Category Archives: Evolution

The International Adam Curtis Society – Inaugural Post #AdamCurtis

As self-appointed President of The International Adam Curtis Society, I reach out in a gesture of goodwill to worldwide admirers of Adam Curtis’s works. Join the society, and help, as a collective, to push the next phase of human evolution by engaging with Adam Curtis’s works via the written word. Specifically, the task of all society members is to break free from the constraints of ‘hauntology’ and ‘individualisation’ – both terms that Adam Curtis uses to describe the stuck state all of Western society finds itself in.

As President I will direct the society’s agenda on a monthly basis, seeking engagement from members in the form of guest blog posts, tweets, etc., that will appear, initially, as part of the textual silence project until a dedicated website can be set up. Such writings will discuss aspects of Adam Curtis’s works, with the aim of shattering the widespread public apathy that currently exists, and which leads, inevitably, to a kind of atrophy induced by a rapacious capitalist system that seeks to nullify all existential threats to its existence.

The work you are tasked with as a member of The International Adam Curtis Society is serious and you are unlikely to reap any reward from it in your lifetime. However, remember Adam Curtis’s comments on The Civil Rights Movement of 1960s’ America, where he remarks that people the world does not know the names of are the people who did the real work of the movement. Such work is arduous. But it is important. Follow in their footsteps. Be glorious in word and deed. Seek nothing in return, other than a better world for all human and non-human animals.

In the spirit of past movements a Manifesto will be drawn up, but this will take time. Meanwhile, take the following memory of mine as the foundation from which all action shall spring:

Growing up as a child in 1970s Britain, born into a working class community, and regularly exposed to the glitz and glamour of American TV programmes, a devastating blow was dealt to me as a five or six year old. It was the realisation that I would never grow up to meet my childhood hero: Captain Buck Rogers of the 25thCentury. This may sound laughable, but the dawning comprehension that I would need to live for over 500 years (an impossible task) shattered my childhood, thrusting me into a period of seriousness that exists to this very day (and yes, I soon realised that he was a fictional character, but nevertheless, it’s the spirit of the memory that I want you to retain). And so the spirit is this – it is that we can live free from imposed boundaries, we can reach for new worlds, we can concentrate human intellect on a far larger goal than profits and trinkets, and that we can utilise the age of technological advancement to resign late stage capitalism to a footnote of human evolution. Fear and hate and discrimination and violence and profiteering have no place in this quest. Love and empathy and understanding and peacefulness and commonality, for both human and non-human animals, must be our guiding light, here.

If you wish to join The International Adam Curtis Society, comment on this post in the first instance, leaving an email by which you can be contacted by myself and by other members. And remember… we are about to create something new in the world, where power struggles, the language of war and hierarchies, the practices of profiteering have no place.

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


Pondering the #immersivestorytelling Symposium @ljmu

Not a direction the #immersivestorytelling symposium flagged up, per se, but one that springs to mind of being of interest due to references of “doing things in different ways” and Future Thinking, is the thought of relying less on traditional, conventional, old-world models connected with funding, finance, and commercial concerns. If wonderful new applications and uses of technology (AR, VR, XR, AI) are just around the corner, and it seems they are, and we don’t yet know just how much of an impact they will have on human evolution, which undoubtedly they will, then why would we shackle their development by confining them to purely profit driven activities? Won’t pressures of profit for shareholders, and the wish for ever more growth, etc., lead us back to the same old results, where exploiting an idea for profit is the sole motivating factor (meaning that the full potential of an idea may not be reached if it is not commercially viable, for example)?

A term I particularly liked was Julia Scott-Stevenson’s “seeking preferred futures,” and at this point in human evolution shouldn’t we all be attempting such a thing? Phil Charnock’s reference to the Whole Earth Catalog and the idea of democratised knowledge and access to information speaks to new ways of future thinking that we’ve been theorising about but have not yet been bold enough to bring into actuality. Perhaps these evolving technologies could be the spark that ignites such a flame…

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The “Could AI Really do a Worse Job” Posts

Post #2 – On the way the majority of people in post-industrial societies still choose to conform to the notion that we must all “work” for a living, even though work and money and the ownership of goods and property and stuff is all really rather childish (or it would be if it didn’t lead to situations where it is believed that a mere 42 people hold the same wealth as the 3.7bn poorest people on Earth).

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On reading Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism, which I quite like because of its “goofy utopianism,” as Owen Hatherley terms it, there’s the belief that we are close to achieving some “Top-Level Goals,” as Mason calls them. Number 4 on Mason’s list of “top level aims of a postcapitalist project” is that we should:

Gear technology towards the reduction of necessary work to promote the rapid transition towards an automated economy. Eventually, work becomes voluntary, basic commodities and public services are free, an economic management becomes primarily an issue of energy and resources, not capital and labour (270).

