One of the things that strikes me about our ‘reality’ is its resemblance to a dream. I’m certainly not alone in thinking that this strange universe we inhabit has dream-like characteristics, and during a recent conversation with a ‘lucid dreamer’ I likened the ‘voice’ that speaks to us through news articles, films, books, and indeed people ‘out there’ to that of the Oracle of Delphi. In other words, to that of a figure presenting us with weird, fragmented, prophetic utterances while lost in an associative trance state. When we become aware of this, the ‘reality’ we previously took for granted suddenly adopts an altogether different form. It seems very much like a hybrid cross between a game and a movie, to the extent that it’s often impossible to distinguish between the ‘reality’ presented to us in movies and the ‘reality’ presented to us by ‘reality’.
By way of example, just twelve days after the release of…
Dauphin County in the US suffered its worst nuclear disaster in the form of…
Those unaware that the above scenario represents the rule rather than the exception might be inclined to dismiss these curiosities as a case of art imitating life. By the standards of this ‘reality’, however, they’re normal occurrences that are frequently absurd and rarely quite so dramatic. The other day, for example, Doc Cooper and I were discussing Cybermen and a TV serialisation of Philip K Dick short stories entitled Electric Dreams. It has a ‘stellar’ cast…
This followed a reference to Blade Runner (the film version of Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) in my previous post, Dreams of Empire. Needless to say, within a matter of hours the below email appeared in my inbox.
Of course, as soon as I Googled “C.H.I.P. cyberpunk” I found myself caught in a whirlwind and magically transported to the dream world of the Emerald City.
Meanwhile, in today’s Daily (F)Email…
By this stage, however, none of the above should come as a surprise. Like ‘Delphi Ellis’, we wrack our brains to divine ‘meaning’ from these stories and videos, and the focus is always on the content. Rarely do we stop to consider the source of this content, the medium through which content is transmitted…
Medium: an agency or means of doing something; a means by which something is communicated or expressed; the intervening substance through which sensory impressions are conveyed or physical forces are transmitted.
…or that the term ‘medium’ has an occult meaning. If the ‘medium’ is the ‘message’ then are we living in a Hollywood production?
When we look at content, the identity of the ‘stars’ – the ‘stellar cast’ – of this Silver Screen production should be obvious. It’s just a question of reading between the lines to determine which ‘roles’ the lucid dreamers are playing, which ‘characters’ they portray.
Games have come a long way since Pong and Pac-Man. They have producers and directors, and the line between games and movies has become blurred to the point that game characters have become movie characters and vice versa.
One of the most interesting aspects of the ‘dream’ is its technological nature. We think that our technology is something separate and apart from us, and that the digital brain we’ve draped over the globe is a recent addition. Yet dream worlds do not adhere to conventional understandings of time, cause and effect, and linear sequences, and our own dream world contains many hints and clues about this.
Today, each of us lives several hundred years in a decade. — Marshall McLuhan
For example, I recently watched a documentary about the Persian Empire. It was full of references to a ‘colossal engineering project’ that laid cables between Europe and Asia (East and West) in order to construct a ‘superhighway’ that would allow the Persians to ‘ride the waves’.
This is a subject I’ve written about before in The Colossus of Rhodes, pointing out that the early internet was referred to as the…
The road is our major architectural form. — Marshall McLuhan
Roads are mediums of communication, and every empire in ‘recorded history’ is associated with the construction of roads and great architectural works known as ‘cities’ and ‘capitals’. These ‘cities’ and ‘capitals’ are central ‘nodes’ from which flows of ‘traffic‘ originate, and to which they return. When the flow of traffic dries up, or is subjected to significant and prolonged disruption, it becomes impossible to impose rule from the centre. Consequently, the empire withers and dies.
For me at least, the question is this: when exactly did this ‘recorded his-story’ begin?
If everything out there is ‘content’, a reflection of the ‘Silver Screen’, then the only thing we can really be certain of is a) our own identity, and b) that we are in some sense ‘script writers’. Ultimately, it boils down to language, and more specifically to what the medium is and why it interprets and encodes our thoughts like classified information in an eternal James Bond movie.
