Warning: 21st Century Mythology Employs Retrograde Vocabulary

There is a new presentation up over at edge.com featuring Jaron Lanier, a genius in computer science, that I want to recommend. It is super helpful in putting into context the concept of the Singularity. Because I think this information is so important to be aware of, I have quoted him below on what I think are his key points for reflection but you can (should!) listen to the soundcloud interview or read the unedited transcript by clicking here:The Myth Of AI

Do you feel incompetent when it comes to comprehending and navigating the digital database economy in which we now live? I wonder how much of that is down to a reasonable hesitancy in dealing with the new and unfamiliar that has morphed into ‘the Great and Terrible Unknowable’. Lanier’s statements offer a reset button of sorts for our attitudes towards Artificial Intelligence. We can use the frictional energy of the times to our everyday advantage in positive ways and that starts with re-imagining, re-visualizing current trends and trajectories and our rightful place in them.


The idea that computers are people has a long and storied history. It goes back to the very origins of computers, and even from before. There’s always been a question about whether a program is something alive or not since it intrinsically has some kind of man vs machineautonomy at the very least, or it wouldn’t be a program. There has been a domineering subculture—that’s been the most wealthy, prolific, and influential subculture in the technical world—that for a long time has not only promoted the idea that there’s an equivalence between algorithms and life, and certain algorithms and people, but a historical determinism that we’re inevitably making computers that will be smarter and better than us and will take over from us. Some like the idea of the computers taking over, and some of them don’t. What I’d like to do here today is propose that the whole basis of the conversation is itself askew, and confuses us, and does real harm to society and to our skills as engineers and scientists…

Let’s go to another layer of how it’s dysfunctional. And this has to do with just clarity of user interface, and then that turns into an economic effect. People are social creatures. We want to be pleasant, we want to get along. We’ve all spent many years as children learning how to adjust ourselves so that we can get along in the world. If a program tells you, well, this is how things are, this is who you are, this is what you like, or this is what you should do, we have a tendency to accept that. I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean by that. Maybe I’ll start with Netflix. The thing about Netflix is that there isn’t much on it. There’s a paucity of content on it. If you think of any particular movie you might blog_thezeitgeistmovement_comwant to see, the chances are it’s not available for streaming, that is; that’s what I’m talking about. And yet there’s this recommendation engine, and the recommendation engine has the effect of serving as a cover to distract you from the fact that there’s very little available from it. And yet people accept it as being intelligent, because a lot of what’s available is perfectly fine. Dating always has an element of manipulation; shopping always has an element of manipulation; in a sense, a lot of the things that people use these things for have always been a little manipulative. There’s always been a little bit of nonsense. And that’s not necessarily a terrible thing, or the end of the world. But it’s important to understand it if this is becoming the basis of the whole economy and the whole civilization. If people are deciding what books to read based on a momentum within the recommendation engine that isn’t going back to a virgin population, that hasn’t been manipulated, then the whole thing is spun out of control and doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s not so much a rise of evil as a rise of nonsense. It’s a mass incompetence, as opposed to Skynet from the Terminator movies. That’s what this type of AI turns into…

If you talk about AI as a set of techniques, as a field of study in mathematics or engineering, it brings benefits. If we talk about AI as a mythology of creating a post-human species, it creates a series of problems that I’ve just gone over, which include acceptance of bad user interfaces, where you can’t tell if you’re being manipulated or not, and everything is ambiguous. It creates incompetence, because you don’t know whether recommendations are coming from anything real or just self-fulfilling prophecies from a manipulative system that spun off on its own, and economic negativity, because you’re gradually pulling formal economic benefits away from the people who supply the data that makes the scheme work….the mythology is the problem, not the algorithms. To back up again, I’ve given two reasons why the mythology of AI is stupid, even if the actual stuff is great. The first one is that it results in periodic disappointments that cause damage to careers and startups, and it’s a ridiculous, seasonal disappointment and devastation that we shouldn’t be randomly imposing on people according to when they happen to hit the cycle. That’s the AI winter problem. The second one is that it causes unnecessary negative benefits to society for technologies that are useful and good. The mythology brings the problems, not the technology…

