Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Names of the Prehuman World

Hypothetical image of earth during its earliest Precambrian Hadean eon. Image Source: pinterest.

Palaeontologists describe the prehuman world, a desolate and unrecognizable planet. Our beloved and enslaved earth had a secret, prehuman life. Not only did we not exist, but neither did our countries, continents or oceans. The territorial bases of humans and their nations and identities, geopolitics and religions, which we take so seriously now, were either primordial or absent. Modern humans are so self-involved that they forget that the planet once belonged to itself, a place we would find frightening, an antecessor that pre-existed everything our exploits might control.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Bitcoiners Discuss Chinese Markets

A new, short-lived circuit breaker system closed the Chinese stock market on 7 January 2016 after a 7 per cent drop in 29 minutes. Image Source: Slate.

Today, David Seaman of Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallet and exchange startup, hosted a chat on Youtube about falling Chinese stocks and the related Bitcoin rally, including a general assessment of the future of the global economy from a Gen Y perspective. The participants in the chat promote their various projects and tools developed to implement Bitcoin as an alternative asset, in ways that are quite different from fiat currencies; Bitcoin's challenge to central banking contrasts starkly with the People's Bank of China's efforts to stabilize the yuan. A Convex backgrounder on the Chinese economy confirms that its negative trend began in 2014, as initially mentioned in this 2014 post, although Goldman Sachs predicts that these are just growing pains en route to the establishment of a consumer-based economy in China.  For a very different opinion of events, go to Zero Hedge, here. The Bitcoiners' discussion is below the jump.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Orthodox Christmas: Life in the Adjacent Possible

Image Source: The Culture Concept.

Any apiarist, keeping watch over a hive of bees sleeping through the winter, would tell you that civilization can only function under certain circumstances. Apiculture is one of the world's oldest professions. It is a founding pillar of agriculture. In colony collapse disorder - now threatening beehives across Europe and North America - workers stock up a hive but then abandon their helpless queen. The plague is blamed on pesticides, pathogens, and mobile phone towers, with bee-keepers reporting that roughly one third to one half of their hives have been dying over winters every year for the past decade, despite various high tech solutions. It is hard to say how new this disaster is. There were reports of 'mystery diseases' and 'disappearing diseases' in hives in 1918-1919 and in the mid 1960s. Whatever the causes, the insects' tiny world of flowers and pollination remain critical to human survival. In 2010, the United Nations estimated that the worth of global crops pollinated by bees was 153 billion euros, or "9.5 per cent of the total value of human food production worldwide."

Image Source: My Greek Spirit.

The remarkable way bees organize themselves remains symbolically powerful. Their honey production makes their system seem much friendlier than the terrifying laws that govern your average ant hill. Any agricultural society would see bees as the civilized agents of the natural world, a properly arranged mini-society with a sweet output.

Today, 7 January 2015, is Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Due to the traditional symbolism of the apiary, beeswax candles are held in special esteem in Orthodox rituals. At Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos explains that for Orthodox Christians, beeswax candles symbolize purity, adaptability of the heart, forgiveness of sins, and divine grace garnered from the wax's floral sources. Candlelight and the sweet smell of burning beeswax recall summer days to illuminate and banish darkness caused by fear, corruption and misery.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Organize the Non-Obvious

Image Source: Asymco/Black Rock via Twitter.

Yesterday, Florent Crivello tweeted the above graph while pondering theories in the famous book, Diffusion of Innovations by the late Everett M. Rogers, Professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico, who analyzed how new technology spreads through cultures. Rogers divided society into five new technocratic classes: innovators; early adopters; early majority; late majority; laggards. Rogers sought to understand technological development by relating it to a social relationships. He died in 2004, before sites like Facebook took off, although he plainly anticipated social media. Perhaps it is better to consider not so much the bonds and relationships which drive social networks, as the underlying trends which drive the bonds and relationships. It's not who you know, it's why you choose to know them. Every social bond reinforces a particular view of the world.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways of understanding the world. You can turn dreams into reality. Or you can turn reality into dreams. Sigmund Freud observed this after meeting Theodor Herzl in Vienna. Where Freud analyzed the latter process, Herzl set out to accomplish the former possibility. But universal mastery resides with those who can do both. One may master the world of the self-evident to the highest degree, but still be defeated by the comatose.  A quotation, wildly attributed to Marcus Aurelius and Oswald Spengler: "The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

Millennial business preaches a one-way trip: turn your dreams into reality. This professional mantra is profoundly materialistic. The chart above shows that Millennial business leaders and professionals are working against the nature of the global communications trend and misunderstand the endgame of high technology. Every technological innovation in the graph moves us in the other direction, from reality into virtual reality. That mixed message creates the confusion, the frustration, the procrastination of people enmeshed at cross-purposes in a paradox: high tech societies demand that their citizens build more and more little realities, with tools plainly designed to immerse them in dreams.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ancient Cities 6: The Underwater Gods of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus

Eighteen feet tall: "A red-granite statue of the [Nile] god Hapy at Aboukir Bay in Egypt. The five-metre statue will feature in an exhibition at the British Museum opening in May [2016]." Image Source: Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation via Independent.

