Charlie Hebdo: Understanding is the least we owe the dead

charlie hebdo, je suis ahmed, je suis charlie, complexity, polarisation, war, jihad, understanding

The war will go on until it doesn’t, until it runs out of fuel and the historians take over, arguing about who or what won. I no longer expect to see an end in my lifetime. It will take a generation, and many enormous geopolitical shifts, before the wheels of this juggernaut shudder to a halt. Until there are no more self-dramatising young men who prefer the abstraction of death to living a meaningful life, until there are no more wealthy pious bigots to fund them, until there are no more disenfranchised migrants pressed against the border fence and no more hard-faced “realists” eager to turn the war dial up to 11, this will go on and we will have to live through it.

On the future of the U.S., or of Western civilization in general, I tend to be quite pessimistic. Perhaps that is simply because…

On the future of the U.S., or of Western civilization in general, I tend to be quite pessimistic. Perhaps that is simply because “collapse” is what I do. As an archaeologist, I have excavated single trenches, just a few meters deep, in which you can see stratigraphic levels of several civilizations. We find layers of artifacts and evidence indicating periods of great prosperity, but always separated by levels of burned earth, ash and artifacts that reflect the epochs of social disintegration, chaos and tragedy that seem to conclude the achievements and aspirations of every society.

With that caveat about my gloomy perspective, I would say that today I see most of the symptoms of societies on the brink of collapse, not just in the U.S., but in the tightly interconnected societies of Western civilization – now essentially world civilization.

With apologies to the green movement, “sustainability” is a myth. History and archaeology show that societies are always moving to the edge of crisis, “falling forward” through growth, but then responding (often successfully) to the problems created. What we can hope for is that with a somewhat more controlled level of growth, and with longer-term preparations for change, we can keep responding to the inevitable smaller crises, as they arise, and continue to postpone until later and later the (perhaps ultimately inevitable) end of our civilization.

The real Indiana Jones on why Western civilization is a bubble (viafuckyeahdarkextropian)


religion, history, gnosticism, dualism, gnostic, world religions, shadow

Manichaeism was a major Gnostic religion that was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani (c. 216–276 AD) in the Sasanian Empire. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light whence it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian gnostic and religious movements.

Manichaeism thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity in the competition to replace classical paganism. Manichaeism survived longer in the East than in the West, and it appears to have finally faded away after the 14th century in southern China, contemporary to the decline in China of the Church of the East. While most of Mani’s original writings have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived.

Until discoveries in the 1900s of original sources, the only sources for Manichaeism were descriptions and quotations from non-Manichaean authors, either Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Zoroastrian. While often criticizing Manichaeism, they also quoted directly from Manichaean scriptures. This enabled Isaac de Beausobre, writing in the 18th century, to create a comprehensive work on Manichaeism, relying solely on anti-Manichaean sources.

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Hackers can’t “solve” Surveillance

hackers, surveillance, economics, californian ideology, silicon valley, solutionism, culture, ventur

Since libertarian ideology is often at odds with social solutions, holding private enterprise as an ideal and viewing private provisioning as best, the solutions presented are often pushing more entrepreneurship and voluntarism and ever more responsibilization. We just need a new start-up, or some new code, or some magical new business model! This is what Evgeny Morozov calls Solutionism, the belief that all difficulties have benign solutions, often of a technocratic nature. Morozov provides an example “when a Silicon Valley company tries to solve the problem of obesity by building a smart fork that will tell you that you’re eating too quickly, this […] puts the onus for reform on the individual.”

«Charlie» vivra

Libération, Charlie Hebdo, Charlie, religion, journalism, terrorism

Quant à nous, journalistes, amis des journalistes assassinés, nous continuerons. Avec un peu moins de cœur à l’ouvrage, sans doute, pour quelque temps, mais avec une résolution plus forte. Nous savons que cette profession est parfois dangereuse. C’était jusqu’à présent le lot des reporters qui partent nous informer sur les pays en guerre. Il en meurt des dizaines chaque année. Maintenant on veut porter la guerre jusque dans nos salles de rédaction. Nous ne ferons pas la guerre. Nous ne sommes pas des soldats. Mais nous défendrons notre savoir-faire et notre vocation : aider le lecteur à se sentir citoyen. Ce n’est pas grand-chose mais c’est quelque chose. Avec une certitude mieux ancrée : maintenant, nous savons pourquoi nous faisons ce métier.

