Networked Bacteria

A concise blog reporting on articles of importance to the future of human and social development.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Three days before the election, time to write down my election predictions.

Based upon what I have seen of the polls, campaigns and futures market actions of the 2008 presidential election, my predictions of the events of election night are thus,

-- The Democratic party candidates will win the election with room to spare, by at least 5 million popular votes and at least 100 electoral college votes.

-- The election will be called correctly by at least three mainstream 24-hour newsmedia channels before the polls close in the Mountain time zone.

-- There will be multiple allegations of vote fraud in the battleground states; they will ultimately not be sufficient in quantity of affected voters to question the validity of the president-elect.

-- News of vote fraud will be made public faster and more broadly than in any previous election, thanks in part to the advent of popular online video and netroots movements to place videographers at polling stations.

-- The Republican Party candidates will not concede the election before polls close in the Pacific time zone.

-- The Democratic Party will gain at least 7 seats in the Senate, and 25 in the House of Representatives.

Those being my predictions, I'd like to close by noting that the concept of predicting the future with certainty is folly as a claim to knowledge of the outcomes of future events is nothing more than sentiment with no value farther than interest on an “I told you so” or on an embarrassing retraction depending on its accuracy. Futurism is not about making quantifiable predictions like some fortune-teller, but rather to develop likely scenarios of potential future events in order that they can be prepared for. The predictions I make today are of little use in this respect, other than pointing out a few interesting topics to follow in the news on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008.

-Craig Blaylock
10:06:24 PM 11/01/08

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tired of this connection.

Ever since I moved into this apartment, I've gotten my internet connection through a DSL provider called Speakeasy. Their customer service is awesome, and the price quite reasonable what with me being so far out of their usual service area.

The problem I have, though, is the actual connection. It's quite stable, but I'm only getting up to 1.5 down /.386 up. I wanted to get a faster line from them, but I'm too far from the local CO to get any better DSL. So I started having a look at my options.

Cable. Seems like a good upgrade, since my apartment is already wired. But the only provider that serves the area is Comcast. The monthly charge for a 3.0/1.5 connection is fair, but there's no way I'm going to pay roughly $130 in startup and installation fees when the wiring is already there.

As for fiber optics, there's two choices on the market. AT&T's U-Verse, and Verizon FiOS. Verizon's got the better service, 20/20 for $70 a month. and I'd be willing to pay the fees to get a fiber line that quick installed. Too bad it's not availible in Houston. Every other metropolitan area in Texas, but not Houston.

Which leaves AT&T. They can give up to 10/1.5, and that'd be alright with me. But according to FCC regulations, I'd have to cancel my current DSL subscription and wait a week before I could actually sign for a new ISP. When did that happen? I can't go withoout a connection for a week.

I guess I'll wait another six months, hope Obama gets elected, and that his plan to improve the poor state of the American telecommunications industry works.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On the movements of society

I just finished off a good two hours of sorting and pruning my way through my subscribed feeds.

Though I get the same satisfaction with this that someone with more botanic tastes might find in tending to a bonsai tree, it strikes me how small my ability to absorb and process information is when compared to the enormity of the blogosphere. Most of the opinions and writings available online are like my blog; a few (if any) regular readers, with the general focus being either something personal, or something that already happened somewhere else in the blogosphere.

Personal inadequacy and fury at the inane-echo-chamber effect aside, every time I sit down in front of a keyboard I'm humbled at the sheer diversity of material just a short, magical hand-gesture out of sight. Since the internet went mainstream (1995 or so), it's gone from being something of a gimmick to an indispensable part of modern life.

That's only 13 years. 13 years took us from having to go to the local library to access a tiny fraction of the world's information, to having nearly all of it accessible just about anywhere within a few thousand miles of the entire planet almost all the time.

This is a big change for us as a species. This is bigger than Television, Telephone, or Telegram. It's more game-changing than Aeroplane, Automobile, or Locomotive. This is a change to society at least as volatile as the Printing Press, as innovative as Written Language, and getting right up there with Fire and Speech to compete for most important invention ever.

And it's only been around for 13 years. A system that's been running for 13 years without a single minute of global downtime. Kevin Kelly wasn't kidding when he said that it was the single most reliable machine humans have ever built.

