Strange New World, Same Old Blues

They’re coming for our youth.

They always have been. Trying to get at their thoughts (Abbie).  Trying to find out what makes them tick (MKULTRA). Trying to ease their way into the leadership like fascist sleeper cells (COINTELPRO.) Always smiling their grin-toothed benignity, but always, always in the service of turning them into gross domestic product meat puppets who buy, buy, buy the sugar. Always after the youth. It is the capitalist’s form of immortality.

Well, they’re in trouble on the world population front.  Seemingly following some kind of Mooresian Law, the population is growing exponentially each year and is, really, out of control. We started the 20th century with 2.3 billion people and we are now starting the 21st approaching 8 billion.  In Planet of the Humans, a controversial Michael Moore film a couple of years back, one non-controversy was that the proverbial Elephant in the Crowded Room was the planet’s crowded room itself. Citing Project Drawdown, a climate research group, the Population Matters organization tells us that

as we consider the future of climate solutions, it matters how many people will be eating, moving, plugging in, building, buying, using, wasting, and all the rest. Population interacts with the primary drivers of emissions: production and consumption, largely fossil-fuelled. [my emphasis]

This is a fairly effective snapshot of how human populations effect and affect climate activity. To express it more loutishly, the more we go the rabbit route, the more we add CO2.

According to the Worldometer, we’re now at a global population of 7.9 billion people, of which some 5 billion are under 40 years old — i.e., bona fide youngsters.  (The cut off point to squaresville oldie used to be 30 years old, but then we lost Jim and Jimi and Janis, and bummed out fans moved the age up to 40. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.)  That’s the bad news.  The silver lining is that that’s also a lot of economic growth ahead.  Every new wabbit requires food, and neo-liberals have told each of them they deserve a spacious warren and middle class lifestyle to spread their girth around, which will make them want to spend a lot of time humping and consuming and producing a lot of GDP pie.

That’s where Obama comes in. And the other controllers of our under-40 youngsters. And it’s unbelievable, and you miss Abbie for these moments, who would have done the right thing. Alas!

At the recently concluded COP-26 climate change conference in Glasgow, the talkers had to to watch Barry Obama stride to the podium and glisten to him pontificate about the future — paying forward the climate debt and its much-anticipated carnage to youngsters. some of them just now breaking in their first credit cards. He told the assembled polyglobs and gurglespoons,

Collectively and individually we are still falling short. We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis. We are going to have to do more. Whether that happens or not to a large degree is going to depend on you…I want you to stay angry. I want you to stay frustrated. Keep pushing for more and more. Because that’s required to meet this challenge. Gird yourself for a marathon, not a sprint.

For a minute you’re thinking he’s reading a speech meant for the Black Lives Matter conference he intended to speak at later in the week.  But no.

With “Stately Deception: Obama at COP26,”  a solid piece for a recent Counterpunch issue, Joshua Frank sets us straight:

The crux of Obama’s smug speech was directed at the world’s youth, placing the burden of curtailing climate change on their shoulders. No doubt, if the planet’s young people were in charge of COP26, there wouldn’t be empty pledges and sneaky cop-outs (like the US/India/China/Russia refusing to end coal production), there would be tangible goals, and harsh economic consequences for not abiding by these agreements.

Cop-26 was all bullshit, more methane seeping out of ancient crevices; more H2O wasted on the glug-glugs.

As Paul Street added, in his evisceration of the Obama-Biden administration, to hear Obama weigh in on anything is embarrassing.  As Street puts it so pointedly,

Where had the onetime “community organizer” Barack Obama been for the last three-plus years, as the United States plunged ever further into an authoritarian, arch-plutocratic, disease-ridden, and white-nationalist gloom cast by the terrible, tangerine-tinted, twitter-tantruming tyrant Trump?

