Friday, October 26, 2012

Posthuman Blues (Volume I) Now Available!

"This book has the inventiveness and prose of a novel, but it's good, honest observation and speculation. From lambasting fakery to closing in on the true paranormal, Mac Tonnies takes us on a wild trip. Tonnies was mysterious, maybe because he always had an eye and ear for the mystery underlying our strange existence."

- John Shirley, author of Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas, and the A Song Called Youth trilogy


Redstar Films has just announced the publication of Volume I of Posthuman Blues - Dispatches From a World on the Cusp of Terminal Dissolution, the first in a series of "dead tree" editions transcribing Mac Tonnies' Posthuman Blues blog, found here, or in the archived (sans spam) edition.

Update: Also now available on Amazon. Worldwide e-book distribution will follow in early 2013, with Volume II following shortly thereafter.

Many thanks to the diligence of Paul Kimball, who discusses this publication and lots more with Greg Bishop on the latest Radio Misterioso podcast.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From the Posthuman Blues Archives (Part 5)

Still Life with Spherical Mirror - M.C.Escher - 1934

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"I've sometimes found myself in the preposterous position of "defending" my desire to live, if not forever, then as long as scientifically possible.

So, why do I want to live forever?

Easy -- for the same reason that I want to wake up tomorrow. There's nothing especially disturbing about negligible senescence unless one approaches the idea with at least some degree of emotional bias. And to be fair, we've been forced to grow used to the seeming inevitability of death in much the same way that our ancestors were forced to accommodate plagues instigated by an inability to understand germs.

But to make it short: there's a lot I want to see and do . . . but, unfortunately, not much of it's on Earth. Barring the abrupt invention of practical interstellar flight, my best chance of experiencing the Cosmos is by surviving the temporal gulf between "now" and "then."
And who knows? Maybe I can make myself useful in the process."

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post


Friday, February 27, 2009

"I struggle ceaselessly with the aspect of myself that clings to the fragile comfort of words and sentences. Our familiar Western mode of thinking -- purged of intuition and leery of experiences not reproducible in written form -- is like a clear membrane stretched taut around our senses, but no less insidious in its seeming transparency.

Lately, especially, it seems as if my real life unfolds in the narcotic oblivion of sleep; my dream-world, for all of its ominous vistas and intimations of cataclysm, exerts an inexplicably nostalgic allure. For whatever reason, I feel oddly welcome strolling the ruined hotels and depopulated suburbs that have come to dominate my sleep. There appears to be coherent, if tenuous, logic to this silent and jaundiced realm -- arguably more so than what greets me while awake and rational.

I've come to tentatively identify with the role of the shaman. Upon waking, my mind feels ponderous with ideas seeking escape; a portal has been opened, but a portal to where, exactly? And what, if anything, should I do with this freight of unsolicited weirdness?

My dream-world grows less diffuse -- more palpable -- with every visit, recalling the idea that powerfully envisioned thought-forms can assume fleeting physical existence. If such an alchemical process is indeed at work, the repercussions for my "real" existence are troubling. Maybe the only way to break the feedback cycle -- to decisively sever the ouroboros that my psyche's inexorably becoming -- is to opt out of the wide-awake domain of language, syntax and the necessarily diminishing fiction of "either/or."

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post


...Death on the internet is almost a contradiction in terms.

The internet - the information highway - doesn't really allow for death, cut and dry, because information doesn't just dissipate... information just moves along ad infinitum. Here today, here tomorrow. So, in a very weird, conscious sense, Mac did gain a type of immortality by embedding his memes into digital form... as we all do, following his digital trails. Yes, we're all immortal, you and I, so, dig on this, Kats & Kitties, as we mark the third year of Mac's untimely, tragic passing (October 18, 2009).

