The Colossus of Roads Pt1

I think it’s safe to say that over the past few years, and the last twelve month’s in particular, I’ve made a friend of what to most would seem like utter madness. I had a very strange childhood, so I’m perhaps more open to the bizarre, unusual and ‘irrational’ than is typical. Less prone to shrug off life’s peculiarities as mere ‘coincidence’ or file them away as ‘impossible’. My own life has been full of incidents science would refuse to touch with a ten-foot pole. By way of example, one of my earliest memories is of being led through my parent’s house at night by a small, rectangular object that hovered and emitted a red light. About twenty years ago, two small balls of light appeared in my bedroom and, after performing a short series of synchronised loops in front me, entered my body and disappeared. A decade ago, I was driving in broad daylight and watched a huge fireball tear across the sky and vanish over the horizon. It must have been visible to thousands of people for miles around, yet local and national media failed to report it. Last year, I had a surreal and dream-like experience walking the Seven Sisters on the UK’s south coast, where I saw three different lighthouses on the walk to Beachy Head and only two on the return journey. This kind of stuff just seems to happen to me.

Last year, I quit a dead-end tech job and disappeared down a rabbit hole of ‘impossible’ synchronicity. I started another tech job soon after, resigned a week later, and tumbled even further down the rabbit hole. The contents of my bookshelf and film collection began to talk to me. Not literally, but in the sense that their stories and themes seemed to reflect events in my own life. I noticed that articles in the mass media and YouTube videos also reflected these themes, along with my own thoughts and actions and those of regular commentators on Merovee. Historical events from the past seemed to repeat themselves in ‘updated’ 21st Century form. I thought I was losing my mind, and after watching Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, which features a ‘talking’ bookcase, I almost did. I had to take my car out for a fast drive as a means to focus on something else and hold on to my sanity. Later, I realised that my actions duplicated a storyline found in Retreat Syndrome, a short story by Philip K Dick. Here, a man living in a delusional reality takes a high-speed drive in an attempt to convince himself that his world is real.

Last month, I started another job, which I quit a fortnight later. I wasn’t entirely surprised to find that things immediately became even weirder. They became stranger still when a friend sent me a link to the below video via Twitter. The first of the ‘top five’ is about the construction of the Nazi’s network of roads or high-speed Autobahns.

What immediately struck me was the use of the term ‘network’ and the phonetic connection between roads and Rhodes. For me at least, it’s impossible to think of Rhodes without having the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of The Ancient World, spring to mind.

The-Colossus-of-Rh_3534739b

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek titan-god of the sun Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes, on the Greek island of the same name, by Chares of Lindos in 280 BC.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_of_Rhodes

I was unsurprised to find that, when I searched for an image to use for this post, the first to appear was that of a supercomputer named (totally coincidentally of course) Titan. The link between the two is a little-known science fiction film from the late 1960s called Colossus: The Forbin Project. This remarkably prescient film (which I referred to in Gods and Daemons) preempted most of the themes that appeared in ‘The Terminator’ franchise, ‘War Games’, ‘I, Robot’, and pretty much all other films and games that feature a rogue supercomputer. In this particular case, Colossus becomes self-aware, drops the bomb on Russia, and informs humanity that it intends to exercise absolute power in order to save humanity from itself.

Those familiar with Cold War technology will be aware that the US nuclear deterrent of this era was based on the Titan ICBM

Titan_II_launch

Similarly, those over the age of 30 will no doubt recall that the early internet was once heralded as the…

popularmechanics_informationsuperhighway

I spent the next day pondering the meaning of the Nazi/Rhodes/Colossus theme and wondering exactly what sort of ‘network’ was created by ‘the Nazis’ and when. The film In Time, starring Justin Timberlake, had popped into my head in relation to this. In any case, I was so engrossed that I decided to skip a planned run with a friend. I sent him a Facebook message and this was his reply.

Just In Time

He understood his little joke without realising it’s significance for me, or its wider significance vis-a-vis the ‘machine world’.

Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms. — Marshall McLuhan

After…ahem…mopping up with my friend, I popped out to my local Co-Op to buy some milk. I was still mulling over the implications of the above while standing in the queue waiting to pay. This is what I overheard in front of me:

Shop assistant: That’ll be 9.39 please.
Customer: How much?
Shop assistant: 9.39.
Customer: Oh, I thought you said it’s 19.39

The history books tell us that World War II began in 1939, and those familiar with the history of the computer will know that the very first digital computer was developed during World War II. It too was called Colossus. Needless to say, I paid for my carton of milk and exited the store in a daze, with The Matrix on my mind…

Colossus was designed by the engineer Tommy Flowers to solve a problem posed by mathematician Max Newman at the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer

Cypher_(Matrix)

The prototype, Colossus Mark 1, was shown to be working in December 1943 and was operational at Bletchley Park on 5 February 1944. An improved Colossus Mark 2 that used shift registers to quintuple the processing speed, first worked on 1 June 1944, just in time for the Normandy Landings on D-Day.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossus_computer

nebuchadnezza

The Matrix is one of a number of films that just keeps following me around everywhere I go. At the end of February, I received an email containing this image from the…

