Greetings, fellow Coppertops! Get ready for an exciting mission involving facial recognition technologies, Byzantine discussions revolving around the name given to storms, and whether humans are too stupid to be of any interest to any alien civilization –in which case we’d have no choice but to stalk said aliens, and their private messages. And after we ponder on the disturbing possibility of the Slenderman getting a stronger foothold in our world, we’ll pay our respects to a modern Alchemist who recently moved his laboratory beyond the doors of perception. Speaking of doors & door frames, a great chunk of the world is preparing to get very excited over a spherical ball & its trajectory across a green field en route to 1 of 2 goal zones –you’d think the machines would organize these events more frequently! Just imagine all the voltage peaks registered in the pod of a single fan when its team scores.
Person(s) of Interest
It’s been a year since the world was forcefully woken up from our numbness by the revelations brought up by Edward Snowden, when we realized that in our slumber triggered by our iPhones & iPads, the powers that be had been hard at work turning those same hypnotic gadgets into surveillance devices. Suddenly we realized we had been diligently become snitches, of both ourselves & all the members of our widening social circles.
A year later Snowden’s revelations continue to amaze us: The latest release of secret NSA documents details the frightening extent of the ‘Identity Intelligence’ program, which harvests MILLIONS of facial images from the web to train their facial recognition algorithm.
The agency has developed sophisticated ways to integrate facial recognition programs with a wide range of other databases. It intercepts video teleconferences to obtain facial imagery, gathers airline passenger data and collects photographs from national identity card databases created by foreign countries, the documents show. They also note that the N.S.A. was attempting to gain access to such databases in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The documents suggest that the agency has considered getting access to iris scans through its phone and email surveillance programs. But asked whether the agency is now doing so, officials declined to comment. The documents also indicate that the N.S.A. collects iris scans of foreigners through other means.
In addition, the agency was working with the C.I.A. and the State Department on a program called Pisces, collecting biometric data on border crossings from a wide range of countries.
One of the N.S.A.’s broadest efforts to obtain facial images is a program called Wellspring, which strips out images from emails and other communications, and displays those that might contain passport images. In addition to in-house programs, the N.S.A. relies in part on commercially available facial recognition technology, including from PittPatt, a small company owned by Google, the documents show.
My Daily Grail colleague Ian ‘Cat’ Vincent recently wrote a though-provoking piece, showing the uncanny extent in which these real-world surveillance programs mimic the ‘sci-fi’ technology portrayed in the popular TV show Person of Interest.
Advocates of these programs might point out that such technologies are necessary to protect us from the ‘real bad guys’; of course, they wouldn’t be able to provide any specific information, since it remains classified, but even if we took them on their word, what could prevent facial recognition from being used against other persons of interest? What if next week I decide to join a march here in Mexico to protest the energy reform? Would I & all the protesters have to worry about our mugs being gathered in some official database?
With the global trend to criminalize wearing the iconic Guy Fawkes mask during public demonstrations, it’s a good thing luchador masks are still permitted –for now.
Thar She Blows!
But if the NSA is adamant in putting a name behind every single face circulating on the web, perhaps they should help meteorologists in finding the answer to a very peculiar mystery: For some reason, hurricanes with female names tend to be more deadly than those with male ones.
Kiju Jung, a PhD student in business administration from the University of Illinois made the discovery –why would a business student devote his time analyzing meteorological data is perhaps a bigger mystery IMO. He and his team conducted a statistical analysis which also employed poll questionnaires with college students as test subjects, and their theory is that ascribing a female name to the hurricane would trigger a stereotype response in assessing its potential severity: the more feminine the name, the less serious the threat would be taken, according to them.
It goes without saying that many academics have questioned both their conclusion & their methodology employed. Jeff Lazo, a social scientist working for the National Center for Atmospheric Research thinks the finding is merely a statistical fluke. Yet I’m sure that to any Stephen King fan, finding out that female hurricanes are more deadly makes perfect sense.
Stupid Humans Too Stupid-minded for Aencyclopedia Galactica
Maybe the fact that we choose to name weather phenomena is just a sign of how dumb & primitive we humans are. Maybe that’s the reason why extraterrestrials have chosen to avoid our planet as some kind of galactic boondocks you’d rather not park your saucer in. At least that’s the fear of Neil deGrasse Tyson, as voiced in a recent interview with Chris Hayes of MSNBC:
Like I said last week when I wrote about SETI, I also have a love/hate relationship with Neil. On the one hand I love how he rightly considered Hawking’s fears about resource-scavenging aliens as a reflection of our own misbehavior with less-advanced cultures in the past; I also like how he muses on whether we would be able to detect an alien presence in our planet –even though the last time he was on the Joe Rogan experience podcast, he kinda answered in the opposite way when Joe addressed the question.
But there are some things in Neil’s argument that don’t sit well with me. He seems to be using technological prowess as the most convenient yardstick to gauge intelligence –the longest the jump away from its home planet, the smartest the alien. And although this would be quite obvious to him as an astronomer, perhaps an anthropologist who’s done fieldwork with hunter-gatherer tribes in the Amazon,, the question is not so cut-and-dried. Said anthropologist would no doubt be aware of the deep subjective arrogance that permeated his field since its inception –the idea that WE are the most advanced culture in the world; but as the field of Anthropology has progressed, that notion of cultural supremacy has suffered many blows, to the point that many times the Westerners ‘studying’ these tribes tend to be ‘infected’ by them, and said infection helps them observe our technological supremacy for what it really is: materialist trappings designed to enslave men by scarring Mother Earth.