Several years ago, I wouldn't have imagined I'd still be blogging on Post-Mac Blues. Closure - that insipid term, so over-used, it's almost lost meaning - was the goal I was trying to achieve when this blog came into existence. Little did I know that the internet does not allow for any such thing. Mac is probably laughing his incorporeal ass off somewhere. Or, so I'd like to think... and, we'd probably all like to think... and what we'd give to hear that laughter.

In a previous post, I remarked that " there's always the possibility that one of these days the juice may suddenly, inexplicably, be cut off and all our electronic media will just shut down like a zillion blinded eyes..." but, that's not really true, is it? I can't  wrap my head around "wireless", but data can be transferred in so may ways, there's a regular aether-net surrounding us. Like it or not, we've all become wired and wireless at the same time. It boggles the mind, but, then again we're living in a "mind", a matrix comprised of millions of minds, so entangled that... Okay, that's just down the street from a place they call Madness, so, let's not go there.

Meanwhile, if you've read the comment section of the "previous post" I mentioned, you are probably already aware of a piece of delightful news. That is, Mac's good friend, Paul Kimball, has been a very busy man these days. He's just published his own book "The Other Side of Truth", and is currently laboring over the index of the first volume of Posthuman Blues, the Book! Yes, the "dead-tree" edition - The real deal! I know I remarked on Trans-D - my other blog - that Mac's strength as a writer lay in his fiction, but, that's not really true. As I was choosing the Posthuman Blues passages for this and the previous series of posts, it really came home to me that Mac had refined essay-writng down to a science... he was a master at it. So, kudos to Paul for attempting to gather so many memes together and virtually carve them in stone. When Paul makes a formal announcement, I'll include a link here.

Before I commit this post to the aether-net, however, allow me to put in a word about the graphics used for this and the previous 4 posts... just in case you're wondering about that little human-headed bird of Escher's.  As it happens, if that creature didn't insinuate itself into my brain at some point, these posts would never have occurred.

Apparently, the human bird hybrid was actually a meat-space statue M.C. Escher actually owned - a gift from an uncle. I read here that the statue was supposedly a representation of a "simurgh", but I doubt this is altogether true, because the simurgh - though sometimes human-headed - is generally considered to be griffin-like and female. Not, so, Escher's bird, which to me, immediately brings to mind a far more interesting creature. The Egyptians - yes, here comes those Egyptians again - had a word for the human soul: Ba. The Ba was also depicted as a bird with a human head - exclusively.

In a different article, I read Escher's bird in the above graphic described as "sinister"... but, in my eyes, it appears serene as it patiently watches the tiny reflection of Escher in the spherical mirror. It knows something about the human condition that we don't. Perhaps it knows everything.

The Egyptians also had another aspect of the human soul, Ren. Ren was a not only a person's name but it was the embodiment of the personality, and the Egyptians believed that, as long as the name was spoken, a person continued to survive.

Death on the internet is almost a contradiction in terms...

(and that's all she wrote...)

Now on Trans-D: Remembering Mac: Somewhere, Under a Rainbow

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From the Posthuman Blues Archives (Part 4)

Another World - M.C. Escher - woodcut - 1947

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"I'm not postulating a malign "Matrix"-style virtual reality. If anything, the idea that our minds inhabit an illusory world of gross physical matter is more suggestive of Hindu cosmology, with the self ("atma") forced to operate within a hierarchy of substrates.

I think it's very probable we share our world/s with others who have achieved something like "system operator" status. Strangely, if they chose to interact with us, that interaction might be necessarily flawed. This concept provides a plausible framework for Jacques Vallee's "multiverse" hypothesis, in which UFO occupants and paranormal experiences represent an ontological breach. It also compliments physicist David Bohm's transcendent vision of an "implicate" order wound up in our workaday "explicate" existence.

Quantum entanglement, for example, seems paradoxical to us. But if we could plunge deeper, into the universe's "source code," apparent paradoxes would dissolve because our consciousness (as of now, little more than a passive instrument) would be forced to mutate in ways that defy description.

