domingo, 29 de março de 2015

The Genius Of The Crowd by Charles Bukowski

there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

terça-feira, 17 de março de 2015

In Memoriam R. Buckminster Fuller 1895-1983 Herman Kahn 1922-1983

The passing of Buckminster Fuller and Herman Kahn deprived us, within one month, of two remarkable minds, communicators, and technological optimists. They came from very different backgrounds: Fuller the fifth generation of his New England family to go to Harvard, Kahn the son of East European immigrants living in Bayonne, New Jersey. Fuller became an influential inventor, architect, futurist, and poet; Kahn a physicist, systems analyst, and futurist. Fuller gave forecasters the concept of energy slaves, Kahn offered the multifold trend. Both saw technology as the means to bring wealth and a good life to every future inhabitant of spaceship Earth. And both had the rare ability to stimulate and inspire—and this will be most sorely missed.

I had the great pleasure of knowing Herman Kahn personally and was invariably astounded by his incredibly fast and brilliant mind. I always felt his tongue had difficulty keeping pace with his brain. He tried to talk rapidly to close the gap—the result was that the uninitiated often found him hard to understand.

Herman was at the RAND Corporation in its days of glory—the strategic weapons analyst par excellence. He was once labeled the Mort Sahl of national strategy. By 1960, he was blossoming into a global futurist and formed his own think tank—the Hudson Institute. Herman on the Hudson grew a beard and assumed the appearance of an ancient prophet (or at least the Ancient Mariner). Paradoxically, he appealed to the establishment elders (government and industry) with his espousal of nuclear strength and economic growth, while the patrician Fuller attracted the antiestablishment types (hippies in the 1960s, environmentalists in the 1970s) with his Dymaxion map and geodesic dome.

Kahn’s first book, On Thermonuclear War, did not make him appear to many as an optimist. But it did bring him to international prominence. James R. Newman, an editor of the Scientific American, called it “a moral tract on mass murder.” Here is an excerpt from Newman’s memorable review:

Is there really a Herman Kahn? It is hard to believe: Doubts cross one’s mind almost from the first page of this deplorable book: no one could write like this; no one could think like this. Perhaps the whole thing is a staff hoax in bad taste. . . . This evil and tenebrous book, with its loose-lipped pieties and its hayfoot-strawfoot logic, is permeated with a blood-thirsty irrationality such as I have not seen in my years of reading.

Even within RAND there was strong reaction. Richard Bellman was impelled to write to the Washington Post that “I myself do not have these troglodytic, apocalyptic visions of Kahn.”

Twenty-two years later, Herman produced The Coming Boom; it does not refer to a nuclear holocaust but to America’s economic rebirth.1 He leaves us with a vision of a happy future:

Unless my prognostications are disastrously wrong, a revitalized America—revitalized in terms of tra­ditional values, of world-wide status and influence, and of citizenship and morale, as well as of economic improvement—seems to me very probable, and with sensible social and economic policies, a near certainty.
Economist Herbert Stein, in his review of this work, concludes:

Kahn’s purpose goes beyond objective, value-free analysis and prediction. His purpose is also inspiration and prescription. He wants the world to come out the way he describes {wealthier, better, and happier}. He believes, certainly correctly, that the probability will be greater if certain policies are followed. . . . He is in the position of the Redskins coach trying to inspire his players to believe that they can win, as well as instructing them on how to do it. Moreover, this inspiration can work. . . . [Fortune, October 4, 1982].

Kahn’s favorite analysis tool after leaving RAND seemed to be list-making. Alter­native futures, new social classes, and ideologies were described with machine-gun like bursts of words and phrases, i.e., checklists. Another “tool” he used with devastating effect was his wit. He could announce to a Congressional Subcommittee that “man has been on the earth a million years, and I’ve studied every one of them.” He could talk about cloning Herman Kahn and admit that his wife did not think the world could stand two Hermans. He had a gift for the clever word or phrase—“educated incapacity,” “thinking the unthinkable,” “C4I2 systems,” “the Japanese century,” etc.

Woe to him who would attempt to argue with the master after one of his presentations! No one could best Herman in debate. Like John F. Kennedy, he loved to perform in front of an audience, confident of his superior oneupmanship. In matching wits, he was intensely democratic, willing to take on college students as well as corporate leaders, liberally giving of his time to all.

He has enriched and nettled us, he has challenged and entertained us. He could be outrageous, but his shtick was never, ever dull.
Herman, we salute you with a list:

H. Kahn
dazzling intellect
fearless iconoclast
fascinating showman
anti-new class establishmentarian
middle class with traditional values
true democrat
nuclear use theorist
Talmudist manque
“have 300 slides, will travel”
                                                        HAROLD A. LINSTONE Senior Editor


quinta-feira, 12 de março de 2015

The Russian Cosmists by Giulio Prisco

Now a film, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” by George Carey, and a book, “The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers,” by George M. Young, make Russian Cosmism much more accessible to a Western audience.

