Archive for the ‘Dystopias’ Category

via The most perilous time in world history got worse

The Most Perilous Time In World History Just Got WORSE! Posted By Luther Blissett: By Stephen Lendman: Intrepid Report 03/19/18: https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/03/19/the-most-perilous-time-in-world-history-got-worse/ Or: https://randrewohge.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/the-most-perilous-time-in-world-history-just-got-worse/

Events ongoing should terrify everyone—things likely heading for greater war than already.

Most Americans, Brits, and others in NATO countries are unaware of the danger posed by hardline Western extremists in charge of policy-making—notably in Washington, London and Israel, the Jewish state an alliance Mediterranean Dialogue member.

Businessman Trump was co-opted to be a warrior president—neocon generals in charge of geopolitical policies, their agenda hardened by Mike Pompeo replacing Rex Tillerson at State, along with torturer-in-chief Gina Haspel appointed new CIA director.

An unholy alliance of US extremist policymakers allied with like-minded ones in partner countries risks war winds reaching gale force, a terrifying prospect if confrontation with Russia, Iran or North Korea occurs—the possibility increased by recent events.

Earlier this week, US Defense Secretary Mattis and UN envoy Haley threatened Russia and Damascus.

Russia vowed to retaliate against US attacks on Syrian forces in East Ghouta or elsewhere endangering its personnel in the country.

Anti-Russia hysteria in Britain over the Sergey Skripal poisoning affair, most certainly Moscow had nothing to do with, soured bilateral relations more than already.

In response to British PM Theresa May demanding swift Russian answers to questions posed about the incident, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman (speaking for her government) replied sharply saying, “One does not give 24 hours notice to a nuclear power,” adding the “Skripal poisoning was not an incident but a colossal international provocation,” adding not a “single international legal mechanism [exists] to probe the Skripal case.”

Russia’s embassy in London said “Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring.”

“Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready.”

“Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia.”

“Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

“Not only is Russia groundlessly and provocatively accused of the Salisbury incident, but apparently, plans are being developed in the UK to strike Russia with cyber weapons.”

“Judging by the statements of the prime minister, such a decision can be taken at tomorrow’s meeting of the National Security Council.”

Given the gravity of the situation, the above comments by Russian diplomats were uncharacteristically strong.

Sergey Lavrov warned Washington that “[i]f a new [US] strike . . . takes place [against Syrian forces], the consequences will be very serious,” adding, “I simply don’t have any normal terms left to describe all this.”

What’s coming remains to be seen. Hostile rhetoric from US and UK officials, along with hawkish extremists Pompeo in charge at State and Haspel appointed new CIA chief likely signal more war, not less.

What’s ongoing assures no possibility of improving dismal bilateral relations with Russia, China, Iran and other sovereign independent countries.

Talks with North Korea could either be scuttled or confrontational if they take place.

Given very disturbing ongoing events, the perilous state of world conditions reached a new low.

Be scared about what may follow—be very scared!

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via Annihilation: Alex Garland’s Bad Trip Through Dis-ease and Over-Reproduction

Annihilation: Alex Garland’s Bad Trip Through Dis-ease and Over-Reproduction Post By Luther Blissett Written By Kim Nicolini: CounterPunch 03/08/18: https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/03/08/annihilation-alex-garlands-bad-trip-through-dis-ease-and-over-reproduction/Edited By Rex/Ric: https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3579

If you go see Alex Garland’s Annihilation (2018)-and I highly recommend you see this film in an actual movie theater with a big screen and big sound–you are in for a trip.

Not a road trip.

Not a good trip.

But a bad trip.

You may ask why I am urging you to see a film that will pull the ground out from under you, defy delivering a tidy narrative, refuse to answer your questions, and leave you in a state of discombobulated horror as if you just experienced a 115 minute very bad trip.

There are a lot of reasons to join Garland’s journey into a shaky world where reproduction leads to destruction and where the further you go into the film the further you will find yourself separated from any known reality (just as the further the main characters delve into the ominous and alien Shimmer, the further they come unglued).

At one point in the film, female scientist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) questions whether all the women who reside at the film’s center have lost their minds.

After watching the film, you may very well ask yourself the same thing.

But that is the power of the film.

By provoking the audience to lose their minds, toss all rational thought to the wind, and deconstruct the most primal notions of stability, this sci-fi horror film unveils the fears that seep through collective humanity like a terminal illness and show the unnatural and terrifying impact of human intervention with the natural world.

The movie is built on the basic sci-fi premise of a team of scientists sent on an expedition to explore an alien anomaly-in this case, the Shimmer.

This mysterious form sprouted from an occurrence at a lighthouse and is rapidly devouring a national park and its surroundings, and it is hell bent on eating up all humankind and the earth it occupies (emphasis on the term occupation).

Annihilation is astoundingly beautiful while also being exceptionally terrifying.

It will take you into an alluring yet unnerving world that reflects our own world through myriad lenses.

