Merry Christmas......
December 24, 2003 12:35 AM   Subscribe

NetFuture "NetFuture is an electronic newsletter....It looks beyond the generally recognized "risks" of computer use such as privacy violations, unequal access, censorship, and dangerous computer glitches. It seeks especially to address those deep levels at which we half-consciously shape technology and are shaped by it. What is half-conscious can, after all, be made fully conscious, and we can take responsibility for it..... Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk in submission to its inevitabilities?"
posted by troutfishing (10 comments total)
Steve talbot, the editor of NetFuture, is a deeply committed humanist who loves all nature. article in the current issue of NetFuture (#152) describes (scroll to bottom) the fate of baboons recently subjected to grotesque medical experiments (this is not for the faint of heart). But - beyond that - NetFuture covers an astonishingly wide range of topics. Not quickly dismissed, this.
posted by troutfishing at 12:48 AM on December 24, 2003

Man... this is a juicy read. Wonderful post TF.

Talbot kind of reminds me of David Abram.
posted by rhruska at 2:20 AM on December 24, 2003

Erm... it's Wade Davis (it's an excerpt from his book) who reminded me of Abram.
posted by rhruska at 2:24 AM on December 24, 2003

rhruska - You can't go wrong with Wade Davis.

But as for David Abram - "The Spell of the Sensuous" was brilliant but I prefer the largely unsung "In the Spirit of the Earth : Rethinking history and time", by Calvin Luther Martin, a professor at Rutgers. " call it a stirring book, and to pronounce Calvin a profound thinker is not gratuitous enough. This is a book which engages the metaphysics of Native American occupation of North America as a means to critique the Western understanding of human spatial and temporal existence. It is both historical and philosophical as it seeks to reevaluate the relationship between human beings and the "place" they inhabit. Calvin is one of those individuals who has the power to change the way you see yourself in relationship to the world around you; "In The Spirit of the Earth", contains this power." - I find that characterization to be accurate. Martin's name, by the way, was no mistake. His father, a minister, had a perversely sadistic sense of humor.

Martin's book is about more than North America - it is a meditation on the psychological transition made as humans made the transition from being hunter-gatherers to being agriculturalists - and Martin makes a crucial point I've not heard repeated elsewhere : hunter/gatherers do not, in general (from all we know of these cultures, now in rapid decline around the world) feel that it is within the right of humans to manipulate life forms - both plants and animals - in the manner of the agricultural peoples. The transition made - as hunter gatherers learned to first selectively breed other life forms - was a profound psychological one which seems to have happened in concert with and even more seismic shift in the way humans viewed themselves as beings on the Earth. Their sense of self shifted and an almost unbridgeable rift opened as the agriculturalists conceived of themselves as fundamentally different from, and superior to, all other terrestrial life forms. The dichotomy which places the sacred elsewhere than right here on Earth - or as omnipresent - followed and hence the Sky : sacred - Earth : profane construction for how can one be, as a class of being, equivalent to life forms which one can manipulate? We now know the answer to that question - "Easily and -further - other terrestrial life forms manipulate Earthly life to their advantage. In fact, co-manipulation is the rule" - but this answer has been a long time coming.

I don't believe Steve Talbot has covered this theme, but I may email him to suggest it.

In case anyone misses it, the "Expecting Adam", the book itself, as well as Steve Talbot exegesis of the theme, in NetFuture issue, number 102 and subsequent issues also, are mind blowing reads - whether one buys the story or not - in that they challenge our preconceptions of being, of perfection, of ranking. Books of this sort are - whether one is a Christian, even a fundamentalist one, or a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, an animist - whatever - the reintroduction or, more properly, reawakening to that magic which is actually all around us and always has been. I have worked with retarded adults and can attest to what Martha Beck and Steve Talbott write of.

"Expecting Adam" is on the surface more deeply visceral - the tale of two Harvard academics confronting the impending birth of a retarded son with Down's syndrome, first choosing to allow the birth and - in the process - awakening to a deeper realm of mystery than allowed in current industrial consciousness. But Martin's book is one of those touchstone I return to again and again, like a migratory waterbird back to the same pond on it's yearly journey to the poles and back. He is to old for it, or else I would say that Martin is Loren Eiseley reborn. But Martin lacks Eiseley's deep brooding darkness born from a dark childhood - and so his thought has a beauty less terrible. He is at once a profound scholar and also a human being unafraid of the paths of the heart and unafraid of the stigma attached, by the rationalist world, to the mysteries he writes of and senses. Fundamentalists everywhere, the sky god worshippers, and the rationalists from that camp which would extol the triumphant ascendancy of humans over the natural world, would all unite and gather to stone such as Calvin Luther Martin.

And that is high praise, indeed.
posted by troutfishing at 7:00 AM on December 24, 2003

Oh, and : you're welcome. I've been meaning to post this for along time. "Best of the Web", y'know.
posted by troutfishing at 7:02 AM on December 24, 2003

Grrrrr. Sloppy grammer. Proofread Trout. Proofread!

/self flagellation
posted by troutfishing at 7:07 AM on December 24, 2003

can anyone give any examples of good stuff here? all i've found is confused arguments like:
What physicist Richard Feynman said about energy is true of many other fundamental scientific concepts as well: "we have no knowledge of what energy is" (Feynman, Leighton, and Sands 1963, p. 4-2).

To ignore the darkness in key terms of our science -- to claim that mathematics gives us the essence of things when we can't even say what the things are and we have no non-mathematical language adequate to them -- is to be no less in the grip of nonsense than were those medieval thinkers who were content to explain the character of gold by appealing to an occult quality of "goldness".
is it serious? physics is no more useful than alchemy? does the author really think alchemists can make, for example, televisions?

sure, if you start with televisions and work down through the levels of abstraction you end up with the basic (a priori) assumptions of physics (like feynman's unexplicable energy). but on the way you've clearly gained something more than the ability to talk about "television-ness". even if it appears to be built on nothing, that edifice of abstraction - physics, engineering - turns out to be hugely useful in practice. how can anyone be blind to that?

and that the edificice is useful implies that the a priori assumptions on which it is built are largely correct. maybe god doesn't call them electrons, but whatever their name they sure as hell move in a way that we can control with the thing we arbitrarily term magnetic fields.

it seems like the author is so interested in labels, and so dismissive of "mechanims", that he fails to see the strength of the structure as a whole. which is kind of ironic, coming from someone apparently promoting a holistic agenda.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:58 AM on December 24, 2003

MetaFilter: Good reading. Real proof. Just not much proofreading.

Good stuff, trout. I promise NOT to bring up frozen pizzas.
posted by wendell at 11:12 AM on December 24, 2003

andrew cooke - I've wielded that exact argument against others. I love it! No - really. No sarcasm intended.

It's a great argument, and I've got about a half dozen versions of different lengths written for different occasions. But there's a lot going on on NetFuture - give it a chance! Despite some luddistic tendencies and inconsistencies - and the occasional pseudoscientific goobledygook - I think it still has a lot to offer (though maybe not to you).
posted by troutfishing at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2003

wendell - You'd better not bring up frozen pizzas. You know how they effect me....and Languagehat.....and Davehat.....
posted by troutfishing at 11:23 AM on December 24, 2003

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