The Russian Cosmist scientific, philosophical, and spiritual movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, was not well known in the West until recently. Most Cosmist writings are not available in other languages, and many aspects of Cosmist thinking were frowned upon in the Soviet era before 1991. Though Russian Cosmism is one of my main inspirations and one of the foundations of my own worldview, I am unable to read the original texts because I don’t speak Russian. Fortunately, there are more and more popular and scholarly works dedicated to Russian Cosmism. Now a film, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” [Carey 2011] by George Carey, and a book, “The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers,” [Young 2012] by George M. Young, make Cosmism much more accessible to a Western audience.

I recommend watching George Carey‘s film “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” aired by the BBC on the 50th “Yuri’s Night,” 50 years after Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering flight to space, to all those who are interested in space, the history of the Russian space program, the amazing beautiful philosophy known as Russian Cosmism, our place and future in the universe, technological immortality, and resurrection.

The film captures the popular enthusiasm for space in the Soviet Union of the 60s. We had the same enthusiasm in the West at the time, and God knows we could use it now, all over the planet.
I think we can look, again, at the Cosmist philosophy to renew our enthusiasm and drive with beautiful and energizing cosmic visions, and to remember that wonderful adventures are waiting for us in outer space. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the founding father of astronautics, was a brilliant scientist and engineer, but his motivation and drive came from his philosophical convictions, his belief in humanity’s destiny to leave the Earth and colonize the universe, and his vision of a deep unity between man and the cosmos.

Today, following the Cosmist tradition, Russia has a lively transhumanist community and Singularity scene, with the only operational cryonics facility not in the U.S., and the Global Futures 2045 conferences dedicated to immortality and mind uploading.
Carey’s film features Gagarin, Russian scientists and space engineers, Tsiolkovsky and many other Cosmist thinkers, but the real protagonist is Tsiolkovsky’s mentor, the Cosmist mystic Nikolai Fedorov. He was one of the first modern thinkers who dared to suggest that, some day, science and technology may be able to resurrect the dead and bring back to life every person who ever lived.
Fedorov suggested that science was a tool given to us by God to enable us to resurrect the dead and, as promised, enjoy immortal life. He added that because the Earth could not sustain a population that never died, we must first learn to conquer space. His ideas about human evolution, and in particular the idea that humans should take control of the process and direct it towards their own goals, inspired generations of Russian scientists and led directly to contemporary transhumanism.

Fedorov thought that the physical resurrection is to be brought about by restoring the body to a condition that existed prior to death. A person is made up of atoms, and when a person dies these (finitely many) particles are scattered. Resurrection of the person occurs as a consequence of restoring the atoms to their previous arrangement. To carry out the resurrection it is necessary to determine what this arrangement was and then to reposition the particles. This is a problem to be solved by science rather than by appeals to an outside power.

His resurrection theory reflects 19th-century models of the universe and seems naive today. New technological resurrection theories based on contemporary science have been proposed, for example by R. Michael Perry [Perry 2000] and Frank Tipler [Tipler 1994]. But Perry’s and Tipler’s approaches, and mine, will probably seem equally naive to future scientists. Fedorov must be credited for the idea of technological resurrection, and we, his followers, are happy to see that many people are warming up to his vision. Following Fedorov, future scientists will scan the fabric of spacetime to find the dead, and bring them back to life.

Of course the super-science of technological resurrection, perhaps based on weird quantum physics (the term “Quantum Archeology” is often used), may not be developed until a very far future, perhaps thousands of years. But why hurry? To us, subjectively, no time will pass between death and resurrection. In the meantime, the Cosmist philosophy can give us the positive, solar optimism that we need.
Yuri Detail -by Tyler Jacobson

Nikolay Fedorov was the illegitimate son of a Russian nobleman called Gagarin – Pavel Gagarin, Fedorov’s father, was not related to Yuri Gagarin the first cosmonaut, but this is an interesting coincidence to say the least. The film shows many aspects and protagonists of the the Russian space program and the young Soviet icon and folk hero Yuri Gagarin, but it’s centered on Fedorov’s ideas and legacy. In his “cosmic garden” Valery Borisov, a colorful Cosmist with a cowboy attire and an encyclopedic knowledge of Fedorov’s life and times, explains Fedorov’s ideas in a nutshell:
“Fedorov believed that science must help realize God’s plan for man’s salvation and for the resurrection of mankind. Christ said: what I have created, you must create too – and go further. What was it that Christ did? He rose from the dead. Literally, Christ was telling us to accomplish our own resurrection. Not to wait for some mystical event but to meet God halfway. Fedorov said if we resurrect everybody, they won’t all fit on Earth. And he said wisely: ‘In the Cosmos, abodes aplenty will appear.’ That’s why we need the Cosmos. The Cosmos offers empty planets where resurrected people will settle, and from there, direct the workings of the universe.”
The cover of the book "The Will of the Universe. Intellect Unknown. Mind and Passions" by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, 1928

