Quantum Manifesto: Perhaps the Strangest Book Ever Written

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If you want them to be very brilliant, tell them even more fairy tales. This version can be found in Usenet posts from before , like this one from Variant: "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. Although similar to many of Einstein's comments about the importance of intuition and imagination, no sources for this can be found prior to The Psychology of Consciousness by Robert Evan Ornstein , p.

A number of early sources from the s and s attribute it to The Intuitive Edge by Philip Goldberg , which also provides no original source. Two things are infinite: the universe and the human stupidity. As discussed in this entry from The Quote Investigator , the earliest published attribution of a similar quote to Einstein seems to have been in Gestalt therapist Frederick S. Perls ' book Gestalt Theory Verbatim , where he wrote on p. Einstein has proved that the universe is limited. The quote itself may be a variant of a similar quote attributed even earlier to the philosopher Ernest Renan , found for example in The Public: Volume 18 from , which says on p.

Since these variants have not been found in Renan's own writings, they may represent false attributions as well. They may also be variants of an even older saying; for example, the book Des vers by Guy de Maupassant includes on p. The earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is infinite! Aber beim Universum bin ich mir nicht ganz sicher. Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous. No original source where Einstein supposedly said this has been located, and it is absent from authoritative sources such as Calaprice, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein. Misattributed [ edit ] I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.

The world will have a generation of idiots. Variants : I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots. I fear the day when technology overlaps our humanity. It will be then that the world will have permanent ensuing generations of idiots.

Although it is a popular quote on the internet, there is no substantial evidence that Einstein actually said that. Contempt prior to investigation is what enslaves a mind to Ignorance. This or similar statements are more often misattributed to Herbert Spencer , but the source of the phrase "contempt prior to investigation" seems to have been William Paley , A View of the Evidences of Christianity : "The infidelity of the Gentile world, and that more especially of men of rank and learning in it, is resolved into a principle which, in my judgment, will account for the inefficacy of any argument, or any evidence whatever, viz.

Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Then I looked to individual writers who, as literary guides of Germany, had written much and often concerning the place of freedom in modern life; but they, too, were mute. After the quote appeared in Time magazine 23 December , p. I made this statement during the first years of the Nazi-Regime — much earlier than — and my expressions were a little more moderate. Cornelius Greenway of Brooklyn, who asked if Einstein would write out the statement in his own hand, Einstein was more vehement in his repudiation of the statement 14 November [12] : The wording of the statement you have quoted is not my own.

Einstein also made some scathingly negative comments about the behavior of the Church under the Nazi regime and its behavior towards Jews throughout history in a conversation with William Hermanns recorded in Hermanns' book Einstein and the Poet The concentration camps make the actions of Ghengis Khan look like child's play.

But what makes me shudder is that the Church is silent. One doesn't need to be a prophet to say, 'The Catholic Church will pay for this silence. Hermanns, you will live to see that there is moral law in the universe. There are cosmic laws, Dr. They cannot be bribed by prayers or incense. What an insult to the principles of creation. But remember, that for God a thousand years is a day.

This power maneuver of the Church, these Concordats through the centuries with worldly powers. We live now in a scientific age and in a psychological age. You are a sociologist, aren't you? You know what the Herdenmenschen men of herd mentality can do when they are organized and have a leader, especially if he is a spokesmen for the Church.

I do not say that the unspeakable crimes of the Church for years had always the blessings of the Vatican, but it vaccinated its believers with the idea: We have the true God, and the Jews have crucified Him. The Church sowed hate instead of love, though the Ten Commandments state: Thou shalt not kill. All the wrongs come home, as the proverb says. The Church will pay for its dealings with Hitler, and Germany, too. The fear of punishment makes the people march. Consider the hate the Church manifested against the Jews and then against the Muslims, the Crusades with their crimes, the burning stakes of the Inquisition, the tacit consent of Hitler's actions while the Jews and the Poles dug their own graves and were slaughtered.

And Hitler is said to have been an alter boy! The truly religious man has no fear of life and no fear of death—and certainly no blind faith; his faith must be in his conscience. I am therefore against all organized religion. Too often in history, men have followed the cry of battle rather than the cry of truth. It is indeed human, as proved by Cardinal Pacelli, who was behind the Concordat with Hitler. Since when can one make a pact with Christ and Satan at the same time?

And he is now the Pope! The moment I hear the word 'religion', my hair stands on end. The Church has always sold itself to those in power, and agreed to any bargain in return for immunity. It would have been fine if the spirit of religion had guided the Church; instead, the Church determined the spirit of religion. Churchmen through the ages have fought political and institutional corruption very little, so long as their own sanctity and church property were preserved.

Variant: The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.

These two statements are very similar, widely quoted, and seem to paraphrase some ideas in the essay " Religion and Science " see below , but neither of the two specific quotes above been properly sourced. McFarlane author of Buddha and Einstein: The Parallel Sayings know of this statement but have not found any source for it. Any information on any definite original sources for these is welcome.