Among the Disrupted

NYT, technology, humanism, religion, posthumanism, singularity, metrics, quantifiction, humanities

Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined. By now we are familiar enough with the magnitude of the changes in all the spheres of our existence to move beyond the futuristic rhapsodies that characterize much of the literature on the subject. We can no longer roll over and celebrate and shop. Every phone in every pocket contains a “picture of ourselves,” and we must ascertain what that picture is and whether we should wish to resist it. Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.

Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, people in the Soviet Union began…


Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, people in the Soviet Union began making records of banned Western music on discarded x-rays. With the help of a special device, banned bootlegged jazz and rock ‘n’ roll records were “pressed” on thick radiographs salvaged from hospital waste bins and then cut into discs of 23-25 centimeters in diameter. “They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan — forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

Ingredients: ​1 cup magnesium ​1 cup silicon ​2 cups iron ​2 cups oxygen ​1/2 teaspoon aluminum ​1/2 teaspoon nickel…


  • ​1 cup magnesium
  • ​1 cup silicon
  • ​2 cups iron
  • ​2 cups oxygen
  • ​1/2 teaspoon aluminum
  • ​1/2 teaspoon nickel
  • ​1/2 teaspoon calcium
  • ​1/4 teaspoon sulfur
  • ​dash of water delivered by asteroids
Blend well in a large bowl, shape into a round ball with your hands and place it neatly in a habitable zone area around a young star. Do not over mix. Heat until mixture becomes a white hot glowing ball. Bake for a few million years. Cool until color changes from white to yellow to red and a golden-brown crust forms. It should not give off light anymore. Season with a dash of water and organic compounds. It will shrink a bit as steam escapes and clouds and oceans form. Stand back and wait a few more million years to see what happens. If you are lucky, a thin frosting of life may appear on the surface of your new world.”

The Recipe for Making an Earth-Like Planet | Motherboard (viafuckyeahdarkextropian)

In his full first interview as surveillance commissioner, Tony Porter – a former senior counter-terrorism officer – said the…

In his full first interview as surveillance commissioner, Tony Porter – a former senior counter-terrorism officer – said the public was complacent about encroaching surveillance and urged public bodies, including the police, to be more transparent about how they are increasingly using smart cameras to monitor people.

Porter stressed that he was not anti-surveillance and insisted he was helping to improve standards by encouraging the adoption of a voluntary code. But he added: “The lack of public awareness about the nature of surveillance troubles me.”

Porter, who was appointed to the independent role in March, is responsible for overseeing around 100,000 publicly operated CCTV cameras out of total of up to 6m surveillance cameras nationwide. He said: “When people say ‘the public love CCTV’, do they really know what it does and its capability? Do they know with advancing technology, and algorithms, it starts to predict behaviour?”

He said he was very nervous about the “burgeoning use of body-worn videos [BWV]”, not just by the police but by university security staff, housing and environmental health officers – and even supermarket workers.

“If people are going round with surveillance equipment attached to them, there should be a genuinely good and compelling reason for that. It changes the nature of society and raises moral and ethical issues … about what sort of society we want to live in … I’ve heard that supermarkets are issuing staff with body-worn videos. For what purpose? There is nothing immediately obvious to me.”

UK public must wake up to risks of CCTV, says surveillance commissioner (viaiamdanw)

JOMO n. The pleasure derived from no longer worrying about missing out on what other people are doing or saying.

“JOMO n. The pleasure derived from no longer worrying about missing out on what other people are doing or saying.”

The Word of the Year from website ‘The Word Spy’, which tracks contemporary neologisms:

If new words reflect the culture that coins them, then 2014 should have seen lots of neologisms related to the events, people, and obsessions that dominated our lives. Sure enough, as you’ll see in the awards that follow, new terms related to Ebola, Ferguson, selfies, and social networking are thick on the ground.

Sometimes, if you look at new words a certain way, you can also detect undercurrents that reflect what wewish was happening in the culture.In 2014, by far the most dominant of these sub-trends was the desire to disconnect. The phraseboiling the frog might not have any scientific merit, but it still works as a metaphor and in 2014 many people began to feel like they were frogs slowly being boiled in a pot of information. Stress caused byFOMO (the fear of missing out) and the anxiety of nomophobia (being without one’s mobile phone) were turning us into nervous wrecks.

