In was recently reminded of one of my favourite books from my late teens – Aldous Huxley’s “Ape and Essence” (1948).
Here are some quotes:
Vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, noughts and crosses, eagles and hammers. Mere arbitrary signs. But every reality to which a sign has been attached is thereby made subject to its sign. Goswami and Ali used to live in peace. But I got a flag, you got a flag, all Baboon-God’s children got flags; and because of the flags it immediately became right and proper for the one with the foreskin to disembowel the one without a foreskin, and for the circumcised to shoot the uncircumcised, rape his wife and roast his children over slow fires.
“Love casts out fear; but conversely fear casts out love. And not only love. Fear also casts out intelligence, casts out goodness, casts out all thought of beauty and truth. What remains in the bum or studiedly jocular desperation of one who is aware of the obscene Presence in the corner of the room and knows that the door is locked, that there aren’t any windows. And now the thing bears down on him. He feels a hand on his sleeve, smells a stinking breath, as the executioner’s assistant leans almost amorously toward him. “Your turn next, brother. Kindly step this way.” And in an instant his quiet terror is transmuted into a frenzy as violent as it is futile. There is no longer a man among his fellow men, no longer a rational being speaking articulately to other rational beings; there is only a lacerated animal, screaming and struggling in the trap. For in the end fear casts out even a man’s humanity. And fear, my good friends, fear is the very basis and foundation of modern life. Fear of the much touted technology which, while it raises out standard of living, increases the probability of our violently dying. Fear of the science which takes away the one hand even more than what it so profusely gives with the other. Fear of the demonstrably fatal institutions for while, in our suicidal loyalty, we are ready to kill and die. Fear of the Great Men whom we have raised, and by popular acclaim, to a power which they use, inevitably, to murder and enslave us. Fear of the war we don’t want yet do everything we can to bring about.”
“The leech’s kiss, the squid’s embrace,
The prurient ape’s defiling touch:
And do you like the human race?
No, not much.
Everything2 entry on “Ape and Essence”
I am very happy he has been chosen. I liked him from the first moment I saw him.
Make sure you watch the individual stories briefly touched on by the ad above below.
All the ads are here.
Meanwhile it seems these ads beat the competition by a mile.
[click to continue…]
Last month (January 2014) Clay Shirky gave a talk at Microsoft (50mins with Q&A). He took the opportunity to float some new ideas he has about Culture Cones, a metaphor he has borrowed from the physics concept of light cones.
He starts the description of the concept at 12m 45s into the talk.
Imagine two observers. The first is one light year from a supernova, the other is two light years away from the supernova. If the supernova explodes with a flash, the event will "happen" one year later to the first observer and two years later to the second observer. One sees it a year before the other.
So it is with cultural events and memes. Culture cones move through networks like light cones through space.
Shirky asks, "When was the first time you heard about bitcoin?", a culture cone moving though society right now.
Less connected people experience these events much later. They just saw the supernova flash no matter how long ago it actually happened. Technologists have this all the time when their family eventually ask them about some new thing that is actually old, "So what’s this Tor thing?"
It’s worth watching the talk. He even mentions Boyd’s and OODA loops.
Clay Shirky – Social Computing Symposium -16 January 2014
Passed away last month (5 December 2013).
I really liked his work – not the hocus-pocus stuff – but books like “A Criminal History of Mankind” (1984) and “The Outsider” (1956).