Underlinings (#17)

Nicola Masciandaro on ‘Image Speed Intelligence’:

How might art’s level of attunement to this speed influence the inhuman future of the image? There is a story about the 18th-century Sufi poet Bulleh Shah which provides a fitting initial reference point for musing over these questions. It concerns the power of the line, perhaps the most pervasive type of image and that which best demonstrates the subtle, neither-there-nor-not-there being of image in general. “[A]s a child he was very backward. By the time the other children had mastered the Arabic alphabet, he hadn’t learned the first letter. His parents took him away from school and left him to himself. He ran away to the desert or jungle . . . and spent his whole time in trying to understand the meaning of this single letter ‘a’ which also stands for the number ‘one’. After twenty-five years he returned to his childhood school and took his place in the class he had left. The same teacher, an old man now, asked him what he wanted. He said he had come for his second lesson. To humour this madman the teacher asked him to write his first lesson on the blackboard. He did so; and the whole wall split in two.”

Underlinings (#16)

PKD to Julian Jaynes:

Another curious aspect was its memory, to which I had access during the intial three or four days when it originally overwhelmed my left hemisphere. It remembered events between roughly three and two thousand years ago — from the high point of Crete to the time of St. Paul — and then it literally had no memories; there was a two thousand year gap, right up to World War One. It was as if it had been asleep, away or dead for those two thousand years. It readily remembered the Egyptian aspects of Crete — I had in hypnogogic states incredible visions of Greece and Rome, but after that — nothing, until about 1916. This evidently was why it initially addressed me in Greek; it was using the language it was accustomed to use in addressing humans.

Dick later thanks Jaynes for his “superb book [which] has now made it possible for me to discuss my 3-1974 experiences openly, without being merely called schizophrenic…”

(Sub-extracted from the longer extract here.)

Underlinings (#13)

Nathaniel Rich’s 2013 NYRB story on saturation diving begins:

The first dive to a depth of a thousand feet was made in 1962 by Hannes Keller, an ebullient twenty-eight-year-old Swiss mathematician who wore half-rimmed glasses and drank a bottle of Coca-Cola each morning for breakfast. With that dive Keller broke a record he had set himself one year earlier, when he briefly descended to 728 feet. How he performed these dives without killing himself was a closely guarded secret. At the time, it was widely believed that no human being could safely dive to depths beyond three hundred feet. That was because, beginning at a depth of one hundred feet, a diver breathing fresh air starts to lose his mind. …

Underlinings (#12)

A fictionally embedded citation from Samuel Butler’s Erewhon:

“There is no security” — to quote his own words — “against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organised machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time. Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings have existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand! May not the world last twenty million years longer? If so, what will they not in the end become? Is it not safer to nip the mischief in the bud and to forbid them further progress?

“But who can say that the vapour engine has not a kind of consciousness? Where does consciousness begin, and where end? Who can draw the line? Who can draw any line? Is not everything interwoven with everything? Is not machinery linked with animal life in an infinite variety of ways? The shell of a hen’s egg is made of a delicate white ware and is a machine as much as an egg-cup is: the shell is a device for holding the egg, as much as the egg-cup for holding the shell: both are phases of the same function; the hen makes the shell in her inside, but it is pure pottery. She makes her nest outside of herself for convenience’ sake, but the nest is not more of a machine than the egg-shell is. A ‘machine’ is only a ‘device.'”