Social commentators remark on the gulf that frustrates our attempts to collaborate meaningfully with our fellow humans. Perhaps we behave like discreet islands of consciousness because, in Bohm's explicate order at least, that is truly what we are. "Reality" is a crude sort of lingua franca; we are motes drifting on a vast and uncharted sea, disconnected and confronted by a universe that has become, under the light of bleeding-edge science, as arcane as any hallucination.

A bone-deep existential unease sets in. Am I a cosmos unto myself, chasing my own synapses (which may or may not be an accurate representation of whatever is actually doing the thinking)? Or, like quanta at the hands of particle physicists, am I fundamentally entangled in something more real?"

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post


Monday, September 18, 2006

"I've never "heard voices," per se. But for as long as I can remember I've been aware of a kind of oceanic presence in my mind which I can tune in only under special circumstances. When I was little I used to draw lots of pictures. One of the reasons I enjoyed drawing was the cryptic murmur that accompanied the process; it's as if creative activity numbs the censoring mechanism of the brain that usually dampens communion with our subconscious.

I still attempt to "listen" to my mind. While I'm aware of something that isn't "me" (or at least the "me" doing the listening), I don't experience any sense of duality. I never feel as if I'm in contact with something distinct from myself -- and suspect that if I did I'd quickly seek psychiatric help.

My overall impression is that the brain is a massively distributed system, a hologram of mentation that phase-shifts too rapidly for the ego to take note.

Given that consciousness is likely a quantum function, deeply entangled with the rest of the Cosmos, is it unreasonable to seek out traces of the "alien" among us? Maybe the signal SETI astronomers await will emanate from the depths of Self, cunningly disguised as human."

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post

Now on Trans-D: Remembering Mac IV: The Dragon and the Pearl

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

From the Posthuman Blues Archives (Part 3)

Detail of Another World - M.C. Escher - woodcut - 1947

Thursday, June 24, 2004

"My own reactions to the "afterlife" debate have changed significantly over the years. While I've always been agnostic, I've been generally inclined to view death as final and all-encompassing. For example, I was angry at Timothy Leary* when he opted not to have his brain cryonically preserved; I interpreted his sentiment that death was "the ultimate trip" as so much pseudo-religious bullshit.

My viewpoint is more flexible now. Perhaps it's possible for some form of consciousness to survive biological death. At this point it wouldn't surprise me. I suspect that aliens, if they're here, have probably refined consciousness into an actual technology -- and that we may be getting closer to the point where communication with the dead (assuming it's possible) is removed from the realm of wishful thinking."

-Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post


Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Maybe it's a yin-yang sort of thing. Life and death; the solace of the inanimate waging perpetual war against the sense of individuality and purpose (however ill-defined) taking place inside our skulls -- and, just possibly, elsewhere.

Like Shirley, I've wanted to cash it in. At times there's an almost palpable drop in what can only be called "life energy" -- a sort of subjective energy-level maintained by the subconscious. Think of it as one of those little glowing meters that accompany characters in video games. You take so many bullets, or lasers, or punches to the face, and the meter drops to zero and you "die."

To Freud, the psyche was ruled by the immutable laws of Sex. I suspect the mind cares less about actual sex than it does the perpetuation of DNA. Superficially, of course, they're one and the same, but the ensured output of viable genetic material is far more abstract and depersonalized. It's as if we share our bodies with mechanistic genies with their own purely selfish agendas -- and when our own agendas begin to conflict with the deoxyribonucleic overmind, our "life meters" start to plunge -- maybe just a little bit, enough to produce a bit of existential unease -- or maybe a considerable fraction all at once, like blowing a tire.

It's then that the genetic overmind plants its roots in the fertile soil that once housed your volition and identity. You become a husk, loping android-like from once task to another until effectively lobotomized. As G.I. Gurdjieff stressed, we are literal machines. And although he didn't specifically invoke biochemistry, he may as well have harped on Richard Dawkins' inspired notion of the "selfish gene," had the idea existed in his time.