People like to talk about revolutions. There was the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution; and they like to say that we're living in another one, the Information Revolution. I like to tell those people that they haven't seen anything yet. In these previous revolutions, it took generations for both people and society to adapt to the new structure of life. People today who have never seen the world without the web are still in middle school.

These are the kids that will truly start exploring the possibilities in an interconnected civilisation.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Re: The Metal in my Finger.

So I've been needing to do this post for a while now, but I've been as lazy as I usually am. I suppose I'll start at the beginning.

A while back, 2004 I think, a body modification artist named Shannon Larratt filed a report with the Internets detailing the totally awesome new thing his friends Steve Harworth and Jesse Jarrel figured out how to do. After a period of healing, a tiny, but powerful magnet implanted near the sensitive nerves beneath the skin of a finger provides an entirely new sensation; the ability to feel magnetic fields. Naturally, the transhumanist and body-mod communities went crazy over this new thing. But thanks to the restraint of the artists, only a dozen or so people got the experimental new implant.

A few months later, things started to go bad. The silicone coating used to protect the Neodymium magnets from the body (and vice-versa) breached. Though various factors were involved, the general consensus is that the coating was too thin and often applied unevenly; thus the first experiment in the field was brought to a close. Although I didn't hear about it until recently, it turns out one of those original subjects had their magnet coated in titanium rather than silicone. His magnet is doing just fine.

Anyways; I relayed this story to a friend of mine, Nathan Roseborough, sometime during 2007. He was immediately facinated by the idea. His blog, details the following events in more detail. In short: we did our research, discovered another protective coating material, contracted the manufacture of some new implants, and then dove right in.

In April, 2008, Nate got his first magnet implanted. This first attempt didn't turn out so well, as the healing entry wound pushed the magnet out. The second try happened in May, and was accompanied with a small stitch to heal the wound closed. After a few months of watching to see if he developed any complications, I decided it was time for my own.

In June, Nate and I selected a sterile magnet from the small collection and went to see Kieran, the Piercer at 713Tattoos on Westheimer. Kieran is the same person who installed Nate's magnet, and he has been getting better with each implantation. I'll leave out the gory details, but the process hurt less than I thought it would; stitch included.

I got my first bit of sensation the very next day when was going to warm up some water for a salt bath to help heal the wound. As the microwave clicked on there was a small but intense buzzing feeling in my finger, noticable over the slight throbbing. It really is impossible to describe the sensation as I moved my hand around the microwave to feel the subtle gradations of the field generated by the magnetron and transformer inside.

It's been about two months; and while sensation hasn't improved too much, there are always new things that surprize me. Sometimes while using my laptop, I'll find my hand wandering over the keyboard to explore the little clicks and buzzes coming from inside the device. Power supplies all taste a little different, but the 60Hz flux is nearly as familiar as my own hand.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What I did today...

Today, I discovered an Essay contest on Dr. Steel's forum for Toy Soldiers, the members of his army of fun.

I didn't have much else to do, and the subject seemed fun, so I figured I'd throw my hat into the ring (Though the prize is an embroidered scarf... not much call for those in Texas). The topic for the essay was to put down at least 500 words about our personal view of what a Utopian Playland should look like.

For those that don't know, Dr. Steel is a mad scientist bent on ruling the world with his Army of Toy Soldiers, fighting against philosophies of hate and fear to build a new world where Fun is the top priority, a world he calls a Utopian Playland.

Anyways, here's my entry.

Utopian Playland Essay
By Toy Soldier Continuity Gradient (Aka, Craig Blaylock)

Dr. Steel's philosophy of a Utopian Playland starts and ends with fun.

Through the use of fun, we, the Toy Soldiers in his army, seek to change the world for the better; Culminating in the creation of the Utopian Playland of lore. The question, then, is what exactly a Utopian Playland looks like. Here is my vision.

From a distance, the daylight side of Earth looks much the same. The oceans perhaps a little bluer, the land a little greener, Antarctica and the Arctic Circle a little more pristine in their shimmering whiteness. Twelve timezones away, the face of earth is much different. The former sprinkling of stars across the human settlements on the face of the planet exploding in a carnival of lights that bathes the night sky in a blanket of twisting, swirling aurorae. The clean earth and iridescent night sky are only the first step, promoting happiness by alleviating the fear of environmental decay and the shadows of night. In the right light, you might be able to catch a glimpse of slender threads reaching out from the equator; a ring of orbital elevators giving Humanity room to grow beyond this singular orb in space.