Only two sources from before can be found on Google Books. The first is The Theosophist: Volume 86 which seems to cover the years and The quote appears attributed to Einstein on p. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. A number of phrases in the quote are similar to phrases in Einstein's "Religion and Science". Comparing the version of the quote in The Theosophist to the version of "Religion and Science" published in , "a cosmic religion" in the first resembles "the cosmic religious sense" in the second; "transcend a personal God" resembles "does not involve an anthropomorphic idea of God"; "covering both the natural and the spiritual" resembles "revealed in nature and in the world of thought"; "the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity" resembles "experience the totality of existence as a unity full of significance"; and "Buddhism answers this description" resembles "The cosmic element is much stronger in Buddhism".

These phrases appear in the same order in both cases, and the ones from "Religion and Science" are all from a single paragraph of the essay. Links to these notes documents and some of my essays can be found on my writing page. How precise, after all, is an outline? William Burroughs used to say a novel is a map of a territory. But an outline is only a map of a map. In the end, only the novel itself is the perfect outline of the novel. Only the territory itself can be the perfect map. I start with a story arc, describing how the parts fit together.

I break the parts into chapters and outline the chapters one by one. The outline changes as I work. Shit happens. After writing each scene in a given chapter, I find that I have to go back and revise the outlines of the remaining scenes of the chapter. And after finishing a chapter, I have to go back and revise the outlines of the chapters to come. Making the same point yet again, whether or not you write an outline, in practice, the only way to discover the ending of a truly living book is to set yourself in motion and think constantly about the novel for months or years, writing all the while.

The characters and tropes and social situations bounce off each other like eddies in a turbulent wakes, like gliders in a cellular automaton simulation, like vines twisting around each other in a jungle. And only time will tell just how the story ends. Gnarly plotting means there are no perfectly predictive short-cuts.

Rote magic or pedagogic science, emphasizing limits rather than possibilities. Power chords. Moderate thought experiments: the consequences of a few plausible new ideas. Extreme thought experiments: the consequences of some completely unexpected new ideas. What stampedes are to Westerns or murders are to mysteries, power chords are to science fiction. When a writer uses an SF power chord, there is an implicit understanding with the informed readers that this is indeed familiar ground.

And the mainstream critics are unlikely to call their cronies to task over failing to create original SF. And we lowly science-fiction people are expected to be grateful when a mainstream writer stoops to filch a bespattered icon from our filthy wattle huts. Oh, wait, do I sound bitter?

A Manifesto for a Processual Philosophy of Biology

One way we make power chords fresh is simply to execute them with a lot of style—to pile on detail and make the scene very real. To execute the material impeccably. Another way to break a power chord out of the low-complexity predictable zone is to place the chord into an unfamiliar context, perhaps describing it more intensely than usual, or perhaps using it for a novel thought experiment. I like it when my material takes on a life of its own. This leads to the gnarly zone. None of it matters.

Weally, weally thilly! Only if you place the new tech into a fleshed-out fictional world and simulate the effects on reality can you get a clear image of what might happen. In order to tease out the subtler consequences of current trends, a complex fictional simulation is necessary; inspired narration is a more powerful tool than logical analysis. If I want to imagine, for instance, what our world would be like if ordinary objects like chairs or shoes were conscious, then the best way to make progress is to fictionally simulate a person discovering this. The kinds of thought experiments I enjoy are different in intent and in execution from merely futurological investigations.

My primary goal is not to make useful predictions that businessmen can use. Where to find material for our thought experiments? But SF writers have an ability to pick out some odd new notion and set up a thought experiment. Excuse me, shall I extrapolate that for you? The most entertaining fantasy and SF writers have a rage to extrapolate; a zest for seeking the gnarl.

Wit involves describing the world as it actually is.

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And you experience a release of tension when the elephant in the living room is finally named. The least-aware kinds of literature take society entirely at face value, numbly acquiescing in the myths and mores laid down by the powerful. These forms are dead, too cold. At the other extreme, we have the chaotic forms of social commentary where everything under the sun becomes questionable and a subject for mockery.

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This said, laughing like a crazy hyena can be fun. This was something I picked up from the works of Philip K. In the gnarly zone, we have fiction that extrapolates social conventions to the point where the inherent contradictions become overt enough to provoke the shock of recognition and the concomitant release of laughter. At the low end of this gnarly zone we have observational commentary on the order of stand-up comedy.

And at the higher end we get inspired satire. Good fiction is never preachy. It tells its truth only by inference and analogy. It uses the specific detail as its building block rather than the vague generalization. I have a genetic predisposition for dialectic thinking. We can parse cyberpunk as a synthesizing form. Discuss the ongoing global merger between humans and machines.

