Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) --- Volume 5 Number 5, Sep. 2006
Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Back and Forth
I just want them to remember me a hundred years from now.
I don't care that they're not able to quote any single line
that I'd written. But just that they can say, "Oh, he was
a writer." That's sufficiently an honored position for me.
-- Rod Serling (1924 - 1975), in his last interview
(with Linda Brevelle)
Serling, Rod - 20th Century writer; pos. orig. of phrase
"in the zone" (disputed)
-- Wikipedia Galactica, 2075
As I travel around the United States of America on business I
continue to marvel that there are no obscure, out-of-the-way
places. Everyplace is on a route (road, rail, river or harbor)
that is -- or was historically -- a major thoroughfare, and
everyplace has a claim to fame.
My recent trip to Binghamton, New York confirmed this. The "Greater
Binghamton Area" boasted the birthplace of IBM, and the first "Link
Trainer" flight simulator, claimed to be the wooden carousel capital
of the world (with six), and during the Cold War was allegedly
the #5 nuclear target due to all the defense work in the area.
But most amazingly it is the home town of Emmy-award-winning writer
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Serling )
the creator of the "Twilight Zone" (TV show, 1959 - 1964).
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004REEI/hip-20 )
Among the small tributes to him in the town is a display
in the lobby of the Forum theater,
( www.danville.lib.il.us/Pathfinder/rodbin.html )
which I was lucky enough to stumble upon while looking
for parking for the Lost Dog Cafe.
( www.lostdogcafe.net )
There I found this quote on the wall:
Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one.
And because it is selfish and demanding, because it
is compulsive and exacting, I didn't embrace it. I
succumbed to it.
"Patterns: Four Television Plays" (1957) by Rod Serling
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007DKGQ8/hip-20 )
I realized that the same is true for me of this 'zine, that
I didn't embrace it, I succumbed to it. And every other month
I succumb again.
My problem is that I spend too much time on this. Goodness knows
I've tried to make the issues smaller, but they each seem to have
a natural size, beyond my control. So I either need to do fewer
of them, or stop altogether, or both. I've got some other stuff
I need to do.
KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMING IN
On New Year's Day 1965, Soupy [Sales], miffed at having to work
on the holiday, ended his live broadcast by encouraging his young
viewers to tiptoe into their still-sleeping parents' bedrooms and
remove those "funny green pieces of paper" from their pants and
pocketbooks. "Put them in an envelope and mail them to me," Soupy
allegedly instructed the children. "And you know what I'm going
to send you? A post card from Puerto Rico!"
-- Wikipedia entry for Soupy Sales
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soupy_Sales )
Now, I know some of you have the impulse to fire off an encouraging
email telling me how much you enjoy C3M, and I appreciate that.
(In fact it's part of what motivates me. The last issue was
very well received; one reader called it "stunningly brilliant."
Heady stuff.) But that's not the kind of response I'm looking
Though I'm searching for an Exit Strategy, I am going to continue
the 'zine for the time being. But take it as a given that the end
is near, and there's no telling how many more there will be. Knowing
that, what I'd like your feedback on is what to write about in the
issues that remain. If you have any ideas, send them right in,
but I'm also going to give you a list of concepts I have from my
notes and ask you to prioritize them.
Of the following, which would you be most interested in?
POLITICS JUST WON'T GO AWAY
The only way to talk about politics is on all fours.
-- Timothy Leary
I've written tangentially about politics a few times, banging
the Libertarian drum mostly, but I've felt like I was railing
in vain against a "Superfluity of Naughtiness" (to use Warren
McCulloch's phrase). Recently I became aware of fake news anchor
Stephen Colbert's coining of the word "truthiness" in 2005,
( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness )
the quality by which a person claims to know something
intuitively, instinctively, or "from the gut" without
regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination,
or actual facts.
Here, it seemed to me, is a clarifying concept that can help
cut through a lot of the fog of political discourse. It gave me
me the idea for some issues:
1. Truthiness and the Growth of Government
I think I can finally explain in plain English the
fundamental scam of government, in which problems
are never solved.
