Steve J. Moore

Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Ghost in the Machine: Dialogue on the Influence of the Internet, Part 4

In Comedy, Nature, Philosophy, The Web on February 10, 2009 at 9:48 am

Posted by kylebaxter on February 9, 2009

I know you’ve waited on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, kicking yourself in the lower back, and slamming your head on a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica (Volume Ca-De) in anticipation of this post!  It’s finally here!  Many thanks to Steve J. Moore for getting me involved in this.  If you have not already, go back and read parts 1-3.  You can find them on my blog by scrolling down on the main page.  Or, if you would like to see them in their original context, you can find:

Part 1, by Nathaniel Carroll, author of NonDeScript, by clicking HERE

Part 2, by Steve J. Moore, author of theSpigot, by clicking HERE

Part 3, by Ryan Burrell, author of In All Reality, by clicking HERE

Again, the question that started this discussion is , “Does the Internet reflect Humanity, or vice versa?”

There are many coherent arguments that support both sides.  I intend to examine them, and give you my final opinion, which is binding in a court of law in rural Mississippi.  I will break it down very easily for you, by noting whether the argument following is “Internet reflects Humanity” or “Humanity reflects Internet”.

Internet reflects Humanity–Everything I see on the Internet was once just a thought in some acne-scarred guy’s face.  For instance, one guy (Barry) wanted to find a way to communicate with a girl that doesn’t require face-to-face interaction, use of the phone, or stalking her like wild game.  He said to himself (speaking in DnD), “Overlord, it would be so much easier to tell a mortal girl you like her with words written in electronic rose petals, so they can be perfect.  Perhaps a sonnet for my elven queen.”  This has nothing to do with anything, but I imagine it goes something like this:

Ode to My Elven Queen

When I am in Chemistry class,
I think only of you, my lass.
Hair flowing gold like the rivers of Falcoren,
Your features glow, carefully elven.

Snow princesses may desire me,
But only your beauty inspires me.
I turn them away with my blade, hurriedly,
A sword cast from fine Dwarf metallurgy.

You’ve scorned Sir Jared from second period,
I’m spilling my emotions for you, a myriad.
No one else could show you how much you mean,
But to me, you’re at least a Level 17.

And this is how (and why) e-mail was invented.  This was a time-saver, because any girl could reply to (reject) Barry instantaneously, and print out the sonnets to make sure he was mocked all through high school.  The fact that it caught on was really a huge fluke.  This is simply another way of saying “the Internet is an expression of thoughts and information originally birthed inside a human brain”.  Therefore, the Internet reflects Reality.

Humanity reflects Internet–Even before the Internet, many writers and philosophers wondered if they were part of someone else’s outside program.  For instance, The Bard (I think I sound a lot more cultured when I refer to him by the vernacular) himself once wrote, “Dost mine existence weather verily to a computational regard?”  Given this, the Internet could very well have existed before mankind.  We just never thought to plug into it until the last 40 years, when Billy Mays was born.  Those may or may not be related.  However, therefore, Humanity reflects the Internet.

Internet reflects Humanity–Everything that is good or evil in the world is displayed on the Internet, without any stone unturned.  The depravity, sickness, and loneliness of man is apparent throughout the Internet (mostly on CNN.com), as well as man’s ingenuity, love, and creativity.  It’s all there for the world to see.  To prove my theory that every imaginable horrible thing is on the Internet, I threw random words together in my head, Googled it, and (first try) there it was . . . “Dawson’s Creek fanfiction”.  Certainly, my finding it was not a reflection of the Internet having it.  The Internet cannot create such things, nor would it want to if it had any sense.  You never know, though.  Maybe the Internet is still wanting to see Joey and Pacey back together after all these years.  I am glad I’m not the only one.  I digress.  Someone wrote that awful fanfiction (for the sake of my soul, I dared not read it, and I suggest you do the same) and placed it on the Internet to display his or her ideas to the world.  What I see on the Internet is a reflection of someone else–that is to say–Humanity.