Get in there and spray graffiti all over the corporate future. When I moved to California in , I fell in with the editors of the high-tech psychedelic magazine Mondo , and they began referring to themselves as cyberpunks as well. Our society is made up of gnarly processes, and gnarly processes are inherently unpredictable. Rules like this can generate wonderfully seething chaos. But whatever richness comes out of a model is the result of a gnarly computationwhich can occur in the very simplest of systems. There are no tidy, handy-dandy rubrics for predicting or controlling emergent social processes like elections, the stock market, or consumer demand.

Like a cellular automaton, society is a parallel computation, that is, a society is made up of individuals leading their own lives. Each ant is driven by its own responses to the surrounding cloud of communication pheromones. But how to reconcile the computational beauty of a gnarly, decentralized economy with the fact that many of those who advocate such a system are greedy plutocrats bent on screwing the middle class?

I think the problem is that, in practice, the multiple agents in a free-market economy are not of consummate size. Certain groups of agents clump together into powerful meta-agents. Think of a river of slushy nearly-frozen water. As long as the pieces of ice are of about the same size, the river will move in natural, efficient paths.

But suppose that large ice floes form. The awkward motions of the floes disrupt any smooth currents, and, with their long borders, the floes have a propensity to grow larger and larger, reducing the responsiveness of the river still more. In the same way, wealthy individuals or corporations can take on undue influence in a free market economy, acting as, in effect, unelected local governments.

And this is where the watchdog role of a central government can be of use. The central government can act as a stick that reaches in to pound on the floes and break them into less disruptive sizes. When functioning properly, the government beats their cartels and puppet-parties to pieces. Science fiction plays a role here. SF is one of the most trenchant present-day forms of satire. Harsh truths about our present-day society can be too inflammatory to express outright. Backing up a little, it will have occurred to alert readers that a government that functions as a beating stick is nevertheless corruptible.

It may well break up only certain kinds of organizations, and turn a blind eye to those with the proper connections. Indeed this state of affairs is essentially inevitable given the vicissitudes of human nature. Jumping up a level, we find this perennial consolation on the political front: any regime eventually falls. A faction may think it rules a nation, but this is always an illusion. Some loops of this nature have lasted my entire adult life. But whether the problem is from a single regime or from a constellation of international relationships, one can remain confident that at some point gnarl will win out.

Every pattern will break, every nightmare will end. Here is another place where SF has an influence. One dramatic lesson we draw from SF simulations is that the most wide-ranging and extreme alterations can result from seemingly small changes. This means that, inevitably, very large cataclysms will occasionally occur. Buchanan draws some conclusions about the flow of history that dovetail nicely with the notion of gnarly computation.

History could in principle be like the growth of a tree and follow a simple progression towards a mature and stable endpoint, as both Hegel and Karl Marx thought. In this case, wars and other tumultuous social events should grow less and less frequent as humanity approaches the stable society at the End of History. Or history might be like the movement of the Moon around the Earth, and be cyclic, as the historian Arnold Toynbee once suggested.

He saw the rise and fall of civilizations as a process destined to repeat itself with regularity. Some economists believe they see regular cycles in economic activity, and a few political scientists suspect that such cycles drive a correspondingly regular rhythm in the outbreak of wars. Of course, history might instead be completely random, and present no perceptible patterns whatsoever ….

The pattern of change to which it leads through its rise of factions and wild fluctuations is neither truly random nor easily predicted. This is, it seems, the ubiquitous character of the world. In his Foundation series, Isaac Asimov depicts a universe in which the future is to some extent regular and predictable, rather than being gnarly.

This is fine for an SF series, but in the real world, it seems not to be possible. One of the more intriguing observations regarding history is that, from time to time a society seems to undergo a sea change, a discontinuity, a revolution—think of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, the Sixties, or the coming of the Web.

In these rare cases it appears as if the underlying rules of the system have changed. In the interesting cases, these possible values lie on a fractal shape in some higher-dimensional space of possibilities—this shape is what chaos theory calls a strange attractor. This range of patterns is a strange attractor.

During any given historical period, a society has a kind of strange attractor. A limited number of factions fight over power, a limited number of social roles are available for the citizens, a limited range of ideas are in the air. The basic underlying computation involves such immutable facts as the human drives to eat, find shelter, and live long enough to reproduce. I mentioned that SF helps us to highlight the specific quirks of our society at a given time. Very many of the programmers were reading both of these sets of novels. And surely the cyberpunk novels instilled the idea of having an anarchistic Web with essentially no centralized controllers at all.

The fact that that the Web turned out to be so free and ubiquitous seems almost too good to be true. In short, SF and fantasy are more than forms of entertainment. This essay is a mash-up of five different versions of the material. Before the ICFA talk in Florida, I found a twisted branch on a nearby beach, and I brought it to my talk to display as an example of gnarl.

Later some members of the audience took possession of the gnarl-branch as a kind of trophy. I worked some of this material into my nonfiction book, The Lifebox, The Seashell, and the Soul in A different thread with some new material appeared as my introduction to my story collection, Mad Professor of Writing essays like this is a useful activity for a writer—it allows you to organize and clarify your methods of composition, methods that you otherwise might not be consciously aware of.