The Shimmer takes the very substance of all life-DNA- and refracts it into a kaleidoscopic array of mutant variations.

Most of them are terrifying, even when they are beautiful, and the realm of this film is one of absolute instability.

Like the characters in the film, we presently occupy an environment of fear, where every day we are confronted with new terrors and new monsters bombarding the airwaves and the internet, a world which is being ripped from the core, where they natural landscape is threatened to be mutated by monster drills, where borders are pushed at us as if they are threats, and where females are both the source of growing power and the source of tremendous social anxiety.

These and so many other things are delivered in Garland’s surreal portrait of four women on a scientific expedition into the unknown realm of the Shimmer which is rapidly consuming the southern gulf coast and mutating or killing everyone who enters it.

The film is based on Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, and your first question may be how well Garland has adapted the book for screen.

Well, the book is the first thing he annihilates, so don’t attempt to compare.

The material of the book inspired the film, but Garland acts not unlike the Shimmer.

He has refracted the DNA of the book into its own species, something that none of us has ever seen before. In the film, the central Scientist Lena (Natalie Portman) discovers that all mutated plant species within the Shimmer are connected to one shared root system.

VanderMeer’s book is like the movie’s root system from which Garland has conceived his own lusciously nightmarish film species, growing a whole forest of ideas and visions that multiply in glorious weirdness.

Garland outwardly states that he engages in an anarchistic approach to filmmaking.

He resists leadership and debunks the idea of the auteur and refuses to be one (though both films he directed – Ex Machina (2014) and Annihilation bear striking similarities in aesthetics, production, and themes).

An Alex Garland film is firmly and concretely an Alex Garland film.

There is no way to mistake Garland’s use of glass and reflections (sliding doors as eerie otherworldly portals/prisons) or his cinematic obsession with reproduction (girl-bots and genetic engineering) for the films of anyone else.

I commend Garland for his cooperative approach to filmmaking and for stepping back and letting people do what they are good at, trusting the experts he employs to do their job and refusing to interfere with their work.

For example, when he partnered with Director of Photography Rob Hardy (also DP in Ex Machina), Garland didn’t dictate what lens or camera to use.

He respects his DP as a collaborative artist within a team of collaborative artists, and he trusts that together they will produce uniquely beautiful and unsettling films.

Likewise, Garland gives free reign to his actors to improvise, reinvent characters, and add their own unique dimensionality.

His anarchistic approach to filmmaking shines through every surface of his films, and the surfaces in Annihilation indeed are magically shiny, slick with water, glistening with reflections, and refracted through glowing prisms.

Perhaps, Garland’s filmmaking anarchy also leads the audience to the sense that we are entering a world that never existed before because it only exists as a result of a distinct collaborative artistic process.

It is a movie that can only result from a very specific mutation of elements.

Just as the film relies on the image of cellular reproduction to create unique species that did not preexist, the cellular interaction of human creative DNA in Garland’s films creates a new species of movie, and for many, that is unsettling.

People are comfortable with what is familiar, and Annihilation is not like anything we have seen before, though we may recognize elements of its underlying DNA.

The initial reference to the lighthouse as the locus for obliterating norms and a destination for the film’s team of women to reach echoes Virginia Woolfe’s desperate plea for female autonomy, creative freedom, and liberation in her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse.

The four female protagonists are headed to the source of the reproductive anomaly (representing a breach in the traditional female role as birther and caregiver), and they are mirroring an early work of feminist fiction through the lens of sci-fi horror (because reproduction and all its ramifications both intrigue and terrify men who want to understand and control something they can’t entirely understand and control).

To reach the lighthouse, the women have to trek through Area X, a former national park which has now become a mutated kill zone that bears an eerie resemblance to the infamous Zone in Andrei Tarkovsky’s cinematic masterpiece Stalker (Сталкер, 1979).

As in the Zone, Area X jumbles time, seems to be plagued with the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe, seeps water from every surface, glows with a haze of timeless loss, and destabilizes all sense of location (compasses fail), communication (technology signals drop), and unravels logic and reason.

It also evokes the sense of some kind of radioactive disaster.

To follow through on the film’s exploration of cancer as an act of self-destruction, radiation can cure (cancer) or kill (bombs).

Finally, staying rooted in 1979, the film’s hazy dream/nighmarescape recalls the directorial style of Ridley Scott, and the Shimmer’s central root system – a seething undulating network of organs that combined look like a horrifically alien birth canal-harken back to H.R. Geiger renditions of a monster-breeding alien reproduction system in Scott’s Alien (1979).

In other words, though Annihilation is its own cinematic species, it possesses the DNA of its cinematic and literary ancestors, which gives the audience a thread of familiarity even as we are being thrown into a psychedelic whirlwind of confusion and terror.

Both Annihilation and Ex Machina have very solid aesthetic and thematic grounding-the conjoining of the organic and the artificial which creates another dimension of being.

Both films obsessively dissect, interrogate, and reconstruct ideas of reproduction and the murky, often shifting, line between reproduction and self-destruction.

