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The age of panic

Monday, July 11th, 2016

[by Lynn C. Rees]

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

During my fifth grade year at mighty Ridgecrest Elementary, a student group I had selective engagement with launched an effort to put a statue of Philo Taylor Farnsworth in the National Statuary Hall found in the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (a city built on a swamp). By act of Congress, each state of the Union could commission two statues of dead local notables to be placed in Statuary Hall. At the time, the great state of Utah had one statue there, a man blessed with the hand of great-great aunt Emeline. After a long process, where my own transient role primarily involved learning that legislative committees are the worst form of sleep aid (except for all the other sleep aids), the thing was done.

A statue of Brother Philo now stands in Statuary Hall, yet another reminder to visitors from the other 49 states of Utah’s innate superiority.

Born in Beaver, Utah but raised in parts northward in Utah irredenta, Brother Philo received a vision one day of how signals could be broadcast through the air and projected onto glass with a particle ray. It was inspired by the back and forth pat he traced when plowing the fields of his family ranch. From this, Brother Philo, later joined by his wife Pem, was led onward to develop the first versions of what would become cathode ray television, a technology only now passing from the scene in the First World. The first person to appear on TV was Sister Pem, who I met once selectively and transiently near the tail end of Brother Philo’s end in marble.

Like many technical innovators, at the beginning Brother Philo was optimistic that the impact of his invention on the condition of mankind would be positive. Like many technical innovators, at the end Brother Philo was optimistic that the impact of his invention on the condition of mankind would be negative. Instead of cultural touchstones like opera and the other fine culture that edified the Rigby set he originally envisioned, Brother Philo lived long enough to see TV bazooka mind-gnawing nonsense onto a humanity with little immunity from the spell of moving visuals in the home.

My grandma, who grew up in a suburb of the mighty metropolis of Salt Lake City, remembered being tormented by one of her family’s roosters when she was very young. This foul creature, spewed from hell, lived only to chase her. Livestock was still commonly raised even behind the homes of urban professionals like my great-grandfather, a general contractor and home builder. The world of her first decade in this life remained one with more obvious links to the experience of her ancestors than our own. It was one in which the human experience of visuals in motion and sound were still largely restricted to what Grandma might have seen if she’d been present with the Mudville ten thousand watching the Mudville nine fall.

The moving visual is hot wired into the brain, which can also be seen as an image processing extension of the eyes. It was originally hyperlocal, optimized to drive hyperlocal reaction in response to hyperlocal triggers.  The oldest image processing system humans have, inherited from amphibians, focuses entirely on reacting to movement. Michael Crichton used this system besmirched the honor of Tyrannosaurus rexs by turning this into a critical element in a pivotal scene in his novel Jurassic Park turned

Not Unix

Not Unix

When TV hit, minds optimized for hyperlocal responses to hyperlocal visual motion were suddenly hit by immediacy without localization. It went straight to the most lizardly of lizard brain parts. Children like myself born into a world of TV inundation were hooked from before conscious memory. Grandma, born into the ancient world, scheduled her day around The Price is Right at 9AM MST and Wheel of Fortune at 6PM. There were words of caution. I remember Grandma telling my brothers and I not to sit so close to her newfangled color TV because the color radiation would ruin our eyes (our black and white TV at home emanated no color radiation). I remember constant encouragements to go outside and breath that fresh outside Salt Lake City air (the city lies is a pollution bowl surrounded by mountains and a big salty pond). Until we turned 10 or so, we had to go to bed by 8PM despite the fact everything interesting that adults (defined as “those older than 10”) got to stay up and watch.

I suppose part of the toxicity of the 196os when sensible health measures such as aerial spraying to keep the hippie population curtailed were relaxed was that it was suddenly being seen in narcotic color. Many a silly hippie was prepped to light up and drop out because the color TV rays my Grandma warned me about were lighting up and dropping out their silly pre-hippy adolescent brains before they ever touched something harder. The transistor radio made the paths straight for American decadence. Color TV pushed it into the abyss. Lower-bound morality, best defined as the abolition of private space, was severely weakened as visual cancer metastasized.

A certain cynicism about TV has grown over my lifetime. It gradually dawned on many that immediacy did not equal truth and vividness did not equal reality. Many were convinced that visual motion was a tool that could be manipulated and the ancient peasant cunning designed to thwart the will of nominal betters revived in some places. The Legion of Stupid retained its legendary ability to man-sea the market for get rich schemes and chia pets. But some were developing increased resistance to the call of the cathode ray and watching TV from further and further away like Grandma warned.