2. An Inconvenient Truthiness
Further probing into the climate change debate,
contrasting the just-released book "An Inconvenient
Truth" (2006) by Al Gore
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594865671/hip-20 )
with the previously reviewed "Skeptical Environmentalist:
Measuring the Real State of the World" (1998) by Bjorn Lomborg,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0521010683/hip-20 )
the essays in "Kicking the Sacred Cow" (2006) by James P. Hogan
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1416520732/hip-20 )
"State of Fear" (novel, 2004) by Michael Chrichton
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0066214130/hip-20 )
and recent public statements by Senator James Inhofe
( epw.senate.gov/speechitem.cfm?party=rep&id=263759 )
headlined as "Indefatigable Inhofe Takes on Media Hype"
and "Inhofe's Speech and Right-Wing Global Warming Myths"
by right- and left-wing bloggers respectively.
Now go back to the sixty-fours,
And you're left with two,
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves...?
Now, let's not always see the same hands.
One, that's right!
-- Tom Lehrer, "New Math" (satiric song, 1964)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002KO7/hip-20 )
Some people tell me they don't like the math stuff so much, which
I find frustrating because I think it's my best stuff. And I've
got more! Here are some of the more rigorous ideas I'm developing:
3. Calculus Without Proofs In the Digital Age
I realized recently that if you throw out the infinities and
deal only with discrete digital data, calculus become trivial.
(Every digital data stream has a derivative and an integral.)
4. The Legacy of Buckminster Fuller
I learned a lot from this guy: systems theory,
the shape of space, thinking in 3D, how to make the
world work for everybody.
5. Simulation Part Two
I have a whole file of material cut from the Simulation
6. Everything Has To Go Somewhere ~ OR ~ Eigenvectors and You
Some notes on the geometry of systems theory.
7. Visualizing Conformal Mapping With Java Applets
This is something I've been working on just this weekend,
driven by compulsive dreams of graphics programming, after
falling asleep reading "Complex Variables and the Laplace
Transform for Engineers" (1980) by Wilbur R. LePage,
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0486639266/hip-20 )
to produce a non-web-enabled a prototype:
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/conformal_mappings.jpg )
8. Architecture and Software Architecture
I want to explore some of the correspondences between how
we build buildings and programs.
Some questions are more difficult to approach rigorously, but they
are still important questions.
9. Battle of the Sexes
Recent, embarrassing revelations from genomics
shed light on the brutal battle between the X
and Y chromosomes. How does this affect us
as individuals and a society?
10. What Ever Happened to the Whole Earth Catalog?
In many ways the Whole Earth Catalog was a prototype
for the World Wide Web, and it was also used as
test content for one of the first large hypertext
projects. Why doesn't it survive as a virtual
11. Running a Business Cybernetically
I used to wonder if it was possible to build a robot
business, that would make money completely automatically.
Now I know that it is. Thinking about how it would
work and how it would fail sheds light on applying
cybernetic principles to business management.
Every man and every woman is a star.
-- Aleister Crowley
quoted at the beginning of
"Hollywood Babylon" (book, 1975) by Kenneth Anger
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0440153255/hip-20 )
Things are changing rapidly in the world of media.
In C3M v. 5 n. 1 I expressed skepticism that Sumner Redstone
was really retiring and letting Moonves run CBS and Freston
run Viacom. Then Tom Cruise was fired from Paramount by
Redstone because his wife wanted it done. "Where was Freston?"
I wondered, "I thought he was the boss over there." A few weeks
later Freston was out.
12. If It's Just a Virtual Actor Then Why Am I Feeling Real Emotions?
A dozen years ago I thought we were right on the edge of
a revolution in interactive entertainment. What happened?
13. The Ubiquitous Brian Eno
Eno connects the electronic virtuosos such as U2's Edge
with cyberneticists old and new, Stafford Beer and
Stewart Brand. Following his biographical thread takes
a unique journey through the history of technology and art.
14. An Open Letter To New Disney CEO Bob Iger
He's already done half the stuff I'd recommend,
but I can still tell you the other half.
15. Why I Can't Get Enough of Marshall McLuhan
In "Culture Is Our Business" (book, 1970)
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345026950/hip-20 )
The teen-age market was invented by the Beatles.
