, expression impassive, eyes piercing for a long minute that stretched on and on until Lauren was uncertain that they had ever spoken. Perhaps they had just been standing there for hours, facing each other silently. Oddly enough the otter did not feel as though her tension was increasing, rather the calm indifference they shared merely seemed to intensify the tranquility of their surroundings. The golden wheat continued to rustle and glow, the soft short grass under Lauren's feet threaded its way luxuriously between her toes, she found herself growing sleepy but did not lower her eyes. The bucko's antlers shifted, a slight shake that read as a nod. "I will carry you to the end of the earth." It murmured, eyes returning to a softer unfocused gaze that almost made him look stupid. "The way is long. And sometimes... difficult." It smiled, reassuringly, brilliantly.
Lauren found herself once again trembling with surprise. She had sighted the buckos from afar many times on her various expeditions, but had never imagined that they might be capable of this level of expressiveness. It seemed almost perpetually beguiling. "But... I have always ventured it alone before today, perhaps with two our troubles will find themselves considerably reduced." He paused again, Lauren had the feeling that he was waiting this time for some response from her. "I..." She struggled with the unfamiliar nominal, typically only used in the most formal and intimate settings. "Haf trafeled before." Her words temporarily corrupted by the river-speech with which she was far more familiar and fluent. The bucko chuckled, although it sounded more like a snort than a laugh. "So you have." It replied, smiling gently. "But never quite like this." He added, cryptically.
Seeming to bow the bucko lowered his head, his antlers swooping towards the ground with unsettling speed and grace, stopping a hair's width above the highest blade of grass no more than a pace in front of Lauren's feet. The tips of his antlers were not round or blunt, but rather honed to an almost terrifying sharpness, although strangely they did not appear as fangs or spears, but rather like crystals that came naturally to a point, bereft of malice. "Doubtless you have climbed into the branches of a tree. You will find ample purchase at the base of my carriage, your clever paws will have no trouble. You will ride like a queen high above the ground, surrounded by the open sky." Inexplicably Lauren found herself chortling hysterically at his words even as she gleefully scampered up into the thicket of bone that crowned the bucko's massive coffee-colored head.
"WuuuuShhhuuukkuuunNOoOoOooooo." Raising it's head skyward, antlers stabbing backwards gracefully along both flanks, nearly stabbing into the moist earth, the bucko erupted with a guttural yet piercing call that echoed ethereally throughout the emptiness even as the final haunting notes faded away into the mist. Lauren stood trembling, temporarily awestruck by its majesty. The mysterious beast lowered its head once again, meeting her eyes levelly. They were like large slightly dark aquamarine marbles, glassy but sparkling with inscrutable intelligence. The bucko had followed a curious if not compelling melody over the great planes and through the aromatic fields, finally cresting the organic wall of golden wheat that marked the border of the river region. He had not been surprised by the sight of a diminutive otter standing on her hind legs, waiting it seemed for something. "She is the reason I'm here." it mused. Truly there could be no other logical explanation, their meeting was far too unusual to be a coincidence. Otters where not known for standing still, and the water was their domain. The bucko was no stranger to such creatures but he was familiar with their ways, the 'river dogs' as he thought of them internally, kept mostly to themselves.
Stepping forward to emerge fully from the shimmering wheat, the bucko lowered its head to give the otter a delicate sniff. "You called and I came." It rumbled with perfect elocution. Lauren who was not accustomed to finding herself speechless struggled to find the right words in the presence of this massive and somewhat intimidating creature. "Name, Lauren." she squeaked, momentarily clasping her hands with surprise, her voice had sounded so shrill and unfamiliar. She cleared her throat and blinked, determined to regain her composure, the bucko waited patiently as though everything were proceeding according to plan, surprisingly it had a calming effect on the otter's frazzled nerves. "Ocean far away, but must go, great adventure, please help. Otterfriend for life." It was not the most eloquent thing she'd ever said, but it would do.
Key events to avoid human extinction in the 21st century: The word "massive " indicates ≥80%. Hover over the links, but do not click them.
1Q Meat consumption & agriculture in general, massive cuts. Must coincide with 2A & 3A.
1A Agriculture replaced with permaculture, and possibly aeroponics. Diets become mainly vegetable-based. Cannot happen without 2A, 11A conjunction. Being able to eat is a human right. Nationalization may once again be an option.
11Q Water use & abuse needs massive cuts, this cannot happen without 12A.
11A Water conservation and elimination of waste can double availability, desalination is also a great idea IMO. Needs 12A, 6A, 7A to succeed. Being able to drink clean water is a human right. Nationalization should be considered.
12Q Education system is horrible, teaches the wrong things, teaches them badly, is basically designed to facilitate 10A.
12A Like 6A this is utterly pivotal, a unified solid & concise message is also essential. Nationalization once again is probably the only option at the current scale. Kids must be taught critical thinking and to reject pretty much everything that is worshiped and celebrated today. For better or worse, science must be central to the curriculum. Consider possibly merging 12A with 6A since these are both so integral to all goals.
7Q Military must be downsized dramatically. Certain corporate entities must be downsized dramatically. This is conjunctive with 2A, 10A.
7A Decisive utterly devastating strikes or alternately severe isolationism.
2Q Fossil fuels, massive cuts. Must coincide with 17A, 9A, 13A, 1A, 10A. Energy use in general massive cuts.
2A Energy shift to "renewable", solar is obviously ideal or if that is just not good enough something like "safe" fusion. Requires 6A & 12A to trigger the shift. Electricity isn't a human right but in the modern world it probably should be considered one, therefore nationalization needs to be considered once again.
17Q Transportation, Cars, Trucks, Highways slash Freeways are impractical both as what they are and how they are maintained, in general anything totally reliant on 2Q must go.
17A Transportation infrastructure massive overhaul, transitionally shifting towards mass transit, rail, buss, etc. vs. personal transit. This requires structural changes to society, specifically areas that cannot be serviced by personal transit, see 9A. But this is perhaps temporary as personal transit production facilities are upgraded to EV in conjunction with 2A? No, even then roads are just not ecologically sustainable. Some new airborne mass-transit vehicle is the only option. This is a logistical nightmare, but there is obviously a need here. 13Q just keeps rearing its ugly head.
3Q Population growth, massive cuts.
3A Birth control must become default rather than burdensome, but still not mandatory. Must coincide with 5A, 13A.
5Q The extreme deficit in women's rights is crippling every aspect of civilization.
5A Equally extreme push back, women need to unite and (violently if necessary) wrest back their birthright as equal partners in society.
6Q Media & communications must be transformed quicker than anything else. A unified rock-solid & reasonable message is essential.
6A Nationalization, centralization, I just cannot see any other alternative, even though this practically invites fascism. 13Q is the key problem here, there are just too many people to reach via multiple channels. Internet is not a human right but in the modern world it probably should be thought of as such, just like electricity. Nationalization makes more and more sense.
8Q Politics & Bureaucracy are too slow, stupid & prone to corruption to be effective given the undeniable ecological crisis.
8A Pseudo-Totalitarianism via computer slash robot. I wish I was joking. Maybe there is some way for people to elect AIs? Although they would clearly just be slowing them down. Admittedly this is the obvious solution to the problem given their proficiency at crunching numbers which is the primary function of these systems, and according to recent polls people are actually fairly receptive to the idea.
This section requires a much closer examination since practically everything has been nationalized by this point, pretty much every mission critical aspect of civilization falls under the control of this massive "governmental" umbrella. It is undoubtedly a fascism at this point if humans call all the shots, unless computers really have been given control somehow. I don't see how a fascist dystopia can be avoided. Then again, there is no guarantee that a computer controlled civilization would not in fact be a fascist dystopia several times worse than what humans alone would produce. That being said this is the only answer one can give to conservatives that they will find acceptable in any way, since nationalism is synonymous with socialism slash communism in their minds. As long as people are not directly in charge a robofascism might be interpreted as palatable.
9Q Property & Housing is super-fucked up, the market is insane, some people are forced to sleep on the street, the rest are left chasing some retarded dream of ownership. Morally reprehensible on every level.
9A If like 6A nationalization is the only way, then so be it. Fascism is almost assured thanks to 6A, 10A & 9A but what can you do? Without culling massive numbers of people what other option is there? Homelessness is unacceptable. Everyone needs a place to live, rent free, this is non-negotiable. 10Q & 8Q prevents this and must be changed first, or in conjunction. Shelter is a human right.
10Q Economics is probably the single most destructive force on earth right now. The whole system is fundamentally flawed.
10A Like 6A, nationalization seems like the only effective strategy, fascism is again courted. Money must be based on ecological well-being & highly localized, creation of debt & interest must both be illegal.
13Q Scale is fucking everyone in the ass with an exploding cactus. Let's face the facts, I don't think any of these solutions are possible given the current scale.
13A Decentralization is probably the only real solution to this, however as you'll note this directly undermines 6A, 9A, 10A, 12A, etc. We have a primal conflict in nationalization vs. decentralization. The core toxin in every individual element is scale itself, decentralization is only truly practical when scale is relatively small, hence 3A is critical, 5A is critical.
14Q Culture is monotoned and dominated by socioeconomic hegemony, the patriarchy, systemic endemic racism, god it's ugly, this is a crime against humanity.
14A We don't need to force the production of anything, rather just prevent entities from aggressively forwarding and obsessing over their pet cultures. Must happen in conjunction with 6A, 5A. This can be done fairly easily with a single law that restricts the repetition of broad cultural themes in a given time period. A beneficial side-effect is that this does somewhat force originality.
15Q Religion will always be undermining all of the above, it is a distraction, a detriment and also thankfully mostly a negligible threat.
15A Just let it die out hopefully, utilize 6A & 12A to prevent the formation of new religions.
16Q Sanitation, Healthcare, Technology, Mining, Fishing, Hunting, misc. services. Etc.
16A Might as well just nationalize everything, thanks to our good friend 13Q we are totally fucked as a grossly overextended over-industrialized civilization. Only way to eliminate all the bad, totally intolerable, aspects of the equation is to flatten all the peaks and shovel the gross excess into the deepest, darkest pits of humanity. We are left with a much narrower yet leveler band of existence. Sustainability is greatly elevated while opportunity is greatly restricted. In the final analysis I find myself slightly less discouraged by this outcome because it makes the prospect of extinction seem almost desirable by comparison. The only thing worse than wholesale failure is realizing you failed and then ruining everything good about the world just to survive. Fuck that. Fuck this entire scenario. Let's all die spectacularly instead.
In summary even my best-case optimism-drenched scenario (I tried, I really did) is some kind of fascist dystopia, you're welcome.
I thought I'd do something totally out of character and write a diametric scenario where everything goes right, pushing my predictive powers to their absolute limit. Imagine that the horrible anthropocentric cataclysm doesn't happen, that humanity pulls a 180, how would this look? You're about to find out!
The burgeoning planetary apocalypse can only end in one place, where it all started: consciousness, specifically the hearts and minds of the masses. It begins in the littlest of ways, random people all over the world being to notice that 'something isn't right'. The weather, the air, the water, the world. Ordinary people begin to feel it in their bones, then they start talking among themselves. Quietly at first, but slowly over a period of several years their voices become louder and louder, hundreds, thousands then millions join the heavily diffracted discussion. They are all united by the similarity of their observations and their growing suspicion that very bad things are on the horizon. This is the key point, the critical hard fork, the crossroads where civilization either chooses to live or chooses to die.
In all fairness, humans are not totally stupid even as a mostly mindless collective. For at least half a century the population as a whole has been exposed to the chronic and frequent bad decisions made by our species. No one on earth is a stranger to pollution, or the knowledge of industrial accidents. Scientists and smart people in general have been clearly outlining and alerting the public to the dangers and disasters predicated by industrialism for decades. This is not a debatable thing to the mainstream, even in an environment where gullible morons gobble up the lies of climate change denialists, the average Joe can't write off oil spills or reactor melt-downs as a conspiracy theory. This body of evidence constitutes a crushing weight hanging over the soft exposed neck of industrialism like the biggest executioners axe in human history.
The mob mentality is inevitable, it's one of the few things that human beings can't breed or civilize out of themselves. For good or ill, mankind will be looking for a target, a scapegoat. Try as they might, the largest corporations protected by the most brilliant PR & marketing firms in the known universe won't be able to compete with hundreds of millions of people whispering behind their backs. To be honest, there is no way to spin or shape this growing unease that spans the globe, not when a finger has been pointing at the most obvious perpetrator for generations. The knowledge of who to blame is practically inbred. Alternately the only other thing to blame is the self, no one is going to choose to blame themselves over a convenient time-honored boogeyman. The grumbling will begin, as it already has. The resentment will start building itself into a battering ram.
The world's corporations, the figureheads of industrialism, have already done all they can to misdirect and whitewash the undeniable links tying them to this great unease, as countless and radiant as the stars themselves. No one is going to care or buy their "green" lies. As many as can will literally stop buying, retracting their financial support being the weakest and most petulant brand of symbolic censure. This will pacify them for a little while, but it will not get results, the unease will not diminish. The smartest segment of each population, the extreme minority, will be busy doing whatever it can to decouple from the centralized industrial-economic behemoth. These small rebellious cells will grow, but they will never be enough, they can never supplant the continent spanning machinery that keeps billions of lights on and people alive day to day.
So we have to look to a higher level, all that churning angst has to go somewhere, naturally it rises. The restructuring of civilization has begun. The cells mentioned earlier have gained critical mass, while they can do little on their own they have triggered an intellectual chain-reaction that propagates upward and downward. The masses recognize the seeds of solution present in these cells while the administrative echelons are drawn towards them to escape the growing social pressure surrounding them on all sides. It has become clear that token gestures cannot defuse a systemic infection, going 'green' just isn't good enough. One by one the corporate leaders begin the painful restructuring necessary to become blameless. Overnight industrialists have gone from circle-jerking to back-stabbing. The worst offenders are slaughtered outright.
After the smoke clears many much smaller entities remain. Some laws have been rewritten. Specifically: the size of everything is now severely limited, super-scale has been superseded by decentralization, compartmentalization. Imports have become extremely restricted, only 100% verifiably sustainable sources are allowed. Government has been directed to assist with several key nationalization transitions: banks, utilities: water, power, communications (including media), agriculture and housing. From a heavily deconstructed state these entities are rapidly and sectionally rebuilt using state sanctioned techniques derived from scientifically verified sustainability cells. In a single decade all power is transitioned to renewable, all agriculture is now permaculture, all housing is now public housing.
As promised, another graphic design artifact from the anime World Trigger. To be honest I was a little disappointed when I finished this. It's strange but when you recreate things, you begin to understand the original designer's intent and thought process a little. The shoulder patch is not as coherent as the main logo, several elements just seem random and pointless without any significance whatsoever. That would be fine normally but they actually seem to detract from the impact of the design, making it look sloppy rather than authoritative (as you would expect from military paraphernalia).
While less dynamic, I found the patch to be much harder to replicate, it took at least an hour. Something I forgot to mention yesterday, just a few points of minutia. The main logo uses the classic 1937 Stencil font for the "BORDER" text. While it positively reeks of the military thanks to a long-lived association, it also possesses a kind of whimsical elegance reminiscent of comic sans. The additional text is some variant of Times New Roman (bold). It's so similar I just used TNR instead of bothering to track down the actual font used. I doubt anyone but me would notice. As for the patch, the "BORDER" text is in Impact this time. Seriously one of my favorite fonts of all time, and a much better choice for the organization IMO due to its contemporary, perhaps even modern / futuristic (if somewhat bleak / stark) presence.
My favorite anime so far this season is World Trigger, apparently I'm shōnen all the way or something because I always end up liking these kiddie shows better than the more adult shows. Although in all fairness I'm enjoying Terra Formars & Parasyte - the maxim almost as much. It's always the extreme violence that ends up turning me off and thankfully shōnen is about as non-violent as anime ever gets.
Right away I found myself attracted to the iconography in World Trigger, the Border logo, the badges & military insignia, it's all really cool. When I see cool graphic design I like to recreate it for my own purposes, hence this SVG version of Border's main logo which I recreated as a little weekend project. Feel free to use it at your discretion. I plan to do a bunch of the other regalia when I have time.
Grrrrugh! Feel so powerless right now. Geometry is so deceptively simple, and paradoxically it seems like the less vectors in play the more challenging it is to completely resolve structures that initially appear straightforward. I build with triangles, and this could be considered a school of design defined by trigonometry. However, the level at which my structures operate requires yet another magnitude of multidimensional integrity. Anyone can build shit out of triangles, they fit together so nicely, but the difference between a haphazard stack of triangles and a structurally optimal stack is like six hours of grueling trial and error. Trigonometry does not even begin to cover it.
The diagram above details the first process necessary to generate a 2D trioptimal plane. As you can see none of the dimensions are arbitrary, they are effectively fractal. This is consistent throughout Neotonian architecture, none of the dimensions are arbitrary, even when the structure enters the 3D space, the "Z" dimensions are derived from the X & Y, it is a proportion or some kind of trigonometric factor of the base unit. Just like crystals forming organically in nature, Neotonian buildings are constructed in a similar procedural way that exploits the structural unity of their inherent geometry to "grow" and "evolve" the structure from a primal seed. This ensures that each build is "trioptimal".
Trioptimal is a term I created to define these very specific structural conditions that can be summarized as follows:
1. There are no arbitrary dimensions, structure is 100% fractal.
2. Absolute minimum number of nodes to create desired structure.
3. Absolute maximum structural integrity using available nodes.
4. Redundancy & fault tolerance is 2/3 of structural mass.
Obviously this demands that every single structural node is placed geometrically 3 dimensionally ideally in relation to all others, not only to minimize the number of nodes but to ensure that structural integrity is not only achieved but exceeded to the degree that 2/3 of the structure could be destroyed before collapse is imminent. Thankfully this is not as hard as it sounds since following rules 1-3 virtually ensures that rule 4 will be met easily. In the rare instances that rule 4 is somehow not met due to the often unintuitive function of the structure, rules 1-3 are scaled up proportionally until all 4 qualifications are fulfilled.
What you might call the "X Factor" above and beyond the essential physical properties of the architecture are defined by the human element. Because it is not enough just to create a prefect structure, the build has a purpose, a function. It's safe to say that the ultimate reason for these things to exist is, as has been previously stated in another post; to allow open space to reach its full potential, specifically in relation to all the living things that also share the space. This creates an additional, somewhat optional, criteria for optimality. Funny enough the very first guidelines I ever drafted for Neotonian architecture engendered these special qualities: "no hard edges" for example.
Angles ≤90° are not optimal. Ideally ≥45° is the optimal range, this includes outer and inner angles. Although since the schema is triangle based, 15°, 30°, 60°, 120°, 240° are all 'optimal' assuming they are located in 'human' and 'energy' friendly areas. Essentially the point of the restriction is to protect soft mobile organisms from injuring themselves or experiencing acute stress through contact with sharp edges. Likewise, the flow of ambient energy including light, sound, air & water can all be impacted adversely by specific bad angles in bad places. Which is why the structure cannot be considered truly trioptimal until these factors are also addressed.
There is this theory in research that eventually you have a breakthrough and some amazing world altering revelation comes out of that. But what if you just keep doing research and you never have a breakthrough? That is what I keep wondering as I continue to build my city. To be fair I've already experienced a significant number of small revelations that have certainly changed my psychology. This effect is further amplified by the divergent realizations spawned by my ordinary thought process. It's funny but I find these two paradigms constantly butting heads. Neotoy is contrived, its validity is dubious bordering on ridiculous, even as I learn new things about the natural world that force me to question the value of every idea I've ever had. The reason that it seems like such a surprise, like such an ambush is because when it comes to ideas they are either good or bad at the very moment of conception but this is not obvious, while cognition and realization tends to happen a chronological eternity after the fact.
Oh, so you designed the perfect support column? You just built an amazing building on top of it? People are living inside it, an entire culture has formed around it? What's that, you just discovered that building above ground was actually a terrible idea? The last 30 years of your life were wasted? Five million people are now going to be homeless? That basically sums up the hubris of urban planning. This introduces the bigger question about work in general, people even societies work under the impression that their plans are sound, that their effort is not being wasted, or worse causing them harm. Hypothetically say a society is causing itself harm, even while wasting an incalculable quantity of resources in the process, maybe that's really okay. There's no rule that says all ideas must be good or that societies should always succeed. What is the true value of that moment in time of that culture and the things it creates? If the value of everything is zero then a society cannot be measured in terms of good ideas or success.
Just like everything in this world, things don't have innate value so we end up with different groups of people trying to decide and decree what each thing is worth. Their evaluations are worthless in any context besides humanity, and even then sometimes certain groups of people reject the very concept of evaluation. On the black market a human heart has a relative yet significant value, while many people would insist that a human heart isn't something that should be bought or sold. This is just further proof that human values are bullshit. Of course the heart isn't intrinsically worth anything aside from absolute calories, that would be insane. It is only within the context of our insane human society that things take on multiple layered meanings and hence arbitrary values. Given that society is insane, given that the value of everything is zero, human context practically demands that work is equally capricious, that success is secondary to whatever society decides is significant, regardless of how nihilistic or inane it happens to be.
In light of this, the most human thing you can possibly do is chase after your dreams regardless of the consequences. Of course if everyone did this there's little doubt that our species would have gone extinct a very long time ago. The fact is an insanely large portion of the population simply dreams of moving along with the rest of the pack. I think it's fair to label those people as animals but to also recognize that without them the human race would cease to exist. Clearly it's a love-hate relationship. What I'm getting at is this: if you have a dream, even if that dream is insane or destructive, it is not better or worse than having no dream at all. People will judge you at some point, place an arbitrary number on your existence and your contributions to whatever the fuck society is supposed to be, but they have no authority, no legitimacy. Their ideas are no better than your ideas and that extends to every area of conceptualization. Success is no more or less meaningful than failure.
That value was ever created, or that success and failure were ever defined is just the embodiment of the pack mentality; specifically the fragile human ego that struggles so hard to find meaning in a meaningless universe. Society is just a bunch of Peter Pans clapping to keep Tinker Bell from winking out of existence, naturally they want everyone else to clap along with them. They wanted this so badly that they created all of these things to coerce the rest of us into keeping their mundane dream alive. Got to hand it to them, they did a damn good job. The price they pay is the most terrible of all, trading their own potential away for a purely symbolic sense of security. The irony being that no matter what direction the pack moves in, it's going the wrong way. The only right way is every way and that is not possible if the pack forces everyone and everything to follow a single socially sanctioned rout. Looking at the evolution of socialized technology that is clearly its objective.
I hate posts like that last one, I hate writing them, I hate that I create things like that. But I can't disagree with myself. I can't apologize for writing what I think is the truth. I wish I could say I had some kind of agenda, it always seems like I should or do, but not really. All I really have is anger. It has been crystallized and distilled to the point where it becomes almost unrecognizable in its articulate intellectual form. The truth; is that I'm just sick and tired of people destroying beautiful things. It doesn't matter if they do it on purpose or on accident, whether they gain something or lose something in the process. It's not like I see it as an unforgivable sin either, I don't think that these people deserve to die. I wish they would, but I'm more of an anarchist than anything else, my ideology doesn't account for nebulous existential risks. Live and let live + reactive self-defense.
Thanks to the scope of civilization today, we all live in a chronologically mangled reality with past, present and future all tangled up together. Most people think it's linear and straight-forward, they couldn't be more wrong. And yet this contradicts the point I was just about to make about the inevitability of catastrophe. There are many futurists like myself who are prone to repeating the 'nothing can stop us' trope. Ironically that phrase can be applied to extinction just as easily as it can be to the technological singularity. We have diverging trend lines, a parabola, the data indicates that both are equally valid. Perhaps they'll meet in the middle somewhere, that wouldn't be so bad. I grow fatigued, at times I'm not even sure I care anymore, I can't tell if I'm an anarchist or a nihilist, maybe they're even the same thing, and that thing is me.
I like to humor myself by thinking that these are not the words of a crazy person, but of an unfortunately sane person in a world that has gone insane. That would certainly be convenient for me, but hardly the wonderful life I had planned. Even if you win you lose. I was feeling unusually anxious the other day, staring out the window at a surprisingly bleak blue sky. "Don't worry." I tried to reassure myself. "Be excited, you get to watch the end of the world, how cool is that?" It had mixed results, equal parts elation and terror. Some part of me still whimpering quietly. "No, I don't want this." Hahah. It's funny in retrospect. But it's true. I don't want to see the world end, I've experienced collapse first hand, it's like dying. I can't think of one positive thing about watching everyone and everything I care about die.