[Highlight above is my own]

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Violence, glass, steel

london, affectless, luxury, real estate, dystopia, work, dysphoria


Shit, this is astonishing. Redrow, a luxury apartment builder, have made this creepy, completely dystopic, half-American Psycho advert for the new London they’re currently metastasizing all over the city. Its protagonist lives in a world of almost continual night, with the hungry eyes and dead affect of an Ayn Rand wet dream: his world is constituted of chrome, glass, a palette of white-to-taupe, a spatter-pattern rug and one book, a single book, on graphic design. ‘Luxury’ is so often a code for this – double-glazed, polished steel, hermetically sealed in the back of a cab. Our man does not have conversations, but stares out at the city from the fifteenth floor (he does a lot of staring). The concept of conversation is alien to him, though he is shown having a screaming argument; as you see from his inventoried shelves, he has a passion for objects and this is how he treats women, as well.

Flat-toned, void affect, social cancer in a suit: a model for London living. Here’s a curious honesty about it all: houses in the suburbs are marketed still for the smiling happy family, all oak tables and smiling coffee mornings (in zone 4, the dog never even barks, let alone bites). In the central zones, having been cleared of many of their inconveniences (families, communities, *life*), now deadboxes are marketed to the single (wannabe singular) sub-Thatcherite dweeb who manages his violence only on a balance sheet, who wants to take life, pin it, and crush it behind plate glass. Let us burn it down.

Violence, glass, steel

The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

science, nature, krakatoa, volcano, physics, infrasound, 1883

On 27 August 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since. It was 10:02 AM local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. […] By 1883, weather stations in scores of cities across the world were using barometers to track changes in atmospheric pressure. Six hours and 47 minutes after the Krakatoa explosion, a spike of air pressure was detected in Calcutta. By 8 hours, the pulse reached Mauritius in the west and Melbourne and Sydney in the east. By 12 hours, St. Petersburg noticed the pulse, followed by Vienna, Rome, Paris, Berlin, and Munich. By 18 hours the pulse had reached New York, Washington DC, and Toronto. Amazingly, for as many as 5 days after the explosion, weather stations in 50 cities around the globe observed this unprecedented spike in pressure re-occuring like clockwork, approximately every 34 hours. That is roughly how long it takes sound to travel around the entire planet.

Intensive agriculture may have exacerbated drought in ancient Maya city


“The ancient Maya city of Tikal may have used intensive agricultural practices to maintain its large population, according to a study by David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati and colleagues. While these practices enabled sustainable population growth for some time, they may eventually have exacerbated a drought that caused the abandonment of the city.”

Intensive agriculture may have exacerbated drought in ancient Maya city

How 2014 played havoc with geopolitical predictions

2014, year in review, politics, geopolitics, prediction, predictability, surprise, qz, quartz

It was not the individual events that made 2014 so topsy-turvy: after all, what could top the 1991 Soviet collapse for sheer disruption of the status quo? The year instead was remarkable for the number of big, consequential and utterly unforeseen events—Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the rise of ISIL, the diplomatic breakthrough between the US and Cuba, the emergence of US shale oil and the collapse of oil prices, not to mention a clutch of other economic, business and market events. All in all, it has been evident for months that 2014 was a staggering maelstrom of surprises.–2014-played-havoc-with-geopolitical-predictions-including-ours/

Unexpected Life Found In The Ocean’s Deepest Trench

ocean, life, fish, benthic realism, ghost fish, Mariana Trench

Once on the bottom, they waited and watched. And they got some big surprises. “We saw the deepest living fish ever recorded,” says Drazen. “Definitely something new. We took one look at the thing and were amazed — big, wide, winglike fins, this eel-like tail and this scalloped face. It was very unique.” They nicknamed it the “ghost fish” for its almost translucent skin. It appears to be a new species of snailfish — living 5 miles below the surface.

