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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Wednesday, May 16

...and damn near pregnant

Hello, world! I'm posting this as a public service announcement, because Lee Gutkind's new book -- Almost Human: Making Robots Think (W.W. Norton, March 19, 2007) -- deserves the widest possible readership. As Publishers Weekly notes, Gutkind "spent six years as a self-described 'fly on the wall' at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute." I only spent one year there myself, as director of communications or some such titular bogosity, but it was enough to know that what the author is saying in this report from the front lines is absolutely true. It's simply astounding what has been achieved in the field of advanced autonomous machine intelligence. Wow. Yeah.

But I would go even further to suggest that your iPod is almost a chipmunk, and your toaster oven is almost a racoon! Who can say what your car might turn into any day now. A horse? A rhinoceros? Just think: the possibilities are endless.



Saturday, May 5

noetic license

In my travels through WeirdLand, I have often come across references to the Institute of Noetic Sciences and its founder, astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Today, my Amazon recommendations -- tuned, of course, by my previous slumming in these nether regions -- brought up his book, The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut's Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds, so I decided to have a closer look. In what follows, the bits highlighted in red form a sort of bread-crumb trail -- hints about people, subjects and themes we've already touched on in the course of this odd investigation. The following reviews were written about the first edition of Mitchell's Way.

From Publishers Weekly:

    Among authors trying to bridge the gap between science and spirit, former astronaut Mitchell brings unique credentials. Originally scheduled for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, Mitchell, as told in this smooth blend of autobiography and exegesis, journeyed to the Moon in 1971 (and generated great controversy over ESP experiments he conducted on the flight). As he gazed on Earth, surrounded by blackness and an unfathomable number of stars, he experienced "an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness" that was to change his life. Within a few years, he had left NASA and founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, aimed at the systematic study of the nature of consciousness. At the institute, he came to some fascinating conclusions, detailed here and based on principles of resonance, regarding a possible natural explanation for psychic powers. In later years, Mitchell has developed a "dyadic" model of paired opposites -- mind/matter, life/death, etc. -- that he also covers here and that owes as much to quantum physics' wave/particle duality as to Taoism's yin/yang. Mitchell isn't afraid to go out on a limb; his contention that the universe "intended" to evolve to higher levels, for example, goes against mainstream Western science. He grounds his ideas in data and reason, however, making this a strong offering for those who enjoy the books of Larry Dossey, Ken Wilber and others pushing the envelope of the science/spirit paradigm.

Ah yes, the old "science/spirit paradigm" -- a.k.a. bogus New Age quantum woo-woo pseudoscience. Fortunately, Kirkus Reviews is not taking as many wooden nickels...

    Apollo 14 astronaut Mitchell offers a vision in which technology and intuition are harmonized in pursuit of a more advanced consciousness. When Mitchell was hurtling back to earth after walking on the moon in 1971, he had a profound sense that all things are interconnected and that the universe is an intelligent process with which we need to link up. We hear how Mitchell began a career as a fighter pilot in the years following WW II, switched to NASA with the hope of being part of the new space program, and came to know the legendary Wernher von Braun, whom he believes was a true visionary rather than a Nazi opportunist. Mitchell tells how, while returning to earth, he carried out a private ESP experiment that seemed to yield positive results. Subsequently, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, in order to test paranormal phenomena scientifically.... Mitchell concludes that our own consciousness and beliefs are profoundly part of reality. He offers us a tour of Western thought from Aristotle to Newton, arguing that intuition and science were divorced until the advent of Einstein and quantum physics. We hear a lot about synchronicity, left and right brain, and the concept that psychic events are quantum exchanges in the brain that link us with the larger world. Unfortunately, Mitchell's insights, exciting but frequently obscure, depend excessively on one-sided generalizations about European philosophy and on his espousal of Joseph Campbell's views on religion. A stimulating attempt to reinvent the wheel.

In addition to the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Mitchell has a personal web page that lists some of his "scientific" articles. Among these is one titled Space Flight as an Anticipatory Computing System (WTF?), which contains the following...