Now they invite this guy, with his hope-a-dope on the ropes bullshit, to a conference ostensibly of considerable consequence to the world to spend some of his cachet, and then it;s off again to his lucrative speaking career before corporate and Wall St. types willing to pay him upwards of $400,000 per pop, seemingly just to seem him hip-stride to the podium and spill blatherscheissen no one listens to. The $400,000 is what the speech is about. He speaks and soft hands reach for eager gliss under the bored table heads around him.

And chances are that things won’t get better any time soon with debt slaver Joe Biden in the captain’s tower. As Ben Schreckinger recently put it in his welcome Hachette job, The Bidens, Joe was a staunch supporter of the Bankruptcy Reform Act that made it more difficult for debtors to declare. Schreckinger writes,

Consumer advocates fiercely opposed the legislation. Joe went to great lengths to advance it, inserting it into a foreign relations bill in 2000, when he was ranking member on that committee. The gambit fell short, but Joe kept at it.

And now, with Climate Change, Biden still supports the status quo, and shows little empathy for future generations.  Street, again, sums it up sweetly:

“The younger generation now tells me how tough things are—give me a break,” said Biden, while speaking to Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times last year. “No, no, I have no empathy for it, give me a break.”

And Street adds for emphasis, “Speaking to rich donors at a ritzy New York fundraiser in June of 2019, Biden promised his listeners that ‘nothing would fundamentally change’ if he is elected.”

Instead of merely going on, Frank let’s the premiere voice of a generation, Greta Thunberg (what a name, huh?), tell it like it is:

“It is not a secret that COP26 is a failure,” Greta told the crowd. “It should be obvious that we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us into it in the first place … The people in power can continue to live in their bubble filled with their fantasies, like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear seemingly out of nowhere and will erase all of these crises just like that.”

Now that is succinctity and grace.  Don’t stand in the doorway / don’t block up the hall / for he who gets hurt / will be he who has stalled.  And note the emphasis on ‘he’.

There is a dichotomy opening up — not so much between the haves and have-nots of the material world as one between those who know and don’t know in an immaterialist sense. A dichotomy not expressed in conspicuous consumption as much inconspicuous alteration of reality itself.  Most readers are probably familiar by now with Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove’s famous playing of a NYT reporter during which he “allegedly”  castigated reporters for their “reality-based thinking” and that, while they were performing that ritual, the operators (like Rove) would be pushing out new realities — “We’re an empire now, “ he is said to have said (shhh), “ and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Eric Schmidt, the ex-CEO of Google, has been an important part of projecting the brave new world of technology ahead, as well as, more recently in The Age of AI, which he co-authored with Henry Kissinger, the coming paradigm shift of reality itself.  Schmidt and his lot in Silicon Valley are not interested in the dying embers of the 60s crowd, but in the new generation.  These are ‘the hearts and minds’ they are in the middle of winning over.  It began with an announcement to the press that Schmidt and Jared Cohen were working on a new book, tentatively titled, Empire of the Mind: The Dawn of the Techno-Political Age. At some point during the next year, perhaps after considering how Rove-like his title sounded and how that implication would play to the people he intended to hoodwink, he and Cohen changed the name of the book to a more neutral-sounding The New Digital Age: The Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business (TNDA). It’s a book I reviewed at the time for The Prague Post.

Much of the book is about how technologies are being developed that will redefine how people interact with the world around them in new material dimensions.  Schmidt and Cohen talk up good buddy Jeff Bezos’s positive effects on the new world:

Amazon is able to take its data on merchants and, using algorithms, develop customized bank loans to offer them–in some cases when traditional banks have completely shut their doors…As for life’s small daily tasks, [Amazon’s] information systems will streamline many of them for people living in those countries, such as integrated clothing machines (washing, drying, folding, pressing and sorting) that keep an inventory of clean clothes and algorithmically suggest outfits based on the user’s daily schedule. [emphasis added]

What people is he talking about?  Elsewhere they talk about how everyone will have a robot in the household. Nobody I know will be letting a fuckin computer decide what s/he’s going to wear or deal with an insolent machine. But it gets even wilder, as Eric addresses the boredom of his kinders, offering a vision of holographic devices at work in the den: “Worried your kids are becoming spoiled? Have them spend some time wandering around the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.” Poverty as Adventureworld. How the other half lives as zoology.