And somehow we got the opportunity to start our very own cultural and artistic movement: cyberpunk. What was the secret? How did you guys get so much ink? Kerouac is the most wonderful writer among the beats, and surely the one who sold the most books. Gibson is a natural fit for this role. He writes like an angel, and everyone knows his name. Without Kerouac there would have been no Beat movement, without Gibson there would be no cyberpunk. Ginsberg is the most political and most engaged—here I think of Sterling. At the beginning of cyberpunk, it was Bruce who was the indefatigable pamphleteer and consciousness-raiser with his Cheap Truth zine.

His Mirrorshades anthology defined cyberpunk in many minds. Like Ginsberg, Sterling continues to roam the planet, making guest-lectures and writing up reports on what he finds. Of the beats and the cyberpunks, it is Ginsberg and Sterling whom one sees most often on television. Not so well-known as the other beats, Corso is a poet with a keen ear for ecstatic strophes and ranting invective. Corso also has the cachet, the bonus, of being the only one of the four still alive.

A reasonable match for the dark, zany and strangely healthy John Shirley. For myself, as the oldest of the cyberpunks, I claim the role of Burroughs, with his wise, dry voice of hallucinatory erudition and his rank, frank humor. And Sterling writes about future technology, not about mystical perceptions of everyday reality.

And Shirley is a novelist, not a poet. Perhaps my comparing the cyberpunks to the beats is like the sad but true tale of Jacqueline Susanne comparing herself and Harold Robbins to the Lost Generation writers. And, hmm, what about Lew Shiner? Okay, my analogy is just a Procrustean mind-game, a little wise-acreing for the swing of thought, something to get this essay rolling and with a generous dose of self-aggrandizement thrown in. Why not? What I want to do here is to go into specific comments about three cyberpunk novels, and to gloat over some of the good bits with you.

The books happened to come out within about a month of each other in It felt like getting letters from home. The three books to hand:. Ziesing Books, Shingletown CA None of the characters are really out for romance. Except for Rez. The Idoru of the title is an artificial woman who exists as a holographic projection generated by a largish portable computer. Rez—Rozzer to his friends—is in love with her. The name comes from—the meshbacked high-hat gimmie caps that meshbacks like to wear.

A great new word like this jumps right off the page and into your daily language. The otaku guys at my last school were into, like, plastic anime babes, military simulations, and trivia. Bigtime into trivia. Idoru is set in the same future as Virtual Light , and some of the tone is the same as well. Certain parts of cyberspace are difficult to enter, as they contain valuable information. You may encounter other users in cyberspace, and you may also encounter artificially alive software agents. To a significant degree, the reputability of cyberpunk rests on this one visionary extrapolation.

Jules Verne may have predicted the submarine, but William Gibson envisioned the explosive growth of the Web. Something chimed. She glanced at the door, which was mapped in a particularly phoney-looking wood-grain effect, and saw a small white rectangle slide under the door. And keep sliding, straight toward her, across the floor, to vanish under the sleeping ledge. Another chime. She looked at the door in time to see a gray blur scoot from under it. Flat, whirling, fast. It was on the white rectangle now, something like the shadow of a crab or a spider, two-dimensional and multi-legged.

It swallowed it, shot for the door…. Many do. Or dislikes the advertiser. Idoru has several hooks to Virtual Light , and can be thought of as the second in a new series of Gibson novels. With just a little DNA nanomanipulation it could be done. Someone unfamiliar with the field might expect that science fiction novels would tend to be about the kinds of weird science you see in mass media such as TV shows and supermarket tabloids.

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In point of fact, most SF writers are too persnickety to want to write about the repetitious fever dreams of the mass public mind. In Silicon Embrace , Shirley boldly goes where few writers have gone before, and gets right down to nuts-and-bolts UFOlogy, complete with the canonical little aliens. One of the more satisfying aspects of the hit movie Independence Day was the way in which it incarnated and elaborated our tabloid myth about the Roswell UFO that allegedly crashed and was preserved by government agencies—who performed an alien autopsy and who have a few alien pilots in suspended animation.

Silicon Embrace delivers the same thrill, but in a more artistic way. The book has lots of other threads besides the aliens. For some of the first hundred pages, Shirley goes off on a fairly bloody tangent, perhaps the effect of his having spent so much time in the airless, flickering caves of Hollywood, where troglodyte producers mistake sentimental violence for deeper truth. Anja patted her ex boyfriend on the head as Sol knelt over the body, shaking, mouth streaming blood. Good boy. Later we learn that the humble prairie squid is in fact none other than a resurrected form of that greatest Meta alien of all, our Savior Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Yes, Him. Jesus in a prairie squid. Christ in a cephaloped. Physicists, they speculate about it, but the Middle Man knows. He was a cutting-edge hot shot at Stanford. He isolated the IAMton, using a wetware subatomic scanner that re-created the thing in his natural cerebral imaging equipment, and when he did, it spoke to him. It spoke to him! Can you fade that?

