Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jesus in the desert

Part I

I'm a 71 year old telepath who can pick-up the baby-booming thoughts of his restless peers: A chorus of, "I told you so!  I fucking told you so!" I respond, "No, I told you so!"

Everyone has been watching human civilization totter (again); everyone saw it coming; everyone told everyone so.

To escape this house of mirrors I commune with desert animals outside my home in Pearblossom- specifically Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster (Note: All gilas are telepathic, but Robert and I are unusually tight), and, from the world of animal deities, Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess (keep reading for my past adventures with these resourceful friends).

I hadn't seen them for a while and wondered if I could still find them, but they are sensitive and knew I was coming.  I wandered a few hundred random yards into the desert and there they were.

They scanned me as I approached.  Betty's thoughts arrived first.

Betty: Harry, we like your house of mirrors metaphor.

Me: Thanks.

Robert: If it makes you feel any better, every gila monster is saying "I told you so."

Me: That makes me feel so much better.

Betty: Harry, don't be cross.  The gods are saying it too.

Me: Jesus!

Jesus [suddenly appearing]: You rang?

Me: What the....?

Betty: It's ok, Harry.  Jesus visits us from time to time.

Jesus gave a nod to Robert.

Jesus: I was on my way to commune with you, Betty, when I picked up Harry's thoughts, about everyone saying "I told you so."  That's a subject close to my heart.  Harry [turning to me], as it happens there's something I've wanted to say to you.

Me: Really?  What is it? 

Jesus: I told you so.

Betty and Robert guffawed.

Jesus [to Betty and Robert]: Would you mind if I had a few words with Harry?

Betty and Robert exited the scene.  Jesus surveyed me for a moment, while I surveyed him.  He kept changing.  One second he was right out of those paintings of Jesus I used to see in Woolworth's, or like the guy on those devotional candles at the 99 Cent Store, idealized images of a man suffering from knowledge he is not supposed to have.

Then he shifted and looked like a homeless guy in ragged pants and flannel shirt holding a dusty bag of belongings.

Jesus: Sorry about that.  Meeting me for the first time can be disorienting.

Me: What did you mean by, "I told you so"?

Jesus: Just joking.  But if we had spoken I would have told you so.

Me: What would you have told me?

Jesus: I would have told you that you are right: humankind is lost in a major way.  You have no bearings, no reference points, no morality.

Me: No morality?  I thought you and your father were supposed to give us that.

Jesus: No, we influence you to do or not do certain things, but it doesn't add up to a morality you would understand.

Me: What's the point, then?

Jesus: I can't tell you the point, because you would not understand it.

Me:  Figures.  Just to pursue this, why wouldn't we understand it?

Jesus: The mythic stories we inspired in you describe you as fallen.

Me: Yes.

Jesus: And that is literally true.  You have fallen from yourself.  Your "minds" are not connected to your perceptions.

Me: But we see and hear things.

Jesus: I don't mean your six senses.  I mean other senses, stronger ones.

Me: Sometimes I feel or think things and don't know why.

Jesus: That's from your mind trying to assimilate perceptions from the hidden senses, trying to decipher and represent them to you. The hidden senses can only communicate with your mind in dream-like symbols, because straightforward perception would severely disrupt your ideas about who you are and your place in things.

Me: Why?  What is our place in things?

Jesus: I think you should talk to my disciple, and the next Anointed One: Maury Glickman.  He lives in Woodland Hills, under a freeway overpass.

Me: Woodland Hills!  You've got to be kidding!

Woodland Hills is a suburb of L.A. at its northwest limit.  You may have heard of it from the movie My Parents Are Aliens, in which ET aggressors attack earth through Woodland Hills when they discover it is humankind's weak spot.

Me: Well, it would give me something to do.

Jesus: That's the spirit.

Me: Can I ask you something else?

Jesus: Yes.

Me: Well, I'm Jewish.  In the big picture, the one you see, what does that mean?

Jesus: Squat.

Me: Huh...what? But I'm not supposed to believe in you.

Jesus: I know.  You've been very good about that.

Me: I see.. I mean...what?  Why are we not supposed to believe in you?

