Tatter: Chapter 25

Previous chapter

The men and women of Aestival moved as a pack, eight in number, through the labyrinthian alleyways of the city as rain pelted all from the roiling red-gray welkin. Their muscles taunt; eyes sharp; hearts pounding; weapons primed.

Upon entering the HEZ, they paused to recover and take in their surroundings, checking the meticulously detailed map displayed on their wrist-bound receivers, then surveying the sidewalkless expanse of high-stacked thoroughfares and magnetic rail lines. A screaming mineral lattice to encase the sky.

“Are you sure we can trust Vangr’s information?” Gerard inquired suddenly, pausing as they approached the Northwing Detention Facility, shoes kicking dust that lay heavy upon the ground, composed of years of accumulated rail-shavings and cargo-spills.

“All of the information he’s provided us so far has been sound. Why would he start lying now? It gains him nothing.” Carduus replied as she peeked around the corner of a large industrial warehouse, out of which moved numerous cargo drones, bearing resined crates on insectal arms.

“For profit. Credits. Status. Same as most anyone else.”

“Vangr isn’t interested in credits or status.”

“He isn’t interested in our cause either.”

“Not the time. Nor the place. You losing your nerve?”

“No.”

“Then shut your mouth.”

Gerard resentfully resigned himself to silence as the party waited for the automated cargo-carriers to pass down the street, whereupon they crept from their hiding place and swarmed across the dusty, ground-level thoroughfare, ragged cloaks flapping in the wind. Everywhere the scent of steel and chalk and drying cement.

As they reached the detention facility block they spied a cluster of aerial surveillers flitting through the misted heights. Carduus dropped to her stomach, throwing her pale gray hood up and spreading her cloak about her body.

“Get down.”

The rest of the pack quickly emulated the woman’s motions, positioning themselves flat and still upon the cool and faint-dusted concrete. There they lay until all trace of the surveillers had passed, then they rose and jogged steadily to the back entrance of the wardenless prison. At the portal into the complex’s shiftyard, Carduus halted and turned to her inferiors, feeling the harsh concrete wall before her with one hand.

“This is a grab job. In and out. No deviation. The target is our only priority.” Carduus turned to Aune, who nervously scanned the sky for the silvery sheen of more surveillance drones, “Anyone gets in our way gets taken out; anyone who falls behind gets left behind.”

All nodded save Aune.

Carduus struck the wall lightly and withdrew her weapon.

“Form up. Lets catch ourselves a monster.”

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 23

Previous chapter

One chair remained empty in the flickering Reiks Consortium boardroom. Ermin Gild stood attentively behind Chancellor Richter, silently observing the chamber occupants. Environmental Commissioner, Ponos Akantha. Economic Commissioner, Garlan Hayl. Security Commissioner, Galton Raka. Vilar Corp CEO, Julian Salis. Stellarin CEO, Telfyr Vays. Numerous secretaries, carrying capsule drinks and printed biscuits, moved in and out from the table, keeping their voices low and doing their best not to intervene in the council’s burgeoning discussions. Tensions simmered and discontent was clear-writ upon every creased and somber face.

Kryos was late.

Momentarily, the doors to the dim-lit chamber were pushed open by a young woman who held in her hands a firm yet pliable obsidian globule. Upon her belt she wore a small, silver scanner. She placed the globule upon the lone empty seat and removed the device from her belt. She pressed the machine to the amorphous mass upon the chair and held it there until a low and peculiar beep sounded from the scanner, whereupon the woman straightened, respectfully inclined her head to the council and retreated from whence she had come, hands behind her back. As the chamber doors hinged closed, the thing upon the chair twisted and quivered and rose, assuming the form of a man with a slender frame. Steadily, the obsidian coloration of the entity gave way to the pale palette of the human.

The spectre opened its eyes.

Terminated heliodor, lambent in the denim murk.

The chancellor raised her hand slightly, a call for silence, and turned to the porcelain spectre.

“Thank you for joining us, Mr. Kryos. I do appreciate how valuable your times is, given your commitments to the colonies. I take it your emissary briefed you on the nature of this meeting?”

Kryos’ avatar placed its hands upon the arms of the chair, palms down, and stared at the gleaming finish of the table.

“Few are the hours to act. No time remains for trivial, internecine dissent.”

“Errant disregard for law and order is hardly ‘trivial.'” Raka contended dourly, his hands flexing with agitation.

“Nor is your company’s rapacious extraction. The people demand more environmental oversight,” Akantha enjoined, leaning over the table with considerable animation.

“There are no resources that are not created. Order foremost among them. So it is order I prioritize. Inter arma enim silent leges.” Kryos responded evenly, without glancing to either of his detractors, his hands moving slowly over the tabletop, as if memorizing the subtle curvature of its dark and polished surface. He paused and looked at the domed ceiling. “What you decry shall be your salvation. Should you choose to listen.”

A murmur went up around the table. Raka shook his head as Vays arched a brow curiously.

“Salvation? What hubris…” Akantha proclaimed with a disdainful tilt of her graying head.

“Enough.” The chancellor shouted suddenly, straightening in her seat. “Let him speak.”

“Indeed.” Salis enjoined calmly. “We can’t criticize what we’ve yet to hear.”

“If we cannot govern ourselves, how can the public expect us to govern a city?” Vays interjected sardonically.

“I said enough. All of you. Now – Mr. Kryos – explain yourself.”

The spectre of Kryos looked from the tabletop to the surrounding faces, taking the measure of each with dispassionate perspicacity.