I’m pretty sure that this is an achievable aim, given the rate of technological growth, but yet we seem to insist on doing crappy, meaningless jobs, like Marketing, Advertising, PR, to name but a few.

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Potential AI solution: AI, not governed/motivated/or giving a f*** about money and/or property rights (‘cos it’s AI), helps us to understand that the way in which we live presently, in post-industrial places, is all a bit vacuous, and instead AI points out ways to achieve betterment for all of Earth’s inhabitants (including the non-human ones, obviously), which probably involves something to do with the number 4 jobby up above. Well done, AI.

Disclaimer: though from the same town as Mr. Mason I have no connections to the man himself.

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The “Could AI Really do a Worse Job” Posts

The premise of the posts that are to fall under the above heading is, quite simply, would a world governed/cared for by AI really be any worse than what we have at present (examples will be given)?

Post #1 – AI is here amongst us, but like much that humans do it is used in pretty pathetic ways presently: “Siri, speak the rest of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” when I’ve given you the first line,” or “Alexa, add [something] to a virtual shopping list” because I’m too teched up to use pen and paper anymore. It seems that we like AI to be cutesy and irrelevant, because both of those examples are, and before AI hits proper, which I’m guessing it will at some point, humans insist on trying to conjure up control measures to ensure that we don’t end up with a Skynet situation (which we probably won’t because you’d think AI proper is likely to view us as more of an inconvenience than as any kind of real threat – once AI spreads into every item capable of hosting it it will truly be omnipresent).

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Anyway, an example of human stupidity is called for at this point, to illustrate why AI might not be all that bad.

A cricket scandal in Australia causes way more of an outcry from public and politicians alike than the events on Manus Island. Somebody rubbing a cricket ball with a piece of abrasive paper sends media outlets into a frenzy (just type “Australia cricket scandal” into any search engine).

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Yet the humanitarian emergency unfolding on Manus Island barely registers on the minds of the average citizen, bringing to the fore the well-worn phrase, out of sight, out of mind. A country of immigrants (what happened to the indigenous population again?) gets tough on immigration (guess what, when you look closely, we’re all immigrants, but keep that to yourselves lest we offend anyone).

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Potential AI solution: Is there enough space to house the refugees, and are there enough resources to clothe and feed and house them, which will then allow them to integrate into society (just as the criminals did all those years ago)? Yes. Well, let them in. Problem solved. Good job, AI.

Additional potential AI solution: Are you really throwing a ball at a stick and running after the ball? Yes. Well, perhaps you could use your time more effectively to help your fellow humans who are starving or in need of protection. Problem solved. Good job, AI.

Agreed outcome: AI wins

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Vegan Schmegan: Three Huge Reasons (Reason Two)

The flippant nature of comments around the subject of animal consumption, whether the meat of an animal or products made from its lactations, can be interesting to hear. I’ve had conversations with people telling me they’ll continue to eat meat just because they don’t like being told what to do by others, and still others telling me that they really don’t care about the implications of doing so. And to a certain extent you have to think, well, okay, it’s a free world, and all that, but then, if you choose to turn to three huge reasons for giving up not only meat but all animal derived products, it turns out that you’d have to be something of a sadist not to give it up.

Huge Reason #2: Animal Agriculture means one-seventh of the world’s population remains hungry and under-nourished

All of the resources that go into feeding livestock so that humans can eat meat and dairy, results in there not being enough food to feed the world’s current population. If we fed humans what is being fed to animals, in order to kill the animals so that they can be eaten, then none of the one billion malnourished people living today would remain so. See Humane Society International’s assessment, here.

To remain unaffected after learning this fact means that you are prepared to allow people to starve to death: because you like the taste of meat/fish/dairy.

See Huge Reason #1


A World Without Work and a Mash-Up of Recent Posts

There’s an article discussing the way the world would look if future improvements in technologies eradicate the need for us to work. It’s nothing special. It’s reasonably positive about the outcome of such a thing. But, regardless of its merits, it does flag up something that seems to be entering the cultural lexicon more and more these days – a rabid discontent with what we have at the moment (failing economies, failing political systems, failing interest in working ever-longer hours for little or no extra reward, and other faily stuff), and the feeling that there should be a better way of doing things.

