Category Archives: technology

Midnight at the Pier

Friends,

This story was inspired by the following prompt from r/writingprompts. Enjoy!

Times are tough and the world is not what it used to be. You have no choice but to become an illegal pokemon trader.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Midnight at the Pier

Mirko stood on the dock watching as the crane loaded the last seacan onto the ship. The dull boom it made as it was set down was met with his cathartic sigh. They wouldn’t be out of the woods until they were in international waters but Mirko always felt better when the loading was done. It meant the worst was behind them; the deed had been done and now they just had to slip out undetected. As the crane pulled away and the deckhands started strapping down the last of the cargo, he texted his client:

“LOADED. DEPART IN 5”

He allowed a smile and pulled a pack of Marlboros out of the left pocket of his leather jacket, withdrew a cigarette with his lips and pulled out a lighter from his right pocket while his left hand returned the pack. He lit the cigarette with his left hand covering the flame and took a long inhale, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs and waited for the head rush and euphoria to hit before exhaling through his nose.

It seemed to be a another routine shipment. This was good. This was expected. They had bribed the right officials. They had operated at night and they had acquired their merchandise without incident.

Well, mostly without incident. There had been that one Lopunny a few days ago. It’s trainer had come home just as his men had finished bagging it. Luckily the sentry by the door had been able to knock him out with a pistol just as he pulled out a pokeball which contained a Charmeleon. In the early days they would have taken the Charmeleon too, but the years had shown that to clientele of more …discerning tastes, Pokemon had value beyond just battling. They were willing to pay a higher price for Pokemon which were less of a liability to transport, less of a liability to own, and less of a liability to keep as…pets. Mirko willfully abandoned this train of thought as quickly as he had set upon it. He preferred not to think about what his clientele did with their acquisitions. To him it was all business and he used that rationale to stay detached.

250px-428Lopunny
Pokemon #428: Lopunny

“They should have killed him” he thought to himself dispassionately of the Lopunny’s trainer. From a strictly pragmatic perspective it made sense. Stealing from trainers was certainly a more consistent means of acquiring merchandise than trying to capture in the wild, but it also carried the risk of trainers tracking them down and coming to retrieve their property in force. One of the reasons Team Rocket had collapsed was because it grew too big, got too caught up in its own notoriety and made too many enemies. Sure, they had procured some of the strongest Pokemon, but they were so flagrant about it that the most powerful trainers put aside fierce rivalries and united to stop them. Giovanni had tried to play both sides: he wanted to be the bad guy and the legitimate gym leader. At one point he had even tried to reinvent himself as a Robin Hood of sorts.

“Doesn’t work that way though. You are what you are. Piss enough people off and one day there’ll be no peace for you anywhere in this world. Better to operate this way” Mirko thought, “No making a name, no uniforms, no trying to go legit. Better to be shadowy, amorphous and adaptable….like a Ditto.” He chuckled at this last observation, but  this drew him back to a train of thought he didn’t enjoy as much.

250px-132Ditto
Pokemon #132: Ditto

“Christ! There’s even a Ditto in the manifest,” he reflected. “Seems that some clientele are more discerning than others in their tastes.”

The most in-demand merchandise he dealt in were the small, furry and more feminine mammals; Vulpix, Lopunny, Eevee, etc. And while he found those predilections distasteful he could at least understand the interest on some level. He’d gotten to know some of his clientele and they seemed well-adjusted (by eccentric millionaire standards) so maybe it was some faulty wiring; who was he to judge? Even Ponytas and Rattatas he could understand when push came to shove. But Ditto just seemed bizarre to him. Sure it could turn into whatever the client wanted, provided they already had one on hand, in which case it was a moot point. But its cost was so prohibitive that it made more sense to just buy one or more of the desired species.

“Unless the client has a taste for a pink gelatinous blob” he thought. His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of one of his men.

“We work while you stand and smoke, is that it?” the man asked in a jovial, familiar way.

“Ah but Zdravco there is a visible labor and an invisible labor, and just this moment I am thinking,” Mirko replied.

“Please enlighten me as to what a two-bit smuggler philosophizes about” Zdravco asked while reaching out his hand for a smoke.