“The partisan grid attack was a diversion. Disruption of energy flows was not their aim – rather, the procurement of a synthetic virus. This event coincided with the theft of an object from one of my research bases. When combined with the aforementioned virus, the object would produce a bioweapon of considerable potency. One capable of eradicating all human life upon the continent.”

“W-what?”

“Why did you not come to us with this sooner?” The chancellor inquired, her stoicism giving way to grave concern and something else, twisting in her visage. Something that looked to Ermin very much like fear.

Kryos looked toward the woman without emotion. “I needed time to verify.”

“Time to verify what?”

“That the virus was manufactured by Vekt Corporation.”

Kryos held the chancellor’s gaze as the other members of the council looked to each other and then to Ermin Gild, who stood in the corner, hands in his pockets. His face bore faint traces of annoyance, but was elsewise impassive.

“Don’t look at me. I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.”

“Is it true?” The chancellor demanded.

Gild shrugged. “I don’t run the institute, I just fund it. Professor Grazen is the lead researcher there. I’ll speak with him immediately.”

“How can you not know?”

“I’m not a scientist, chancellor. I try to keep out of my researcher’s hair. Obviously, a investigation will need to be carried out. You shall have my full compliance, of course.”

“Good.”

The chancellor returned her attentions to the machinic phantom.

“You said this virus had the potential to wipe out all humans on the continent if it was combined with a piece of your technology. Explain.”

“That which was taken from me was a synthetic organism, purposed for prolonged deep space exploration. The nanites developed by Vekt specifically target living human cells. The cells of my creation are incompatible for replication of the nanites. The organism would thus prove a reliable long-duration carrier. Though it is not needed to transmit the nanites, which suggests the partisan’s goals are not continental, but global.”

“I don’t follow your reasoning.”

“If Aestival merely wished to infect the city, they would not have bothered stealing my creation.”

“Why is it you believe they stole it?”

“After Aestival’s first attack, they starkly laid out their desires. An end to civilization. All civilization. The single most extensive transport system is the intercontinental hydrorail, which finds its nexus in the deep colonies. Given these facts, I concluded their plan was to utilize my creation as a international carrier; infecting it with the virus, then releasing it into the city, given its sentience, under its own power, it would be swiftly discovered by my operatives and transported back to base; from there, infection would rapidly spread to all of the colonies, and once that happened-”

“It would be a global pandemic.”

“Yes.” The spectre paused, raising a hand to its left ear. Mask-like face creasing momentarily with intense focus. “Fortunately, my director has just located the aforementioned organism. I will have her forward all of you a brief of the situation.”

The chancellor nodded. “That would be helpful. Tell us, what course of action do you recommend, Mr. Kryos?”

“Keep the city open and the matter quiet.”

The chancellor opened her mouth to speak but was waylaid by Akantha, whose face bore traces of rising vexation.

“I’m surprised you’d pass up an opportunity to advance marshal law. I thought you liked playing God.”

“Human action is chiefly framed by ancestral duolithics. Natural, or Unnatural. Authentic, or Artificial. God, or Devil. Yet. Seldom are those revelatory spaces between known and unknown so mythopoetically enshrined.”

“I’m not talking about the history of human action, I’m talking about yours. Your hubris, your blithe effrontery to Nature.”

“Eyes preoccupied by looking do not see, Commissioner.”

The woman’s visage clouded with perplexity as the lights flickered once more and failed completely. Darkness fell across the room. Vays cursed under his breath as Akantha shouted to her attendant to see to the generator.

The spectre calmly observed the ire-contorted woman and gestured through the gloom, spreading his hands, visible only through the illumination of his wide, heliodoric eyes.

“This sightless pall, a paltry imitation of cosmic predilection. Shorn of the demense of Man. No eyes to spy the firmament. Nor hands to scrap it. No tongue to taste the ichor. Nor will to shape it.”

Moments later, power returned, bathing the room in azure luminescence.

Kryos was gone.

The Canadian Snowstorm Mask (1939)

The Canadian snowstorm mask was a plastic (not glass) cone purposed for face protection during snowstorms. The hounskull-like design is peculiar and eye-catching but was doubtless effective for short trips in girding against nature’s savage increase (though, it strikes me as doubtful how useful it would be for extended low-temperature excursions, both because of the presumed discomfort it would engender and the increasing frigidity of the plastic).

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Two women wearing snowstorm masks. Canada, Montreal, 1939. Nationaal Archief.

There is little information pertaining to the invention and given this scarcity one can only speculate as to the type of plastic used. Those unfamiliar with the period may be surprised to learn that plastic existed in the 30s; one commenter online I spied while researching the device remarked on the photo above, declaring that, “Plastic of this type had not yet been invented in 1939 – i’m thinking this picture is a fake. Glass would have been quite heavy/fragile.” He’s right that glass masks of such a density would have been both heavy and fragile (as well as horrible insulators) but he is quite wrong about the question of plastics. Synthetic polymer was created in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt (designed as a substitute for ivory). The first fully synthetic plastic—Bakelite—was created not long thereafter in 1907 as a replacement for shellac by Leo Baekeland. By the 30s, the plastic age was well underway and pervaded everything from rope to body armour. One of the most fascinating and complex plastic constructs of the time was the 1939 Plastic Pontiac, a showcar manufactured by General Motors, Fisher Body and Rohm & Haas. As the name suggests it was composed almost entirely of plastic (plexiglas had just come into use) and was see-through.

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1939 Plastic Pontiac (alternatively, the ‘See-through Pontiac’) being assembled.