The virtual tour also underlines how the two see youths — even their own — as nuisances to be comeuppanced once in a while. A year earlier, as TNDA was still incubating, Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen and Scott Malcolmson, a member of the State Department, came to visit Assange while he was under house arrest in rural Norfolk, prior to his run to the Ecuadorian Embassy.  At one point the inherent moral consciousness came up in conversation, and Malcolmson responded by saying, “But young people aren’t inherently good. And I say that as a father and with regret.” To which Assange responds, “I think that the instincts human beings have are actually much better than the societies that we have.”

Malcolmson’s judgement on the ethics of youth is shared by Cohen and Schmidt: Children should be herded not the scene.

One notes the presence, on the one hand, of a patrician sentiment that learns to “regret” having allowed freedom, and for which holographic distractions will need to be invented, while Assange emphasizes a preference for individual moral centeredness over a society’s system of judgements. Assanage’s stance sticks in the craw for a moment, but then you remember the value of his radical transparency for government, and see how the Google dweebs conduct their business. It’s the old generation gap thing again.

In When Google Met Wikileaks, Assange and Malcolmson have an exchange about Assange’s youthfilled “subculture” and its growth that is telling:

SM: …the combination of technical and altruistic people, and what amounts to a kind of subculture …you’ve been involved in for some fifteen years now. So you know how that subculture works. And that subculture needs to either stay the same or expand in order to do the work that you are describing….

JA: It has dramatically expanded.

SM: What are the patterns there in terms of the people part rather than the technical part?

JA: That’s the most optimistic thing that is happening—the radicalization of internet-educated youth. People who are receiving their values from the internet and then, as they find them to be compatible, echoing them back. The echo back is now so strong that it drowns the original statements completely.

You can feel the cringe from Malcolmson. You’re thinking (hypothetically, I mean) that Assange is just busting his hairy walnuts, jangling his dangling ganglia.

Assange’s demographic is exactly what Cohen and Schmidt and Obama and Clinton and the State Department are looking to rein in and control the wild horse energy of youthies. Through his work an executive at Next Gen Cohen supported  Assange writes,

Gen Next also backs an NGO, launched by Cohen toward the end of his State Department tenure, for bringing internet-based global “pro-democracy activists” into the US foreign relations patronage network. The group originated as the “Alliance of Youth Movements” with an inaugural summit in New York City in 2008 funded by the State Department and encrusted with the logos of corporate sponsors.

Let’s face it: Why, it’s the kind of set-up that Satan would offer the youths. Remember young Jesus and his internet? (Don’t worry, I’m lapsed) The summit hoedown saw Hillary descend like a deus to the dais and speak,

You are the vanguard of a rising generation of citizen activists. . . .And that makes you the kind of leaders we need.

I went looking for the full speech and found a thief of light!  They’re looking for brown-noser t-shirts. Do you qualify? Vichy sui?

In The New Digital Age Schmidt and Cohen pour it on thick regarding how they see the future of our species and the coming paradigms and their god-like stature in shaping and controlling the perception of that paradigm.  Listen to them gloat and polish each other’s apples:

We believe that modern technology platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, are even more powerful than most people realize, and our future world will be profoundly altered by their adoption and successfulness in societies everywhere. These platforms constitute a true paradigm shift, akin to the invention of television, and what gives them their power is their ability to grow—specifically, the speed at which they scale. Almost nothing short of a biological virus can spread as quickly, efficiently or aggressively as these technology platforms, and this makes the people who build, control and use them powerful too.

Sure, it’s a long quote. But read it again, my friend, and bongulate, you’ll need it for what comes next.

