The New ’60s

About a month ago my girlfriend got me to watch No Impact Man, a documentary about a guy you probably know about. He gradually reduced his impact on the environment over the course of a year, eventually excluding electricity and toilet paper, and eating locally all within New York City. He was talking to an aging hippie who had an urban garden, about how he felt that there was a sort of revival of the ‘60s and ‘70s going on right now, with the local food movement and environmental concerns. This time though, it has a more professional edge, a seriousness about it.

I’ve thought this way as well for some time, and I would add that increased usage and acceptability of psychedelic drugs—especially marijuana—are a part of this movement. Legalization of marijuana in this country seems drastically more feasible every year, and I’m seeing more and more studies on psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, their benefits in treating depression and alcoholism, amongst other qualities. The US government reacted very harshly to the drug culture of the ‘60s because of the perceived threat they posed: drugs spread fast, encouraged radical thinking, and were mysterious.

So then we had the “war on drugs,” which has turned out to be a ridiculous mess.  We’ve managed to prove that our country’s insatiable desire for drugs can cause massive social damage at home and abroad under the “right” conditions. We cause drug wars in Mexico and we fill our jails with young minorities. Now however, we are beginning to realize that this has been a colossal mistake.

Just as we are beginning to see that the way we’ve treated our planet has been a colossal mistake, and the way we’ve been producing our food, and organizing our social system, and thinking about how we relate to the cosmos. It’s all happening in a more fantastic and real way than even the 60s.

There is no decade you can ascribe to the “new ‘60s”, and that is because the ‘60s are now a permanent part of our cultural consciousness. The ideas embodied by the ‘60s received a harsh reaction, but now they are back and will continue to become more relevant. Ahead of us is permanent and increasing change, and the increasing realization of our ideals. It’s a good thing.

The other reason we can’t ascribe a decade to the “new ‘60s“ is that we haven’t had a nameable decade since the 90’s. the 2000s? the ‘10s? teens? Last century things didn’t really get interesting until the roaring ‘20s.  that isn’t even true, there was a war to end all wars the previous decade, but the decade can’t be called anything so it becomes that much less important to us. In conclusion, the ‘20s are going to be great because they’ll have a name. I can’t wait.

-Prometheus

More Videos

I have decided to slowly revamp the video section on this blog. Eventually it will all be sorted well and contain all sorts of interesting things that you can procrastinate for hours watching, getting lost in the future when you’re bored with the present. For now here’s a nice new video from “Russia 2045” (the video will explain who they are, or you can go to 2045.com) 2045 is often the date people ascribe to the singularity, though interestingly enough the video and website never uses the word “singularity.” Anyway, here it is:

Did you notice that:

-the narrator says we are moving forward into the depths of the stars and “the infinite universe of our inner world”?

-they used the phrase “neo-humanity” instead of “post-humanity”?

-that spiritual development is seen as the focus of progress?

-that the avatar is shown dancing in nature?

-that the predictions end in after 2045?

from the predictions in the video, it really seems like the singularity will truly have happened before 2045, that all of the crazy things we can imagine will happen in 30 years or so. What happens after that is pretty much impossible to say.

comments?

-Prometheus

Alright, who’s trying to hack my email account?

I got an email 2 days ago:

Prometheus,

Someone recently tried to sign in to your Google Account, psychesingularity@gmail.com. We prevented the sign-in attempt in case this was a hijacker trying to access your account. Please review the details of the sign-in attempt:

May 9, 2012 5:29am GMT
IP Address: 37.152.7.132
Location: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

If you do not recognize this sign-in attempt, someone else might be trying to access your account. You should sign in to your account and reset your password immediately. Find out how at http://support.google.com/accounts?p=reset_pw

Sincerely,
The Google Accounts Team

I of course reset my password. I know I’ve said that we need to accept a degree of loss of privacy in this transition, but this isn’t cool. The email doesn’t specify, but I would assume that this person in Jordan has my password, or I wouldn’t be warned about it.

Anyway, I’m glad Google was on top of this.

The Just World Hypothesis

Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, when they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

-God (Job 38)

What you get for helping people

It amazes me that many people today still cling to an outmoded and dangerous way of thinking, a view of the world which can be summed up as the “just world hypothesis.” (I think I got the phrase from Richard Dawkins). The hypothesis, or assertion, is that the universe obeys laws of justice, that what goes around always comes around, in short: life is fair.

This problem of justice and the universe drives at the core of our being. Our discussion of this topic likely goes back in history as far as our sense of humanity. One of the oldest texts on the matter is a wonderful book from the Old Testament, the Book of Job. I’m sure many of you know the story since I expect I am writing largely to a Western audience, but I’ll summarize the story so we’re all on the same page.

There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz (somewhere in the Middle East). Now, Job was an upright and honest man, and faithful to god. He sacrificed some of his many animals daily to God (back when that’s what God wanted), even sacrificing some so that God might forgive Job’s children if they happened to sin. Job was good to God, and God was good to Job: he was the wealthiest man in the land, and quite happy.