Ex Machina explores the traditional horror film approach to reproduction by showing what happens when men try to take on the female role of reproducing through technological and/or scientific intervention.

In this film, not only is the man the one reproducing, but he reproduces women as objects of male consumption-porno objects who can cook dinner, suck your dick, and kick up some dust on the dance floor.

But in the end, man can’t outdo woman as the great reproducer.

The girl-bots win, playing on man’s weak spots-all-consuming lust and ego-the man cancer that causes him to eat himself in an act of selfish self-destruction.

The robo-girls beat both their inventor, who thinks his brains can buy him a pussy (on all fronts), and the nerdy tech geek who likes to believe he’s above fetishizing women when actually his attraction to a girl is ruled more by his hard-on than intellectual intrigue.

The only one either of these men is kidding is themselves.

And they lose, and . . . they kind of get off on it, which flips us back into that loop that never seems to close.

Annihilation, on the other hand, puts women front and center.

Female bodies invade a male genre-a troop of scientists and/or military guys sent on a mission to learn the secrets of and destroy a mysterious alien force-the Shimmer.

We are not accustomed to seeing women in these roles, so the film annihilates traditional male-dominated sci-fi horror narratives.

With another nod to Alien and a tribute to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, these women righteously bear automatic weapons to fend off the alien forces that threaten them.

Remember how adept Ripley was at wielding a blow torch?

In one scene Portman’s Lena obliterates a gigantic mutated crocodile without batting an eye.

She literally never blinks!

Unlike its predecessor Ex Machina which is fixated on male-reproduction of female bodies, Annihilation focuses on a group of women who have somehow failed to reproduce.

The central character Lena has destroyed her marriage and therefore snuffed her possible future as a mother. Anya (Gina Rodriguez) has infiltrated her body with drugs and booze instead of babies.

Radek (Tessa Thompson) has actually “felt” life through self-destruction (cutting herself to the extent that her arms are mapped with scars) rather than giving life through reproduction.

Finally, Ventress has no connections to anyone, projects as if she is an ether trace of a rapidly vanishing body.

Ventress is, it turns out, dying of cancer-the film’s stand-in metaphor for toxic reproduction, since cancer is the reproduction of cells to the point of biological annihilation.

The film opens with a close-up of cells multiplying under a microscope.

We learn very quickly that they are cancerous cells from a female cervix-the gateway (or gatekeeper) to reproduction.

From the film’s onset, reproduction is under attack (being annihilated).

As we enter deeper into the Shimmer with the four women, we learn that cellular reproduction can be both beautiful and toxic.

As Dr. Ventress states: “It is the source of all life, and of all death.”

Therein lies the great conundrum, and the underlying horror of the movie (because this is a Sci-Fi horror film). By vividly exploring multiple angles of Reproduction Gone Wrong-from the Shimmer’s mutated plants and creatures to lethal cancer-Annihilation taps into some of the most prevalent collective social fears.

Over-population (one of the greatest threats to the planet) is shown as both beautiful (“Look at all those gorgeous and strange flowers!”) and as claustrophobic and strangulating (“Look how that mutated corpse is sprouting from a tapestry of flowers!”).

Fear of scientific intervention in human creation and the potential horrors of genetic engineering confront us full-body through abominable mutated creatures, some of which literally open their mouths and swallow us.

A rampaging bear howls with the voice of a dead woman.

A female scientist sprouts stems and leaves and morphs into a cross-species plant.

At its core, the film confronts one of the biggest social fears that has been planted so deeply in the collective unconscious that many people are unaware of it.

Even at this point in the 21st century when you would think people would “know better,” the large majority of the population-both male and female rely on the traditional role of women as mother caregivers for a sense of stability.

This film destabilizes patriarchal order by refusing to put its lead female characters in maternal roles and instead putting them in the traditional male shoes of scientists, and in Lena’s case-Scientist Soldier.

Unlike the women’s bodies, the land in the Shimmer has no problem reproducing.

It reproduces itself crazy.

It reproduces itself to annihilation, one of the great conundrums of the film-that reproduction (as in cancer) leads to complete destruction.

Still, the women push through the Shimmer as it refracts all DNA, reproducing mutant and sometimes terrifying life forms.

Climbing through overgrown plants, encountering hybrid animals, and camping out in abandoned houses and military encampments, the women make their way through an iridescent beautifully toxic world.

Shimmering wet rainbows resemble the iridescence of a biologically disastrous oil spill.

Though terrified and with the very ground of their minds unraveling, the women keep pushing, even as their numbers dwindle, and they confront such images as a live autopsy and its resulting mutation; a psychotic rampaging monster bear; tree-humans/human-trees; alligator-shark hybrids; and myriad other grotesque surprises.

In the end, however, the most terrifying image is the one of reproduction and destruction when Lena confronts herself and births her mutated, alien replicant via a seething, pulsing psychedelic vagina.