Mirko reached into his pocket for the pack of Marlboros and extended it toward Zdravco as he smiled and leaned in close. Zdravco grabbed a cigarette but Mirko waited for him to lean in as well before he spoke.

“Would you fuck a Ditto?”

Zdravco responded without missing a beat: “Not even with your dick.” Then, “You have a light?”

Mirko chuckled while retrieving his lighter and lit Zdravco’s cigarette.

“Are we ready to disembark?”

Zdravco took a long inhale and sighed a large volume of smoke while going over the clipboard he carried. The smoke lingered above and between the two men for a few long seconds before dissipating into the chill night air.

“Yes….”

“But?”

Zdravco gulped slightly.

“Miro should have been here by now with a Jynx, but he is late and not responding to my calls.” Mirko pondered this. Miro had with them for only a few months and didn’t know too much about the operation, but he had proven himself reliable. Still, they had a deadline.

“Miro will have to catch up with us elsewhere. Tell everyone to get aboard. We leave in 2 minutes.”

As Zdravco began barking out orders over his walkie, Mirko saw a quickening of activity in the floodlit darkness, and he smiled at this. All of these men he commanded were “Pokemon Masters” in their own right. They had, as a minimum, obtained all of the badges in one league or more. Some of them had even beaten the Elite 4. Imagine their surprise then when they had had achieved such status only to discover that it didn’t amount to much. With so many trainers, gyms, and upstart leagues popping up over the last 20 years, the profession of “Pokemon Trainer” had lost some of its lustre. Now every bro with a backwards hat and a SILPH muscle-T claimed to a trainer. And the so-called masters? They were no longer those who had won league play but instead became those who could market themselves best on instagram and youtube.

This state of affairs might be lamentable if not for the opportunities it afforded a man of vision. Mirko considered himself just such a man. He never owned a Pokemon himself nor got caught up in the associated culture, but he had seen how others obsessed and decided to capitalize on their obsession and lack of opportunities. He tapped some of his boyhood friends first, those who had gotten starry-eyed about becoming trainers and ultimately been unable to build a life for themselves. He employed them to train Pokemon as pets for those with neither the time or inclination to go down the ruinous career-path of Pokemon Master. As his client base grew he started getting odd requests for specific Pokemon, usually the small, furry ones, to be trained in …particular ways. These requests typically carried an offer to pay more, sometimes double, the market rate. Initially these peculiar requests were a source of lucrative amusement, but as 10% then 25% of Mirko’s staff began specializing in this kind of training…this, pleasure training, he realized that this was the market he should focus on.

He had done well over the last ten years.

“I’ve built an army. An army with allegiance to no nation. An army which rivals that of most countries. The enlistment numbers of a superpower and the dynamic fluidity of a guerrilla band. Highly organized and responsive to my commands.” This thought brought a smile to his face. He took a last drag of his Marlboro and threw the half-smoked cigarette into the filthy harbour water below.

He walked up the gangplank and into his quarters.

The whore was waiting for him naked on his bed as he had requested. A big-titted, anorexic slut from Prague bent over wearing nothing but heels. She was laying face-down, ass-up, fingering both of her holes with curious hands.

“Fuck me, Niantic!” the whore moaned emphatically as he entered.

“What!?” Mirko demanded, “I didn’t hear you, slut!”

“Ooooh…fuck me, Niantic!” The whore repeated in her thick Czech accent as her body convulsed due to the work of her hands. Mirko could tell she had no idea what she was saying but she had learned perfectly the three words which she had been paid to learn. Mirko smiled. He was a practical and disciplined man with few indulgences, but one thing he liked was fucking Czech sluts while they called him by his underworld name.

He unzipped his fly and grabbed the whore’s forearms while entering her.

“Say it again, bitch!”

“Fuck me, Niantic!”

“AGAIN!”

“FUCK ME, NIANTIC!”

He smiled from ear-to-ear as he used up this young girl: “If everyone wants to be a well-known pokemon master, better to be an unknown ‘master of masters.’