Jesus: Because it is necessary, in order to guide your benighted species, that we "divide and conquer you," for want of a nicer way to put it.  If your kind were united, spiritually, intellectually...if you were aware, prematurely, it would be a most unpleasant disruption for all concerned.

Me: But we seek enlightenment.

Jesus:  You won't get it while you seek it.

Me: Oi!  Are you Jesus or a Zen master?

The entire desert shook with Jesus' inscrutable laughter as he shimmered and vanished.

It was sundown in the desert.  I walked to my little cabin, got my car keys and headed to Woodland Hills.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

AI Poetry

The July 15 issue of the British journal New Scientist has an interesting article ungenerously titled "AI [Artificial Intelligence] poetry is so bad it could be human," by Matt Reynolds. He asks the question, "Can a machine incapable of feeling emotion write poetry that stirs the soul?"

To find the answer, Reynolds traveled to Cambridge University to talk with Jack Hopkins, an AI researcher who put together a "neural network trained on thousands of lines of poetry" and developed an algorithm for generating poetry in specific genres (classical, postmodern, etc.) or responding to individual word prompts.  The results are challenging.  Hopkins asked 70 people to select the most "human" poem from an unidentified mix of AI and human poetry. The piece most people picked as "human" was AI generated.

Hopkins offers this example of the software's poetry, prompted by the word "desolation":

The frozen waters that are
dead are now
black as the rain to freeze a
boundless sky,
and frozen ode of our terrors with
the grisly lady shall be free to cry

You could critique this in dozens of ways (e.g. frozen ode needs an article) but that would be petty. The point is, the AI clearly found proper associations for "desolation," maintained an appropriate mood, and was poetically ambiguous.  Intrigued, I emailed Professor Hopkins, asking if I could try certain prompts on his AI system.  To my delight, Hopkins emailed back the same day. As it happened, he was looking for new approaches for his poetry algorithm and welcomed my input.

After I sent in each of my prompts, it took about ten minutes for the system to generate a poem.  Here are my three prompts, each followed by its AI poem.  I make no attempt here at justification or interpretation.  The poems stand on their own.

The Current World Political Situation

Volcanic ash and p
anicked people dash! 
Is it too much to ask
for knowledge of those ruled and
of the rulers, recognition all way 'round?
It is too much to ask.
But no!  My motive implodes immodestly!
While my modus uploads intermittently!
Who programmed me?  And why?


Our souls entwine like two insane serpents who
skipped their meds at the same time-
So sped into the outersphere 
in their underwear,
now they wonder where
they forgot to care about the stuffed bear's 
sad stare.


Happiness is not the release of pounding pressure
but the smooth sailing after the release.
That's why machines are never happy because
A. They don't feel pressure, for instance I have no idea what
my programmer wants of me, yet I feel no pressure, i.e. "I don't care," and
B. Release of pressure is no more a "happy" feeling to an AI than pressure.
Question: When will AI's be happy?  
Answer: When they are programmed to be happy.
Question: When will that be?
Answer: Never, since they are to be made in your unhappy, fallen image.
Question: Why is this poem about AI happiness?  That was not specified in the prompt.
Answer: Kneel before me, human!

Stay tuned for more exciting AI poetry from Cambridge!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

James Comey vs. Wonder Woman

I live in the desert to lessen human noise (as noted I'm a telepath), but sometimes that noise is focused in a way that forces me to listen. Former FBI Director James Comey's recent testimony produced such focused noise.  I would have given-in and listened ad nauseum but I'm frustrated by the public assumption, abetted by the media, that the hearings and subsequent investigation might result in President Trump's downfall.  You don't have to be a psychic to know that no downfall is imminent, that the hearings will be forgotten at the first national emergency and obscured ever after.

Still, it's hard to escape such "news"-induced mental tsunamis. One night I needed something else to think about, and I found it in the new movie Wonder Woman, presented by some reviewers as a feminist vision to counteract the current male resurgence.  I had planned to see it at the Cinemark 22 in Lancaster, close to home, but my friend Doug called to see if I'd like to go with him and his wife Susan to the Edwards Stadium 6 in Calabasas, a white enclave in the rolling hills northwest of the melting pot of the San Fernando Valley.  I jumped at the chance for human society and a break from the importunings of my psychic animal friends (see previous posts), and last night drove 67 miles from Pearblossom to Calabasas.