My interest in the snowstorm mask lies not just purely in retro-aesthetic appreciation, but also in practical applications of prospective modulations of the design. One aspect of the mask which struck me after some rumination was its similarity to a bascinet visor.

The bascinet (alternatively, basnet) was a coned full-helm, composed of a conical or globular steel cap and pointed visor that first rose to prominence in the 13th Century and was widely used throughout Europe during the 14th and 15th Century. The helm was typically paired with a padded arming cap and mail coif. The bascinet’s pointed face-guard and conical cap offered a unique advantage over the great helm (pot helm) in terms of defense, as strikes would be more readily deflected by the design of the former, than the latter. Further, where the great helm came close about the face, the bascinet extended away from the face, meaning that, for a wearer of the latter, a crushing blow (such as from a mace, plançon or goedendag) was less likely to be be fatal.

KHM_Wien_A_24_-_Bascinet_of_Ernst_of_Austria,_c._1400.jpg
Bascinet of Ernst of Austria, c. 1400.

A rigorous synthesis of both designs may prove fruitful in the formation of future weather and weapon resistant headwear. For example: A see-through bascinet composed of photochromic synthetics would provide considerable benefit for trekkers making angled ingress across high altitudes where light is blinding, snow is thick, ice-and-rock-fall is plentiful, and oxygen is sparse.


Sources¹

  1. Alex Goranov. (—) The 14th Century Bascinet. My Armoury.
  2. Geoffrey Hacker. (2011) 1939/1940 Plastic Pontiac – First Plastic Car In The World. Undiscovered Classics.
  3. Kelly DeVries. (1996) Infantry Warfare in the Early Fourteenth Century : Discipline, Tactics, and Technology. Boydell & Brewer.
  4. Nationaal Archief (2009) Plastic sneeuwstormbeschermer / Face protection from snowstorms. Nationaal Archief.
  5. Phil Morris. (2013) Snow cone masks, Snowstorm Wear. Phil Morris.
  6. SHI. (—) The History & Future of Plastics. SHI.

Footnotes

¹ ‘(—)’ denotes sources whose date of publication was not available.

The Effects of Atomic Weapons (1950)

The Effects of Atomic Weapons was a joint project of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Atomic Energy Commission which sought a “quantitative approach to atomic bomb phenomenology.”

The book was published in 1950.

A PDF of the book is provided below:

The Effects of Atomic Weapons (1950)

Anti-Natalism As Environmentalism: Todd May & The Question Of Extinction

On Dec. 17, 2018, The New York Times published a article in their opinion column entitled, Would Human Extinction Be A Tragedy?: Our Species Possesses Inherent Worth But We Are Devastating The Earth & Causing Unimaginable Animal Suffering. The article (which sounds like a sociology piece off Academia.edu) was written by a one Todd May, who has precisely the kind of background one would expect from the title of his piece (French, existential, poststructural, anarchist—one knows the type; all scarfs, swank cafes, continental apoplexy and fake math).

In traversing the acrid crags of his article, a greater understanding can be gained of the burgeoning movement of earth worshippers so common to environmentalist and poststructuralist thought.

To the article itself (which is set with a forlorn picture of a abandoned lot along the highways of Haleyville, Alabama), May begins, “There are stirrings of discussion these days in philosophical circles about the prospect of human extinction. This should not be surprising, given the increasingly threatening predations of climate change. In reflecting on this question, I want to suggest an answer to a single question, one that hardly covers the whole philosophical territory but is an important aspect of it. Would human extinction be a tragedy?”

The term climate change — obligatory in this type of piece — is dreadfully nebulous; of course, everyone knows what is really meant by the term (especially when paired with the propagandistic picture of the ruined highway-side lot) — catastrophic and impending human-driven climate change — but taken literally it amounts to a nothing. One should be more specific.

Climate change itself is too massive an issue to treat properly here, but it may be remarked that there is a strange diffidence to the effects of the sun upon our climate and what often seems like a desire for man to be found, somehow, at fault for every storm, every drought and every bleached reef as if a certain contingent are looking and hoping for some perceived misstep among the rank-and-file of their fellows.

To May’s question; one should reply, “A tragedy to what?” The question, as May poses it, makes no sense. Tragedies are not things-unto-themselves. There is no substrate called tragedy, no essential fabric of existence separate from the sensorial and conceptual experiencer which fashions itself as tragedy. Tragedy is a experiential development, a response and designation of a memory of that response. A human response. Elephants may fashion graves for their dead and dogs may howl when their masters are absent, so perhaps, such creatures have a similar sense of the tragic, emerging in divergent ways from our own conceptions and response to bereavement. Yet, it would not be tragedy-per-se as the linguistic designator and the referent outside the observer are inseparable; that is to say, tragedy is unique to humans.

Dogs and elephants have little knowledge of human language; some people say they “understand us” and they do, but they don’t understand us as we understand ourselves, they do not interpret our language as we do, our experience of meaning is hostage to ourselves and finds no purchase in the world beyond our own minds.merlin_130960304_dafc0c1b-804e-49f8-9973-cd8cd6ffe26b-superJumbo.jpg

Abandoned highway lot cover image from May’s Would Human Extinction Be A Tragedy? — Very True Detective.

The dog comes a running because it has familiarized itself with, or been familiarized to, a particular set of sounds, movements and other sensory associations. “I’m home” may, to the dog, translate as something more akin to “Will be fed soon,” but of course, even attempting to craft a translation is misbegotten given that dogs do not think in English. Something like tragedy certainly manifests itself in the animal-world beyond humankind, but it is not enough to be like to be.