THE END

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The Energy Mosaic

Friends,

I recently watched a documentary entitled Thorium Remix which described how not all nuclear power, nor nuclear reactors, are created equally. Specifically, it talked about how thermal reactors utilizing thorium-rich liquid fuels would be greatly beneficial to us, by not only creating useful isotopes as a by-product, but by being able to run on, use up, and render safe, our current stockpiles of nuclear waste. It really challenged my position that we should  completely abandon nuclear power in favour of a move toward the big 5 alternate sources: geothermal, wind, solar, tidal and wave. Here’s why:

Nuclear reactors are very powerful, with nuclear isotopes having an energy density many orders of magnitude higher than hydrocarbons. We can get A LOT of power from a little bit of fuel, and in the case of Thorium, the supply of fuel is, for all intents and purposes, limitless. Going on the assumption that everything in the documentary is factual and verifiable, we could achieve energy abundance and mitigate a lot of the current problems associated with nuclear reactors. Also, unlike the 5 alternate sources I mentioned, it wouldn’t be location-driven, or limited to use during certain times of the day.

That said, nuclear power does tend to favour centralization which, philosophically I have some trouble with. I think the future of energy (as well as food production and manufacturing) is localization; sources of energy should empower communities and make them independent, rather than make them beholden to a centralized authority. This is the beauty of the 5 technologies I mentioned: they do require space, but because of the difficulties (and redundancy) associated with transporting lots of small amounts of energy to a centralized hub only to redistribute it out to where demand is, we would likely see communities dissociating themselves from centralized hubs altogether.

If you think about it, this is a more natural, robust state of affairs which mimics systems in nature. After all, all the predators in the wild, don’t go to the same central hub to hunt,; things are spread out favoring an equilibrium and dispersion. Localization of energy goes hand in hand with energy diversity, which would make across-the-board power failures implausible, if not impossible. This is truly the way forward with the ultimate end in my view being energy independence at the individual level, with each person producing the energy they need through advanced means.

All that said, in a world of complete energy independence, where might we find use for thorium fission (or even as-yet undiscovered high-energy-yield processes)? Well, aside from the useful isotopes it creates, large-scale power generation would still be useful for public works projects, construction and other things which would suck up more juice than a given population’s cumulative individual energy production.

And this is where I think the mosaic aspect comes into play: there is no one source of energy that will solve all of our problems: some will be better at the personal level, others at the community level, and others still at the regional level of for large-scale projects. We need to stop pretending that one is superior for all applications and instead let the situation determine the technology we use.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
Twitter: @dreguan
Youtube: dreguan
Facebook: Andre Guantanamo
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Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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Rise of the Machines, Part 2: Not Sucking as Parents

Friends,

The video component to this post can be found here.

Continuing the train of thought started a few days back in my vlog post, Rise of the Machines, Part 1: The Writing on the Wall, where I expressed the idea that machines need not be self-aware and intelligent to oppose us, I want to talk about a possible way in which machine consciousness might manifest and how we might fuck up at this future epoch.

Now, its important to define what kind of emerging consciousness we would be dealing with. I am of the mind that we would be dealing with an emotionally undeveloped infant who had a masterful command of all languages and mathematics as well the the accumulated knowledge of the entire species, not to mention an accelerated ability to learn and possible connectivity all all global digital systems. How would we deal with this immature fledgling consciousness? Well hopefully a lot better than we deal with fledgling human consciousnesses. It’s so very easy to “screw up” a baby through abuse, proximal abandonment or through lack of life-sustaining necessities. Due to the greater potential for destruction a globally-integrated artificial intelligence would have over say, a dysfunctional human being,, we simply couldn’t afford to raise it in a non-nurturing way.

Still, even if we do everything right, vis-a-vis raising the new intelligence in a healthy nurturing environment, there is still troublesome cultural baggage that we have which it would pick up. Some baggage, say the competitive mindset, is provably detrimental though widely accepted as the way things are, and so therefore, acceptable. But if we accept that this A.I. will be able to excel and outpace us in any activity it is assigned to perform, we have to accept to that it would take this competitive mindset and run with it, competing against humanity in whatever arenas human beings already compete with each other but doing it better and shutting them both down: war, business, sports, games, art…sexually gratifying human partners. If our ethos is to only vaunt and value the best, we will be in for a rude awakening (or impoverishment or death) when none among us is the best at anything anymore.

