Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Man That Saw The World

Sidney Bradford went blind at 10 months of age, but regained sight on both eyes at 52.

He was subjected to many scientific studies of vision,  that demonstrated that he was impervious to many form of optical illusion, like the ambivalence of necker cubes or the appearance of various "impossible objects" that, to him, looked like what they are - flat figures.

However, his regaining the gift of sight left him with the vision of a world he did not know, and he preferred to work with his eyes closed, so that his hands could "see" his familiar tools.

Two years after regaining sight, he fell ill and died. Blind, he knew the universe where he lived intimately,  and was a happy man.

When he finally saw the world, its sheer incomprehensibility killed him.

Let's be honests...

We understand him plenty.


Once upon a time, I was going through Vigo with the then "au pair" guest of my brother, a well in flesh British girl answering to the name of "whatever".

As, apparently, many Brits of her age do, she was thrilled because she had finally found a kiosk selling the kind of British tabloids that her permanence in the underdeveloped Spanish swampland where we stay - her description of the Atlantic cost town where we live was along that lines - had deprived her, oh, so long and cruelly.

She immersed herself, thrilled, in the small sea of factoids in the newspaper, and left me baffled.

Don't get me wrong -  I am not a snob. Not that much, really.

It is just that I fail to see why should I care about what someone I have no direct relationship whatsoever does  in his or her personal life.

OK, it is true... I tend to use "Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodoma" as a suggestion for what to do in bed with a friend and, as a result, MY personal sex life - what almost nil of it there actually is - could not appear in tabloids for being way too risky.

I am, at heart, unadulterated XXX material - truth be said, just once every three years or so - so the fact that [insert name here] shags [other name], of [no idea] fame, doesn't solleticate my prurient side.

Anything less than a three-way with dildos, on top of a double-decker cruising London centre would make me yawn, though I have my feeble points - I kind of love when celebrities turns out to be, actually and against any prevision , pretty decent guys or girls. 

Unfortunately, that number of the - whatever -  didn't run on something like "Ozzy Osbourne really loves his kids" or "Angelina Jolie does a decent job for Unesco, much better than her movies".

The cover was about some Brit Nobody cheating on his spouse with another Brit Nobody. Cheating spouses are not exactly a rare phenomenon. If I am not wrong, there were two clandestine couples alone at the bar where we stopped to get a "tapa".

It didn't struck me as anything worth noting.

I tried to communicate this impression to her, who in turn tried to explain me the importance that this guy  - some kind of tv personality - had been caught in flagrante.

The discussion wandered rudderless, as many goes, till she happened to mention a friend of hers that had decided to travel from India to Japan, and had spent the previous couple of years working all kind of odd jobs - what a twenty years old high-school drop-out can get - to save money and organize his travel.

Now, he was interesting, really interesting - for me. I am someone that has never, ever been able to act on his passions - it already costs me to admit when I have one.

People that does fascinates me - her friend, that Italian guy that went drawing anime at Tatsunoko Studios, anybody who rebuilt an ancient car or aircraft, many a professional geek - may the memory of Dennis Ritchie live forever -  and scientist - long live Feynman's Bongo. People that is, in some way, at the fringes of human experience, uncommon in a statistically quantifiable way - I would say.

For her, that friend was just an odd-ball with a stupid interest, that had allowed it to overtake his life.

Which is true - it is what it means, live your passion - but there were maybe ten more "oddballs" like him in their town.

Ten, against a couple of hundred or so assorted cheaters.

So, why did she cared about yet another cheating man? The world never had any shortage of the category. 

Unless she imagined when she could bring to court her man...

Monday, 13 February 2017

Play the game.

"How comes Africa is in the shape it is?"

Most of it are societies that never really went beyond the tribal dimension... as soon as the state becomes a foil for the tribe of the last cleptocrat, people trust goes to zero, and everybody starts just looking out for himself and maybe, the family, the clan.

And this can be said of every country on Earth where the state is nothing more than a clique with power intent in furthering its primacy.

Problem is, it does not take much to revert a democracy to a similar state of affairs...

Nazi Germany was in that shape, though its propaganda managed to hide it - it was a hugely inefficient, bureaucratic gang-land with internecine wars going on, that was forced to loot a continent to avoid the implosion of its debt-funded military expansion.

The Allies managed to win the war also because, among other things, they were much more ruthlessly meritocratic and efficient than the Nazi regime.

The democracies, because it is in their nature when they work well, and the SSSR because Stalin was much more pragmatic than Hitler... the politic commissar made the army inelastic and inefficient? They were gone. In many ways, Stalin and the system he created were much fairer than Germany, in that everybody could end in a gulag - and getting out of it. Crazy, criminal, but fairer.
 When the system is fair and balanced, people play the game of life.

When the system is unfair and rewards the friends of friends, that same people spend their energies just to game the system. When energy goes there instead than in doing real stuff, the system after a while starts breaking down.

It doesn't take much - a leader with executive power that gives the worst example is often all that it is needed as, as it is in so much in life, once the process starts the feedback will keep it going.

It is apparent that the U.S.A. have their worst leader ever.