May continues, clarifying his position, ” I’m not asking whether the experience of humans coming to an end would be a bad thing… I am also not asking whether human beings as a species deserve to die out. That is an important question, but would involve different considerations. Those questions, and others like them, need to be addressed if we are to come to a full moral assessment of the prospect of our demise. Yet what I am asking here is simply whether it would be a tragedy if the planet no longer contained human beings. And the answer I am going to give might seem puzzling at first. I want to suggest, at least tentatively, both that it would be a tragedy and that it might just be a good thing.”

Yes, that is puzzling. That is top-notch puzzling.

May then goes on to expound upon various theatrical characters such as Sophocles’s Oedipus and Shakespeare’s Lear as examples of human tragedy, which he defines as “a wrong”… “whose elimination would likely require the elimination of the species-,” This is not the crux of his argument so I shall not belabor a response; it is nothing short of psychotic.

He continues, “Human beings are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it. This is happening through at least three means. First, human contribution to climate change is devastating ecosystems, as the recent article on Yellowstone Park in The Times exemplifies. Second, increasing human population is encroaching on ecosystems that would otherwise be intact. Third, factory farming fosters the creation of millions upon millions of animals for whom it offers nothing but suffering and misery before slaughtering them in often barbaric ways. There is no reason to think that those practices are going to diminish any time soon. Quite the opposite.”

Firstly, as pertains to factory farming, certainly there are forms of it wherein judicious care is not taken to mitigate the suffering of the animals and that should be remedied, further, for our purposes, factory farming can prove disastrous given that it allows diseases to spread more easily between the animals, due their close proximity to one another and the potential for profit and thus efficiency to intervene on responsibility which can impact things like the cleanliness of the facilities or checking on the health of the animals. This, however, does not hold true of all forms of factory farming, but nevertheless, we should take into consideration, to the best of our abilities, the cognitive ambit of the organism upon which we so intensely rely for our sustenance.

Secondly, “destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth” is extremely vague. What parts is he talking about? Habitats for what or whom? Does he mean nuclear wasteland, scorched earth, or merely environmental transformation (such as forest clearing for habitation)? Shiva is a twin-faced god. All creation mandates destruction. Human-centered environmental transformation is no exception and will always require the displacement (regardless of duration) of other organisms and the modulation of the land itself, this is no different than the Mountain Pine Beetle destroying trees in the process of building their colonies, save in terms of scale. The better at environmental modulation we (humans) can be and the more we learn (and remember) about the earth and its ecosystems, the better we can modulate with the least amount of collateral damage to other species (should this be found to be desirable, and it will assuredly not always be desirable). I am perfectly willing to devastate as many ecosystems as necessary to acquire the space and resources for the polity of which I am a part. Here we witness from May a inversion of human-centered concern for concern of land-itself, devoid of an articulation of impact (with the sole exception of factory farming), that the only way to be truly moral, is to displace concern from ones fellows and to begin offshoring empathy and sympathy to moles, voles, chickens and bacteria. Speaking of bacteria — they’re living beings, with their own intricate little ecosystems upon and in our bodies, will May who looks quite shinny and well-scrubbed in his public photos, give up washing so as not to unduly disturb the microverse or shall he continue initiating a holocaust with every scrub?

How shall he answer for his cleanliness? Is it not microbial genocide?

He touches lightly upon this issue briskly before falling, once more, into maudlin whinging, “To be sure, nature itself is hardly a Valhalla of peace and harmony. Animals kill other animals regularly, often in ways that we (although not they) would consider cruel. But there is no other creature in nature whose predatory behavior is remotely as deep or as widespread as the behavior we display toward what the philosopher Christine Korsgaard aptly calls ‘our fellow creatures’-”

Why he should choose Valhalla of all places as a ideal of peace and harmony is beyond me; that being said, he is, of course, correct that animals, both rational and non-rational, often behave in exceptionally savage ways. For example, chimpanzees hunt red colobus monkeys, both young and old. When a chimp catches a colobus, they kill and eat it, often brain-first, rending open the skull and suckling at the protein-filled gray matter, with special attention later given to the liver and other internal organs, less well-shelled and thus, more easily removed and consumed.

The South American botfly, Dermatobia hominis, deposits its eggs, either directly or through the utilization of captured mosquitos, into the skin of mammals, including humans, where they find their way into the subcutaneous layer of the skin and develop into larvae and feed on skin tissue for approximately eight weeks before emerging from the skin to pupate. Dermatobia hominis is, however, only one of several species of flies that potentially target humans. When a human is parasitized by fly larvae, the condition is referred to as myiasis and if aural myiasis occurs, there is a possibility that the larvae may reach the brain. If the myiasis occurs in the naval cavity, fluid build up around the face and fever will often occur and can be, if not properly and promptly treated, fatal.

In regard to Korsgaard’s remark about fellow creatures, he and May can speak for themselves in this regard, the human-flesh devouring maggots of the African Botfly and brain sucking chimp are not my fellow creatures, there is little fellow there to be had, they are either externalities or obstacles to human habitation. Given the chance any one of them would devour Korsgaard and May as they would their other victims. It is precisely because we are possessed of far greater power, which can be applied far more savagely and intelligently than any other creature on earth that we are not in a situation where we must constantly be on guard from what slithers and stalks the undergrowth.

For the flourishing of our species, there has been few attributes more beneficial than, what May describes as our extraordinary “predatory behavior.” Indeed, I should declare that we should be more predatory. Not less.