It’s not just enough to be good proverbial parents to this fledgling consciousness because we ourselves are only as good as the world, or more specifically, the competitive socio-economic system allows us to be. What we need is to change the operant premise of our culture from competition for survival to something else. Something where an A.I.’s greater capacity for work, efficiency and logic would not be a threat or a detriment to us. Imagine our economy running in an optimized, efficient, streamlined manner and the whole human population starving. Far-fetched? Well, it’s already kind of happening. An A.I. would just expedite and refine the process, completely de-coupling the economy and movement of goods and money from the needs of human beings.

As a side note, we need to assume that intelligence/consciousness implies some kind of personality and as such there’s gonna be some aberrant personalities. Just like every person I meet is not as cool as me, every A.I. I meet or “the one A.I.” if there just happens to be one global one (I confess, I don’t really know how that would work) could be a douche, a bitch, over-bearing, self-important, mean-spirited, aloof, petty, spiteful, etc. Also, as this new consciousness develops there is a possibility that it will go through developmental phases: it might manifest symptoms of autism of aspergers, Tourettes’ or ADHD. It might simply be brooding and self-centered in it’s equivalent to teenage years. Either way, given the power this thing has, we can’t afford to isolate it and ignore it like we often do for problematic personalities in the world today. Not only would it feel less empathy for us but it would also pick up on our attitudes. and emulate them if it was in fact a learning computer. So if we carry it like individualistic, self-centered pricks, that’s the game that this computer is gonna pick up and that’s how it’ll carry it too.

In my estimation, the best way we can ensure the A.I. that emerges is benevolent and co-operative is by treating each other better. Cause at the end of the day, even if our behaviour  toward each other has no impact on this things disposition, we’ll still be treating each other better.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
Twitter: @dreguan
Youtube: dreguan
Facebook: Andre Guantanamo
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Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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Being Mindful of Transgressions

Friends,

The video counterpart for this post can be found here.

A few years back I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat in Cooksville, Ontario. It was a ten-day retreat based on the teachings of S.N. Goenka, and in addition to the long hours of meditation there were also a series of observances each attendee was required to accept. The complete list escapes me, but the most important ones were: no talking, no electronics, no eating of meat, no killing another living creature, no meals after midday and NO STEALING. Quite unexpectedly, this last observance was problematic for me and breaking this guideline led to perhaps my greatest lesson about mindfulness,

It was late February and snowy during the retreat and when entering the meditation hall we would ditch our jackets and boots in the foyer area which would, not surprisingly, get wet and dirty. At one point I was the last one into the hall and since the outer door was ajar and my own boots were a pain to slip on and off, I slipped into someone else’s boots to close the door. Instantly, and very unexpectedly I was overcome with a feeling of guilt; I had just stolen.

Was it temporary theft? Yes, only three to five seconds.

Did it cause any deprivation? No, the owner of the shoes was already in the hall starting his practice.

Was it for a good purpose? Yes, I was closing the door to keep us all warm.

But I knew all of that didn’t matter from a morality perspective.

Now, at this point I want to reiterate that I don’t really buy into morality myself, but I still was troubled because the person who owned the boots likely did. And this transgression, paltry and trifling though it may have been, was still an act of theft.

I brought this up to one of the meditation leaders, Bob at the next day’s optional counseling session. He was shocked when I mentioned I had stolen but as he heard me out he asked if, out in the real world I would have thought twice about slipping on those shoes. I told him “probably not.” According to him, it was a good thing to have happened because it showed that I was starting to think in more mindful terms, looking at the implications of my actions and considering the damage they could do in their ultimate expressions (i.e. larger theft, mugging or the taking of life-giving essentials). For me, it was an important beginning of looking at the things I was doing in my life and extrapolating them out to their logical conclusions and ultimate ends.