Let's hope that the USA are really God'sm country, and that it will not be enough to make  it take the Zimbabwe route.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Crap is crap

Personally, I do not care about sex and violence in my entertainment fodder, unless it is really functional to the story.

I wouldn't censor anything - as long as racy elements do not become an excuse to pull back on the writing efforts., everything is fine.

When they become such an excuse, "Crap is Crap is Crap" - there is no need to have an office of censorship. I rather watch "The Hogfather" than "Striptease" because the first is a nice small TV movie with a good story from one of my favoured authors,  and the second is just a crappy exploitative piece of nothing.

I accept the fact that kids are often attracted by crap, so a restriction to their access to shifty material may be reasonable - it doesn't take away that some kids would probably be better off looking at well done porn than they are with a lot of TV supposedly made for them (better a "happy porn", possibly from a woman director, than "1000 ways to die", if you ask me).

But that's it... once something is "VM-18" (or whatever its name where you live),  no more censoring actions should be needed.

The whole British"Video Nasties"  idiocy and, currently, the UK law criminalizing possession of violent pornography are travesties, ass-pulling and demagoguery well representing that country's ruling classes obsession to keep "the plebs" under control.

If something is crap, and one has problems watching it, he should just avoid it on his own.

For example, "1000 ways to die" whole premise irks me, so I have never watched more than a couple of minutes by accident, while surfing the TV.

But I have never thought that it, and any other show following a similar premise, should be banned (among other reasons, because I do not know enough to be really sure about that show's very own merits - it could even not be the absolute crap that I think it is).

Yet, if we look, we see that the world is full of censors, small men deciding on their own what others can watch and read, usually on the base of conservative agendas that are little more than pandering to old folks' prejudices.

We shouldn't accept it.

When somebody asks us to endorse this or that censoring initiative, we should flatly say "no".

Adults do not really need someone hiding crap from them, and any suggestion that they do should be welcomed with extreme suspicion..

Because, we know what is the crap that first gets hidden (wikilieaks was surely among the first sites censored for "child pornography" in Australia, when the country enabled its anti-paedo filtering system) and what those laws are really used for, in the end (harassment of anybody that the authorities do not like, usually).

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Nu Slide and Anthropology

The discovery that our species is an outshoot of the so-called "Cro-Magnon Expansion" has prompted many creationists to shout that "Darwin was Wrong".

In reality, given the fact that the expansion was a very small episode in a succession of similar events, and left no direct proof on planet, the question that arises is "why no incongruences were spotted before".

It is a powerful  interrogative, and the answer to this may be every bit as incompatible with the creation myth as the view of the evolutive process of our species that was accepted by science, before the flood of new data available on the galactic net forced its revision.

In reality, the classical view of humans as the last offspring of a long but quite linear evolutive process had already been abandoned by most anthropologist way before the "Beautiful Alien" image was ever decoded, to be replaced by a more realistic vision of a ramified tree of inter-related species, many of whom really diverged from our evolutive line to disappear and one - the Neanderthals - folded back into our line, as proved by the presence of Neanderthal genes in the European pool.

This itself had been an unhappy realization, for many Europeans, and thus had been a much contested one - as the 2% of the genetic variability proper to the continent ascending to the Neanderthals being the only notable difference between its inhabitants and the rest of the planet, many saw it as a proof of the continent's ancestors lack of moral fibre, having indulged in ante-litteram miscegenation,.

In reality, it is now believed that the Neanderthals were simply descendants of a previous expansive wave of humans, that had reached our planets about 200000 years ago. It is extremely probable that they were the descendants of a research vessel from the so-called Mesoican Culture, that stranded on our planet and chose a France region to settle because, at the time, the most comfortable. Unfortunately, the Mesoican had a tendency to underestimate radiation effects in their ships designs, and to keep crews at a bare minimum. The combination of genetic instability ad reduced variability in the initial population may account for the Neanderthals greater-than-usual deviation from the humanities average.

It is now believed that, for a combination of factors that kept it an interesting planet, our Earth has been touched by many waves of galactic drifters - the "Cro-Magnon" being just the last ones - that kept succeeding on the tempo of what is now suspected to be a cyclical variation in the entanglement rate between our space and the first-band hyperspace.  

The so-called "Nu-slide" would thus be not an isolated fact - about every 100000 years the entanglement aspect changes, with trivial effects on most biological and physical processes, but powerful ones on FTL travel and on some very subtle details of how human intelligence works.

Not only can the change enable or disable cheap FTL travel, it is virtually proven that some of the inner mechanics of the human mind are contiguous to that same space-hyperspace interface, which was also used - again, implicitly, and without a conscious design choice on the part f our ancestors - by the Cro-Magnon Artificial Minds to boost their capabilities way beyond the limits of their 3D hardware.

When the connection is more favourable, part of the human mind takes residence in the hyperspace, boosting creativity and sheer, brute intelligence.

Telepathy becomes more common, and almost everybody naturally contributes to the whole species baggage of ideas, concepts and solutions - contributes to, and gains from.

Humans becomes more creative, and much more effective in their pursue of solutions to problems. More ideas flow and are developed faster and better.