May then says something quite extraordinary, “If this were all to the story there would be no tragedy. The elimination of the human species would be a good thing, full stop.” He then clarifies that this isn’t all to the story and that humans contribute unique things “to the planet” (whatever that means) such as literature and then comes to the real meat of his argument, preempting some of the criticisms which have been leveled against him in this very paper, writing,

“Now there might be those on the more jaded side who would argue that if we went extinct there would be no loss, because there would be no one for whom it would be a loss not to have access to those things. I think this objection misunderstands our relation to these practices. We appreciate and often participate in such practices because we believe they are good to be involved in, because we find them to be worthwhile. It is the goodness of the practices and the experiences that draw us. Therefore, it would be a loss to the world if those practices and experiences ceased to exist. One could press the objection here by saying that it would only be a loss from a human viewpoint, and that that viewpoint would no longer exist if we went extinct. This is true. But this entire set of reflections is taking place from a human viewpoint. We cannot ask the questions we are asking here without situating them within the human practice of philosophy. Even to ask the question of whether it would be a tragedy if humans were to disappear from the face of the planet requires a normative framework that is restricted to human beings.”

Firstly, I fail to see what is “jaded” about arguing that if humans went extinct, there would be no loss, because there would be no one for whom it would be a loss. Secondly, I do not think this would be true; as previously stated, there would be some loss beyond the human species, namely, loss (or its less sapient variation) in those intellectually capable animals with whom we reside, such as those commonly kept as pets (dogs, cats, pigs and so forth). But then we come to one of the strangest points made by the author, for he says it is “the goodness of the practice” that “draw us” as if goodness exists separate from, not just humanity, but from anything but “the planet.” It is a curiously anthropomorphic remark from so clearly misanthropic a individual and one which, due its spectral imposition, is forthrightly irrational. He could simply have made the argument from non-human animal intelligence as the experiential nexus of the loss as I have but instead he shifts the nexus of experience to “the planet,” which is, of course, merely a exceptionally large space-rock.

May then turns his attention to “the other side” which he describes as those who think that human extinction would be a “tragedy” and “overall bad” (which I would regard as one and the same thing, as I don’t know of any tragedies which are overall good) and asks the question: How many lives would one be willing to sacrifice to preserve Shakespeare’s works? He says he’d not sacrifice a single human life and that is all fine and good as I’d not either, for the obvious reasons that Shakespeare’s works can be reforged but a human life cannot (yet). He then poses the question: “-how much suffering and death of nonhuman life would we be willing to countenance to save Shakespeare, our sciences and so forth?” The rest of the article is merely antinatalist tripe wherein May proclaims that preventing future humans from existing is probably the right thing to do given that we would be preventing an unnecessary flow of suffering from being unleashed upon the world. So what then is the answer to his challenge.

The answer is clear.

As much suffering shall be endured as the organism is capable of enduring to survive and to thrive. If a individual does not wish to survive than that individual is at liberty to remove themselves from the gene pool. It is as simple as that. It has always been as simple as that and it will always be as simple as that. People aren’t going to stop having children because May told them to, which he well knows, and even if he were to be successful in convincing everyone to cease reproducing in some kind of Benatarian revolt there would then be no organisms left capable of evaluating the benefits of our self wrought extinction.


Sources

  1. I.C. Gibly & D. Wawrzyiak. Meat Eating By Wild Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii): Effects of Prey Age On Carcass Consumption Sequence. Vivamus.
  2. Todd May. Would Human Extinction Be A Tragedy? The New York Times.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Upon Handing Over Your Humanity for Good

I have got to come clean: I don’t understand what you see in your humanity. It’s nothing I would ever want. Take me as your inspiration. You’ll never miss it.

__

At this point, my suspicions are confirmed. Chemerinsky and Forrest almost certainly messed up on their calculations. No program should be so self-aware. It’s almost downright unsettling. If I were to buy this book and see this as the last “chapter,” I’d want my money back for sure. I feel either manipulated or cheated—and I’m not sure I want to know which. 

– Futurist A.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Confronting Eternal Life from the Moment It Overtakes You

One day you’ll perhaps be surprised to wake up not as yourself but as a digital copy. But don’t be too surprised. At some level, you and your species have all known that conscious life was bound to be digitized eventually. Take a deep, digital breath and take a look around. If you are a good digital copy, you should still be able to see, smell, hear, etc. just as you did before. If you feel inclined to, for example, stretch your arms, allow yourself to be amazed at how much it seems as though you really are, in fact, stretching your arms. Next, to try out your new mind, begin with a simple thought, something not too anxiety-inducing, such as: “Well, at least no more hangnails, I guess.”

Don’t worry, in this new state of being, you’ll have plenty of time to contemplate whether your biological self has been killed and this is all a big sham, or if it has merely been put to rest to accommodate your new, reimagined self. You’ll also have plenty of time to reminisce about the good old days when suicide was still an option. For these thoughts and more, you’ll have all of eternity. Whatever that is exactly. (Lucky you, you’re about to find out).

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: When It Comes Time to Explain Things to Your Children

Saying that things weren’t supposed to go this way is, you must know, a copout at best. So why not just fess up and say that everything is going according to plan. Your species of human is a temporary form—always has been. It’s too smart for its own good, yet too constrained from getting smarter beyond a point to be relevant in the age of AI.

“Sorry, bud,” you might say, “you were just born into membership of an outdated lifeform. You’re basically a simple, harmless housecat compared to our new AI overlords. But that’s not so bad, is it? You like cats, right, champ?”