At once curiously alluring and beautifully horrific, the magnum opus of the film occurs in a scene that defies description but must be experienced on the big screen as the vagina swirls in fleshy prismatic colors, its form both bulging and opening.

In the climatic act of self-reproduction and destruction, the screen/vagina opens into a bottomless black birth canal and swallows the audience.

There are fewer things more terrifying than a psychedelic vagina the size of a theater screen opening its black hole to swallow you alive while giving birth to your mutated duplicate self.

One of the many reasons this film is so unsettling and delivers such an overwhelming sense of dread is that it refuses to offer any middle ground.

Everything is turned on its head.

Actions and environments are extreme.

Women bear arms instead of children. Interior landscapes are eerily sterile, filled with plastic zippered rooms, stainless steel furniture, and windows reflecting windows reflecting more windows.

Not one organic thing lives in the lab, except the women (and one dying man and a few men in hazmat suits). Outside, the landscape is abominably fertile.

Creatures are like beautifully terrifying genetic experiments.

The land is so pregnant, you could practically barf looking at it.

It is both bulging with life and seething with decay.

Seemingly lovely flowers evoke feminist fiber art run amok.

Humans and nature blend not into a vision of utopian bliss, but into an unnerving psychedelic bad trip.

While reproduction is supposed to be the act of life, in this world it is a death sentence where living things reproduce themselves to annihilation, echoing the metaphor of cancer-a disease in which the body actually consumes itself with its own cellular reproduction.

The film itself is an act of reproduction, reproducing itself in movie theaters while audiences succumb to, absorb, and are mutated by its toxic beauty.

This is the kind of movie you don’t easily forget. It will infiltrate your dreams.

Next time you take a hike through a densely wooded forest, you may think twice before exploring that abandoned cabin.

The mismatch between humans and nature and its potential for disastrous consequences leads to some excellent moments of sci-fi horror (you will be terrified) while also questioning the nightmarish impact and consequences of human exploitation of the environment/natural world.

Let’s close those national parks and drill!

But remember, if you keep on drilling, you may give birth to a monster.

Throughout the film, music is critical to the movie’s unsettling hallucinatory delivery.

With a soundtrack composed by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and long-time composer Ben Salisbury, the music is as large and imposing of a character as the mutant bear.

Alternating between soft acoustic guitar from another era, full orchestral strings, assaultive horns and bombastically creepy synths, the music doesn’t tell us how to feel, it immerses us in feeling.

Complementing the film with orchestral moans and sonic decay, the music tips the scales of this movie toward outright Very Bad Trip.

But it’s an entertaining trip!

Annihilation may be the most mind-boggling movie of the century.

As it builds and breeds and breathes and opens its mouth and swallows us whole, the movie oozes questions and refuses answers.

Told from the single POV of the unreliable narrator Lena, we don’t know what to believe and not believe, what is happening, what is a demented hallucination, what is past, present, or future.

In one scene, Anya screams over and over: “Lena is a liar! Lena is a liar!”

And maybe she is.

We never know.

Since the story is strictly told from Lena’s perspective, we don’t know if she is lying to us.

When asked to recount what happened in the Shimmer, her most common reply is: “I don’t know.”

She doesn’t know, and neither do we, just like in the world outside the Shimmer where we are bombarded with “fake news,” false alarms, and paranoid manufactured distractions to prevent us from getting to answers.

At this point, you may be asking, “But what about Oscar Isaak and his character Kane?”

He exists in ghost form, in memory, propped up by life support, leaking blood from mutated organs, or as a reconstituted alien being.

In other words, he has been stripped of solidity.

The central conjoining entities in the film are Lena and Kane, but Lena destroyed their marriage in an act of self-destruction.

Lena, who introduces the cancer cells in the beginning of the film, is a cancer herself, and oddly the lone survivor, perhaps because she is the mutant cell that consumes everything in an act of self-destruction that ironically keeps her alive. I know-what a lot of confusing hogwash.

But the world is confusing hogwash!

We live in a time of questions not answers, a time of abstract fear that permeates everything and saturates our very souls with instability.

The earth is dying; the System is lying; our hearts and land are crying; and there are no fucking answers.

Launching a cast of women in traditional male roles and playing on the trope of cancer as the ultimate method of lethal reproduction, Annihilation blows a hole through just about everything known and turns it in an unknown.

It annihilates preconceptions about conception; rational thought; traditional gender roles; cinematic genre; social expectations; definitions of species; fundamental biology, earth science; the possibility of future; application of human thought to unanswerable questions; and the idea of self itself.

And the annihilation is both beautiful and horrific.

The movie screen seems to actually breathe with mutated life as it sucks us into its tantalizing bad trip.

And I loved every minute of it.

Personally, I’d rather be on a bad trip that explores socio-political fears and anxiety through a hallucinatory cinematic lens rather than succumb to the excessively toxic reproduction and biased distortion of an unreal reality.

via Bill Gates vs. freedom

Bill Gates Versus Freedom-You DO NOT Want To Skip Reading This…You NEED To Know What It Is Warning You About
By Jon Rappoport 03/06/18: https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2018/03/06/bill-gates-vs-freedom/ OR: https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3571

“Under the surface of this global civilization, a great and secret war is taking place.