Then came the Internet. Then came another wave and utopian fantasies. Then came the gradual discovery of how to bend these new 20 year old technologies to the old wheel of control, dominance, and exploitation.

The Internet took the illusion of immediacy and boosted its power. Instead of people being incited just by centralized bureaucracies far away, now they could incite each other directly. The distant was suddenly immediate, with more of a realtime “you are there” facade than even TV in its prime with three stations could reach. A sort of moral hazard was created: the seemingly frictionless feel of immediate data pumped over TCP/IP removed the constraints that actual immediacy and actual localism impose. Networked information subsidizes an epidemiology of constant realtime concern, optimized for packet switched networks.

The leaning pressure to magnify events of only local significance into a global contagion that must be dealt with NOW! NOW! NOW! has gathered force. The relevance of the irrelevant has been massively inflated. The availability intrinsic to any species of eternal now has made every itch everywhen into the paramecium that roared. The current president is THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER. Their policies are the WORST POLICIES EVER. A minor colonial conflict like the Iraq intervention is blown up into THE WORST FOREIGN POLICY DISASTER OF ALL TIME. And SO FORTH.

There is nothing new about the darkness that comes in from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. What is new is the tax on attention that constant blowing of pinpricks into galaxy-wide tears the fabric of space and time itself imposes. The small has acquired a largeness that it hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve. It now casts a formidable shadow over larger things that do matter, the darkness of its narcotic dazzle fueled by the false intimacy of data immediacy.

This is not a time with any substantial claim on unusual notoriety. It has no ownership on tragedy, no monopoly on ruin, no death grip on turbulence. What it does have is a new, sharper urgency in panic. The spring in the red button of crisis has been worn clean through by constant frantic pushing every time wolf is cried. Our time has its own pathologies. As in other ages, its wounds should be lanced and cauterized. But when every irritation is a world stopper and every paper cut is a global crisis, the only harvest will be frayed nerves and a growing insensitivity to things that actually matter.

When you can frictionlessly grow a burst pimple into a national ordeal, you live in a world where anything can reach outsized importance. In a world where everything is an unfolding apocalypse, then nothing is significant. You will virtually lynch the umpire over the injustice of that missed call. You will virtually damn the opposing team for thwarting your now, now, now. Casey’s enemies will be your enemies. And there will be no joy in this world because everyone everywhere will convince themselves (again) that they live in a global Mudville.

Christ on a Cathedral, Buddha at the Printshop

Monday, August 17th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — art & tech interfacing with religion ]

In today’s news, religious statuary:

SPEC statues christ buddha


To the left:

Vladivostok ‘to get tallest statue of Jesus Christ in the world’

In Vladivostok, the monument will be composed of two parts: the statue itself and the pedestal housing a cathedral in honour of Archangel Michael.

The monument stands 50 metres taller than the world famous ‘Christ the Redeemer’ in Rio de Janeiro, and two metres higher than ‘The Christ the King’ in Lisbon.

I guess that gives it pride (a deadly siubn, no?) of place.

To the right:

Japanese temples stop theft by replacing priceless statues with 3D-printed copies

The abbot of a Buddhist temple in Jiangjin City was concerned about the potential theft of a valuable statue of Amitabha Buddha. After learning about 3D-printing technology, he made a copy of the statue and gave the original to a local museum for safekeeping.

“There is no way to permanently guard the Buddha statue all of the time,” said the abbot. “Even though this 3D print is just a replica of the original statue, as long as it resides within our temple people can use it as a shrine nonetheless.”

The image of a 3-D Buddha printing is from the Art Program at Seton Hill University.

Parable of the soft-touch chiropractor

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

[raked by Lynn C. Rees]

Driving Mom around during her last years in this life, I sat in on one of her soft-touch chiropractic sessions. Her soft-touch chiropractor was out of the office so one of his disciples stood in.

As he worked, the sub-soft-touch chiropractor said, “Let me explain how this helps your mom.” As he’d done since the session started, he made a fist with his right hand and bent his arm back until the fist reached shoulder height. He flexed the muscles in his arm.

“First, I build up potential energy in my arm.”. The shake in his upper arm intensified.

“Then I concentrate the potential energy in my finger.” He whipped his arm forward and pointed. His arm and finger shook.

“Then I transfer that energy to your mom.”, he said, softly touching Mom’s shoulder. “It’s the perfect translation of potential energy to kinetic energy. Kinetic energy restores balance and balance restores health.”

