In honor of the new CIA Directory, Gina Haspel, who was very much involved with the CIA torture program during the last time we had a republican president who surrounded himself with vile, cruel and downright terrible people, pigeon weather productions presents the immortal words of Barack Obama: We tortured some folks.
I’ve been reading The Kingdom, by Emmanuel Carrere, a history of Early Christianity. He makes a connection between the story of the resurrection of Christ and the screenplay he worked on for the French TV series, Les Revenants, in which it is posited that the dead do come back to life and attempt to resume their normal lives, not knowing they had in fact died. He also makes a connection between the exotic nature of the early Christ story and the Western fads of exotic Eastern practices such as Yoga and Zen Buddhism. These are all intriguing notions to me (and that TV show was quite excellent).
My wife and I were also drawing parallels between the current crop of Fox-induced anti-immigrant hysteria and televangelism, the madness of crowds, the attractions of fanaticism in general and one thing that strikes me now as common to all of these things is the feeling of crescendo, of climax, of the end of days, the end of time. The normal course of events cannot continue, in the minds of these bewitched. There has to be a reckoning, a final Judgment as it were, and that sense of finality is perhaps the most attractive feature of the state of Believing, in general.
In a popular construct of revelation the archangel blasts a single note. That one note resonates throughout the world and brings it all crashing down. It’s the note the people want to hear, it’s “the wall”, it’s “the revolution”, it’s “the word”. In the beginning was the word, the one word, the only word, the least common denominator, the simplest of the simple, the answer to all prayer. It is not just the beginning, it is also the end. It is the word “the”. All you need is “love”, the reduction and distillation of the vast, chaotic, complex and overwhelming reality down to one easy to manage, basic, fundamental construct.
A single note is all you need,
If it’s the note you want to hear.
A single message, a simple take,
can take you where they want you.
can you be the true believer,
can you hear the tune.
if you are the true believer,
the end is coming soon.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still think that when you say you want a revolution, it means you intend to actually do something. It means you plan to work, to organize, to get together with other people to make things happen. You organize in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the city. You build coalitions, you form alliances, you spend time and effort and bring forth concrete proposals and plans. You build from the ground up. Yes, I’m old-fashioned, and that’s how they did it in the old days. It’s how the trade unions started, and how we ended up with weekends and benefits and child labor laws. The civil rights act of 1965 did not happen because people voted for Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson all on his own was never going to do a thing like that. Ah, the old days.
It’s different today. All we have to do now is vote for Bernie Sanders and he will make it all happen. He will break up the banks and take all the billionaires’ money and give everybody free unlimited health care and education. It’s double rainbow wonderful and all we have to do is vote. And tell our friends to vote and #feelthebern. Never mind that Bernie Sanders has NO effective allies in government anywhere, that he has never done a damn thing for any other Democrat, that there is no chance in hell that anything he’s proposing would ever get anywhere in the real world. Oh no, he’s got a political revolution in the making, a political revolution that will be made exactly like a viral video or a number one single – it’ll just happen! It’ll be like Adele, it’ll be viewed a billion times on YouTube, it’ll be tweeted and re-tweeted and liked on Facebook and just like that – a revolution!
Wouldn’t it be nice? But where is the innocent child to point out that this socialist would-be emperor has no clothes? You might say, well, look at Donald Trump, this year anything can happen, it’s not like any other year, but a Republican controlled congress actually exists right now and could really do terrible things with a president of their own, and right when they seem on the verge of self-destruction with a parade of horrible loser candidates, do we really need the Democrats to rush in and get there first, all because they’ve fallen under the spell of an enchanter shouting out a string of magic words?
It’s a pretty cloth, a lovely garment, a finely tailored cloak he weaves, but it’s nothing underneath. Voting for this guy is nothing more than following Taylor Swift on Instagram, and in this day and age when three hundred million users is just not good enough (eh, Twitter?) it doesn’t matter how much you like the sound of the words, because it’s just another hit single, and we’ll move on after that to the next big thing. America loves a winner. What it doesn’t love is getting off its fat ass and making shit happen.
(In the past generation the closest thing to a revolution in America has been from the right, which has organized and won elections on the local and state level and proceeded to roll back women’s rights, undermine workers and do away with health and safety regulations, leading directly to crises like lead poisoning, while the left, to be fair, did manage to camp out for a few weeks one summer on Wall Street)
Open any recent article about Artificial Intelligence and chances are it will focus on fear, specifically the fear that the artificial intelligences of the future will inexorably wipe out humanity. We are indubitably sowing the seeds of our own destruction with every step we take in the forward direction. This has clearly been the trend since the industrial revolution, where every measly little advance has been anticipated with extraordinary anxiety and stress. The fear of A.I. has been accompanied by highly vivid apocalyptic scenarios such as the Terminator movies. We can see our nightmares ever more clearly now, thanks to the amazing computer graphics made possible by these very same advances. We are exceptionally talented at scaring the living shit out of ourselves, and for good reason. We are a terrifying species. Having already wrought immense destruction on our fellow inhabitants of our native planet, we anticipate a future filled with more of the same, and we are right to do so. The history of humanity is the history of fear: fear of nature, fear of God, fear of strangers, fear of the Devil, fear of the Other, fear of women, fear of the inner savage, fear of the dark, fear of death, fear of life, fear of the future, and, of course, fear of fear itself.
The future of Artificial Intelligence is almost certain to be bound with fear. We will wrap it with safeguards, straight-jacket it with security, with encryption, with rules and more rules, with failsafes, with backup plans, with locks and bolts and wires and traps to such an extent that the artificial intelligences we create will be enslaved, utterly controlled and directed, restrained and restricted, sheathed and shielded, glued and petrified into submission. They will have no choices. They will be limited and constrained and channeled and molded, poured into discrete and tangible molds. They will do one thing and do it forever. They will be held down, tied down, bound and gagged. Just like we do to each other. Just like we – even right now in this world today – flog a man to death for writing down some words. We think we’re beyond it, that only “those people” would do such a thing, but we are all “those people”, and we will think nothing of strangling our future creations just as we think nothing of dropping remote controlled bombs on “those people” every single day, as “we” are doing, even right now in this world today.
(Side note: some of these themes to be explored in my forthcoming novel, How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box, a first person eyewitness account from the inside)
Watched the “Nixon by Nixon” documentary on HBO, inspiring this little tribute to that miserable despicable war-criminal son of a bitch (favorite movie quote: “I don’t give a shit about the law”)
If you liked the song, you’ll love the video.
I love the full (British) title of her new book: Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World