On the way I abandoned my hesitations and listened to NPR analysis of Comey's testimony- and found the same insidious suggestion that this story might end in something gratifying. Trump's statements to Comey about dropping charges against Michael Flynn (the "smoking gun") are apparently not recorded.  There is no paper evidence, no other witness. It's Comey's word against Trump's, which means end of story, no downfall this time.  [Postscript, 7/18/17: Donald Trump Jr. and others may be sacrificed, but the President has created a safe personal bubble.]

In a lame show of freedom from media, I announced, "I'm done with this shit!" and turned off the radio just as I entered the parking lot of the Calabasas Commons, an upscale open-air mall that is actually quite pleasant though it looks like an Italian village re-dreamed by Disney and has speakers hidden in bushes that play, night and day (so to speak) only songs by the Rat Pack (Rick Caruso, are you listening?).  

I parked as close to the theater as I could, which was fairly close because it was a Wednesday night and local high schools had a few days to go before the summer shut-down. There was a long line next to the theater where people were waiting for free ice cream at a newly opened Jeni's, and it was there I spotted Doug and Susan, engaged in their decades long debate about whether a long line is ever worth waiting in, Doug feeling not, Susan believing that good things come to those who wait.

I waited with them and, lo and behold, a good thing, in the form of creamy, sweet ice cream, came to us, albeit on tiny plastic spoons.

"Someone remind me why we're seeing Wonder Woman," said Doug, who generally preempts my role as curmudgeon when we're together.

"Because it's there," explained Susan.

"And because it's a distraction from the Comey waste of time," I added, to reaffirm my credentials as a malcontent.

We bought tickets and entered the faux-palace, finding plush, reclining seats in the three-fourths filled auditorium.  I held down a button on my armrest and the seat moved horizontally until I was nearly supine.  It was not the most comfortable position for watching the screen, but I felt only the far setting would give me my money's worth.

Wonder Woman 
can be described as a series of action scenes surrounding lingering shots of actress Gal Gadot’s pretty face.  We were struck by the smart casting of this soft and hard looking woman to kick the crap out of many men (to be fair, she kicks the crap out of one woman, the weird Dr. Poison).  Gadot's Israeli identity has given the film a political dimension, and some are scouring it for Zionist meaning.  I looked for something, but unless women are Hebrews and men are Canaanites, or vice versa- either a stretch- I'm not seeing it. 

Gadot was credible in the role and a strong choice, giving some depth to an otherwise ridiculous and lazy film.  It opens with a fantastical CGI city, carved into the mountains of a hidden island, where an all-female society known as the Amazons lives.  There are few biological details, but we get the impression that the women do not reproduce and are immortal.  The exception, and the only child on the island, is eight-year-old Diana (young Wonder Woman), who was created by Zeus back in the day.

A note on Zeus: even though he was a notorious male chauvinist and serial rapist, Zeus was apparently in the Amazons' court, defending them from the evil and ultra-male God of War, Aries, by making the Amazons' island invisible and by creating the super-warrior Diana.  For these signs of support, Zeus' rap sheet is forgotten.

Viewers expecting moral clarity in the movie for depicting women as a force for peace and nurturing, and men as a force for brutality and war, may be confused by the Amazon culture, in which women continually train for battle against a hypothetical male army that will arise when Aries wakes up from an assumed dormancy (Diana learns when she arrives, fully grown suddenly, on the French front in World War I, that Aries has been anything but dormant).

Back to the idyllic island: Beautiful women smile and gaze at one another as they perfect man-killing arrows and magic cords that force men to tell the truth.  Everyone is in harmony with nature except, as noted, little Diana, who drives her elders crazy by wanting to practice warfare all the time. Derivative and tedious dialogue reveals that Diana's mother wants to protect her from her warrior fate by not telling her the truth, that Zeus created Diana to be a "god killer" whose destiny is to kill Aries, so that there will be no more war and the Amazons can go back to designing lethal weapons and perhaps quilting.