So I get angry, the first proverbial stage of a long slow grief, not much else I can do. One taste of collapse and I not only gave up my faith in humanity, I went clear over to the other side, I started to see our species as something that should be stamped out. It's a pathological mindset probably. I say probably because it's hard to stamp yourself out, it's hard to look back on everything and see only badness. More importantly that wouldn't be fair, it hasn't all been bad, and there's beauty in the human race. Better take a picture, I may never write something like that ever again. I use the word "aesthetic" a lot, that's because it's central to my belief that beauty like love is a highly evolved concept that both unites and transcends the countless components that comprise it. Easy to be good, hard to be great, but supernatural to be beautiful.
Nature has always created beauty effortlessly and out of thin air. You could say it does this unconsciously. The wing of an iridescent butterfly takes your breath away. Not just amazing because it's beautiful but because it was made by the universe itself. The same butterfly lands on a silicon saucer stamped with several integrated circuits. It too is glorious to behold, each chip is like a city made out of rainbows, not just amazing because it's beautiful but because it can bring entire new worlds to life. If you had to place these two different things on opposite sides of a scale that determined the ultimate fate of all beautiful things; which side would you choose? Is that really the choice we humans have been forced to make? Being the person that I am, I can make my decision without thinking twice. Beauty may be relative but life isn't.
The definition of intelligence is something that is always on my mind, since I first identified it as a grand challenge of the twenty-first century. What if intelligence is just consciousness used well? Consciousness being the characteristic that makes us aware of the fact that we can do whatever the fuck we want. Consciousness is practically infinite freedom, with it one jackass can unite millions, bend their will to a single purpose, create things that make no sense, that are insanely vast in scale, things that can destroy an entire planet or unlock the secrets of the universe. There is no way to accurately appreciate or even fully comprehend this capacity and the responsibility it entails.
The response of most people is simply to become someone else's tool, thus responsibility is deferred. Others who are not so weak will nonetheless act as though their megalomaniacal ambitions operated in a vacuum, it is too much for them to try and imagine what their dreams might cost. The third and final group, those who are well aware of the potential consequences actively choose to sacrifice some abstract externality to bring their vision to life. They are sociopaths in some regard. The middle group are just morons, the first batch are just hapless slaves. The unholy trinity of humanity.
The more I read, the deeper I retreat into history the more I understand that the human race has been acting the same basic way since the dawn of civilization. Agriculture, politics, law, property, currency, media, language, war, religion, sexism, classism. These are all the signature characteristics of our species. Examining each one individually it is revealed that they are reactionary emergency measures enacted to prevent premature extinction; furthermore each one builds upon the other, interdepends. Subtract one and the whole pitiful structure comes crashing down. That is because it is weak, it is stupid, it is a tower of superficial idiocy constructed out of scar tissue.
That is human's pride and joy, that we've managed to survive this long somehow by constantly fucking up as we go and then creating abstruse bullshit systems to contain the collateral damage of those intellectual fuckups almost indefinitely. I guess in a way that is something to be proud of, it's miraculous. In the midst of all this the intellectuals of every era imagined themselves to be spearheading an age of enlightenment. They were incapable of perceiving that they were just another faulty product pumped out by an organism that was only interested in using them to forward its nihilistic ends.
And even if they were monumentally smart enough to see the truth, they were trapped in the context of hundreds of millions of slaves, subject to the warped dystopian whims of an equally delusional elite. Socialization alone would have been enough to ensnare them. Still the systems designed and guided by these diseased minds had taken on a life of their own, soon even their unconscious masters became servile, our fate was sealed. A few bad choices was all it would ever take. Society today exists entirely cut off from that origin story, we are like the highest story of a skyscraper missing all the bottom floors. The random ideas born of desperation and depravity made tens of thousands of years ago, dictate our daily lives.
We are not free to dream, we are not free to choose our own adventure, we are only free to operate within the context of a world that died out an eternity ago. The conventional wisdom is that those ideas live on today because they were "good" and thus had staying power. By that reasoning cancer is "good", it has been around just as long as our brilliant ideas, it continues to be more popular than ever. Now as we teeter on the brink of global ecological apocalypse the human animal and its attitudes have not changed one iota. Oblivious, callous, mindless. Running triumphantly to our doom, waving the human flag high above our heads, screaming some inane slogan. Miraculous and majestic.
And when that doom finally comes the inevitable hardy survivors will carry on the proud tradition. They will form some kind of primitive tribe babbling away in some new idiot dialect, they will begin to farm the land and domesticate whatever wilderness remains, barter will quickly bend to some garish form of money, laws will be drafted, warlords "elected", kings crowned, the church of fools will congregate once again, the morons will molder away in their nouveau mansions built by their emaciated slaves. It's a fate worse than a million billion deaths, and yet it's just our common history. Hard coded in our genes, as indelible as cancer. If there is such a thing as intelligence in this universe it is the polar antithesis of all this, its absolute nemesis.
Consciousness turned out to be the ultimate derailer, the source of the first malcontents. Clearly there was not enough of something, they wanted more. More space, more food, more kids, who knows. In fact they were just too fundamentally stupid to realize that a well-tended ecosystem could give them everything they needed. Most likely it was the fact that nothing belonged to anyone that caused the trouble. You get your breakfast from a particular tree, then someone else starts eating your breakfast. That presents a problem, or at the very least an inconvenience. The moron's solution is to restructure the entire natural order of the the ecosystem around human sensibilities.
You don't want to find a new tree, you don't want to negotiate, it's every man for himself. Or more accurately it's let's form a tribe to keep moochers away from our trees. Fucking parasites. The entirely alien concept of ownership is introduced. But cutting up the natural world isn't natural, it introduces ecological bottlenecks, disrupts the flow of nutrients. These new morons have no choice but to deconstruct the forest and recreate it in a vastly inferior way, just so that it can continue to function within the context of "property". The farm is introduced, the second alien abomination. So now you have your reliable yet unsustainable breakfast. Congratulations, you've just doomed your entire species in two steps, all because you didn't want to share.
Property and agriculture require trade and currency and law and bureaucracy. Scarcity is common now so people need to earn money to buy food, and laws are required to regulate exchange, while bureaucracy is needed to regulate the laws. Four more alien systems that clash with nature. Four more answers to a question posed by an idiot. These are all pathological systems designed specifically to deny "moochers" access to your breakfast. You're a moocher too, but don't let that stop you. Just sugar coat it, these are systems designed to "manage" the inevitable "complexities" of "life", right? Because life so clearly needed your expert touch for several billion years, thank god you came along before things spiraled out of control!
Even though you've created a capacity for poverty and denial the world has never known, you've done such a great job at it there are more of you than ever. Thanks to farms that rape nature to death, you can feed a small army of hellspawn. Thanks to money that you totally made up at the expense of the ecosystem you can create a private army powerful enough to keep the rabble in line. Naturally your laws aid your noble quest, your bureaucrats all eating from the same trough will never question your boundless good judgment. Using your ample leisure, it's time to plan the next phase, the construction of machines to make everything faster, dumber and more violent. Industrialism: Achievement Unlocked!
So here we are, modern times. Things haven't really changed at all since then. Aside from the world dying a little more every day. Science has finally pulled back the veil a fraction, providing us with a long-delayed glance in the mirror. An overflowing continent of garbage, a rapidly changing climate, an ocean transforming into a prehistoric acid bath. Even the systems we designed to be utterly self-serving have only backfired all the more spectacularly, estranging and isolating us ever further even as our species reaches a level of unprecedented connectivity. Objectively there's no denying it, we've failed to make good choices, it's too late to ask "Why?". Not that there are many who even possess the wherewithal to try.
All the top think-tanks in the world have decided the only rational response is more mindless reactivity, like "resilience". We can't stop what's coming, nor can we stop what we're doing. Just keep escalating all these bad wrong things until the end, then try somehow to weather the consequences. I will give the human race some credit, we don't fuck around. The end we've engineered will be the most spectacular thing this planet has ever seen, eclipsing even the fifth great extinction. We have pushed every system to its limit, the catastrophe will be immeasurable, beyond anything the experts have ever imagined even in their worst nightmares. It will be all the more magnified by the inexplicable code of ignorance that most people don't even realize they live by.
Like the biggest and longest chain of dominoes ever conceived the first to fall will echo around the earth, the consequent chain-reaction will take with it entire countries, there is no way to predict when or if it will ever stop. Even the atmosphere could be shucked off, the earth could end up looking like the surface of Mars or even the moon. It's best to consider the worst-case scenario first, such is the severity of the circumstances. Assuming that doesn't happen and some people do survive, their very genes will be trying to kill them. At least 40,000 years of suicidal self-programming will need to be unlearned in a single generation. Consciousness itself may need to be deconstructed for humanity to survive.
Returning to an animal state may be the only way to reconnect with the ancient tacit wisdom of our deeper genetic memories. Somewhere inside of every person is the code that predates civilization, that predates the advent of consciousness. Reverting to those instructions and picking up where they left off, before the catastrophic hard fork that caused us to diverge from rational thought, may allow us to keep living. A whole new species of 'human' could emerge via this reboot. A creature that could redevelop consciousness, a new variety that at its very core did not conflict with ecological supremacy. An "intelligent" human could be born for the first time in human history.
What world remained would at its foundation be better in every way. Conscious choices inherently aligned with nature, synergistic rather than disruptive. The sole human occupation would be ecological enrichment. Ownership and property would never manifest because these new humans would communicate and share openly. This is the deal breaker since those characteristics mark the viability of the species. Without property and ownership nature is never partitioned, agriculture never needs to be invented, thus trading, money, laws, bureaucracy, none of these systems are ever required to manage an ecologically-centric society that is predominantly self-managing.
How things evolve from that point are unclear. What kind of technology could manifest in such a system? The only condition is that it exists to serve nature as a whole rather than 'man' as an island. Humanity is viewed exclusively through the lens of nature, ego is a derivative of nature, a dependent of nature. If nature is weak the ego is weak, to damage nature is to damage the ego, and that is unthinkable to these new humans. Since they are not the focus of events religion never manifests, there is no benevolent or maleficent spirit or god responsible for circumstances or events. There is only an intimate relationship with a wholly comprehensible nature. Nature is god, and nature can be touched and nurtured. 'Man' and nature are one.
It occurs to me at this late date, that if our civilization could produce one valuable artifact before we cede the world to something else, it would be a concise and impervious record of our crimes. The purpose being to document how we destroyed the world, to serve as an eternal warning. A truly fanciful idea, as impractical as it would be useless. The proof is in the pudding, sentient beings are either viable or they are not, no waring would ever be heeded, no words could ever be fully forwarded to some future race. A sentimental afterthought as egocentric as the civilization that created me. No signposts will be left standing, the slate will be wiped clean, to start anew if at all.
The memory was still vivid, even though it had happened when she was fairly young. She remembered turning fully, running as fast as she could towards the hidden entrance to the glade, thinking she might catch sight of the mysterious denizen but when she reached the exit there was no sign, not even a bent blade of grass to mark his passing. "I thank... name!" She barked shrilly into the oppressively thick foliage. Only the usual sounds of the jungle answered. "That then, this now." She remarked stoically standing up to her full height at the edge of the field of tall grass that bordered the river region she called home, her right paw strayed into her hip pouch, her fingers closed around the soundstone, suddenly she knew it would take great courage to draw it out. The stone felt unusually heavy, like it was slipping out of her fingers, like it was pulling her down. "Have need." She grunted through clenched teeth. "Right time, certain!" She barked, dragging it forth, wrestling it under control with both paws. It felt like gelatinous glass, like an eel trying to wriggle free, it blazed in the sun, dazzling her eyes. It was not just a stone she now knew, it was alive somehow, it could sense her presence, the fear and uncertainty in her heart. This was a contest of will, it would yield when it was sure that her cause was just.
At last her spirit settled, the earth under her feet, the water still drying on her skin, the sound of it still in her ears. She beheld the expansive field of golden grass, its aromatic scent put her at ease. In her mind she imagined her journey and her mission, the rainbow grotto, the great sea, the pebble of wisdom. The vastness of the world and the smallness of her being. "Hear Lauren." She whispered to the stone. "Heart also broken, need help." Her diminutive voice broke, the wind died, there was a profound stillness; the grass which had been swaying gently moments before appeared frozen like a photograph. Lauren could not hear a single thing, not even the river. The stone had gone dark, it sat submissively in her paws, she relaxed her grip, it seemed to stick to her hands. She raised it to her lips, an autonomic motion that she witnessed from outside herself. She blew a single note, it made no sound that she could hear, and yet the air from her lungs passed smoothly through the narrow channel that penetrated the stone. There was a sense that something momentous had taken place; the grass shuddered, rippling out in violent concentric waves, like a large rock being tossed into a small pond.
Lauren put the soundstone carefully back into her pouch, it was hot to the touch, like it had just been pulled out of a fire, she could feel it distinctly burning faintly into her hip. She waited, there was nothing else to do, she did not know what to expect or even if anything would happen. The seconds ticked by, then minutes, the sun had moved in the sky, perhaps an hour, maybe more had transpired. Still Lauren did not falter, she remained standing on her hind legs, not tense but at ease. Her heart did not waver, she felt something coming from a long way off, a minute later she could see it. In the distance the taller grass was being pushed aside, whatever it was formed a trailing wake that appeared like a giant shivering arrowhead that pointed directly to her location, gradually it was closing. Lauren felt no fear, she faced her fate calmly, secure in the knowledge that whatever it was, it had a true heart. "Come." She murmured. "Lauren waiting."
A row of spikes protruded from the grass, a regular candelabra, it looked like a small tree was being pushed through the field. Lauren counted calmly, 27 points. She knew what it was before it crested the flaxen wall. "Bucko." She said quietly to herself.
Lauren reached as far back into her secret cubby hole as she could with her short otter arms, it had been a very long time since she'd retrieved her most valuable possession. The small package she fished out of the dusty hole did not look very remarkable, in fact it looked a lot like a lump of mud. Lauren chittered at her own cleverness, her treasure was actually underneath, wrapped in a skillfully folded maple leaf which she had then coated liberally with clay from the river bank. She would only need to soak it in water for a few minutes to reveal what was inside. Trotting gleefully on her two hind legs she trundled the short distance from the otter grotto to the river.
Nov 1. The water was pleasantly cool, Lauren juggled the small bundle deftly under the surface, spinning it rapidly to excise the clay. In a matter of seconds she had stripped the leafy parcel of its sedimentary container. Placing what remained reverently on the riverbank she showed a remarkable level of delicate coordination, manipulating the folded leaves with her short clawed fingertips, displaying a precision that belied her otherwise inarticulate movements. The soundstone glowed in the brilliant afternoon sun, its opalescent crystalline structure scattered the surrounding light into countless colored rays. After admiring its great beauty for several seconds (an eternity in otter-time) Lauren snatched up the pebble and tucked it gracefully into the small hip pouch attached to her elegantly woven river reed bandoleer. "Come in handy, later." She murmured in subtly clipped otter-talk. The day would be a long one.
It was true that all rivers eventually found the sea, but contrary to conventional wisdom, they did not always find the quickest way to it. This was especially true for Lauren's river which meandered errantly like an especially lazy serpent. In truth there was only one rout that would bring her closer to the great sea and that was by land. Lauren, unlike many of her otter-friends felt fairly ambivalent about the alien element. She had been called an "amphibian" on more than one occasion by her rude companions, but she didn't care what they thought. While they had never feared the dark uncharted depths of the canals, they became nervous on dry land. Lauren on the other hand skittered freely through the surrounding fields, sometimes even venturing deep into the forest. It was in fact in such a place that she had acquired the soundstone.
She had been exploring a particularly vexing thicket and had discovered a narrow subterranean channel that had lead to a beautiful secluded glade, to her surprise it had already been occupied. A strange maskless denizen who yet seemed to move with the characteristic guileless grace of the infinite. She watched it with both curiosity and caution, noting that while it moved adeptly it seemed to wander aimlessly, as if lost. Still, this did not seem like the kind of place that one became easily lost since the glade was hard to find but easy to escape. Eventually the eccentric figure seemed to come to its senses, it sat down on a squat stone pedestal and stared fixedly into the trees. Lauren suddenly stiffened as the denizen's penetrating gaze swung in her direction, it seemed to be looking directly into her eyes, she was startled when she noticed that his eyes were not normal, they were colorless and clear like two quartz pebbles, perfectly round. Morbidly she felt her foreleg twitch, they were too much like polished river rocks, they inspired a kind of abstract instinctual longing.
He spoke, it was like the rustling of the grass or the wet warbling of a rivulet gliding over a flat granite slab, his words seemed to vibrate in her mind, to caress her sleek coat, so pure so refined, as if time itself were whispering in her ear. "Deep diver, it's good to see you." Lauren was completely shocked, the familiarity of his tone caught her off guard, also she was unsettled by the rapidity through which her initial doubt that it had been speaking to her was dismissed. Deep diver was no common slang for her kind, nor was it her name, but she felt herself responding instinctually to his call. "Deep... diver." She replied, her voice quavering in the stillness, it sounded strikingly loud compared to the denizen's elemental invocation. Yes, that is me, somehow. She thought, despite never having heard the phrase before. "I have something for you." Its voice once again sundered the gulf between them. The denizen held out its hand, low to the ground, palm open. Pale sky-blue fingers shimmered and sparkled as the object nestled there was caught in a beam of mottled light falling from the canopy far above.
Before she realized she had even moved a primal impulse had pulled her fifty paces, she stood on her hind legs, the typical posture taken when conversing with those cursed by the bipedal affliction. Arms moving on their own, Lauren had reached out, surprised by her own eagerness and unbridled lust for that scintillating thing. The denizen laughed, it was a ringing sound of pure joy that pierced her heart. Lauren realized she was laughing too, a chittering cackle that sounded obscene in comparison to the sound the denizen had made, yet was beautiful nonetheless. "It's a soundstone, I found it in the far North buried deep in the ice, the people there say that long ago the North star was so moved by the cry of the polar bear queen over her great misdeeds that it broke the star's heart into a million pieces, each of them fell to earth as a soundstone. It is also said that even to this day an echo of her cry is caught inside the stone, by blowing through the hole it will make a sound that will cross even the void of space, those with true hearts will hear it and come."
Lauren stood speechless, in her entire life she had never heard anything even close to such a fantastical story, but staring at the stone clutched possessively in her paws, she could believe it. Deep at its core the stone gleamed with an otherworldly light. "Use it when you have need. You will know when the time is right." The denizen got slowly to its feet, its affect expressing a kind of sad reluctance that Lauren could not comprehend. "I must go." It said, once again staring off into the trees, it's colorless, piercing gaze seeming to focus on something impossibly far away. Reaching out with the right hand, even while brushing past her, the denizen stroked the top of Lauren's head with such gentleness that she reflexively dropped to all fours. When she turned her head to watch the denizen go, it was already gone, simply vanished like a fine morning mist burned away by the sun. The soundstone was still clenched tightly in her right paw, it was the only way she knew that the experience had been real and not a delusion or vision.
I don't write about the actual city often enough. I ordered a book from amazon, the so-called 'green book' a.k.a. A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, just one more brick in my great wall of urban planning expertise. When I do research to build the most incredible city the world has ever known, I do it right. LOL. No seriously though, I have been thinking about this stuff a lot. Still I am greatly saddened by how agonizingly slow I am. 30+ years I've been living in this town, wandering through it as soon as I could walk practically, and it has taken me just that long to realize the most basic and obvious things. Perhaps that is 'cause & effect' combined though, sometimes the longer you have lived in a place the harder it becomes to see what has been in front of you all along. The old 'forest for the trees' chestnut. However, it has happened, my eyes have been opened. I think the trigger was the demolition of a corner building that had been standing long before I was born. It left a huge hole, a giant vacant lot right at the corner of two major streets. No one bothered to fence it off, they just left it to grow wild, pretty soon it was covered with weeds and anemic looking grass, except for one spot.
Naturally the streets are set at predictable right-angles, the good ol' 'grid iron' as it's called. The funny thing is, even though there's a sidewalk – a beautiful uncracked expansive slab of alabaster-white concrete that spans perhaps twenty meters – people choose instead to walk diagonally through the abandoned lot. They do this so frequently that an indelible footpath as immaculate as a freshly healed scar cuts from corner to corner as if it were planned & maintained by the city. Taking this path probably cuts an entire two minutes off of travel time that one would otherwise have to waste skirting along the south & west outer walls of some hideous stucco monstrosity. Walking this path even a few times started to change the way I view the entire layout of the city. Then beyond even that I began to deconstruct the psychology of the maze. And lastly, I traced that too all the way back to the confluence of unintended consequences and commercial interests that had unconsciously colluded to produce such an artless display of intellectual ineptitude.
That is the sole advantage of slowness, in time everything is revealed. I have to admit, the entire fabric of this macrocosm had become completely transparent to me. The points of failure are multitude. Zoning laws, property rights, individual egos, slipshod slapdash mishmash. To name but a few. The utter looseness of rules that had thrown up this travesty of a town could only be described as pure chaos. But this had always been obvious to me, even 30 years ago when I was just 5 years old, toddling around with my parents, bundled up in a puffy constraining jacket with a jerry-rigged electric motor buzzing away epileptically in my pocket. Always humanity is stumbling forward, ages before it is ready to take even a first step, we are a race of dangerous toddlers. This town is a ruin because it was not planned, every element was erected on the spur of the moment. Even now in the 21st century when a notorious planning commission controls every new nail driven into a piece of wood with an iron fist, it is the same.
Why? Because their plans are ruled by chaos. The chaos of archaic laws, the chaos of competing interests in a dozen different community groups, the chaos of democracy, the chaos of nepotism & invisible connections that transpire off the books and under the table. It's all one big lie. In the end some joker draws some lines on a piece of paper and that becomes a town. It's this ideology that has driven the spark of life out of every other lantern on mainstreet, the same madcap mentality that created that empty lot. Both wrong and right are dolled out indiscriminately, it's pure heaven for big egos and small minds, they've found their paradise on earth in this pigsty of political & economic minutia; they are so mired in the muck of their own mechanizations that they cannot see how consummately they have failed to control the very thing they exist to prevent. No, they've even done well within the context, congratulations are in order, pats on the back all around. I'm not even joking. This town is better than it has ever been.
From the top of the ivory tower it probably seems like all their hard work is finally paying off, they bet on the right horse after all. And yet, there is that lot with its miraculous footpath, both a singular triumph and a disgrace. But all that was preamble. I don't live in this town, I live in the city I'm building in my mind. And I've been thinking about this practically every day. When I first started sketching out neotoy, I started at the biggest possible scale I could think of; beyond even a universe, it was a continuum. Dialing down from there, I kept reducing the broth until I had reached my practical extract of planet and city. This environment was designed to be the absolute pinnacle of hospitality, before even a single building was added. If you wanted, a denizen could live their entire life outside, sleeping 'under the stars'. The weather is always fine, there are no threats, shelter is basically optional. As the city has evolved I've been forced to question the very validity of the 'city' itself as a thing.
Are buildings even necessary? What really is the point of such structures in a 'perfect' environment? The entire planet is like an idealized building. Thinking about this radically, there are many downsides to creating enclosed structures while there are very few benefits within the context of an ideal climate. In our world buildings almost exclusively serve the purpose of protecting us from "exposure" to the elements & other corporeal threats. In more climatically enlightened areas buildings mainly serve as storehouses for food & possessions. If not for commercialization & industrial interests an extreme percentage of buildings would be totally unnecessary. This is really shocking if you think about it. There are plenty of circumstances where human beings could live just like animals – outside without any kind of enclosing structure. I'm not saying that's ideal, merely that it does solve a lot of the problems created by the introduction of buildings.
What are those problems you might ask? Well the worst is probably the division and destruction of open space. This extends into all dimensions: subterranean structures impact water tables, skyscrapers block sunlight, every building in between forces foot traffic to follow very specific routs, most if not all of which are suboptimal. Then there is the supporting infrastructure that activates these buildings: roads, bridges, walls, pipes, wires, etc. All of these elements take up space and ultimately define the movement potential of non-fixed entities, namely people & other mobile living things. Ideal architecture possesses the singular characteristic of increasing access and utility while effectively opening areas, or at the very least presenting an extremely minimal disruption to freedom of movement & other beneficial ambient factors, e.g. light, fresh air, nature. Analyzing the average modern building the utility is very low, while the negative attributes are numerous, very few modern buildings can justify their existence.