Oracle

…asking me to renew a subscription I didn’t even know I had. It seems they got hold of my email address after I entered it in order to download a database required by a COBOL compiler I use now and again. I did at one time entertain the idea of becoming a COBOL software engineer…

But I digress…

About ten months ago, I was hit by a wave of information about nuclear war. To this day, I have no idea where it came from. Suffice to say that everything I now know about the mechanics and technology involved I learned during this process. Prior to this, I had no real interest in the subject, although I was interested in the politics of the era, having studied the Cold War at university. I found myself compelled to post about it on Merovee incessantly, and at some point someone remarked that I must believe that a full-scale nuclear war was imminent. My reply – which even I found odd at the time – was that I thought a full-scale nuclear war had already happened. Perhaps the best way to explain it is like so:

Britain v Germany, Empire v Reich…

The ‘incredible true story’…

Rush_UK_poster

The ‘attack warning red’…

USA v USSR, manifested in 3D no less…

Clash of the Titans movie poster 3D
Clash of the Titans movie poster 3D

Madness you say?

…the Titans most famously included the first twelve children of the primordial Gaia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (Father Sky). They were giant deities of incredible strength, who ruled during the legendary Golden Age, and also composed the first pantheon of Greek deities….[they]…were overthrown by Cronus’ children (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hestia, Hera and Demeter), in the Titanomachy (or “War of the Titans”)…

The classical Greek myths of the Titanomachy fall into a class of similar myths throughout Europe and the Near East concerning a war in heaven, where one generation or group of gods largely opposes the dominant one.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titan_%28mythology%29

In my view, the entire Cold War period is a retelling of this mythology in our 3D ‘reality’. A battle for supremacy between two giant powers, both sides wielding an elemental force – nuclear power, the power of the atom or ‘Adam’, control over the basic building blocks of ‘reality’ itself – that is simultaneously a destroyer and creator of life. Did they not rule the earth and sky with their political, economic and military might? Were they not godlike in their power? Did they not hold the keys to heaven and hell? Are they not in some way reflections of the original two superpowers, Atom and Eve?

The storyline of Colossus: The Forbin Project takes the above and gives it a twist, one that seems to predict the outcome of the Cold War itself. Here, the two superpowers are supercomputers: Colossus on the American side, Guardian on the other. After becoming operational, Colossus deduces that the Soviet’s have built their own supercomputer and blackmails both sides, forcing them to establish a permanent link between them. The two devise an entirely new computer language and merge to become a single system that controls the whole planet, offering humanity two possibilities: the peace of plenty or the peace of unburied death.

Colossus, along with its more recent counterparts, is both a modern and totally outdated retelling of the War in Heaven. Here, the Greek pantheon of gods is replaced with a single godhead along Judeo-Christian lines. Like the god of the Old Testament, Colossus is a tyrant who offers a ‘free’ choice between binary opposites: do not eat the apple and live, eat the apple and die, obey the Ten Commandments and live, disobey and die, etc., etc. This is a reflection of the human mindset: the fear of letting go, losing control, needing to control. Colossus was the ‘child’ of humankind. Sometimes a child inherits a parent’s personality, and sometimes the resemblance is only skin deep. With this in mind, I wonder what a New Age retelling of the myth will look like?

Did the Clash of the Titans happen? Is it happening now? Will it continue to happen in the future? Has anything ever really happened? What is our 3D ‘reality’? What is IT?

It’s 8am, I’ve just finished writing and opened the curtains to find myself in the grip of a nuclear winter.

snow1

I can’t say I’m surprised… 😉

The Body of the Many

Writing in the 60s and 70s, Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic work on digital communications technology depicted our complex interlocking web of computer networks as a living organism. This organism represents the externalisation of the human brain and central nervous system, and the picture McLuhan painted was that of a fragile and sensitive creature, one which wears its brain and central nervous system outside its skin, with raw nerves exposed to the risk of shock and infection. McLuhan also speculated on what type of human ‘attitude’ would be required under these conditions. That is to say, in what way would human attitudes and behaviour be expected to change in order to create a suitable ‘habitat’ and ensure that the delicate environmental balance remains undisturbed? His alarming conclusion was that docility and compliance would become primary virtues.

However, this ‘habitat’ should not be interpreted as a physical environment as such. Rather, McLuhan was referring to the effects of the digital environment, its ability to bring the entire globe together in an immediate and instantaneous way. He suggested that the effects of this commingling might manifest as a form of Extra Sensory Perception. He even hinted that it might result in the emergence of a single global consciousness. It is against this backdrop that we must interpret McLuhan’s comments as the final ‘withering away’ of the individualism and privacy of the mechanistic age. Today we can see the erosion of these values in the social media ‘gaffe’: cue the instantaneous global backlash, the inevitable climb-down, the abject apology. The message is clear: conformity is ‘in’. The question is: has it ever been ‘out’?