So what IS intelligence? How do we objectively measure it? Why are we so certain we’d be able to recognize it? These are the very thought-provoking questions considered in the handbook Archeology, Anthropology & Interstellar Communication, edited by NASA with the collaboration of the SETI institute & other international organizations. As the name entails, the several chapters included in the book propose how Archeology & other social sciences could better prepare us for the task of understanding the nature & intention of an alien message, even if we never get to fully decipher its content; to illustrate the enormous task at hand, some contributors give several examples in which some arcane texts have eluded deciphering, such as the Voynich manuscript or the Rongorongo tablets from Easter island –if these texts, which were undoubtedly created by human minds, have proven impossible to decipher, what makes us think we could be able to decipher a message produced by an alien mind?
The freely distributed PDF file is quite massive, and so far I’ve only been able to read its 30-page introduction; I hope that when I get to finish it I’ll be able to give a more thorough review; but so far it’s clear that, as radical an open-minded the included essays are, they are still working on the premise that a) communication with aliens would most likely be remote instead of physical; therefore b) said communication is yet to occur. Would it be too much to ask to consider the possibility that communication with alien intelligences may be happening already?
The Slenderman Cometh?
I’m neither an astronomer nor a social scientist. I’m just a pendejo with a keyboard. So here’s a stupid-ass idea: What if instead of radio waves & telescopes, aliens would decide to communicate to us though our dreams?
And here’s another crazy idea: Could it be that some entities could be ‘animated’ by the collective thoughts & fears of a populace? Meaning that, the more we believe in our gods & demons, the more ‘real’ & powerful they become?
Such ideas have been heatedly discussed in many online forums during the past week, in light of the shocking news of a pair of teenage girls who conspired to murder one of their friends. Their reason? In order to prove the existence of Slenderman, and win his favor.
One of the girls told a detective they were trying to become “proxies” of Slender Man, a mythological demon-like character they learned about on creepypasta.wikia.com, a website about horror stories and legends. They planned to run away to the demon’s forest mansion after the slaying, the complaint said.
“I recognize their young ages but it’s still unbelievable,” Court Commissioner Thomas Pieper said during one of the girls’ initial court appearances Monday.
…Both girls were charged as adults with first-degree attempted homicide Monday in Waukesha County Circuit Court; they each face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.
If you listened to the last episode of Mysterious Universe, then you already know Ben & Aaron did an outstanding job commenting upon this news, and its possible relevance with the topic of ‘thought forms’ & tulpas. And if you were among those who joined Micah & I on the last Paradigm Symposium, you probably heard David ‘the Weatherman’ Weatherly speak about this very subject.
I do not know if this heinous crime is proof of the Slenderman becoming a ‘collective thoughtform.’ I do know thanks to the work of Loren Coleman on his blog The Copycat Effect, that negative archetypes –like the Joker/Grinning Man– can have a very strong influence on individuals with pathological tendencies.
What about the times when positive archetypes traverse the liminal frontier from Ideaspace into Realspace? Because that CAN happen too, even if our collective attention tends to focus only on the bad news. We’ve already mentioned the ‘V for Vendetta’ archetype, which has become a global symbol of dissent. This week we learned that the hand salute from The Hunger Games has become a symbol of peaceful protest among those who resist the military coup –to the point that the Junta is actively trying to ban it.
Perhaps it’s time to feed the angels more, and let our demons starve.
Those who were quick to blame Creepypasta of the attempted murder of that poor girl, are the same ones who keep blaming Marilyn Manson & Rammstein for the Columbine massacre. They are also the same ones who keep demonizing ALL drugs, without ever considering they are throwing the enlightenment baby with the addiction bathwater.
Those people I’m talking about have probably never heard of Alexander Shulgin; I confess I too had never heard of him before getting involved with The Daily Grail –the same goes for Terence McKenna & his brother Dennis; you all can see I’ve come a looong way in the past 7 years– but thanks to my Grailer peers I learned of this wonderful man & his many contributions in the discovery of chemical compounds which could help expand human consciousness. Sadly, his days of discovery –on THIS plane of existence, at least– reached the state of ultimate catalysis on June 2nd, 2014.
People often wonder how many drugs with amazing healing potentials are yet to be discovered in the wild heart of the Amazon jungle. If that’s the case, then perhaps the most adequate compliment we could ever give to Sasha, is that his own mind became an entire Amazon forest, and that he was never afraid to venture into this uncharted land, in search of the alchemical keys that might benefit the whole of humankind.
“Some part of me can’t wait to see what life’s going to come up with next! Anticipation without the usual anxiety. And underneath it all is the feeling that we both belong here, just as we are, right now.”
Buen Viaje, last of the line of Alchemists. May your journey be full of ecstasy & wonder, may your vision expand to the realms beyond Infinity, now that you find yourself unencumbered by the burden of an earthly vessel.
Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. Remember that our imagination is the tool to turn the Desert of the Real, into the Garden of Delight.