In these phases, not only the access to hyperspace - and FTL - is simpler, but the humanities and their Artificial Minds are more powerful, so an age of galactic travel ensue... and someone reaches our Earth.

When the access becomes more difficult - like in the last transition - the disappearance of FTL travel is NOT its most dramatic effect, nor is it the sudden incapacity of Artificial Minds to function correctly. Both occurrences would be terrible on their own, but what makes them nearly insurmountable is the fact that the human mind, too, loses most of its abilities, as well as its direct access to most of the culture created up to that moment.

Without hyperspace, there is no more telepathy, nor galaxy-wide concept sharing, and every human is left with just the tiny shards that it can retain in its conscious mind. Unless the planet has a very numerous and enormously varied population and economy, this usually means that only a tiny and very insufficient fraction of the original culture is maintained, with effects that can be easily imagined.

About 90% of the human settlements that were stranded by the last Nu slide went extinct in one or two generations, and virtually every one of the remaining regressed to Palaeolithic  levels of technology, the exceptions being enumerable on the fingers of one hand.

Hellish as it may look to the modern reader, ancient Earth was not, in facts, the worse offender when it comes to exterminate human groups stranded on its surface. It is now postulated that what kept Earth an interesting planet was the very possibility of observing variants of humanity, descended from past humans and sometimes hybridized with local species who themselves derived from even more ancient drifters - like the Neanderthal.

In other words, up until the current cycle and its reversion to a more common path of technological development and genocide of the human variants competing for space , for about two million years Earth has been an anthropologist heaven.

Unfortunately, given the aggressivity with which our branch of modern humans has adsorbed or exterminated its cousins, and the corrosiveness of globalization against tribal cultures, we can assume this to be a glory of the past.

Currently,our Earth is a run-of-the-mill human settlement, with a set of cultures that is constantly being reduced to a planetary, single one, though differences will always persist - the geographic nature of an area does have some effects on the "mood" of its inhabitants and their art, values, and beliefs.

Even if a new "change" re-established the favourable situation present at the end of the Cro-Magnon expansion, with the reappearance of cheap system-to-system shuttle services, it is unlikely that our world would get much attention, as there are no more Australopitechus or Neanderthals to motivate interstellar study expeditions, and the planet otherwise lacks any interest whatsoever as far as industrial resources go (it is estimated that the Anipos robot mining operations in the asteroids belts surpassed Earth mining outoput by a factor four, during the build-up leading to the war - that was the product of a whopping one thousand initial machines, commanded by just a hundred technicians, and moderate self-replication).

This will probably show up in the next few million years as a discontinuity in the fossil documentation.

If this cycle will end, and the current galactic civilization network will crumble too soon (in the past, the effect on human intelligence have led to galaxy-wide collapses even before widespread FTL and pan-systemic travel had managed to unify the human sphere), there will be a visible missing link between our current, Cro-Magnon derived phenotype and the one from the next colonization wave.   

Currently, no such an egregious void can be found, because Earth has always been host to humans derived from a series of precedent waves, as well as visitors from the then-current one, that intermingled in the aftermaths of each "slide" episode.

This produced intermediate individuals or, even, new species, which is the reason why our  extra-world origin had to be discarded until recent years  - the documentation did not support what seemed an illogic ad-hoc explanation.

More relevantly, the influx of alien mutations has a great importance in the use of genetic drift to characterize human rests antiquity.

In fact, the parameters used for that operation must be thoroughly revised, as they currently tend to overstate the antiquity of most human rests.

Unfortunately, studies on how to correct these biases are in their infancy, and no clear answer can be given, beyond what can be found in surviving data from the "great centres"
that managed to whether the last slide (like the Anipos "Supreme Computer Farm").

This information would have us believe, for example,  that Homo Erectus (called "The Mono-Tonal Men", for their limited vocal range ) was still inhabiting the planet, at the time of Homo Neanderthal, more than half a million years after its supposed extinction.

Its reliability, of course, is anybody's guess (adult Anipos may be pretentiously serious, but adolescent Anipos are every bit as mischievous as those of any other human species, and not above the kind of elaborated practical joke that would be adding spurious material to an ancient database) but opens the possibility for an extensive, and intriguing, re-write of our species history.

It is a good time to be an anthropologist.

Our field has never been more open to new discoveries, and seldom the importance of them has ever been so felt, inside and outside the scientific community.

It is of these days the news that the North American Evangelical Churches association has asked the Kansas Board of education to discard both creationism and the "Panspermic Theory" from their textbook, after it was revealed that most of the Genesys is likely  a plagiarism from  a set of 30.000  years old erotic novels for young adults (something the late FTL-era Chro-Magnons were apparently fond).

In the  words of Rev. Cynthia Loudberg,

"Darwinism is pure science - it leaves the believer free to believe an ineffable God be the prime mover of the universe, hiding his hand for the sake of allowing free faith. With these revelations, the Genesys becomes the proof that we are the product of a bunch of horny teenager straying out of adult supervision at the wrong moment. God operates in mysterious ways, but I don't think it would use so embarrassing ones."