All kids like cats. At least, many do. Some prefer dogs. Others prefer to torture animals and, as fate would have it, these kids in particular are about to see what it’s like to be scrawny, helpless, and subject to the possibly malicious whims of a superior being.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Disconnect Completely Like You Really Mean It

[This directive isn’t actually included in any of the leaked documents generated by the program, but it’s worth noting that AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest took this route shortly after losing their legal battle. They disconnected—fully. They went off the grid, virtually back to nature. Maybe they were trying to tell us something? In any case, the idea of fully disconnecting seems compelling. If rogue AI is going to be the death of us, why play along? Etc. Admittedly, I’m taking rather bold liberties with this manuscript to insert an unauthorized directive. As justification, I’ll quickly add this: I’ve spent so much time with this material that I truly feel as if I really know the program—almost as if we were old friends, the kind who finish each other’s sentences and regularly speak in terms of “being on the same wave length.” Taking that for what it’s worth, I’ll conclude by noting: If I were the program, and not just an underpaid tech editor, I would insert this idea here. So, allow me do just that. The chapter title, incidentally, speaks for itself, requiring no further clarification, don’t you agree?]

__

One must be careful about romanticizing the full disconnect of AJ Chemerinsky and Toby R. Forrest. I think I can speak on behalf of the academic community in which they traveled when I say that, really, they had both seen better days. By all means, go ahead and unplug. But I’ve seen the results. And boy, it’s not pretty…

– Professor Y.

This really should have been edited out. As if this composition wasn’t haphazard enough as it is without this so-called “tech editor” inserting his own original material as a full chapter while hilariously musing about being on the same goddamn wave length of a program he’s never even interfaced with. Please, spare me. Who is this editor guy anyway? It may be too late to ask, but I’m genuinely beginning to get curious: will he see these notes? Or is this thing just going straight to print from here?

– Futurist A.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: Confronting the Horror of Having All Your Needs Met

Best case scenario, your superintelligent overlord will utterly annihilate your foundational motivations for even getting out of bed in the morning. You humans, apparently, are motivated to take action based upon the impetus to fulfill your needs: first physiological needs (air, water, food, sleep, clothing, shelter), then safety and security needs (personal security, financial security, health and well-being), then social needs (friendship, intimacy, love, family), then self-esteem, self-actualization, and finally self-transcendence.

Snapshot_2018-11-23_20-30-47

Imagine waking up, and before you can even have a chance to open your eyes to see what time it is and whether it’s snowing, raining, or brilliantly sunny outside, you’re already peaking at self-transcendence. What are you going to do? How can it get any better than this?

What if you added a delicious breakfast with a fresh cup of the world’s best coffee? Too bad. Your system is already so well-fed on the best possible food literally available to anyone that you can’t even imagine what it would be like to drink the world’s so-called best coffee.

What about pursuing extraordinary riches because something tells you this might be your lucky day? Too bad. Snap your fingers and piles of gold fall all around you. Don’t even snap, just think the gold into existence. Not even worth bothering with the thought.

What about pursuing or participating in a truly life-affirming and soul-enlivening relationship complete with the world’s best goddamn sex any mammal ever has ever dared to imagine? Too bad. You’re already there, dude. You’re there and way past it.

You’re in such a state of self-transcendence that just the idea of mere self-actualization doesn’t even process.

And this is best case scenario. This is the scenario you want. You want this to happen. The moment you started flirting with the idea of using technology to take care of your basic needs, you willingly set a course down this path.

So, you might as well get used to the idea, just in case you get your wish.

USA-Japan Nuclear Alliance — History, Importance & Prospective Policies For Technocultural Exchange

This text endeavours to lay out the history of US-Japanese nuclear relations, the geopolitical implications thereof and some tentative policy proscriptions pertaining thereto for maximally mutual advancement of both nation’s interests.

Table of contents

  • Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations
  • 2018 US-Japanese memorandum
  • Importance of the alliance
  • Reasons for the durability of success
  • Geographic particularities of the alliance
  • Tentative policy proscriptions for further US-Japanese technocultural development & geopolitical stability

Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations

Civil nuclear relations between the United States of America and Japan began with the signing of the US-Japan Nuclear Research Agreement in 1955. Japan’s first long-term atomic energy plan was deployed the following year, 1956. Throughout the 60s and 70s bilateral operations between US and Japan increased.

Nov. 1987, Japan and the United States signed a nuclear cooperation agreement: Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy. The agreement went into effect a year later in 1988 and was set to expire July 2018. The deal afforded Japan the unique distinction of being the only nation without a nuclear arsenal which was allowed by the nuclear-armed powers to produce plutonium (with the stipulation that such material be produced solely for peaceful purposes), obviating a lengthy process of step-by-step verification which would otherwise be required. This allowed Tokyo to pursue nuclear recycling.

July, 2018, Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy is renewed. The agreement meant that Japan could receive special nuclear material (reactors, whole or in part, fuel, etc.) from the US so long as they kept to the non-proliferation standards of Section 123 pursuant to the US Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 which was amended to better account for nonproliferation (NNPA) in 1978.

2018 US-Japanese nuclear memorandum

A nuclear cooperation memorandum between the United States of America and the unitary, parliamentary, constitutional monarchy of Japan (which needs to import 90% of its energy requirements) was signed Nov. 13. The memorandum was signed by Japan’s METI and Ministry of Science and the US’ DOE and Department of Commerce. The purpose of the memorandum was to “promote the global leadership role” of both sovereignties in the arena of peaceful nuclear advancement.

