Category Archives: technology

ONE DAY AT THE WATCHTOWER

***The following story is a response to a thread on the sub-reddit, r/writingprompts.
View thread HERE.***

ONE DAY AT THE WATCHTOWER

Kal slurped his coffee loudly as he sat in the lounge of the watchtower reading the news on his tablet.

“Do you have to be so loud?” Diana asked. “Also, put on a goddamn shirt -this is a common area and we have a dress code.”

Kal began scratching/caressing his chest and belly as he looked over at her. “What’s the matter? You never seen a real man’s body before?” He then put two fingers to his tongue and began mockingly rubbing his nipple while giving her seductive eyes.

Diana shuddered. “You’re gonna turn me into a fucking dyke, you know that?”

Kal smirked, but before he could offer some pithy comment, Bruce walked in with a serious look on his face.

“Kal… Diana…All is well I presume?….” Kal shrugged as if to say ‘meh’ and Diana rolled her eyes and returned her attention back to her tablet.

“What is the status of next week’s operation?”

Silence.

“Do we have a belligerent to attack Munich?”

Silence.

“Guys! What the fuck? We have a plan and we’re supposed to stick to it. Why haven’t you scheduled any belligerent?”

Diana cleared her throat. “Nobody wants to work with us. They are all scared since Kal broke Zod’s neck.”

“Oh fuck them and fuck you for saying that!” Kal snapped, indignant.

“She’s right, Kal -you fucked up. Have they flat-out refused?”

“Some did…Brainiac gave us his ‘fuck-you’ price.” Diana said as she turned her tablet in Bruce’s direction for him to see.

“Jesus! We could level the city to the ground, buy it for peanuts and still lose money if we paid him that.” Bruce looked disapprovingly at Kal, who stared intently at his tablet, pretending to be unaware of the negativity focused on him. Ever the pragmatist, Bruce swallowed his anger, “We need to purchase that city. I’m open to ideas.”

“Well, you’re Bruce Wayne -you could always pay ful….”

Before he could finish, a pillow thrown by Diana hit him with the force of a moving car, exploding into a blizzard of white plumage as it hit his cheek.

“Pth pthh!….well that was unnecessary.” Kal retorted while spitting out the goose down feathers now fluttering about his head.

“I told you, we pay full price as an absolute last resort. With the sheer number and scale of acquisitions we are making, we can’t afford to pay market price -I CAN’T afford market price.”

“Well, me and Diana coul-”

“Diana and I…you stupid fuck.” Diana interrupted.

“Diana and I,” Kal resumed. “We could toss on black masks and dark clothes and just go wreck shit.”

“No! Too risky. We’ve had to endure too much scrutiny the few times we resorted to that.” Bruce sat at this and let out a sigh. “We need a clear-cut villain and not some mysterious man in black with suspiciously Kryptonian abilities, otherwise it’ll be the fast-track to registration, ankle bracelets and panoptic surveillance like they’re dealing with in 616.”

At this, Kal and Diana looked at each other, then at Bruce. Bruce remained looking straight ahead, only his gaze was fixed on something which seemed thousands of miles away. At length, he blinked and seemed to awaken. “Kal, do you still have it?”

“The motherbox? Yeah…. but are you sure you wanna ask for their help? Just think about what they’ll ask for in return.”

“It’s true,” Diana chimed in. “But at least we know it won’t be money.”

“Listen, I know I’m not the smartest one here, but it seems we’re opening up a can of worms that we may not wanna open. What if they want us to fight on their behalf in their universe someday?”

“It’s true,” said Bruce, standing with resolve. “But we can set the terms for such a payment, and if we set the terms far enough off in the future we may negotiate some wiggle-room. And who knows: when they call on us it may be to champion a cause we can actually get behind.”

“Ugh, I feel so dirty”

“Do it!” commanded Diana.

Kal left at a grudging pace, decidedly well slower than he was capable of. When he had gone, Diana walked to Bruce who was now staring out at the vast expanse of space and the world below them. She stood beside him and watched the world twinkling below them. A skin-coloured object moved incredibly fast past their field of view and seemed to terminate somewhere in the Arctic circle.