Humanity reflects Internet–I am sure of this, if for no other reason than the sheer number of “Chocolate Rain” knock-offs.  When people saw something original on the Internet, their actions were a reflection of what they saw, ghastly as they may be.  I’ll give you the point that the Internet probably didn’t exist before mankind.  Since the year 15 A.B. (After Billy), Humanity has begun to mirror the Internet in every way.  It is commonplace to find people these days whose sole source of facts and information come from news websites, blogs, online tarot cards, etc.  Therefore, Humanity reflects the Internet.

In order to get a truly neutral opinion, I asked a good friend of mine.  His name is Louie, and of course, he is my cat.  I looked him square in the eye and asked him, “Louie, do you think the Internet reflects Humanity, or the other way around?”  He stood up, walked over to me, and proceeded to lick his posterior like it was Cheetos.  Animals communicate in primitive ways, you see.  As a trained and board certified “Cat Whisperer”, I will now translate:

“Why worry yourself with such a question?  Enjoy the simpler things in life, like opposable thumbs.  If I had such comforts, I would use toilet paper instead of my mouth.  I’ve been meaning to get that off my chest for some time now.  But because you are pure of heart and because you feed me, I will give you the answer to your question . . . in the form of a riddle.”

Always with the riddles, that cat.

I gave up on him and came upstairs to finish this post.  I’ll leave you with my final thoughts below.

Who knows?  Perhaps if man dies off some day, leaving only the Internet, it will achieve perpetuity.  *Cue “Twilight Zone” theme* Maybe it will begin to reflect itself (most likely through Dawson’s Creek fanfiction).

It seems like everyone else made a fancy graph.  I’m jealous.  If you turn your head sideways, squint really hard, cross your eyes, and pretend, then this looks just like a graph!

Oops, I forgot to tell you my final opinion (those of you in rural Mississippi, pay particularly close attention).  I don’t want to rehash it.  It’s the only statement in this entire post in Bold and Italics.

The Ghost in the Machine: Part 3

In Nature, Science Fiction, The Web on February 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm

by Ryan Burrell

This post is part of an ongoing collaborative conversation.  You can view Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Part 3

This discussion has so far covered some mathematic theory, and a histoy of life before the web.  Now, let’s examine the future in pursuit of our original line of inquiry: Does the Internet reflect Humanity or vice versa?

We’ve given our conversation the title of “The Ghost in the Machine“, because the subject matter deals with the duality of human experience – the mind reflecting the body, or the body reflecting the mind.   A series of anime movies based on the questions involved in the original thesis, entitled The Ghost in the Shell, were produced in 1995 and 2004. The series focuses on the question of delineation between man and machine (the films are quite excellent on a number of levels and I highly recommend renting them and experiencing their intellectual pathways firsthand).  In the movies, consciousness has expanded to encompass all information, begging the question: How do you define the difference between software and biology – thought and algorithm?

Such questions are highly appropriate for our lines of reasoning.  In The Ghost in the Shell, it was extremely common for people to have cyborg implants, called e-brains, as well as external memory devices where they could offload their thoughts, memories, and other information..  A physical body was no longer a necessary requirement for “life”, and one’s stored thoughts, ideas, and memories could be shuffled around from location to location, easily merging with other data types and being shared across networks…for good or evil.

An Extension of Humanity

In an extremely short time relative to the whole of human history, the Internet has impacted us all in ways we don’t even realize.  A completely new method of communication and interaction has been opened to us, and we’re just beginning to understand its potential.  Like the e-brains, wetware upgrades, and external storage units of The Ghost in the Shell, we have used the Internet to extend ourselves beyond our normal capacity, both literally and figuratively.