The irony is that a being constructed (and in certain critical respects defined) by genes bent on self-preservation can be lured to (or actually programmed for) self-destruction. I wonder if other planetary ecologies have produced intelligent creatures to whom suicide is a physiological impossibility; such creatures may exist among us in coming decades, and we will know them as robots.

Maybe that's the answer. Perhaps we are larvae, subject to incurable neuroses that will cease to exist only when we ourselves cease to exist, supplanted by something new, and -- in strictly Darwinian terms, if nothing else -- fundamentally better. Maybe Shirley's "winnowing" -- seemingly psychotic from our narrow vantage on the evolutionary bridge -- is an essential instrument in the betterment of our species, or at least a lens through which to glimpse where we're headed."

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post

* Note: Cory Doctorow just posted this interesting link featuring correspondence between Timothy Leary and Carl Sagan.... via this Boing Boing post.

Now on Trans D... Remembering Mac III: One Day With Mr. Tone

Monday, October 15, 2012

From the Posthuman Blues Archives (Part 2)

Detail of Another World - M.C. Escher - woodcut - 1947

Sunday, February 01, 2004

"I'm almost done with Raymo's "Skeptics and True Believers." Wading through that odious chapter on UFOs was worth it; I love this book. Not at all your typical attempt to unify science and religion -- a task that takes up a lot of shelf-space that could be put to more productive use.

Science has yet to provide the sort of anthropocentric comfort so many human beings are looking for. Most people consider a mechanistic, impersonal cosmos intolerable, harsh, forbidding. They want their ontology cuddly and reassuring. Hence Precious Moments and the 700 Club and "Creation Science." Not to mention more faddish preoccupations like Wicca and predigested Eastern mysticism. (If you think Precious Moments should be downgraded to the list of mere fads, guess again. It's a literal cult with surprisingly deep roots.)

Raymo, like Carl Sagan, argues that there is a numinous grandeur to reality just as we find it. And there is; I experience it on a near-daily basis. I don't need "life after death" to help me sleep at night. I don't need any watchful deities to give me morality. I happen to like and appreciate the fact that I'm a flux of particles forged inside long-exploded stars, a small portion of the universe sculpted in such a way as to reflect on its own beginning and eventual end. I have an innate yearning for the intergalactic abyss, the seminal pyrotechnics of the Big Bang, the distant roar of supernovae."

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

"Getting rid of the meat. Jettisoning obsolete human baggage. When to say "when"? Is there a critical threshold where the route to transhuman ascendancy takes an abrupt downward fork?

It's conceivable humans will eventually have the technology to edit their own memories, rearranging their mental furniture as casually as dragging icons across a computer desktop. Can we trust ourselves with such ability? What will we decide to delete?

Click and drag . . . Click and drag . . .

Are you sure you want to delete the contents of the Recycle Bin?

Assuming you click "yes," the you that ponders the outcome is a new and different you. Maybe not a substantially different you -- but then again, how will you ever know?

Some hobbyist technophiles buy ancient computers so they can pore over the contents of their hard drives, upon which all sorts of esoteric (and sometimes useful) data can be found languishing. I can imagine neuro-hackers 50 years from now lopping the heads off fresh corpses and purging their brains of recoverable memories. Recycling them. Sifting through the sensory debris of subjective centuries. Blood from a stone.

Maybe this has already happened. Maybe I'm already dead and someone is simply rummaging through the contents of my brain. Looking for something, perhaps. Or maybe simply for the vicarious hacker thrill: What did this guy think about? Talk about voyeurism; it doesn't get any more intimate than that.

More disturbing is the prospect that probing a nonliving mind can actually trick the dead person's synapses into a spurious sense of autonomy -- the tragic misconception that this is real when in fact reality bears no resemblance to the images and sensations triggered by the scanning process. And what is consciousness, really, but a sensation?