“The idiot didn’t even bother to put a shirt on.” observed Diana. “…Bruce. Do you think it’s really worth it? Buying the world?”

Bruce grimaced. “You know I do.”

“Do you ever feel like we’re becoming the villains?”

“I do.”

“So does the end justify the means?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m not justifying anything anymore. I’m stopping crime.”

“By destroying cities?”

“If necessary, yes! I spent years, Diana -YEARS- beating the shit out of petty criminals and the mentally disturbed. But they weren’t the problem -they were symptoms. Every city that Wayne Enterprises has bought has been completely overhauled -better infrastructure, better connectivity, integrated agriculture, energy independence, decentralization for greater local autonomy, universal standardization for greater compatibility and cooperation with all other cities…..ABUNDANCE, Diana. People in my cities no longer want for things. And as their circumstances have changed and they’ve been freed from drudgery, their values have changed too and we’re are seeing a marked increase in innovation, virtually no crime, a flourishing in the arts. There is a veritable renaissance going on below and it’s all thanks to-”

Bruce caught himself and took a breath.

“What I mean to say is that we are already seeing the fruit of our labours. Besides, the cities that are destroyed are typically those we can’t afford because the people have become so soulless and speculative that they no longer view domiciles as homes, but as assets. Their loss is a sacrifice I gladly make for the greater good.”

They both stared out again at the Earth. The glass in the window darkened in a split-second as the sun peeked over the Earth’s horizon.

“You really hate gentrification, don’t you?” Diana asked.

“Not as much as I hate yuppie scum!”

Then they had sex with no condom.

THE END

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‘Nosediving’ I: Life Imitating Art in China

“I’ll just follow my nose…”
-Toucan Sam

Friends,

In my recent efforts to get caught up on the program Black Mirror, I yesterday watched the first episode from season 3, entitled “Nosedive.” In this episode, the protagonist, Lacie lives in a world where everyone is constantly rated by each other on a 5 star scale. One’s rating at any given point is an aggregated average, with 5-star ratings from “high-4s” bringing one’s average higher than 5-star

ratings from 3.5s and lower. Lacie averages a respectable 4.2 at the episode’s beginning but to achieve a 4.5 and receive the benefits such a ranking holds (financial, social and professional) she takes a gamble and enters the high-stakes game of upward mobility at the elite level. Things quickly unravel for her as circumstances beyond her control coupled with some “average-dropping” faux-pas’ cause her to drop just below 4.2 and lose that ranking’s necessary benefits. This leads to an emotional outburst and profanity (a positive no-no in the perfectionist world of social media lifestyle cultivation) which gets her harshly penalized until her average is so low that she throws away all pretension and goes thermonuclear at the very social event that she gambled would bring her 4.5dom.

The whole episode seems as if it’s going to be a sobering parable about hubris and the dangers of superficiality, but late in the episode  Lacie has a chance encounter with a formerly high-4 woman happily reduced to 1-dom and we start to see that maybe letting go is the path to salvation and the moral of the episode. The final scene in a jail cell where Lacie (at an abysmal sub-1 average) trades barbs with a fellow inmate only confirms this moral.


She seems happier cussing out this black man than at any other point in the episode….RACIST!!

And it’s a good moral. It smacks of Voltaire’s timeless bit of wisdom, “Man is free the moment he wishes to be.”

I pondered this moral and it’s implications for me and where I’m at. I realized a few years ago that cultivating a squeaky-clean image online was not possible for me, nor desirable, as it would psychologically limit me in the future when I wanted to say some real shit.

Or perhaps more accurately, recognizing that a social media presence is a digital monument, if I built one based on omission and SFW opinions, I would be unwilling to topple it down the road (with risque points of view), it being a monument after all and something I would have, at that hypothetical future-point, invested much time and effort into creating.

No, better to speak my piece, polarizing as it may be, and let the chips fall where they may.

Enter the universe (or invasive data-mining), which, in it’s infinite wisdom, has been known to conspire: Logging onto the Facebooks this morning I saw that a friend posted an article from Wired entitled, “Big Data Meets Big Brother: China Moves to Rate it’s Citizens.

