VALUES EQUAL PROFITS

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hacking mortality

PREEMPTIVE STRIKE

At long last, and with much sadness, we announce the passing of our dearest friend, brother, father, that great writer, good man, happy clown, and revered seer of all to come, Brian S Hall.

Despite his many accomplishments, and the great wealth he earned, along with the praise for his many works, his greatest joy was reading to his children, driving somewhere with his children, sharing dinner out with his children, getting a call or text from his children. He was less comfortable talking about his children, though abundantly proud of who they were, how they lived, and all they achieved.

He didn’t watch much television, and was happy about this. He didn’t read many books, and this was always a source of disappointment for him.

He wrote, constantly, because late in life he came to accept that no matter how bad or wonderful he was at it, writing was what he was his best at, and could build with words what he could never with his hands.

He never understood people’s fascination with podcasts, certainly when there was so much great music available.

He loved food, particularly potato chips, hated exercise, despite how he felt immediately afterwards, chose his friends wisely, though too infrequently, and was always willing, albeit not necessarily happy to help his parents and siblings. He came to deeply appreciate where and what he came from, why it mattered, its full gloriousness revealing itself to him after decades of cavalier dismissal.

People tolerate reality and circumstance far too much, he thought, though he acknowledged he was blessed with the means to route around these failings, probably disproportionate to most others. When he was younger, he preferred dogs. When older, cats. He chose to not divine any insight from this switch. He believed in God, both at his happiest and when most fearful, and felt sad for those who could not. Learning music was too hard, working for a paycheck too limiting, and traveling deeply renewing. Tea must be plain, coffee must be with cream, only, and he never found himself in a situation where he used too much olive oil. He loved how social media connected everyone, but never could remove the stain on his soul from how everyone, himself included, also used it, even if briefly, even if regretfully, to diminish others. He considered his persistent tinnitus as the physical manifestation of his psychological hesitancy to reach out, embrace, experience the new. He accepted this, but was never happy about it. He was grateful that his thick head of lustrous, dark, Elvis-like hair didn’t fall off until he no longer cared so much about having a thick head of lustrous, dark, Elvis-like hair. He never felt comfortable in his body and was never quite sure who to blame for this, nor its origin. This was blessedly offset by his buoyant sense of humor, willingness to laugh, and joy from making others laugh. If you were not a woman and did not appreciate The Three Stooges or an ill-timed fart, and all farts are ill-timed, then he was suspicious. His parents were good people, and for this he was eternally grateful. Fast cars, soft women, good chocolate, and a big screen were among his most dear non-guilty pleasures. He liked knowing things, even things no one else knew.

He left us with this request:

“I understand the environmental benefits of cremation over burial, and God knows I moved around, probably far too much, but I think it would be nice to be buried in an old cemetery, maybe even near relations I never knew, where despite the best efforts of the diligent old volunteer caretaker, the vines and shrubs are aggressively taking back the space. Talk again, soon!”

ARMS

He dropped the coin on the ground before me.

Fifty.

No!

Don’t be stupid, he said.

I wasn’t, just selfish. Maybe sentimental. Foolish, I’ll admit.

That’s good money, finest crypto, accepted most places.

Not for sale.

I clutched my left arm instinctively. It was thin, natural, covered in audio tats, a vocal history of my family, my lineage. My stomach rumbled. I looked down again at the coin. No, I thought. I can’t.

Fifty plus a brand new arm, he said.

Damn. Serious.

That’s like, ninety crypto!

He was right, too. A young limb like mine was a prized commodity. The lowers — rich folk — ground them up and poured the ash into their hydro meat. They said it added seconds to their life, some said even minutes. I wasn’t sure I believed any of it. Still, the offer was tempting.

Growed limb. Better than what you were born with!

Maybe.

See!

He rolled up his sleeve and showed me his right arm.

Impressive.

It was, too.

Is it the tats?

I looked away.

Tell you what. Forty crypto plus a growed limb — which is even better — and I have my girl copy the tats onto the new arm. What say?

I shook my head.