Zooming in a little closer, we find that the bustling cities, packed highways and choked sea-lanes have vanished. Commerce and urban life have moved underground to free up the land. America, an example formerly scarred with a spider's web of interstates, is now a pristine parkland sprawling from sea to shining sea. Those that visit or live on the surface are nomadic, wandering wherever the whim takes them. Their needs fulfilled by compact fabricating machines that produce whatever they need with the materials at hand, then recycle them whenever it's time to go see the next natural wonder of the Earth.

A hundred feet beneath the surface of the planet and honeycombed throughout the crust, humanity lives and plays through billions of miles of tunnels and underground cities. The People of Earth gave over their paltry half-million square kilometers of surface area to populate the sixteen average kilometer depth beneath. Deep down near the mantle, giant fabbers siphon off geothermal energy and liquid rock to supply billions of people with whatever they need through a massive network of vacuum tubes from as wide as a bus to as small as a letter. People can travel through these as well in capsules with life-support, and can move at many times the speed of sound because of the lack of atmosphere in the tunnels. Specially designed fabbers devour rock to build tunnels, leaving behind structural supports and housing in their wake. With futuristic technologies in place, these tunnels and houses can be almost whatever the residents want them to be; sunny tree-lined streets for homes, toyshops, and theaters dug into the earth's crust.

With all their basic needs met and their material desires provided for, Humanity's greatest threat is now boredom. Fortunately, Mankind is a diverse lot and the production of amusement is now the world's largest industry. The population is much larger than the paltry six billion that were crammed together on the surface, and so there are enough people to fill every niche market for curious entertainment. One of the more popular fads is the manipulation of the human body, and a corps of dedicated scientists and engineers gladly donate their free time exploring the human genome and finding out how to tweak it in amusing ways. A stroll down a busy street in this underground metropolis would feel much like wandering through a contemporary convention of sideshow attractions, yet as friendly as a sci-fi convention of that same era as things such as racism and body-chauvanism dissapear when you can spend every other week as something new and different.

No more fear or hate. Nothing to do but explore and have fun. This, to me, is an ideal Utopian Playland.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's been too long, again.

Almost three months since my last post. You might have just been thinking I'd dropped off the map if you haven't been following any of my other feeds. (Which is unlikely, as the homepage of this blog has a window of shared items from my reading.)

A little update on my status for those who only have contact with me via this blog. Yeah, that's all of Zero people out there, but this is for the sake of continuity and my own sick amusement.

In the last three months: I've received the best grade I've gotten at the end of a semester since they started dividing my school years into semesters, had an eye exam (first one since 2005 I think) and subsequently started wearing contacts (pictures will go up on my Picasa as I get them), searched for, found, and quit a job, spent a month slacking off and trying to minimize my financial output, finally saw the Avatar finale, grown ever more obsessed with RSS in all it's succulent goodness, found not one but three writers to obsess over, got my finger jabbed and a magnet installed (My first functional body mod, good stuff. I'll write more about it later), re-read Transmetropolitan twice and become the fan of no less than three separate mad scientists. More on those after some more background.

At the moment, I'm sitting in a rather comfortable, if frustratingly non-massaging, recliner at my Mom's house. My Mother, as well as all the other family members that inhabit/regularly visit the 80 acre midland Texas compound that is the Cox family land, is off on vacation in California. As happened last year, I have been tasked with house-sitting, plant-watering, and dog-taking-care-of. This is all well and good, except for a few limitations that the property has. One; it's about as far as you can go from civilization without leaving the continental USA. Two; the nearest city, Buffalo, is roughly equidistant from both Dallas and Houston. Meaning I am quite litterally in the middle of nowhere. Three; The internet connection here is a marvel of the modern age. Satellite internet. I have no open incoming ports, a bandwidth that fluctuates between a quarter of a DSL link and a 4400 baud modem, and annoyingly frequent service outages due to passing clouds. And Four; I have five animals and about two solid acres of plants to tend to.

So internet video is mostly out, torrents don't run at all unless I shut down my IM client to free up a few decabits of bandwidth, and most of my time is spent making sure nothing around me dies. Needless to say, I've had a lot of time to think and a poor internet connection keeping me from keeping up with my feeds. Instead, I've wandered through some old backlogs, some low-bandwidth browsing of websites and forums, and I've started to make some connections re: mad scientists.