The two opponents hold different conceptions of Reality.

On one side, those who claim that humans operate purely on the basis of stimulus-response, like machines; on the other side, those who believe there is a gigantic thing called freedom.

Phase One of the war is already over.

The stimulus-response people have won.

In Phase Two, people are waking up to the far-reaching and devastating consequences of the Pavlovian program.” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport)

“From the moment the first leader of the first clan in human history took charge, he busied himself with this question:

‘What can I say and do that will make my people react the way I want them to.’

He was the first Pavlov.

He was the first psychologist, the first propagandist, the first mind-control boss.

His was the first little empire.

Since then, only the means and methods have changed.” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport)

A thought-form is a picture-plus concept in the mind that tends to guide behavior.

A dominant thought-form in Earth civilization today is: universal rule through gigantic, highly organized structures; e.g., mega-corporations that owe no allegiance to any nation.

Imagine a few thousand such corporations with interlocking boards and directorates; colluding with super-regional governments and their honeycombed bureaucracies; combined with regional armies, intelligence agencies and technological elites; hooked to a global surveillance operation; in control of media; cooperating with the largest organized religions on Earth.

Imagine all this as essentially one organization—and you see the thought-form in its wide-screen version.

Top-down as top-down has never been before.

Functions and compartments defined and specialized at every level, and coordinated in order to carry out policy decisions.

As to why such a thought-form should come to dominate human affairs, the simplest explanation is: because it works.

But beneath that answer, for those who can see, there is much, much more.

Individuals come to think that “effective” and “instrumental” and “efficient” are more important than any other issues.

Keep building, keep expanding, keep consolidating gains—and above all else, keep organizing.

Such notions and thought-forms replace life itself.

The Machine has come to the fore.

All questions are now about how the individual sees himself fitting into the structure and function of The Machine.

Are human beings becoming social constructs?

Populations are undergoing a quiet revolution.

We can cite some of the reasons: television; education; job training and employment requirements; the Surveillance State; government organizations who follow a “zero tolerance” policy; inundation with advertising.

Yes, it’s all geared to produce people who are artificial constructs.

And this is just the beginning.

There are a number of companies (see, for example, affectiva.com) who are dedicated to measuring “audience response” to ads and other public messages.

I’m talking about electronic measuring.

The use of bracelets, for instance, that record students’ emotional responses to teachers in classrooms, in real time. (Bill Gates shoveled grant money into several of these studies.)

Then there is facial recognition geared to the task of revealing how people are reacting when they sit at their computers.

Push-pull, ring the bell, watch the dog drool for his food.

Stimulus-response.

It’s not much of a stretch to envision, up the road a few years, whole populations more than willing to volunteer for this kind of mass experimentation.

But further than that, we could see society itself embrace, culturally, the ongoing measurement of stimuli and responses.

“Yes, I want to live like this. I want to be inside the system.

I want to be analyzed.

I want to be evaluated.

I want to accept the results.

I want to be part of the new culture.

Put bracelets on me.

Measure my eye movements, my throat twitches that indicate what I’m thinking, and my brain waves.

Going to a movie should include the experience of wearing electrodes that record my second-to-second reactions to what’s happening on the screen.

I like that.

I look forward to it…”

In such a culture, “Surveillance State” would take on a whole new dimension.

“Sir, I want to report a malfunction in my television set.

I notice the monitoring equipment that tracks my responses to programs has gone on the blink.

I want it reattached as soon as possible.

Can you fix it remotely, or do you need to send a repair person out to the house?

I’ll be here all day…”

People will take pride in their ongoing role as social constructs, just as they now take pride in owning a quality brand of car.

The thought process behind this, in so far as any thought at all takes place, goes something like:

“If I’m really a bundle of responses to stimuli and nothing more, then I want to be inside a system that champions that fact and records it…I don’t want to be left out in the cold.”

Here is a sample school situation of the near future: for six months, Mr. Jones, the teacher, has been videotaped, moment by moment, as he instructs his class in English.

All the students have been wearing electronic bracelets, and their real time emotional responses (interest, boredom, aversion) have also been recorded.

A team of specialists has analyzed the six months of video, matching it up, second by second, to the students’ responses.

The teacher is called in for a conference.

“Mr. Jones, we now know what you’re doing that works and what you’re doing that doesn’t work.

We know exactly what students are positively reacting to, and what bores them.

Therefore, we’re going to put you into a re-ed seminar, where you’ll learn precisely how to teach your classes from now on, to maximize your effectiveness.

We’ll show you how to move your hands, what tone of voice to use, how to stand, when to make eye contact, and so on…”

Mr. Jones is now a quacking duck.

He will be trained how to quack “for the greater good.”

He is now a machine toy.

