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differently alive


“And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.”

In my world, we all heard the same sound. We heard the screaming baby, the screeching siren, the shrill parent, the drunken neighbor, the morning doves, the leaves rustling, rain falling, children splashing, that new song by Stevie Wonder.

Not you.

You hear differently.

Like how you see differently. You stare each into separate screens, each screen showing only for you.

Now, those same screens — and their cohorts, your cars, your speakers, your appliances, even your doors — now speak to you, only to you, but with different sounds, different voices, different instructions than for anyone else, which I can almost understand, and now your computers have extended this, literally altering the digital inputs and digitized waves so that no sound is the same for anyone. Fascinating.

It started with a low-end speaker and a Super Bowl commercial:

By running Alexa commercials through digital audio editing software, (Reddit user) Asphyhackr discovered that Alexa ads transmit weakened levels of sound in an upper portion of the audio spectrum, between 3,000 and 6,000 hertz, outside the most sensitive range of human hearing. Asphyhackr speculated that Amazon could be tipping Alexa off to ignore certain commands if it detects artificial gaps or bumps in the spectrum.

And now you all have even your music and your television shows and your podcasts and your languages and all the advertisements and coupons spoken directly to you, only you, and in the voice and sound of your choosing.

But can you turn it off?

Certainly, it prevents anyone else from using your data or screens or speakers or swallows or robots or flat surfaces from responding to anyone but you. If you sell any of these things, that has to help your profits. Are profits still a thing?

But I suppose it’s better than always before.

It’s like how I sometimes envy your wandering autonomy. We were tied to a place, sometimes cold, sometimes poor, often filled with people we didn’t particularly care for, and which didn’t always have the opportunities we craved, even if it did fill us with love and certainty and familiarity. But you now travel the world, go anywhere, live anywhere, build anew, start over, with no concern of what’s already there, what’s already been.

The opportunities must seem endless.

Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars.

They want to build a crypto utopia, a new city where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public, to show the rest of the world what a crypto future could look like.

Brave new world.


“It’s just old Luke and Luke’s waiting on the judgment day.”

Were people watching the creation of the steam engine and thinking, you know, if these things take off that’ll leave us with a lot more time to spend with our horses?

Because if so, that was dumb.

Likewise, those who accept on faith that society will become more rational because we are building gargantuan-tentacled machines spanning the planet along with super tiny ones to insert into our bodies, all of which we can then outsource our remembering, our calculating, and our decision-making to, are deluding themselves about the grand, glorious and frightening future which is pulling us along.

We are outsourcing the rational and this will lead us to seek out grander truths — and God.

We are building tech that envelops our life, ensnares our direction, and we will rebel — and seek God.

As we develop god-like powers, we will seek God’s guidance in how and when and why to use these new powers.

But you, personally, will seek out God because of Facebook. And Twitter. And Snap. And Reddit. And all of social media.

Because you want to believe, you crave to believe, you need to believe.

But our tools refuse this.

Anyone does something wondrous, you are alerted to the tweet that betrays their holiness.

Anything you assert is unique, the algorithms reveal this to be false.

Mortals, no matter how well equipped or ensnared with the very best technologies, will always falter along the path.

Falter even in a world of possessive super-powers.

We will respond to the demands of our machines by leaping into the emotional, embracing the irrational, and searching for unanswerable truths.

The Maharishi giggled.


It’s not enough.

We seek also to stand apart and above our machines.

This is hard.

The most popular course at Yale is on being happy.

Because we are failing at even this most human of blessings.

This is an odd crease in time. The machine is here to take care of all the rational bits yet we, caught between two worlds, each capable of eradicating the other, find ourselves hesitant  to embrace the non-rational. Meanwhile, drug companies are flooding the streets and our gullets with (legal) killers of pain and habit-forming deadeners of emotion.

When I was young, the cool kids would say kill your television!

Because staring into a screen meant you were not using your hands or your body or interacting with flesh-and-blood persons, or the ground, or the stars, nor your heart nor your spirit. But now, screens are everywhere, no matter where we are, no matter where we go, no matter who we are with, no matter what our needs, no escape.

But there’s always a way to the other side.

Be physical, be outside, seek out goodness, practice, commit, love others, make not everything so serious. Also, ask your dad for help with something.


“And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me.”

What if we’re glowing and don’t know it? Able to cut through the darkest?

Do we need special lenses to spot who is glowing? Or is it all of us?

You’re angry because you want to believe.

You’re bitter because you believe the world has never been more powerful, humans never more capable, yet you accept being trapped, with no way out, no way in, no way up.

But you have all the powers you need, all the tools required always at your beck and call.

What if Mozart was born before the clavier — before the piano, the harpsichord, there was nothing available capable of revealing his greatest gifts?

That is not your world.

Think of the Beatles. They played before tens of thousands of adoring fans, but the equipment of their day was unable to unleash the full power and glory and sound. The glowing did not require this.

The Beatles did not need to wait until the right tools became available to them. They went into the studio and instead crafted magic for the ages.

I know. You’re broke. In debt. With few prospects. You can’t afford a house, can’t afford children, have no chance of ever having what all those before you now happily posses.