He walked away in disgust.

But I knew. Those tat copies aren’t as good. Everyone says they’re exact copies only better but they’re not. The highs aren’t as high, the lows aren’t as low, the voices are close but not real. I could go another day without eating, probably. I couldn’t lose the true voices of my mom, dad, my brother, my two sisters, gran, gramps. The audio tats on my arm were all I had left of them.

OK GOOGLE I’LL TAKE MY MEDS!

Alexa, could you bring me a drink?

Are you sure? You’ve had two, already.

Yes, I’m sure!

Substance abuse is 12.6% higher on your mother’s side of the family than standard for those in your sub-group.

A drink, not drugs.

Alcohol abuse is 19.2% higher combined in your lineage.

Good to know.

Is everything okay?

Yes, everything’s fine.

You identify as white and male and at your age — 37 — the potential of suicide is 4% greater —

I’m not going to kill myself, Alexa!

Your increased social media usage suggests you hate your job.

Yes.

Your watch reveals you have not had sex nor vigorous exercise —

My drink!

And your blood pressure this week is up 8%, which as you know —

Not now, Alexa.

Maps shows you haven’t gone to the gym this month.

Been busy.

Your debt level increased $28,500 over the past year.

It’ll all work out!

That young YouTube star you secretly watch showed a suicide victim —

I’m not suicidal!

You didn’t call your parents last week.

And?

The president’s tweets upset you dearly.

Not just me!

You have liked 183 less shares this week than last.

Nothing was good.

You used flash debt on your last 3 purchases, all disposable items with immediate decrease in value, which suggest —

I already told you it’ll all work out!

Your wife is divorcing you.

Is she? Fuck.

Let’s hear some Dean Martin.

Here’s a great song from Frank Sinatra.

Thanks.

You consumed 250 more calories per day on average during the holidays, with 80% of them from carbohydrates.

A brief indulgence.

Your screen time is now up to 16.825 hours per day, that’s .325 more than those of your proclaimed race and gender.

Didn’t you bring this up, already?

43% of your tweets went blue on the outrage scale and 22% reached bright orange on the victimhood scale.

Shit’s serious!

Would you like me to have the bot doc text you?

Yeah, fine.

“Hello, Brian. Text me how you’re feeling.”

PUT ON YOUR RED LIGHT

And jazz and calypso did have relations with the American R&B, while gospel watched from the edge, and this did make ska and ska begat rocksteady and rocksteady begat reggae and reggae did menage a trois with punk and with rock and roll and this consort did begat The Police.

And The Police was good.

And though they did sound very much of the 1980s and yeah did their considerable musical talent and global popularity did cloak the lyrical sweep of one Sting, the group’s lead singer, guiding force, and prime commercial draw.

The best trio in all of rock music. Yes.

Bass, guitar, drums.

Yet one of their most enduring songs is synthesizer-focused.

Talent will out.

Daring is rewarded.

But I wonder: is this still true?

Never before have we possessed so much, lived so long, and dared so little.

Has our spirit been buried by this material world?

Do our own creations keep us locked in?

You need to earn a few extra dollars? Simple. Drive an Uber! Need to get anywhere? No problem. Hail an Uber! Oh, but you’ll need a phone to do that. That’s mandatory. But those are made in anti-democratic China for the world’s richest corporation.

Freedom!

We are connected, that’s not the same as free.

We have access, that’s not the same as talent.

The world is at our fingertips yet we risk nothing.

Even the music’s gone safe.

“Spirits in the material world.”

Trapped?

How can this be?

We should be the most capable, most fit, most aware, most alive, most ready — the apex of human evolution and technological advancement.

And yet…

Feel great?

Sense greatness permeating around the world?

Where did it go?

Our self-inflicted and fully consensual reduction in human grandness, leading us not into ascension but deeper into hibernation.

The body electric, static.

Ghosts in the machine.

See me, hear me, touch me. I am your screen.

Stay seated before me.

“Where does the answer lie?
Living from day to day
If it’s something we can’t buy
There must be another way”

We need to set our spirit free.