Whatever is left of his passion, his intelligence, his free will, his spontaneous insights, his drive to make students actually understand what they’re learning…all subordinated for the sake of supposed efficiency.

Think this is an extreme fantasy?

See the Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2012, “Biosensors to monitor students’ attentiveness”:

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured more than $4 billion into efforts to transform public education in the U.S., is pushing to develop an ‘engagement pedometer.’

Biometric devices wrapped around the wrists of students would identify which classroom moments excite and interest them — and which fall flat.”

“The foundation has given $1.4 million in grants to several university researchers to begin testing the devices in middle-school classrooms this fall [2012].”

“The biometric bracelets, produced by a Massachusetts startup company, Affectiva Inc, send a small current across the skin and then measure subtle changes in electrical charges as the sympathetic nervous system responds to stimuli.

The wireless devices have been used in pilot tests to gauge consumers’ emotional response to advertising.”

“Gates officials hope the devices, known as Q Sensors, can become a common classroom tool, enabling teachers to see, in real time, which kids are tuned in and which are zoned out.”

“Existing measures of student engagement, such as videotaping classes for expert review or simply asking kids what they liked in a lesson, ‘only get us so far,’ said Debbie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation.

To truly improve teaching and learning, she said, ‘we need universal, valid, reliable and practical instruments’ such as the biosensors.”

“The Gates Foundation has spent two years videotaping 20,000 classroom lessons and breaking them down, minute by minute, to analyze how each teacher presents material and how those techniques affect student test scores.”

“Clemson received about $500,000 in Gates funding.

Another $620,000 will support an MIT scientist, John Gabrieli, who aims to develop a scale to measure degrees of student engagement by comparing biosensor data to functional MRI brain scans [!] (using college students as subjects).”

When you boil it down, the world-view represented here has nothing to do with “caring about students.”

It has everything to do with the Pavlovian view of humans as biological machines.

What input yields what response?

How can people be shaped into predictable constructs?

As far as Gates is concerned, the underlying theme, as always, is: control.

In this new world, the process of thinking and comparing and independently judging, and the freedom to make individual choices…well, for whatever that was worth, we can’t encourage it for a whole society.

It’s too unpredictable.

We don’t have time for that sort of thing.

No, we have to achieve reduction.

We have to seek out lowest common denominators.

This is what universal surveillance is all about; the observation of those denominators and the variances from them—the outlying and therefore dangerous departures from the norm.

“Well, we’ve tracked Mr. Jones’ classroom for a year now, and we’ve collated all the measurements of reactions from the students.

It was a wonderful study.

But we did notice one thing.

All the students showed similar patterns of reactions over time…except two students.

We couldn’t fit them into the algorithms.

They seemed to be responding oppositely.

It was almost as if they were intentionally defecting from the group.

This signals some kind of disorder.

We need a name for it.

Is it Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or is it new?

We recommend attaching electrodes to those two students’ skulls, so we can get a better readout of their brain activity in real time.”

You see, everything must be analyzed on the basis of stimulus response.

Those two students are suffering from a brain problem.

They must be.

Because if they aren’t, if they have the ability to choose and decide how to respond, then they have free will, and that can’t be measured.

Much deeper, that also suggests an X-factor in humans, wherein the flow of chemicals and atoms and quarks and mesons and photons don’t tell the whole story.

The rest of the story would imply the existence of something that is…non-material…above and beyond push-pull cause and effect.

The gatekeepers of this world are obsessed with ruling that out.

They guard Reality itself, which is to say, their conception of Reality.

They are willing to spend untold amounts of money to make that Pavlovian conception universally accepted and universally loved.

Because they own that conception.

They are the self-appointed title holders.

They are the kings of that domain.

I feel obligated to inform them that their domain is much, much smaller than they think it is.

And in the fullness of time, which is very long, the domain is going to fall and crack and collapse and disintegrate.

And all their horses and all their men won’t be able to put it back together.

Eventually, a man like Bill Gates will be forgotten.

He’ll be a small footnote on a dusty page in a crumbling book in a dark room on a remote island.

A morbid venal fool who chased, for a brief moment, fool’s gold.

There is an irreducible thing.

It’s called freedom.

It is native to every individual.

Sometimes it rears its head in the middle of the night, and the dreamer awakes.

And he asks himself: what is my freedom for?

And then he begins a voyage that no device can record, measure, or analyze.

If he pursues it long enough, it takes him out of the labyrinth.

Pavlov wrote:

“Mankind will possess incalculable advantages and extraordinary control over human behavior when the scientific investigator will be able to subject his fellow men to the same external analysis he would employ for any natural object…”

Basically, Pavlov was promoting the idea that whatever an individual perceives and feels about his own experience is a confused mess and an obstruction.

Rather, the individual should ignore all that tripe, and instead, allow himself to be a “natural object,” see himself as a clean and simple response mechanism, as planned inputs cause him to behave in various ways.

In other words, then he will have no life.

Bill Gates and other elite planners are working toward this end.