This idea that some lab somewhere is making these autonomous algorithms that can take over the world is a way of avoiding the profoundly uncomfortable political problem, which is that if there’s some actuator that can do harm, we have to figure out some way that people don’t do harm with it. There are about to be a whole bunch of those. And that’ll involve some kind of new societal structure that isn’t perfect anarchy. Nobody in the tech world wants to face that, so we lose ourselves in these fantasies of AI. But if you could somehow prevent AI from ever happening, it would have nothing to do with the actual problem that we fear, and that’s the sad thing, the difficult thing we have to face…

To my mind, the mythology around AI is a re-creation of some of the traditional ideas about religion, but applied to the technical world…There’s an anticipation of a threshold,th00GTZ9CK_flickerdotcom an end of days. This thing we call artificial intelligence, or a new kind of personhood… If it were to come into existence it would soon gain all power, supreme power, and exceed people.The notion of this particular threshold—which is sometimes called the singularity, or super-intelligence, or all sorts of different terms in different periods—is similar to divinity. Not all ideas about divinity, but a certain kind of superstitious idea about divinity, that there’s this entity that will run the world, that maybe you can pray to, maybe you can influence, but it runs the world, and you should be in terrified awe of it. That particular idea has been dysfunctional in human history. It’s dysfunctional now, in distorting our relationship to our technology. It’s been dysfunctional in the past in exactly the same way. Only the words have changed…

If AI means this mythology of this new creature we’re creating, then it’s just a stupid mess that’s confusing everybody, and harming the future of the economy. If what we’re blacklistednewsdotcomtalking about is a set of algorithms and actuators that we can improve and apply in useful ways, then I’m very interested, and I’m very much a participant in the community that’s improving those things. Unfortunately, the standard vocabulary that people use doesn’t give us a great way to distinguish those two entirely different items that one might reference. …this vocabulary problem is entirely retrograde and entirely characteristic of traditional religions…In the history of organized religion, it’s often been the case that people have been disempowered precisely to serve what were perceived to be the needs of some deity or another, where in fact what they were doing was supporting an elite class that was the priesthood for that deity…That looks an awful lot like the new digital economy to me, where you have (natural language) translators and everybody else who contributes to the corpora that allow the data schemes to operate, contributing mostly to the fortunes of whoever runs the top computers. The new elite might say, “Well, but they’re helping the AI, it’s not us, they’re helping the AI.” It reminds me of somebody saying, “Oh, build these pyramids, it’s in the service of this deity,” but, on the ground, it’s in the service of an elite. It’s an economic effect of the new idea. The effect of the new religious idea of AI is a lot like the economic effect of the old idea, religion.’


Interesting side note: Jaron Lanier has no social media accounts at all and all purported ones are fake.

Comment here or reach me at elemental.living@yahoo.com

In Praise of a Retrograde


Sometimes we must remember to be grateful that a planet is in retrograde. For quite some time now, there have been a lot of planets in retrograde at the same time – and some facets of my life have been – are – in trying times to put it mildly. Its not as though the writing wasn’t on the wall, but still… If you know the feeling, then I hope these thoughts I share today will lift your spirits at least a degree or two.

I sit with my wheel every morning. I focus on the movements of the energies, in relation to my own and those within my micro-cosmos, and consider how I should channel them to live the best version of my story that I can. Like everyone, I have some placements that require a firm hand and others that I look to, to ‘rescue’ me from my Self’s lesser desires. I should also say that some of those so-called outlaw, rebellious energies are the very ones I call on in other scenarios on my journey to fight the good fight that’s sometimes needed. It’s how we wield it, after all: it’s a matter of a mixture of intuition and perceived practicalities as to which ones we let fly and which we don’t even allow near the starting gate, yes? We have expanded awareness, if we but employ it, and a host of tools at our disposal. With that in mind…