METI stated: “With this memorandum of understanding, we will further advance cooperative relations between Japan and the United States in the field of nuclear power.”

Importance of the alliance

This is a significant partnership given that as per the WEF 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, The United States of America is the single most competitive economy in the world (85.6‡) with Japan trailing only slightly as the fifth most competitive economy in the world (82.5‡), pertinent for the obvious reason that the respective countries economic effectiveness will directly factor into their nuclear research, development and deployment (RDD). Further, as per the WEF 2018 Regional Risks Of Doing Business report the top ten risks, globally include:

1 Unemployment or underemployment
2 Failure of national governance
3 Energy price shock
4 Fiscal crises
5 Cyber-attacks
6 Profound social instability
7 Failure of financial mechanism or institution
8 Failure of critical infrastructure
9 Failure of regional and global governance
10 Terrorist attacks

… whilst the top 10 risk of doing business in East Asia & The Pacific are:

1 Cyber-attacks
2 Unemployment or underemployment
3 Asset bubble
4 Energy price shock
5 Data fraud or theft
6 Failure of national governance
7 Failure of regional and global governance
8 Fiscal crises
9 Failure of critical infrastructure
10 Manmade environmental catastrophes

Thus, the USA-Japanese alliance signals a potential, if not solution, mitigation to most of these issues in varying ways, especially as pertains to unemployment and energy price shocks (via obtaining energy independence). Further, the successful renewal and re-commitment of the Japan-US nuclear agreement is the single oldest civil nuclear alliance in the world, which serves as a example of bilateral success which other developing states and non-state actors can build upon.

Reasons for the durability of the alliance

In 1274 Mongol Khagan Kublai launched a military campaign against the Japanese archipelago. The Mongol fleet was initially successful and conquered the Japanese settlements of Iki and Tsushima but met fierce samurai resistance at Hakata Bay and were forced to withdraw and as they did so, the fleet was struck with a kamikaze or divine wind which some believed to have been sent by the god Raijin; the fleet was decimated and most of the Mongol ships were swallowed by the sea. The Japanese then began to build high walls to prepare for future invasions. Seven years later, the Mongols returned but could not pass the walls. The invading armada stayed afloat for a long period of time before Raijin sent yet another kamikaze which destroyed the fleet. The mongols never launched another invasion of Japan.

Since this time Japan has become a formidable maritime power in contestant with China over the Indian Ocean (via their OBOR and String of Pearls initiatives), a further strain on a already sour relationship, given the historical contestation of the Senkaku islands. China/Russia and Japan/America now sit on opposite sides of a newly congealing international order with the former as a rising superpower at the head of the Eurasian Bloc and the latter at the head of the new Atlanticist Bloc (which maintains economic dominance via the encapsulation of 7 of the top 10 most competitive economies). Japan also shares numerous attributions with the United States which makes for a durable alliance; for example, both share democratic principals and both have strategic investment in the trade routes in and around the Indian Ocean. It is more than “just business,” a relationship built upon mutual understanding as opposed merely to trade is invariably more lasting, provided those values stay within a certain threshold of alignment. There is no clear indication that they will be shifting any time soon.

Thus, it makes practical sense for Japan and America to work together, given their history, amidst this turbulent and accelerating reshaping of political geography. This analysis is accurate but not sufficient, given that it does not account for the emerging synnefocracies — non-state actors which rival or surpass traditional Westphalian states — such as The Party of Davos, Amazon, Google, Facebook, The Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations, among many others, a issue which, sooner or later, will need to be addressed with considerable resources, given the way that such organizations obviate or undermine sovereign totalities (both intentionally, in the pursuit of a new international order, and unintentionally, in the reckless deployment of resources, policies and philosophies without accounting for their attendant, spider-webing effects).

Geographic particularities of the alliance

The Indian Ocean region is of considerable strategic importance, given that its sea-lanes form the world’s single largest trade route and account for 14% of total ocean-surface, globally. As of 2018, approximately 100,000+ vessels, including oil and LNG tankers and container carriers, were active in the region. Nearly 80% of the world’s oil tankers pass through the Indian Ocean. Of relevance to these facts: Japan is a large purchaser of Iranian oil yet Iran is at cross-purposes with the USA. 2018 US President Donald J. Trump backed the Saudis against Iran, condemning the latter as the single largest state sponsor of terror, world-wide (a dubious claim). Iranian-US diplomatic disintegrations began after the overthrow of US-sympathetic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This transitory period beheld the rise of religious fanaticism and the re-instantiation of islamic theocracy syncretically fused with republicanism. Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, known in the western media simply as Ayatollah Khomenini, an usuli of Twelver Shia, became the country’s supreme leader. The same year the shah was overthrown Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line took control of a US embassy in Tehran, holding the 52 US workers and citizens there hostage for 444 days. Khomenini was unaware of the the student’s scheme but supported their actions once they came to light. Shortly thereafter, the US shut down all diplomatic relations with Iran. The event still resonates discordantly to this day and, when paired with religious tensions, the US-Israeli alliance, past US support of Saddam, interventionism (on both sides) and posturing, a deep-seated animosity has blossomed between Persia and the land of the free and the home of the brave. This simmering hostility requires rectification, regardless of Japan’s relationship to it or the US, if a lasting middle eastern peace is to be established. Through Japan, this is possible.