When Ray Kurzweil talks about hooking brains up to super-computers, he is envisioning a process of downloading that goes beyond choice.

Somehow, automatically, the brain and the individual (he apparently believes they are the same thing) will receive inputs that translate into knowledge and even talent.

This is another fatuous version of Pavlov.

In Brave New World, Huxley wrote:

“Hot tunnels alternated with cool tunnels.

Coolness was wedded to discomfort in the form of hard X-rays.

By the time they were decanted the embryos had a horror of cold.

They were predestined to emigrate to the tropics, to be miner[s] and acetate silk spinners and steel workers.

Later on their minds would be made to endorse the judgment of their bodies.

‘We condition them to thrive on heat’, concluded Mr. Foster.

‘Our colleagues upstairs will teach them to love it’.”

Stimulus-response.

If researchers developed this technology, who could doubt that elite planners would push it forward?

It would be the culmination of their dream.

The freedom of the individual, his innate capacity to make wide-ranging choices, is the monkey wrench in the program.

It is anti-stimulus-response.

This is why you would have to search far and wide to find, in one school, anywhere, on any level, a course that examines and promotes individual freedom.

It is anathema to the plan.

It is the silver bullet for the vampire.

Freedom comes from Within the individual, not from Without.

On the level of political control, freedom emerged and broke through during centuries of struggle.

Now, and in the future, every individual carries that torch.

So it is incumbent on the individual to understand the scope and meaning and power of his own freedom, and to decide for himself what his freedom is FOR.

What will he choose to launch from that great space?

via Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans

Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans
Posted By Luther Blissett-By Henry Farrell: Boston Review 03/02/18: https://desultoryheroics.com/2018/03/02/philip-k-dick-and-the-fake-humans/ Or https://wordpress.com/post/randrewohge.wordpress.com/3564

(Editor’s note: on this 36th anniversary of the passing of Philip K. Dick, it seems an appropriate time to note the relevance of his work to our current dystopia as Henry Farrell does in the following essay. Unfortunately the author is less astute regarding the ways in which the dystopias of Orwell and Huxley are equally relevant to our current milieu.)

This is not the dystopia we were promised.

We are not learning to love Big Brother, who lives, if he lives at all, on a cluster of server farms, cooled by environmentally friendly technologies.

Nor have we been lulled by Soma and subliminal brain programming into a hazy acquiescence to pervasive social hierarchies.

Dystopias tend toward fantasies of absolute control, in which the system sees all, knows all, and controls all. And our world is indeed one of ubiquitous surveillance.

Phones and household devices produce trails of data, like particles in a cloud chamber, indicating our wants and behaviors to companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

Yet the information thus produced is imperfect and classified by machine-learning algorithms that themselves make mistakes.

The efforts of these businesses to manipulate our wants leads to further complexity.

It is becoming ever harder for companies to distinguish the behavior which they want to analyze from their own and others’ manipulations.

This does not look like totalitarianism unless you squint very hard indeed.

As the sociologist Kieran Healy has suggested, sweeping political critiques of new technology often bear a strong family resemblance to the arguments of Silicon Valley boosters.

Both assume that the technology works as advertised, which is not necessarily true at all.

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion.

We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things.

The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways.

Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites.

Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure.

Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots-automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities.

Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s.

Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most.

His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation.

Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.

Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.

As Dick described his work (in the opening essay to his 1985 collection, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon):

The two basic topics which fascinate me are “What is reality?” and “What constitutes the authentic human being?”

Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again.

These obsessions had some of their roots in Dick’s complex and ever-evolving personal mythology (in which it was perfectly plausible that the “real” world was a fake, and that we were all living in Palestine sometime in the first century AD).

Yet they were also based on a keen interest in the processes through which reality is socially constructed.

Dick believed that we all live in a world where “spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups—and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into heads of the reader.” He argued:

“The bombardment of pseudo-realities begins to produce inauthentic humans very quickly, spurious humans—as fake as the data pressing at them from all sides.

My two topics are really one topic; they unite at this point.

Fake realities will create fake humans.

Or, fake humans will generate fake realities and then sell them to other humans, turning them, eventually, into forgeries of themselves.

So we wind up with fake humans inventing fake realities and then peddling them to other fake humans.”

In Dick’s books, the real and the unreal infect each other, so that it becomes increasingly impossible to tell the difference between them.

The worlds of the dead and the living merge in Ubik (1969), the experiences of a disturbed child infect the world around him in Martian Time-Slip (1964), and consensual drug-based hallucinations become the vector for an invasive alien intelligence in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965).

Humans are impersonated by malign androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and “Second Variety” (1953); by aliens in “The Hanging Stranger” (1953) and “The Father-Thing” (1954); and by mutants in “The Golden Man” (1954).

This concern with unreal worlds and unreal people led to a consequent worry about an increasing difficulty of distinguishing between them.

Factories pump out fake Americana in The Man in the High Castle (1962), mirroring the problem of living in a world that is not, in fact, the real one.

