Disgruntled Neighbors Oppose Berggruen’s Mountaintop Monastery – Synthetic Pretenders Part 14

This is the fourteenth 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

Part Four: Ritual Gaming and Berggruen’s Transformation of Humanity

Part Five: Elite Views on Automated Law and Vending Machine Democracy

Part Six: Reject Scientific Management, Celebrate “Weeds”

Part Seven: Computation Life and Industrial Design Erode the Boundaries of our Beingness

Part Eight: Market Alchemy and Illuminated “Well-being”

Part Nine: Photonic Workhouses and Behavioral Scrip

Part Ten: Magenta Dusk and the Royal Beacon of Decarbonization

Part Eleven: Pre-Crime Prediction for “Better” Humans

Part Twelve: Rocket Science and Zoology – Catalysts for Explosive Evolution

Part Thirteen: Bitter Lemons: Southern California’s Avatar End Game

Featured Image: Paul Klee, “Ghost Chamber With Tall Door,” Berggruen Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art

Just beyond the southwestern-most corner of the boundary of Robert Hertzberg’s California Senate District 18 in the East San Fernando Valley, lies 447 acres of ridge line partially situated on a reclaimed landfill. It’s the intended site for a modern monastery, the dream of a billionaire financier turned “philosopher king.” A lofty perch from which to spin plans for a disconnected future where physical bodies are confined to structured cells, freeing minds to wander the Noosphere with assistance not from sacred texts or mental discipline, but from haptics and nanotechnology.

Source: Los Angeles Department of City Planning Virtual Scoping Meeting, Berggruen Institute Project, December 8, 2020

Picture the fruit of such ephemeral “labor” deftly harvested by neuro-nanobots and integrated into a Trust Network to train artificial intelligence. Streamlined, interoperable, on-chain tokenized data analyzed, and organized to efficiently stimulate an emergent global brain until, at long last (they hope), the Singularity is achieved. Each mind in each cell no longer acting as vital, autonomous beings with a soul, but as networked neuroblasts anticipating a bizarre metamorphosis for which they were never asked nor were ever consulted. This vision is chillingly described in Oliver Reiser’s 1946 book on radio-eugenics, “World Sensorium.”

The question of the future existence of biological life is central to the investigations of Nicholas Berggruen and his collaborators. In 2016, he tapped Portuguese-American neuroscientist, Antonio Dimassio, to undertake a study laying out what it will mean to be human in an age of artificial intelligence. The irony is that Dimassio, an adjunct faculty at the Salk Institute, directs the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC. USC is home to the Institute of Creative Technologies, where the Army Research Lab has been funding the creation of synthetic humans for over twenty years.

Antonio and his wife Hanna, co-director of the Institute, say they are working to understand the human condition through research into how the brain processes music, organizes narratives, and the nature of consciousness to treat neurological conditions. My feeling, however, is that it’s all dual use technology, much of it federally funded, and the findings will be likely used to make engineered systems function in a way that appears more “natural.” That’s an interesting choice of art behind him, not to mention the composition of the photograph.

Source: “In His Own Image,” Antonio Dimassio, New York Times 2011

In the spring of 2022, Berggruen’s Institute hosted an invitation-only, two-day workshop with USC Dornsife called “What Will Life Become?” Among the questions being considered were:

How will scientists reform expectations of life and personhood in a post-biological world?

How will the extra-planetary recapitulate or stage new social relations, institutions, and politics of earth?

How do novel human/non-human agents (animals, robots) disrupt andro- and anthropocentric hierarchies of species and mind?

How will concepts of indigeneity, race, and ethnicity be shuttled to worlds beyond Earth and times beyond our present?

The vice-chair of digital biology at Singularity University wrote a couple of blog posts about participating in the event. Tiffany Vora, trained as a computational biologist, incorporates gender and identity into her widely circulated talks. You know women and STEM, right? As a panelist, Vora pitched the idea of a new company to those in attendance, asking them first to understand that biocapitalism was a given in this planned future. Her fictional enterprise, BioFix, would integrate data from your family history to your wearables to your microbiome and then pair your body with synthetic bio-assets. These might include hybrid organs that could unlock novel abilities like breathing underwater or synthetic DNA that, if you pay the up-charge, you can pass on to your children

Now swap out the Marvel superhero lens for a eugenics-body-shaming one and realize this is leveraging manufactured self-loathing into a profitable keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ bio-hacking business sector. Is it any wonder people, especially children, are struggling with their mental health? Those with power and influence are fabricating a reality that will boost identity-based spectacle into the realm of cyborg hybrid existence. Are we ready for fast-fashion to morph into biohacking?