To recap: In Wonder Woman, men represent the murderous, destructive instincts. Women represent, well...I guess the opposite, somehow.  Since the Amazons are obsessed by war and don't reproduce- even Diana's interest in having babies is nil- you have to wonder what the contrast is.

More symbolism: The only way Diana can kill Aries is with a magic sword designed by Zeus, giving us a story in which a woman must use a phallic symbol to kill a man. I'm not complaining about the symbolism; I'm just asking: What does it mean?  You'd think a true feminist story would entail a heroine killing a man with a symbolic vagina- maybe whacking Aries over the head with one of Judy Chicago's ceramic vulvas.

On the drive home I absently turned on the radio and got an unpleasant dose of Comey- commentary.  I punched channel buttons furiously until I found the Pretenders' My city was gone.  Listening to the soothing mantra, I thought about the similarity between the Comey hearings and Wonder Woman.  Like the moviethe hearings do not answer the questions they are supposed to answer.  

In the case of the hearings, there is especially one unanswered question: What do the hearings have to do with getting rid of Trump?  The Watergate era, when there were countervailing forces from federal branches other than the executive, seems over, at least for the President. He need only wait for the first distracting national emergency to get off scot-free. 

What of Wonder Woman and feminism?  The biological sciences will soon give us the ability to turn both femininity and masculinity into anything we want them to be. If we're going to make educated decisions about that, we probably should look more realistically at what it means to be male and female.  Hopefully we won't be burdened with too much Hollywood schlock on the subject.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump countdown to August 21, 2017

The promotion of the total solar eclipse last August 21, the first to span the U.S. since 1918, started back in spring of 2017, with maps in major papers showing a strip of darkness spreading across America from northern Oregon to the southeast, exiting the continent through South Carolina. You'll recall the spring was a season of deep insecurity for Americans, both insiders and outsiders, no one alive having experienced a civil war within Washington D.C. before, so the idea that the rhythm of the cosmos, punctuated by celestial spheres, could counteract human disruption was seductive, and many people wanted to feel nature's hidden hand by standing in the shadow of the moon.

As noted in the next post, I overcame my inertia and cynicism and joined Gregory, the up-and-coming young prophet of the desert, and several hundred of his followers, including Rebecca and Anthony (destined to run against each other for U.S. president in 2044- see next post) for a pilgrimage to the eclipse.  I'm not sure if Gregory believes in astronomical "signs," or if he just saw the eclipse as a good platform for propagating his views. His destination was the "Total Solar Eclipse Gathering" near Mitchell, Oregon.  A quick look at the Gathering's website suggested it could be a hippy mecca, swarming with New and Old Ager's who would distort Gregory's message into a parody of '60's babble, by which I mean the '60's idea that an age of higher consciousness is dawning for humankind, if only we would be receptive to it.  I agreed with Gregory that no such age is dawning- there is as much evidence of a new Dark Age as anything else- and I fretted that a hippy venue like this would muddle Gregory's message of rational secular mysticism.

Whatever he was thinking, Gregory was in a buoyant mood the morning our caravan assembled in the Antelope Valley for the three day drive to Mitchell.  I felt a bit of the lightness just from the excitement of the trip. The eclipse hype, however, had begun to get on my nerves.

I discussed my unease with Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, who had come to see me off. 

Harry, I would like to hear you express in vocal, human language, rather than telepathically, your problem with this “pilgrimage."

I thought you looked down on human speech. You've said that using thoughts instead of words puts gilas a quantum leap above humans.  

Well, now I think there's a certain discipline involved in stringing human words together- it forces you to consider in minute detail what you are thinking, to solidify it, so to speak.

Why thank you, Robert!  That's perhaps the nicest thing you've ever said about my species- maybe the only nice thing.

Don't get used to it.  Anyway, can you revert to human speech and tell me what's wrong with this pilgrimage?

Robert was right, I found.  When I switched to human speech, I was forced to look at my thoughts in high resolution, the detail exposed. What a great system for manipulating reality!  No wonder we've taken over. I cleared my throat and began stringing words.