Eric Schmidt, who sees a future robot in every room in his house, has since moved on, like Albert Speer, to bigger and better architectures.  He’s teamed up with Henry “Herr Dr. K” Kissinger, Jew so self-loathing he once got down on his hands and knees to pray with Tricky Dick Nixon. Sweet Cheeses! Kissinger, Nobel Prize winner for War Crimes, Kissinger.  Kissinger, who one pendit said of him, “Perhaps his most notorious alleged act was taking part in the sabotage—on behalf of the Nixon presidential campaign—of the 1968 Vietnam War peace talks (secret diplomacy that quite possibly constituted a violation of the Logan Act).” Kissinger, who once wondered aloud why “we” needed to sit still on our soft hands while Chileans freely elected a Socialist. Kissinger, who Daniel Ellsberg feared would have him deep-sixed for knowing too much about Tricky’s secret plans to nuke North Vietnam.  Kissinger, who made some lefty eggheads scramble when K. was appointed to chair the 9/11 investigation (he was forced to run for his life back to Harvard). That Kissinger!

And now, there K. was again, this time genuflecting with the god in the Google machinery, Eric Schmidt, in a book that, like TNDA, could be titled The Empire of Mind, but they settled for The Age of AI: And Our Human Future. A third author swaggered in: Huttenlocher, Daniel.  The latter is another one.  He is dean of the Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing at MIT. This move by the head cheeses at MIT has proved to be contentious — the youth there condemning both Schwarzman and Huttenlocher (a name that, roughly, translates from the German to ‘shanty holepuncher’).  The Boston Globe covering a protest over the appointment and its funding wrote:

“Concerns about Schwarzman are far ranging, from being an advisor to Donald Trump to heading the Blackstone Group that spent millions opposing an affordable housing ballot measure in California,” wrote the group in their op-ed. “Last spring, Schwarzman hosted the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) — a war criminal in charge of a repressive monarchy — after Blackstone received a $20 billion investment from his government.”

Sweet Cheeses! Trump. Blackstone. MBS. I was feeling queasy. Blackstone had not only squelched the California affordable housing initiative they’d had to cough up some chump change for squealing to Immigration authorities about Motel 6 (which they own) letting desperadoes live in the lavish rooms.

But though I haven’t read very much of The Age of AI yet (yes, I do plan on reviewing it), the little I have read has startled me and brought back harsh phenomenological memories from the mid-80s when I was doing grad work in philosophy at RPI. The Age of AI. Here’s Schmidt, K. and Shantybuster bringing in the ghosts — Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions: you know, the paradigm thing and what you observed is changed by the observation, that kind of thing, ho-hum — to explain their mischief in ways that scientific mystics and panpsychics could understand.

But also I thought I sniffed reality-fucker Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove’s loamy loam at work. There was one paragraph that really seemed to say it all. In a chapter titled “How We Got Here,” the authors (although I’m thinking ol’ K. just along for his endorsement) bling us:

As online information has exploded, we have turned to software programs to help us sort it, refine it, make assessments based on patterns, and to guide us in answering our questions. The introduction of AI–which completes the sentence we are texting, identifies the book or store we are seeking, and “intuits” articles and entertainment we might enjoy based on prior behavior –has often seen more mundane than revolutionary. But as it is being applied to more elements of our lives, it is altering the role that our minds have traditionally played in shaping, ordering, and assessing our choices and actions. [my emphasis]

I read that as: Mr. Empire of the Mind has plans.  Our minds may be Getting Out soon and the AIs taking over. See my piece to that effect at OpEdNews.

This imposition of the Internet, of its hivemeindedness and centralizing forces, was recently the subject of the film The Social Dilemma, which brought together several key founders of social media, including Twitter, Google, Facebook and Instagram, who were extremely worried that these platforms, especially Facebook, had gone too far and had too much power to affect behavior in users — to the degree that they could actually shape and control user thoughts.