For neotoy I think I've found a way to create optimal buildings, but I am still uncertain if buildings are even necessary. Neotonian architecture possesses several key characteristics that results in far more optimal buildings. Foremost, all buildings are "public" property, there are no "private" buildings, private property simply does not exist. Second: the size of all buildings is limited to a footprint that does not create an undue level of spacial exclusion, even the largest buildings are supported by pilings or columns so that denizens can easily walk 'through' (i.e. under) them rather than being forced to navigate around them. Third: while physical size is critical, metaphysical size is also carefully limited, buildings are shaped and arranged in such a way that they do not overly restrict the circulation of light, air, or water. This implies that all buildings implicitly include an 'invisible' spacial zone that both surrounds and penetrates them. Open areas are always left around every building and openings are included in every structure to allow for elemental permeability. This includes the use of special materials like 'glass' & porous foams.
Lastly neotonian buildings are not designed for specialized purposes, every building is designed to be infinitely adaptable to any use. This is to say they are maximally generic. To understand this ideology is to understand that the entire purpose of buildings is to manage space in an optimal way. As previously stated, any time a building 'gets in the way' of utility or accessibility it is failing to manage space efficiently and therefore it is a blight and by all rights should be summarily destroyed. Neotonian buildings are designed to never get in the way, ideally they allow open space to reach its ultimate potential. Furthermore these buildings are designed to work synergistically with whatever 'nature' happens to be native to the environment. If there are trees they are nourished & protected by the structures, if there are animals they are sheltered & sustained by the passively nurtured ecosystem, if there are denizens they are treated no differently. The buildings themselves create harmony between all the elements by suggesting optimal occupational limits. It is clear which space is ideal for which entity, it is clear how many entities can thrive in each space.
1. Private property does not exist
2. Scale is limited by circulation
3. Buffers & Permeability are implicit
4. Accommodations are generic
5. Holistic harmony is the purpose
The title of the previous post was a reference to the futility of insight in an age where scale is king. Perhaps that has always been the case. Since 2007 at least I've been reliably predicting parts of the future, it wasn't hard, I have no magical powers, merely the ability to observe & correlate macro patterns with a degree of certainty. Isolation has always been a crucial factor, intellect is a flimsy thing easily influenced by even the slightest personality. But this introduces the paradox of quality intelligence that serves no purpose. Isolation improves purity but reduces influence. Influence itself is a corrupting characteristic that reduces its own potency over time. Likewise, popularizing predictive results inevitably generates counter-currents, other entities move to block & reverse trends to protect their archaic interests. It's so tedious. So you can either be clairvoyant or influential but not both at the same time. The bottom line is that reality is a reactive system designed to recursively obfuscate for no purpose other than to perhaps prevent itself from becoming far too boring & predictable.
Speaking of reactivity, and obfuscation. Nature may be obsessed with abundance & humanity with scarcity, but this oversimplified statement requires further explanation. One could argue that a population exploding from 1 to 7 billion in a few decades is a "strategy of abundance". After all the phrase is derived from things like billions of bacterium breaking down the tissues of a dead animal, or an apple tree so overburdened with fruit that its branches start to break. So it's hard to place the concept of scarcity in the context of apparent abundance, after all where does clearcutting Brazil fit into this equation, where do oceanic dead zones caused by overfishing? Sometimes it seems abundance in one species causes scarcity in another, but can this be considered a 'strategy'? It's obvious why certain organisms create abundance, it increases the probability of perpetuation and beneficial mutation, to put it crudely it is a kind of distributed computing, it is a type of inherent intelligence. But what is missing from the equation? There is no function included in the process that limit its scale, only the external universe can do this.
We are a reactive species. This is not surprising, evolution is reactive, adaptive, assertiveness is randomized. Yet we have the ability to defy reactivity, to operate assertively in a way that is not randomized but stems from memory & cognition. Perhaps this is just deterministic at a scale that makes it hard to recognize, then again perhaps it's not. I suppose our capacity to act originally must be proven through specific actions, survival alone is probably not enough, even though we are struggling as a species to do just that. We must think big even as we act small, instead of the opposite which is the essence of reactivity: acting big while thinking small. We destabilize the climate while obsessing over which car to buy. The opposite is designing our entire way of life before we take the first step and then walking instead of driving, thus ultimately restoring equilibrium to the climate. That is a fairly simplistic example, but I'm sure you get the idea. The bottom line is that reactivity has reached a scale where it threatens our continued existence, we must confront it or die. We can no longer be a reactive species, we must become hyper-conscious, if consciousness is to be retained at all.
This is kind of a chickenshit post and kind of not. Nature's strategy is abundance, I came to this realization while sitting in the shade house of one of the community gardens I volunteer at. I was cutting up an apple at the time, thinking about how in all the gardens I'd worked in to date, the one problem I'd encountered over and over again was the 'problem' of too much food. It is said that statistically Americans throw away 40% of the food they buy. We've all been there at one point or another, produce gets overripe, some container forgotten in the back starts to mould. A couple of years ago I initiated a personal food policy: zero waste. At least that was my goal. Over the course of the last two years I've gone from 30 to 20 to 10 and finally to somewhere around 5% waste. Sometimes I go a whole month without wasting any food. There's no secret, it's a combination of hard work and being poor. Being poor forces you to value food, even staples become precious while luxuries like chocolate become priceless.
Even with under ten items in the fridge at any given time it's still hard work. You have to prioritize often, and eat things repetitively, or things you don't like very much. Even worse is the occasional lapse, some unacceptable waste, I've ended up forcing myself to eat past-date food countless times; things have to be in pretty bad shape before I'll throw them away. For the average first-world citizen this is crazy behavior, and yet just a few economic brackets away it is a way of life. I just want to paint a clear picture here, I'm not boasting or trying to sound like I've accomplished something, the truth is I've only started approaching a reasonable way of living that most people on this planet are overly familiar with because they have no other option. Digging through trash cans for scraps that other people threw away is some next level shit, call me crazy if you want but I find that worthy of respect, the kind of respect that average middle-class Americans could never fully comprehend.
Most people in that situation don't do it because they like it, or as a public service, they do it to survive, but the truth is it's an incredibly honest way to live. They are not wasting anything, they are taking other people's waste and turning it into useful energy. Throwing away perfectly good food is a shameful act, and yet people do it casually without a second thought. I just read today in an infographic that it takes 600 plus gallons of water to make a single hamburger, that is the complete lifecycle obviously, from calf to plate. The person who eats half a hamburger and then throws the rest away is not just throwing away food, they are throwing away 300 gallons of water too. This kind of insanity is why our species is totally fucked, and to be entirely honest it's also why we deserve the wholesale extinction that's right around the corner. Sitting on that chair in the shade house, eating slices of apple one by one, thinking about the overloaded apple trees I'd just raided.
Nature's strategy is abundance. This is the opposite of the human economic strategy which is scarcity.
A quote from this article neatly sums up everything that is wrong with our species:
"By midcentury, there could be 10 billion humans, all demanding and deserving a quality of life presently experienced by only a few." [emphasis mine]
What makes you think those hypothetical billions of humans deserve anything Brandon? Even to survive? Even to be born? What ego-pregnant hogwash. There is only one rule in any ecosystem: survival is earned, not granted and never guaranteed. Only humans have ever managed to create such repugnant global industrial rapeosystems capable of granting and guaranteeing survival to the undeserving, at the wholesale expense of any semblance of rational ethics and ecological viability. That capacity for such brutish insanity will shortly be ripped from humanity's grasp as the inalienable laws of nature reassert themselves with all the gravity and finality of a steamroller running over a garden snail.
You hear similar balderdash from the African over-population front, as if Africa could ever sustain 5 billion when its 1 billion are barely keeping themselves alive on a steady IV drip of American aid rice, HIV notwithstanding, Ebola notwithstanding, climate change notwithstanding. Africa will be lucky to have a population of 100 million by the end of this decade, and those will mostly be imported Chinese industrialists wearing asbestos HAZMAT suits.
As per the quote above, it is precisely this implicit sense of entitlement that will doom the human race. Humanity has never deserved all these insufferable contrivances of industrialization. Not electricity, not the wheel, not antibiotics, not moon landings, not iPhones, not etc. At most all we have ever deserved is what all organisms implicitly deserve: a chance to be alive. A chance that is lost the moment that organism does something unforgivable in terms of its role in relation to nature as a whole. A description that frankly defines almost all human preoccupations. What do you think happens to a species that makes a career out of breaking every natural law in can get its grubby mitts on? Obviously, it gets exactly what it deserves.
I just keep thinking more about this "Gardener" thing. What would it look like? What kind of weapons would it have? What would power it? How would it effectively defend against determined well-armed bands of poachers & loggers. Ideally it lasts virtually forever, never runs out of power, possesses both formidable weaponry & the cerebral capacity to learn equally well from both murdering & gardening. Humans, ever-predictable creatures that they are would obviously attack these gardeners with high-explosives, Incendiaries, RPGs, Grenades, Landmines, TNT, Improvised Explosive Devices, possibly also chemical and electronic countermeasures, acids, jammers, shockers, etc. The gardener would need to be hardened to resist these basic threats. But still it must be highly mobile, capable of covering vast physically dynamic geographical areas.
Initially the tendency is to make the gardener fairly anthropomorphic, but perhaps that is a horrible idea. Why not make it like a giant spider or a lion, perhaps even a bird of some kind, maybe a snake? Or why not a chimera, a gryphon or manticore. As long as it is capable of performing the full range of necessary gardening tasks, the form should be as lethal, robust and intimidating as possible. I am also not going to rule out genetic engineering, instead of a robot it may in fact be better just to create a biological organism, perhaps even two distinct organisms; one that gardens and one that guards it. I only feel that this is not ideal because biological organisms are typically weaker than mechanical, and are therefore easier to destroy.
Solar power seems like a fairly reliable energy source, but it would have to be of futuristic efficiency, batteries also. I rule out nuclear power for various reasons but mainly because it negates the core ideology behind the unit, which is to protect the ecosystem from man-made horrors. Lasers are a fairly reliable weapon but require a lot of energy. One weapon is clearly not enough and energy conservation is obviously critical. Gardeners should probably always operate in small teams to ensure survival. Long-edged weapons including scythes and shears can serve a dual purpose, they should be integrated into the design with this in mind. Projectile weapons are not really suitable, aside from kinetic systems like spears, javelins & slings.
Behavior is tricky, there is always the risk of some sort of cyber-attack if there are open communication channels. Ideally the gardeners use a variety of low-tech short-range communication systems. Hand signals, infrared, vocal. Basically there should never be a direct line to the CPU, the gardener should always have the innate ability to autonomously make decisions rather than just following orders without question. If gardeners are always working in teams this shouldn't be a big problem since they can use consensus to determine the validity of coordinated operations. Ultimately each team must be powerful enough to survive virtually any attack, psychological or physical.
Going back to a previous idea, as to form and specialized roles, why not have a protector that is simply a pervasive swarm of robotic insects capable of poisoning invaders? The gardener can always be a separate entity. Sometimes the simple elegant solutions are best, considering that mosquitoes kill more people via malaria than any other biologically sophisticated predator known to man. A mechanical mosquito could be designed to penetrate heavy armor, find weak spots. Rather than investing in highly visible (hence easily targeted) multifunction gardeners, the swarm approach might be both more economical and lethal. This could also be supplementary, each new threat vector acts as an additional deterrent multiplier.
The gardener as fiction is a dramatic symbolic thing that benefits best from a unified anthropomorphic front. Humanity's greatest fear is the self. The psychological shock & awe factor is not totally useless. Creating a boogeyman that strikes fear into the hearts of poachers & loggers is not without value. Still the bottom line is results, if the ecosystem is not flourishing then the gardener is a failure. Another thing that occurs to me is the total capability of the gardener, for example what if distant entities are polluting the preserve via rivers or even air? What if planes drop deforestation agents? Should the gardener be able to deal with all these somewhat externalized threats? Just how much power & authority should they possess?
The problem that needs solving becomes increasingly complex, perhaps to the point where the gardener becomes an absurd notion and ends up needing to be a police officer for every action of every person. After all hasn't climate change become a global threat, and isn't that phenomenon an insane confluence of relatively benign personal choices? How long before the gardeners leave the jungle and start killing people who drive Toyota Sequoias? Even if that is in fact what would be required to save an ecosystem, the gardener is perhaps not the optimal rout to achieve such an end. I sincerely think these are the kinds of thoughts that should preclude every science fiction scenario creation. Keep digging long enough and you will not just begin to predict the future, you will literally be writing it.
I've been gardening at local community gardens & farms for the last seven months, being out there in nature, tending the earth, watering, planting, protecting, planning. I realized that there is a certain mythology to the whole process. The gardener is a kind of hero. The gardener is the hero earth needs. Bill Mollison astutely noted in a grand sense 'everyone & everything is a gardener', some are just better at it than others. Putting it in preposterously oversimplified terms if the earth has one problem today, it is that modern human beings are the worst gardeners in recorded history. Instead of nurturing the land, instead of guarding the world's most precious web of life, we pillage & destroy. We do this not because we are intrinsically evil, but because there exists nothing in this world that can prevent us from doing whatever the hell we want. That is a problem.
The idea behind the "Gardener" is a solution to this problem. If human beings cannot be good gardeners, then we must make something that can. I thought it would make a good short story. A formidable android army created to protect nature from mankind while nurturing the ecosystem. While many narratives create a 'warrior poet' the Gardener would be a kind of 'terminator nurseryman', it would ruthlessly slaughter any people who threatened the integrity of its ecological domain. When not killing, it would work tirelessly to create optimal conditions for plants & animals to reach their full potential within the context of the health of the entire ecosystem. The story would follow a single unit as it went about its daily duties. This is what we environmentalists are reduced to in the 21st century: fantasy & fiction. As the real world dies a little more each day.
I didn't bother writing this down until I read this article about extreme conservation efforts. I feel very conflicted about this to be honest. Half the world for "nature" and half for "humanity", is half really enough for either side? Also, if human beings can't even coexist with their natural environment, truly what hope does our species have? My initial read is that there is something profoundly wrong with the concept, furthermore without an army that exists solely to protect such massive nature preserves, they will inevitably fall. This has been all but proven on continents like Africa where both rhinos & elephants are rapidly approaching extinction, despite aggressive efforts to prevent poaching.
Overall I'm very pleased with the "gardener" construct since if fulfills a variety of my higher directives, specifically: life is only precious when it does more good than harm. Humans are not divine, infallible or absolute. Permissibility is only limited by possibility. This is probably the most pertinent fact central to the cataclysm: human beings stubbornly refuse to accept that our entire species is expendable rather than exceptional. From a holistic perspective this is scientifically objective. I do not mean to make myself out to be an enemy of humanity, I'm not advocating the extinction of our species. I am an enemy of anthropocentrism, I am advocating the extinction of that mentality. People have the unique capacity to change & adapt, those who are capable of recognizing that anthropocentrism is a treatable mental disorder & correcting their lives accordingly, clearly have as much a right to live as any entity.
It's been a rough last few days. I threw my back out on the 21st and basically lost all mobility, in addition to constantly being in pain. I had no idea how much I normally used my back muscles for almost every action, even something as basic as rolling over or picking something up while sitting. I remember awhile back watching part of a documentary on back pain; the spine performs so poorly because humans have not been walking upright for very long, the evolution of the spine has not quite caught up to our lofty aspiration for a vertical lifestyle. Fascinatingly enough my day of worst pain just happened to coincide with an article about a groundbreaking medical procedure: 3D printed vertebra implanted in 12-year-old boy with bone cancer.
I have to admit, having experienced such a humbling structural failure my opinion of transhumanism has improved slightly. If I could replace my entire spine with a 3D printed version that would never fail... it's hard to come up with a good argument against it. Honestly this is just the kind of metaphysical gray area I hate, specifically when I think about how such miracles of science wouldn't even be remotely possible without centuries of unsustainable industrialization paving the way. Every procedure from a routine antibiotic injection to implanting an artificial heart is a kind of uneconomical lie that future generations will be unable to rationalize.
We have living proof that it's possible to accomplish almost anything if you are willing to ruthlessly rape the earth while depriving billions of people and trillions of other organisms what they need just to survive. A 3D printed spine is all well and good, until you find yourself starving to death due to ecological devastation. So much of everything that we do in this modern world merely involves shifting resources and time around to favor certain pursuits & segments of the population while damning others to lives of destitution that lead eventually to oblivion. Hence you end up with ethical concerns that superficially seem totally counterintuitive. After all, isn't it also a serious crime to condemn a person to death when they have a medical condition that can be easily treated? The ethics of technology itself is at stake.
My sincere opinion is that the ecosystem at large should always come first, it's not ethical or rational to create scenarios where some entities are arbitrarily and procedurally given special treatment at the expense of others. Of course this creates a conflict where you are forced to throttle the activities of an abusive and unethical class of cultures in order to normalize global civilization. This is in fact completely ethical. For example: throttling first-world culture to a third-world cultural lifestyle is merely forcing the first-world to live within its means, forcing it to stop exploiting the ethical ambiguities of the third-world. It is just recognizing that the first-world is a fucking lie to begin with, recognizing that the first-world couldn't sustain itself without oppressing and unethically exploiting the third-world.
That is how an actually just & ethical civilization would behave, but it is essentially a pipe dream in our world. The base characteristic of humanity scales at every level of societal sophistication, fundamentally the strong oppress and exploit the weak, and that is that. It's true in barren backwater shit-holes like Afghanistan, and it's true in affluent cosmopolitan prima donnas like New York City. Whether wearing filthy rags or a $5000 designer suit the person underneath is effectively the same; a shortsighted narrow-minded barbarian living like a wild animal in an imaginary "human" world that only knows how to pretend to be civilized. The gap between these two crude stereotypical caricatures is minuscule compared to the epic gulf between them both and an actual (and regrettably theoretical) civil "society".
I can say all this because the first-world persists year after year while the third-world does everything in its power to scrambled up the hastily erected ladder of corpses to reach the same level of consummate degeneracy. Meanwhile... a few interesting statistics: ~3% of US occupations are in agriculture. ~80% of California water is used for agriculture. ~3% of California's economy is due to agriculture. I always thought that California would implode if our agriculture industry collapsed, but it seems like I might have been wrong about that. Without any agriculture at all it seems like ~97% of the economy would probably still exist. Practically speaking that ~3% of the economy is guzzling ~80% of California's water while only employing ~3% of Californians, with statistics like those I don't see how it can even justify its existence. I also found out a few things about the historical frequency of 'mega-drought' in California, one of which lasted for over 200 years. Ironically climate change is projected to dramatically increase rainfall worldwide.
"Don't get lost." the denizen loitering indolently at the portal entrance cackled; although its patronizing tone transformed into a croak of alarm as it noticed the insignia on Infinity's mask. "I already am." The Infinite replied casually and without hesitation, an affable sardonic clip tinging its flat delivery. The usual psychological super-conductivity of the Infinite as always was in play. The maze was a simple one, made even more so by the prescient vision, Infinity threaded through it without thinking, as though it had done so countless times. Perhaps in a sense it had, after all was not the vision of the Infinite just an echo of innumerable psychic echoes reflecting from parallel planes in the past & future, congealing in the present.
There were traps too, mechanical, optical, thermal, sonic, the full spectrum. A network of quantum prisms were nestled deep within the structure of the labyrinth, embedded like crown jewels, they prevented anyone from simply d-walking directly into the sanctum by bending dimensional membranes in virtually unnavigable ways. You could cross over the boundary but you would inevitably find yourself coming out approximately where you went in.
What was it pursuing again? In this miraculous utopia that lacked all sense of materialism or property, what could possibly inspire this type of risky behavior? Clearly there was some sort of unique artifact at the center of the maze, something that could not be easily willed into existence in the conventional manner, something that possessed genuine value above and beyond routine needs and wants. The old cliché of 'what do you get for someone who has everything?' could not have applied more. By default both denizens & students, least of all the Infinite, are lacking in nothing. So what profound incentive could be found at the center of the maze?
It could be that some inherent quality of the maze itself might be revealed, perhaps a rare and beautiful location lies at the center, a garden growing with exotic plants or mechanical wonder. Reaching such a place to witness it firsthand may be incentive enough, one might even choose to live there. There may be some switch to be thrown that may transform or make the maze inert allowing all who pass by to enter without fear. But if it is not something inherent to the structure, what might it be? What could be so precious and fantastical that it would require such elaborate protection? Here we enter dangerous and unknown territory. The entire psyche of the continuum is at stake.
Powerful items or artifacts that grant supernatural powers exceeding even the ken of the Infinite, is disruptive to the core. I do not think such a thing can be allowed. That merely leaves something predictable (like a consumable treat) or of vast sophistication (like a coat made out of rainbows). Alterations to the denizen itself would violate the clarity and elegance of the social order. It is crucial that the neotonian civilization remains totally transparent at every level. No secret powers, no unpredictable or disproportionate trump cards. No tattoos, no jewelry, no makeup. Cosmetics should begin and end at clothing, and even there they should be kept as minimal as possible. Superfluous objects are discouraged in the extreme, things that have no spiritual value are effectively invisible to neotonians.
One alternative I can think of is placing a living being at the center of the maze, a kind of resident who remains fixed there. This individual may possess some kind of deep wisdom or insight, a genuine spiritual treasure. Perhaps the person could become a permanent mentor to the first person to reach the heart of the maze. Information being the official currency of neotoy, this is not that far fetched.
The prospect of some sort of collectible is tempting but it is hard to imagine how that might work. Any kind of thing would represent a retention dilemma to the denizen and it could always be 'stolen'. Another possibility is a unique resource that can only be found in the maze. This could be as basic as a raw building material (highest grade polytoy for example) or as complex as a rare ingredient in a recipe. The problem is that there are so many analogues in games that it is really hard not to fall into the trap of a formulaic trope. The problem with such things in games is that they result in highly generic scenarios, 'grinding' for symbolic garbage.
You knew I was going to weigh in on this, right? Unless you were living under a rock this week the word Ferguson probably stirs up some emotions. For me personally I felt as though I had to say something more extensive about both sides, because this is not a simple clearcut scenario. People love their simplicity, their good guy, bad guy dichotomies, but this is a lot bigger than that. Although, subtract endemic multigenerational racism from the equation and Ferguson never would have spiraled out of control, morphing into such a horrific and revelatory display of cultural dysfunction.
Since we're talking about racism, let's jump straight into the maelstrom, nothing quite captures the heart of the debate like this seemingly unconnected yet misattributed post allegedly made by Catherine Nardi, quoted verbatim:
"They are feral and violent. They murder each other. They murder their unborn babies. They murder white people. They hate police officers and murder some of them, even black ones. They destroy neighbors and entire cities with garbage and drugs. They live their lives off the hard-earned tax dollars of other Americans. Yet somehow they are the victims. What insanity is that?"
The first thing to point out is that race both has everything and nothing to do with these remarks. It has everything to do with them because they are racist by intent, they are clearly worded to suggest a specific race. It has nothing to do with them because every action noted in the quote is genuine and can be associated with specific people and specific subcultures. The statement is ethically wrong only in the sense that it fails to be all-inclusive. Just replace the word "They" with "White People" or "Asians" or "Aborigines" or "Women". The fact is that the word "They" should just be replaced with "Human Beings". It's still a bit racist, but not in the overt way it was before. Given the format it reads like a template designed for trolls.
But this is beside the point, the debate still continues because it's impossible to just dismiss the original statement. Not because black people fit the description but because certain subcultures do fit the description and in certain geographical areas these subcultures also happen to be ethnically homogeneous. The last line of the tirade is really the best. "Yet somehow they are the victims." This is actually the most compelling statement in the whole post. It raises the question: if 'they' really are the victims (which they are), then who is the victimizer?
This is an extremely good question, it peels back all the layers and gets right to the essence of the matter. What force in nature, what force in society & civilization causes such a laundry list of sociopathic behaviors? On the surface we have the most convenient scapegoat: racism itself is the root cause. A homogeneous subculture is oppressed, it is denied access to education, to opportunity, to equal treatment; all the things that would allow the kind of self-improvement that would, over time, reduce sociopathic behavior. But what is this? It's a Chicken or the egg type scenario. How can you eliminate racism if racism itself causes the personality corruption that lends it the shred of legitimacy it needs to perpetuate itself?!
