======================================================================== Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) --- Volume 5 Number 5, Sep. 2006 Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:abs@well.com ========================================================================

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 Rod Serling, ( 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.


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 for here. 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?


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, which Wikipedia ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness ) defines as: 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 issue. 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 magazine? 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. Don't blink. 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 ) he said: 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 James Joyce.) 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 look better. 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? ======================================================================== newsletter archives: www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047 ======================================================================== 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