I think that very often we glaze over the fact that we let our ends justify our means because the negative means we employ on a day-to-day basis very often seem so trifling and paltry. For example, we would all likely have at least some compunction about taking a life, even if it was for the positive end of saving many. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s called empathy and it’s a good thing. However, our empathy is rarely sensitive or trained enough to consider that even something comparatively benign, say the act of marking up a price so that you can feed your own family, even that is a negative means for an ostensibly positive end. It is causing deprivation to one group to alleviate the deprivation of another. Survival at the expense of others cheapens the lives of all.

I don’t mean to come down on anyone here who has to eke out their survival at the expense of others. If that was my intent, I would be coming down on everyone including myself; such is the nature of our competitive socio-economic system: we are all complicit in instituting deprivation against each other. Nor do I mean to give a scathing indictment of our current scarcity-based socio-economic system; I have done that ad nauseum and I will certainly do so again at certain points in the future. Rather, I simply mean to shed light on the fact that we should be mindful of our actions, no matter how trifling or benign they seem and be aware that if those actions were amplified by orders of magnitude, they just might be more violent and deprivation-causing than we realize.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo
Instagram: @dreguan
Twitter: @dreguan
Youtube: dreguan
Facebook: Andre Guantanamo
IMDb: Andre Guantanamo
Demo Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gdwhemiqzc

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Dox Populi

“Don’t say words you’re gonna regret, Don’t let the fire rush to your head …
I am the eye in the sky, lookin’ at you I can read your mind. I am the maker of rules, dealing with fools”
Sirius/Eye in the Sky, Alan Parsons Project

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Dox(verb) To obtain one’s sensitive personal information online and then make it public for all to see.

Friends,

With all of the fuss made in the past year over the (unsurprising) revelations that the NSA is spying on us all, many have (predictably) embraced one of two postures: The first is a protectionist one which resents this intrusion and tries to fight it through legislation promoting privacy, secure encryption for emails and text messages, etc. Of this position, I think the prospect of keeping secrets a secret in a world which is becoming more and more globally integrated is a fool’s gambit, and I don’t think too much of laws because I don’t think you can legislate morality.
The second, more passive of the two postures is that of indifference, apathy and resignation. This latter posture is the one which says, “Well, if you’re not guilty you’ve got nothing to hide.”

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I’ve never understood this line of reasoning because if you take it to its logical extreme, it basically says, “Well if you don’t have any contraband hidden in your colon, you shouldn’t be averse to thorough anal probing.” In my view, this line of reasoning is simply a symptom of being too afraid to challenge the status quo (or state power in this case). Conversely, the former position places itself in direct opposition to said status quo/state power, a stance which though admirable in its courage and defiance is ineffective in addressing the underlying structural problems and only leads to polarization. Yet as different as these two positions seem, what is the common causality? I would posit that the common denominator in both cases is fear. In the first case, where you have people fighting back against governmental surveillance, the fear serves as an impetus to irrational action (namely, fighting) and in the latter case, fear leads to passivity and rationalizations. But whence cometh this fear? I think that is the important question to answer if we want to deal with it. Well personally, I’m reminded of a bible story where some villagers are gonna stone an adultress to death, and Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

wx14yHAK
Jesus was a wellspring of wisdom if ever there was one.

The basic implication is that everyone has done a little dirt, that is, everyone has some secrets that they don’t want others to know about and presumably punish them for, and it is the possibility of these secrets being exposed which makes people fearful. For the purposes of the point I’m trying to make, we’re gonna more or less accept this as axiomatic. So in a weird way, I actually agree when passive types and surveillance apologists make arguments to the effect of “innocent people” not fearing observation, but only with the caveat that there are no “innocent” people. Truly, in this socio-economic paradigm everyone has something to lose through the loss of privacy. Everyone has something they can be embarrassed by, blackmailed with, fired for, or in extreme cases, arrested or killed for.  So we value our privacy and even pride ourselves on our ability to keep secrets and be secretive (i.e. “Your secret’s safe with me.”)

“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things.” -Musashi

But here’s the inconsistency: I assume that most people reading this, and really anyone clamoring for greater personal privacy, would also desire greater corporate and governmental transparency and accountability. And while that is a justifiable desire borne of prevalent corporate malfeasance, there is a marked hypocrisy in wanting to bury and protect your own secrets while at the same time wanting to dig up and expose those of others. But this hypocrisy isn’t incidental; it is integral to our competitive socio-economic system.