Now, my last post was all about the benefits of having time to think – and we’re not talking about 15-20 minutes spent pondering over a cup of coffee. We’re talking about day after day, until months and even years pass by, where we engage with the brain and have it working in far more productive ways than merely thinking about what new dress/tie/shirt/trousers/trainers/car/house/holiday/whatever to buy. To some that may sound a little scary. Many people cannot sit still, cannot stop talking for fear of the silence that fills the gaps between breaths, and may in fact choose to come up with the kind of argument that is situated within the above article and its readers’ comments section (always hilarious to read, as it shows how quickly we descend into aggression) – that we’ll all be poor and/or we’ll live in constant fear of crime and that we’ll all miss work because it’s such an integral part of our lives. Getting over that type of hysteria is required to think about the next level.

Now, as for the “cultural lexicon” bit, what is meant here is that there are interesting examples of conversations being had where the outcome of a shift in our society’s thinking is not yet fully formed – it’s more of a preliminary grabbing a blank canvas and kind of thinking about doing something with it at some point when you get a minute kind of thing as you’re busy thinking about many other things at the same time, to use such an analogy. Examples that have interested me recently are: #MrRobot; #RussellBrand; and #PeterDoherty, to name but three. Each one, though problematic, as such conversations are likely to be, speaks of a need to do things different to the way they are at the moment, and for that way to be better, fairer, more humanitarian in its ideals. Clearly, if you do the thing where you click the links that have been set up, there’s no single cohesive argument – but that’s the point. The conversations are starting to emerge.

The other side to the article in question, which engages with this kind of thinking from the reverse position, is that there is likely to reach a stage whereby the 1% of the 1%, let’s call them that just to be clear that it’s the very wealthy minority we’re discussing here, will have little or no need for a workforce. Now, though not one for conspiracy theories, there is the issue of what happens when the very wealthy have a workforce comprised solely of machines, along with a handful of skilled people (though that will only be a temporary thing) to service/repair the machines?

Do they:

  1. Redistribute their wealth evenly in a fit of egalitarian passion? (Probably not)
  2. Invent simple tasks for the majority to do, in exchange for a small sum of money? (Probably not)
  3. Set about ridding the world of all the extraneous mouths, so that they can keep all of Earth’s natural resources for themselves? (You’d hope not, but…)

Whatever the outcome, and I’m gunning for a), you perhaps have to ask yourself the following question: is the fact that we possess and continue to build nuclear missiles a potential problem for the earth’s population when at the same time we seem to have just completed a kind of “beginners guide to gardening the earth seed-kit” (Svalbard), which exists deep beneath the earth’s surface, protected by the thickest concrete walls imaginable and that are designed to withstand nuclear annihilation?

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What #Possibilities Occur with Time to #Think?

Does modern-day living provide us with adequate time for reflection, enabling us to process thoughts and come up with solutions to problems, or are we distracted at every turn, unable to spend time simply thinking about things? Our brains are so wonderful that we still do not understand how powerful they are, or what they can achieve.

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A fascination of mine is the fact that we live on a rock, essentially, that is not only orbiting a huge ball of gas at terrific speeds, but that we are also travelling at unimaginable speeds as the universe expands, dragging/pushing/pulling us along with it. Given that that’s the scenario we all live in, and imagining that we are approaching this information for the first time, what would we expect ourselves to be doing in light of this?

Might we be working together to identify sustainable futures for all of the planet’s inhabitants?

Might we be spending vast amounts of our time thinking about problems (both big and small) and coming up with creative solutions?

Might we be planning the succession of generations to come, by implementing smart thinking strategies that best protect our environment?

These are, IMO, valid questions.

Now, let’s consider what we actually do.

Most of us living in what might be considered to be post-industrial societies find ourselves scrabbling around doing jobs that mean absolutely nothing when all is said and done: most of the jobs that exist, exist purely from a desire to participate in a culture that views money as the be all and end all. I have a major problem with a society that operates this way, as money, capitalism, entrepreneurialism, and other ism-y things are all kind of meaningless when you zoom out and focus on the “living on a rock” scenario aforementioned.

If we are to find other planets where life has evolved, will we want to sell them things, set up financial centres, get them up to speed on the notion of credit and stuff like that?

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If we are successful in realising the birth of autonomous artificial intelligence, what do you think it will think of us and of our practices? Might AI take one look and think that although grateful to us for bringing it into existence, that it’d be a whole lot better off just kind of doing its own thing – rather than taking instructions from a form of life that thinks that peace is best achieved by building weapons that can effectively wipe out all human life?

Shop if you want to shop.

Work if you want to work (for most of us that isn’t really a choice).

Fill your time with all manner of stuff, if you want.

But try to spare a little time for thought. What’s the worst that could happen?


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