Source: “A Conversation on the Future of Health: What Will Be the Role of Doctors in This Radically Different Future? Tiffany Vora at HSM Brazil 2022

In 2015 Nicholas Berggruen’s Institute began to sponsor fellowships for dozens of independent scholars pursuing research in the United States and China in partnership with Harvard, NYU, Stanford, USC, Oxford, Peking and Tsinghua Universities. The first year it solicited “cross-cultural” and “interdisciplinary” proposals from thinkers on the following: the Autonomous Self and the Relational Self; Harmony and Freedom; Equality and Hierarchy; Democracy and Political Meritocracy; Humans and Technology; and Sustainable Innovation. All topics grounded in systems engineering of individuals and societies. There are over 110 alumni of the fellowship program, among them are:

Terra Lawson-Remer – social change entrepreneur focused on bio-tech and socio-genomic research, also member of CFR and advisor to the US Treasury Department

Stuart Candy – foresight strategist working with the UN, WEF, Ashoka, NASA, JPL, and US Conference of Mayors, Director of Situation Lab at Carnegie Mellon

Marco Ferrante – scholar of Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy researching metaphysics, language and action in early Brahmanical philosophy, and deontic logic (permissible, forbidden, required)

Gabriel Kahan – LA-based artist and technologist working on collective intelligence tied to civic participation and urban design management

Michael McCarthy – Economic Democracy Activist writing “Master’s Tools: Using Finance Against Capitalism”

Last year fifty fellowships were awarded, among them Saule Omarova, a Kazakh-born Cornell Law Professor who specializes in financial regulation and received considerable push-back on her nomination to become Comptroller of the Currency last winter. She’d floated the idea of a “People’s Ledger” where the Federal Reserve could involve itself in consumer banking, which was alarming for many given widespread concerns around Central Digital Currency and programmable money. John Titus gave a helpful breakdown of the issues surrounding Omarova’s nomination, which was later withdrawn at her request, in a December 2021 presentation. This is important, because one of the things Berggruen is looking to redesign is nothing short of capitalism itself.


In addition to the fellowships, the Berggruen Prize was instituted in 2016 in the spirit of a Nobel Prize, but for philosophy. A jury selects one individual annually whose body of work has made, according to them, a significant impact on wisdom and understanding the world. That winner is awarded $1 million. The Institute’s new outpost in Venice, Three Eyes Palace, hosted last year’s event. Peter Singer, an Australian whose work centers “effective altruism” won the prize. How perfect for the new imposed ethos of social impact investing, right?


Prior awards were made to Baroness Onora O’Neill, public discourse; Ruth Bader Ginsberg, gender equality; Martha Nussbaum, social liberalism; Paul Farmer, global health; and Charles Taylor, hermeneutics and social webs of relationship. If you follow my work, you will note how the interests of the winners interlock and align with the roll out of one-world government for the global good, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and blockchain impact finance. All winners are white men and women who hail from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. It’s important to note this not from the standpoint of woke-ness, but from the standpoint of empire and eugenics, both of which factor into the coding of the digital realm and next-gen eugenic efforts framed as precision medicine.

Nicholas Berggruen, the would-be monastic benefactor, grew up steeped in the Parisian modern art scene, made a fortune with his hedge fund rehabilitating Burger King among other undervalued companies, went on to study the Hermetica, and now seeks to bridge east and west through a global governance system grounded in non-dualism. Zhao Tingyang, a Berggruen affiliate and member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, lays out a Theory of Tianxia, or “All Under Heaven.” In ancient China the concept embodies a physical, psychological and political convergence towards harmony and a permanent peace. Harmonized digital citizens are the goal of IEEE.

Source: Berggruen Institute Tweet, December 1, 2017

Berggruen is a suave operator who’s spent the past decade courting G-20 influencers, Henry Kissinger, and Xi Jinping to join this effort, he needs an anchor point from which to launch this vision. I believe that intended anchor is California. This planned Trust Network of decentralized ledgers for avatar management must, however, be put in place before digital convergence can commence in earnest.

Source: Nicholas Berggruen Tweet June 11, 2022 on Kissinger’s article for Noema, the Berggruen Institute’s Journal, about Ukraine and US-China Relations

A dual US-German citizen, Nicholas was raised in France where his father Heinz operated a lucrative book shop and gallery space. Galerie Berggruen and Cie sold modernist prints in the 7th arrondissement two blocks from the Seine. Heinz was an avid collector, and amassed a large personal collection of Picasso, Klee, Matisse and Giacometti. A native of Berlin, he arrived in the United States in 1936 to study art history at Berkeley and married Lillian Zellerbach of the San Francisco paper dynasty. Heinz later worked at the San Francisco Museum of Art, pulling together an exhibit of Rosicrucian painter Diego Rivera’s works while engaging in an affair with Frida Kahlo. I did a couple of interesting presentations on Rivera with the What’s Left? podcast that you can listen to here and here.

Source: Henry Moore Lithograph, Klee Lithograph, Le Corbousier

Heinz was drafted into the US Army Signal Corps during World War II and stationed in Europe where his multi-lingual proficiency was valued. Following the war he divorced Lillian and decamped to  France, initially landing, as had Caltech’s Frank Malina, at UNESCO, Julian Huxley’s project, before establishing the gallery that would bring him into contact with the most prominent figures in European Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, and Dada. Picasso was a close friend.

