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November 1, 2023Whenever national governments or international organisations decide to inflict mass migration upon a country without consulting its population, progressives feel the unstoppable urge to defend the elites while simultaneously denigrating the hoi polloi. I will not bore the reader with the motivated reasoning of the social media influencer proving that borderless countries are great, that mass migration is an economic net positive or a basic human right or that even if it’s none of the above, it is inevitable and those who oppose it are despicable and thus fully deserve it. I will focus, instead, on a little status that goes viral whenever such post factum debates occur. The status goes along the lines of ‘actually, humans don’t have roots. They have feet.’ I remember a liberal philosophy professor posting this on facebook a few years ago, signalling his support for the regime and feeling good about it (which, according to Yarvin, is the definition of woke). The phrase was originally coined by Rachel Wolchin and sounded slightly differently: “If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet.” Rachel is an author and an influencer; her Instagram posts seem to consist of motivational texts and selfies in bathing suits. I haven’t read any of her books, though judging from her Instagram, the main theme seems to be manifesting power through positive thinking and all that jazz. ‘Don’t shrink yourself for people. Don’t shrink yourself for anything. You’re a wildflower. You’re an ocean. You are you, regardless of them‘ – Rachel Wolchin. Punishing the chuds I don’t think the philosophy professor finds this pop-psych stuff particularly appealing. His post was motivated by something else entirely – a visceral reaction against ‘populism’.‘Roots’ are a metaphor for belonging. Lower classes value being at home in the world; the place of one’s birth, the hometown or the homeland – these things are precious to them. When the educated midwit claims that, actually, humans have feet instead of roots, he satirises this ordinary nostalgia of the great unwashed. ‘Longing for one’s roots’ is exposed as cheap, irrational sentimentality. Humans have always been ‘on the move’, he argues; some peoples even evolved for a nomadic lifestyle, there have always been great mass migrations, so ours is completely natural. Furthermore, in a society of mass transport and mass communication, it is inevitable that people would adapt to a technologically-augmented nomadism, exploring new forms of parasocial inter-relationality and exerting their human right to free movement. All this is implied in that smug little status. Metaphors and knowledge The educated midwit is, of course, more deluded than the ‘populist’ he despises. We know that humans don’t have ‘actual’ roots. The term is a metaphor meant to signify something deeper. Metaphors are not only employed for sentimental nonsense. They are an indispensable part of knowledge. As Iain McGilchrist pointed out, we cannot know anything other than by analogy. Certain things have certain features in common, so they are kind of the same in those respects. When scientists say that natural phenomena follow or obey laws, they are employing a judicial metaphor. When neuroscientists argue that the brain is a decision-making device, they are employing a mechanical metaphor. Without metaphors, nothing is intelligible, because no thing can be likened to any other thing. On the other hand, McGilchrist is quick to point out that similarities between things are limited, and common sense is essential in discerning when an analogy has reached its limit. And it is precisely this common sense that the midwit lacks. To quote S. Morello, “the slightly educated person understands little besides his ideas about the reality that he does not well understand. He does not return from those ideas back to the reality of which they are abstractions, abstractions to which he anxiously and unsuccessfully seeks to conform the world.” The midwit so obstinately clings to his exhaustive analogies, models and procedures, that he refuses to encounter reality in a contemplative way which would require him to perceive things or persons in all their uniqueness, as a “you” instead of an “it” (Martin Buber). And this exercise alone would allow the brain hemispheres to communicate and balance each other – Iain’s definition of common sense. Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer The liberal midwit notices that equating the human brain with a mechanism has some explanatory power and that it can be technologically useful; this leads him to believe that the brain and the machine are things of the same kind. Cristian Presură can, thus, claim, that there is no difference between a child and a laptop, both being ultimately conglomerates of atoms. If that were true, his own thoughts and opinions would be equally worthless, as mere sounds made by atoms emerging from chaos, on their way to biomass. If our minds are capable of real thought and insight, they cannot be of the same kind as a laptop. But this realisation requires common sense, which the midwit lacks. This delusion can be traced back to the Enlightenment, when one of the earliest French materialists, Julien Offray de La Mettrie took it to its absolute final extrapolation. His most famous works argue that 1) we are just machines, 2) acknowledging this makes us rational, 3) you can demonstrate this by being cynical about your entire civilisation and then denigrating it, and 4) given all that, the best thing you can do with your life is pursue ephemeral pleasures and then die. Now even if we are sceptical about man’s ability to gain real knowledge or to encounter something real ‘out there’, observation tells us that living organisms and machines are of fundamentally different kinds. Living organisms are always in flux, always replacing dead cells with new cells, always interacting and adjusting to the ecosystem, changing and self-regulating to remain the same – growing, developing to full maturity, reproducing, aging and dying. Imbalances and illnesses are countered by a self-organising immune system that pushes for homeostasis. Machines are artefacts designed by humans to be useful for a certain purpose; they do not exist outside of that conferred instrumental value; when a chair breaks, it ceases being ‘a chair’. Machines do not inherit any of the attributes of living organisms. They can be engineered to simulate human interaction, thinking, choice-making, even the flow and self-regulation characteristic to life. But this does not make them ‘transcend’ into a different kind, just as drawing ever smaller tangents to a circle will never result in a perfect circle. I know this sounds ridiculous to those raised on Star Trek and SG1, but our brains do not ‘process information’ and they are not computers, just as they aren’t hydraulic engines, automata or telegraphs. To quote from an essay on aeon.co: The invention of hydraulic engineering in the 3rd century BCE led to the popularity of a hydraulic model of human intelligence, the idea that the flow of different fluids in the body – the ‘humours’ – accounted for both our physical and mental functioning. By the 1500s, automata powered by springs and gears had been devised, eventually inspiring leading thinkers such as René Descartes to assert that humans are complex machines. In the 1600s, Thomas Hobbes suggested that thinking arose from small mechanical motions in the brain. In the mid-1800s, the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz compared the brain to a telegraph. Predictably, just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software. The people listed in this essay were not even midwits; most were geniuses. Yet they all exhibited the same tunnel vision that drove them to take their analogies too far and cause a lot of harm in the process. Eternal self-own of the liberal mind Going back to square one. Liberal professor feels the urge to dunk on populists and reactionaries. He writes an acid status on facebook: ‘Actually, humans don’t have roots. They have feet.’ What is he making fun of? The fact that right wing people use metaphors in order to convey meaning? We have seen how the liberal midwit employs metaphors in everything he says. He uses them in excess, even when they are way past their expiration date. He confuses the Cosmos with a machine (though for some strange reason he mocks Creationists when they do the same, more rigorously than himself); he is so caught up in this metaphor that he will attempt to conform the world to it rather than snap out of its spell. “Machines have less problems. I’d like to be a machine. Don’t you?” – Andy Warhol.“A house is a machine for living in.” – Le Corbusier“Swallowable robotic pills will dispense anti-depressants according to wirelessly broadcast schedules, helping workers receive medicine when they are under the most stress. Human ingenuity truly boundless!” Steven Pinker The cringe goes deep, and the harm caused by these madmen even deeper. Now that we established that everyone uses metaphors to convey truth and that the liberal abuses them more than anyone else, what remains of his criticisms against the chuds? The fact that they prefer the organic ‘tree root’ to the artificial machinery? If you truly fucking love science, you should admit they are more on the money with their metaphor, since trees are living organisms, like humans. “Roots” signify a web of relations developed over time between the people of a household, between multiple households; guilds, parishes, localities and homelands. The inter-generational dynamics, the interactions and attachments with the built environment, its landmarks and monuments. The richer these things are, the deeper the moral capital; the higher the trust and the better things are maintained. To quote Chesterton: “Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing– say Pimlico . It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved. For decoration is not given to hide horrible things: but to decorate things already adorable. A mother does not give her child a blue bow because he is so ugly without it. A lover does not give a girl a necklace to hide her neck. If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is THEIRS, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. This is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her” – Chesterton, Orthodoxy In their desire to punish the chuds, liberal intellectuals are forcing them to adopt one of the two disastrous routes Chesterton lists above: to flee their homelands in search of greener pastures, or to stay and witness their countries crumble under the twin forces of negative birth rates (caused by the adoption of the same liberal values) and endless mass migration. You vill live in squalid Pimlico and you vill be happy! The other talking points I listed in the beginning (humans have a right to free movement, people are in fact nomads, we must invent a new type of belonging without settling) are self-refuting and are part of the same attempt to force humanity follow the logic of the machine. You cannot have borderless states and environmentalism at the same time; flourishing takes time and commitment, and no technological surrogate will absolve us of the duties to our own Pimlicos. [...]