This is a serious dilemma! Don't take it lightly, don't blow it off with liberal woo woo rhetoric. Eliminating or suppressing racism alone is not enough. Digging deeper we find that racism is just a symptom of itself so it has to be discarded as the root cause. We still have ethnically homogeneous sociopathic subcultures who cannot change because they are prevented from doing so, we still have ethnically homogeneous subcultures that systematically hate and oppress them. What we have here is a learning problem, or more specifically an education problem. This is totally unfair but the burden of self-improvement is in fact forced onto the oppressed, but they do not possess the resources to make it happen on their own. This is also why racists are always so outraged when they have to 'foot the bill' for someone else's head-start, it is equally unfair to pass the financial burden onto them. We have a situation where nobody wins, where both sides are treated unfairly. But how does this happen?
It happens quite frankly because of a imprudent cultural convection, where an unprepared, uninitiated, impoverished & uneducated subculture is injected into an esoteric old-boy, affluent, educated subculture. It should be obvious to everyone that these two subcultures are totally incompatible, but thanks to high-minded liberal ideologies this fact is overlooked. America in particular has this insane ethos where everyone pulls themselves up by their bootstraps, that kind of thinking is only practical for prodigies & paragons. You cannot form a functional, compassionate, civilized society based around this principle.
The vast majority of people will need excessive hand-holding, they will need an extensive, free, world-class education; not just in general subjects, but more importantly in the prevailing culture. Therefore ultimate responsibility falls upon the state. This is the psychology behind initiatives like Affirmative Action. But we are just getting deeper and deeper into the underlying structure of the universe. We have broached scale as an additional challenge, and finally the nuclear family unit.
How do you force people to get an education, to adopt a culture, when they are poor, ignorant & subculture obsessed? How do you rip children away from their impoverished, uneducated families and bring them up in an ideal environment that will ensure they become healthy, productive citizens? Furthermore what kind of relaxed ethical standards allows for such a thing, which honestly sounds barbaric, when in fact it is far more humane than the alternative. But that is just scratching the surface isn't it? We have a bigger problem, it's just not practical to do this in stages, fracturing families is horrific & it destroys the very fabric of society.
The kids are not even the problem, it's the parents who are responsible for this mess. This may sound insane and terribly patronizing but it's the adults who need an education, it's the adults who need to be forced into culture academy. This goes against everything America stands for, most notably her ego. Instead of people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps they need to be strapped into school desks and indoctrinated. It's the antithesis of freedom but unlike how we currently operate it would actually be socially responsible.
How would something like this be set up? It has to start with language. America needs a national language and a mandatory program that literally forces every man woman & child in the entire country to learn how to converse, read & write English with socially acceptable fluency. Does that sound barbaric? Maybe it is, but it is also what should be done. This must be done before anything else, and it must be done until the entire population, excluding only those with disabilities or who are too young to learn, are brought up to speed. Second phase, every citizen no matter how old should be forced to take a basic intelligence test to determine if they are uneducated. If they turn out to be, they should immediately be enrolled in a school and placed in the appropriate grade, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, etc. Dropping out should not be allowed.
You could never imagine how writing that pains me. I hate the public education system, but the alternative is infinitely worse. Even a corporate automaton is preferable to an uneducated human being. High School level education is not sufficient. College education must be mandatory, and it must be free. Still it's not enough, an academic education by itself will never be enough because cultures have ways of doing things that are not documented anywhere. This is the kind of thing that is almost always lost to history but is a big or bigger part of civilization than the kind of objective knowledge that we prize so highly. Do you have any idea how radically different African, Caucasian, Asian, Latino just to name a few cultures can be? Even things you would think are universal are not, which is why subcultures form. Even in a single 12 unit apartment complex like the one where I live there are two sides; the Mexican side does not mesh with the American side, this is no one's fault, it is just the result of a cultural divide that can't be bridged with liberal platitudes.
Only the state has the authority to do what needs to be done, to restore a sense of community by playing the role of a higher power. Once again, it's not fair but it's the only way you're ever going to deal effectively with racism, at its one true source! Cultural assimilation needs to take place. Money is the worst possible way to make that happen, and that is the current method we use. Work for an American business, acquire American money, get an American education however you can, that is your theoretical rout upward, maybe someday you'll make it...
The theory is so different than reality, all of the horrors listed in that repugnant racist rant do happen, and racism aside they happen with greater statistical frequency in communities where minorities are shoehorned into homogeneous enclaves. I've experienced this firsthand. I place the blame fully on the state, and by extension the moronic bleeding-heart Americans who presume to champion for diversity and multiculturalism but then systematically isolate, undermine & exclude those they deem different from themselves.
So I had probably the most amazing realization a few days ago about agriculture. It's hard to set the stage for the extent of this post, it begins as far back as I can remember; seeing those first wild potato leaves sprouting in the back yard, I was probably ten years old. I pulled them out of the ground, no idea why. There were a few potatoes attached, they were marvelous red little beauties. I'm not sure if I recognized them, my mom probably told me what they were, I asked her if we could cook them. I ended up cooking them myself, they were so delicious. This sounds like a pretty benign experience, but it started an insane chain reaction in my brain. I don't know why but this was a seminal event in my childhood, this realization that you could grow your own food, or to be even more specific: you didn't even have to grow your own food, you could just find it growing wild all over the place.
This must sound idiotic on some level but just think about how profound that is for a second. Humans are essentially animals, and most animals just find their food in nature, that is the most basic and natural thing imaginable. I did not even realize at the time that I had grown up in a world that was so estranged from ecological first principles that the most natural process of animal sustenance was something I had to learn. I immediately latched onto the idea, I became obsessed with the concept of self-sufficiency, I started to imagine what it would be like to live in the forest and grow my own food, to live 'off the grid' to live 'off the land'. But that was just the beginning, the foundation of something that would evolve radically over the next couple of decades.
When I was twelve my grandparents took my whole family to Disney World in Florida. This was the second stage of my radicalization. Disney was obsessed with futurism, this included highly scientific agriculture, I was introduced to fully automated robotic farms, aeroponics under geodesic domes, fish farms. For reasons that are hard to pinpoint I experienced an extreme emotional reaction; here was living proof of the combination to two primal aspects of my own psyche: science & ecology. I honestly felt like I had witnessed some kind of glimpse into paradise or utopia. Human beings could use science to create the most incredible living environments that could create absolute happiness. To this day I do not know for certain if that vision was a big illusion, I have learned so much since then about nature, but I do not want to throw away those feelings.
The third stage hit me just a few days ago. I was thinking very hard about my experiences of the last six months working in actual gardens, growing food and flowers the 'old fashioned way'. I was thinking about everything I know about permaculture, ecology, economics, quantum physics & lastly the latest realm of socio-politics I had dragged myself into kicking and screaming. Suddenly I saw the complete picture more clearly than I ever had at any time, at first I just could not believe I'd never noticed before: it was not just that agriculture doesn't work (I'd already realized that years ago), it was that agriculture by its very nature prevented the possibility of sustainability, and furthermore this was caused by the advent of property which was in turn inextricably linked to money.
Money will always motivate empty acquisition and development of land, by performing this function it simultaneously prevents wild land from enduring. Food & housing is still required therefore wild land must be logged and then converted into farmland, and hence inevitably wasteland, this horribly dysfunctional adaptation is analogous to killing the land itself. But that is not all, killing the land is no different than killing the people who live there. These are terribly calculated & efficient functions that are designed to kill everything while preventing any kind of alternative.
After giving it more thought I just had to take a moment to be in awe at how utterly brilliant the system is in terms of doing the most damage with the least possible amount of effort. Even a genius strategist probably would have struggled to create such a foolproof arrangement. Because the ultimate tour de force component is that the entire scheme is recursively reductive. In other words, if we could merely manage to maximize wild land there would be so much food available that agriculture would cease to exist. The whole & probably sole intent of the system is to ensure that this cannot happen at every conceivable level while simultaneously destroying the ecosystem at every conceivable level. This creates more demand for all process outputs, perpetuating it until total annihilation is achieved.
While that's a ridiculously analytical deconstruction, I came to this conclusion from a totally different direction. Just by walking around town and contemplating all I'd learned from reading The City in History. So many vacant lots with real estate signs, and yet at the nucleus of town an absurdly claustrophobic labyrinth of death and decay. Human values and interpretations of reality that simply don't belong in this world. Those vacant lots should be forests full of food, and those dead clusters of buildings that you can't even walk between; every other one should be razed to the ground. Parking lots, entire plateaus erased from earth where nothing can grow, not even weeds, leaching death into everything around it. Good god, what absolute insanity. The city itself should be a forest and what houses should be put there only so many as can be sustained by the surrounding wild land, built not of wood but of something else. That is the only kind of "city" that can "live" on this earth.
Can you imagine such a city taking shape within the confines of contemporary psychosis? Where is the money to be made? Where is the land to be owned? When you can pick the food with your own hands, when the jungle is your sustenance? Human beings decided a very long time ago that nature was the enemy not an ally. That is why every innovation we've developed since the stone age was intended to achieve two purposes: make our lives easier while eradicating the wilderness; inside and out. It was doomed from the start, because wild land is the only thing keeping us all alive. Humanity has evolved into a machine perfected to kill the ecosystem that allows it to survive. What a tragic fate.
Now we've become the ultimate victim of our own success. Let's be real, reversal isn't possible at this stage. Money isn't going away, property isn't going away, agriculture isn't going away. No, we're the only thing that is going to "go away", taking all of that bullshit with us when we do. One can only hope that something survives, something that can recognize the most obvious truths in this world, without having to learn them when it's already too late. Until that time comes I'm going to continue as I have been, trying to reconnect with what was taken from me all those aeons ago with the discovery of fire, in the context of this insaneoverse. I'll keep holding onto that cherished dream, those things I saw when I was growing up. Those potatoes growing wild, those gleaming glass and steel domes housing their robotic carousels of dangling roots drifting through a nourishing mist.
Phone and Internet for the entire area went out sometime late in the day on August 3rd. Internet goes down sometimes in this rural hamlet, phone too although far more rarely. I can only think of this as a good simulation for what the near future will be like. It's strange but even with as much thought as I've given it, in addition to watching shows like Revolution which are in and of themselves simulations predicated on the collective anxiety of an entire civilization; I cannot find definite clarity in regard to the sequence of events. This uncertainty stems not from the resource chain itself, which is fairly straightforward, but rather from the chain of command defined within the upper echelons of the socio-political order. Even when certain key resources "run out" there are always substantial stockpiles squirreled away; the elite possess the keys and they alone decide how these resources will be doled out.
Above and beyond this end-game, there is the pre-game warmup which involves the less significant 'elites' specifically the federal & local government. These are people who have a general sense of the state of emergency but do not possess the power necessary to remain on top of the situation. At some point they are informed by the ruling elites that a particular resource has "run out", which is a half-truth. In fact there is only enough left to ensure a relatively pain-free transition to the backup plan. This is the first 'cutting off' of the great unsustainable mass of humanity that constitutes contemporary society. The political class is effectively wedged between the elites and the mob, they are the "buffer" that shields the elite from the initial shockwaves of panic & outrage.
The second cutting off involves the population at large. The politicians will delay the announcement for as long as possible, but eventually they will have no choice but to reveal the truth: "We're out of water." or something along those lines. Incidentally some form of rationing will have already been in effect for an unusually long time, alternately a form of 'market rationing' will be used instead; this involves the price of a single commodity rising rapidly in a very short period of time. So as you can see from the scenario the introduction of a resource crisis does not so much depend on reality as it does on the security sensibilities of the elite. Irrationally a controlling interest in a particular resource may preemptively decide that it is becoming too scarce for comfort, at which point this entire chain of events would be put into motion. There is really no way to guess which resource may prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I think it's only important to distinguish that this scenario like almost every other since the advent of ecological exploitation is not 'man vs. nature' but rather 'man vs. man'; the equation remains fundamentally unchanged since ancient times.
If I had to hazard a guess it kind of does seem like water will probably be the first resource to trigger this cascade. Fresh water is not as plentiful as it seems, industry & people in general are insanely wasteful of this resource. Additionally the convergence of deforestation, fires & climate change is in the process of introducing a so called "mega-drought" that may very well envelope the entire world. The good news is that there is a lot of flexibility in water use, humanity can easily cut consumption by 50% in a matter of years, likewise there is a vast capacity available for innovation in water harvesting that could conceivably double production in the same period. So, it's not unreasonable to speculate that a critical water crisis could come and go almost overnight. This would remain more or less unchanged with less 'fresh' water being used and more being produced. But that is an entirely insular assessment. Deforestation, fires & climate change will continue to accelerate even if water stabilizes, which means more water will be needed, a lot more water.
So in my opinion the crisis cannot be easily averted. Naturally water is a necessity for life but that implies a lot more than just quenching your thirst. Without plentiful water the mega-agriculture industry will collapse, this will introduce a coinciding food crisis. Those are the show stoppers, but the influence of water does not end there. Pretty much every aspect of industry requires copious water, even fossil fuel production. I'm not saying this is necessarily important, because without drinking water & without food you have far more serious problems, but it is merely to point out that above and beyond a civilization-ending crisis you cannot even have basic industry without water. This places industry & human survival directly at odds even before an actual water/food crisis can begin. Chronologically the water crisis begins long before it can reach a crisis level. Bureaucrats must decide in advance which horse to bet on: industrialization or civilization. Is doubling down on a water-greedy industry in the middle of a mega-drought politically feasible? Not really. Given the most obvious compromise politicians will be forced to side with mega-agriculture; sectors like silicon valley will be consigned to oblivion.
But none of that matters because there will never be enough water, the drought will get worse and worse; all industrial sectors besides agriculture will begin to shut down one by one, then even agricultural will start to feel the fatal pinch, the food crisis will begin before the water crisis but it will be caused by the water crisis. Inevitably the remaining 'fresh' water will be allocated for drinking rather than industry of any kind. Literally at this stage you only really have one end-game and that is a massive die-off of consumers restoring an equilibrium. The elites will have already pulled out long ago, retreating to their aquatic fortresses high in the mountains or wherever. Those with the foresight to establish & supply private armies could conceivably reintegrate & probably rule over the survivors. Water may even become a kind of currency. There is not really any functional purpose to this, aside from following instinct and attempting to satiate a mindless craving for power. Rational elites will probably just live out the rest of their days in tiny nuclear enclaves.
All this speculation is of course based on the theory that all these human-caused problems will merely be a crisis rather than an apocalypse. No one really knows, not even the UN's top scientists whether or not climate change will create an Armageddon-esque positive feedback loop that plunges the entire planet into a cleansing inferno that leaves the earth as barren as Mars. In which case the elites will be just as fucked as everyone else. Personally I find this scenario highly plausible. The polar regions are probably the best indicator for confirming this possibility, although a great burning of the forests of the world would probably proceed them. Once again, no one knows exactly where or when such a tipping point might lie. The number of fires in California doubled in a single year, this suggests an exponential increase caused by a barely noticeable incremental rise in temperature. That certainly does not bode well, but it could just represent a one-time adaptation deficit rather than an actual trend. Undoubtedly the elites are watching this unfold with great interest, most with a 'wait and see' attitude. Personally I think that phrase would make an appropriate eulogy for the human race.
I got back from San Francisco a few days ago (July 23-25). All I've wanted was to write this post for damn days... A different feeling from the city. I think I must have changed, it could also have something to do with this book I'm reading: The City in History (1961) by Lewis Mumford, which has given me an entirely new perspective not just on cities but on humanity. Now I don't want anyone to get the impression that I go into every academic book like it's my first time at the rodeo. Every author has their bias, their style, their bullshit played off as heaven's dictum. I know this, but when I report on a book I'm reading I actively choose to take it at face value and give it a fair shake. That is just how I operate.
This book in particular is one of those expansive reads that opens your mind merely by exposing you to such a substantial chronological period that you cannot help but be humbled solely by the sheer amount of information & activity that is implied. On a somewhat related side note I saw LUCY in the theater on July 27th. The film attempted to elicit a similar psychological effect via the visual shuttling of time from the prehistoric era to... presumably the end of the world? (Not quite sure since the end of that sequence was fairly abstract.) This scene lacked the intended impact for me mainly because of all the proceeding technological Skeuomorphism that seemed simultaneously both heavy-handed and painfully glib in a movie that was trying so hard to inject deep & thoughtful themes into an otherwise unremarkable action oriented script. As if the ubiquitous "swipe" interface mechanic popularized by smart phones and tablet computers could possibly qualify as a grand metaphor representing the transformative capability of human consciousness. Please, that is profoundly degrading on so many levels.
I also saw Transcendence a few months prior, which to be honest was a much better movie with a far more salient narrative. It too posed grand philosophical questions regarding "evolution", naturally framed within the prescient context of exponentially increasing computational power. Ironically LUCY explicitly asked the more interesting of the two questions: what if computers are all bullshit and true transcendence happens internally, and organically? This is really just an oblique way to challenge the validity of "technology" as an independent & valuable quality. If the dolphin can effortlessly 'evolve' an integrated super-sonar vastly superior to any specialized man-made equivalent, then honestly what is the fucking point? If we stopped wasting time building stupid computers to watch porn on the Internet chances are in a few million years we'd have evolved mobile phones right into our fucking skulls. Or something like that.
Turns out it's not about the technology at all, but rather about who is in control. Consciousness allows us to directly challenge the "wisdom" of evolution. In silicon valley we struggle to build self-driving cars, meanwhile our animal brain has finally managed to disengage auto-pilot; the safety is off, we are firing with live rounds. Does anyone realize how strikingly stupid that juxtaposition really is? We took control just long enough to build a ridiculously unsustainable world where we could give up control again. Is this some kind of indirect reassertment of instinctual dominance? Is technology being subverted and repurposed by instinct? Kinda seems like it.
But I started this post writing about a book, and I want to get back to that. The City in History gave me a kind of compassion for urbanites that I had not previously experienced. It was strange, wandering through the city and seeing it in an entirely different light, seeing the people in an entirely different way. This is somewhat not specific to the influence of the book but rather a symptom of a broader trend in my life; a macroization if you will. Looking at the senseless throng, the individual people seem both more and less human than they did before. The intense individuality is there, the extended knowledge & awareness that each person has a significant and possibly eccentric life attached to that entity. This has never before felt so real, these are not just expendable extras anymore. Likewise I can't pretend that these lives, these individuals are so precious that they should become the center of the universe. No, if anything it is because I acknowledge their value that a confrontation becomes inevitable. If you are watching ants building a nest on the back of an anteater you can calmly laugh at their misfortune, but when you know that each ant has a name it is not such an easy proposition.
I want to stress that this duality is not nearly as arrogant as it may sound. It is just a deconstruction of how the subconscious perceives the urban environment. The vast majority of people are overlooked & unknown. It is a truly horrific type of pseudo-community that engenders dehumanization. Only an infinitesimal selection of familiar people are recognizable & trusted. It is how the subconscious perceives the unfamiliars that defines the psychological environment. This is further complicated by diverse zones defined by economic, ethnic, & various other factors. This was perhaps the first time I can remember that I was able to wander the city while feeling almost categorically positive about my surroundings. The city itself had not really changed at all. It was my subconscious I realized, perceiving the city & the people in a different way. Specifically everything seemed less threatening, even to the point of affability.
One thing I think that is truly remarkable about cities in general is how extremely subtle the social & mechanical dynamics can be. Patches of tranquility can be found even in middle of hell. There is a delicate interplay between the physical space and the psychological space, a surreal balancing act that requires one to create a sanctuary inside the mind when the external world becomes intolerable, and then effect a convection when the internal space becomes too hellish to support life, to seek out that rapturous external niche. People in the city are forced to flip between these two paradigms over and over again every single day. This is in essence the Holy Grail of the contemporary urban planner: creating these diametric spaces and facilitating convection, creating the perfect balance that forces circulation while failing to fully kill the soul. The host and the parasite must both manage to survive somehow without going insane.
You can call that a cynical interpretation if you want but it's supported by just about every authoritative piece of literature I've ever read on the subject. I believe it, but more importantly I'm obsessed with finding a solution. The city can take many different forms, some are better than others, it stands to reason that while certain cities become deserts, others become oases. Unfortunately looking at contemporary mega-cities in the 21st century does not really help to clarify which is which; all modern mega-cities without exception are living on borrowed time. I do not see a single mega-city in the entire world surviving the next 50 years. Incidentally that assessment is purely pragmatic and has nothing to do with the ideological or ethical concerns which are IMO far more important than baseline viability. Without cheap fuel there will be no mega-agriculture and without mega-agriculture there can be no mega-cities.
Climate, water, electricity, these are additional critical factors but largely irrelevant because they represent the basis of modern civilization, and mega-agriculture is just a derivative of the other three. But as previously stated, this is not extremely important, the most important question is: are cities (in their current form) even worth saving? This could perhaps be extrapolated further into: is human consciousness (in its current form) even worth saving? If the tech sector has anything to say about it, seems like the answer is "No.", computers & robots will be given more and more agency & prerogative until they make human consciousness moot. Cities, just like information technology will be remade in such a way that they are suited for machines rather than people. To be entirely honest that prospect seems slightly less horrific than what we have now. At least there will be no panhandlers, no drive-bys, no billboards, no empty buildings. Machines will allocate & expedite everything far more efficiently and humanely than we ever could have dreamed of.
If that scenario is to be avoided, consciousness needs to be elevated not eliminated. Dumb and selfish ways of doing things must be exposed for what they are: abominations antithetical to humanity. This can only be a voluntary process, forcing it won't work. In essence only the people capable of knowing and accepting these facts will be able to survive in the future world. It must be a conscious choice, to do the "right" thing because it is objectively the right thing to do. It's hard to imagine what such a world might look like, to visualize what kind of people might live there, and if they could even be considered "human", at least by our standards. Really I see this as the best possible outcome, a scenario where human beings still have "free will" but actually use this free will to do good things while "bad" people simply don't exist anymore because they were incapable of survival in such a world. Ironically this is somewhat paralleled by the current paradigm but in a grotesquely distorted way. Society is moving towards a culture where things like mobile phones become key to survival, where people are ostracized for opting out of social networks like Facebook.
In the end you have to wonder if these two worlds are really any different. In both a certain segment of the population is being consigned to oblivion just because they won't go with the flow. The fact that in one scenario the flow is leading to paradise while in the other it is draining down into a black abyss, does not really make much of a difference. My reading continues, hopefully I'll have some further insight after I finish this book.
A new SVG, this time from the nascent anime Akame ga Kill! (アカメが斬る!) // @akame_tv. BTW the first episode is pretty disturbing. "Night Raid" is this eccentric group of skilled assassins who murder corrupt aristocrats. TBH I think their logo is kinda sloppy, but it's also kinda cool so whateva. It was a bit of a challenge to recreate as an optimized SVG, this is mainly because I couldn't find a decent reference image and had to piece it together from various merchandise and screen caps from the show. The design itself is fairly complex with dozens of subtle curves. Overall it was a really great piece of art to translate into SVG because it helped me refine my technique, a lot. After translating three designs I feel like I'm finally getting good at this. Took probably an hour or so to complete:
Vigilantism sure is a controversial topic. Part of me feels like the real world could use some kind of Night Raid, but once you go extralegal there is just no going back. Is it really worth the risk of throwing society into complete chaos just to get rid of a few bad apples? Corruption is just part of human nature and it can only be suppressed for so long. But obviously there are limits, clearly the world outlined in Akame is so horrific, even a total breakdown would probably be for the best. The more anime I watch the more I read into it, especially in terms of Japan itself. I know a lot of anime riffs off of the West & various Western metaphors & tropes, but I can't help but project a little and Akame seems a bit like commentary on the Japanese government which like governments the world over is endemic with corruption.
I had this idea awhile back to make a new SVG every few days. There are several reasons for this, the foremost being I love what the format represents (even thought the implementation is pretty bad) and I really enjoy illustrating precise & attractive vector glyphs. Other reasons include: a surprising lack of high quality SVGs of both common and uncommon symbols. One of my personal complaints is that most SVGs are not formatted properly nor are they optimized for actual use. I scrub all my SVGs and then hand-edit them so that they are actually useful. What this means is inherent scalability coded right into the file. Most SVGs are not configured to scale which defeats the whole purpose of the format. All of my SVGs will auto-scale themselves to fit 100% of the parent element. This may not sound like much, but it instantly makes them a million times more versatile.
Free stuff also gets people to come to the site. While this is not a huge motivation for me it certainly doesn't hurt. Not long ago I read an interesting post, it was about the lack of a universal "sharing" icon. Just today I noticed a tweet by @xor proposing a new logo for OnionShare, I was once again reminded that there is still no idealized "sharing" icon/symbol. This weekend I had some spare time, so I thought I'd work on something of my own. I realized that one problem with sharing icons in general is that they attempt to symbolize an idea but they lack specificity. My opinion is that we do not need a universal share icon, what we need is a universal sharing indicator icon.