Using the Plan9 plumber utility

plan9, plumber, operating systems, IPC, acme, emacs, vim, intertwingularity

Plumbing is a new mechanism for inter-process communication in Plan 9, specifically the passing of messages between interactive programs as part of the user interface. Although plumbing shares some properties with familiar notions such as cut and paste, it offers a more general data exchange mechanism without imposing a particular user interface. From Plumbing and other utilities by Rob Pike

Malign Velocities

Warren Ellis, Accelerationism, Capitalism, Science Fiction Condition, capital, insanity, benthic rea

Accelerationism is, for me, worth studying briefly, as it seems to me to be a response to pervasive capitalism brought on by the mental illnesses that capitalism has induced in people. (Schizophrenia is talked about, a lot, e.g. “in Nietzsche’s ‘schizo’ delirium he announced ‘I am all the names of history’”) Noys himself calls them “the fetishists of capital” at one point, but I have a feeling, and Noys often implies, that it’s a deeper malaise. Capitalism is lately cast as that Lovecraftian force that some people should not look directly at for fear of going completely mad and being banged up in the Arkham Sanitarium. Maybe meditating upon it as some Dark God From Beyond Space that is crushing the world into new shapes just leads some people to rub their mouths on it and plead for it to go faster. And never stop. (Also: accelerationism, like speculative realism and its surrounding notions, kind of strikes me as Science Fiction Condition philosophical enterprise. its roots may indeed go back to the 19th Century, but the modern conception is something else.)

The Forest is a College, Each Tree a University

data is nature, patabotany, pataphysics, 'pataphysics, botany, thalience, foam

Adapting the absurdist metaphysical conjectures of Pataphysics (Alfred Jarry’s Science of imaginary solutions) to Botany creates a fantastic ecology of verdant pataphors. Metaflora, Phycological futurology and hypnogogic phyllotaxis perhaps? Libarynth invents and documents this new branch of speculative science and its related offshoots by ‘patafying’ the study of plants. Triffids take note! Maja Kuzmanovic and Nik Gaffney’s Cursory Speculations on Human Plant Interaction ‘explores the nature of surfaces and processes required to facilitate reciprocal interaction between humans and plants’. Examined in the paper: the continued evolution of human-plant symbiotics – in their somatic and syntactic protocols. This includes shamanic enthogenic communication and Thalient strategies.

Phantom Terrains I AM walking through my north London neighbourhood on an unseasonably warm day in late autumn. I can hear…


Phantom Terrains

I AM walking through my north London neighbourhood on an unseasonably warm day in late autumn. I can hear birds tweeting in the trees, traffic prowling the back roads, children playing in gardens and Wi-Fi leaching from their homes. Against the familiar sounds of suburban life, it is somehow incongruous and appropriate at the same time. As I approach Turnpike Lane tube station and descend to the underground platform, I catch the now familiar gurgle of the public Wi-Fi hub, as well as the staff network beside it. On board the train, these sounds fade into silence as we burrow into the tunnels leading to central London. I have been able to hear these fields since last week. This wasn’t the result of a sudden mutation or years of transcendental meditation, but an upgrade to my hearing aids. With a grant from Nesta, the UK innovation charity, sound artist Daniel Jones and I built Phantom Terrains, an experimental tool for making Wi-Fi fields audible.
The man who can hear Wi-Fi wherever he walks - New Scientist

Random Darknet Shopper

Mediengruppe Bitnik, art, darknet, deepweb, bot, economics, trade, capitalism, automation, intent, A

The Random Darknet Shopper is an automated online shopping bot which we provide with a budget of $100 in Bitcoins per week. Once a week the bot goes on shopping spree in the deep web where it randomly choses and purchases one item and has it mailed to us. The items are shown in the exhibition «The Darknet. From Memes to Onionland» at Kunst Halle St. Gallen. Each new object ads to a landscape of traded goods from the Darknet.

resolute | the m john harrison blog


“I went home and noted: Only ever write when you have something worth writing. Write short stories because you want to. Write short novels because that’s what you want. Always defer or deny closure. Always break the structure. Always undermine or contradict the rationale. Always refuse a conceptually interpretable or comfortable ending. I thought for a bit and then added: You can offer resolution but only at another level. Then, finally: Keep saying no.”

resolute | the m john harrison blog

Current reading material: Branding Terror: The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations. I find…


Current reading material: Branding Terror: The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations. I find this book amazing on both a surface level and a conceptual level. On the surface it’s an absolutely fascinating global survey of terrorist organizations with a breakdown of the symbology behind their choice of logos, right down to the Pantone colors used. On a conceptual level I’m repulsed and terrified by both sides of the study: the terror groups themselves for obvious reasons, and for more subtle reasons the insidiousness of global market capitalism, which in its shark-like ceaseless devouring is able to analyze even such outsider icons in terms of Pantone colors and graphic elements, treating the ISIS logo in the same category as the AT&T logo. It’s an amazing document for our times. Amazon link.

 (via Clayton Cubitt on Instagram

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