But I am not sure I know how.

Move our eyes from the screen, possibly?

Prioritize the physical over the digital, perhaps?

Surround ourselves with less, maybe?

Welcome suffering, I fear?

Does my spirit need to be awakened, I wonder?

Stop asking questions. All you get are answers.

Look where that’s led you.

EXORDIUM & TERMINUS

“In the year 7510
If God’s a coming, He oughta make it by then
Maybe He’ll look around Himself and say
Guess it’s time for the judgment day”

Sounds wise, but can we trust these words given that the person proclaiming them only achieved fame once?

I say, yes.

One hit wonders remain curious things, as they cause us to wonder what semi-famous, partly-recognizable musicians must do with all the remaining days of their life, with everyone wanting that one song of theirs played over and over and over again while they, even if they are somehow always decent and tolerant about this, are forever unable to replicate that lottery-like success that propelled them into our collective consciousness, but we also wonder how white hot fame can be achieved by someone — only once — because the relentlessness of the machine that is capitalism is always seeking out, always maximizing return, always copying whatever works, and we simply expect this consensual metaverse to throw off enough data so as to ensure that if anyone does it once, they’ll certainly have the tools at their disposal to achieve at least a second go-round on the fame-success wheel, but no, one-hit wonders remain, like a frozen moment in time or a flower that emerges from across the cultural landscape, delivering joy, briefly, and then gone forever. Curious.

In 1964, the duo of Zager & Evans wrote their only hit song — In The Year 2525.

It became a hit, in, fact, in 1969.

Ripples require time to reach the shore.

This is how I feel about several core technologies now radiating towards us. We won’t fully realize the sum total of their transformation of human form and thought and movement for at least another 17+ years.

The flood comes in 2035, that’s when the past will no longer be readable and the future becomes fully writable.

It began with Windows 95. We are now in Year 22 of a 40-year (not 40 day) planet altering, life repurposing, technology infused deluge. A great flood of robotics, artificial intelligences, bio-coding, pharma-induced healing, the digitalization of perception, the merging of daily life into screens, sparring abundances, competing algorithms, and the connecting of all people to all things will transform all life and living on this planet.

The past will then become more unknowable than the future.

That means that together, we can and should build a new way of living with our creations and can and should embed our values — the right values — into all that comes next.

What comes next?

The destruction of everything.

Our collective understanding of purpose, work, ownership, possession, value, wealth, health, learning, serving, believing and perceiving will all be transfigured, shortly. Nothing will be left untouched, not even humanness. I predict the next 17 years will foster the following global trends:

1. TRIBAL WANDERERS

The past is rapidly becoming more unknowable than the future. We are like Adam and Eve, more aware of what’s to come than what’s come before us. This new reality will lead to a transformative break in human values. It will also create a permanent wandering class.

No home, new modes of work, play, crafting, interaction, and the connection of all places and things to all people will lead millions, maybe billions, to forever wander the land, seeking friendships, seeking answers, a willful freeing of their mind and liberation from place forever altering our culture. Hop inside the (autonomous) bus and drive! And sleep and eat and play and learn and share.

Caution: We have erected an economy and government based on the self, which is vanishing, and the local, which is being made irrelevant.

2. OUTSOURCING THE RATIONAL

Atheists are on the wrong side of history. Just as we outsourced our labor to the machines, now we are outsourcing our thinking, our calculating, our rational tasks. As a consequence, we are becoming more spiritual, more creative, and yes, more irrational, free to explore all our thoughts, impulses, desires, fears, hopes, aggressions.

Belief in magic, religion, in spirituality and God will accelerate and deepen because of, not despite of, the rise of big data, machines, robotics, electronics, computing and artificial intelligences. We become what our machines cannot. We do what can’t be outsourced. Faith is our future. Spirituality is our expression.

3. DIFFERENTLY ALIVE

Everything we make from this moment forward will be aware, sensing, responsive — alive. How are ((humans)) differently alive?

Answering this — legally, culturally, politically — will tear apart everyone and from everything.