For the last few days I have been wondering what I would do when the fire trine in Aries/Leo/Sag began to activate. I have a very pronounced Mars all my own and the trine is sitting right on top of it. When your personal Mars has been feeling exceedingly squashed for a long time, this can lead to your finger hovering over the proverbial red button. Now sometimes you need to push that button. You need to find yourself in an international airport with nothing but your carry-on or standing firm and glowing incandescent in relation to an Other, choosing the riskier attack on a cancer, lodging your case with the highest court. And sometimes you need to step back and consider how much of your feelings and thoughts are being warped by this squashed fire, causing you to shift from centre.

Everyone’s story is different and your energies are unique. But the Self as channel for these energies is a universal given. You will channel these energies, one way or another, and thats a fact. We are humming along, channeling away. We do a brilliant job sometimes (yay!) and then there will be a shenpa here and there, moments of regressed behaviour and of course, a fiasco or two gets thrown in for good learning measure. Don’t you just love it?

So, today, for me personally, I am grateful that Uranus is retrograde. Uranus is in Aries, ruler of Mars. I have a feeling I could just go SO Mars in a big big way and I sense that I must SEE the retrograde, incorporate the brake for this moment in Time. Its not so important that I understand why – there are so many factors I cannot be aware of. W/hat’s important is that this thought comes to mind and I feel led to acknowledge it. Uranus is a pure, non-egocentric and, thus, much more powerful vibration up the scale from archetype Mercury (example: if Mercury is the oldtime switchboard operator connecting your call then Uranus is the world wide web). For mere mortals, it can feel quite explosive when it is whooshing around, no matter what house it is in. It is STELLAR: wild, forward-focused, breath-takingly enlightening – when the timing is right, we can channel or receive it divinely. With Uranus travelling through Aries, archetype of ‘I Exist, dammit, and I will not be denied’, urges are not necessarily given due thought.

You see, Mars is in Sagittareous and let’s think about this for a second: Sag is the Wanderer and the Explorer archetype. This is Mutible Fire energy that seeks knowledge and experiences from where ever they may call. Where we have Sag in our wheel is where we desire the next level of gnosis. Add Mars in the mix and you have primal proactive drive trying to bust a move in a highly flexible and willing the-yerres-rain byGustave Caillebotte _jpgenvironment. Advice: See your wheel and apply wisely to your story.

And not only is Uranus retrograde, Mercury (Thinking and Learning) and Saturn (The Teacher) are diving in Fixed Scorpio (Deep We-ness Empowerment Issues). The Sun is in Libra: Intellectually (a nod to Mercury) -based Relational Balance. Jupiter is in Leo: the drive to create, to make happen, to perform – and the craving for attention, appreciation, the leadership role – is being super-expanded. How are you channeling this Fixed Fire energy? Have you done the pre-work? Or is it FOR the pre-work…

This may very well be the moment for you to shine like the Sun. I hope it is – let me know if thats the case for you! For many, this trine provides a well-deserved and obvious breakthrough on a matter of passionate importance. Several people I consult with are rising from strength to strength and I am so impressed and thrilled! They did the pre-work. Another person I have just begun to work with is chomping at the bit in a business power struggle. He feels so constrained. But thats just tough because it is clearly not his moment to shine on the stage, but rather to shine a light on the interior Self and make some magic there. The trine is going to help us both. We are going to encourage one another to seek the higher ground, to shine where it matters most.

This trine says, ‘Be of strong heart!’ That’s really the gist of it, whether you make this manifest in the public square, at the kitchen sink, an office cubicle or the voice in your head. Is it’s purpose to fire a subtle boost or a jet propulsion? That’s up to the individual. I, for one, am just sending out a wave today to fellow travellors who are led to honour ‘the brake’ indicating less glamourous pre-work may well be advised and are trying to find positive ways to channel their restlessness. You are not the only one. Be of strong heart!   