The problem for the ordinary netizen is that some of this fear talk seems to abstruse and irrelevant. We have no tangible feel for it. But it has profound implications and the reader would do well to pay attention to the dynamics at work. In my review of Philip Goff’s Galileo’s Error, the philosopher raises the topic of integrates information technology (IIT):

IIT predicts that if the growth of internet-based connectivity ever resulted in the amount of integrated information in society surpassing the amount of integrated information in a human brain, then not only would society become conscious but human brains would be “absorbed” into that higher form of consciousness. Brains would cease to be conscious in their own right and would instead become mere cogs in the mega-conscious entity that is the society including its internet based connectivity.

This is a description of the nuts and bolts of the hivemind, but also may represent the crossover point of the Singularity, and the loss of our individual autonomy — truly, at best, useful tools of the Machine. Think about it, next time you feel like you’re being “absorbed.”

This is exactly the kind of worry that Louis Hammer, a poet, my RPI advisor and phenomenology instructor, had about the co-opting of reality by technocrats hollowing out the meat of reality, like some post-modernized building, the classic facade kept and inside a mechanistic sterility — like RPI’s converted chapel.  He worried (before the Internet’s arrival) that technologization would bring about an atrophy of our sensual being in the world:

What we are left with is a kind of technology of signifiers which translates into our emotional life as the pursuit of a series of discrete pleasures without the possibility of a fundamental bond with the world. The missing bond we might call “joy.” Lacking it, we are deprived of an integral life with the earth and we are unable to sustain ourselves with the richness that is in silence. Even our language often transforms itself into a sort of noise which does not allow us to hear what is essential to our human being. Our lives are expropriated by political and economic forces and we ourselves become a means for efficient production, a variety of technologies of pleasure. As consumers of our own products, we are isolated, solipsistic and fragmentary. (“Crisis in the Humanities,” unpublished paper, 1985)

The Age of the AI would probably have broken his old surrealist’s heart. We’ve  gone from being Comfortably Numb to numbfully dumbed-down.  Not so much a reflection on our intelligence as much as it is on our relevance.

One of the victories for the State in these past few years is the marginalization of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, the two great “leaders” of the Youth Movements with raging fists raised against the reshaping of Our Human Futurewithout our consent. Noam Chomsky has said that the three big crises facing humans are Climate Change, Nuclear War, and the End of Democracy.  I would add that a Centralized Internet that hiveminds us, and absorbs our freedom of thought, is another.  All of these dangers we face have in common the fact that we are facing the rise of sociopaths and psychopaths and narcissistic schemers at a time when we need ‘all human hands on deck.’ The real War on Terror, the one’s teh State worry about are the citizens who still believe in democracy and the rule of law: You dera reader may be a form of al Qaeda for simply exercising your Bill of Rights freedoms.

Julian Assange argues for a radical transparency of government advocate — because we have to be, if we are to save democracy. Wikileaks is how he has helped achieve that goal — of letting us know, through leakers, what the Bastards are up to; it;s too late to keep them honest. The other side of his coin is the maintenance of personal privacy at all costs.  His chosen method for achieving that is by use of encryption. As he put it in Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet,

I see that there is now a militarization of cyberspace, in the sense of a military occupation. When you communicate over the internet, when you communicate using mobile phones, which are now meshed to the internet, your communications are being intercepted by military intelligence organizations…To that degree, the internet, which was supposed to be a civilian space, has become a militarized space…The communications at the inner core of our private lives now move over the internet. So in fact our private lives have entered into a militarized zone…This is a militarization of civilian life.

Aside from encryption, which is only effective so long as you are not on a list — and all dissidents and algorithmically profiled opiners would be on such a list — would be off-gridding. This is not only to keep from prying eyes, but to prevent absorption into the hivemind blob.