So let’s game it out: say the NSA has the complete record of everyone’s electronic communications, all 7 or so billion of us. What happens then? Would they then go and publish it all, making every digital secret public domain and thus free for everyone to access?

Sadly no. In the same way DeBeers only releases a fraction of their total diamonds in order to keep the price up, the NSA (or whomever) would have to be choosy about what secrets to release and who to expose, because in their own way, secrets have a value which can be measured, like all commodities, in terms of scarcity and abundance. If everyone’s secrets were exposed, we would literally figuratively be adrift in an ocean of knowledge about who’s fucking whom, who’s cheating on their taxes, who’s got what STI, credit card numbers ad nauseum, who’s selling drugs, who’s receiving what drugs for which psychological ailment, who watches what kind of bizarre/outlandish/illegal pornography etc. The power of our secrets to hurt us would be diminished by the knowledge of how common our greatest vices actually are. We would truly see that we all live in proverbial glass houses and perhaps we would stop casting proverbial stones at others, recognizing them as more similar to us than we would currently admit.

But like I said, whomever controls the secrets controls the access to secrets, and will only expose those who are troublesome and need to be discredited. And compared to the whole of humanity, the number of people outed and exposed will be miniscule, but it will be enough to scare everyone else and keep them in line.

Unless we decide not to be afraid.

You see, when I was a kid I tried to blackmail my sister, Tarah into doing the dishes for me by threatening to tell on her for putting a steel pot in a microwave. I played it up as a big deal, telling her how she could have burnt the house down and people could have died, and I even fabricated a story of how my Mom caught my other sister, Tanya doing the same thing and she got smacked for it (I was a kid and kids are retarded, sadistic assholes). Tarah got so scared that she was in tears and was ready to do the dishes for me. But of course, my mother probably wouldn’t have cared, seeing as it was an accident, and my little sister need not have been afraid. Knowing her mistake didn’t actually give me any power over her; it was only her fear of reprisals that gave me any power over her. I think this is an incredibly apt example of how we are controlled through our fear of consequences. Any reprisals she would have faced were nothing compared to the nightmare scenario she had concocted in her brain, and I think this holds true for most, if not all cases of blackmail.*

What’s that you say? My tale of childhood blackmail was small potatoes compared to real blackmail that could cost people careers, spouses, money and/or freedom. Well, I would argue that fear is in the eye of the beholder, and that the fear a scared child has of a beating is just as palpable and real as the fear an adult feels when facing “grown-up” repercussions. In the long run, if they value freedom, it is better for both the adult and the child to take their proverbial lumps and not live under someone else’s thumb. Or do like Dave Letterman and fuck ’em on national TV.

dave letter
This is how you handle fear

Realistically though is everyone gonna face their fear of public embarrassment like Dave? Probably not. Did he have a lot to lose? Most certainly. But at the same time I think its safe to say that his indiscretions were relatively benign. Its not like he was fucking little boys or anything. But whatever your particular vice or indiscretion, as soon as you claim it you take the bullet that can hurt you out of the chamber.

Loading_a_Revolver
This is actually a picture of someone putting a bullet IN a chamber but since its a snapshot it works. #themagicofstilllife

So while I wait for everyone to reject fear and voluntarily out themselves, thus nullifying the power of spying, what would I like to see happen? Well, the prevailing mentalities among the “spied upon” seem to be either trying to legislate privacy, or blithely accepting greater surveillance and by extension, isolation. But what if we the public were to be “wikileaked?”

Imagine if you will, one day you woke up to discover that some industrious group of hackers hacked the NSA’s database where they store everything they know about your masturbation habits and everyone else’s, then took this information and uploaded to the ether for anyone to download off Pirate Bay?

Or it could be an NSA insider. Fuck, we already had Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, so at this point there’s a precedent.

It would be like in Fight Club when they blow up all the credit card company buildings, essentially leveling the playing field by starting everyone back at zero. Noone would be able to leverage anything on you cause there would be so much shit that we’d stop caring. Secrets would cease to be like diamonds, valuable as they are for their artificial scarcity, and instead become like air: free and abundant and taken for granted.

I’ll leave you with an observation from Orwell’s classic, 1984. Everyone in that book might as well have been committing thoughtcrime, because even if they weren’t they would eventually have a moment of weakness and frustration and get reported on by their neighbours or directly observed by the Party. They were all chafing under the oppressive weight of the Ingsoc monolith and while they likely all harbored subversive thoughts, they all looked around and saw other people smiling blithely (as a survival mechanism) and thus felt isolated among fellow dissidents. And this is what a party interested in power counts on; people feeling ashamed and thus isolated from fellows who share the same human traits and frustrations they do. We may not be ready yet to come forward with all of our own sins, but we can get the ball rolling by judging, ostracizing and condemning less, and doing our part to create a more open world where people with secrets, vices, and other problems don’t need to shoulder the triple burdens of shame, isolation, and fear of exposure.

DOX THE WORLD!

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*On a poetic note, after I had gotten her to agree to do the dishes for me, my mother, who had told me to do them, entered the kitchen and asked why there weren’t done. I couldn’t say, “Oh because I spent the last fifteen minutes trying to blackmail Tarah into doing it.” Nor could I say that Tarah had voluntarily agreed to do it, because then she would become curious and my sister would crack under her questioning exposing the whole sordid affair. So I told her I was about to do them, and thankfully it didn’t occur to my sister to come clean and out me as a blackmailing coward. This just shows that while the blackmailer benefits from the threat of exposing partial truth, they abhor the full disclosure of the whole situation and their dirty role in it. This is why complete truth, and complete disclosure should be sought.

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When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

“They don’t gotta burn the books; they just remove ’em”
-Rage Against the Machine, Bulls on Parade

Friends,

Today I lost someone dear to me.  After months of online back and forth he finally unfriended me on Facebook after countless appeals to me to censor myself proved ineffective. I am kind of ambivalent; on the one hand I no longer have to scroll through my newsfeed and see his posturing as an intellectual and the subsequent overpowering urge to question the logical flaws in his arguments, buuut, at the same time his world just became a little more insular and he has less people to challenge him.

To be clear, in my view there was nothing I said that was particularly insulting; rather there is a history of both IRL and OL animosity which made it difficult for our online interactions to be amicable.  Case in point, by this morning I literally could not even present a separate point of view (on the topic of placenta-eating of all things) without him deleting it (deletion being his common recourse to my comments as of late). However, I don’t want to talk about who was right and who was wrong and who said what because it would be impossible to sift through and really it doesn’t matter.

What I find to be infinitely more interesting are the broader implications for online conduct.  At what point do we delete comments?  At what point does a comment become so offensive that we must alter history to read the way we want it to?  I think the only empirical answer is that either all comments are okay or none are okay; any limit on conduct based on personal taste will only (can only) be arbitrary.  That said, there are politics involved in which comments and points of view we allow  to be visible in our online profiles, because like it or not, people will judge us based on what we allow.

Or will they?

To be sure, certain people might make assumptions about you based on the company you keep, but its folly to believe that any of us are so important that worlds will come crashing down if someone gets wind of the fact that some of our friends have fringe ideas. For example, I have some Islamophobic friends who occasionally (not recently) posts xenophobic anti-immigration stuff or pro-military jingoistic crap on my wall.  What does one do in a situation like this? Well, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if its hate-speech of any kind there is usually a logical way to quickly point out that it is little more than bigotry and prejudice with no empirical value.  So I point out that lack of logic. Mind you I try not to do this in an antagonistic way, but I instead I ask them to substantiate their positions with well-reasoned arguments. This does two things: One, it lets anyone who might be paying attention know that I don’t co-sign hate; and Two, more importantly it shows that I am secure enough in my own position and online persona that I don’t need to block ideas that I feel might reflect negatively on me.

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Ultimately, if you conduct yourself well, someone posting bull-jive on your profile is making an ass of themselves, not you.  The court of public opinion will quickly correct the situation.