– weaver, elemental.living@yahoo.com


Unwiring and Rewiring


Some time ago, I stumbled upon this little gem in my internet wanderings, as you do, and thought how comforting – and humbling – it is to see synchronicity between 21st century neuroscience and one of the Ancient Ways. Now I’m sharing it with you:

Pema Chödrön is a bhiksuni (Tibetan Buddhist nun), teacher and author. A central theme of her teachings is the belief in shenpa, the Tibetan word for “attachment”, which she interprets as the moment one is hooked into a cycle of habitual negative or self-destructive actions and thought. Shenpa, or getting “hooked,” according to Chödrön, occurs as a response to a comment, situation or other stimulus that is similar or related to past experiences. She asserts that often, the past experiences are negative, leading to a pattern of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors….

Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens — that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place — that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you — they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child — and, shenpa: almost co-arising.



Long simmering issues are now burning the bottom of the pan and it stinks…we think about how we might try to fix and save the situation but it’s either beyond the point of our having any say-so or we know in our knower that it is just plain not the right thing to do for anyone’s sake – certainly not for our own. Or both. And we don’t like it one bit.

It’s such a shame because I/we will simultaneously lose ‘this’ and ‘that’…

If only they could have tried more, given it a sincere chance…I thought everything was fine…well, fine enough. Everybody knows there’s no such thing as perfect.

If only I had understood what I was dealing with in the first place…before the surprise foreclosure notice/having the 2nd child/moving house/major project came along.

If only I had been a stronger person and put my foot down from the start…I should have trusted my gut.

I explained it a million times…I tried to compromise…I was straight up from day one.

Its true, I let so many little yellow flags slide into the shadows.

So much good will be lost!

Any of those sentiments hitting home for you? I am hearing a lot of them in the last two weeks. Actually, I’ve been hearing similar lines for the past few years in a cyclic fashion but those who didn’t feel the crush up ’til now are soundly reeling. Please be kind to everyone you interact with, especially if you have managed to recover, to truly realign. I know quite a few of you have managed this; I am thinking particularly of two brave individuals who I am so proud to know. (Applause!)   Please take note: when you have this hurricane kind of energy channeling with you, it’s more than enough to ‘pass it on’ in kindness as well as fuel your own life.

With Neptune and Chiron in Pisces and a sizeable generation of individuals having Chiron in Pisces, there is overwhelm, fogginess, indecisiveness, retreat and tune-out. I know all about it, myself, and I can put on one hell of a pity party. Because ‘I’m worth it’! And its natural to mourn some parts of the passing chapter. Its normal to feel suspended in limbo.

When you’re ready – or when life insists that you are ready – see if you can locate your shenpa. I should say that I think of this term in the broadest possible meaning that Chödrön might allow. While that’s the negative hurtful hooks, I think its also the seemingly positive ones, too. Ego plays such an integral and central part in our dealings here in the material world. That’s why so many feel the baby is going out with the bath water. Ask yourself to be open to any hook/s you have. Check your memory for chronic patterns. No point in walking around blindly anymore now, is there.

Mercury is moving through territory that it will reverse back through from early trickster_zpse1d6d78d[1]October. In these next weeks, as you talk and communicate, collaborate and exchange, try to really pay attention. The crisis issues, the quagmire, loud declarations…any small voice in pity party moments…may well hold a key to your first steps in understanding how to proceed. Because they will be revisited; you’ll get take two – and probably take three on a scene, clarity in the coming months. This is Shenpa Relationships 101 in the School of Life.

The higher vibrations of Neptune and Chiron are acceptance, peace that passes intellectual understanding, healing through experiential review and wisdom; vibes specifically magnified in Pisces. A perfect recipe for the wounded psyche. And you know what that means: like we always say around here, ‘As above, so below’. That means you can choose to gravitate in these directions. All you have to do is ASK yourself to be open to these qualities. That’s it. And always affirm yourself, warts and all – because that’s the secret ingredient.