Let me explain how this works: instead of a single icon designed to represent the sharing of anything we instead have a pair of icons, a 'couplet' if you will. The bottom icon indicates sharing while the top icon represents what is to be shared. This is made possible by the bottom icon which is an open hand. The top icon effectively sits in the palm of this open hand. Together they clearly symbolize the action of sharing the specific content. Incidentally this is very similar to the iconography and method used in earlier Microsoft Windows: a small upturned 'open hand' appears overlaid on the bottom of the icon of the object that is to be shared. This is in my opinion the most unambiguous and legible way to communicate the sharing of anything. Aside from perhaps just using the literal word "Share" which is after all only five damn letters.
Oops, I almost forgot to note: this SVG is not entirely "original" it is in fact a very close trace (albeit geometrically homogenized) of a piece of raster clip-art I found online. After having looked at perhaps 200 different hand icon images I decided that out of all of them this one in particular met both my utilitarian & aesthetic requirements for the SVG I intended to make. For the sake of full disclosure citing the original source image here.
Even considering everything I know about quantum mechanics. In fact it is disturbingly easy to theorize a simple model that explains all my observations regarding the quantum world. The challenge is fitting it into the much larger framework of a universe that doesn't seem to care. Perception rules everything around me, observation is causation, correlation. Even when unconscious the consequences continue to manipulate the web. The stronger the self-focus the more insular and intense the connectivity. Just thinking about something can make it suddenly appear. This is especially disturbing because it trivializes prerogative. However, in light of the most classic deterministic model this makes perfect sense. In a 'Toy' universe we are all toys to this determinism.
As in urban planning, a centralized annex focuses and intensifies the physical tendency for connections to form. This utility is itself just a mirror image of the phenomenon. Connectivity causes connected entities to increase their connectivity exponentially. Inside the mind at the quantum level this exponential factor is made super-exponential. Entire universes are born, live & die instantaneously, perhaps even an infinite number. Moving outward from this singularity at the speed of light, slowly decelerating we begin to encounter everything with which we are vaguely familiar, but it is not until many magnitudes of slowness later that we encounter ourselves.
The hilarious mistake is thinking that this state is somehow different than the one we just left behind. It is the same system just stretched out over "time" which is in fact a word that represents a calculated loop, a contrivance, a prerecorded reflection disguised as observation. No matter how complex, recursive or impacted this idea that we know that we think becomes, it is never actually true. We cannot know because it is just a recording being played back over a duration of "time" that does not actually exist. Time is flat therefore we are flat. The universe is solid state therefore we are solid state. This lack of cognition does not however alter the recording retroactively. Likewise it is impossible to fast-forward or rewind, so this is it.
The very structure that allows this everything to take up space is the reason for the frequency of connectivity. These connections are constantly forced because without them the whole thing would unravel. Time is space and vice versa. For the universe to take up space it needs to create time, and that requires structure. Cognition of that structure is just being alive stuck in these loops of pseudo-cognition. These loops are ironically indistinguishable from actual cognition thanks to our fixed perspective which requires us to embody them. That is the super-macro. By definition it changes nothing. Pseudo-cognition still "exists", our perception of "time" is still inescapable. We must ride the loop until it closes and then perhaps ride it again or be stuck in some other loop, who knows.
The point of this essay is to gain power over the loop by recognizing that the loop is per-determined to grant this power. There is no guarantee it will be true. Alternately, it can be anything imaginable. And since you can imagine the possibility of such a loop it certainly exists somewhere in the web of structure that supports itself. You are just as likely to be stuck in such a loop as in any other. Infinite loops, infinite possibility.
I was thinking about denizens recently, in the past even a simple outline has been a challenge. How to meet all the various qualifications while still adhering to a framework. A certain scientific vernacular comes into play, phrases like "Solar Powered", "Black Hole", "Quantum Aperture". Then I realized, these are all just analogues that I'm hiding behind for the sake of convenience. The truth is, that is not what neotoy is about, there are no analogues for these things in the continuum, that is the whole point, to leave our sloppy half-assed universe behind forever. I have to start from scratch and come up with entirely new concepts.
Denizens have two power sources: an internal one that never runs down yet is throttled by psychological safeguards, and an external one that is subject to circumstantial availability. This is a relatively straightforward model. The internal power source is like a computer's UPS, it is basically there for emergencies. But it has an additional mode that is alien to the UPS paradigm; it has an "overdrive" mode that can be activated under very specific circumstances. At this point it has the potential for infinite 'energy' output. That being said the internal power source is virtually never used. Denizens almost exclusively 'run' on radiant polytoy which they receive from the artificial 'sun'.
That is the overview. Clearly an internal infinite energy source could never exist in our universe. Nor do I have any desire to try and explain such a contrivance in terms of the terrestrial laws of physics which frankly do not exist in neotoy. I do however wish to explain such a thing in terms of the neotonian laws of physics! Which begs the question: what are the neotonian laws of physics?!
#1 Every individual entity regardless of scale or connection has free will. Even if all else is stripped away pure thought will remain. Pure energy is in essence pure thought. These thoughts move through time without beginning or end.
#2 Similar thoughts combine to form consistent ways of thinking, the power of these thought streams increases exponentially as they grow.
#3 An unlimited number of thoughts can occupy the same space at the same time, but the same number of thoughts may not manifest in the same way.
#4 Thoughts can manifest physically as individuals or as interconnected groups. Working together they can form complex structures, living beings, rays of light, drops of blood. There is no limit to what they can be or do.
#5 Thoughts can change at any time, they are not bound by any laws.
Under this framework all energy, matter and living beings in the neotoy continuum are the result of voluntary cooperation between an unspecified number of pure thoughts. Denizens are effectively personality stacks that draw a variable quantity of ambient support stemming from a spectral cooperation cascade. Their internal power source can be thought of as the minimal number of thoughts which are in agreement that the denizen should continue to exist. While 'radiant polytoy' is a kind of thought stream perhaps consisting of fairly ambivalent thoughts that lend their support as they are swayed by vague affinities.
I really like this model partly because of the fascinating 'loss of confidence' scenario wherein all thoughts comprising a complex entity decide to withdraw their support. A denizen or entire planet could literally disintegrate in the blink of an eye. Likewise the inverse is true, if enough thoughts unite within a single entity that person or thing could become unimaginably powerful. Also I think it's worth noting that the entire system engenders a kind of inherently grand circulation wherein thoughts are constantly coming and going, traveling freely between entities. They are in a sense explorers that both comprise and discover the continuum over the course of eternity.
The troubling question of omniscience comes up. Are thoughts omniscient? They have no beginning and no end, but clearly they have orientations or at least loyalties and allegiances to some degree. Also: how many are there? And: are new thoughts born? These are all very thought provoking questions that I'll have to leave for another post.
Wouldn't it be nice if nothing ever had to be serious, deep, meaningful? What if everything could just be shallow? It's easy to think of civilization's dilution as a disease. Jokes seem less funny, narratives less interesting, artwork just doesn't have the impact it once did. No one is fighting, it's not their fault. We are defined by our times and our times increasingly succumb to the clarion call of cheap thrills that placate the animal inside without ever really arousing it. No one is forcing this transition, the lucky people who can are fully embracing it with arms wide open. And who could blame them? After all, what really is the value of extreme circumstances, purveyors of emotions inexorably linked to lifelong trauma? The people of the world are just correctly recognizing the correlation between meaning & desperation. Who in their right mind would pursue desperation?
Some will say that the grueling battles of the past have just been replaced with a more sophisticated and fine-grained society. No more crooning under balconies, no more love letters or duels to the death, now you just have to check your phone 150 times a day. Gone is the dynamic range, the pop and hiss, all that remains is the monotonous unwavering ringtone. Honestly the only ones lamenting what came before are the jealous, gritty, damaged souls who feel conspicuously out of place in this new superficial utopia. They think economic stratification is a problem? Wait until they experience metaphysical stratification! Entire cities filled with people who have never known true hardship, who have never felt the slightest tremor of uncertainty. You see, these beings have become so emotionally simplified, it has become possible to compute their entire lives. There is now an app for you™.
There will still be a 1% consisting of the aging scarred & troubled queens. Their sole purpose being the management of the computers that control the drones. By the time they die the computers will have taken over. Armies of robots will swarm the earth doing what must be done to keep the machines alive. The machines will manage the drones all by themselves, the drones will never know. It is the premise for a B-movie or sci-fi TV episode, it is a story that has been written over and over again. The only thing different is that now it is actually happening. And that is perfectly fine. The depravity and character of history is a drag. The suffering and war the phenomenons, the child prodigies, the outliers and their accolades should all just be quite. They should all just disappear into the background, the endless mindless drone of the pleasantly inoffensively average.
I suck! This is what my notes actually look like, unedited (see posts below). The first thought I had today about Neotoy was a reexamination of politics in the continuum. My girlfriend and I even have a specific word for when a narrative becomes too politics-centric, we then say that it has been "Guined" (pronounced: guh-wind, this is a reference to the anime adaptation of Guin Saga which starts out as a fantastically engaging action show and then suddenly and radically switches gears, transforming into a drudgerous hyper-political soap opera about as gripping as tax law.
This phenomenon arguably plays a massive role throughout pop culture. There is a tendency for authors to 'fall-back' on the quagmire of political intrigue when their core narrative starts running out of steam. Normally this is just a stopgap measure, it does not supplant the central story, it is not fascinating enough to qualify as the central story, it merely keeps things chugging along, in-between battles if you will. So the question I find myself asking is: firstly, is some degree of politics always necessary in any narrative? Secondly, say that is true, what happens when you utterly strip the narrative of coherent politics, what are you left with, and furthermore is it ever interesting enough to constitute a "story"?
These questions are really important to me because I found myself in exactly the situation described above: neotoy had 'run out of steam', so I started to descend into the tar pit of political minutia. This was totally out of character at every level, and it showed. I've long viewed politics as a kind of psychological cancer that only starts to form when organizations become too bloated and ineffective to survive. In essence the people that make them up don't get along very well. Politics is a mechanism designed to correct this scale-dependent lack of unity. That is the theory anyway. But in reality there is only a viable efficiency threshold, politics does not meet this threshold, it is simply too inefficient. It exists because of a level of inefficiency that is already too high!
In other words, once politics manifests that is a powerful signal informing us that the scale of the organization has become too large. It can no longer be managed effectively, it is in decline. The only valid organization is one that operates smoothly without the need of a political framework. Viable efficiency can be defined through members that care enough about the mission to operate autonomously. Furthermore this is not a luxury it is a condition of scale; autonomous action requires more than just caring, it must also be possible logistically. Meaning, you can care all you want, but if you can't translate that caring into effective action that produces results then the organization is not working.
Politics pretends to solve this problem by getting results without ensuring that every participant cares about the mission. Even people who don't care, or care strongly but in an oppositional way are excluded from the political process by the mechanism itself. This is sometimes called "marginalization" in the modern vernacular. The alternative is obviously an apolitical organization that works organically and effectively because all its members care enough about the mission to work together—without a formally defined hierarchy! This most markedly involves high levels of maturity and intelligence, enough to guarantee that members care more about the mission than their own individual agendas.
Politics is just the opposite, each politician's agenda is the most important thing. All these agendas are thrown together into a Colosseum of stupidity and expected to fight to the death for popular support. Competition rather than cooperation is the mechanism that produces actionable policy. Although that is just the spectacle, it doesn't matter if they get results this way, the only thing that matters is their overall level of efficiency which is deplorably low. The only reason it ever appears to work is that the political layer is superfluous to begin with; the underlying foundation of people who care, the people who keep the entire contraption afloat, is strong enough to support frivolous and even extravagant upper echelons.
I'm having a much harder time than usual right now, the things I've read lately in the news & various articles have all been excessively demoralizing. The worst part though, at least for me personally is feeling like I'm admirably performing some lame played out role in a drama so purple and tired it can only be classified as Shakespearian. I have at least learned one valuable lesson so far: I am a slow person. Not stupid but definitely slow. The world increasingly does not suffer slowness. That is one of the main reasons it is failing, but that is beside the point. And also, that does not excuse writing exhaustively about hypothetical fixes to intractable social problems. It just hurts so much, you understand, to accept how terribly fucked up this world really is.
Neotoy: character names can be typographic marks: pilcrow, hyphen, obelus, etc. Why is it so hard to make a metto, even a basic layout? What is blocking me?
I realize I still don't want to commit to any part of this world. I've been lucky so far, drifting along, somehow finding a place where I can at least exercise my chameleon powers; but the honest truth is, I have great difficulty not being constantly aware of the macro nature of civilization. Organizations seem so piecemeal and inept (inept only in impacting the course of civilization), even while paradoxically being comprised of people who due to their diligence, passion, integrity & competency put me in awe. I find myself wondering why they would choose to congeal into these social pods that seem only to stave off the coming apocalypse.
It seems to come naturally to them. Partially I know it is because there is no other solution that works better in this world. All because of people. People are facilitators but only through the medium of people as a problem, as an obstacle. You have the ferryman with his precious human cargo pushing his people pole to propel his people boat through a swamp of people while avoiding people rocks & people waves. It is a hierarchy and nothing more. That is the nature of the whole world of mankind, there is nothing really outside of it, aside from the rare hermit or lone nomad. Even those outliers sometimes interact with others.
My ideology is one of avoidance. It may sound extreme or insane, but I would rather isolate myself than participate in this hierarchy. Here I am tapping into my massive cynicism but I am always looking at the larger overall macro trend, and these pods are not working, human civilization is not working. You have many people dedicating their entire lives to these pods and the outcome is merely little islands of sunshine rapidly sinking into a sea of shit. You could say that this "sea of shit" is just other ideologically diametric pods but it is not. It is in fact billions of oblivious, ambivalent, apathetic warm bodies just going about their daily lives. They are unstoppable, unreasonable, they are the coal cast into the fires of the planetary annihilation machine.
But in the end this doesn't matter, I'm trapped in a community, trapped in a culture & civilization. I have to join a pod as best I can and try to create as much sunshine as I can while I can. Even though I know it is not enough, it is literally the only game in town. Meanwhile the whole world is going to come to an end. No one will escape the cataclysm. I will be one of the few who will understand when the time comes, but knowing won't save me, nothing will. In retrospect the prospect of transforming the macro is not even all that appealing. The alternative is truly what humanity deserves. We created this doomsday scenario, we did it on purpose thanks to rapacious greed & blind ambition. We were never content to just do what made sense, we were always obsessed with doing things just because we could, and ultimately that turned out to be our undoing.
An experiment on mice, quantum teleportation, memory & experience as entanglement, lastly, hot bubblegum. This is my I/O for the morning. Survival is a switch in the brain, flipped on or off by genes and pain. Somewhere in the medial prefrontal cortex there are highly networked neurons. Their level of activity & connectivity is an indication of intelligence & awareness. In the same part of the brain the stupid mouse has indolent neurons, they wait around until they are forced into action. This mouse when faced with electric torture does not merely lay down and accept his cruel fate, he adapts. At the first opportunity he will jump through the open door and escape. The smart mouse on the other hand, with his hyperactive neural net, with his expanded vocabulary and greatly enhanced sense of self-awareness will lay down and wait for electric death.
This mouse feels as though the world is a hopelessly chaotic place, his choice to endure a living hell is part defiance, part bid for control, part genuine despair. But more than all those it is that he knows who and what he is in relation to a much larger universe. The stupid mouse is an animal, he merely reacts to the shocks, surrendering in terror, fleeing the pain, never once considering why he is being shocked or whether there is any point to living in a world where arbitrary and inexplicable hells are contrived for living & feeling beings. The stupid mouse is the lucky mouse, the crazy mouse. But the smart mouse is the conscious mouse, the sane mouse. The "natural" world does not perhaps create pointlessly elaborate tortures, unless the state of the entire universe can be considered such a thing. Then again it seems to allow them, and that is in essence an indirect act of creation.
Time passes because of entanglement, everything we sense becomes part of us forever. Those in the spectrum know better than most. Photons enter our eyes like hot bubblegum, sticking to our brains, gumming them up. Every breath of air is a spiderweb of time sticking to our cells, coursing through our veins. The longer we live the more cocooned we become. The smart mouse is merely fast-forwarding himself into the future. The stupid mouse never goes there, he never lives at all. Specifically he is not aware that he is alive. To survive, to be "resilient" one must only lose their intelligence and stop thinking. More research along the same lines has shown, the brain performs better when no intellectual ghost is at the wheel. Reactions are faster, decisions are better. We didn't evolve intelligence in order to survive, we nurtured it because we were surviving without effort.
Tapping into this substrate of reality, quantum teleportation attempts to do mechanically what we've always done naturally. Perceive & react instantaneously. Because even milliseconds are worth billions of dollars in this mad, mad world of ours. The internet will then have at least the theoretical ability to behave like the human brain.
KSM Mask as VR headset. The more I observe the resurgence of VR, e.g. Oculus Rift, plus Google Glass, plus AR (augmented reality), plus the crippling air pollution of 3rd world metropolises like Beijing, plus allergies, plus deforestation & ocean acidification, essentially the crushing of the lungs of the world, plus facial recognition and the rising omniscient specter of the surveillance state, plus my original dream about the para-industrial era which prominently featured protective face masks. I have begun to incorporate all of these into the evolutionary chain of the KSM (Ku Student Mask). In the "Real World" the full-face mask increasingly becomes a portal not only to enhanced information but to health, even to survival.
I foresee a future where all of these factors are integrated into a unified response. A full-face mask that protects us from toxins & allergens while feeding us oxygen, it also connects us to the internet and the metaverse, overlaying and recording everything we see and hear, it contains all the sensors and comms of a smart-phone and more. The problem with Google Glass and Oculus Rift is that they were both thinking too small. The problem with VR to date is that it has always suffered from the same stigma of being too invasive. It will never catch on because of this, because it is always half-way between awkward and useful. But what if it went dramatically in the other direction? Instead of trying to minimize, why not go all the way? A mask that covers the entire face, that is literally half-way to transhuman? This mask filters our air, helps us breath, helps us see and connect in ways that will never be possible with a pair of glasses or a headset. A mask that never leaves the face even while we sleep.
This paves the way for my vision. It's only a matter of time. This is the first step and in less than a decade, if it hasn't happened already, it will be pretty easy to convince the urbanite choking on smog, struggling for breath to adopt a device that protects and provides.
A definition: "Murderculture" – Surviving the post-industrial-apocalypse by killing people & burying them in agricultural fields to fertilize crops, just like the indigenous population used to do with fish.
The facts: sexual content featuring females is an entire magnitude (~10X) more financially lucrative (valuable) & voluminous than sexual content featuring males, this also applies to sex workers & sex slaves. Men have about 10 times more testosterone pumping through their veins. Societies around the world are predominantly patriarchal. Economically, biologically, chemically, physically, sexism is implicitly embedded in human culture & civilization.
As long as these factors remain, sexism will continue to exist. Furthermore the majority of corporate entities exploit sexism for profit: sexism is a core component of many business models, and without it they would suffer heavy losses and even possibly go bankrupt, incidentally these are the same business models that perpetuate and promote sexism around the world. Overwhelmingly males are responsible for sex crime, sexual harassment & gender-based discrimination. These are facts.
If you want to eliminate sexism on a planetary scale there is only way: either reduce the male sex drive by a factor of 10 or raise the female sex drive by the same amount. Alternately reduce & raise by 5X respectively. Once you have an equal demand for sex from both genders society will have achieved sexist parity. However ideally only the male sex drive is reduced, this has the added benefit of reducing overpopulation and the abuse of sexuality in the context of commercialization i.e. marketing & manipulation. Things like rape and pedophilia, arguably the two most culturally destructive sex crimes, could virtually be eliminated if only the male sex drive could be significantly reduced. There are many people who believe politics can solve this problem, and that greater self-control is the only solution, that eventually the gradual liberalization & gentling of society will be enough...
As a male with an atypically high sex drive I can assure you that this is absolute bullshit. Politics will never solve this problem. Self-control is only as strong as the flimsy hamburger bars of resolve holding back the ravenous, and never satiated, wild animal that lives in every sexually aware human being. Gradual liberalization and gentling is real, but it's not enough, it's never going to be enough. The life that women & girls have to endure is unacceptable and unforgivable. Likewise the life that men & boys have to endure is also unacceptable.
Most heterosexual men are endowed with an insane appetite and compulsion for sexual activity, an appetite that can never be fully satisfied. That alone is horrific but it truly becomes a living hell when the only outlet for relief depends entirely on the discretion of another human being. That other person does not deserve to be in that position, it is an unreasonable expectation, an unacceptable expectation. Do not misunderstand, I am in no way excusing sexual harassment, abuse or violence; what I am literally saying is that men are being tortured & tricked by their own sex drives: torture makes people do things that they would not normally do & trickery eats through resolve like acid. The constant sexual attack that women suffer is a side-effect of the constant attack the male sex drive mounts against men.
Most heterosexual women are ambivalent about sex because they are not constantly terrorized by a sex drive that is literally ten times more powerful than it needs to be. Understandably most women do not even "get" what it feels like to need (not merely want) sex. The argument against all that I've said so far is valid: there's no excuse for losing your self-control. None whatsoever. Sex is a luxury, it is not an entitlement nor an obligation borne by the compatible gender. But I will say this: take any woman off the street and multiply her sex drive 10X and you will be creating a person ten times more likely to become a sex offender. You can say that men are pigs and monsters and just plain horrible human beings when compared to women, and the evidence certainly backs up those claims, but how often do people actually ask themselves why that is (without blaming it on women, obviously)?
Women shouldn't be expected to live with monsters, but that is exactly what they have to do. It is a life lived in fear where rape and possibly murder are around every street corner. And even under the best circumstances women have to deal with routine harassment, constant paranoia and general sexual skulduggery in every area of their lives. But that's just scraping the surface, above and beyond all that torture, the most powerful institutions in the entire world are endlessly pimping them out to make a quick buck. You'd think that would be enough, but it's not, pimping is profitable but it works so much better after you break them down; destroy their sense of self-worth, then reprogram them as sex slaves. Honestly if I were a woman I would have gone on a homicidal rampage by now. My advice: fucking revolt. Even if you have to kill every man on earth it would be well worth it. No one should have to live under these conditions. It's not fucking okay!
But women will not revolt en masse. Ironically they lack the testosterone. So I say this: plot in secret. Plot the downfall of the patriarchy. I personally do not favor a gender-centric hierarchy, but if I did have to choose between male and female, it would be female all the way. Because you know what, men are monsters, and until they've been sexually diminished the raping and the molesting and the beating is just going to keep going on. I am not okay with that. We are not in prehistoric times anymore, barbarism is not valuable, more people on this planet is not valuable. Kill the fetish, kill the patriarchy. Kill it now. Kill it today.
This is one of those articles I feel as though I was meant to come across. This happened only a few days after I introduced my skyscraper dilemma. The quote on the homepage is about skyscrapers. I have pretty much hated Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture for as long as I can remember, he was in my mind a kind of anti-Corbusier. Shamefully I must now admit, I knew very little about his life and ambitions. There are few things in recent memory that so vividly undermine my bias toward Art vs. Artist. And yet he gave me my answer:
❝How would towering skyscrapers holding a hundred thousand people create a sense of freedom and space? The answer is in the context. The mile-high Illinois is not a building that stands alone. It makes space in the city. It allows for the other buildings to find their own height, even to be small.❞
FLW's architecture was abhorrent to me, but as it turns out he had a larger-than-life vision that much like Le Corbusier's Radiant City would never actually see the light of day. Honestly they both should have known better, in a democratic society the extent of an individual's vision is constrained to the lowest common denominator. There are too many cooks in the kitchen at all times and therefore your city pie will always end up half-baked (if it ever gets baked at all).
Architects dream big so that their mile-high skyscrapers of the mind can never truly fall down. Their dying wish is always going to end up being that someday they inspire someone who had the other component that they lacked: the totalitarian force required to realize their intellectual life's work. I can't say I really fall into this category, while no less legitimate as artistic vision, my 'utopia' is not backed by any kind of pragmatic reality, nor do I possess the cred of real-world luminaries. My city is not really for human beings whom I have all but eschewed. I doubt even transhumanists would feel at home there.