Dead frogs can be made to jump by jolts of electricity applied to the right muscles in the proper sequence. In a strictly biomechanical sense, the frog is tugged back in time, restored to a clumsy semblance of functionality. A dormant human brain may not be as sacrosanct as we assume. "Dead" brains may even be a valuable commodity for a near-future information economy.

So what do we call this technologically assisted parody of thought? Can the brain being hacked be made to experience new stimuli or is it read-only-memory? Perhaps more pertinently, is there a qualitative difference between the thoughts of a living brain and the synaptic acrobatics of a dead brain commanded to believe it's actually alive?

If not, then the definition of "alive" begs redefinition. As proponents of cryonic suspension are justly fond of pointing out, it certainly wouldn't be the first time in medical history that we've been forced to revise our criteria for death."

-Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post

Now on Trans-D... Remembering Mac II: Metamorphosis Interrupted

Sunday, October 14, 2012

From the Posthuman Blues Archives (Part 1 of 5)

Detail of Another World - M.C. Escher - woodcut - 1947

Monday, September 22, 2003

"Human Devolution has me walking an intellectual tightrope. Cremo does a credible job of looking at nonlocal consciousness through the lens of Vedic creationism; I'm enjoying the ride.

I'm increasingly convinced that close encounters, near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences are aspects of a central overlooked phenomenon; deciphering one will in all probability cast light on the others. While I don't believe in "life after death" as typically envisioned by religion, I'm sympathetic to the concept that consciousness is more than a dance of molecules. William James thought that the brain acted as a receiver for consciousness, rather than actually producing it. This idea is appealing. Consciousness may not be an effect, but an actual "stuff" or force -- however intangible it may seem to us.

This is where New Age nomenclature fails utterly; how to address something as strange and vast as self-awareness when limited to pseudoscientific jargon? I roll my eyes at vague references to "essences" and "vibrations" -- but is mainstream science really doing any better? Both camps are, to some degree, spinning their wheels. If a new paradigm is to emerge, we'll need a new syntax. And to make sense of a new syntax, we might need to purposefully mutate. Even if consciousness is eternal and omniscient, we still have to filter it through our carbon-based brains, with all of their neuronal shortcomings . . . at least for the time being."

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post


Saturday, November 08, 2003

"Several months ago I was in an automobile crash. My memories contain the adrenalized moment of impact, the literally breathless aftermath as I pondered the crushed metal and broken glass, and a trip to a hospital inside an ambulance. It would appear I survived, albeit bruised and aching. But who am I to tell the story of what "really" happened? Perhaps the arc of my life, as defined by the fluctuating patterns (and bits of would-be pattern) in the cosmic screening room bifurcated shortly before I collided with the other car. In one variation I came to a bloody end. In yet another there was never an accident at all.

I pick the crash incident not because of any intrinsic importance - at the most fundamental level, the blind dance of possibilities doesn't care if I live or die - but because it illustrates how flawlessly one or two frames can be altered (or randomly inserted or deleted) to potentially catastrophic effect in the observable world. So long as a pattern remains intact  -and it will, since it has infinite space and time to organize itself - so will some permutation of "I."

Which begs the question: What happens when someone dies? It's possible that informational death is impossible and that the person who "dies" in the "explicate order" is expediently recycled, living his or her life again and again in a state of total amnesia. Or maybe something like my crash incident applies and that observers who die - in the directly perceivable world - are shuffled into a future in which they "miraculously" survive their own crashes (or cancer treatments or heart transplants).

There's nothing concrete or absolute about our so-called universe. It is an alluring, insidiously clever simulation. The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics implies that the universe is constant "branching" into parallel, exclusive states. A better term, in light of the scenario described above, might be "flowing." "

- Mac Tonnies, via this PHB post

Now on Trans-D... Remembering Mac: The Stars Are Falling