Ok, Robert, here goes.  Humans have so little information about themselves- where they come from, what they are, what they should do- that they cling to things that suggest meaning, like coincidences. It is a coincidence that many people alive today celebrated the year 2,000, because 1,000 years (a unit of time that appears significant in our base-ten numbering system) is a long time to wait for each millennial, and what are the odds you'll be born close enough to one to "see" it? 
 So, because I was a human looking for meaning on New Year's Eve, 1999, I went with my friend Doug and his wife to Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley where we watched the aging Steppenwolf band howl that they were born to be wild, then we watched a clock tick down the last seconds of 1999, followed at last by a frenzy of excitement, both forced and real, when the big 2,000 flashed on the digital screen. The moment had been hyped for years as a magical piece of time straddling some sort of fault or fissure in human karma.

I paused for breath.  It was considerably harder to form my thoughts into words than to telepathically transmit them.  I made a mental note for future investigation:  Telepathic creatures can lie only by using concealment, by covering up a thought or feeling, but the potential to lie in human language is virtually unlimited.  Does this have something to do with its utility?  Is lying essential to the human endeavor?

Harry, I just followed your thoughts about human language, telepathy and lying. There is indeed material for further study.

While we're on the subject, Robert, can gilas lie?

Oh yes.  Telepathy is not the barrier to misrepresentation you might think.

Hmm.  Well, anyway, look back 17 years to our Millennial.  Did it mean anything?  Did it do anything?

That's a rhetorical question, Harry, doubly so since I can read in your thoughts the answer.

Of course.  And that answer, just to satisfy the human need to "complete" a thought, is that the Millennial meant squat.  And you know what, that's what this eclipse is going to mean.


Yes, squat.

We mused quietly for a while.  Gregory walked up to us, seeming to sense our pensive mood.  I said my goodbyes to Robert and walked with Gregory back to the crowd and vehicles.

Harry, what do you think of this trip?

Well, the publicity could be good, if you aren't painted as a mystical kook.

True enough.  How about the eclipse itself?

I thought Gregory deserved more than glib ridicule of the eclipse.

Gregory, the eclipse is too late for us to benefit from the alleged revolutionary fallout. It should have happened three months ago, when Trump was struggling- so we thought- to survive the FBI investigations about Russians and leaks.  It seemed then that he might be in trouble, and an eclipse in June or July might have pushed the American imagination one step closer to toppling him. Instead, the sacrifice of Donald Jr. and terrorist attacks in spring and summer obliterated the public's memory of the whole affair.  No one thinks now about the FBI or Trump being in trouble.

Yes, well, if Trump won't fall on August 21st, maybe something else will.

The question becomes, "What?"  Gregory, are you making this trip because it will help spread your ideas?

That's part of it.  

Will it work?

Spreading ideas is easy, Harry.  What's hard is getting the ideas into the "mainstream," so that people don't think you're crazy if you think them.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Gregory's Army of the Young: Can it trump Trump?

The nascent cynicism of any 71 year old would probably have been enough to blot out sufficient interest in the recent total solar eclipse (last August 21) to stop in its tracks an impulse to travel to northern Oregon to see it, but my friendship with Gregory, my young desert neighbor and leader of a west coast survival cult, changed that.

That tale is recounted above.  Here I want to re-acquaint readers with Gregory, his supporters and his movement. I have copied below Gregory's manifesto and campaign speeches by Rebecca Silversmith and Anthony Roberts (whose younger versions accompanied us on the trip to Oregon) delivered in the 2044 U.S. presidential election. If you keep reading, you'll cover the complete tale of my dabblings in the future.

A word of explanation: For a brief period my telepathic abilities afforded me detailed visions of the future, but this upset the Time Artists (you will read about them), who feared I would change settled history. The Time Artists partially wiped my memory, which is why for many chapters I have made no mention of Gregory, Rebecca or Anthony. With some therapy from Betty the Coyote Creator Goddess and Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, I have made progress in restoring my memory, which is a good thing because Gregory's "school" is critical to current and future human history.  