In a very real sense, the Internet has allowed us to extend our capacity to store our thoughts, memories, and even feelings.  Services like Evernote or Remember The Milk replace the string around the finger of past days, but bring also the capability of being accessed anytime from nearly any location.  Xanga, Blogger, WordPress, and any of the other myriad web logging services allow us to store snippets of time and ideas in a centralized location – yet still accessible freely by all.  Even applications like Twitter, that thrive on an endless stream of output about things as trivial as our moods, store all of their data as external records of our feelings at any given point in time.

We no longer have to rely on our long-term memory capabilities, but instead store them externally – outside of our physical selves.  These items of data, units of thought, and cubits of thinking have gained a permanence beyond what previous media (such as books and recordings) can offer. A book must be reprinted on physical materials, but a database can be duplicated a multitude of times and its information dispersed in the blink of an eye.  This metadata serves to make up a vast amount of what we’ve lovingly termed The Web, and obviously points to the Internet being a product of humanity’s contributions.

An Advancement of Humanity

But what about the idea of reciprocal change?  We have created a complex network of thoughts and ideas – a network rapidly becoming accessible to more and more of the world’s populace.  The data we contribute to it isn’t locked away, to be perused only when the fancy strikes us.  No, instead the vast majority of information stored on the open Web can be accessed by anyone…and that information can be a powerful force of change.  The Internet exists as an extension of our humanity, but it also serves as an agent of adaptation and movement.

Every conversation we have with another person, every book we read, every song we hear, every new idea we encounter, changes us in some way.  In daily life without the Web, a thousand new experiences may cross our path, both large and small.  Add in the ability of the Internet to spread information at an exponential rate, and its ability to change us is obvious.  We have created a perpetual motion device; we have created an engine that publishes our ideas and feeds new ones to us in one swift movement.

With the ease with which we can access such information, we change more rapidly.  New ideas can be traded more easily, and refinements made more quickly.  Trends can be communicated instantly, future predictions more readily available.  Our societal ideals and cultural influences, the very things that we feel make up each of our unique viewpoints…all of these can now feed off each other and adapt beyond any previously known speed or capability.

A Paradox

It is not the first time in human history that such a situation as what we are observing with the Internet has existed.  The construction of Roman roads led to an unprecedented spread of commerce and communication.  The printing press made efficient mass reproduction of thoughts a reality.  Television allowed not only a lightning-fast transference of ideas, but also the subtle visual cues that went along with them.

But at no other point in our history have we had the ability to communicate so openly, to save our ideas so easily, and to share information so quickly.  Ideas abound about the creation of a “global consciousness”, an interlinking of thoughts and ideas occurring at such a rate that a whole greater than the sum of its parts is created.  Perhaps this is a good thing, or perhaps it is not.  Yet, confusing though it may be, one thing is clear:  The Internet exists because we created it, but the Internet is creating the next great chapter of humanity.

Diana Saw Dr. Awkward Was an Aid.

In Comedy, Film, poem, poetry, Radio, The Web, TV on February 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm

So I’ve spent much of this weekend doing several things while my wife was out of town: finding new blogs and people to follow on twitter, watching TV, putting off writing assignments, and watching as much Demetri Martin as I could find on YouTube. If you are following me on Twitter (@stevejmoore), then you probably saw me sharing my excitement at Mr. Martin’s videos as I discovered them.

I had seen his work on Comedy Central, knew he wrote for Conan O’Brien for a while, and was a big fan of his flip-chart bit because of the part where he draws an empty circle and says, “this is a pie chart about procrastination.” That killed me.

I highly suggest that you check out his DVD, Demetri Martin, Person and his new show coming up this Wed. on Comedy Central as well. If Bill Gates was successful because he dropped out of Harvard, then Demetri is so because he dropped out of law school.

What stuck out to me most in his routine was the over 200-word palindrome

img_0310

Yes, I drew these all by myself

“Dammit I’m Mad”

by

Demetri Martin

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.