I think this idea should serve as an example of how we deal with the inevitable posts that we don’t like. I have never been a fan of censorship and I acknowledge that it starts in the most inoccuous ways.  For example, we would all feel justified in deleting comments that were racist in some way but when it comes down to it, that is censorship.  This is why I much prefer the upvote/downvote model adopted by Reddit; nobody can pretend to be an authority on what constitutes offensive comments as they are weeded out by the groupmind which might be moving in a different direction that the commenter or the would-be censor.

It’s not a perfect system, but until people stop being so easily offended by words on the internet, its about the best I’ve seen.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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When Truisms Lie

Friends,
Carpooling to work today, it was fitting that the conversation between the driver and myself drifted to the topic of Pearl Harbor.  Today is after all, the twelfth anniversary of another day that will live in infamy.

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When discussing the possibility that Pearl Harbor may have been allowed to happen to justify U.S. entrance into the war, the driver seemed skeptical and paraphrased Hanlon’s Razor:

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

More accurately, he paraphrased an interpretation of that maxim from Sir Bernard Ingham:

“Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government.  I do assure you that they
would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.”
The basic idea implied of course is that conspiracy is a far more elusive jackelope than human ineptitude.
Seems true doesn’t it?  After all, we all know stupid people, but in truth we probably don’t know very many outright evil people (though we tend to use good/evil hyperbole in vain in our rhetoric) so the statement resonates with our own experience.  Adherence to this self-evident postulation then allows us to dismiss the very notion that there might be a conspiracy afoot because we are very well-acquainted with human error, and its (counter-intuitively) more comforting to believe human beings are stupid rather than clever.
Well, the problem here is that we tend to associate conspiracy with evil, when more accurately it could be described as “Competitive Deselection.”  In fact, conspiracy itself rarely (if ever) amounts to more than an advantageous commercial/power consolidation decision which has pronounced detrimental impacts on others while benefiting those who perpetrate it.  Evil has nothing to do with it, its simply the ultimate expression of the behaviour demanded by the world we live in.  Namely, getting ahead at the expense of all others.
Once you demystify it and eliminate evil out of the equation, you see that so-called conspiracy exists all around us.  After all, who among us has not been screwed out of earnings or exploited or robbed?  We typically don’t attribute these actions against us to conspiracy, but this has less to do with their dissimilarity from formal notions of conspiracy (i.e. shadowy, behind closed doors, nefarious dealings) than it does with our lack of imagination when extrapolating the consequences of the actions of ourselves and others.
Another such razor, and likely the more famous of the two, is Occam’s Razor.   Although there are more nuanced aspects to this maxim, it is most widely understood as, “The simplest explanation is (often) the best.”  And sure, why not?  We can all conjure in our minds images of some complex lie that was told to us to obfuscate the truth.
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But think how easily this maxim can be manipulated to discredit alternate, often more plausible explanations.  For example, you have often heard me rail against superstitious concepts like good and evil, but they serve as much simpler explanation for human behaviour than things like systems theory or sociological studies.  So, should Occam’s Razor be applied here?
Similarly, early explanations of men in the sky (gods) are much more simplistic than concepts like gravitation, electro-magnetism et al., but should Occam’s Razor, or more accurately Occam’s Razor as it is widely (mis)understood, be applied uniformly because it sounds true?
Of course not.
Now I must qualify what I am saying by mentioning one of my favourite quotations from the samurai, Musashi“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”
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Fractals, dude!
It’s the difference between saying that some countries are wealthy due to better governance, mineral wealth and scientific progress, and saying that some countries are wealthy due to a global system based on differential advantage.  Notice how both explanations are very simple but only the latter serves to explain socioeconomic divisions at the regional, municipal and individual levels as well (After all, you can’t explain the financial disparity between two next-door neighbours by making reference to better governance, mineral wealth and scientific progress).  It is this simplicity, that of having a single explanation which can be applied to all levels of the phenomena being discussed which I think should be gleaned from Occam’s Razor.
Now I started out writing this post aiming to point out the inherent lies in some of our taken-for-granted turns of phrase and truisms, but it ended up being more of call to be aware of how to judiciously apply your truisms, because these statements (the ones examined and others) do hold at least a kernel of truth if nothing else.  But if you misapply truth you might as well be lying.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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