Greetings from the gaudy hellscape of Las Vegas, and that overcrowded maelstrom of surly hackers known as DEF CON! What follows is a brief rundown of the talks here (and its big corporate sister Black Hat) that seemed particularly interesting. Short version: software is eating the world; software can be hacked; ergo, the world can be hacked. Be afraid.
Seasteading’s been and gone for the second (third?) time, the secession and Six-State-California guys have been and gone. It is that time in the cycle where the Libertarian App Future Brothers start living off the grid, buying guns and getting good and weird out there alone in the dark. I wonder how we’ll look back at this whole period of the last five or ten years. At how the digital gold rush and the strange pressures of a new, yet accelerated, period of cultural invention cooked a whole new set of mental wounds out of the people swept up in it. Yes, sure, it gave us sociopaths who prefer humans to be drones and believe that everything is rotting. But I think, reviewing the era, that we will be sad. I think we may look back and consider that, one more time, we saw the best minds of our generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves after an Uber that isn’t actually there because Uber fake most of those little cars you see on the Uber app map.
Researchers from the Journal of Consumer Research took three groups of people to a health and wellness seminar and asked them to set a goal. Then over the next 10 days, if they were tempted to cheat or go against their goal, they were told to decline in three different ways:
Group 1: They were only allowed to say, “No”.
Group 2: They were told to say, “I can’t”.
Group 3: They were told to say, “I don’t”.
And the results are staggering:
Group 1: Only 3 out of 10 people lasted.
Group 2: Only 1 out of 10 people lasted.
Group 3: 8 out of 10 people lasted.
Real life of the spirit is not about a personal, consumerist experiential gratification. It’s about the willingness to love and serve — to clean up other people’s shit, and to clean up our own shit.
Actually, the great Dune film did get made. Its name is Star Wars. In early drafts, this story of a desert planet, an evil emperor, and a boy with a galactic destiny also included warring noble houses and a princess guarding a shipment of something called “aura spice”. All manner of borrowings from Dune litter the Star Wars universe, from the Bene Gesserit-like mental powers of the Jedi to the mining and “moisture farming” on Tattooine. Herbert knew he’d been ripped off, and thought he saw the ideas of other SF writers in Lucas’s money-spinning franchise. He and a number of colleagues formed a joke organisation called the We’re Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society.
You don’t have to finish something to get it off your mind. What you do need to do is:
(1) clarify what the final successful outcome is,
(2) decide the very next action required to move toward that outcome, and
(3) put reminders of the outcome and next action in a system you trust.
Until you do those things, your mind still has that job of deciding and remembering and reminding. “In a system you trust” is important–if you know you won’t look at your reminders when you could actually use them, your head will still keep that job.
So what the heck, let us speculate: what will the emergent effects of the existence of dannies be? How much “space” will be available to the consciousness(es)? And by “space” we really mean “bandwidth.” What is the bandwidth of consciousness? And how do you define–and secure–telepathic protocols?
In humans, consciousness falters and fades away if the round-trip signal lag between neurons exceeds 400 milliseconds. For reference, light can travel all the way around the planet in 133 milliseconds, and Google considers a server “slow” if its response time exceeds 200 milliseconds. Even on today’s Internet, 400 ms is not a particularly high bar. Just saying.