The British press are reporting that underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus have yielded incredible artefacts which will be on display at the British Museum this year. Sunken Cities, which runs in London from 19 May to 27 November 2016, had related previous shows in Egypt and Paris. The cities were likely swallowed by the Mediterranean after a catastrophic earthquake in the 8th century CE. The British Museum released the following statement on the forthcoming exhibition:
300 outstanding objects will be brought together for the exhibition including more than 200 spectacular finds excavated off the coast of Egypt near Alexandria between 1996 and 2012. Important loans from Egyptian museums rarely seen before outside Egypt (and the first such loans since the Egyptian revolution) will be supplemented with objects from various sites across the Delta drawn from the British Museum’s collection; most notably from Naukratis – a sister harbour town to Thonis- Heracleion and the first Greek settlement in Egypt.

Likely founded during the 7th century BC, Thonis- Heracleion and Canopus were busy, cosmopolitan cities that once sat on adjacent islands at the edge of the fertile lands of the Egyptian Delta, intersected by canals. After Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in 332 BC, centuries of Greek (Ptolemaic) rule followed. The exhibition will reveal how cross-cultural exchange and religion flourished, particularly the worship of the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris.

By the 8th century AD, the sea had reclaimed the cities and they lay hidden several metres beneath the seabed, their location and condition unclear. Although well-known from Egyptian decrees and Greek mythology and historians, past attempts to locate them were either fruitless or very partial. ...

Thanks to the underwater setting, a vast number of objects of great archaeological significance have been astonishingly well preserved. Pristine monumental statues, fine metalware and gold jewellery will reveal how Greece and Egypt interacted in the late first millennium BC. These artefacts offer a new insight into the quality and unique character of the art of this period and show how the Greek kings and queens who ruled Egypt for 300 years adopted and adapted Egyptian beliefs and rituals to legitimise their reign.

The exhibition will feature a number of extraordinary, monumental sculptures. A 5.4 m granite statue of Hapy, a divine personification of the Nile’s flood, will greet visitors as they enter the space. Masterpieces from Egyptian museums such as the Apis bull from the Serapeum in Alexandria will be shown alongside magnificent recent finds from the sea. One such piece is the stunning sculpture from Canopus representing Arsinoe II (the eldest daughter of Ptolemy I, founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty). The Greco-Macedonian queen became a goddess beloved to both Egyptians and Greeks after her death and is depicted here as the perfect embodiment of Aphrodite, a goddess of beauty ‘who grants fortunate sailing’.

The exhibition will also cover the arrival of Greeks in Egypt, when they were hosts and not rulers; privileged but controlled by the pharaohs. A complete stela from Thonis-Heracleion advertises a 380 BC royal decree of the Egyptian pharaoh Nectanebo I. It states that 10% of the taxes collected on all goods imported from the ‘Sea of the Greeks’ into Thonis-Heracleion and on all trade operations at Naukratis were to be donated to an Egyptian temple.

A wide range of objects, from modest to grand and costly, bears witness to the piety of both inhabitants and visitors at these major religious centres. Lead models of barges uncovered in the sacred waterway linking Thonis-Heracleion to Canopus are unique and moving finds. They are associated with the Mysteries of Osiris, the most popular festival celebrated annually across Egypt during the month of Khoiak (mid-October to mid- November). Ranging in size from 6 to 67 cm, these reproduce in metal a flotilla of 34 papyrus barges that would have been displayed on a waterway to celebrate the first sacred navigation of the festival. According to religious texts, each barge was to measure 67.5 cm and to bear the figure of an Egyptian god, and would have been illuminated by 365 lamps. The lead barges are lasting testimonies possibly left by people who, long ago, celebrated this festival in the Canopic region.
A "5.4m red granite statue of the god Hapy, which decorated the temple of Thonis-Heracleion." Image Source: Evening Standard.

Submerged statue of the god Osiris. Image Source: Archaeology News Network.

CNN reported on the related Paris exhibition to describe the importance of the god Osiris in these lost cities:
The exhibition in Paris [8 September 2015 - 31 January 2016], entitled Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt, explores the importance of the Egyptian god to people of these cities, which are thought to have been places of pilgrimage.

The story of Osiris tells of how he was murdered and cut up by his brother Seth before being resurrected by his wife (and possibly sister) Isis, with whom he had a son, Horus.

[French archaeologist Franck] Goddio says: "It's about good defeating evil but not conquering it completely. Every year they had to renew Osiris, who brought the cycle of abundance, the stability of the cosmos and the continuity of the dynasty. In every temple a priest would represent the pharaoh and relive the murder, dismemberment and rebirth of Osiris. We knew that there was something special in Heracleion thanks to the stele rediscovered in 1881 which bore the decree of Canopus.

"It said that in the celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris, the great god leaves from the temple of Amon-Gereb in the town of Heracleion to perform a processional navigation to his sanctuary of Canopus. We found the canal along which the god sailed. We found artifacts in bearing witness of this celebration."
The statue of Osiris, in situ, from a distance. Image Source: CNN.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Talks from the Hacker Congress

Lift button at 32C3. Image Source: Mustafa Al-Bassam.

The 32nd Chaos Communication Congress, 32C3, the largest conference related to freedom of speech, cryptography, hacking, and Internet security, just wrapped up in Hamburg, Germany on 30 December 2015 (-Thanks to C.). The conference is run by the Chaos Computer Club, which was founded in 1981. The Twitter hashtag for the conference is here. Below, see a selection of talks relating to robots, quantum computing, surveillance and Internet development. The conference included a talk on Commodore Amigas, for which I have a soft spot.