Truly the work of a solitary genius. Off the top of my head, I only know a few palindromes beyond the title of this post (ah, did you catch it?), “madam, I’m adam,” and “racecar.” I certainly can’t imagine spending time trying to create an entire poem out of nothing but these reflexive devices; simply astonishing and awesome. I think his act, if you take a bit of time to watch it, says a lot about art. Martin was interviewed this week on NPR, which is what prompted me to find more of his material. He has a great narrative and is now an artist I respect very much. His stand-up explores more than jokes; he gets in so many digs about humanity, philosophy, and social idiosyncrasies, but does so with such loveable sophomoric snark, that you have to digest it all with a hearty chuckle.

Very funny, and I hope his new show will be too.

The Ghost in the Machine: Part 2

In Philosophy, The Web on February 4, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Part 1 was posted over on NonDeScript first,  Nathaniel Carroll’s budding blog based in Springfield (like me!). I suggest that you click on over there first to prime the conversational pump for this seemingly simple discussion. Below is my reflection.

  • What is then Internet?
  • How do we relate to it?
  • How does it relate to us?
  • Is the Internet “art”?

The Internet is a function of art and life times expression.

I=ƒ(a,l)e

So, if we look at the events that are taking place in people’s lives around the globe each day, they exist either as art or not based on opinions, evaluations, and judgments. If we decide that “life” is a general term for every event that takes place in or outside of our awareness, then it operates as a separate coefficient from “art.”

Am I starting to bore you yet? Maths and art? There will be graphs soon, I promise.

Expression can give either negative or positive effect upon the function as a whole, but in order for the identity to be defined, it is required. The Internet cannot exist without “expression” in some form.

I won’t even attempt to ask why “we” exist, but I’d like to know how we exist and function in relation to “I”, the internet. If “P” stands for people, then people are a function of their experiences and other people.

P=ƒ(x, p2)

So, if we examine a person or a group of people’s experiences, then it goes without saying that people besides the said person or group will have an influence upon him or her (notwithstanding the desert island scenario).

Graph Time!

maths2

As the above graph illustrates, the functions I and P are integrated, highlighting the importance and interrelatedness of the identities. Ok, so maybe it’s just a nonsense graph I drew on some newspaper, but as Carroll pointed out in his post, the Internet is inextricably connected to our lives today.

Maybe I’ll follow this mathematical tangent a while longer (oh, the puns, they hurt me). If you’ve ever been in the 4th grade, then there’s a good chance that your teacher read to you, as mine did to me, Madeline L’Enengle’s masterpiece A Wrinkle In Time. If not, head to your local library, check it out, and spend a few hours in a coffee shop alone with it.

A “tesseract” is what the characters in the book use to travel through dimensions and time. In math a tesseract is, basically, a cube inside another cube that is also connected. It is  a shape that represents another direction, another dimension of existence. That sounds very philosophical, but it just means lines that extend from the same points into different places.

Before I continue–rather, before I can continue letting you suffer through this math read, I need to make a qualification.

“For me, math is like this: An attractive lady that I never have a chance of actually dating, but with whom I enjoy flirting very much.

Ok, thanks. Now I’ll go on. So if the Internet (which I have to keep reminding myself is a capitalized proper noun) is a function connected to people, then it is like a tesseract; the Internet is a cube inside of another cube that is not floating, but is connected.

Here’s where things get interesting. You can tell from the picture below that this tesseract shape is fairly easy to conceive. It kinda looks like a sugar cube or, if you’re a chemist, maybe some compound’s crystalline structure.

tesseract

With the exception of all the little greek symbols which I know nothing about, the sape is not a strange escher-esque, floating, mobiüs strip type thing. It’s just a cube inside another cube. Maybe the internet is like this…Maybe the cyberworld, which obviously exists within the human world is just a reflection of the human world.

Math people, you know what’s coming most likely, but regular folks (myself included) prepare to change your pants.

how does it do that?!!?

how does it do that?!!?

Which cube is which? What is the cyber world and what is human? Is the Governor of California going to come out of this cube like a Magic Eye picture if I stare too long?!

