Underlinings (#56)

The peculiar John Murray Spear:

… In 1852, Spear broke all ties with the Universalist church, and instead turned to Spiritualism. He claimed that he was in contact with “The Association of Electrizers”, a group of spirits including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Benjamin Rush, as well as Spear’s namesake John Murray. Evidence indicates he occasionally faked signatures as a way to gain authority from a “guide from the past”; however, these signatures were dated beyond the lifetimes of the deceased. Spear believed that the purpose of this group was to bring new technology to mankind, so that greater levels of personal and spiritual freedom could be achieved. The following year, Spear and a handful of followers retreated to a wooden shed at the top of High Rock hill in Lynn, Massachusetts, where they set to work creating the “New Motive Power”, a mechanical Messiah which was intended to herald a new era of Utopia. The New Motive Power was constructed of copper, zinc and magnets, all carefully machined, as well as a dining room table. At the end of nine months, Spear and the “New Mary”, an unnamed woman, ritualistically birthed the contraption in an attempt to give it life. Unfortunately for Spear, this failed to have the desired effect, and the machine was later dismantled. …

Underlinings (#54)

Cryptic Dee weirdness:

In 1564, while studying at Antwerp, Dee published Monas Hieroglyphica, a series of twenty-four theorems interpreting the Hieroglyphic Monad, a symbol of Dee’s own devising which carried associations with both creation and unity. The glyph first appeared in Dee’s earlier text on astronomy, Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558), but in the Monas Hieroglyphica it became the central focus of the work. One of his most incomprehensible texts, it draws parallels between and ascribes cabbalistic meaning to the physical properties of certain minerals, their governing planets according to alchemical theories of the day, and the geometry of their alchemical and astrological symbols. The result is a complex web of meaning that is not fully understood even today. […] Some believe that the Monas Hieroglyphica was intended as a textbook to accompany lessons delivered orally by Dee but now lost; others believe that it is a hidden treatise on cryptography to be used in espionage. …



Underlinings (#53)

On the K/T-missile and its impact:

In one of the greatest titled books ever, T. rex and the Crater of Doom, Walter Alvarez told the story of how he and his nobel prize-winning physicist father Luis revolutionised our understanding of the end of the dinosaurs. [Walter] … discovered that the boundary layer in rocks found at Gubbio in Italy contained ten times the normal levels of the metal iridium. […] … Luis had the insight that such a high concentration of the metal in one layer of rock meant it must have arrived in one huge asteroid impact. The team then confirmed another iridium spike in a Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary rock section at Stevns Klint in Denmark. […] They reasoned that the spikes implied there had been an asteroid impact so big that it threw enough dust (including tiny particles of iridium) into the atmosphere to black out the sun around the globe. This would have prevented plants from photosynthesising and, as was later suggested, caused global freezing for a short time, leading to the mass extinction of many species. They worked out that such an asteroid would have weighed at least 34 billion tonnes and measured around 7km in diameter, producing a crater around 100–200km across. […] … However, it still took a while to locate the Chicxulub crater because it had been completely covered by sediments deposited in the previous 66m years. And while half of it lies under dense tropical rainforest, the other half is beneath the Caribbean seabed. Hildebrand used evidence from boreholes made by Mexican oil company Pemex in the 1960s to prove the crater’s existence. Subsequent geophysical surveys that can scan below the surface have established the exact size and shape of the structure, which is roughly circular with three concentric rings, as you would expect from a massive impact.

Military Automatism

The automation of military technology goes nonlinear:

“Machines have long served as instruments of war, but historically humans have directed how they are used,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior arms division researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “Now there is a real threat that humans would relinquish their control and delegate life-and-death decisions to machines.”

Some have argued in favor of robots on the battlefield, saying their use could save lives. […] But last year, more than 1,000 technology and robotics experts — including scientist Stephen Hawking, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — warned that such weapons could be developed within years, not decades. […] In an open letter, they argued that if any major military power pushes ahead with development of autonomous weapons, “a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”

“Virtually inevitable” is a cybernetic truth-bomb.