They're back in vogue, for some reason. Ever since these three doctors made their way into my awareness, my perception of things has taken a half-twist, looping back around on itself like some auto-cannibalistic möbius strip.

I discovered Doctor Horrible and his Sing-Along blog via my feeds a few weeks ago; the latest brainchild of scifi film master, Joss Whedon. Starring Niel Patrick Harris, this low-budget online-only musical superhero comedy was found to be a quite amusing, if traditional, boy-meets-girl story. Unfortunately, due to the poor internet connection here, I was not able to see the third section before it vanished into torrentable memory (I'll go back and see it when I get home). I've also recently discovered Twitscoop, a tag cloud automatically generated from the latest twitter posts. While following the cloud erupting from Dr. Horrible's premier, I noticed another doctor.

Dr. Steel
, by contrast, is a doctor on a mission. No three-episode internet miniseries here, this doctor is an insane post-steampunk musician bent on ruling the world with an army of toy soldiers. When I saw what he intends to do with the world once he rules it, I immediately enlisted in his army and torrented his discography to start absorbing his message. A track on his 2002 album, People of Earth, caught my eye. "The Singularity". My favorite subject. I started digging around through his forums, chatting with other toy soldiers for a while, and discovered yet a third doctor.

Doktor Sleepless, it turns out, was created by "Transmetropolitan" writer Warren Ellis. It took a full day, but I managed to torrent a few issues of the comic to absorb them. Warren's writing has only improved since that other comic I'm familiar with, the storyline is both ongoing and excellent, leading me to wonder if the local comic book shop has some sort of subscription service I can use to reserve subsequent issues.

Anyways, at the end of each Doktor Sleepless comic there's a bit of text from the author. Warren's been busy lately, it seems. There's a wiki for the comic, a webcomic he's writing for and it's associated forum, and so on. But something caught my eye. The body mod community in the Doktor Sleepless universe, "Grinders", are represented in the fictional blogosphere by a groupblog at but also exists in the real world as a groupblog for transhumanist subjects. I've been following this blog for months... Weird how I'm just now discovering it's origins.

And even weirder, it seems Warren has somehow woven his way closer to me. While writing a weekly column for SuicideGirls, Warren worked alongside and mentioned Zoetica Ebb; who's blog I follow and is also a contributing writer to Coilhouse, an art blog I also follow. Also, that webcomic he writes for, FreakAngels, is also another one I follow...

It's strange how people gravitate towards those of like mind, even without noticing it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nietzsche is hard to spell.

I've been doing research for a paper on rhetoric (which is due in a little more than 23 hours... I should probably work on that...), mainly focusing on the difference between Nietzsche's and Foucault's view of truth. In my study, however, I've come across an interesting definition of the Nietzschean "overman".

The overman (übermensch, occasionally translated 'superman') is an extension of Nietzsche's philosophy of "the will to power"; which is seen as the basic human motive. Expressed most blatantly in shows of force, conquest, slavery, etc., the will to power also manifests itself in art as the human desire to gain control over the chaos of experience. It's not defined as good or bad any more than people are; the will to power is also the motive for self-control.

The overman concept takes the will to power to it's logical conclusion.

The übermensch is one who has successfully organized the chaos of existence, one who strives for perfection and refuses to compromise with the forces of partial rationalism (represented by science and philosophy) and partial irrationalism (represented by religion).
In most writings that I've read up until today, the übermensch was seen as a sort of nebulously defined perfect human, both a goal towards which humanity strives and the primary source of moral virtue since the death of God. The definition I found, however unconventional it might be, is something profoundly tangible; A perfectionist artist-thinker with a profoundly resolute ethical stature.

What strikes me is both how overly simplified this definition is, and how reachable it is. The three components of this übermensch, though rarely contained in a single individual, fit perfectly to at least one stereotype that comes to mind. Japanese artists. How fitting, then, that the overman ideal was eventually subjugated to fuel "master race" propaganda-ideology in the axis countries of World War Two.

Curiously enough, the übermensch also provided the allies with superheroes to idolize after the war; Superman most blatantly, and others such as Captain America in a more subtle manner.

We have still yet to reach the true ideal of the overman in our modern times and it might be that übermenschliches (superhuman, overhuman) people are beyond the boundaries of human possibility. But people have a startling capability for breaking through and bringing fantasy to reality; perhaps someday we can reach Nietzsche's transcendent goal.