  • To escape our solar prison and to explore intra and inter galactic space it is certain that propulsion systems far beyond current technologies are required. Chemical and nuclear fuels simply will not suffice, nor will classical communications. Puthoff (personal communication) expects that investigations of the zero point field will eventually yield useable energy sources for deep space propulsion. NASA projects have already been awarded to study such advanced systems...

I'm out of my depth on this "zero point" stuff, but casting about on Wikipedia yielded this:

  • ...the term zero point energy has also become associated with a highly controversial area of human endeavor -- the design and invention of so-called "free energy" devices, similar to perpetual motion machines in the past.

But hey, isn't that reference in Mitchell's "Anticipatory Computing" paper to the same Puthoff mentioned in my immediately preceding (Spooks on Crack) post? I swear, I didn't go looking to follow up on him, but yeah, it's the same guy who went to Esalen and cornered the Colonel Sanders franchise on psi research. Fact is, the more you wade around in these waters, the more obvious it becomes that the cast of characters is the result of much incestuous inbreeding. Puthoff's Wikipedia entry tells us about his...

    Secret government work

    Puthoff was once a United States Navy officer who was assigned to the National Security Agency (NSA), later becoming a civilian employee. Following a sabbatical at Stanford University to obtain his Ph.D., he joined SRI International where in 1972, together with Russell Targ, he founded a then-highly-classified, now-highly-publicised "remote viewing" program, originally called Project SCANATE, finally STAR GATE, which was funded over its two-decade-plus history by the CIA, DIA, and various military organizations.

    Puthoff has held high-level security clearances with the United States government.

And here's a YouTube vid I just stumbled onto: Remote Viewing with Russell Targ and Alan Steinfeld. Targ is the guy who worked with Puthoff at SRI on the crackbrained "remote viewing" project. Targ wrote a book called Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of Consciousness, with a foreword by Queen of the New Age, Jean "I'll Believe Anything" Houston. He wrote another book with Puthoff titled Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities. Here's a clip from the preface to the 2004 edition:

    Remote viewing is a human perceptual ability to access, by mental means alone, information blocked from normal perception by distance, shielding, or time. That is the subject of this book.

    What can now be told is that for more than two decades remote viewing was also the subject of an intense government effort fueled by Cold War concerns as to whether there was a credible threat to the United States from a known, similar large-scale effort being pursued in the then Soviet Union. The story told here is how that program came to be. We tell how, in response to a request from the CIA, we initiated and built up the remote viewing program at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) to serve a number of clients in the intelligence and DoD (Department of Defense) communities, and to generate a dense database for scientific evaluation.

Traditional Yoga Studies Interactive called Mind-Reach...

  • An inside glimpse of parapsychology. Weary of the gray consensus universe? This book will trigger rainbows in your mental eye.

Too right. So you see? It is all connected. As the Dali Lama said to the hot-dog vendor: Make me one with everything.

Years later, Wernher von Braun explained why he and his contemporaries chose a path that would lead to ever deepening involvement with the Nazis: "We needed money for our experiments, and since the [German] army was ready to give us help, we did not worry overmuch about the consequences in the distant future. Besides, in 1932 the idea of another war was absurd. The Nazis were not then in power. There was no reason for moral scruples over the use to which our researches might be put in the future. We were interested in only one thing -- the exploration of space. Our main concern was how to get the most out of the Golden Calf."

~ Wernher von Braun: The Man Who Sold the Moon, p. 27



Spooks on Crack

This revealing -- and I thought, highly amusing -- passage is from The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology by Jeffrey T. Richelson (p.176-177).
    THE CIA'S PSYCHIC FRIENDS

    In June 1973, OTS chief John McMahon and Carl Duckett were briefed by Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ from the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Puthoff had obtained a doctorate from Stanford University, was the holder of a patent for a tunable infrared laser, and had coauthored an influential textbook on quantum electronics. Targ, a physicist whose father was a devotee of the paranormal, had spent the previous decade conducting laser research. But the SRI scientists did not come to Langley to brief Duckett and McMahon on the use of lasers for intelligence purposes. Rather, the two senior CIA officials heard about a very different, and unconventional, area of research -- psychic spying.