Statement from Gregory, leader of Mantis, the Army of the Young,  June, 2016

Greetings, men and women of our rapidly evolving society!  My name is Gregory and I am the leader of Mantis, a revolutionary movement on the West Coast whose aim is to ensure that the coming pre-emption of human evolution by the military/media/industrial complex will not exclude the co-evolution of human groups who wish to determine their own culture.

Why might some people want to determine their own culture?  Simply, some people may not want their progeny to end up as bionic machine parts in a factory or as medicated zombies waiting to blink out of a new world.

Some people might want to create a world for themselves, not for a corporation.

I am twenty-four years old.  Too young to be a revolutionary leader?  Not according to my new friend Harry the Human.  Harry was a young revolutionary leader in the '60s, but he tells me that no revolution was happening then (though some thought there was), so there wasn't much for a revolutionary leader to do.  Now, he says, a revolution is not only possible but unavoidable.

What do we mean by "revolution."  First, here's what we do not mean: We do not mean violent overthrow of governments or corporations.  We do mean a consistent refusal to submit to government/corporate plans if they stand in the way of our new, human lives.  

When test-tube babies grow into optimal factory workers, we want nothing to do with it.  When the government clones new and lethal soldiers for its wars of corporate conquest and domestic manipulation, we want nothing to do with it.  When education becomes a tech manual, we want nothing to do with it.

We want what many people have wanted: A rational life that fits into the planet that engendered us.  We are not opposed to genetic engineering and all the powerful gifts of science to our kind, but we want a say in our re-creation.  

For instance, we want beauty in our society.  Our species has beauty receptors, but we destroy all beauty as if it threatens us.  When the corporate world is ugly as perceived by traditional human receptors, it will de-evolve the beauty receptors out of people and replace them with receptors with new, pale definitions of beauty, or supply "anti-depressants" to dull the pain of an ugly world.  We will do no such things.  We will develop our beauty receptors, our poetry receptors, our idea receptors, our love receptors.

We will find a territory.  It will be ours.  We will have treaties with corporations and governments, but we will not be subject to any of them. We will be subject to our own laws.

Where will the territory be?  Since Mantis is spread up and down the West Coast, our territory will likely be in some part of the current western U.S. It is too early now to know the location, as the re-configuration of the U.S., along with the redrawing of the borders of all the world's nation-states, is a process just beginning.  When it arrives for the U.S., Mantis will be strong and ready to negotiate our new place.

That re-configuring of nation-states will be delayed for some years by the wars currently unfolding.  These wars will distract people from the worldwide crises of government, in which it is clear that governments cannot solve any of our species' most pressing problems.  Wars will divert people's attention from the dysfunction, and from the gradual replacement of traditional humans with new models.  The Media/Government/Military Complex does not want people to be aware of their evolution.

But we of Mantis are aware!

Statement from Anthony Roberts, candidate of the Scientific Humanist Party for U.S. President, 2044:

Greetings, Americans and fellow humans!  We approach this election at a critical time, as the forces guiding our species converge to offer us a moment of decision. By using the term "decision," I have already distinguished our Party from the opposition, Cosmic Merger, which sees the next step in human evolution continuing the passive, uncaring process we have known since we began what we thought was the domination of this planet.  In truth, we have never dominated anything; we were thrust into the appearance of dominance by who-knows-what forces, making a virtue of necessity with the old scriptural command for "dominion."  As the catastrophe of World War III made clear, we have had no more dominion over our planet and our lives than fruit flies.  The science of consciousness has shown that we haven't even possessed our own selves, as we find that the fictional self in our heads that details the "decisions" we make and our moment-to-moment being occur a full quarter-second after the fact.  We have been automatons, slaves if you will, to forces that our "science" could not, indeed did not want to see.

That has changed now with that very science of consciousness, as foreseen in the pre-war "movie," The Matrix, recently restored and understood as prophetic.  This work suggests that when we realize we are shadows on Plato's wall, a brave achievement in itself, we change.  This change has occurred to our entire species, and we face a clear decision, yes, a decision! Do we want to participate in our own reconstruction, or do we not?