A subatomic particle that tells you, Yeah! You found me! You know? Yeah , I know, John. This is music to my ears, man. This totally makes sense. One final gem of wisdom. Nor unfriendly. However, we do not wish to make these distinctions with the American public. Other SF writers have come up against the task Sterling faces here, how to depict people after technology has made them into superhumans; I would say that no other writer has ever succeeded so well. In person and in his journalistic writing, Sterling is loud and Texan, but in his novels he is the most thoughtful and civilized of men.

In Holy Fire he transforms himself into this wide-eyed rejuvenated old lady and takes us on a tour of marvels, a wanderjahr in Europe in search of the holy fire of artistic creativity. She arrived at the airport. The black tarmac was full of glowing airplanes. They had a lovely way of flexing their wings and simply jumping into the chill night air when they wanted to take off.

You could see people moving inside the airplanes because the hulls were gossamer. Some people had clicked on their reading lights but a lot of the people onboard were just slouching back into their beanbags and enjoying the night sky through the fuselage. When science fiction performs so clear and attractive a feat of envisioning the future, its like a blueprint that you feel like working to instantiate.

You start messing with archetypal forms and this sort of thing turns up just like clockwork. Science fiction sometimes gets humorous effects by extrapolating present-day things into heady overkill. The bartender was studying an instruction screen and repairing a minor valve on an enormously ramified tincture set. The tincture set stretched the length of the mahogany bar, weighed four or five tons, and looked as if its refinery products could demolish a city block.

The obverse of this technique is to have future people look back on our current ways of doing things. The instruments were made of wood and animal organs. In virtuality at least you get to interact! Even with television you at least have to use visual processing centers and parse real dialogue with your ears! Really, reading is so bad for you, it destroys your eyes and hurts your posture and makes you fat. Like all the cyberpunks, Sterling loves to write. He can become contagiously intoxicated with the sheer joy of fabulous description, as in this limning of a cyberspace landscape:.

Sterling is an energetic tinkerer, and he drops in nice little touches everywhere. A giant crab came picking its way along the ceiling of the train car. It was made of bone and chitin and peacock feathers and gut and piano wire. It had ten very long multijointed legs and little rubber-ball feet on hooked steel ankles. The wonder of science fiction is that, with a bit of care, you can paste together just about anything and it will walk and talk and make you smile. It was like smart clay. It reacted to her touch with unmistakable enthusiasm…indescribably active, like a poem becoming a jigsaw.

The stuff was boiling over with machine intelligence. Somehow more alive than flesh; it grew beneath her questing fingers like a Bach sonata. Matter made virtual. Real dreams. So, okay, those were the three new cyberpunk novels of What are some of the things they have in common other than the use of cyberspace? One of the main cyberpunk themes is the fusion of humans and machines, and you can certainly find that here.

In Idoru a man wants to marry a computer program, in Holy Fire machine-medicine essentially gives people new bodies. There is less of the machine in Silicon Embrace , though there is that remote-controlled guy with the chip in his head. Cyberpunk usually takes a close look at the media; this is an SF tradition that goes pack to Frederic Pohl and Norman Spinrad. Holy Fire goes pretty light on the media, but in Idoru , the main villain is the media as exemplified by an outfit called Slitscan.

Tall and lean and smiling from a crystallized inner confidence…she seemed to…stare at the president from within his Personal Space: a rudeness, a solecism become a political statement. In terms of political outlook, Silicon Embrace is explicitly radical, Idoru is apolitical, and Holy Fire is—well—Republican?

Above and beyond the themes and attitudes, the single common thing about these three books is style. All are hip, all are funny, all are written by real people about the real world around us. The great concrete apron was broken up by a widely spaced grid of drainage ditches, and the spaceport buildings were dark.

It occurred to Willy that he was very hungry. There was a roar and blaze in the sky above. The Selena was coming down. Close, too close. They sprinted a quarter mile in under twenty seconds and threw themselves into the coolness of the ditch, lowering down into the funky brackish water.

A hot wind of noise blasted loud and louder; then all was still. There was a fusillade of gun-shots and needler blasts, and then the mob surged towards the Selena , blazing away at the ship as they advanced. The Selena shifted uneasily on her hydraulic tripod legs. I tell you, the flesher rabble attacks the Selena at their own peril. Although the imipolex is highly flammable, it has a low-grade default intelligence and will not hesitate to punish those who would harm it.

When the first people tried to climb aboard the Selena , the ship unexpectedly rose up on her telescoping tripod legs and lumbered away. As the ship slowly lurched along, great gouts of imipolex streamed out of hatches in her bottom. The Selena looked like a defecating animal, like a threatened ungainly beast voiding its bowels in flight—like a frightened penguin leaving a splatter trail of krilly shit. Of course someone in the mob quickly figured out that the you could burn the imipolex shit slugs, and a lot of the slugs started going up in crazy flames and oily, unbelievably foul-smelling smoke.