    Four years earlier, Puthoff had experienced a number of personal and professional changes. Separation from his wife, a visit to the Esalen Institute, and boredom with teaching in Stanford's electrical engineering department had been followed by his moving over to SRI, which had close ties to Stanford University but was funded largely by government contracts. Puthoff joined SRI to assist with a laser-related project, but when funding dwindled, he sought permission from his boss and obtained $10,000 from the part-owner of a fried-chicken franchise to test for the existence of psychic abilities. Puthoff's turn toward fringe science was not exactly a radical departure. For several years, he had been an active member of the Church of Scientology, and he provided the church with a letter referring to Scientology as a "highly sophisticated and highly technological system more characteristic of the best of modern corporate planning and applied technology." In addition, he wrote that he found Scientology "to be an uplifting and workable system of concepts which blend the best of Eastern and Western traditions."

Lest readers think this some conspiracy-theorist flight of fancy, here's the author's brief bio:
    Jeffrey T. Richelson received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Rochester in 1975, and has taught at the University of Texas, Austin, and the American University, Washington. A senior fellow at the National Security Archive in Washington, he lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Publishers Weekly calls the book "a solid, conservative perspective on the agency's history." (my emphasis)

related bonus book

In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the U.S. Army. Defying all known accepted military practice -- and indeed, the laws of physics -- they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them.



Friday, May 4

AND THIS IS HOW THE MESSAGE RAN...

In 1956, John McCarthy coined the term "artificial intelligence" as the topic of the Dartmouth Conference. You've come a long way baby. And notice: how manly!

The phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" originates from the 1951 Cold-War-era science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. The phrase "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!" was used to stop Gort, the robot in the film, from destroying the Earth. There is no known translation for the phrase, although "Klaatu" is the name of the humanoid alien protagonist in the film.

~ Wikipedia

iRobot® Dirt Dog™ Workshop Robot

iRobot Dirt Dog picks up what you throw down. Command it to clean and it gets to work sweeping under workbenches, cars and other hard-to-reach places. It picks up the nuts, bolts, dirt, and other debris from your shop floor. You've done enough; leave the cleaning to a robot.

R-Gator: Autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicle

Built on the rugged John Deere M-Gator™ platform and enhanced with proven iRobot and Deere robotic controls, navigation and obstacle avoidance systems, the R-Gator is designed to serve numerous important roles, acting as unmanned scout, "point man," perimeter guard, pack/ammo/supply carrier and more for soldiers, marines and airmen.

Science Fiction Double Feature

Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still, but he told us where we stand. And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear. Claude Raines was the invisible man. Then something went wrong for Fay Wray and King Kong. They got caught in a celluloid jam. Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space, and this is how the message ran: Science Fiction, Double Feature... Dr. X will build a creature. See androids fighting Brad and Janet. Ann Francis stars in Forbidden Planet. Oh-oh at the late night, double feature, picture show...



Wednesday, May 2

A:B::C:X - Solve for X

stand by...
this is the time.
and this is the record of the time.

Big Science ~ Laurie Anderson

Exhibits...

  1. Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War

    "...a disgraceful chapter in U.S. Cold War history lies in the systematic use of Nazi and fascist war criminals to help the anti-Soviet aims of American intelligence and national security agencies." ~ Library Journal review

    it's a sky-blue sky. satellites are out tonight.
    Big Science
  2. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire

    "The CIA supported Osama bin Laden, like so many other extreme fundamentalists among the mujahideen in Afghanistan, from at least 1984 on." ~ p. xiv

    here come the planes.
    they're American planes.
    made in America.

    Big Science
  3. From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America

    "The image of the city as a communication system drew upon the science of cybernetics and its close cousin systems analysis, a technique for military decision making developed at the RAND Corporation in the 1940s. Electronic computers, first developed for ballistics-data processing, were also military innovations of the 1940s. That the techniques and technologies adopted to transform city planning and management in the postrenewal era were first developed for the task of military planning and management suggests another kind of revolution was under way in the American urban professions, one in which the military-industrial complex played a starring role. " ~ p. 37

    golden cities... golden towns. thanks for the ride.
    Big Science


  1. satellites are out tonight. let x = x.
    Big Science



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