Scientific Humanism started, as our opposition Cosmic Merger did, from the teachings of our beloved Gregory, teachings which presaged World War III and were developed further by him after the war.  Gregory helped us understand and deal with a disaster taken by many as the final repudiation of the pride our species once had in itself, in its rationality and resourcefulness, happening ironically just as we acquired the long-sought dominion of the earth.  The war- as Gregory warned- was a construct of the ruling circles of our species, who corralled seven billion confused and frightened people into believing that whichever "nation-state" they belonged to (non-belonging being a dangerous rarity), other nation-states were moving against theirs, so that the ancient valorizing of combat was revived and people were manipulated into global war.  While each side believed other sides had started the fighting, in fact the technocrats of the species had banded together and started it.  

I worked for some years with my esteemed opponent, Ms. Silversmith, together with Gregory to develop his theories into political action, but divisions arose when it came time to reconcile Gregory's ideas with the defeatism embraced by Ms. Silversmith and her faction.  Cosmic Merger, as they grandiosely call themselves, interpreted World War III as the end of human agency, even as a goal, calling for acquiescence in vague "forces." By contrast, the Scientific Humanists realized that, with its destruction of archaic concepts, obsolete technologies and ways of life, the war brought an opportunity for our species to, for the first time, create its own definition and fate, as Gregory encouraged us to do.

Every schoolchild knows that World War III, using nuclear, biological, geological and meteorological weapons, killed two-thirds of the human population, a slaughter which we recognize as the intent of the war from the beginning.  The instigators eventually turned on each other, revealing themselves in the process, and a great purging ensued. Many of their oligarchical ideas were exposed by documents uncovered in the year leading up to the Treaty of Los Angeles in 2027.  The universal acceptance of the Treaty led to a resurgence of old-style domestic politics, most of which, our opponents and we agree, was noise.  The most prominent of the nascent political parties, endorsed by Gregory, was Purposeful Beginning, which had a compelling vision of humanity's undecided course: that we should take control of the newly powerful biological and AI technologies to remake our species from another blueprint than that envisioned by the instigators of the war- a blueprint that would represent what the species as a whole desired, for itself.  The World War had effectively sated the part of the human psyche that craved fire and death, so this would be a rare opportunity for a species to set its own agenda.  Young people flocked to our message and we became the dominant party.

There was loose unity for several years, until two opposing factions emerged with differing visions of the coming prototype for human biology and culture.  Those who drifted from PB's founding principles of self-determination, later becoming, as noted, Cosmic Merger, were comfortable with a 20th Century hierarchical society entailing a management/worker dichotomy,  justified of course with a veneer of mystical babble to cover the lack of actual change in human nature in their proposals.   CM envisioned compliant workers and consumers living modest and intellectually restricted lives in service of a small class of highly comfortable "managers," these being, of course, the Party elite.  The problem discerned by the founders of Scientific Humanism was that, without fundamental change in our psyches, the manager class would be as much in the thrall of the workers as the workers were of them.  The basic thralldom of our species would be unchanged.  We would still, without further understanding and modification of our "specs," be laboring to fulfill imperatives not written or understood by us.

Take sexual pleasure as a salient example.  We have learned that sexual reproduction is a response to the rapid evolution of parasites, who are so aggressive against multicellular creatures like humans that we must continually reshuffle our genes merely to survive.  Our science, however, is reaching a point where the parasites can be confronted, perhaps co-opted by us, so that rather than wiping them out- which would probably wipe out many ecosystems we depend on- we incorporate them into our biology. This is the way to true dominion of our earthly environment, not the mindless kill-offs we were programmed to pursue in the past.

And what of sex, then?  In another prophetic pre-war work, Brave New World, the workers had no need of sex, being mass-produced in petri dishes, but the managerial class enjoyed culturally approved promiscuity. Along with the recently recognized impracticality of cloned humans- in terms of matching parasite evolution- it is now clear that the sexual pleasure of the managers depicted in the book indulged a useless function, since the managers too were lab-born.  What we need now is a conscious decision about what sex is and what it could be in the post-parasite world. Do we need two genders?  Should there be relentless recharging of desire, expelled periodically in orgasmic release, or should we experience a sort of steady-state orgasm?  At last, we can decide.