Then an adversary in God’s court (not actually Satan as many claim, but more of a devil’s advocate) challenges this wonderful setup, telling God that the only reason Job is righteous is because he is given wealth and prosperity. So god tries to prove the adversary wrong by unleashing plagues upon Job in quick succession:  his cattle are slaughtered by marauders, his house collapses and kills his family, and he is stricken with boils. For weeks he suffers immensely as his friends (“sorry comforters” as he calls them) come to him and in turn offer their view of why he is suffering, saying that he must have sinned against God to deserve what has happened. Through this Job refuses to repent for any sin, because he knows that he has not sinned, and that in a sense what he is experiencing is unjust. The conversation with the friends is quite a bit more complex than I am presenting it, but that’s the gist. After a while Job starts calling for God, or at least a heavenly mediator, to explain what is happening. Finally at the end God shows up and speaks to Job (the longest speech of God’s in the Bible). God doesn’t acknowledge either side of the argument, but instead puts Job in his place, telling him that he doesn’t know how the universe was stitched together, That Job’s not responsible for feeding a starving lion cub with the flesh of another animal. God describes a universe that isn’t ruled by laws of Justice at all, but something more nuanced and complex: a world of titanic forces which must be kept at bay, a world in which suffering must occur regardless of our puny human notions of “Justice.”

It was horrifying to me to discover that the Quran treats this story as if Job acted righteously and was rewarded as such, end of story. In Islam the world is described as Just, wicked people get punished and the righteous are rewarded. It’s amazing that they backtracked so much from a good lesson from a good book. It was quite obvious even at the time of writing the book of Job that wicked people prospered and the innocent suffered. This was so fundamentally upsetting to humankind that we had to create the concept of heaven and hell so that God still has a role in dispensing justice, so that the universe could still be ruled by Justice. Unfortunately this mode of thinking is at its best misleading, and at its worst damaging and poisonous to mankind.

When we believe that everyone gets what they deserve, how do we justify something as horrible as the holocaust? The moment you begin to justify that episode in our history you have insulted the memory of millions of tortured and dead humans. Would you look a child in the eye and tell them there is a reason that they have been forced to witness the murder of their friends and family and then be subjected to torture and death themselves? Any reason you give is not good enough. Any reason that God could give isn’t good enough. There is no reason for innocent suffering.

When we believe that everyone gets what they deserve, there is no need to help anyone. The poor are where they are because they weren’t motivated enough and the rich got to where they are by hard work and service to God. This is how I’ve previously characterized a Libertarian mindset.

Human history has been our slow and increasing realization of ourselves as God, as the only force of Justice in a cold, uncaring universe.  In a sense what I am saying contradicts itself: I call the universe uncaring, yet we are the universe, and we care. I do believe that there is a force of Justice in the universe, and it is us. We created God in our image, not the other way around. The onus is on us, we must do everything in our power to make of this universe what we want it to be: a place where the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper.

-Prometheus

Googley Eyes

I’ve written previously about privacy, our inevitable loss of it, and why it’s not only ok, but good and necessary. Nevertheless, I must rant for a few more moments because Google has changed their privacy policy once again and everyone is a-twitter, freaking out about the world. Please relax and listen to me for a second.

While looking for news on the internet (incidentally using Google news), I stumbled upon an article “Why you might want to delete your Google browser history before next week.” Was my browser history going to be stored somewhere next week where I could never delete it? I was intrigued, so I read the article, which simply talked about Google’s privacy policy change which integrates privacy policies across all of its services. This will simplify things quite a bit, and is strongly beneficial to Google’s overall goal of integrating all of its products into one powerful singular product with many features, thus calling in a paradigm shift in the internet with Google a step ahead of the competition. It’s exactly like what Apple did with the iPhone, issuing a paradigm shift which rendered cameras, mp3 players, and phones somewhat obsolete (even while other phones had offered the same services in a less sleek and fast form, not affecting other devices much).

Google’s master plans aside, people are freaking out because of this policy change, and honestly I’m not quite sure why. Almost all of the comments on the article I found were to the effect of “I’m deleting everything Google related on my computer and using other search engines,” or “ this is the beginning of NAZI germany/the world is ending.” One lone woman put forth the idea that what you do on the internet is fundamentally not yours anymore, and in quick order she too was called a NAZI, or communist or something. Yet nowhere did people connect what was specifically happening in the policy change to any possible negative consequences. All I saw was fear: pure, irrational fear.

Here’s the thing: from the moment you leave your house, you will be watched, you will be listened to, and you will be examined. You will be videotaped and recorded, and everything that is observable about you will be observed. This is not a bad thing, and to understand this you must free yourself from the context of industrialism and nations. The truth is it is not “big brother” who is watching you; it is everyone, including you. We all are watching each other, just as nations watch each other with spy satellites. We allow ourselves to be spied on because there is no choice; you can’t control a man’s eyeball and you can’t control empty space. If we didn’t watch each other closely we couldn’t possibly form a cohesive unit.

This doesn’t mean you have to give away your social security number, or address, or any personal information you don’t want to. It means that you need to be more responsible with that information. It is entirely possible to use the internet with millions of people trying to steal your identity, and never let them get what they want; it’s completely up to you.

-Prometheus