Assange’s work is complemented by the actions of whistleblowers providing Wikileaks with information that is valuable to the Public Interest.  Ed Snowden’s cache of revelations about the depth and breadth of the Surveillance State’s machinations is the other part of the picture, as it includes the very valuable insider explanation of how things work in the contemporary Deep State, which is delivered with lively prose in his memoir, Permanent Record (PR). He is sensitive to how the Internet has centralized our lives with its communicative protocols — UDP, TCP/IP, and HTTP, etc — and Snowden is circumspect:

When 1 was a child, “the unforgettable experience” was not yet a threateningly literal technological description, but a passionate metaphorical prescription of significance: my first words, my first steps, my first lost tooth, my first time riding a bicycle. My generation was the last in American and perhaps even in world history for which this is true—the last undigitized generation, whose childhoods aren’t up on the cloud but are mostly trapped in analog formats like handwritten diaries and Polaroids and VHS cassettes, tangible and imperfect artifacts that degrade with age and can be lost irretrievably.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you lost till it’s gone, Joni would sing, they razed private lives and made us all a payer-bots.

But perhaps most important is his message about how little time there is left before Mission Accomplished signs go up over our Shocked and Awed democracy’s destruction. The generation growing up since 9/11 has reached maturity totally in the throes of the Surveillance State.  As he puts it:

Not yet born on 9/11, they have spent their entire lives under the omnipresent specter of this surveillance. These young people who have known no other world have dedicated themselves to imagining one, and it’s their political creativity and technological ingenuity that give me hope.

But this hope — genuine hope, not the ropey-dope hope of a flyweight Obama –needs to be balanced with a solid consciousness of what the stakes ahead are.  Snowden addresses this generation:

Still, if we don’t act to reclaim our data now, our children might not be able to do so. Then they, and their children, will be trapped too—each successive generation forced to live under the data specter of the previous one, subject to a mass aggregation of information whose potential for societal control and human manipulation exceeds not just the restraints of the law but the limits of the imagination.

This last bit — control that exceeds our imagination — is the very stuff that Schmidt, K. and Huttenlocher talk about fondly in The Age of AI — because, if things work out, the future of humankind will literally be at their fingertips. Except for K., who will be dead, RIP.

According to investigative reporter Greg Palast (who has also written for Rolling Stone, so he’s got ‘hip’ cred), in 2016 and 2020 it wasn’t just the disenfranchisement of Black voters (i.e., votes that were just heave-hoed into the dumpster when a margin was needed to defeat the Dem), but also university-aged students, who Palast says, in some polling places, were largely Democratic. Take Wisconsin, he says, where Republicans implemented new voter ID laws up two weeks before the election. Student IDs were no longer any good and proof of enrollment was necessary. According to Palast,

The Black vote in Wisconsin fell by a mindblowing 24.5% between 2012 and 2016 when the ID law hit. The loss of Black and student votes due to the ID law cost at minimum 61,274 votes, almost three times Trump’s plurality.

In other words, had those student votes not been purged, Clinton would have been president — electorally, too.

In California, during the 2020 primaries, 5 million young voters got punked by post cards. As Palast explains it:

Just before Christmas 2019, each of these 5 million indie voters was mailed a postcard offering the chance to get a ballot with the Democratic presidential primary candidates. The postcards looked like junk mail, and 91% of voters threw them out.

Palast let’s that sit for a moment, then asks rhetorically, and for effect,

Who gets screwed out of their ballot? Target one: the 1.4 million young NPP voters, the 18- to 24-year olds, who move from dorm room to dorm room, apartment to apartment, sofa to sofa, and often don’t get the cards. In other words, Bernie Sanders voters.

Yeah, that’s right.  Had those postals been included in the final state vote tally during the primary, Tio Bernie woulda won, says Palast.

Get up. Get up, I said. Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.

Like the now 18 year old Greta Thunberg said following the COP-26, it’s time to ignore the oldies and carpe scrotum of The Man. More specifically, she said, Fail:

You go, girl. May the Force be with you. Kick Jeff Bezos right in his fliedershnussel logo. See how he likes his Fulfillment Center after that.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.