Underlinings (#28)

As John Dee’s library is readied for exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians Museum (in January 2016), Richard Moss explains:

At once deeply religious and fastidiously superstitious, Dee was a scholar of mathematics and magic, a keen historian and courtier and tutor to Elizabeth I and a polymath whose interests included astronomy, astrology, exploration, the occult, alchemy, spying and imperialism. …

Hemispheric Horror

An (intense) hypothetical debate question for Ben Carson, posed at SSC:

One of your most important achievements as a neurosurgeon was inventing the functional hemispherectomy, a treatment for epilepsy in which the epileptic hemisphere of the brain is severed from the healthy hemisphere and the body, allowing the healthy hemisphere to have full control of the body free from any epileptic interference. Children who get a functional hemispherectomy sufficiently early will be partly paralyzed on one side, but they will generally not have seizures, or will at least have less of them.

Standard hemispherectomies remove the epileptic hemisphere from the body, but that tended to cause hydrocephalus, so your technique left it intact but severed all of its sensory and motor connections, leaving it present but inert.

But an anonymous neuroscientist on Reddit expressed some concern that just as the functional hemisphere seems to develop full independent personhood after the split, so the epileptic hemisphere may do so as well. Obviously it remains impaired by the epilepsy, but it’s not seizing all the time, there will still be comparatively lucid intervals.

So my question for you is – what do you think happens to that person who is in an empty hemisphere, locked out of all sensory input and motor control? Do you think they’re conscious? Do you think they’re wondering what happened? Do you think they’re happy that the other half of them is living a happy normal life? Do they sit rapt in unconditioned contemplation of their own consciousness like an Aristotelian god? Or do they go mad with boredom, constantly desiring their own death but unable to effect it?

Also, a follow-up question. You solve paediatric epilepsy by severing all connections between right and left, declaring one unhealthy and leaving it to rot, and turning complete control over to the other. Given that you’re trying to become President, that has obvious kabbalistic implications. Do you stand behind those kabbalistic implications or not?

Mutant Media

Migration of the novel:

[Dennis] Cooper’s work promises to totally recontextualize the ground behind it, thereby revising the way we think.

That innovation is particularly evident in his latest release, Zac’s Haunted House, a free digital novel composed entirely of animated GIFs. The novel appropriates an experience somewhere between carnival mirror labyrinth, deleted Disney snuff film, and a deep web comic strip by Satan, building out the idea that a book doesn’t have to simply be sentences on paper, or even terribly concerned with language at all.

Smarm Singularity

Its contour already visible:

Lately Facebook is getting a little too intimate with me. “Good morning, Leigh,” it coos. “Thanks for being here. We hope you enjoy Facebook today.” Then, like a slice of dystopian cafeteria lunch, it serves one of its abysmal “memories” into my feed, some forgotten years-old share, and when I tell it I don’t want to see that, Facebook scrapes apologetically: “We know we don’t always get it right.” […] No, Facebook, of course you don’t. Remember how you started serving me wedding ads when I’d only just told one or two people I was engaged? That was creepy. Facebook is absolutely, indisputably creepy, a fungal colony of privacy violations fused helplessly to our human infrastructure. It spies on its employees and it demands pictures of our ID so it can regulate our names. […] Everybody knows Facebook is creepy. Nonetheless, all this time it never occurred to me to delete my account until it began doing this: Trying to act like a person. Pretending we are on a first-name basis. […] We often imagine the inevitable future tech dystopia will be cold, populations marching under the eye of sterile robot overlords, our speech monitored and scrubbed of sentiment and intonation. Increasingly, though, it seems like we’re hurtling toward the opposite: A singularity of smarm, where performative — maybe even excessive — intimacy is the order of the day. […] Of course we don’t want creeper spy colony Facebook to be our friend. But creating the impression of intimacy is becoming increasingly crucial to the content economy today, and it’s happening everywhere. …

(Coldness be my God.)

Spontaneous Divination

Searching for “a method by which to scry using the Internet as a whole …”

The Library of Babel … uses a small set of characters, lower case letters, no digits, and the only punctuation marks are comma and period. here is how i use it. i type in my search string, which for the purpose of demonstration will be my entire post. next i look at the results page and examine the options. the third option down shows where your string is found, padded with random english words. choose more random word matches and then scroll down the list of matches until one finds a number which is appealing. click that number. see the search string in bold. look at the words to either side. ta da.

The Library of Babel (link).

(Other than it being a ‘data’ anagram, I’m not getting much from “ta da”.)