Entrepreneurs build increasingly human-like androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, reasoning that if they do not, then their competitors will.

Figuring out what is real and what is not is not easy.

Scientific tools such as the famous Voight-Kampff test in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (and Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie based loosely on it) do not work very well, leaving us with little more than hope in some mystical force—the I Ching, God in a spray can, a Martian water-witch—to guide us back toward the real.

We live in Dick’s world—but with little hope of divine intervention or invasion.

The world where we communicate and interact at a distance is increasingly filled with algorithms that appear human, but are not—fake people generated by fake realities.

When Ashley Madison, a dating site for people who want to cheat on their spouses, was hacked, it turned out that tens of thousands of the women on the site were fake “fembots” programmed to send millions of chatty messages to male customers, so as to delude them into thinking that they were surrounded by vast numbers of potential sexual partners.

These problems are only likely to get worse as the physical world and the world of information become increasingly interpenetrated in an Internet of (badly functioning) Things.

Many of the aspects of Joe Chip’s future world in Ubik look horrendously dated to modern eyes: the archaic role of women, the assumption that nearly everyone smokes.

Yet the door to Joe’s apartment—which argues with him and refuses to open because he has not paid it the obligatory tip—sounds ominously plausible.

Someone, somewhere, is pitching this as a viable business plan to Y Combinator or the venture capitalists in Menlo Park.

This invasion of the real by the unreal has had consequences for politics.

The hallucinatory realities in Dick’s worlds—the empathetic religion of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the drug-produced worlds of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, the quasi–Tibetan Buddhist death realm of Ubik—are usually experienced by many people, like the television shows of Dick’s America.

But as network television has given way to the Internet, it has become easy for people to create their own idiosyncratic mix of sources.

The imposed media consensus that Dick detested has shattered into a myriad of different realities, each with its own partially shared assumptions and facts. Sometimes this creates tragedy or near-tragedy.

The deluded gunman who stormed into Washington, D.C.’s Comet Ping Pong pizzeria had been convinced by online conspiracy sites that it was the coordinating center for Hillary Clinton’s child–sex trafficking ring [likewise, the masses may have been convinced by mainstream media that a real child-sex trafficking ring never existed].

Such fractured worlds are more vulnerable to invasion by the non-human.

Many Twitter accounts are bots, often with the names and stolen photographs of implausibly beautiful young women, looking to pitch this or that product (one recent academic study found that between 9 and 15 percent of all Twitter accounts are likely fake).

Twitterbots vary in sophistication from automated accounts that do no more than retweet what other bots have said, to sophisticated algorithms deploying so-called “Sybil attacks,” creating fake identities in peer-to-peer networks to invade specific organizations or degrade particular kinds of conversation.

Twitter has failed to become a true mass medium, but remains extraordinarily important to politics, since it is where many politicians, journalists, and other elites turn to get their news.

One research project suggests that around 20 percent of the measurable political discussion around the last presidential election came from bots.

Humans appear to be no better at detecting bots than we are, in Dick’s novel, at detecting replicant androids: people are about as likely to retweet a bot’s message as the message of another human being.

Most notoriously, the current U.S. president recently retweeted a flattering message that appears to have come from a bot densely connected to a network of other bots, which some believe to be controlled by the Russian government and used for propaganda purposes.

In his novels Dick was interested in seeing how people react when their reality starts to break down.

A world in which the real commingles with the fake, so that no one can tell where the one ends and the other begins, is ripe for paranoia.

The most toxic consequence of social media manipulation, whether by the Russian government or others, may have nothing to do with its success as propaganda.

Instead, it is that it sows an existential distrust.

People simply do not know what or who to believe anymore.

Rumors that are spread by Twitterbots merge into other rumors about the ubiquity of Twitterbots, and whether this or that trend is being driven by malign algorithms rather than real human beings.

Such widespread falsehood is especially explosive when combined with our fragmented politics.

Liberals’ favorite term for the right-wing propaganda machine, “fake news,” has been turned back on them by conservatives, who treat conventional news as propaganda, and hence ignore it.

On the obverse, it may be easier for many people on the liberal left to blame Russian propaganda for the last presidential election than to accept that many voters had a very different understanding of America than they do.

Dick had other obsessions—most notably the politics of Richard Nixon and the Cold War.

It is not hard to imagine him writing a novel combining an immature and predatory tycoon (half Arnie Kott, half Jory Miller) who becomes the president of the United States, secret Russian political manipulation, an invasion of empathy-free robotic intelligences masquerading as human beings, and a breakdown in our shared understanding of what is real and what is fake.

These different elements probably would not cohere particularly well, but as in Dick’s best novels, the whole might still work, somehow.

Indeed, it is in the incongruities of Dick’s novels that salvation is to be found (even at his battiest, he retains a sense of humor).

Obviously, it is less easy to see the joke when one is living through it. Dystopias may sometimes be grimly funny—but rarely from the inside.