Magnitudes of Fourier Coefficients for evolution of Wilson-Cowen Pattern formation undergoing periodic stimulation. First : Stripe domain converges to a single orientation in frequency space, while Second : Hexagon forming domain converges to.. well, hexagons.
This past April 15th, yr humble correspondent attended the Tax Day Tea Party protest in Washington DC. For a long time, I've said that the Tea Party is for better or worse (mostly for worse), the most vital force in contemporary America Politics, and it was time to see that force for myself. My mission was simple, to enter the Tea Party, observe their members, engage in polite discussion, and pass out Discordian style fliers directing them to www.lemonparty.org (We Alone is not responsible if you click that link!)
I arrived about an hour into the protest to find roughly 3000 people camped out by the Washington monument. In attendance was a Fox News truck, a few pollsters from Politico, a handful of police directing traffic, and several ambulances. The focus of the protest was a stage, and attendant TV screens, upon which there were various conservative talk show types, interspersed with country music sets.
The membership of the Tea Party is overwhelmingly white, and skews elderly. I doubt I saw a single African America at the protest, and a scanty handful of hispanics. And as unfair as it is to judge a book by its cover, Teabaggers look trashy. They're poorly dressed, in bad shape, ungroomed, and have the dazed, stupefied look of those who spend hours in front of the television set. A few people there in suits looked like they were also tourists.
The ideology of the Teabaggers is one of blind, inchoate anger. They are suspicious of a world that has left them behind, of a society they cannot understand, and of a government that they find distant and unresponsive. It's not much of a political philosophy, let alone a policy. While they would cut taxes, I'm sure that they would equally protest any cut in services that actually affected them. A big theme was the Revolutionary War flag, "Don't tread on me."
Real American Heroes
The high point came when I was bullshitting with one Teabagger about how we had to go back to the founding of the Republic, when we had a small government that followed the Constitution. After some light anti-masonry on my part, he said. "You know, I'm a member of this group. We're America's oldest Progressive organization, founded down South to resist the intrusion of the Federal government back in 1873. You should join up too." For those of you who don't know your history, that's the KKK. That's right, yr humble correspondent was invited to join the motherfucking Ku Klux Klan.
Take it from the horse's mouth, compared to the other protesters I've been associated with, Teabaggers are selfish and lazy. The 2005 anti-war march I attended had over 50,000 people, for a cause that was by then a historical footnote, and included all races, classes, and creeds. The anti-globalization protesters mustered only a few hundred, but were marching in the rain and going hand to hand with DC riot cops in the street. Their energy and dedication to a better world for all made up for their total lack of intellectual coherence. In comparison, the Tea Party was camped out, as in blankets, chairs, coolers, little holders for their signs. Their activity never rose above a modest cheer when the speakers said something like "Taxes bad, you guys good!" Their presence was only in defense of their own narrow self-interest. Their intolerance matched only by their self-righteousness. This is not the future of politics, this is the blind writhing of a snake with its head cut off.
I was re-reading Langdon Winner’s “The Whale and the Reactor” yesterday, and was struck by a bolt of realization. I highly respect Winner’s work, which he describes as criticism, and consider it a model for my efforts. Winner’s most trenchant insight s that we live in an artificial reality, one who’s features are described by technological artifacts. We are surrounded by a sea of glittering technological objects, and their functions and parameters describe our life far more than the so-called natural world. As human-manufactured objects, these artifacts are designed. Conscious effort went into their making. And so when we describe technology, when we criticize technology, we are criticizing design. I am a design critic. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go demonstrate my superior taste in blinkenlights.
I want to see something like Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi, or Powaanisqatsi but with science. I imagine the title would be something like "Biological Cybernetics" but in a language not English. The gist : take high resolution footage of biological and technological processes, and group systems with common underlying dynamics into chapters.
- swarms : birds, fish, ants, bees, locusts, robots, simulations, people, herds
- dendritic growth : trees, neurons, cities, vasculature, coral, slime mold, fractures in pavement, erosion
- vascular transport : dendritic growth, but zoom in on the things that move around inside
- dividing systems : mostly just cellular life here, maybe some crystal growth, time-lapse industrial development
- decay processes : oxidization, rot, death
- pattern formation : animal coat patterns, chemical reaction diffusion systems, genetic patterning in embryos, cortical patterns
- burning systems : fires, slowed down explosions, disease propagation in plant tissue, disease propagation in bacterial culture, disease propagation in society, certain brain waves
- waves : water, air, brains, dunes, traffic, light, electrons, sound
- oscillatory systems : planetary orbits, shifting seasons, tides, cycles of reproduction, day/night wake/sleep, breathing, heartbeat, cellular oscillations
You’re probably all thoroughly sick of this topic, but it is what I supposedly do at work, so here’s some more.
Aside from the ethical implications of military human enhancement (medical experimentation, neurology and morality in warfare, super-soldiers etc), on little regarded question is how MHE will affect the recruiting pool.
Everybody has a different reason why the join the army, but generally you can boil it down to some combination of the following: Patriotism and the Warrior Spirit (as its referred to in various manuals.) Some people just love America, and value duty, honor, courage as the highest virtues. The second is person advancement; access to the GI bill, couldn’t get a job after graduating, what have you. The third reason is the elemental joy of taking high tech equipment and using it to blow shit up. Recruitment for the Navy soared after Top Gun, because everybody wanted to fly an F-14. There’s nowhere else in the world where you can cruise around in an armored vehicle, rocking and rolling a .50 caliber machine gun.
Military Human Enhancement alters these motivations. Enhancement technology appeals to a different group than the traditional “blow shit up” aficionados of military hardware. Depending on the exact nature of the enhancements, they might improve a soldier’s opportunities on leaving the army, be neutral, or hinder them by adding further complications to returning to civilian life, and ‘battle-mind’ capabilities that interfere with normal functioning. The transhumanist values associated with human enhancement (self-determination, immortality, and technological integration into the self), are in the direct opposition to traditional military values. Military human enhancement will transform the pool of potential recruits, with consequences for the army as a whole.
But one thing will always be true: The commercial where the Marine goes through the death-maze and fights a giant lava monster is freaking sweet.