April 4, 2023Richmal Midllesworth (She/Her) is the head of HR at an established London-based architecture studio. Her modern approach to HR had her labelled as an HR Rebel. The following lines are a transcript of one of her recent vlogs. The names have been changed for privacy purposes. ‘Good morning everyone. So I’m just capping off a 10 mile run around the villages in Hertfordshire where I live. As you know, I’m raising funds and awareness for mental health, in particular men for the Winston Smith foundation. And what I thought I’d do today is I’d take a minute to talk to you about getting access to mental health support because – uhm – in my role and with some of my friends and family, I hear a lot of people say to me – well, I did try and go and get some help, but I felt that they didn’t really understand me or they made some comment that, really, I didn’t connect with; I didn’t feel validated. And what I want to say to you is that these things do happen. No one’s perfect and even professional people sometimes come across as off or might make a comment that really does cause some emotional harm. So all I can say to you is ‘just keep trying’. Not with that person, not with that entity. Go and find something else. Because getting mental health support is not one-size-fits-all, it’s one size fits one. So approach it with some curiosity and keep trying different things. Something else that springs to mind a lot as well that I hear about is that there’s such a massive delay for getting help by the NHS and via these services that are free to people, especially for young people that are struggling with their mental health, and the waiting list to get counselling and therapies is really long and that’s quite a worry for me, considering how many people really are now becoming more engaged with looking after their mental health. So the other day, my other half shared an email with me about a little app; it’s called Woebot and it is a cognitive behavioural therapy-based program in the form of artificial intelligence called Woebot. And I’ve been playing around with Woebot this week, I’ve been checking in, I’v’e been testing Woebot out and I can highly, highly recommend it. What I will do is I will put a link to Woebot on this video after I’ve posted it, but it’s got quite a cute nature, so it will put a smile on your face. I think that it’s accessible for young people, as well as adults, and I think that it’s something that you should be aware of and you should try it out. Partly what it does is it gives you tools, it will give you videos, it gives you ideas about mindfulness, how to practice gratitude, journaling, which is also very good for mental health, and it does give you some techniques if you’re in the middle of a crisis or a negative thought cycle, you open up the app, you check in and it’s available for you immediately. It finished its conversation with me last night to tell me it was off going fishing, so it does have a cute little personality as well, so I can highly recommend it. So that’s what I just wanted to say today, it’s just ‘stay curious, look after your mental health and if you do find you’ve hit an avenue where you don’t think you’re being validated or the person you’re talking to isn’t connecting with you, then it’s okay to end that and start looking for something different. So thank you for your time, I’ve got about a mile to go and then I’ll finish off my 10 miles. So I’ll post all this a bit later on, but just wanted to say ‘take care, everyone’. Thanks!’ . [...]
January 7, 2023I began this series with a quote from George Orwell, showing that ImageAI is only the latest iteration in a process spanning many decades. In the second article I argued that the only way to mount a principled opposition to the blind processes of automation is by adopting a classical understanding of art. In the third one I attempted to show that the destructive consequences of tools like the internet, social media, AI etc. reflect the modern redefinition of freedom as radical autonomy; thus the negative consequences of using these tools – increased social isolation, anxiety, depression, loss of focus, loss of memory and language use – are not accidents or externalities; they derive from a deep commitment to a set of subversive norms that lead us, in a profound irony, to the belief that technology develops independent of any norms and intentions, but rather shapes our norms, our polity, and even humanity (Deneen). I will now conclude the series with an acknowledgement: the anti-AI protest will fail. Decision makers are broadcasting the new reality in unison. If you want a glimpse of the automation projects that will likely happen beginning with 2023, have a look at this article by ‘Artificial Intelligence Weekly’. Here are 4 media outlets (the article includes many more) blurring the line between news reporting and overt promotion: Washington Post: We asked an AI bot hundreds of questions. Here’s what we learned.NYT: The Tech That Will Invade Our Lives in 2023: Say hello to new-and-improved A.I. assistants, and move over to brands like Twitter and Tesla.Reuters: In Hong Kong, designers try out new AI assistant: The system can produce a dozen fashion templates within 10 seconds, saving designers precious time.Time: From AI to Energy, 4 New Year’s Resolutions for the World The author of the article describes himself as a ‘Casual Academic’, as well as Head of Data Science and AI, Thought Leader, Global AI Ambassador, Advisor and Chief Evangelist. You instantly notice the strange blend of non profit and for profit, of neutral academic research and tech evangelism, broadcasted by media institutions in unison as a complete inevitability… You will use Image AI and you will be happy!  Shortly after the recent protest started, AI developer and Sillicon Valley insider Evan Conrad agreed to have an open discussion with artist and teacher Stan Prokopenko in order to assure the artist community that ImageAI is harmless and should be welcomed by everyone. Needless to say, the interview had the opposite effect. Evan compared ImageAI to a boulder that will smash anyone trying to stop it, and thus the only possible alternative is to roll alongside it and push it in the right direction. When asked why he considers it inevitable, he retorted to zero sum logic: ‘China will roll ahead with the new tech, so we cannot afford to do otherwise’. Who would have thought that making concept art for games and films was such serious business?! . LACK OF TRANSPARENCY Technology is not morally or aesthetically neutral. It shapes our behavioural patterns, our being-in-the-world and the ways in which we understand each other. Regardless of what you think of a platform like Twitter, you no doubt see it with different eyes in 2022 