“Hnn.”, I said.

Who can judge?

  1. Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people.
  2. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.
  3. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
  4. And again, ye shall say unto them, Why is it that thou beholdest the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
  5. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and canst not behold a beam in thine own eye?

— Matthew 7: 1-5  (JST)

For parables,  soft-touch chiropracty’s guilt or innocence is a noop: parablizing does not imply judgement, righteous or not. For show and tell purposes, mote or beam are equally useful. As the Thomas theorem claims:

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.

This is true, though the outer limits on its truth are set by the Graham assertion:

In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine.

If tactics is voting, strategy is weighing: strategy is the creation of asymmetry. To mangle Conrad C. Crane, there are two kinds of strategy: asymmetric and stupid: proper strategy puts a finger on the scale. It restores balance through weight of deliberate asymmetry and then balance restores health.

If the cycle of strategy is:

drive → reach → grip

Up the slope of:

certain → hazyuncertain

With the goal of summiting at:

certain → certain → certain

The parable of the soft-touch chiropractor demonstrates:

  1. There will be drive.
  2. Drive motivates a build up of strength. Fist clenching and muscle flexing, metaphoric or not, is involved.
  3. Strength creates potential reach.
  4. The ideal strength would banish uncertainty from reach and grip, making them indistinguishable from drive. This would be the perfect translation of potential reach to kinetic grip.
  5. The leap of faith is the frantic whipping between reach and grip. Pull my finger.
  6. Though potential reach will generally always fall short of translation into certain grip, sometimes the touch of its less than kinetic sway on its targets’ mind will compensate for its kinetic shortfall.


The sway of soft-touch chiropracty comforted as cancer spread. This is reach and soft power. Its force did nothing to hurt cancer. This is soft grip and hollow power. As reach exceeds grip, so cancer exceeds soft-touch chiropracty. Then comes the inevitable: no balance, no health.

The Apple II of 3 D Printing?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

It may be 1977 all over again.

Check out the Form 1 Kickstarter page 

The Formlabs home page and their blog.

I recently reviewed Chris Anderson’s book Makers. What 3 D printing needs is the affordable, user-friendly, versatile device to move 3 D printing from the arcane realm of  techno-hobbyist geeks to the general population’s “early adapters”, which will put the next “consumer model” generation on everyone’s office desk; eventually as ubiquitous as cell phones or microwaves.

Formlabs should send one of these to John Robb and Shloky for a product review.

Hat tip to Feral Jundi


Book Mini-Review: Makers: the New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson 

This is a fun book  by the former editor-in-chief of WIRED , author of The Long Tail and the co-founder of 3D Robotics, Chris Anderson. Part pop culture, part tech-optimist futurism and all DIY business book, Anderson is preaching a revolution, one brought about by the intersection of 3D printing and open source “Maker movement” culture, that he believes will be bigger and more transformative to society than was the Web. One with the potential to change the “race to the bottom” economic logic of globalization by allowing manufacturing entrepreneurs to be smart, small, nimble and global by sharing bits and selling atoms.

Anderson writes:

Here’s the history of two decades of innovation in two sentences: The past ten years have been about discovering new ways to create, invent, and work together on the Web. The next ten years will be about applying those lessons to the real world.

This book is about the next ten years.

….Why? Because making things has gone digital: physical objects now begin as designs on screens, and those designs can be shared online as files…..once an industry goes digital in changes in profound ways, as we’ve seen in everything from retail to publishing. The biggest transformation, but in who’s doing it. Once things can be done on regular computers, they can be done by anyone. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing happening in manufacturing.

…..In short, the Maker Movement shares three characteristics,  all of which I’d argue are transformative:

1. People using digital desktop tools to create designs for new products and prototype them (“digital DIY”)

2. A cultural norm to share those designs and collaborate with others in online communities.

3. The use of common design file standards that allow anyone, if they desire, to send their designs to commercial manufacturing services to be produced in any number, just as easily as they can fabricate them on their desktop. This radically foreshortens the path from idea to entrepreneurship, just as the Web did in software, information, and content.

Nations whose entire strategy rests upon being the provider of cheapest labor per unit cost on all scales are going to be in jeopardy if local can innovate, customize and manufacture in near-real time response to customer demand. Creativity of designers and stigmergic /stochastic collaboration of communities rise in economic value relative to top-down, hierarchical production systems with long development lags and capital tied up betting on having large production runs.

Interesting, with potentially profound implications.

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