The tesseract changes when it is rotated; both cubes stay completely intact, but their positions become interchageable. This is the conclusion that I draw about the relationship of people to the Internet; they are reflexive of one another. They are coefficients of the same variable.

The Ghost in the Machine: Dialogue on the Influence of the Internet

In Nature, Philosophy, The Web on February 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm

This post is from Nathaniel Carroll’s blog “NonDeScript” and is a collaborative conversation. If you have another blog and would like to join in let us know!

“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” – Oscar Wilde

This week, an e-friend of mine, Steve J. Moore, proposed an interesting question: Does the Internet reflect Humanity or vice versa? To start the discussion, we will take a look at life before Internet. Then, we will examine the life after Internet and its impact on the individual.

Information is power
Nikola Tesla began tinkering with the wireless transmission of information in 1891. The first television broadcasts were transmitted in 1928 to mechanical tv sets with horrible picture quality. In the mid thirties to the beginning of the forties, mechanical sets were commercially available for home use, but production soon stopped as manufacturing efforts became focused on World War II. After the war, the technological boom began to pick up speed again. The first full-color set came in 1954 and cost $1,000.  Today, one thousand bucks buys you a 50″ flat screen tv like this.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1

There seems to be an inverse correlation between the availability of information and its value (see Figure 1.1).  In other words, the easier accessing information becomes, the less we are willing to pay for it.  To learn more about this correlation, read Thomas L. Friedman’s book, The World is Flat.  The expansive virtual bank of knowledge has made the world seem much smaller.  Thanks to Mobile 2.0, we expect information to be readily available to us at all times, to the extent that even email is considered an inferior form of communication.  I drew Figure 1.1, photographed it with my phone, sent it to my email address, and uploaded it to the blog in less than one minute.  We want information now, and we want it to be free.

The Shape of (Human) Things
I am twenty three years old.  My first vivid memory involves my father busily working on a thesis under the blue glow of a Tandy 1000 computer screen, my curious finger, and a large red reset button (I’ll post the whole story sometime).  The internet, in a relatively archaic form, already existed.  But even in my youth, when I wanted information for an Earth Science research paper on volcanoes I made photocopies of encyclopedia entries in the school library.  The card catalog was not computerized until I was in high school.  Back in my day, you had to be patient – you had to wait for information to come to you.  Back in my day, you had to be dilligent – you had to spend countless hours scouring tiny print and irrelevant factoids in search of answers.  Back in my day, you had to respect the information you sought.

Today, the quality of content published on the internet spreads from precise, powerful information to pure unsolicited crap.  Because the good stuff can be accessed through the same medium as the bad, it has to be free and effortless.

With regard to the value we assign information, I say that Internet reflects Humanity.  Internet – 1, Humanity – 0.

Reading Ballistics and Conceiving a Journey to the Top of Chimney Rock

In Nature, poetry, Writing on February 3, 2009 at 8:27 pm

chimney-rock

I wish I could climb a rock
fingers in cracks and feet en pointe
through rubber
my soul wants to rise up
through to the clouds above the summit
and I wish

I could read a book of poems
while I was shimmying
jimmying, and scraping to the top.

I wish his words–Billy’s words were there
at each cinch and in each crevasse
speaking in forms of detached
and animated cartoon mouths
so I could reap
so I could roll back my eyes
while my muscles contract.
The striated, lean, and corpusculous
tissues conquering the planet’s skin.

The crag should drink my blood
where the sun could bake it black
with everything but the carbon evaporating,
because of such a rough disagreement
of skin and bone with sediment.

Words, Words, Words

In Uncategorized, Writing on February 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm

I decided to check out how often I said which words in my blogging after seeing word clouds of President Obama’s, as well as Bush, Clinton, and Lincoln’s, inauguration speeches last month. In my own reflection, I figured  that “music” would be a large word, meaning I use it often in my posts, but I never saw things like “just” coming. I guess my relaxed style let’s such words become over exercised, I just can’t help it!

spigotwordle