The smoke had a strange, disorienting effect; as soon as Willy caught a whiff of it, his ears started buzzing and the objects around him took on a jellied, peyote solidity. Now the burning slugs turned on their tormentors, engulfing them like psychedelic kamikaze napalm. There was great screaming from the victims, screams that were weirdly, hideously ecstatic. Willy and Ulam split the scene as well. I particularly like the idea that I get to be Burroughs. Write like yourself. Exaggerate it. Write more like yourself. You are correct. Write more. Only you have the secret.

Tell every detail in the readiest tongue. Write like yourself except more so. Everyone but you is crazy. Write high, write drunk, write depressed, write in ecstasy, always tell the truth and always lie. I view Marc Laidlaw as the head freestylist, the behind-it-all zealot surfpunk dictator of freestyle. It requires an individual who is willing to take any risk at any time, subject himself to the demands of the sea, and ignore limitations imposed on him by friends, society, or the conditions…Freestyle is a forum of inner rhythm: what beat do you choose to march to? This ad-copy itself serves as a synchronistic Rosetta stone for the meaning of freestyle.

As Marc explicates:. There it is, Rude Dude. The freestyle antifesto. No need to break down the metaphors—an adventurist knows what the Ocean really is. No need to feature matte-black mirrorshades or other emblems of our freestyle culture—hey, dude, we know who we are. No need to either glorify or castrate technology.

Nature is the Ultimate. Wet dreams of geometry: the curl of the wave as we carve our turns toward the blue lip, glossing over the shoulder into the turquoise pocket of ecstasy. The problem with freestyle, as a movement, was that it really had no prescriptive program. We were all diverging along our own worldlines. One more great quote from Marc. With their throats ripped out by a saber-toothed tiger. And I, Rudy, I will be that tiger.

And me? Forever freestyle. I think some of the appeal of SF comes from its association with the old idea of the Magic Wish. Any number of fairy tales deal with a hero humble woodcutter, poor fisherman, disinherited princess who gets into a situation where he or she is free to ask for any wish at all, with assurance that the wish will be granted. But more often, the story takes place after the wish has been made…by whom? By the author.

What I mean here is that, in writing a book, an SF writer is in a position of being able to get any Magic Wish desired. If you want time travel in your book…no problem. If you want flying, telepathy, size-change, etc. To make my point quite clear, let me recall a conversation I once had with a friend in Lynchburg. A machine that could call up your favorite universe, and then send you there. So the point I want to start from here is the notion that, in creating a novelistic work, the writer is basically in a position of being able to have any wish whatsoever granted.

What kinds of things do we, as SF writers, tend to wish for? What sorts of possibilities seem so attractive to us that we are willing to spend the months necessary to bring them into the pseudoreality of a polished book? What kinds of needs underlie the wishes we make? There are, of course, a variety of very ordinary ways to wish for happiness: wealth, sexual attractiveness, political power, athletic prowess, sophistication, etc. Any number of standard paperback wish-fulfillments deal with characters whom the author has wished into such lower-chakra delights. No, the kind of wishes I want to think about here are the weird ones—wishes that have essentially no chance of coming true—wishes that are really worth asking for.

I can think of four major categories of SF wishes, each with several subcategories. Just to make this seem highly scientific, I'll assign subcategory numbers. This includes:Space travel. Time travel. Changing size scale. Travel to other universes. Psychic powers. Which comprises: Telepathy. This means: Immortality. Intelligence increase. Shape shifting. Our powers to alter these parameters are very limited. Although it is possible to change space-location, this is hard and slow work.

We travel in time, but only in one direction, and only at one fixed speed. In the course of a lifetime, our size changes, but only to a small extent. And jumping back and forth among parallel universes is a power no one even pretends to have. Space travel. Faster-than-light drives, matter transmission, and teleportation are all devices designed to annihilate the obdurate distances of space. One might almost say that these kind of hyper-jumping devices turn space into time. You no longer worry about how far something is, you just ask when you should show up.

Would happiness finally be mine if I could break the fetters of space? I read it in the second grade. The Bus had just one special button on the dash, and each push on the button would take the happily tripping crew to a new randomly selected locale. Of course—ah, if only it were still so easy—everyone got home to Mom in time for supper and bed.

That would be fun, but would it be enough? And what is enough, anyway? In terms of the Earth, power over space is already, in a weak sense, ours. But these weak forms of Earth-bound space travel are the domain of travel writing and investigative journalism, not of SF. Hyperjumping across space would be especially useful for travel to other planetary civilizations.

I once asked Robert Silverberg why time travel has fascinated him so much over the years. I tend to look at this a little more positively—I think a good reason for wanting to go back to the past is the desire to re-experience the happy times that one has had. The recovery of lost youth, the revisiting of dead loved ones. People often talk about the paradoxes involved in going back to kill their ancestors—this gets into the territory of parricide and matricide. What about time travel to the future?