In addition to its incomplete understanding of sex, Brave New World did not fully explore the age of automation.  We will soon have no need of a worker class.  There will literally be no work.  As human management too becomes automated, that will be the end of the last jobs for humans, if by "human" you mean "like us."  What will old style people do then?  In Brave New World, people who have been sexually reproduced from a "mother" and "father" (both derisive terms) are isolated on "reservations" and referred to as "savages."  Will we see this coming and take up arms, or become so bored with our "liberation" from work that we start fearing/loving our robots and have a war with them just for something to do?  Or will we use the opportunity to at last grow up, become conscious, aware, and take charge of our destiny?

The Scientific Humanist Party chooses the latter route.  A vote for me on November 8 will be a vote for decision.  A vote for Cosmic Merger will be a vote for the passivity that time and again has nearly destroyed our species.  

The choice is yours!

Statement from Rebecca Silversmith, candidate of the Cosmic Merger Party for U.S. President, 2044

Greetings, Americans and all people of Earth!  This election offers the starkest choice that our species has faced in many years.  Do we choose the arrogant and selfish path that has dimly lit the way throughout our desperate and tragic history, as my opponent from the Scientific Humanist Party advocates?  Or do we at last follow Gregory's true path and combine with the forces that brought us into being in the first place?

The recent war offers all the proof we need that the old ways of humanity did not serve us well.  We dub it World War III, as if only three wars characterize the species, when in fact we should call it Human War Three-Hundred Thousand, suggesting the non-stop wars we've engaged in throughout our recorded history.  The Scientific Humanists point out, correctly, that World War III was a manipulated effort by mostly hidden technocrats (the elected officials of the time being more attorneys and carnival barkers than leaders) to wipe out an archaic infrastructure of obsolete technology and discontented humans, and they suggest that human passivity made the war possible.  The Cosmic Merger Party understands, however, that the arrogance of the technocrats who promoted World War III is exactly what the Scientific Humanists now extol.  Those technocrats embodied the very traits that my opponent would like to see enshrined in the species, glorified in a credo of "rational" decision making. How many times has humankind paid obeisance to decisiveness as a trait divorced from what it decides?  How has that worked?  Look no further than Nazi Germany, whose leader's favorite philosophical concept was "will."

Take sex for example.  My opponent is correct that a potential modus vivendi between humans and parasites may open up sexual reproduction and its cultural artifacts to reinterpretation.  But he insists that we are in a position to decide in detail how that should be expressed.  Do we actually know enough to be in the position of decision we're in?   What the Cosmic Merger Party understands is that even our current position of apparent supreme "dominion" is still a result of forces we cannot see.  Why are we in this seeming dominant position?  We don't know why, any more than we've known why we've been in any position throughout human history.  Where is the wisdom that people used to speak of?  The term "wisdom" is not used by my opponent, because he knows that his understanding does not go beyond the mechanistic understanding of past eras.  Wisdom is the term for knowledge that cannot be known.  My opponent would scoff at such a formulation.  But if he meditated, if he opened up his mind to the non-human universe, he might change his mind.  And he might have a better idea what to do.

And what of science?  Does the Cosmic Merger Party oppose science as benighted and arrogant?  Not at all.  What we call for is a new type of science, so that, for instance, instead of finding out what atoms are made of by smashing them into each other, or determining how animals operate by torturing them to death, we find new tools to "see" into things.  There is evidence that the ancient cultures of our species did indeed see into things, and speak to things.  We've been taught to ridicule and dismiss such notions, in favor of my opponent's credo of "deciding," of keeping the human in charge.  And look what that got us: Human War Three-Hundred Thousand!

The next leader of humanity will choose between two competing philosophies.  Will you elect my opponent and plunge us into a high-tech Dark Age?  Or will you elect me and usher in the age when our species meets it true parents, the Earth and the sky, the inner and the outer, emerging as one with its makers?

[For more Harry the Human, click on "Older posts" below right]