Source: Heinz Berggruen, the Collector Who Befriended Picasso, At the Berggruen Museum 2004, Picasso’s 1939 “Le Chandail Jaune,” The Yellow Sweater.

Heinz’s three other children all have ties to the art world. Helen, a painter; and John a prominent San Francisco-based dealer active in global art scene including Art Basel Miami Beach, are from his first marriage to Zellerbach. Nicholas and Olivier, curator and board chair of the library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, are from his second marriage in 1960 to Catholic actress Bettina Moissi. Moissi starred in the 1948 film, Long Is The Road, the first German film about the holocaust that asserted the rights of displaced Jews to resettle in Palestine.

Towards the end of his life, Heinz donated sixty works by Paul Klee to the Metropolitan, loaned seventy pieces to the National Gallery in London, and sold at a greatly reduced price a collection of two hundred pieces to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. That collection, of which the majority of pieces are by Picasso, is housed in a1859 neoclassical building opposite Schloss Charlottenberg and managed by the National Gallery of Berlin.

The transfer of the collection was lauded in 1996 as a symbol of reconciliation between Heinz Berggruen, who left Europe during the rise of the Nazis when this collection would have been labeled “degenerate,” and the country of his birth. In a recent New York Times feature, Nicholas recalls having an “interesting” childhood immersed in art and culture. I do wonder how his father’s expertise in signals intelligence and non-representational prints, paintings, and sculpture may have influenced the philosopher king’s conception of “reality” and how it can be artfully manipulated.


Sources: Heinz Berggruen at Picasso’s Studio; Berggruen Gallery – Art Basel Miami Beach, Berggruen Museum Berlin

To say neighbors aren’t pleased with Berggruen’s planned mountain-top scholarly enclave would be an understatement. Nicholas, who branded himself as a “homeless” globe-trotter bouncing around luxury hotels now lives in a condo in the star-studded Sierra Towers, a 1965 high-rise on the Sunset Strip. In 2021, he acquired the Beverly Hills Hearst Estate, of The Godfather horse head scene and JFK/Jackie honeymoon fame, as well as multiple homes surrounding it since that deal closed. For privacy?

The planned monastery parcel, located west of the 405 Freeway, was acquired 2014 for $45 million from an embattled developer who had attempted to build homes on it. Opponents assert the proposed of “educational institution” use is illegal, inconsistent with the Brentwood-Pacific Palisades Community Plan, that the facility would damage the habitat of native pumas, and create an extreme fire hazard – methane gas from the garbage festering below. Neither are they keen on having “high profile diplomats and world leaders” coming and going up and down the mountain, disrupting local traffic with their security details.

A third proposal began environmental review in late 2020 and is ongoing as of April 2022. The well-connected Berggruen still hopes to obtain a unique zoning designation from the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to greenlight the project. If approved, thirty scholars would eventually be installed in sunken adobe-like alcoves atop the Santa Monica Mountains. Deep thinkers contemplating lofty ideas in relative solitude as children and those dispossessed by the City of Angels go about the soul-killing, but necessary drudgery of coding mixed reality. There are those who will be tasked with building and defending the digital empire and those who will be tasked with telling the stories that make it all seem necessary and right. Berggruen is gathering the storytellers who will be needed to keep the pot of post-humanism from boiling over.


Make no mistake. We are in the middle of an information war. Narrative frameworks are weapons to be strategically deployed to mold consensus reality and social norms. It is not surprising that a man who founded Alpha Investment Management, a profitable hedge fund, would seek the counsel of philosophers as the big game transitions into the noosphere. Through forecasting and spell casting there’s a fine art in crafting perceived reality to ones advantage. Berggruen’s sees his network of aligned thinkers as valuable assets in his campaign to makeover life on earth, worthy of considerable investment of financial and social capital. I picture the Berggruen Institute rather like a mini-World Economic Forum, but covert and nimble.

See the architectural rendering of the scholar alcoves below. Do they look like the intellectual equivalent of military bunkers to you?

One thought on “Disgruntled Neighbors Oppose Berggruen’s Mountaintop Monastery – Synthetic Pretenders Part 14

  1. David Elliot says:

    The opening graphic in the article captures it all symbolically: as I see it, no amount of artistic finesse can obviate the stark ugliness of concrete. Looks like the offspring from a highway overpass mated with a space ship. The artist should have included a few scruffy panhandlers. Perhaps a few Picasso paintings on display? Or twisted statuary? Berggruen wants to site his edifice on a foundation of rotting garbage? How entirely appropriate. Our human society at times spawns some truly bizarre and menacing mutants. Dangerous mutants. Picture zombies in an apocalypse movie with some reasoning faculty still intact. Some… These twisted individuals evoke in me a sort of emotionally reflexive immune response. “Find all the things in this picture that do not belong…” In the middle of an information war indeed.

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