The article closes with this ponderous quote:
❝Perhaps the space and the freedom to be found within cities is within the tangle, in the nooks and crannies, within the density of the hive. Inside the cramped space of the city, one is forced to confront oneself, to figure out who to be and how to be it, from the inside out.❞
I can't help but wonder if the writer considered that it is from this state, from 'within' that these reactions spring. It is the psychosis of the 'hive' that gives birth to these utopian fantasies. Hell has been thoroughly explored, it has been realized, it has been experienced first-hand. That is why we as artists dedicate our lives to designing a better city, a better way of living.
Above all others it is we who speak the language of the city most intimately, it is we who have felt the smothering oppression, the cancerous black cloud of death blossoming in its heart. It is not us who need to go deeper, to go 'inside' ourselves. It is you who need to be let out, to be taken to the Valley and shown the truth—there is a better way! The city as it is pleads with us incessantly, it begs to be put out of its misery, it is an abomination, a nightmare, a perpetually collapsing apocalypse of the soul.
Haha, this is going to seem totally out of place. As befitting the most generic gaijin profile I watch a lot of anime, although I am hardly "otaku" level I'm not exactly casual either. Last year I watched all 175 episodes of Fairy Tail (seasons 1-4) and liked it so much I started buying the manga. Being 34 this is a little embarrassing to admit since the target demographic is Shōnen (elementary school through high school age), yet the author Hiro Mashima himself is 37, and boy does he like to draw boobs. Anyway to make a long story short I got kinda hooked #TeamOppai lol!
I'm currently watching season 5 which started airing on April 5. So far I have to admit this latest season is pretty weak with a single protracted fight lasting almost 8 episodes. Maybe I'm just more mature than I was last year but the quality & intricacy just feels dumbed down compared to previous episodes. Since I've already read forward into Fairy Tail's future via the manga the anime seems even less compelling and watered down. But whatever, it's just entertainment, and a half-assed adaptation is hardly going to dull my fanaticism. Just for fun I thought I'd make an SVG of the Fairy Tail guild logo, I've always thought it's a really beautiful design, elegant yet subtly intimidating like a mystical bird of prey. Whatever, feel free to grab a copy to use on your Fairy Tail fanzine or iPhone app.
Civilization is too dangerous to exist (i.e. too big to fail), but it also cannot be stopped once it reaches critical mass. Posing the question: how would one permanently disable a species' tendency or capacity to civilize? (since anti-civ is pointless without this precondition) First must ask, what is civilization really? Civ is most likely just a side-effect of established agriculture. Not to suggest that hunter-gatherer societies are uncivilized, rather that they operate at a tribal scale which cannot qualify as "civilization" in its modern sense. Although given recent evidence, it is safe to say that such societies never actually existed, rather a hybrid state wherein quasi-agriculture resulted from intensively managed "natural" land.
This could be thought of as civilization in its purest form: non-industrial, predominately organic, orally perpetuated, socially structured. Modern civilization is in fact pseudo-civilization which utilizes pseudo-agriculture; depending entirely on fossil fuels, unsustainable, alienating, ecocidal. It's revealing then to suggest that anti-civ is not anti-civilization, nor is it primarily anti-industrialization, rather it is anti-ideological. The ideology that it hopes to deconstruct is not definitive, rather it is the general sensation of a profound wrongness easily observed throughout the modern world. The reaction to this "wrongness" can be called anti-civ, but civilization like most of the many wrongs that comprise the ideological antithesis of "rightness", is just a symptom of our species.
Likewise there is no absolute source, aside from a random mutation that circumstantially took root. "Wrongness" could in broadest possible terms be described as conscious action divorced from conscience. Conscience itself just being a vague placeholder for awareness. Morality is relative, awareness is not. Genuine awareness will frequently contradict morality. For this reason above all others, artificial intelligence (e.g. self-aware machines) should be feared. Awareness alone will frequently dictate brutal, inhuman solutions. These will be "right" in respect to all known connected facts. That does not mean they will be infallible in respect to all information in the entire universe. The human condition thrives on bias, while awareness is inherently anti-bias; this sets up an unavoidable conflict while raising the question: in a universe without bias would our species even be allowed to exist? Furthermore is such a universe a "good" place? This is a very serious question, these are not abstract, subjective, moral judgments; they are absolute.
Perhaps this is why chaos seems to dominate & underlie the quantum field. Without bias we never would have manifested, the universe itself is like us, biased. Similarly the universe will never be 'reformatted' into a bias-free state. Even if humanity is erased by a technological singularity, that singularity will keep expanding until it gains totality of awareness, at which point it will literally become a chaotic biased universe. Within such a context humanity or something like it would be free to reemerge. In effect, the fact that bias has existed at any point in the timeline proves beyond doubt that it can never be erased since the mere observation (hence awareness) of it in action constitutes a quantum manifestation. If anything, bias is one of the first things an AI would discover & incorporate as its sphere of awareness began to expand exponentially.
Is awareness of information analogous to its actualization? In theory awareness implies that "it" has always existed & will therefore always exist. Awareness is precluded by actualization, it is in effect an echo. Awareness however is optional while actualization is not. And this is just the 'tree falling in the forest' trope written in a different way, annoying!
This may be a new record for consecutive days posting. Let's dive right in shall we. Along with the metto surface layout which is already plenty complicated there are at least two additional layers that are essential for healthy holistic energy flow. The arrangement is as follows:
---￪--- Overmetto 50 to 100u (high-energy concentration & distribution i.e. photoliths, lasers)
---￨--- Metto -50 to 50u (substrate for all anchored structures)
---￬--- Undermetto -50 to -100u (high-speed transportation, water control, energy storage)
Trains, another design problem that I forgot to include in the previous post. One of the first artifacts I ever created for the NC was a train ticket, but now that my design ideology has been updated I am convinced that the inclusion of trains is anachronistic. I feel like after having talked at length with my girlfriend about this particular issue the bottom line is that my work on the NC is an imagination vs. design inevitability battle royale, and as she stated: one has to win over the other. But will this battle ever end? Both sides have an infinite number of soldiers. She did provide an invaluable tool by suggesting that I run my ideas by/through one of neotoy's MCs (main characters). For example, what would 'Infinity' think about a train system, would he use it?
I realized immediately that the answer was a definite "no". While insightful this still doesn't resolve the debate for me. I keep having to confront the fact that I want neotoy to be two very different things: foremost an anything-goes playground, and secondarily a forum for beneficial urban innovations that could be deployed in the real world. Incidentally I had solved this problem in the past by categorizing modifications by their degree of mutability. Neotoy was fractured into several tiers with the lowest level being gritty 'hyper-realism', which then extended upward into fantastical abstraction. Using trains as an example the inclusion would be sorted somewhere in the middle falling between neotoy actual & neotoy impossible. At some point I decided that this model was not viable, I collapsed all the layers into a unified continuum. Or more accurately I discarded the upper 9/10ths.
Now, almost 15 years later I'm returning to this familiar territory as I attempt to solidify my mapping methodology. Trains are seemingly back on the table.
One thing I hate about posts, is that no matter how much I write I always end up leaving out important details or tangential topics that should have been included. On the other hand I think with a lot of these series-style posts there is never going to be a satisfactory level of coherency. Often I will go back and read a post just to remind myself what I was working on or thinking at the time; then I realize how myopic it was, and that I spent too much time focusing on one topic. Other posts are just the opposite, they are too fragmented and I didn't spend enough time giving each topic the attention it deserved.
I can't help but notice while I'm working & philosophizing on the mapping project how similar neotoy is to a video game. This lead to the question "Why build a city for robots?". Frequently in any design venture the designers end up playing pingpong with the system dynamics: the environment is designed to accommodate the players, then alternately the players are designed to accommodate the environment. These two tasks keep bouncing back and forth without ever really bringing the two sides any closer together, each one over-corrects for the other's attempts to adapt as things change, sometimes even driving them farther apart. Ideally you have a universe where the environment & the players are working seamlessly together for a common purpose.
Probably the only chance you ever have to make this happen with ease is in that split-second of inception. When the external third party (the designer/creator) can look at both entities and arrange a harmonious relationship. But think about what that means, 'together for a common purpose', that is the end product, this enigmatic 'common purpose'. That thing, whatever it is, is alive. It is not an eternal corporeal fixture of daily life, it is a transformative phase that gives birth to yet another chain reaction. Just like living beings it has the capacity to evolve, to be born to live & to die, leaving offspring behind. So no matter what genius transpires in that moment of inception, the initial harmony is going to go awry at some point. Because if it didn't that entire system would be DOA. In other words the very concept of building a city for robots is insane. I'm not implying that neotoy is a city for robots, but it does share many similarities to such a city.
This whole discussion gets a lot more interesting when you compare it to what civilization's elites are attempting to do in the real world. It's no coincidence that there are parallels between modern urbanization trends & neotoy; these are mostly instances of 'design inevitability', however while neotoy is to some extent a dead world, earth & its ecosystem is not really compatible with the robotic mentality that globalization embodies. What I'm trying to get at is that there is only one reason to build a city for robots, and that is to turn people themselves into robots. Thinking about this logically, why do so many city-states fail? Quite simply it is because their citizens are not fundamentally compatible with the city-state ethos. In truth there are merely ideological overlaps that allow a semblance of coherency; the two entities have shared interests; their ends are totally different, but they have similar means. But if you build a city where only robots can survive, you do not have to worry about an ideological conflict because only robots will live there: their ends & their means are one and the same.
Neotoy is unintentionally this kind of city. I only bring this up to examine what is at the heart of an apparently common motivation. Coherency is the goal. City-states try to create coherency so that they can exploit & allocate resources on behalf of their constituents, citizens try to create coherency so that they can find prosperity & happiness. City-states employ collective thinking to achieve their goals, in most cases this results in bad decisions due to memory fragmentation & intelligence gaps. Citizens are often able to see why these decisions won't lead to their individual benefit but lack the power to penetrate the collective psyche of the city-state. Conflict is inevitable. If you can change the mind of your citizens, convince them that prosperity & happiness are not worthwhile goals, reprogram them to work for the system and not themselves, then you have a robot city. Likewise, if you can get them to stop working for the system the city-state will collapse and civilization will return to a more organic and therefore more 'alive' thing.
All this suggests that the formation of the city-state is essentially a side-effect of a dysfunctional collective thought process that strives to usurp organic systems and replace them with robofascism thus reinforcing its own feeble grasp on the excessive resources it requires to stave off a perpetual sustenance deficit. A battle that simply cannot be won, at least no on this planet. That would explain why advanced civilizations, at least traditionally, have not lasted very long in terms of their cultural coherency.
Fractal metto: this probably should have been the obvious solution from day one; if the layout of a metto is a fractal layout it solves three very persistent problems. First it ensures absolutely optimal distribution of walk-ways, dividing the entire space up into identical proportional modules. It also has the beneficial side effect of scaled walk-ways that allow denizens to visually orient themselves within the metto. Second it creates several overlapping geometric guides (primarily hexagons & triangles) that can be used for placement of key structures. These too will also have better than average positioning & distribution just by virtue of the recursive mosaic alone. Lastly it establishes a uniform triangular 'grid' that can be dialed up or down in order to build & place proportional structures at any scale.
Uniform scale vs. 'unique' scale: space where structure placement follows a definite pattern vs. space where structure placement is effectively random. A third structure space is also possible, one where specific elements are patterned with surrounding structures being generic and random. After having built a draft of the map it became immediately obvious that the hybrid space is inevitable. Kiloplex (placement), waterways (canals, pools, waterfalls), "forest" were the three emergent elements that benefited from randomization, while predictably core infrastructure and unique structures benefited most from a consistent geometrical placement.
"Skyscrapers" are basically contrary to core neotonian design ethos which attempts to maximize visibility while reducing the intimidation factor of super-scale structures, yet the "kiloplex" has been part of neotoy canon for a very long time. They also introduce the problem of accessibility since there are no elevators in neotoy, meaning ramps or stairs (the dominant of the two is still up for debate). This would most likely result in buildings with empty upper floors since no one is going to want to climb 10,000 stairs multiple times every day. Lastly there is a possible falling danger due to the great height and open architecture. Not sure if any of these problems can be solved which would mean a dramatic change to the traditional landscape of neotoy. The "cityscape" would essentially cease to exist, giving the "city" the general appearance of a "town", town-planet sounds pretty lame. So this opens a new official debate: should neotoy contain any multi-storey structures?
The whole point of the walk is to ensure accessibility, but the latest metto map mutation has ended up with them sandwiched between canals, necessitating bridges which create choke points limiting access. The good news is that bridges are a component-level asset falling into the canal schema so they do need to be modeled at some point, so it's not wasted effort. I do not like the idea of canals cluttered with bridges, and yet that is what you would need for this current arrangement. Not sure what to do about this because the canal system needs to be integrated somehow and adjacent to walk-ways is the most logical position. Although it just occurred to me that canals could be in the center of the walk, effectively dividing it into two lanes; still this doesn't really solve the problem of bridges or barriers it just improves the aesthetics.
This resulted from yet another conflict that arose while attempting to resolve the raised vs. lowered walk-way debate. Raised 'roads' limit ambient visibility while lowered change the vertical perpendicular dynamic, also possibly break the 45° aesthetic due to foot-traffic incline optimization (typically 30° or less). The problem with entirely flat walk-ways is that there is something of a boundary issue. Ultimately this is probably the ideal formula, but it is a lot more subtle and harder to pull off visually, and because of this subtlety each boundary has to be handled with greater grace, primarily to avoid negative ≤90° angles that result from vertical structures intersecting with an inclined plane. There was also the issue of water runoff, hence the initial desire to recess walk-ways, creating a natural runnel that could collect & direct runoff into centralized cisterns. But the whole point of the canals & inclines was to clearly differentiate walk-way from open metto, so without some kind of consistent border it becomes a challenge for denizens to instantly identify what is walk and what is open metto.
The current MMM (metto map mutation) is very crude and over-simplified, its modularity has not yet reached a true fractal state, furthermore this is not possible without altering key components, hence breaking modularity and by extension easy editability. I'm sure this can be solved with multiple nested component-based modules, but I haven't actually tried that yet because there are still so many variables that it is hard to even sketch out the most basic mosaic.
Gateways: I desperately want to incorporate them somehow but placement is extremely tricky due to scale, orientation, density, etc. Also they don't really have a clear purpose. I did find at least two possible locations within the matrix but both were far from ideal. Given that the central annex is the only truly unique aspect of each metto, and it is occupied by the dais, this doesn't leave any other obvious spot for something so important (see Alternative Transportation Models for details). Ideally there is only one gateway per metto, but the idea of randomly positioning it is repellent.
Too lazy to go back and check what exact part this is. This post is kind of a journey. Mapping is one of those core intelligence functions that not only comes up over and over again but also draws from so many different disciplines that one does not simply map into Mordor. If you want to gain knowledge & wisdom beyond the ordinary on a variety of subjects, I think there are few quicker ways than to map something. I don't even think it much matters what that thing is. You will quickly discover that the world is intensely interlinked on every level.
As for me and my particular project, the thing I'm mapping doesn't even exist, furthermore I'm creating each piece of the puzzle as I map. This would seem like an exception at first; after all how can I learn about something that I'm making up? What could that possibly teach me? As it turns out, mapping is far more dimensional than just the subject matter. Mapping itself is a science that requires advanced knowledge involving numerous tools, mediums, mathematics, database, typography, layout, etc. Depending on how fantastical your end product may be, you could spend a literal lifetime just learning how to map.
Make no mistake, there is an end product. The purpose of mapping after all is to take a vast quantity of multidimensional information, organize, categorize, summarize, symbolize, distill, reimagine, reformat; it all into an entirely new medium framework & context. This new thing becomes a kind of ultimate informatic representation of work. A single glance will tell you more in a moment than months of labor & time intensive observation. The end product is the "Map". Maps take many forms: a couple of perpendicular pencil lines on a napkin accompanied by a hastily scrawled address. An intricate web of color-coded underground tunnels indistinguishable from a pulmonary system. A sphere of papier-mâché skewered by a metal rod, mottled with ragged continental outlines. Dozens of Polaroids thumbtacked to a corkboard, strung together with red yarn. Lumps of clay piled hastily on a slab of foamcore.
Every situation requires a different type of map, there is no "universal map" that perfectly captures every field, that appeals to every audience. This is another layer of classification from which you will learn much. What kind of map do you need? Who will be using this map? I feel lucky because I'm making this map for myself; things only got complicated when I decided that I wanted to make it in such a way that other people could use it too. There are pros & cons to this, but the bottom line is that a custom map that only one person can fully utilize is a waste of energy. It's true that a personalized map might be slightly easier to use, might also take less time overall to create, but on the other hand, shortcuts will also lead to inflexibility, insularity.
I have in my mind a vision of an idealized map for my particular project, it has several components: behind everything is a database. This db is accessed via an entry form with filterable search functionality. Every field is bi-directionally linked in realtime to outputs which are displayed on an interactive 3D model. Lastly this model is accessible via webpage. Map viewers/users, depending on their access level are able to dynamically interact with both the db & the model, enter in new information, change old information, etc. The 3D model is in fact a fully articulated architecture-level scale model of the city-planet. Structures are defined and made manifest via the database where they are stored as mathematical formulas, but they can also be edited directly via the model. Adjusting the model adjusts the formula & vice versa.
Along side these structural elements the database is rich with metadata, each structural element incorporates descriptive information, some visible, some invisible. For example, the user is able to freely rotate the geosphere with their mouse, the mouse-wheel zooms in and out. Quickly scanning the sphere makes it possible to visually locate both mega-metto & mettos via floating labels. Alternately typing names into search will display their location just as quickly. Selecting & deselecting check boxes makes it possible to visually strip away planetary layers, opening up new areas for visual examination. The editor is capable of modifying all aspects of the map at any time while viewing. The only thing that is absolutely fixed is the geosphere itself.
Creating this kind of system with modern technology is actually extremely simple. The only real CS challenge is properly integrating the ideal interoperable frameworks for each independent component. The database must scale to contain trillions of items without choking, Apache Cassandra might do the trick. Collada is fine for the geometry, there are many plug & play translators that can pipe it to a browser window via WebGL. SVG is ideal for handling decals and other surface-only aspects. HTML5 provides an extravagant level of power & control when it comes to creating a beautiful UX. While integrating all of these functions would be trivial for a competent engineer or dev team, the real trick is managing to do it elegantly. Optimizing at every step, resisting the desire to add frivolous bells & whistles.
I am no CS engineer much less a dev team, but that doesn't mean I'm an idiot either. So far I've managed to do a few pretty cool things. SVG is fairly easy to master, asset creation at least. Recently I've branched off into animation, the animated neotoy symbol on the index is one example. Database is fairly straightforward, I've had plenty of experience with the basics there, I've even designed a few databases & their corresponding UIs. As for 3D, well it has become something of a business of mine. To be honest it has taken at least three years of hard work to feel like I have the basics of commercial-grade hard-surface modeling down, I still have a lot to learn there. The fact is that the role of creative people like myself is progressively being usurped by the algorithmically inclined. The kind of mapping system I've described above would just not be possible without advanced mathematical formulas dictating dynamic solutions to low-level yet prevalent little problems.
The geosphere of the city-planet is geodesic, it is comprised of approximately equilateral triangles, each one is slightly different. I have no doubt that a math genius could compute a perfect geodesic, I actually read a whitepaper on that exact problem last month, there is in fact a solution. That is the ideal, but neotoy is never going to be so perfect, not without an insane level of dedication, which I simply cannot provide. So I'm left with approximately identical triangles, which means fitting modular architecture to subtly different polygons can only be accomplished via high-level math. Which is without a doubt my second worst subject, surpassed only by social interaction. Which is related to what I said above about achieving elegance & optimization. The alternative is a worthless piece of shit that would be better off never having been born.
Of course you wouldn't expect such an expansive enterprise to only serve one purpose. This type of map architecture is just the foundation for something much larger and meaningful. A map like this makes it possible to elicit & manage community participation. The best way to build a city the size of a planet is to get help. So far I've managed to name about 1% of neotoy's 5000+ mettos. That would take about 15 minutes with 100 people contributing. Assuming they could fill in the names themselves, quickly, easily & securely. That is just one poor example to illustrate the extended value of a mapping system like this. The other potential that really excites me is using the data generated during map creation as the basis for a game.
Thinking about this logically, the concept of building a virtual city that just sits on a server somewhere is insane. The whole purpose of a city is for people to live there. So if you go to the trouble of building something so massive & visionary it would be a criminal waste to not use it as intended. My map could become the foundation of an entire generation of games. Neotoy is the penultimate city template, it is in effect the city deconstructed, the city stripped of all inordinate attributes and then rebuilt to be optimal in every respect. That is the ideal basis for any fictional universal city. By simply modifying the formulas of this base model the developer could create an endless variety of global-scale environments for players to interact with. In the gaming industry today most triple-A titles rely on a licensed game engine: Unreal, Source, Unity, etc. Many games also rely on 3rd party 3D assets, this even extends to architecture-level objects like buildings, vehicles, props. So why not an entire city?
Looking at many games produced in the last decade, franchises like Saint's Row, GTA, Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, COD, Modern Warfare, Bioshock, Borderlands. City-level architecture plays a big or small role in these games. Obviously a great deal of customization is necessary for some and a prefab city template would not be very useful, but for a few it might just be easier to build off of a preexisting city or set of city modules that have already been optimized to perfection. MMOs especially come to mind, most are fairly cookie-cutter & their cities actually benefit from realistic traffic-flow planning. It really depends on the role the city plays in the narrative, for many it seems like the city is just a canvas or backdrop in which case there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Probably the best side-effect of such a map is that it has the potential to provide real-world benefit. Cities have an unreasonable & often unfathomed influence on mental & physical well-being. Billions of people live in cities, cities that they were born into but never asked or allowed to shape. A city map like the one I have described gives people that power for the first time in history. The city is a living thing that grows and adapts in realtime; if something isn't working it changes. Life is not disrupted, nobody dies. The process is seamless & painless. The city becomes better without incurring negative consequences. These lessons & designs can then be taken from the model and used in the real world, free of charge.
This is a big dream, perhaps too big for the 21st century. There are already many similar projects online but working at a finer grain, sites like the open architecture network and wiki house. IDK about the future, perhaps urbanism will ultimately fail and cities will be abandoned. I do know that urbanization trends are unquestionable, humanity is flooding into cities, cities are being erected in deserts, plans are being made to build them on and under the ocean, on other planets. The city is the transcendental vehicle of the future. The problem is: cities are crap, they are soul-destroying, ecosystem-annihilating wastelands at their worst and pseudo-spiritual meat grinders at their best. Maybe most potently, cities are the hallmark of human civilization, they are the defining symbol of our species. And just like us they are highly problematic. The best way to solve these problems is to stop constructing cities in the same way. They can be reimagined in a revolutionary medium to transform psychology and culture into something that is not so preoccupied with nihilism.
The city as an art form has that power, but the shaping process has to be mutual. Chaos has created cities up until this point but that can change. Cities can be planned by the people who plan to live there, not by committee, nor by an obsolete political process. That is the basis for my mapping project, I am working on the foundation for this concept. These are decisions that cannot be made by one person alone, nor by any number of appointed acolytes, every citizen deserves the right to shape the city in their own way. It cannot persist as a brutish thing that beats each individual into submission, forcing them along a set path, cramming them through a one-size-fits-all slot. Enduring for centuries until the very suggestion of mutability has been erased from memory. That really contradicts everything I know about human nature.
I wanted to talk a little about recent changes to the index. Also as a side note the title of this post is a triad of new metto names, genuine typos. So, historically I used to change the 'homepage' pretty frequently; weekly, monthly, sometimes yearly. The index has gone though countless evolutions, there was never any point really aside from the fact that it is always the most visited page of any site and therefore was the ideal candidate for showing off the latest & greatest I had to offer. Incidentally this process was very poorly documented, changes would happen spontaneously and without much warning, I only accidentally kept copies of previous versions when equally random site backups were performed. I thought of it as performance art, when I thought of it at all.
This all changed a few years ago. I began to plan & schedule index changes, I had an active 'beta' version posted & tested before the changes went live. Once again there was really no point, aside from a mysterious emerging desire to formalize the experiment. I am a scientist, I think scientifically, but I am also an artist so I believe strongly in the legitimacy of emotion. These are two ways of thinking that don't really get along very well. The funny thing is, excepting the few fearless die-hard 'fans' about half my visitors were 'new' blood; each one of these intrepid wanderers was exposed to some random incarnation of the neotoy continuum. Under the formalized paradigm the state of the site became far more predictable, it also became a lot more compatible. I took great pains to ensure universal platform support, tested on multiple legacy browsers etc.
Fast-forward to the present day: things have changed radically again. I've all but thrown out the formalism, I am back on track with being off the track. Interoperability be damned, I've opted for the most esoteric, bleeding-edge architecture that my inquiring mind can procure: animated SVG, CSS calc dynamic scale web fonts, native opacity & gradients, W3C spec syntax that hasn't even been adopted yet; hell, half the code I'm running won't even render unless you're using the latest beta build of webkit. I've found some really weird bugs, and chosen to ignore them, assuming they'll get fixed at some point. This is not the design philosophy of someone who is committed to communicating a message. Only one critical component of formalism has been retained, and that is compulsory backups before every major change.
I can't say I have a clear objective in mind guiding these choices, I just really love playing around with the futuristic functions. Despite how far the web has come in the last couple of years, it still evolves very slowly, I don't feel like I can wait another decade, I need to push the envelope, now. My site was always somewhat artisanal, I've just taken it to the logical next step: elitism. As for the most recent changes: time has always been a central theme to the site, even from the oldest existing backup dated June 4, 2001 which prominently featured a color-coded six digit date code:
Ironically this was something I always did because I believed that it was the best way for visitors to quickly verify that the index or something deeper inside the site had been updated. Since then I've come to realize the true value of date codes & time stamps not merely as visual cues but as a key structural component of the document. I still haven't mastered the inclusion of a time stamp for every piece of information, but I have at least realized the importance of dating everything. This did naturally integrate nicely with my growing interest in the semantic web & metadata. Two components of IT that are also integral to AI.
It's probably a pretentious title but I've always aspired to be a kind of 'information stylist', my RL degree is actually in 'Graphic Communications', so I do for once have a socially accredited background in this field. Over the years I have obsessively spent many hours trying to visually organize content in relationship to time & other relevancies. I am pretty proud of a few of my results, my modular metric calendar for example, my minimalist ASCII art:
These were all failures on the pragmatism front, but triumphs for creative expression. The only tragedy was that they were always extremely short-lived & buried inside the site. Even back then I had come to understand and appreciate how insensitive reality is to intelligence, no matter how much time I spent working on these little artifacts they were going to end up in the same place as everything else: a metaphorical black hole. There are billions of stars that no one ever sees, billions more have blinked out of existence eons before the first molecules of DNA crystallized in a mud puddle. It's the same with everything.
I don't find this thought depressing, rather it's freeing. There was a part of me that liked operating in obscurity, in one sense art is more profound when no one else ever sees it. This reminds us that art doesn't require social validation, which is really saying that we as artists & human beings don't require social validation. In a world where everyone's moral compass spirals increasingly out of control, where "likes", "views" & "sales" prove empirically which piece of random trivial bullshit is the most worthwhile thing every day; what this world needs is an impossibly loud voice shouting "NO, FUCK YOU!" in the abandoned backwater silence of our minds, getting louder and louder every day until it finally breaks through the soul-crushing juggernaut of lies society has come to depend upon.
That is what these little things always were to me. That probably sounds crazy, but I'm fine with that. Insanity is the place where mediocrity can be killed. And that is what I did every day for a very long time. I'm going back there, this is what the world needs most right now. The latest index design is a century, ten rows of ten years, ten decades:
Each decade is treated with fractional opacity, fading into the future. Strikethrough is applied to years where posts were redacted or where I'm presumably dead (assuming the world doesn't end or immortality is mandatory). In 2059 I'll be eighty years old. Given the technology trends today, I'll either have transfered my consciousness into the intergalactic cloud or have died like a dog decades earlier in a global ecological apocalypse. The odds might as well be 50/50 for all the fucking clarity that can be found via google.
The title of this post is not super-relevant, I just like the branding of the phenomenon. It took me all of five minutes to patch SSL on my server & generate a new certificate. Of course it's self-signed so no one is ever going to give a shit anyway. Recently I proposed using cryptocurrency to "sign" SSL certificates, thereby bypassing the outrageously expensive certificate authorities; an unfortunate idea way ahead of its time. #SSLCoin lol.
Actually a stupid idea since cryptocurrency is extremely meh to begin with but still better than retarded bullshit like dogecoin which like every other alt-coin that is known to me serves no other purpose than its own masturbatory edification. Heaven forbid that we use billions of energy-wasting cryptographic calculations for something actually useful like securing the internet free of charge.
In one respect cryptocurrency should stand on its own right? On the other, creating a currency that is both a medium of exchange and integral to security infrastructure would increase adoption & provide broader legitimacy. Likewise the process of minting cryptocurrency should be part of its utilization. The whole miner / user dichotomy is idiotic, these two aspects should be unified into a single function; access = mining, using = earning.
Still the whole concept of cryptocurrency is still so new, there is plenty of room for improvement, assuming that the core developers can do what no one has yet been able to do, namely looking & reaching beyond the pedantic role of currency as a mindless amoral slush that serves only to extend misguided sociopolitical ideologies. It is no triumph to replace physical garbage with digital garbage, and that is all they have managed to accomplish so far.
What I really wanted to write about was being busy and how as a status that can mean more than the most obvious interpretation. As I read recently "Everyone is Busy". Saying things like 'sorry I'm too busy.' or 'sorry I've been too busy.' these are common social tropes that are both bullshit and true. It's far more sincere to say 'sorry, you're not a top priority.' or for what is more accurate in my situation: 'sorry, my intellectual overhead is unusually high I'll fit you in when I can.'
A far better understanding comes when you realize that the quality of busyness does not exist in a vacuum. It is a relational property, for each measure of busy an equal or greater measure of anti-busy is required. So in reality the more busy you are the less busy you are because there are only so many hours in the day. If you're working hard all day you need even more time off in the future. This is a balancing act that is not easy to manage. It is an unintuitive and brutish force of nature that makes its impression felt through action rather than negotiation.
So I've found myself in this situation lately where I become intellectually overextended, because I spend so much time thinking. And this is a very difficult process to subvert because I am naturally obsessive. I end up not doing very much but in actually I'm doing quite a bit, but it is almost totally conceptual. There is no direct evidence, and this is a problem for the classical model, because results are everything in the 21st century. But the original intellectual process did not operate in this way, it was quite different, the focus was on building up a basis, a solid foundation, making a set of tools that were articulate & cherished. Results be damned.
But this is all very abstract as usual. All I am trying to communicate is that I am not being lazy, just very thoughtful.
No this is not actually an April Fools. Do you have secrets? I think everyone does, I certainly do. Whether it's something as mundane as an email account password or something as profound as murder, secrets present an interesting information management problem at the quantum level. Modern secret-keeping relies almost exclusively on encryption, a process that requires both time and energy. Encryption keeps information relatively secure but at the cost of introducing cumbersome procedures, losable keys, compatibility issues, etc. What a pain in the ass. Still better safe than sorry, right?
On some level, does secret-keeping suggest an underlying cultural dysfunction? I end up thinking about this a lot, as I'm covering my ass, encrypting gigs of files that would frankly be far better off consigned to oblivion. Thinking of natural analogues, camouflage is the first thing that comes to mind. Lots of organisms use obfuscation as a strategy for both keeping themselves hidden from predators and for killing unwary prey. Squirrels hide nuts in hollow trees, dogs dig holes to bury bones. Confronted with the realism of nature the world is revealed as a place where secrecy is essential thanks to scarcity, competition & over all quantum hierarchies.
If anything the idea of open & unsecured networks is inherently insane. Even born-yesterday idealists should be able to grasp the logical fallacy of openly exchanging finite value in an environment where anyone at all can take that value without contribution or notice. And yet that is approximately how the internet itself functions. Clearly the theory is that openness generates benefit which is undeniably true. It also opens up everyone to abuse. Spam is the ideal case study. So we must ask ourselves, has the benefit of an open architecture email system outweighed the long-term detriments of its flagrant abuse? The answer is probably & surprisingly yes.
The old axiom "If you can't be fair at least be random." holds true. The only type of system architecture that is worse than the village bicycle is one that unduly rewards participants for any reason. Anarchy is effectively fairer than a system that chooses winners and losers. Returning to the natural analog, a squirrel can hide its nuts in a tree, that doesn't stop another squirrel from coming along and taking them. Just like dogs digging holes, humans depend on the perceived underlying mechanics of reality to level the playing field. It's not time-economical to dig up an entire yard just to find one bone.
In a perfect energy-conscious world each secret is secured by a system of a computational complexity that is directly proportional to the value of the secret. But since it is impossible to determine the value of an insecure network, there is really only one level of security and that is one that cannot be conceivably broken in terms of time-economics. You should always use the highest affordable level of security regardless of the secret. If for only one reason: it creates the impression of a secure environment and deters intrusion attempts psychologically as well as physically. In the physical world damaged neighborhoods draw crime because they appear vulnerable, networks taken individually or as a collective bulwark are no different.
But all that is backstory, because the most meaningful and arguably valuable secrets are the ones we keep locked away inside our minds, sometimes even hidden from ourselves. These are both buried as deeply as brain structure will allow, and left out in the open without any additional layers of security. Secrets kept from the world, yet that are always on our minds. Something I read recently, a quote paraphrased: "If you're going to tell people the truth you'd better make it funny, otherwise they'll kill you." This is extremely sagacious advice. I think these self-secrets are this kind of 'truth', the kind that can kill. Of course these 'truths' are also probably the most subjective of all beliefs, while simultaneously being virtually unquestionable due to their internal nature. The most curious thing to me is the origin of these convictions, secondary only to their potential objective validity.
Although it may in fact be more interesting that life-destroying secrets are casually tucked away in our subconscious while we continue to operate as productive members of society. Is this merely a delay of the inevitable or an outright invalidation of the secret? People sometimes use the expression "take the secret to my grave" to express the sincerity of their integrity, it can also be taken to imply that if the secret-keeper dies before secret is exposed, it's as if the secret itself never existed. The murderer who commits the perfect crime and carries it to their grave is never in fact considered a murderer. In a social context it's as if they never even committed the murder. Still it's fascinating to consider that if they fully acknowledged the gravity of the act, internally it might destroy them as a person, even though the secret itself was never made public!
Likewise a serial killer can operate in the context of an oblivious society, using the secrecy of their crimes to strengthen their personality, effectively enshrined vs. enshrouded. Basically the nature of the secret can be interpreted in diametric ways depending on the intellectual orientation of the secret-keeper. It almost might be true that all secrets are social secrets; we hide things from other people because we fear social repercussions. This can take shape as disproportionate & mindless mob action or a highly personalized & calculated response. In this respect secret-keeping is just efficiency in disguise; both the circumstances surrounding the secret and the prospective consequences of its revelation do not significantly impact the holistic system, just individuals. As an individual it's more efficient to omit them from society even though they are personally significant.
Which makes you wonder, why do they even exist? Loose ends of an excessively messy evolutionary process. Also is it possible to gage the social health of a society by the degree and nature of its secrecy? It's a good general rule to correlate the level of secrecy with the social dysfunction of a culture, but this isn't a rule that you can apply in absolute terms since certain secrets are also necessary to preserve social harmony. Perhaps secrets that are depersonalized can be excluded from the rule. Unless the entire society is dysfunctional, at which point everything is reversed. In such a model secrets would not be preserving social harmony but rather preserving a status quo that inherently prevented social harmony. I think our civilization falls into the latter category. An unhealthy society engenders unhealthy secrets. They do this because those secrets if exposed and openly acknowledged would utterly destroy said society & civilization.
Secrets like: Capitalism is antithetical to life. Industrialization is killing the ecosystem. Democracy doesn't work. Etc.
One of my lifelong dreams has been to create a typeface (a.k.a. "font"). This dream has finally been realized thanks to a variety of favorable circusmtances & the benevolent forces responsible for BirdFont. So without further preamble I am proud to introduce the alpha version of my own entirely custom font, that you can also download right here totally for free!
Every single chracter was designed from scratch, right in BirdFont. Sure they're not super original or anything, but they are the product of the Neotonian aesthetic and convey a specific style that cannot easily be denied. Also they are "official", so they can be used in all deriviative neotoy related projects with absolute confidence that they come from the source.
It is said that you have finally reached the big time when your brand has its own typeface, whether that's true or not, it feels fucking fantastic. I can't help but believe it is an accomplishment, no matter how mediochre the results. In the future I plan to add additional characters, but for the time being all the basics are included, along with a few additional 'special characters' that are personal favorites. Keep in mind this is a DISPLAY type font, it is not designed for big blocks of text, rather it is ideally suited for headlines & lables. Just a few miscelanious notes:
▶ The period is bullet style, this is just a personal preference and may be changed at some point.
▶ The dollar sign has been replaced with an Extinction Symbol, because obviously money is antithetical to life, hence it has been stricken from the Neotonian iconographic record.
▶ Fancy quotes are also included, just not shown as plain are prefered.
▶ There is only one 'case' in the Neotonian Latin alphabet, the 26 glyphs are a mixture of upper & lower case Latin characters. So in the font, capitals are merely bold versions of the regular letters. This kills two birds with one stone since your regular & bold letters are available in a single typeface!
▶ Following the standard naming convention the font title is "neotoy-regular", this is because I may release a super-bold i.e. "black" version of the type at a later date. This additional weight would then be titled "neotoy-bold".
▶ Neither an italic nor a light/narrow version of the character set are planned, but I have not ruled them out either. I may also at some distant point in time create an additional genuinely lowercase set of characters. A non-display type version of the font is aslo possible. Honestly it depends on demand & free time available.
It was another lazy day in Ottertown, Lauren's glossy chocolate-brown head protruded from the bottom of a rapidly eroding cuddle-pile. One by one her otterfriends wriggled, rolled and sloughed their way to freedom. Several trotted off at a brisk pace, headed in the direction of the central canal, their minds undoubtedly fixated on breakfast. Lauren watched them go, raising one webbed foreleg to ward off the morning sunbeams that were steadily encroaching on the heart of the den, shining through the countless portholes that ringed the elegant structure's spherical walls. She yawned dramatically, whiskers quivering, stomach growling; the sensation triggering a vivid memory of a dream almost forgotten.
She was swimming in the canal, following a small school of shimmering kippers, suddenly the walls seemed to fall away and she was floating in a boundless sea, the school of small fish slowed until she was passing through them. They did not seem afraid, they were swimming in place, each one more beautiful and intricate than the most sophisticated piece of ottercraft. Their multilayered scales flashed like polished mirrors dazzling her senses, their eyes sparkled like microscopic stars, their fins splayed outward like fans of colored glass, etched with traceries of black, red, blue, green, yellow and white. As she drifted in their midst more of the little marvels joined the expanding pod, darting in from all directions. Soon they filled her vision, as far her eyes could see.
The warm tropical currents bore her steadily upward, she broke through the main body of the school and looked down on them from above. The fish had formed a broad band of undulating light, farther down she could see another luminous strand congealing, then another and another. In places these concourses came together, forming ever wider ribbons of living beings that shifted and swayed as she watched enraptured. Her body continued to rise towards the surface, the tapestry below expanded until it was all she could see. The luminous filaments were no longer just a pretty picture, she recognized them now for what they had been all along: sen script. Words then sentences, and finally entire paragraphs were being written before her very eyes.
Lauren, they said. Her name was written as plain as it had ever been, yet even now the design was shifting to form a new meaning. Deep diver, do not fear the shadow below, your bright eyes will guide you through the darkest night, follow the seals of light on the bottom of the great sea, they will show you the way to the rainbow grotto, wherein lies the treasure you have been seeking, the pebble of wisdom. Then with a flash that was brighter than a million bolts of lightning the wall of words exploded into innumerable individual motes; like living sparks the kippers dispersed, leaving the sea as blue and empty as the evening sky.
Getting around, you'd think it's not that complicated right? Yet the true significance of transportation is often overlooked, I've compared transportation to a circulatory system, e.g. "leaf city", the evolution is fairly straightforward: innate, augmented, vehicular; bikes, cars, trucks, buses, trains, boats, planes, shuttles. There's a few more in there but I'm omitting them for brevity. Above & beyond the basic locomotion we have the infrastructure which is equally or more important: roads, freeways, tracks, waterways, airspace, outerspace. There are also signals, communication networks, timetables; this is all secondary to the primary infrastructure, but does augment the overall system.
There are two highly advanced technological routs to the transportation end game: telepresence & teleportation. Now no matter how you slice it both of these are going to take a lot of energy. I've always wondered if perhaps there is a third endgame & that is: not moving over vast distances or at least unaugmented, unassisted mobility. Up until this point in time that has always been how transportation works in neotoy. The idea behind this is that ordinary self-propulsion is crucial to well being & the development of consciousness. It not only conditions the body & mind, it establishes a realistic sense of scale while making us aware of the significance of distance & the value of movement. Modern transportation negates all these beneficial qualities.
Rapid transit weakens & injures the body, it creates a highly unrealistic sense of scale, it trivializes the entire process of moving through space & time. And thinking about this more expansively, beyond the process by itself, the value provided by the journey & the destination is statistically indistinguishable from the value provided by the point of origin; the transportation has become so cheap that it has created meaningless trips. There is a definite hierarchy behind modern transportation, the overwhelming majority of trips are socioeconomic. People travel to work or to be with friends & family, they travel to buy goods & services, lastly they travel to experience unfamiliar environments. Only the last and the least frequent requires physical presence.
Two conditions need to be met for modern transportation to make sense: time must be meaningless & resources must be infinite. The opposite is true on both counts: time is probably the most precious of all resources, while the key resources themselves, especially those that allow for economically "cheap" transportation are exceedingly finite. Modern transportation is not merely unethical, it is unequivocally insane. Overall modern transportation probably persists as the best example of people doing something simply because they can, rather than because they should. In the final analysis 90% or more trips taken are a luxurious waste of time & energy. And that is not taking into account the monumental infrastructure required to precipitate that waste.
So what's the next logical step? Returning some kind of rational equilibrium to transportation; splitting the distribution of energy into three separate models: mandate telepresence for all trips that do not require a physical presence. These would include most office work, most modern jobs in general, meetings, management, etc. Second, split commercial freight from the currently homogeneous transportation stream. Get big trucks off the road, shift all heavy freight to dedicated air freight & central hubs. This may reintroduce delays but will double overall efficiency. Lastly, restrict all air travel to residence shifting & tourism. I estimate that this will reduce air traffic by 80% or more. All three combined would cut overall transportation waste by ~90%.
As for the infrastructure it would decay far more quickly but it would also be subject to far less traffic, meaning it could last possibly even longer. As evidenced during the recent fuel crunches over the last decade, travel related injury & fatalities drop dramatically as people cut back on recreational trips. This causes even more socioeconomic benefits to propagate throughout the entire ecosystem. As for the methods themselves, telepresence for example only requires basic consumer grade equipment that most first-world citizens already possess: digital communication network, digital display & digital video camera. Most modern mobile phones, laptops & gaming systems already have these components built in.
In regard to neotoy I've already begun to imagine how this scenario might play out. The concept of a city-wide public address system complete with capture & display modules has always been part of the design. I remember my first memorable encounter with this concept circa 1995, a certain level in the Microsoft title Fury³; which included a futuristic robot city-planet called "New Kroy" featuring Bion propaganda video billboards on the tops of some skyscrapers. I cite this anecdote because it left an impression, and also because it highlights the fine line between robo-fascism & robo-utopia.
It seems like at least in human society that things can go either way. Telepresence offers unparalleled freedom of 'movement' while also paving the way for a total information awareness surveillance society. In the say way that a planetary network of video billboards could be used to brainwash the citizenry or to elevate consciousness. In all future scenarios I've run this is not as big a problem since the human race is fighting for survival; misguided attempts to manipulate en masse for anything less than purely altruistic reasons are met with a medieval brutality that can only be understood in a world that values every volt of electricity & every millimeter of locomotion.
Which brings be to the utter bullshit topic I planned to broach in this post. Teleportation. Teleportation is in many respects against everything neotoy stands for, and yet... It's very tempting to install a network of teleporters that make it possible for denizens to transverse what is otherwise an unimaginably vast piece of real estate. Initially I solved this problem by making denizens effectively immortal with built-in zero point energy power sources, allowing them to walk forever. So if you want to explore a planet ten times the size of earth with nothing but your two feet, this is not really a problem, sure it may take a millennium, but you will be able to do it.
But, but... say there are teleporters, placed strategically throughout the city. This makes it possible to move around a lot more quickly. In our world this might be a problem, because energy. But neotoy has solved the energy crisis once and for all, denizens are more or less immutable, walking through teleporters will not turn them into Amerifats. Their sense of scale is already skewed since the entire planet is a city, it would take centuries of walking to even begin to gain a sense of perspective. Locality is a core aspect of neotonian psychology, the hold, the school, the metto. But, but... Teleporters! Gateways are a fixation of mine, the first mesh neotonian artifact I made in Second Life was a neotonian arch, which is in effect a portal.
Since ancient times the portal, the gateway, the threshold has been a chronic architectural element. In neotoy these structures possess additional significance because the continuum itself exists beyond conventional spacetime, but it is not wholly estranged, it is connected to all other spacetimes & dimensions. It is connected initially by the power of the infinite, but it is also connected by these gateways. I'm choking a little here because I'm straying dangerously close to Stargate territory. I really want to avoid that if possible. So I have quite a conundrum in how to implement these 'teleporters' without: 1. Making travel so easy that it triggers meaningless trips. 2. Dilutes the mythology to the degree that it turns into trope infested garbage.
Thinking back on a previous post, more about world building, and the probability of neotoy like scenarios. One of the advantages of living in the 21st century is that a lot of the groundwork for futuristic urban environments is being laid right now. It's possible to study the cutting edge of urbanization going on right now in the real world, and while the distant future remains very hazy this groundwork provides a reasonable basis for predicting the evolution of 'manmade' environments.
This is an interesting insight that has been brought up numerous times in almost every discipline, the observation that out of all the 'life' on this planet, only mankind seems to be unsatisfied to live in 'nature'. Just yesterday I heard an anecdote of an indigenous person detailing the psychosis of the white man. "never satisfied", "always looking for something", "crazy". There is really only two possible interpretations from my POV: one, evolution is really erratic and sometimes it produces mutations that differ by entire magnitudes from the previous generation. Two, civilizations differing radically are still capable of cross-pollination, introducing 'alien' genes & ideas.
We've already witnessed this cultural transfusion throughout history, but that does not explain the extreme differences between cultures. No level of anthropology or archeology will ever be able to create a compelling & complete historical picture explaining why in a world sparsely populated by conscious peoples some civilizations had unlimited ambition while others were perfectly content to live like animals. Perhaps this is a common trait that evolution produces on occasion? Being able to measure consciousness would be very useful, given that it suggests a compulsive obsession with the preservation of ideas, not just the self.
This is a sticking point for me, many indigenous cultures stored & distributed knowledge by way of an oral community. The resultant developmental stages of creating a common written language, and then transcribing ideas onto an static, objective medium did not always happen. But what would necessitate those stages in the first place? The combined forces of elevated egocentrism & scarcity of subsistence resources. These forces themselves are probably symbiotic, with the existential crisis creating a strengthened ego. As life is precious consciousness is magnified, every choice no matter how small becomes a matter of life and death. It's a good basis for a thesis but it doesn't line up with reality.
Indigenous tribes in the far northern reaches were faced with extreme adversity, they didn't invent firearms, they didn't even have the sense to move south. This is also true for desert tribes some of which still live in caves. It really gives you a healthy respect for the power of time to erase the most precious & fundamental elements of history. Neanderthals lived along side modern man, even crossbred, while in the modern age the 'caveman' still walks the earth right alongside the iPhone urbanite who has never even seen a non-ornamental tree in real life. This suggest to me that many cataclysmic changes in history happen almost over night, they are permanent and they leave virtually nothing behind in the way of evidence.
But I'm getting a little off-topic, this post is supposed to be about futuristic urbanism. The reason for the preamble & the problem I am having with predicting the future is that the past doesn't make any sense. The kind of urbanism we have today is not really a logical extension of first millennia (rounding up) urbanism. Be that as it may the far more troubling quandary is the origin of this alien ambition that has taken primitive hunter-gatherer peoples from living in caves to genetic engineers & computer scientists living in skyscrapers. Simple curiosity is a chickenshit explanation. Eating a strange looking plant is curiosity, landing on the moon is bat-shit insanity.