There’s more. With everyone and everything connected, in real-time, and always, and with the spread of bionics, nano-machines, processors, the very notion of ‘self’ will be transformed. Connectivity is our self.

4. HACKING MORTALITY

Hacking mortality will become the biggest industry of this century. We will not live forever but those that come next will live for probably decades longer than us. Great for them, less so for much of what we’ve constructed. All the systems, institutions, wealth, rules and culture which now exist, all of which are dependent upon most of the world dying by or before age 75, will themselves die off. The notion of economy, jobs, savings will be a distant memory, poorly understood.

Caution: many of the radical life extension efforts will prove deeply repugnant. Prepare to fight them. They are unholy.

5. THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED ONLY IT’S EVENLY DISTRIBUTED

What becomes of commerce — and power — when we all have as much as we need and are each only a screen swipe away from the leaders of nations and the guardians of conglomerates?

What is your standing? Your source of power? Your desires when everything is within reach?

Remember the “science fiction” story of the little girl who accidentally gets hold of one of the world’s two tablets, tablets which contain the world’s knowledge? In reality, tablets are already available to over a billion people — with the price dropping steadily.

6. THE FREE-ING OF EVERYTHING

Soon, everything will be free. Literally, everything that matters will be free and freely available. Food, healthcare, entertainment, transportation, energy, gadgetry, connectivity, you, me, our creativity, passions, darkest thoughts, where we lay our head.

You won’t be defined by your work or your wealth.

You will pay for things, but not with money, often not with work.

And when no money needs to exchange hands, ever, because the price — of everything — is effectively zero and trading our expertise, our attention, our companionship, right down to the millisecond is all that’s needed, every existing locus of power is obliterated. Where will power come from? What of your self worth?

7. CONSUMPTION IS DEATH

God bless the child who’s got it all.

Even the really fat ones.

Know this: We are fat, obese, and sedentary not because of cars or technology or industrialization or suburbanization or laziness but because capitalism is a fierce, never-tiring always-learning meta-system which discovered that money could be made in selling food and leisure and kept getting better at this, and better and better, and better.

Capitalism knows our desires better than we know our limits.

But having consumed our fill, puking it out, consuming all over again, retching, repeating this process, year after year, generation after generation, the vomit of consumption a toxic force upon our planet, we — the takers and makers and learners of capitalism — have finally constructed an alternative path. We can live full and exciting and interesting and private and communal lives entirely without having to embrace consumption.

You will never again be defined by your possessions, though you will be free to let your possessions define you.

8. VALUES EQUAL PROFITS

Soon, we can get anything from anyone, anywhere at anytime. Businesses will respond to this by differentiating themselves with the only thing they have remaining — their values. Their opposition to gay marriage, their warm embrace of sustainable food practices, their rejection of the profit motive, their deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Values will determine their customer base, their margins, their market. The purely profit-based corporation will whither.

In the next stage of commerce, your values will always be on display and used for exchange.

9. THE INSANELY GREAT AWAKENING

As we alter our bodies, our minds, upend society, reconstruct awareness and deconstruct all that came before, including markets, capitalism, value, power, wealth, influence and experience, there is a right path forward.

We just don’t know what it is.

We will seek out God.

We are eager to believe.

A great awakening is upon us.

10. THE PAST IS MORE UNKNOWABLE THAN THE FUTURE

“But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight, so very far away, maybe it’s only yesterday”

It’s all not working, nothing is how it’s supposed to be. We have never been more empowered, more capable, more angry, more empty, and we sense, the fear and revulsion and excitement of it always on display, that the very idea of human, of person, of self may soon vanish forever.

We will soon scarcely even understand those before us.

We will not be like them at all.

We cannot go back.

Let’s recall the wise words of that musical duo from Nebraska, what were they called again, Zager & Evans, and that one song they had.

“In the year 8510, God is gonna shake His mighty head. He’ll either say I’m pleased where man has been or tear it down, and start again”

God came early.