All of which brings me back to The Oracle. There’s a history here, as she seems to have followed me around since I don’t know when. For example, in order to code in the English-like programming language called COBOL I had to download a database library, and to do that I had to sign up for an Oracle account and accept the ‘terms and conditions’…
As I’ve mentioned before, the ‘COBOL Engineering job’ seems to form part of the dream world…
Back in the 1990s, I used to work with COBOL on ‘big iron’: a room full of huge ICL mainframes. Shortly before I left, my employer began work on decommissioning these ‘green screen’ legacy systems in order to replace them with a client-server system, running code written in…
All well and good, but what was the effect of this change from a ‘monolithic’ to a ‘distributed’ form of architecture? Code ran faster and the new Graphical User Interfaces were nice and pretty, but the underlying ‘rules of the game’ remained unchanged. They weren’t rewritten so much as translated from one language to another.
This seems to reflect my own ambiguity towards technology in general and The Oracle in particular. On the one hand, modern technology offers the promise of a decentralised world, yet on the other hand what we see ‘out there’ is a world that seems to be fixated on imposing and retaining control from the centre.
Here’s the thing though: if our ‘reality’ is a reflection then the characters and corporations and countries that we think ‘rule the world’ don’t actually ‘rule the world’. Rather, the struggles between these entities seem to caricature petty struggles between the ‘lucid dreamers’, struggles which are amplified to absurdity and projected on the Silver Screen we call ‘reality’.
In other words, the medium’s ‘core code’ seems specifically designed to keep us in an Age of Empires, an age in which the ‘symbolic instruction code’ of our thought and language manifests in 3D as conflict and competition between individuals and corporate bodies.
If we apply the above to technology and the internet, we have to ask what it represents. The internet is often presented as an anarchic system controlled by no single body or agency. That’s not really the case though. Once again, it’s difficult not to conclude that it’s all about US.
Since ICANN reports to the US government’s Department of Commerce, the domain name process is effectively overseen by the US government. China, Russia and Europe have all expressed concern at this situation because it means the US has leverage over the global coordination of the internet. “It has a role that is different from the role of all other governments,” says Massimiliano Minisci, a regional manager at ICANN. “That’s a concern around the world.”
All of which raises other interesting questions, such as what it really means to hack a computer or a network. I mean, just what is the modern obsession with the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ all about?
In computer science, a zombie is a computer connected to the Internet that has been compromised by a hacker, computer virus or trojan horse program and can be used to perform malicious tasks of one sort or another under remote direction. Botnets of zombie computers are often used to spread e-mail spam and launch denial-of-service attacks (DOS attacks). Most owners of “zombie” computers are unaware that their system is being used in this way. Because the owner tends to be unaware, these computers are metaphorically compared to fictional zombies. A coordinated DDoS attack by multiple botnet machines also resembles a “zombie horde attack”, as depicted in fictional zombie films.
Let’s face it: if you haven’t added a ‘script blocker’ to your ‘web browser’ or updated your ‘anti-virus’ and ‘firewall’, and if you’re not in possession of a unhackable Ancient Geek Antikythera Mechanism, then could you end up with a nasty case of the munchies?
Are we feasting on ourselves?
Or is someone feeding it to US?
Can we change the ‘rules of the game’ or is The Oracle ‘hard wired’ to suck the creative juices from our brains and present it in a particular form? If the latter then can we ‘unplug’ or deprive it of the information that sustains it?
One theme that emerges time and again in relation to empires is the idea of a ‘King of Kings’. Above and beyond that, is there a ‘Queen of Queens’ with a head full of our individual Dreams of Empire?
The ‘Pocket C.H.I.P.’ and the rocket ship. Is the Queen looking for a ‘winner’, a ‘champion’, a White Knight in shining armour?
Someone more than a drone?
Or is she just out of her mind?