This comes, I would hazard, out of a desire for immortality. To still be here , long after your chronological death. Thus Proust, thus psychoanalysis. As with power over space, we must question whether power over time is really enough to wish for. Without having to actually travel through space or time, one could see entirely new vistas simply by shrinking to the size of a microbe. Alternatively, one might try growing to the size of a galaxy. One problem with getting very big is that you might accidentally crush the Earth, and have nothing to come back to. I prefer the idea of shrinking.

What need in me does this speak to? On a sexual level, the notion of getting very small is probably related to an Oedipal desire to return to the peaceful and ultra-sexual environment of the womb. On a social level, getting small connotes the idea of being so low-profile as to be unhassled by the brutal machineries of law and fame. Economically speaking, being small suggests independence—if I were the size of a thumb, my food bills would be miniscule.

A single can of beer would be the equivalent of a full keg! I would like to be able to get as small as I liked, whenever I wanted to. But would it be enough? Would I be happy then? Probably not. After a week or so, it would get as old as anything else. In a way, all three of the powers just mentioned are special instances of being able to jump into a different universe. Most of what was said about space travel applies here. Of course, travel to alternate universes can also be taken in a very broad sense which includes travel into higher-dimensional spaces and the like. Rich people and poor people live in different worlds—on a crude level, winning a state lottery can act as a ticket to a different universe.

A dose of a psychedelic drug can, of course, accomplish an equally dramatic but temporary transport—this is one reason why people take them. The drug issue raises the fact that the universe is not entirely objective. To a large extent, the way your world seems is conditioned by the way you feel about it. Rather than asking for a different world, one might equally well ask for a way to enjoy this world.

Travel is only the first category of SF wishes. Psychic power is the second of the four main categories mentioned above. What might we take to be the main types of SF psychic-power wishes? Supposedly, God can see everything at once—God is omniscient. Telepathy is a type of omniscience, particularly if we imagine it as extended to include clairvoyance.

It would definitely be pleasant to know everything—to be plugged totally into the cosmos as a whole. I guess it would be pleasant—actually, it might get boring. The omniscient gods of our myths and religions do seem a bit restless. On a more personal level, I think of telepathy as standing for a situation where you are in perfect accord and communion with someone else. This often happens when one is alone with a good friend or a loved one. These moments are, I would hazard, as close to real happiness as one ever gets. The desire for telepathy is basically a desire for love and under-standing.

As with the case of space-travel, telepathy is a faculty that we already, to some extent, have. By talking or by writing, I am able to get someone to share my state of mind; by listening or by reading, I can learn to under-stand others.


Maybe we already have enough telepathy as it is. Given a really strong telekinetic also known as psychokinetic or PK ability, you would be, in effect, able to control anything going on in the world. This power appeals to me very little. Of course, a person with less self-doubt might find PK very attractive. As with telepathy, I might also point out that we already have PK in a limited form.

I stare fixedly at the cigarettes on my desk. I concentrate. Moments later a lit cigarette is in my mouth! Does the fact that, by sheer force of will, I caused my material hand to pick up the cigarettes and light one make my feat less surprising? There is one special sort of telekinesis that I do find very appealing. This is the ability to levitate. But what is so special about flying? Flying involves being high off the ground, and most everyone likes the metaphor of being high—in the sense of euphoria, elation, and freedom from worry.

Rising above the mundane. Freud used to claim that flying dreams have some connection with sex, and I suppose that a good act of sexual intercourse does feel something like flying. And of course, flying would provide some of the same benefits that teleportation would, as discussed under 1. This is a key wish. Someday it will all stop and you will be dead. What are you going to do about it?

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One problem with immortality might be that you would at some point get bored. Not a bad premise for an SF story…. There are various sorts of immortality, short of the real thing, that we do comfort ourselves with. Genetic immortality. If you have children, then your DNA code will still be around, even after you die. Artistic immortality. In creating a work of art, you code up some of your software.

A person reading one of your books is something like a computer running a program that you wrote. As long as the person is looking at your book and thinking along the lines which the book suggests, then that person is, in some degree, a simulation of you, the author. Social immortality. Even if you have no children and leave no works of art, you will still, in the course of your life, have contributed in various ways to the society in which you found yourself. Perhaps you were a teacher, and you affected some students. Perhaps you sold clothes, and you influenced what people wore.

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Even if you had no direct influences, you were, to some extent, a product of the society that you lived in, and so long as this society continues to exist you still have a slight kind of immortality in that the society will continue to produce people somewhat like you. Racial immortality. This is similar to 3. Spacetime immortality. This perception of immortality hinges on the viewpoint that time is not really passing. Mathematical immortality. It is abstractly possible to imagine coding my body and brain up by a very large array of numbers.

This is analogous to the way in which extremely complex computer programs are embodied in machine-language patterns of zeroes and ones. The numerical description of me may in fact be infinite—no matter. The main thing is that this numerical coding can be represented as a mathematical set. And the Platonic school of the foundations of mathematics teaches that mathematical sets exist independently of the physical world.