In politics, as in war, youth is now a major
factor. The TV set introduced the viewer as screen,
the public as participant. It puts us on.
It seems sometimes like Mr. McLuhan puts us on, but he does
it for our own good, to make the invisible commercial
culture more visible. (This is similar to the M.O. of
16. Digital Hollywood Update: The Siren's Call of Los Angeles
For the benefit of my daughter who wants to direct
we have finally completed the tours of studios in L.A.,
first NBC, Paramount, Warner Brothers, and lastly the
theme park Universal Studios Hollywood.
( themeparks.universalstudios.com/hollywood/website )
Universal is mostly attractions which teach you as much about
moviemaking as the Keebler Elves teach you about baking.
But we arrived early in the cool uncrowded morning and left early
when the crowds began to crush, and headed out to nearby
Ventura Blvd., to one of the bookstores of Samuel French.
( www.samuelfrench.com )
This began as a place to buy plays, for actors, in London,
New York, and Los Angeles, but has added an extensive
selection of books on moviemaking, criticism, guidebooks,
biographies of directors, guides to obscure genres, and
of course the latest technological developments. For my
daughter I got "Girl Director: A How-To Guide For the
First-Time Flat-Broke Film and Video Maker" (book, 2005)
by Andrea Richards (she said it's good),
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580086756/hip-20 )
and my friend Wayne spent $150 on books for himself and
his daughter, but what I was drawn to was a book I might
already own a copy of: "Hollywood Babylon" (1975) by
Kenneth Anger, a chronicle of Hollywood scandals from the
teens to the seventies.
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0440153255/hip-20 )
And I realized that what I want is to have a studio in
San Diego County, and to use L.A. as a location when I
want that "Hollywood Gothic" look.
recursive - see recursive
-- Stan Kelly-Bootle, 1981
"The Devil's DP Dictionary"
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0070340226/hip-20 )
These are some of the more esoteric topics I'm mulling:
17. Second Order Cybernetics: Threat Or Menace?
The Cybernetics of Cybernetics started with a bang and
then faded away. What went wrong?
18. The Dark Side of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)
You could argue that to the degree that NLP seems to
have corrupting effects this is indirect evidence that
its technologies work. The magical powers of super-
therapists available to all are powers to manipulate
and exploit others, manifested in extremes such as using
NLP on a jury, and Speed Seduction seminars.
19. Cybernetics of the Sacred
The above argument also applies to religion.
I think this is partly what Bateson was getting at
when he was writing "Angels Fear: Towards an
Epistemology of the Sacred" shortly before his
death in 1980 (it was completed by his daughter,
Mary Catherine Bateson, in 1987).
( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553345818/hip-20 )
20. The Influence of James Joyce on the Firesign Theatre
I dunno, maybe I just threw this in to make the others
There you have it, 20 choices, mark your ballots!
My friends Wayne and Bruce have both suggested that these 'zines
be made more blog-like and web-accessible, and perhaps collected
into a book. I shudder at the permissions tasks of moving this
material from the "wild west" blogosphere rules to the litigious
book-publishing rules, but making it into HTML sounds doable to me.
I've done an experiment with converting an issue, v. 5 n. 1,
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0501.txt )
into HTML. The result is at:
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0501.html )
I'm using a tool called 'txt2tags' to do this.
( txt2tags.sourceforge.net )
So far I'm having trouble with making indented lists with links in
them look good, but otherwise it seems OK.
For the techies among you, you can see my source file at:
( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/c3m_0501.t2t )
(You may need to download it or use View Source to have it be readable.)
My two questions are:
1) what do you think of this approach?
2) do you have any other suggestions for repurposing this material?
Privacy Promise: Your email address will never be sold or given to
others. You will receive only the e-Zine C3M from me, Alan Scrivener,
at most once per month. It may contain commercial offers from me.
To cancel the e-Zine send the subject line "unsubscribe" to me.
I receive a commission on everything you purchase from Amazon.com after
following one of my links, which helps to support my research.
Copyright 2006 by Alan B. Scrivener