My god, what an opportunity!

The emotional stigmata which you think limits you, in fact, reveals your freedom. You are connected to everyone and soon to everything, and no one, not even presidents nor billionaires have ever possessed this.

How will you reach all?

The Beatles were the greatest artist collective of the 20th century, no contest. The Beatles were the here-now, so profoundly different than, say Bob Dylan, who was very much the now-there. But still you think — and today’s technologies support this enticing deception — that you can be both now and there. This is false. You are — at your most, your best, your all — now, here.

You and all you connect with have the chance — and this has never before existed in human history — to hack everything. Hack the brain, the spirit, your flesh. Hack community, hack economy, hack the global jam.

This is not your hour of darkness.

Are you glowing?



We are, second by second, bombarded with words, numbers, sites, sounds, posts, shares, faves, likes, red badges, yellow pages, blue checks, black flag but never the whites of their eyes, those are always staring into the screen.

But you think you can deny your child the screen?

You can’t deny yourself!

If you can’t, they won’t. What parents know, children know, and what parents know is that life inside the screen beckons, comforts, ensnares, all hours, all days. Parents — adults — take their eyes off the screen only when forced or on those very rare occasions when there’s actually something more interesting taking place beyond. Asking a child to not behave like their own parents is almost always doomed to failure. Children know.

You refuse because you are weak, afraid.

So you demand An Other usurp your role.


Apple should make its devices so they don’t encourage screen time!


Apple’s entire business model is screen time!

Apple offers you an enticing screen for every waking moment. At work, on the toilet, seated in your favorite chair, standing in line for coffee, in your bed. A Mac, a Watch, an iPad, an iPhone, Apple TV. Always a screen within eye’s reach, like Coke makes it so there’s always a pop within arm’s reach.

If too much screen time is bad for children then it’s bad for adults.

If you are strong enough to restrict your child’s screen time be bold enough to restrict yours.

Probably, you won’t. You won’t for the same reason you consume too much food, too much junk, spend too much time seated, get not enough exercise, avoid getting involved, hope your parents don’t call. Because the omniscient now of the screen convinces you there is more pleasure within than without.

But it’s not just what’s inside the screen that lies to you, but the screen itself, its physical manifestations, its tactile calling. These beguile you. These convince you that a touch or tap or call will alight not only the screen, but your self. They will liberate your talents, unlock your creativity, unleash your productivity, spread your abilities across the world, shower you with riches — release your magic.

This is a lie.

If you possess magic — and you do — it resides within you and about you and does not need a device or screen or object to be made real.

Stop fearing your magic.

Stop cordoning off your magic within a screen.

Let your children see that.


“He could have turned sugar into cocaine.”

















Credit card

















Grandmother Lil

Okay, Alexa, those are all the words you’re not allowed to use when my little girl asks you a question.


There’s something that gnaws at me. Why did God create and then place at the very center of the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?


It wasn’t meant for us ((humans)). God made clear that under no circumstances were Adam and Eve to take even a bite from the tree’s fruit.

We know how the story begins:

The devil rather easily persuades Eve to take a bite and she in turn rather easily persuades Adam to take a bite.

At once, they become fully self-aware and their whole world, moments before swirling in good only, no evil, becomes a mix of these two forces. The fall is so swift and so complete that their first child, Cain, murders their second child, Abel.

Who is the tree for?

It’s doubtful it was for some other species, as God makes clear humans have dominion over the world. The tree also wasn’t meant only for God and those god-like, as he clearly states: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” “One of us.” They already possess this knowledge, the tree is unnecessary.

Could the tree of the knowledge of good and evil been intended for our creations? For that which follows us?

Are our creations on the cusp of self-awareness and the ability to choose right and wrong, good and evil?

We cede control and responsibility to our machines — be they robots, computers, sensors, digital assistants, and artificial intelligences. But we have never ceded to these control of choosing between good and evil. We certainly use them in our choice, but it’s always remained our choice.

Is that about to end?

For the first time since human life began?

What then?

I know, I know. You’ve been taught that when our machines develop self-awareness, all hope for humanity is lost. We will quickly become their slaves — those of us not killed in the great cyber wars. We will do what they say, when, and how, and with whom.

But science fiction is almost always wrong!

Fahrenheit 451? Wrong! We are awash in free and freely available books. The Diamond Age? Wrong! There are not only 2 tablets to teach only the most privileged children. There are already hundreds of millions of connected tablets in use.

What if machine self-awareness is liberating? Not for them, for us! Like our previous machines, mechanics, computers and processes.

These previous constructions have freed us from back-breaking labor, from drudgery, from starvation.

What might self-aware machines free us from?

From work? Yes. But also from having to determine what is right or wrong, in context. From having to be rational — all of the time.

Recall, nothing great ever happened by being rational.

Just as our machines have relieved us of the burden of labor, calculation, and memorization, our new self-aware machines might liberate us from the burden of the rational. Rational is what keeps us in place.

“I was the lion
You were the eagle,
your claws in my back.
You were so eager to get through the night
but our love is off limit,
no real connection”

Jim James is an obvious possessor of an abundance of talent. I confess that I do not care for his music.

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