 

That’s right, China is moving to implement citizen ratings based on stringent governmental standards by 2020. I would suggest you read the article for Rachel Botsman’s in-depth analysis of the implications, but essentially people will qualify for better services and greater privileges based on how high their rating is. Furthermore, and much more insidiously, those considered “untrustworthy” (Naturally, China is framing it as a trust-scale more than a conformity-scale) will not only have a lack of privileges, but be a threat to their circle of friends, as one person’s degree of “fuck-uppery” will reflect poorly on anyone who deigns to associate with them, threatening even the ostensibly “trust-worthy” with loss of privileges.


“China, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!”

It’s like in Full Metal Jacket when Pyle keeps fucking up and so Hartman decides to punish the rest of the platoon, alienating him from everyone and causing them to beat the shit out of him, in what was (impressively) arguably the most disturbing scene in any Kubrick film. Punishments against bystanders for indulging and tolerating undesirables is a fundamentally malicious policy because it goes against beautiful and humanistic ideals such as “Love thy Neighbour” and “Do Unto Others…”

I’m not so naive to believe that this is a China-problem, nor that people-rating hasn’t already manifested there and here in the west. In a way, I’m all for it; I’ve worked hard to be a good traveler and earn a good reputation on CouchSurfing for example, and that reputation (rightly) gains me the trust of new hosts in new places a lot quicker and more easily. The logic is simple: Don’t be a shithead; Don’t get treated like a shithead. Simple! I, much like Ms. Botsman believe reputation to be the once and future currency of the world -good enough for proto-human tribes, good enough for the post-scarcity economy we’re moving toward.

However, China is bastardizing the noble concept of reputation by taking two of it’s ugliest permutations, credit ratings (a mechanism to further deprive the already deprived) and people reviewing (a “legitimate” way to smear someone via apps like Peeple), and combining them into an ugly abomination with the power to bestow privilege and convenience to the worthy and mete out suffering to the unworthy based on pre-established standards which are reflective of the state institution’s survival needs rather than the ability of citizens to co-exist with each other. And if that wasn’t already enough, those afflicted with “unworthiness” carry a memetic contagion of sorts, alienating them from worthy members of society who may help to, at the very least, rehabilitate them, even though they may have done nothing worse than question policy.

In this last regard, China is almost creating a prison without walls, which might not be so bad if this state-sanctioned social smearing was implemented as an alternative to physical incarceration (even though the ‘bar for entry’ seems to be much lower), but there has been no apparent mention of this, so its essentially just a way to lock up more citizens and scare many more into falling in line.

Well-played, China. The magnificence of your bastardry apparently knows no bounds.

My knee-jerk reaction to this article was predictably fear and anxiety. I’m not a violent criminal but it seems ‘crimes’ we all engage such as out-spokenness may one day land us in hot water as state-ratings become normalized and global. From a strictly amoral and Machiavellian perspective, it does seem to be a viable way to conserve and consolidate power and only someone with a complete lack of imagination or an interest in seeing this system propagate could deny it will be implemented in the western world if the China test-case proves successful.

Again, what was most paralyzing about the worry I felt  was that I realized one day having an opinion that was considered unpopular could hurt those I care about. If I had to dissociate from my father for example, or worse, if he decided to dissociate from me because I was too much of a liability… Well, how could I fault him for that?

But in that moment of panic I realized that I was just feeling, I wasn’t thinking. The former has a place to be sure, but sometimes we have to be pragmatic and logical. Whenever I am seized by existential anxiety I go over my escape plan. The details of it change over time but points 1 and 2 are pretty much always the same:

ANDRE’S SUPER-SECRET, ‘DON’T TELL THE GOVERNMENT’, ESCAPE PLAN

  1. If shit gets too bad I can always kill myself and then my problems on this material plane are over.
  2. I can always focus on my breathing and the present moment.
  3.  Refer back to points 1 and 2 as needed until such time as a better solution presents itself.

You could maybe argue that the order of 1 and 2 could be switched, but they’re just a starting point and as important as their actual viability as solutions to the problem of life, they serve the purpose of reassuring me while I formulate other strategies.

Those strategies I will elaborate on in my next post which will be a follow-up to this one.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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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
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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
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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.”

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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.

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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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