RANT: a generic rant

Eugene Leitl (Eugene.Leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 14:57:29 +0100 (MET)

I felt like ranting today, for no good reason. (Actually there _is_
a very good reason: the first item on my todo list is to reduce the
number of items on my todo list). So diving off (I never surf, you
see) into the net never has failed to defocus one attention from
something quite mundane, and also, urgent.

It would be interesting to find out, whether nonlurk-mode on a
high-volume mailing list, or (gosh!) several of them is compatible
with leading a "normal", productive life. I strongly suspect that a
productive life and net presence might be strongly mutex. For once,
it's the sheer time spent in logging in, out, keeping track of one's
files, back-ups (or lack thereof), cranky networks, overflowing
mailboxes, irate admins, RNAs, and godknowsnotwhatelses. For other,
it's drained attention. If you still continue a virtual dispute,
when in the bathroom, or on your way to work, and even do not
own a wearable, things obviously seem to have started running
amiss. Even in its fly-encased-in-amber latency, and (especially
hereabouts) nonexistent bandwidth, the transient inability of,
when offline, plucking (irr)relevant infamation out of thin air
is absolutely maddenning. Let's face it, we're all junkies.
Well-informed junkies. Revoltingly well-informed junkies.

All geared up with nowhere to go. Go get a life.

A secondary effect of this is neglection of tracking the treekiller
press, where all the action still is. Another one is an adoption of
breathless-from-message-to-message-hopping, and clickety-clickety-
click thinking style one so easily gets trapped in. Let's admit it,
our tools have become progressively blunted, our concepts crude.
Distinguishing fantasy from reality gets harder day by day.

At least for me.

That todo list thing was not a joke. The danger of letting Things
Which Matter just lie is very real -- thus I have great respect
and understanding for those, who transiently, or, permanently, have
pulled the unsubscription emergency plug. We will miss their
input, but I suppose their contribution in the Real World will
more than outweigh that. Which brings us, the list people
(sure biased, since intrinsically preselected) who make their
virtual appearances, and exits, to _our_ roles. Is it exhilarating,
to know that our contribution (being observers merely, cheerleaders
at best) won't matter on the really long run, or, simply,

For me, it is the latter. With a newbie's touching naivete I once
supposed the extropian/transhumanist movements, simply because of
their so obvious _rightness_, the constructivity of their goals,
to become a crystallization nucleus, the memefective agent, the
catalysator of a rapid phase transition in a metastable,
supercritical system.

Well, I gauged wrong. The system is not nigh supercritical.

"Gar nicht erst ignorieren" as Gundolf Freyermuth had it so
aptly put. It does not matter being able to skry the shape of
possible alternative futures, with the mind's eye, to pierce the
opaque walls of a hypothetical fitness function, to burst forth
into the light of a better local fitness optimum, if you're unable
to implement these visions, strap your audience into chairs, and
whack them onto their heads with them for hours, until they see.
They won't.

Because, though the maximum of the bell-shaped distribution is
distinctly better than the lowest common denominator
libertarianism and totally free markets won't bring us
into that utopian Eden we so like to talk about. Free markets
will fail to hit the optimum for the same reason communism never
worked. Never could. The ideally enlightened consumer is a myth.
Real ones fall prey to marketing propaganda, peer pressure,
failure to enact long-term optimization but optimizing locally
instead. Kinetical, myopic-Hamiltonian, instead of thermodynamical
control. Abandoning all pretense to rational choice once beyond a
certain complexity threshold.

Missing the minimum, and not even aware of it. Not even caring.

(The things Stu Kauffman said in his "At Home in the Universe"
book, in the "An Emerging Global Civilization" chapter are sure
heartening, but he might be wrong. Let's hope he isn't).

Anyway, which impact should this reasoning have on our real-world
heuristics, our plans, our strategies? ("Ours" here specifically
meaning those striving to achieve a self-consistent transhumanist
stance). Whence to acquire that fine olfactorics to early-detect
a shit brewing in the works? The muscle to unroot and the robustness
to flourish in new environments? I guess one can train this.
Better, it should.

Anybody feeling like relating his/hers experiences?