than in 2006, having experienced its structure and inner logic. When asked about the logic of ImageAI, its developers and evangelists will not only give contradictory answers, they will tell you only what you want to hear. If you are a director in a creative business, they will mention the huge potential for cutting expenses, speeding up production times and reducing team size. If you are an artist, they will tell you about the opportunity to stay afloat in the industry by learning the invaluable skill of AI prompting. If you are the social activist type, they will exalt ImageAI’s potential for making art more inclusive and accessible, both by lowering production fees and by eliminating the glass ceiling of elitist skilled artists. If you are the right-wing bodybuilding type, they will exalt ImageAI’s beauty and visual excellence as opposed to the sickening flat style and abstract art made by contemporary artists.  Just like social media platforms 20 years ago, ImageAI is sold as a chameleon that takes the colour of your innermost desires, a technological panacea which cannot do any harm as long as it is used for good. In doing so, its promoters are masking the technology’s structure and inner logic, which is completely opaque to its users. When the sales pitch is over, those still unconvinced of the necessity of ImageAI are bombarded with insults and intimidation. I have seen many tech evangelists repeatedly calling sceptical artists luddites, cavemen or morons. Those who refuse to participate in the sacrament of automation are immediately associated with the reactionary forces of the past, opposing every new manifestation of goodness and clinging to the dirty old ways; fearful of the invention of the camera, dismissive of the absolute beauty of expressionism, cubism and dada, ungrateful to the genius of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin.  ‘The luddites’ are also reminded of the absolute futility of their resistance. ‘How ignorant, arrogant and egotistic can you be, thinking that you can influence the chaotic development of technology!? Don’t you know Gilles Deleuze proved tech has a life of its own, akin to a decentralised rhizome governed by laws as chaotic and unpredictable as weather itself!?’ If, on the other hand, you agree to join the right side of history™, you will soon discover that there are countless tools that can help you nudge technology in the safe direction of a fully automated, rules-based, information-driven, purposeful, potential-liberating Gaian future.  . HOW NOT TO OPPOSE IMAGE AI In the 2nd article of this series I suggested that the only way to oppose the destructive effects of automation can be achieved by adopting a classical understanding of art. When one immerses himself in classical art made in any period from late antiquity to late 19th century, from vernacular to high art – he discovers an infinity of reasons to oppose mindless automation, especially in its current iteration of data-scraping image AIs.  By doing so, however, you have given up any chance of successfully opposing the new disruptive tech. Thought leaders, tech ambassadors, academics and journalists might disagree on a number of topics (fewer and fewer, it appears), but the cult of unleashed technology and the repudiation of classicism are non-negotiable. Does this mean that the Concept Art Association’s fundraiser will fail to achieve its goals? Of course not. As I am writing this, it has already reached 3 quarters of its funding target. The artists’ voices will be heard in D.C., where government officials and policy makers will be educated on issues facing the creative industries if this tech is left unchecked. Reparations will be paid, injustices will be punished. We might even see a film like ‘The Social Dilemma’ on the big platforms. This does not change the inevitable outcome. In the protesters’ words, ‘we know this technology is here to stay one way or another’. It can either stay in its current form, ruled by techno-optimists, business magnates and investors, or it can develop generous HR teams that will force the developers to pay compensation, share ownership, offer sinecures and agree to be kept under constant scrutiny. Did you enjoy the old Twitter, or would you rather have Elon’s version? Those are also the only possible options with ImageAI. If you’re like me, you think Twitter is a net loss for civilisation; it inflated egos, destroyed IRL relationships, wrecked people’s attention span and put them in a hellish loop of dopamine-cortisol, an addictive alternation between the desire to find agreement and rage at those who disagree. It promised a world in which every voice will matter and be heard, yet polarisation, loneliness and the loss of moral capital were the only things it delivered. Yet banning it still seems unthinkable to virtually everyone. There is no life outside these platforms. We are treating them as if they are persons with the right to exist and fulfil their potential. We must continue to helplessly roll along the boulder, like Sisyphus, “absorbed and rapt in eager self, driving, pushing, carried on in a stress of feverish force, dynamic force apart from reason or will, like the force that lifts the tides and sends the clouds onwards. They cannot stay, they must go, their necks are in the slave’s ring” – Richard Jefferies, The Story of my Heart. . A WAY OUT? ‘OMAE WA, MOU SHINDEIRU!’ Change starts with storytelling; when enough artists will be able to paint a compelling picture of an alternate reality preserving art in its classical understanding, there might be a chance to find a way out. When enough scholars, ‘casual academics’ and thought leaders will snap out of their hypnotic trance, we might witness something less boring and conformist. The technical solution involves the creation of alternative platforms for artists; platforms that reward hard earned skills, geographical proximity, real life interactions and skin in the game. Platforms that discourage automation, deterritorialization and mediated interactions.  . [...]