We follow Carey to ISRICA, the Institute for Scientific Research in Cosmic Anthropoecology in Novosibirsk, and follow experimental sessions in a “Kozyrev Mirror” built to test the controversial theories of astrophysicist Nikolai Kozyrev – technology aided meditation may unlock the latent shaman in us, and let us communicate with the Cosmos. This part of the film shows the strong spiritual, New Age component of Cosmism, strongly emphasized by many Cosmist thinkers, but condemned by the Soviet regime. On the opposite side of the Cosmist galaxy, Danila Medvedev, the young transhumanist director of the cryonics provided Kriorus, proposes a hardline materialistic approach to immortality, based on advanced technologies and mind uploading, with no concessions to spirituality.

Young’s book, “The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers,” [Young 2012], is a very intense mini encyclopedia with a lot of short biographical, literary and philosophical entries about main and lesser known Cosmist thinkers, all influenced by Fedorov’s seminal work. Fedorov himself published almost nothing, but his most important works were collected by his followers and published after his death as “The Philosophy of the Common Task” [Fedorov 1990]. The author George M. Young, a professor of Russian language and literature, dedicated decades of research to this book, a complete and authoritative reference that, I hope, will make Cosmism much better known in the Western world.

Young emphasizes the Russianness of Cosmism, the vastness of Russian land and history as a unique stage for the emergence of a system of thought so vast and daring to encompass both science and religion in a synergistic whole. The Russian cultural identity is part of the common ground that holds Cosmism together.

Surprisingly, even Soviet bureaucrats were intrigued by Fedorov’s ideas on technological resurrection:
“Revolutionary immortality meant that individuals would die, but The People for whom the individual died would live on forever, and through inevitable progress in science and labor, The People of the future would eventually restore life to the sacrificed individuals… Lenin, waiting in his glass coffin, would be the first resurrected by science.”
Like Carey, Young shows the diversity of the Cosmist galaxy, and the many co-existing scientific, philosophical, religious, spiritual, as well as esoteric, shamanistic, gnostic approaches:
“Main themes in Cosmist thought include the active human role in human and cosmic evolution; the creation of new life forms, including a new level of humanity; the unlimited extension of human longevity to a state of practical immortality; the physical resurrection of the dead; serious scientific research into matters long considered subjects fit only for science fiction, occult, and esoteric literature; the exploration and colonization of the entire cosmos; the emergence on our biosphere of a new sphere of human thought called the ‘noosphere'; and other far reaching ‘projects:’ some of which may no longer seem as impossible or crazy as they did when first proposed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”
Anton Vidokle, film still from “This is Cosmos” (2014) (courtesy of the artist)

In her introduction to a valuable anthology of Cosmist thought published in I993, contemporary Cosmist Svetlana Semenova identifies the core Cosmist idea, active evolution:
“[The] idea of active evolution, i.e., the necessity for a new conscious stage of development of the world, when humanity directs it on a course which reason and moral feeling determine, when man takes, so to say, the wheel of evolution into his own hands …. Man, for actively evolutionary thinkers, is a being in transition, in the process of growing, far from complete, but also consciously creative, called upon to overcome not only the outer world but also his own inner nature.”

Active evolution, taking the future of our species in our hands and steering it toward cosmic transcendence, is also the core idea of transhumanism, of which the Russian Cosmists must be considered as direct precursors. Critics say that active evolution is “against God’s will,” but the Cosmist insight is that, on the contrary, radical active evolution IS God’s will. One of Fedorov’s favorite Bible passages was: ‘Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than those will he do.’ (John 14:12, RSV). Young refers to “Fedorov’s active, forceful, masculine Christianity” – a Christianity of action, to become more like God.

Carey, George (2011). “Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Space Race.” Storyville. BBC. Web. <>.
Fedorov, N. F., Elisabeth Koutaissoff, and Marilyn Minto (1990). What Was Man Created For?: The Philosophy of the Common Task : Selected Works. London: Honeyglen, 1990.
Young, George M. (2012). The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers. New York: Oxford UP, 2012.
Perry, R. Michael (2000). Forever for All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality. Universal Publishers, 2000.
Tipler, Frank J. (1994). The Physics of Immortality. New York: Random House, 1994.


See also on Urania:

My interview with the Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev:

See also:
Russian Cosmism: Modern and Contemporary Art Exhibition and Auction at Erarta Galleries London
Interview with Maxim Boxer, curator of the exhibitionin London: