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Eschaton Immanent

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Collapse Jan. 7th, 2005 @ 05:38 pm
Here's a new book about the collapse of societies, and by Jared Diamond, no less. Looks like a winner.
Other entries
» Mad Science!
Brain In A Dish Flies Plane

And, some bad news on the metaphysical front, the "white buffalo" prophesied to "reunite all the races of man and restore balance to Mother Earth" has died.
» The Future Is Now
When NASA's robots take over and enslave us all, or when these guys land, at least we'll have something to defend ourselves with.
» "Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold."
NASA makes a creepy robot, for real! But why does it look so familiar?
» So I'm not crazy
Dark Age Ahead: By Jane Jacobs

Haven't read this yet, but it seems to be a fairly scholarly study on our culture and hypothesizes that we're headed toward a dark age much like the one after the fall of Rome.
» Clarification and Elaboration
I just made a post in my personal journal about the Sioux nation, wondering if we as a civilized society could ever move beyond civilization into a more sustainable culture, and it got me thinking about this Eschaton journal.

taxishoes made an interesting comment in an earlier post. I don't think I really responded adequately, and I thought I'd better address the issue here, to clarify what this journal is all about.

I realize that end-of-the-world and transformation prophecies have been around for a long time, and not much has really happened yet. But this is the way I see it, and although it's not entirely logical, it fits my method of thinking, which is not necessarily logical by nature anyway:

1. From what I can tell, our industrial, civilized culture (and possibly our planet's ecosystem in its current state) is close to collapse. By "close," I mean 50 to 200 years away, which is arguably close when you're talking about life-spans of societies. The evidence? Overpopulation, depletion of natural resources, dramatic reduction in biodiversity, et cetera. Sure, all of these things are subject to debate too, but I'm going to side with the doomsdayers on it, because I can see it every day: people are dying of starvation, cancer, war, crime, AIDS, tuberculosis, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and everything else. Species are disappearing. Cultures are disappearing. Oil is disappearing. The machinery of our culture is eating the world, at too fast a rate for the world to catch up. Can we really expect to go on like this forever? I don't think so.

2. So, mankind has two possible futures: one in which he destroys the world and himself with it, or one in which he changes his ways and goes on living forever. Can we spit out Adam's apple? I hope so, because frankly I don't much like the world as it is now, and I can only imagine how much worse it's going to be for my children.

3. If we don't change, or can't change, some scary and weird stuff is going to happen in the next several decades as our culture reaches a boiling point: as oil resources are depleted, war breaks out, for instance. Another example is the emergence of robots as the next big technological step: our culture is already preoccupied with production, gross national product, acquisition of capital, etc., and with technological progress. The development of robots and artificial intelligence is inevitable. Whether this is a good or bad thing in the long run, who can tell. Other items of note are shifts in government style such as the USA PATRIOT Act, increased conflict in traditionally conflicted areas such as the Middle East, and items related to overpopulation, overcrowding, disease, famine, etc.

4. But! If we do change, things can get even more interesting. If we do change, how will we change? How can we possibly change? We can imagine the possibilities by comparing our culture to others and try to think outside the bounds of what our culture teaches us is possible or real. I have noticed that compared to other cultures, civilized culture (and Western/American culture in particular) is obsessed with rationality and objectivity. We are a culture of literal, cold, hard-nosed, scientific, objective, rational, skeptical people. This isn't necessarily bad, or any worse than being entirely symbolic, metaphorical, magical, superstitious, and subjective. But I think that tipping the scales all the way to one side makes for a culture that's half blind. I know we're not really 100% on that side either, maybe 85-90% is more accurate. Who can tell. Anyway, I think if our culture is going to make a positive change to save itself, it's got nowhere to go but back in the other direction, like a rubber band.

5. This is where I make weird leaps in logic, but I don't rightly care. My way of thinking is this: there might not be too much of a difference between hoping something might happen/wondering if something might happen, and actually witnessing it happening. I know that doesn't make much sense, but I think if we're going to make this shift in perception happen, we've got to blur some lines; the line between objectivity and subjectivity being one of them. Maybe if we think something is happening, it will actually happen on some level or another. I know there's some school of philosophy that addresses this, but I don' t know what it's called. I'm not saying that we should all "think 'stop raining,' and maybe it'll stop" like the people at Woodstock, that would be too literal, to objective. And I'm not saying that one's perception defines one's reality, that's too subjective. Try to imagine something in between. That's my view of reality. So, my thought is, noting things in this journal will at the least, make for a weird, grain-of-salt read, and at the most, document the most significant change in human cultural thought since the Industrial Revolution, the Renaissance, and perhaps even the Agricultural Revolution.

6. Now, given that 1.) our culture is on a collision course, and 2.) we must change or die, and 3.) if we change, it will very likely be in the direction away from objective rationality, then I have to make the assumption that the movement in this direction will have some strange effects. We are born into this culture and raised with a very limited notion of what reality is; if you look at other cultures, especially indigenous cultures, you'll see that they have a much different view of reality. Many tribes such as the Australian aborigines for instance, believe that our dream world is the real world, and vice versa. So, if we're going to change, it's likely going to surprise our sheltered minds. My theory/hope (I've melded the two concepts in my mind) is that the lines that we have set up between scientific and magical, real and fictional, etc., will blur and break down. I look to fiction for this as well as fact. If the two are to merge (or at least get closer together), one must look at both, after all. Look at the emergence of postmodernism in fiction, the use of meta-narrative. The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Naked Lunch. Adaptation. Alan Moore's Promethea. Even Fight Club. Hell, I'm a writer of fiction myself. I'm writing a play right now that's addressing all these issues.

Oy. It's late and I'm thinking too much. After a while these thoughts about fiction and reality throw me a little too far into the subjective field. I start thinking about myself as writer-as-shaman, and get a little too far on a high horse about myself, thinking I'm part of the front lines in the Battle Against The Dominant Paradigm. I'm going to look at this tomorrow in shame, shaking my head and cursing myself for being a raving lunatic.

I really do think of myself as a shaman sometimes, though. Writing is my own personal spirituality. I see writers as magicians and shamans, very powerful and important. Maybe it's just part of my own inner need for acceptance. But, as Robert Anton Wilson (or more accurately, the fictional character Simon Moon) said, "Freedom will not come through Love, and it will not come through Force. It will come through the Imagination."

That's what I believe, and that's what this journal is set to prove.
» Robots Are Creepy
This hit the internet a little while ago and caused a bit of a stir. Turns out it's just an elaborate marketing scheme for the Mini Cooper.

This one's a bit more sinister: A creepy police robot patrols a third-world country.

It's all smoke and mirrors as well, but it creeps me out anyway. Certainly a lot more than this crapfest.

Speaking of robot movies, the website for the movie A.I. has some interesting information about the way robotics is headed.

This is another fascinating robot speculation site. It offers a very sobering view of the robot craze: they're going to put us all out of work, if they haven't already.
» The Mayan Calendar
Since the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, some people think that's the date for the end of the world. Anthropologist Carlos Barrios, however, believes that it is a date not of armageddon, but of rebirth.

Then there's this guy.
» News From The Future
This is a weird one. In November, 2000, a man calling himself John Titor started posting on a web forum, claiming he was a time traveler from the year 2036. Apparently he needed to travel back to 1975 to get an old IBM computer which would save the world in 2037 from a major computer crash (similar to the Y2K bug). He made a pit-stop in 2000-2001, where he apparently visited his mother and his younger self, and got on the internet to tell his story. While he didn't say much about the future, here are a few interesting tidbits:
  • A civil war in the U.S. starts to flare up between 2004 and 2008, which escalates into a world war in 2015, which kills nearly three billion people.
  • In Titor's time, there are 5 presidents of the U.S., and the nation's capitol has been relocated to Omaha.

The Titor phenomenon has grown on the web, inspiring much discussion and ridicule.
» Alan Moore, and the Burning of a Million Quid
Alan Moore is one of my favorite comic book writers, and is seen as the Shakespeare or Orson Welles of comics. In addition to being a great writer, he's also a magician, and I don't mean he pulls rabbits out of his hat.

On August 23, 1994, a couple English blokes calling themselves The K Foundation, burned a million quid on an abandoned boathouse in Scotland, and filmed it. They showed the film in various venues, and people got worked up quite a bit. What does this have to do with Alan Moore? Well, one of the places The K Foundation screened their film was Alan Moore's living room in Northampton. Mr. Moore had a lot of interesting things to say about it. If you get down to about 2/3 of the page, Moore starts talking about a "paradigm shift" that he sees happening between now and about 2020:
We've had those sort of shifts before just the move from agricultural to industrial, etc but this is, I think, of a different order, something bigger.

Daniel Quinn agrees. In his books, and in this speech he made at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 2002, he states that we're in for a major paradigm shift (or if not, we're doomed):
If there are still people here in 200 years, they won't be living the way we do. I can make that prediction with confidence, because if people go on living the way we do, there won't be any people here in 200 years.

I can make another prediction with confidence. If there are still people here in 200 years, they won't be thinking the way we do. I can make that prediction with equal confidence, because if people go on thinking the way we do, then they'll go on living the way we do--and there won't be any people here in 200 years.

As you can see, the point I'm trying to make with this journal is that something is going to happen in the next 20-50 years that's going to utterly blow everyone's mind.
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