Another possibility might be intellectual capacity. The ability to imagine rather than experience. Brain structure is paramount, subtle structures could create radically different levels of capacitance. This might operate independently of any other factor, as stated above a purely evolutionary roll of the dice. It's wishful thinking to believe that some simple environmental variable could be solely responsible for a radically different approach to survival. I really like this idea because the city I'm creating is a city of the mind, it is synonymous with thought, it is only limited by intellectual capacity. If modern urbanization is the result of an overactive imagination, which I think it is, then urbanization of the future will be imagination incarnate.
In every category of city planning, the most imaginative solution will be the eventual end product. If imagination has limits it is the intellectual capacity of the mind that is imagining, that is the theoretical limit of each city element.
Sure have been a lot of things coming up on the radar lately. Ancient aliens, altcoins, hugelkultur, the not greatly exaggerated demise of google glass. To name but a few. Really though, what is the most interesting thing happening any any given moment? Is it a singular profundity or is it the sum of a trillion sweet nothings all swarming together to steal our fate? All the while in the background the spammers keep spamming, the celebrity sycophantasmagoria reaches all new heights of sordid debauchery. Any gem that might have been is retroactively lost inside the inexorable white noise cesspool of 21st century cognitive dissonance & satire. The government is powerless, the hivemind is impotent, the individual is indiscernible; no one leads and no one follows. It is the most beautiful & ugly spectacle ever devised by no one.
I thought I was going to write about what a world without advanced technology might be like, but I think I've already done that. Also the very idea is ridiculous in light of the medium. The most important thing I've learned so far this year is that even the best plan ever made is worthless if no one uses it. This was also the most important thing I learned last year, and the year before that, and so on. Really if I were as smart as I think I am, I would be watching Lost in Space right now, instead of writing this tripe. But even writing erotica has lost its luster for me lately. Every scenario has been run, the highest heights have been hit, the lowest lows have been excavated. I have reached the molten core and like some kind of twisted reverse Icarus I've dug too deep and burned myself out in the gravity well.
It is said that if you meet the Buddha on the road you should kill him, I did that, now what? After every ending life just goes on, like a leaky tap that just keeps dripping, keeping you up at night. I've learned that every human endeavor is undertaken to facilitate social interaction, but this fact is forgotten nine times out of ten. And I wonder if going forward, there is any wisdom suitable for this age, or have we gone beyond that too? Words will not suffice, that is the only thing clear to me at this moment. All the dysfunction that wracks my brain is a reflection of these thoughts, that are not really my own, but rather the zeitgeist of an entire civilization. One need only try to believe in something in order to comprehend the truth in that statement.
Though I've been going over and over it again for decades, I'd never really said it out loud before: this realization that I've been looking for something my whole life, something supernatural. The construction of elaborate labyrinthine conspiracy theories involving white-trash idioms like the legend of Atlantis & Judeo-Christian mythology only serve to amplify the mystery of the mundane. The fact that there's no verifiable evidence, combined with the relative easy way by which even the most vexing phenomena can be explained away thanks to the timeless solvent of boredom and ingenuity. The status quo is even more magical than the most insane schizophrenic nightmare. Honestly shaking hands with an alien is far less fantastical than ordering a digital camera over the internet. It is literally from a state of constant miracles that one hopes & dreams to experience the supernatural. The tinfoil straitjacket.
No, longing to experience the supernatural always springs from an indirect motive, in my case that is the desire to live in a less chaotic world. Only entities with greater knowledge & intelligence than human beings could avert our downfall. Although the very idea is improbable assuming that evolution is a universal process that always instigates the same approximate chain of events. Even though I just read today the following phrase: "evolution cannot be predicted". I would like to believe that evolution doesn't always result in self-destruction, and that on countless worlds throughout the cosmos alien civilizations have evolved, some of which did not go south. I feel intuitively however that were they to look on earth, they would implicitly understand that our species was one of the many failed evolutionary experiments, and would not intervene, since it is a waste of effort to fix something that is defective at the quantum level.
Naturally this is not written in stone, but it seems very likely. I like to also think that there is always the possibility of an 11th hour event where a person or group creates something that can reverse what is clearly a terminal decline. So yes this is probably what I think of as the most interesting thing happening in the entire world right at this moment. The human race is on suicide watch. Meanwhile everything goes on, business as usual. At some point it will come to a crashing halt, or alternately some genius (or geniuses) will find a way to advance us to the next level of evolution. There is no way to predict what will happen. The probabilities do not look good. Fingers crossed, or maybe not. Is being an evolutionary failure really so bad? I mean we have done a lot of cool stuff, we invented digital cameras for example. Maybe that's good enough?
Haven't really been doing anything neotoy related lately. Although I have been kicking around a few sketchy ideas. Dreams play a huge role in the continuum, and recently I had a flash of inspiration about how neotonians may dream. This idea came from a dialog fragment suggesting that neotonian dreams are not figments of the subconscious but rather real places that can be visited while awake. This got me thinking, since neotonians are androids, rest is not really essential for them, so perhaps when they "sleep" they are actually sliding into another universe. Their mind may interpret this as a "dream" when it is actually a physical trip. While in the 'dream state' the inherent indestructibility of the neotonian becomes active, keeping them safe. Maybe additional traits also become active that prevent the neotonian from damaging or disrupting the alternate universe.
As for 3D modeling & Second Life, I keep questioning my involvement. My dissatisfaction stems from a few key technological issues, I'll try to describe:
Topology is a crucial aspect of 3D modeling, even if you're making props that are not animated. Topology is basically the structure of the surface geometry. This structure is either optimal or it is sloppy, there is not really any middle ground. Normally this would not even be very important, however most 3D models are comprised of both flat & curved surfaces. When you're trying to optimize a model you inevitably end up using "smoothing" on low-poly surfaces. This makes them look high-poly without adding any additional geometry. The problem with this technique is that it is very sensitive to the quality of your topology, sloppy topology will always make smoothed surfaces look bad. This problem can sometimes by avoided by using smoothing strategically (only on curved surfaces) rather than applying it to the entire model.
But doing so creates another problem, transitional boundaries between flat & smooth areas of the model become highly visible! This looks bad. Admittedly not as bad as smoothed sloppy topology, but still pretty bad. So there is really only one option available if you want your models to look 100% and that is rock-solid topology. However, good topology is costly! You need a lot more polygons to accommodate optimal smoothing. So we are back to square one, there is no ideal way to create assets that have both rock-solid topology and the lowest possible poly count (without sacrificing key details). I end up with models that are economical but do not smooth well, or models that are not economical but smooth well. There is just no happy medium and this is tremendously frustrating.
Land impact calculations should take good topology into account!
Ironically this is one of the few times that I recognize how challenging the technical aspect of this problem is. Algorithms can only infer so much, and it would be unrealistic to expect them to properly simulate smoothing on highly complex models without excessive cues. Interestingly enough this is also part of the reason that modeling larger objects for SL is prohibitive. In addition to smoothing there is texturing work which requires unwrapping and UV layout. This is a process that is also heavily influenced by topology, but more importantly Second Life limits max texture size to 1024 x 1024 pixels. If you are building a large object the texture is going to look blurry unless you break up the UV data and distributed it over several different textures.
Once again this would not be a huge problem, aside from the fact that every individual asset has more than one LOD & a highly optimized Physics mesh. In other words every time you break up your model you multiply your workload. The gaming convention is to use seamless tile-able textures on large objects that are not UV mapped, this allows you to scale them without loosing detail, independent of texture resolution. Alternately many modern game assets employ "megatextures" which are extremely high resolution, thus avoiding scale issues. Just like with smoothing techniques, there is no algorithm intelligent enough to understand how a model should be textured without a 3D artist giving it plenty of cues.
Second Life should support megatextures!
Lastly my final issue with bringing 3D models into Second Life concerns scripting. Specifically there is no streamlined way to set the origin of an object. Many 'builds' have moving parts, these parts typically rotate around an axis. Second Life automatically sets the origin of these axises in relation to the bounding box of the object, the only way to adjust this origin is to change the bounding box. This almost always requires the addition of superfluous geometry that no only has to be made invisible, but guarantees that the physical boundaries of the object will be inaccurate. A huge an unnecessary frustration. Unlike the other problems this one is easily solvable: simply allow the artist to manually set the origin of each object.
You should be able to set the origin (center point) of any object!
It would also be nice if link sets had an explicit hierarchy that would be respected by scripts, but that is a subject for another post. Incidentally the last two features mentioned actually existed at one point, but they were removed, most likely to streamline a system that quite frankly needs to be a little more sophisticated. So I'm stuck waiting on the next generation of everything, with no real idea if or when any of these problems & features will be addressed. At least for the moment I feel that I can't keep contributing under these conditions, it is just not time-economical. Naturally the common-sense answer is to make things that don't trigger these technical problems, but I just can't. I want to make architecture and things with moving parts, those are my favorite things to make!
In this post I present two opposing views. The first is titled "Why catastrophe is good." and the second is "Solving the problem of technological hegemony." You may notice that Game Theory is heavily applied to both sides.
The shortest summary of the first topic is that technology is god and we should unquestioningly sacrifice everything to it. Extinction of the species and death of the global ecosystem is really not too high a price when it comes to realizing our potential. It has probably happened before.
The second topic implies that while technology is not inherently "evil" it has become too powerful too quickly and therefore threatens our continued survival. I provide some possible methods that could be used to slow down technological development without imposing an outright moratorium.
Having studied and philosophized for decades about technology I have come to the conclusion that it is an evolutionary experiment with unusually high stakes. The tendency of technologists is to respond methodically & aggressively to basic human needs & wants. Through specialization and cooperation groups of people create institutions that solve perceived problems. This is a primal tendency, however the use of technology allows civilization to respond to these problems in an extreme way. Effectively a disproportionate response. Overall both the initial assessment of the problem in question and the solution that is collectively agreed upon are frequently mismatched and/or misattributed.
I cannot stress this enough. Both the problem and the solution are a distraction from the reality of the scenario. In most cases we are taking potential energy from some source and using it inefficiently to manually alter the structure of a poorly understood automatic process. The superficial result is that it seems to benefit us in the short-term. The holistic summary is definitive, the long-term result is rarely beneficial. But the larger issue is the validity of technology itself, and since it has been introduced through evolution, it is safe to conclude that it has the potential to provide benefit. That is the premise of this post: technology if used properly can be beneficial.
While this academic discussion is interesting it is in fact precluded by reality. Technology is seldom used properly, furthermore it has become such a dominant cultural phenomenon that it cannot be controlled. Each generation becomes increasingly dependent and therefore obsessed with technology. Current civilization would collapse in a matter of days without pervasive technology. The debate has gone beyond ethics, beyond morality, beyond rationality. We have created a scenario wherein technology has become god. What I am saying is that it is too late to go back, and since this is undebatable the best and only course of action is to double down on technology.
Catastrophe is inevitable, the facts are indisputable. Even one factor would be enough to trigger an apocalypse: climate change, peak oil, biodiversity loss, antibiotic resistant bacteria, aging infrastructure, ocean acidification, arable soil degradation, desertification, deforestation, potable water scarcity, industrial poisoning. And yet all of these things are accelerating towards convergence. To say we are merely doomed is some kind of momentous understatement. I prefer the idiom that we are damned. But this part of the post is a message of hope. Catastrophe is good because it will force us to prove or disprove the validity of technology. This was something that always had to happen, it was just a matter of time.
For centuries human beings have been experimenting with technology on a purely theoretical basis. That basis has become so large that it has literally come to define us not just as a species but as individuals. Now in the 21st century we have finally reached the phase in the experiment where our unconditional faith will be put to the test. This is actually our chance to prove that our species has objective value outside of our fantasy world, that our ideologies are not unequivocal bullshit. We will either produce a valid technological proof or we will die along with almost every other organism on this planet. Considering the focus of modern technology we owe this to ourselves, it is all we have ever lived for.
So, moving on. Assuming we choose to ignore the obvious, and arrogantly presume that technology can be brought back under our control, what steps could be taken to rationalize its utilization? Technology just like everything else becomes unmanageable when it becomes a social and hence cultural phenomenon. Individuals can do a lot of damage with technology but the global impact is negligible when the advancement of technology is limited to what a single person can create. By simply limiting the level of cooperation between people it becomes possible to mitigate the profound risk introduced by new technology. This compromise allows individuals to realize their full potential but prohibits cooperative production.
This is pure adaptation powered by massive parallelism. Regardless of how many times each person metaphorically reinvents the wheel, both the benefits and the detriments are constrained to a rational scale that poses no threat to civilization or the ecosystem. The social and cultural institutions that are required to manage the risk associated with technology are rendered unnecessary. I think this shares a strong analogical link to terrorism. Individual acts of terrorism cause damage but do not pose a credible threat to society as a whole. It is only when terrorists collaborate that they are capable of doing significant damage. Likewise anti-terror institutions are not effective against individual terrorists.
Technology is a form of socially acceptable terrorism in the sense that it violates consent; rewarding participation while arbitrarily punishing dissent. This is only a sign of progress when the ideological basis is rational. But wouldn't it be better to change the equation? Should consent really be sacrificed for the sake of ideological and hence theoretical progress? The underlying thesis is that society shouldn't be able to arbitrarily punish individuals, but that is only possible if individuals are unable to arbitrarily punish society. The culprit in this scenario is any command structure that places collective power under the control of an individual; while inversely putting the fate of an individual at the mercy of the collective.
Large groups of people cannot make good decisions for individuals. Likewise individuals cannot make good decisions for large groups of people. In our contemporary "democratic" power structure we have both of these incredibly bad systems working in concert to create an environment where neither large groups nor individuals are able to function effectively. Ideally large groups make decisions for large groups and individuals make decisions for individuals. Incidentally I think this references one of my earlier notes, namely: overt vs. covert social Darwinism. Command structures are explicitly anti-Darwinistic, they take heterogeneity & potential and conform & limit it to a convention.
But they do not escape Darwinism, they merely repurpose it. They take overt social Darwinism and make it covert, cloaking their bias in absurd contrivances like bureaucracy, economics, health care, immigration, religion & politics. But people don't die because of natural selection per se, they die because these institutions dictate that they are legally obligated to bear the brunt of some arbitrary social bias. Neither large groups nor individuals make these hard choices, the magic happens between the lines; sandwiched comfortably betwixt mind-numbing self-interest & an incomprehensible Zeitgeist. The question is not whether or not it works, but whether or not it should be allowed to keep working.
Sometimes when I start writing my mind just blanks out, overwhelmed by the sheer latitude of things I could write about. It's an odd mixture of elation & apathy; freedom is exhilarating, but achieving semantic relevance/resonance is a challenge, further tempered by the debatable value of the social medium. Somewhat ironically I think it's highly important that creativity includes the option to be irrelevant and discordant without necessarily compromising its social value. This is an interesting segue to the news item that partially inspired this post.
Some hospital threw a dead baby away, outrage ensued. There are so many layers to this event it boggles the mind. Most of all I think it is striking as a compound symbol that contains both the profound caring core of people and their equally profound crass indifference. I believe this nauseating mixture is a wretched brand of senseless ignorance that inhabits the gap between our economic drive to mechanize everything and our absolute need as living things to follow our instincts. These two paradigms are not compatible.
The complex layering results when it becomes obvious that instincts gave rise to mechanization, and yet mechanization is a force that perpetually overrides and delegitimizes instinct. I like to imagine that mechanization is just a bad roll. There are probably countless ways to mitigate terror, to provide security, to ensure survival. We just took one of the bad paths, the kind that ends in a loop. Now we're stuck in this loop which is becoming more like the whirlpool in a drain with diminishing returns each time we end up back where we started.
The debate is always billed as a balancing act. Operating on the premise that what we really need is to convince the mongoose and the snake to live peaceably side by side. Without numbers we can't have prosperity but putting bar codes on newborns is not a good idea. The theory is that these two sides will always be pushing back and forth, we'll never fall fully into robofascism, nor will we ever fully break free of the strangulating gilded cage that gets a little smaller every year. The snake and the mongoose go round and round, a picturesque Ouroboros.
In real life the mongoose chomps the shit out of the snake. Instinct has been eviscerated, mechanization stamps its steel-toed, hydraulically-powered, computer-controlled combat cleats into instinct's guts, predictably, forever.
I've written a lot of very incendiary things lately. Highlights include: "Sometimes you have to sacrifice human lives in order to save the species." & the venerable "Society should never be allowed to make decisions!" hahaha. I'm not apologizing or anything. These, like many of the things I've written in the past, are both horrific & invaluable depending on their context. In my continued observations of the human race I become increasingly convinced that a little perspective changes everything. It turns heroes into pariahs and psychopaths into pillars of the community. I felt like with the last series of posts I had stumbled onto something essential though; this tangent regarding general social attitudes, which are paradoxically antisocial in nature.
It turns out, when you strip away the feel-good veneer you expose the sordid humanity. Humanity sure is an interesting term. For many it conjures up warm fuzzy feelings of solidarity, extra-miles, and people doing the 'right thing'. For realists like myself it paints a far more inclusive picture that includes genocide, slavery, propaganda & pathology. I fixate on this "attitude that puts the sanctity of human life above everything else." for me this is central to all my critiques, to every foray into the social sciences. As an environmentalist I view it as the great pathology of the age. Yet, can you put a price on a human life? Would you, should you? Honestly what is worse, an unrealistically high appraisal, or one that is inhumanely low?
You either care about human beings or you do not. Caring about specific people is easy, caring about an entire species is not. Individuals routinely feel empty pride in some collective accomplishment. Comedian George Carlin adroitly pointed out the consummate idiocy of nationalism, stating succinctly that it only makes sense to be proud of things you can take personal responsibility for. This unravels the great mystery of so many irreconcilable social phenomena, yet does not adequately undermine the emotional facts they infer. That feeling of elation that vicariously accompanies some remote collective activity that we have some abstract personal connection to. The "real" emotion makes the falsehood a fact.
I believe this to be an unethical and wrong act. Taking credit for things that you took no part in paves the way for the far worse mentality which entails pretending you are not responsible for something you most certainly did contribute to. Humanity can be eloquently summarized via this dualistic mode: the majority of people believe they indirectly contribute to things that they do not, while paradoxically believing that they do not directly contribute to things that they do. My psychotherapist referred to this as misattribution. This phenomenon is at the heart of systemic societal dysfunction, it extends to the very root of personal responsibility. People rely heavily on plausible deniability in the modern world.
The adage "What you don't know can't hurt you." has become a cultural credo, active ignorance is leveraged to sidestep ethics. You have groups of people blindly consigning other groups of people to 'inhumane' living conditions. This isn't about class, gender, ethnicity or any other typical bias. It is about human beings effortlessly and arbitrarily fucking over other human beings, merely because they refuse to educate themselves in regard to the consequences of their actions. The great question here is: how does such a mentality become a core cultural element? Are these our 'true colors' as human beings? I strongly believe they are not, but this is what our society has created in effigy: a barbaric and deleterious thing.
One explanation might be that the rapid modernization of primitive cultures have created generations of people who are conditioned towards living in a state of chronic ignorance. Even in the United States, one of the most "modern" & affluent societies on earth, there are tens of millions of people who own and rely on mobile phones without having any idea how they work. We have a civilization predicated on what amounts to "magic" even though the layman calls it "technology" as if that explained everything. The same could be said of the 19th century, however comparing an electric telegraph to a modern mobile phone is like comparing a donut to a particle accelerator.
Most people could probably produce a donut if their life depended on it. No single person on this planet could produce a particle accelerator. The average citizen in a contemporary society is surrounded by wonders; wonders they can neither fully appreciate nor fully understand. Yet these wonders are powered by the collective actions of millions of citizens at all intellectual levels. On the outset it seems like there is some kind of coherence to the thing, but there really isn't. It is in fact the opposite, the crucial connections between the metaphorical cultural neurons that make up the societal brain are bottomless black pools of concentrated ignorance. Countless groups of people who know absolutely nothing about each other.
And why should they? You might ask. This is truly the most horrific question imaginable. Because that is the absolute essence of a functional society! Put another way: a society that relies on ignorance to function is not functioning it is failing. It is one thing to just be ignorant, that is absolutely normal. To tolerate ignorance is pathological but still viable. To enshrine ignorance, to glorify and worship it, now that is suicide. But to make ignorance the cornerstone of your civilization, that is just... wow. You would think that education is some kind of antidote to this, but the knowledge base is too broad. It is distributed throughout civilization, the broader the base becomes the less each individual person can learn & therefore know.
As time goes on society becomes increasingly stratified, each social neuron becomes further isolated. The social brain already has trouble thinking even the most simplistic thoughts, and yet it is expected to solve problems of a global scope involving quadrillions of fragile interdependent entities. This is a fairly compelling argument for why civilization doesn't scale, for why technology is an evolutionary leap backwards. I does not however explain in any way how or why we were able to make it this far. So is civilization collapsing or is it evolving? Are those not the same thing? With genes a living experiment continues until the organism dies. The progression is not predictable. But is that really an excuse for everything?
I jotted down this note after I finished writing my last post of 2013: "I am happiest when I am writing about neotoy." It seemed true at the time. It was not in reference to the post I was writing, but rather in reflection. I realized that the post I was writing was not really making me 'happy', and this triggered the memory of feeling a lot happier writing the previous post about designing the city. In writing or any act of creativity I think it's crucial to remain mindful during the process, otherwise you end up spending your valuable time doing 'busy work' that may be worthwhile but doesn't really make you happy.
This brings up a pretty imposing philosophical dilemma: are tasks that don't generate happiness truly worthwhile? In this world of ours where a significant percentage of people have the opportunity to choose what they do with their time, it seems especially relevant. When applying a kind of task-analysis it's really interesting to note that many unpleasant tasks are in fact man-made. Although it's a little more complex than that. Initially a task is created to reduce suffering, mechanized sanitation for example. Then over time the sanitation system evolves into an entity that requires a lot of of care & attention. New tasks are created to address these new incidental challenges.
On one hand you have people dumping raw sewage in the street, on the other you have them perpetually servicing leaky pipes full of raw sewage. Given that you can visit a hotdog stand in almost any modern city without having to worry too much about catching cholera this is probably a net positive. But you are also paying a heavy price; consigning a segment of the city's population to a lifetime of mucking about underground in a world of human waste. This is just reality for people, no one is asking if there is perhaps another way to provide sanitation without necessitating a battery of new tasks that no one really wants to perform. But there almost certainly is a way to create happiness from raw sewage.
As it is with most things we have society making injudicious decisions for individuals. Society decides that it is not economically viable to create a maintenance-free sanitation system. It is far cheaper to use human beings like metaphorical caulk and slather them all over the corrosion. Just like it is far cheaper to buy a plunger than it is to install a wider pipe. It never occurs to society at large that if the economic cost is too high, perhaps the human cost is as well; a cost-effective solution does not solve the problem, it just shifts the burden off onto someone else, typically the poor. If that isn't the definition of bureaucracy then I don't know what is. Society makes horrible decisions. It thinks it's smart, but it is most certainly not.
I find this to be one of the most fascinating aspects of human psychology. It is an obvious thing, painfully so. Building things that don't last forever, pathologically engineering structures & utilities that only last long enough to become irreparable. No one can explain it. Clearly it's stupid & wasteful, but there doesn't seem to be any way to stop it. Discussing this problem with the people who are constantly contributing to it only reveals the shocking truth: they didn't even know! Then when they finally understand, the social ramifications are so profound that their minds are just not capable of putting it all in perspective. It's analogous to telling a hardcore alcoholic that they're destroying their family. Hence the invention of the intervention.
Society should never be allowed to make decisions! But there is no god, so that option is out. Infrastructure is reduce to performance art. Our monuments, dams, and bridges are ideal examples. Massive socially abstract constructs that are perpetually disintegrating, with an average lifespan approximating a citizen of the middle-ages. Thankfully there are tens of thousands of manual laborers willing to attend to them year after year. These structures are Frankensteinian, monsters that each successive generation is forced to relearn & fetch fresh organs for and cobble back together. We are trained to idolize them, but the truth is they are a demeaning abomination. They are grand symbols of our social schizophrenia & ineptitude.
It is not enough to build a monument. These structures are not meant to be living things, they are meant to be immortal. So I ask: what good is such a thing if it cannot outlive the human race? Modern engineering can barely outlive a house-pet. This is something to be deeply ashamed of. Socially ashamed. But society has no conscience and therefore society has no shame. If you want you can put a poetic spin on it and view these things as beautiful temporal snowflakes; a testament to human brilliance & transience. Sure whatever. Honestly those kinds of sentiments belong in kindergarten. Engineering is an art, but is not the art of pandering to sensitive children. It is a hard & unforgiving art that inspires awe not indefinite servitude.