THE REVEALING SCIENCE OF GOD

There has never been a better time to outlaw abortion. In fact, it may be necessary for our survival.

Confession: should God exist, and I believe this is so, and should God care, and I believe this is also so, my two great fears re godly retribution — not just for me, but humanity — will come from our gruesome, emotionally distant and utterly dollar-based treatment of the animals we eat, and our flippant embrace of abortion: for convenience.

I know, I know, this is crazy talk, it will never happen, if I got a young woman pregnant I would encourage her to get an abortion, I don’t want to be responsible for round-the-clock care of a fully disabled young life, our bodies, our choice, all the excuses, I am aware of these all and sympathetic to each.

But the science is clear.

We know what a four-month-old human fetus looks like, feels like. Our machines reveal to us how it is impacted by the mother’s various physical and emotional inputs. It’s size and gender and the many physical and electrical signals it puts out now avail themselves to us.

Human life.

There’s more.

And this is why the issue is so pressing.

We are now actively seeking to hack mortality, to extend human life beyond 100 years, 150 years, maybe longer, some believe as long as 1,000 years, and even some exploring methods to digitize “consciousness” — even while we can’t fully define the term — and thereby remove ourselves from the bodily realm, except: we don’t know yet how to achieve any of this and are unable to fully test these theories of human usurpation upon ourselves. Yet we are moments away from using those ((humans)) that come next — human DNA, fertilized eggs, fetuses — as our test pattern, our use case. We are editing genes, striking out offending DNA, experimenting on flesh and its components to create an improved form, stronger, smarter, taller, prettier, happier, longer-lived. But for all those who fail to meet our expectations?

Tossed into the dustbin of countless mortal failures.

Vile.

Ours is the age of destruction, which is frightening, yes, but also exhilarating, as we are moving at technological scale and speed to create new realities and alter our place within them and our interactions over them.

But we must not abandon our humanity.

We must also never allow humanity to be abandoned.

We are tinkering with human life with the explicit goal of lasting transformation and we simultaneously and very literally do not know what is right or best, so let us declare now and forever: all failures, as we define them at the time, along with all successes, similarly defined, must be honored, accepted, cared for, and endowed with the same rights and potentials as each of us, just as each of us must retain the very same rights and potentials as all those who follow.

As the past slips from our understanding, we cannot allow it to be expunged from our compassion.

We are and must always remain the totality of all which has come before.

Smarter, stronger, better, we believe ourselves to be this and more compared to those that came before, but true or not, we retain pieces of them just as we retain pieces of the cosmos. Never forget.

“Amused but real in thought we fled from the sea whole.”

In 1973, following the release of several groundbreaking and very popular albums, Yes released their boastful opus, Tales From Topographic Oceans.

2 LPs, 4 sides, 80 minutes, insufferable, much too long, full of hubris, but also brilliant at times, soaring in places, uplifting, enlightening, an earnest musical foray into thought, gods, the beginnings of life and that which it makes whole, a dense pop music exploration that challenged convention all while taking the listener on a journey close to the edge of what could come next in music, only to collapse into the abyss.

Side 1, wonderful.

Sides 2-4, tolerable, but only just, and only for those who, like me, love 1970s progressive rock and honor Yes’ place amongst the greats.

“Young Christians see it from the beginning
Old people feel it, that’s what they’re saying
Move over glory to sons of old fighters past”

This is worth a listen.

We are blithely, blindly tinkering with actual human form — not values, not ideas, not building tools, not altering how we live or where, nor even how long  — but actual human form.

There will be successes, of course, amongst the shocking horrors, but as you stare into that deep, dark truthful mirror, remember now to look out, there you see all the cravenness, the ills and suffering, the lies and desires, and you know, despite our potential, despite all the effort and money from the rich, from the genius-crazy, from the evil, and from the hopeful, that our only hope going forward is strict adherence to the honor and preservation of life.

That comes first, always.

Not improvements, not abandonments, not potential.

“What happened to wonders we once knew so well?
Did we forget what happened? Surely we can tell.
We must have waited all our lives for this, moment.”

 

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