This is the fourth installment in the Synthetic Pretenders series examining the proposed CaliforniaTrust Framework within the context of synthetic biology, eugenics, and the Spanish mission system.
Part One: Scientific Management, Robo-Bees, and Digital Babies
Part Two: Apocalypse, Mind Files, and Interplanetary Promises
Part Three: The “Magic” of Radio-Eugenics and Holographic Twins
The Berggruen Institute’s “Transformations of the Human” project (TofTH) launched in 2018. The effort is led by Tobias Rees, a human science researcher pursuing fieldwork in the microbiome, neuroscience, global health, labor, and governance. Rees worked at the University of Zurich, McGill, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Parsons/New School. The four-minute clip below lays out his thesis: “It is as if the logic that is implicit in the vocabulary we have to think about ourselves as human, to experience ourselves as human, to make sense of ourselves as human doesn’t work anymore.”
Source: Tobias Rees Describes the Transformations of the Human Project
TofTH advisors include:
Antonio Damasio – USC professor of psychology, philosophy and neuroscience, Salk Institute
Yoshua Benigo – University of Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms
Mustafa Suleyman – Head of Applied AI at Google DeepMind
Yann Lecun – NYU Data Science, Facebook AI
Margaret McFall Ngai – Director Pacific Sciences Research Center, tissues interacting with light
Alison Gopnik – UC Berkeley professor of psychology, theory of mind and children’s learning
Stewart Brand – Long Now Foundation, Global Business Network
Tess Posner – AI4ALL social entrepreneur
Others listed in the map below.
Source: TofTH Interactive Map
Institutions connected with TofTH and h.Earth, an initiative to embed artists and humanities scholars in science labs in order to facilitate the creation of new narrative framing for public acceptance of the Internet of Bio-Nano Things, include the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), affiliated with UC Berkeley, and Stanford’s bioengineering and human-centered AI programs. Other TofTH clients include Google and Google Quantum AI, X The Moonshot Factory, Facebook AI, Element AI, and Commonsense Machines.
Eric “Astro” Teller who has degrees from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford and is the grandson of Edward “father of the hydrogen bomb” Teller, is another individual that spoke (remotely) at the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s Moonshot Project launch in December of 2019. He did so in his capacity as “Captain of Moonshots” at Google X, one of TofTH’s clients.
Source: Edward Teller Reads to Grandsons Astro and Zander
Source: Japan Science and Technology Agency, Moonshot International Symposium, December 17, 2019, Moonshot Lecture Astro Teller
Tobias Rees’s position as a Parsons’ humanities professor was sponsored by tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman who co-founded LinkedIn and now pursues angel investing through Greylock Partners. Hoffman is also the primary funder of TofTH. If you have a plan to “transform” humans, it’s to be expected that you will also need to create a “transformed” world for them to inhabit. Because it’s about fictitious value creation from of data, right?
Source: TofTH Consultancy and h.Earth Map / Reid Hoffman
This month Reid Hoffman was featured as one of sixteen emerging technology investors, along with Joseph Lubin of Ethereum/Consensys, supporting the launch of Peter Vessenes’s LAMINA1, a base layer for an Open Metaverse. Vessenes’s collaborator on the project, set to go public in Austin, is futurist Neal Stephenson. Stephenson, born in Fort Meade Maryland to an engineer and a biochemist, is a cyberpunk science fiction author who’s been writing about mixed reality and nanotechnology since the early 1990s.
Source: Visionary Futurist Neal Stephenson and Crypto Pioneer Peter Vessenes Announce Lamina-1, The Layer-1 Blockchain For The Open Metaverse
It was Stephenson who coined the term Metaverse in his novel “Snow Crash,” which I wrote about last winter in relation to blockchain governance and spellcasting. This is not Stephenson’s first venture into mixed reality. He was an advisor to Magic Leap VR as the company worked to come up with cost-effective, functional models of wearable computing. The creative team was laid off in 2020 when the company pivoted to industrial applications, but the audio-drama, New Found Land: The Long Haul, Stephenson had been working on for Audible continued to move forward. The plot centers around optical engineers who discover two warring alternate realities one of which is a world called Laminar.
Source: Magic Leap 1
Above is the type of wearable that will be needed before mixed reality and spatial computing can truly scale. The consensus seems to be Magic Leap overpromises and under-delivers. Even so, there is an imperative to create an environment in which such devices become as normal as cell phones are today. They must also be made available at a sufficiently reduced price point so that the people of global south can be boosted into the telepresence labor pool. Those in power may not have the technology up to snuff just yet, but they’re not going to stop trying, because the new globalization 4.0 paradigm depends on wearable computers interfacing with blockchain, holograms, and remote robotics.
While touted as cutting edge technology for use cases like visualizing complex surgery to separate conjoined twins, in reality these systems are meant to disconnect us from our material selves and unleash profoundly destabilizing economic forces into the world. The new game is blockchchained skill badges (SBTs) that will enable AI to rank and sort applicants for global gigs for the lowest wages. While conservatives rush to embrace crypto as a technology of “liberation,” they don’t seem to comprehend how globotics can only undermine feeble attempts to protect living-wage jobs in their communities.
