Luminal Spaces: Cliffs, Edges, and the Fractal Fringe
The Fiscal Cliff
It was all over the news feeds, the United States was about to plunge over a”fiscal” cliff. As we lurched towards the brink somehow sensible minds prevailed and we collectively and narrowly avoided going over the edge and plunging down onto the rocks below. Oreo the story goes.
A cliff is a type of edge but it isn’t the only type. Cliffs have sharp distinct boundaries. This is what makes them dangerous, the precipitous and sudden edge and the distance to the bottom.
The beach is another type of edge, but it isn’t a cliff. The beach is instead a fractal fringe. The littoral space is where land meets sea and it is a dynamic place full of life, chaos and turbulence. Tide pools, what is left of them, are full of riotous and varied forms of life.
But waves and tides are sometimes dangerous and can suddenly take a person down into the ocean if they are not careful or not paying attention at just the wrong moment. the beach can fool us into thinking it is safe when it isn’t quite so safe as it appears. In contrast the cliff and the drop to the bottom generally present themselves immediately as threatening and dangerous.
ocean explorations, risk taking. Jump from space
Bifurcations and the edge of chaos, edge of sanity, super storm Sandy
Good Ol’ Time Transhumanhism
Is it progressive Fringe Culture or retrogressive nostalgia? I read with some amusement recently the writing of one well known transhumanist calling for a return to the good old days of speculative transhumanism. The issue is that historically transhumanism has focused on a handful of specific technological ideas, i.e. uploading, life extension, AI, and so on while ignoring others. Many others.
Things have changed over the past twenty years and science has continued to rapidly advance. Calling for a return to the good old days of early Transhumanism is like pining for thost era of 50s scifi with flying cars and jet packs. We all know that guy in high school that never grew up. He still dresses the same, drives a camaro, and even maybe kept his mullet. That is fine for what it is, and the desire to revisit classic transhumanist tropes is no different than these other forms of nostalgic clinging to the past. Some will also enjoy steampunk style cybernetic buggy whips but we should not expect most people to need these types of rearward looking technologies. nor do we predict them as the dominant future developments.
The new fringe is science, the real thing, and it has progressed exponentially and across a wide variety of fields and specialties since the early days of Transhumanism. I grew up in Brkeley California just up the road from where the Alcor truck was parked, “Life Extension by Cryonic Suspension” . But the truck never moved the entire time I lived there. Yes I remember the Extropy Magazine fondly, and the extropian & WTA email lists, FM 2030, Omni Magazine, and the L-5 Society were all important early parts of the Transhumanist scene. But many of the early Transhumanist ideas have not played out. We don’t have orbital space colonies and we can’t resurrect the dead, but we do carry supercomputers in our pockets. We have access to what is essentially the sum total of recorded human knowledge in real time wherever we go.
Asteroid mining and neural implants are not science fiction they are now everyday reality. There are so many of these new developments and no one is even talking about most of them beyond the specialists,scientists, and inventors themselves and perhaps a few grad students. There are new ideas and new directions that are already happening now that “good ol’ transhumanism” has ignored. Part of my mission is to bring these new ideas to your awareness and a call to restrict discussion only to the original Transhumanist themes of yesteryear is retrogressive at best.
The New Fringe is happening in a laboratory somewhere. In the software a homebrew computer scientist is writing. In a social entrepreneurship organization. In a novel and original mathematical idea. Someday soon an artist’s sketch will comes to life as a digital performance that is also a place which can be experienced as a shared dream and which encodes deep mathematical, scientific, and philosophical truths.
Music itself might become an anachronism.
One hundred years from now will punk rock or industrial music be more than archeology? It seems unlikely actually if you consider this a bit. And the future medium of creative communication based, for example, around brain interfaces that may lie beyond music does not even exist today. We probably can’t quite imagine this “brain music” or what it might be like to “listen” to it. We don’t and can’t know.
On a related note, it isn’t the omnipresent old school trope of good ol’ time transhumanism, artificial general intelligence, that is about to change the world but rather simple menu driven automation, robotics, and “bug level” intelligence. So called “narrow AI” will utilize powerful optimization methods to perform specific and important tasks better than any human operator can. These applications will be wide spread and will disrupt human affairs and current political and economic systems. This is already happening.
The Edge of the Singularity presents both danger and opportunity. Things will be better. Things will be worse. Things will definitely be different. But “What it is, is up to us.” we can make choices and we can have dreams. We should be careful what’re wish for because it might happen.
Which leaves us poised at the edge of the abyss of not knowing and danger. The effects can be observed everywhere around us if we take the time to look. People fear that an unknown and large change in their way of life is looming. Their place in the world is in question and perhaps in jeopardy. They are almost certainly right.
But what lies beyond the edge is unknown and will remain so. Tode who claim special knowledge also usually want to sell access to it. And yet the space of the unknown and presently unimaginable technologies, sciences, and ideas with potentially vast and immanent effects is growing larger not smaller. The unknown future lies in the the distance beyond where we feel comfortable and suddenly we are speeding toward it, careening out of control.
We need to explore these newer spaces and their implications. And there are implications of new developments to the old transhuamnsit favorites as well. Transhumanism that ignores developing science is destined to become an archeological idea, an anachronism really, like punk rock or chamber music.
Strategies for Survival
Waterfalls, waves, trees perching to rocks and cliffs, condors soaring above, sunsets. It is interesting to consider what sort of life forms live in these types of luminal spaces.
The horizon in the distance. What we know and what we don’t know.