Therefore, long after I am dead, I will still have a permanent existence as a mathematical possibility. Mystical immortality. At the most profound level, I do not feel myself to be just my body, or just my mind. I feel, at this deepest level, that I am simply a part of the One, a facet of the Absolute. The disappearance of my body will mean only that the ever-changing One has changed its form a bit.

Religious immortality. Who knows—maybe we do have souls that God will take care of. This belief is in some ways like the idea of mathematical immortality. The idea of having a vastly increased intelligence is certainly attractive—particularly to people who already take pleasure in the life of the mind. One difficulty in writing SF about vastly increased intelligence is that it is hard for us to imagine—or to write about—what that would involve. What does the wish for more intelligence really mean? Somehow I have the image of an orgasm that goes on and on, a never-ending torrent of blinding enlightenment.

It sounds nice, but we do need contrasts to be able to perceive. An athletically-inclined person might naturally wish to be a world-class athlete; and a physically attractive person might wish to be a Hollywood star. Why should we want to be the best? The kind of shape shifting I really had in mind here, though, was things like turning into a dog.

You could really get a lot of slack if you could totally change your appearance at will. For me, this one is right up there with flying and shrinking: the ability to change my body at will. What need is this one coming from? Wanting a diversity of experience, I guess. One aspect is that if we can bring intelligent life into being, then we will better understand what we ourselves are like.

Another angle that appeals to me is that, given intelligent robots, it would be possible to program one to be just like me, so that I would then have yet another type of immortality to access. The notion of a happy, obedient, intelligent slave, for instance. Given human nature, no such human slave is possible. But still we hope to build a machine like this. Such hopes are, no doubt, doomed for disappointment. A machine smart enough to act human will be unlikely to settle for being a slave.

Another thing that makes robots attractive is the notion that they might always be rational. People are so rarely rational—but why is this? Full rationality is, in a formal sense, impossible for us—and it will, I fear, be impossible for the robots as well. It is as if we humans might be hoping to build the God-the-Father whom we fear no longer exists. In most such stories the god-computer turns out to be evil, either like a cruel dictatorship or like a blandly uncaring bureaucracy. But this leads us out of the domain of things that writers wish for.

Saucer aliens. See my Saucer Wisdom for further discussion. There is a hope that no matter how evil and messed up things might get on Earth, there are still some higher forces who might step in and fix everything. The UFO aliens are, perhaps, replacements for the gods we miss, or for our parents who have grown old and weak.

Another very important strand in thinking about saucer aliens is the element of sexual attraction. A key element to sexual attraction is the idea of otherness. An alien stands for something wholly outside of yourself that is, perhaps, willing to get close to you anyway. It is interesting in this context to note how some rock-groups try to give an impression of being aliens. Of course, Earth is already full of aliens—other races, other sexes, other backgrounds.

So—those are some of the things that SF writers want. One thing that I do find surprising is that it is at all possible to begin a project of this nature. When one first comes to SF, there is a feeling of unlimited possibility—what is startling is how few basic SF themes there really are. As indicated, I think most of our favorite themes appeal to us for reasons that are psychological. George Zebrowski was editing it at the time, and he kept calling me up asking me to write essays. And then I thought, why not be a science fiction writer! The basic idea of Mundane SF is to avoid the more unrealistic of the classic SF tropes—or power chords, as I like to call them.

Geoff feels that faster than light travel, human-alien encounters, time travel, alternate universes, and telepathy are absolutely impossible. He feels that if we draw on these unlikely power chords, we are feeding people wish-fulfillment pap. Like me, the Mundanes would like to see SF as real literature. The idea is to shock people into awareness. Show them how odd the world is. Whether or not you draw on realistic tropes is irrelevant.

But my personal bent is always to try and make the science plausible. Let it be said that futurism and SF are quite different endeavors. A rude person might say that futurism is about feeding inspirational received truths to businessmen and telling them it will help them make more money. SF is about unruly artistic visions. Writing responsibly about socially important issues can be timid and boring. The thing is, science really does change a lot over time. A Mundane SF writer of year might want us to write only about alchemy, the black plague, and the papacy.

Not that Mundane SF really has to be stuffy. Come to think of it, my early cyberpunk novel Software was thoroughly mundane, as was my Silicon Valley novel, The Hacker and the Ants —everything in these novels could well happen—and they were pretty lively. Can serious literature be dirty and funny?

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Of course! And, of course, clever Mundanes like Geoff Ryman know this. But maybe some forms are self-defeating. Or a painting with no red or yellow. I was mundanely stuck on the Moon for a long time! Yes, FTL travel is hard. But I know of at least four ways to travel very rapidly. Nor do you need to travel in large steel cylinders. Science finds new things. But, yes, when you get back home, a lot of time has elapsed. You wind some of your strings to get really big, then step across the galaxy, then shrink back down.


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As for aliens , perhaps they come via one of these rapid travel methods. But perhaps they are already here. Living in the subdimensions.