In Web 3.0 (now Web 5.0?) we need to be concerned about AI and automation, not immigrants. Yes, there will continue to be dispossessed people, because as moveable assets, pawns in the game, they fuel impact markets. Social, economic, and environmental displacement keeps the machine running, keeps the game in motion. Stability is anathema to the World Brain, whose manifestation is tied to an elusive quest for civilizational homeostasis.
Other people are not our problem, the supercomputers running high-frequency trades based on Internet-of-Everything sensor networks for hedge funds bets should be the focus of our attention. Unfortunately, we’ve created an economic structure that demands we keep looking the other way. It’s a structure that was built by our family members, our friends, community elders. Since the prospects for untangling it all are overwhelming, we inhabit old stories and create new ones that justify our internalized avoidance.
We need to stop fixating on physical borders and realize geo-fencing will enable on-demand borders both in the real world and the emergent digital empire. Show me your papers. Show me your token. Borders don’t exist for capital, only for people whose compliance to the new regime of digital enclosures can and will be calculated as human capital portfolio assets. Read Mark Stasenko’s 2018 Slate short story “Overvalued” or Van Diamondfinger’s 2017 “The Domestic Front” in Oxford American or Hannu Rajaniemi’s 2018 “Unchained: A Story of Love, Loss, and Blockchain” in MIT Technology Review for fictional insights into near future dystopias where the decentralized automation of a cyber-physical world plays our emotions as if life were all a game.
Source: Economist Richard Baldwin on Globalization 4.0 and Globotics
In the case of Vessenes and Stephenson, the choice of the name Laminar1 feels significant. A Lamin is a thin overlay placed onto a surface, and as a visual is congruent with the development of augmented reality infrastructure and also with deceptive stories we tell ourselves that build off reality even as they obscure it. Lamins are also architectural protein structures that are vital for DNA replication and cell function. As my friend Leo Saraceno pointed out, there is a parallel in proteins functioning as scaffolds for biochemical life and blockchains that are being positioned as scaffolds for the emergence of digital “life.”
A final esoteric reference, but one that these Metaverse wranglers are probably aware of, is the use of the Lamin, like a talisman, for astrological purposes. In his 1988 book, “John Dee’s Actions With Spirits 22 December 1581 to 23 May 1583,” Christopher Whitby provides the following quote from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s “Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy” on page 130:
“The lamen which is to be used to invoke good spirit you shall make after this manner; either in metal conformable: or it may be made in clean paper with convenient colours: and the outward form or figure thereof may be square, circular, or triangular or of the like sort, according to the rule of the numbers: in which must be written the divine names, as well as the general names as the special. And in the centre of the Lamen, let there be drawn a character of six corners: in the middle whereof, let there be written the name and the character of the Star, or of his spirit his governour, to whom the good spirit that is to be called is subject. And about this character, let there be placed so many characters of the five corners, as the spirits we would call together at once. And if we shall call only one spirit, nevertheless there shall be made four Pentagones, wherein the name of the spirit or spirits, with their characters, is to be written. Now this table ought to be composed when the Moon is increasing, on those days and hours which then agree to the Spirit. And if we take a fortunate starre herewith, it will be the better.”
Source, Page 129
While this may seem a touch “woo-woo” for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, if you follow the interest areas of the most powerful figures working to remake society (Nicholas “Transformations of the Human” Berggruen’s tutelage under Brian Copenhaver), you’ll see attempts to unite ritual and alchemy with emerging technologies. I can picture the conceptual structure that extends Renaissance principles of “natural magic” to crystallography, bioacoustics, and photonic communication. For some insights into Copenhaver’s inquiries into the Hermetica, listen to this episode from the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps Podcast with Copenhaver on Renaissance Magic.
Lamins are related to sigils, magical figures. Recently, Curved Labs’ Sovereign Nature Project pitched a proposal for reimagining human relationships to public natural spaces using ritualistic programming tracked and logged as blockchained behaviors. Their “interspecies game” includes a Tree of Life, a Game of Oracles, and a Game of Sigils where participants make digital offerings of images and sounds at natural shrine locations in parks. These offerings of data, if accepted, generate NFTs and create mechanized networks of information and meaning on top of the natural landscape. It’s quite striking to see how esotericism has melded with social-impact behavioral economics and cyberpunk anarcho-capitalism, but such is the world we live in now.
Source: Curve Labs’ Interspecies Game
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting a one-hour conversation that blockchain expert Leo Saraceno and I had about Curve Labs’s game, artificial nature, and the attempted tokenization of life – Transformations of the Human. It is the first episode of Raul Diego’s podcast 53° Degrees. You can subscribe to Silicon Icarus’s channel here.
Part Four B Interspecies Game Interview
Part Five – Elite Views on Automated Law and Vending Machine Democracy
Interlude – Reject Scientific Management, Celebrate “Weeds”