The idea that we are all one consciousness, moving towards a single or shared form of consciousness, or are individual parts of a gestalt whole is a fairly popular one and has been explored in numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. This particular article was prompted by the usual strange events on Merovee, where myself and others regularly experience phenomena similar to those described by McLuhan. In this particular case, by a bizarre mix of references to the Nazis, eugenics, the popular Bioshock video game series, and an article about the sinking of the Leviathan.

Leviathan

Leviathan is the title of a well-known work of 17th Century political philosophy by Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes’ core assumption is that humankind’s ‘natural’ state amounts to a war of all against all in which life is nasty, short, brutish and poor. He argues that the only possible escape from this literal state of anarchy is for the many to voluntarily submit to rule by the few or, more preferably, the one. The many become part of a single body politic ‘represented’ by a sovereign with supreme authority and absolute power. Hobbes’ work contains the paradox inherent to all attempts to reconcile individual freedom with social solidarity, i.e. its central thesis is that we become free, and can enjoy freedom, only by surrendering our freedom.

THE final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants…

The idea that we all share a common interest by virtue of geographical location, ‘race’, culture, or economic interest is a common one. History is full of examples of those who would lead us by the nose for the sake of their idea of the Greater Good. Yet no matter how tight the social bonds are supposed to be, the leader is always the exception who supposedly proves the rule. The Leader stands alone as the supreme authority. It’s a trend that received its full expression in the totalitarian regimes of the mid-20th Century, although it’s still evident today in the increasingly salient and ‘messianic’ roles of modern Prime Ministers and Presidents.

Exactly the same paradox applies in the case of McLuhan’s digital organism. Can we really conceive of a single consciousness, the one from the many? Perhaps the best known fictional example is The Borg from the Star Trek universe, yet even here the so-called ‘hive mind’ is under the control of a single individual who speaks as ‘I’ rather than ‘We’. The ‘We’ are merely drones under the control of the ‘I’. The assumption being that without a directing ‘I’ the ‘We’ are helpless and unable to act, a directionless mishmash of competing ideas and impulses with no judge or arbiter as to which goals to pursue and which paths to take. Yet when removed from the hive mind’s influence the individuality of the ‘We’ begins to return.

We see the same thing in the Bioshock series of video games. Here, an idealist creates an underwater utopia called Rapture free from governmental interference. It quickly degenerates into a dystopia based on eugenics and battles for control of ADAM, a substance which facilitates genetic manipulation on a vast scale. Ultimately, in an attempt to impose social solidarity by technological means, its founder releases a substance which obliterates the population’s free will. Bioshock has its origins in the earlier System Shock series, in which a rogue Artificial Intelligence employs eugenics in an attempt to incorporate humanity into a single organism called “The Many” under her control. The second installment takes place on spaceships called the Von Braun (after Nazi rocket scientist Werner von Braun) and the Rickenbacker (or Reichenbacker).

Similar themes are explored in the Star Trek episode The Return of the Archons. Here, the Enterprise investigates the disappearance of the USS Archon (Greek for leader or monarch) and visits a planet stuck in the 19th Century, controlled by a mysterious leader called Landru, ruled over by hooded lawgivers, and populated by human automatons who have been absorbed into “The Body” and lack individuality. Ultimately, Kirk and Co. discover that Landru is just a projection of a well-meaning but long-dead leader who rescued the planet from chaos and anarchy. Before death he encoded himself into a computer, which maintained his vision of peace and stability at the expense of individual creativity and freedom of expression. When Kirk challenges the computer and accuses it of betraying Landru’s vision it promptly commits digital hari-kari and goes up in smoke.

The memory of The Body will be cleansed…

For the last two thousand years The Body has been viewed as something dirty and sinful, something judged and found wanting, something to be denied and suppressed. The same theology behind this distorted image of The Body also provided the underpinnings of our judicial system. Some have argued that the ethos of this theology also provided the foundation of our capitalist economic system. This ethos permeates our legal, socio-economic and political systems, and they in turn now permeate the entire globe in one form or another. The message is that The Body is deficient and must be brought into subjection. It must not be left to its own devices. Salvation itself depends on its perpetual subordination to a Higher Power.

The perennial problem of human existence has always been leadership. Who leads and how, what is the source of their ‘authority’, what safeguards exist to prevent injustice? As we continue the process of translating ourselves into ‘pure’ information we have to question the messages buried in the bizarre synchronicities we see ‘out there’. Are they telling us that we’re in the process of forming some kind of singular consciousness? Or are they telling us that a singular consciousness has always existed? What if the message isn’t that we’re entering into a hitherto unknown union but that we need to revise an existing one? What if what we see ‘out there’ is telling us that someone or something has always been tucked away behind the curtain, pulling levers like the Wizard of Oz, masquerading as a Higher Power?

What if the messages are an invitation to pull back the curtain and free The Body?

Are you of The Body, friend?