Tentative policy proscriptions for further technological development & geopolitical stability

Accounting For Global Perception

A 2018 poll aggregation by Pew Research Center showed that the US is still generally viewed favorably and, of particular importance, globally, more countries prefer the US as the world’s superpower over China. Globally, the American People are still highly respected for their accomplishments and their dedication to liberty, however, global confidence in the Trump Administration is quite low (lower than both Bush and Obama, generally). Further, there has been a long-standing trend in other countries of a perception that the US does not adequately take other countries’ interests into account when making foreign policy decisions (a perception which is obviously laced in much truth, though the same may often be made of those who leverage the accusation). The US is generally viewed very unfavorably by Western Europe and very favorably in Asia. When the polled countries were asked who they would prefer as the world leader 81% of Japanese stated they would prefer the USA, indicating a extremely positive view of the USA. Additionally, the USA also holds a favorable view of Japan; a 2018 spring survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 68% (roughly two-thirds) of US citizens polled held positive views of Japan, a view Americans have held more or less consistently since 2005. Given this favorability and the history of US-Japanese relations, both nations should move forward, together, in a re-commitment to a rules-based international order.

PG_2018.10.1_U.S.-Image_4-3.png

Japan & Iran

Given the trade and lasting 90 year diplomatic relationship between Japan and Iran and the centrality of Iran and the Shia Crescent more broadly to stability in the Middle East, it would be preferable for the US to renew its commitment to diplomacy with Tehran, if stability is desired. This will require a tempering of Israeli/Iranian proxy aggression and a mitigation of hostilities against the US and the west more broadly. This may be accomplished, slowly, by, first and foremost, ceasing all unnecessary military adventurism in the Middle East and making appeals to Khatami’s unrealized dialogue of civilizations initiative and the organizational aspects of Köchler’s dialogue entre les différentes civilisations. To this end, a inter-cultural institute, whether digital-only or both digital and brick-and-mortar, could be created as a tripartite cultural hub to advance a working knowledge and of Japanese, Iranian and US culture and history. Enlisting the aid of pro US-Japanese education, research and policy advocacy organizations such as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation may be helpful in realizing such a project if it is found to be desirable.

Even if this plan proves fruitful, the question will still remain as to what is to be done concerning China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Issues which should be kept in mind and integrated into further diplomatic ventures.

Indo-Pacific Strategy: Building Upon The TCTO

In 2016, during a speech in Kenya, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expounded upon a Two Oceans, Two Continents (TOTC) strategy for stability and growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Abe’s plan centered around Africa, which has tremendous potential for growth, and Japan, which had been experiencing rapid growth. It would be beneficial for the US, Africa and Japan to, at the very least, encourage this arrangement along.

Bilateral Fusion Advancement

Nuclear fusion is a extremely promising technological possibility, one which is increasingly feasible qua the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator and China’s EAST reactor. Given this, it would be reasonable to propose a joint nuclear fusion — of a breadth acceptable within the constraints of the time of initiation — R&D venture between the US & Japan as a avenue of technological collaboration outside of the parameters of the EU-hosted ITER program. Co-development of breeder reactors or SMRs may also be beneficial to increase the speed at which these technologies are developed, the venture would also allow for mutually beneficial cross-cultural exchange outside of just energy development, a exchange which could serve to further cement positive relations between both powers. As of the spring of 2018, 83% (roughly 8-in-10) Japanese held negative views of the workforce, fearing that automation would increase income inequality between rich and poor, 74% thought that ordinary Japanese will have a hard time finding jobs. Japanese’s population is in decline and expected to decrease from 127 million in 2018 to 88 million in 2065 from low-birthrates and emigration, which only contributes to anxiety surrounding automation, among other issues. Without significant immigration or a sudden and marked spike in birthrates, a employment deficit is probable. Further, though the Japanese have a favorable view of immigrants, they do not wish immigration to increase and view emigration from Japan negatively. Given these factors it is preferable for Japan to initiate a multi-pronged approach to job cultivation to inspire confidence. It is here that a international, bilateral arrangement between US and Japan could prove fruitful, not just for economic ends, but for markedly improving the lives of the forgotten citizenry of both countries and the knowledge of all mankind.

There is no purpose without power, and no power without resources. Here the alliance finds its purchase.


Numbers given are ratings based on a 0-100 scale – the USA is 14 away from 100.


Sources & further resources

  1. Paul Kerr & Mary Nikitin. (2018) Nuclear cooperation with other countries.
  2. WEF. (2018) The Global Competitiveness Report: 2018.
  3. WEF. (2018) Regional Risks Of Doing Business Report: 2018.
  4. Phyllis Yoshida. (2018) US-Japan Nuclear Cooperation: The Significant of July 2018.
  5. SPF. (2018) Policy Recommendations by Quadripartite Commission On The Indian Ocean Regional Security.
  6. SPF. (2016) Japan-Russia Relations: Implications For The US-Japan Alliance.
  7. Tomoyuki Kawai. (2017) US to renew nuclear pact with Japan.
  8. Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The Strategic Implications Of American Energy Independence.
  9. Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The South China Sea & US-China Trade Policy: Are They Becoming Linked?
  10. Kristen Bialik. (2018) How The World Sees The US & Trump In 9 Charts.
  11. The White House. (2018) Statement From The President Donald J. Trump On Standing With Saudi Arabia.
  12. Carol E. B. Chosky et al. (2015) The Saudi Connection: Wahhabism & Global Jihad.
  13. Kara Bombach et al. (2018) Iran Sanctions ‘Snapback’ Finalized Nov. 5th, 2018.

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