Chapter 12: Pecuniology

William Ward, who was convicted of the manslaughter in 1789 of his opponent Edwin Swain in an impromptu and illegal fight in an inn. He was fined one shilling and sentenced to be imprisoned for three months in Newgate Prison.
The Transhumanist Smackdown

An excursus regarding the ascent of Money to a perch of unassailable power on the world stage as of Annus 2009.  Its chief consequence, to feed the inevitable rise of the AI’s, Humanitie’s Ultimate Other. The Human Spirit and its Other have descended from The World of Creation to The World of Formation. Money is the master of Intention in that realm, hence The Pecuniological Singularity, the coronation of the Almighty Dollar. The mise-en-scène of a brawl in a London pub follows on the heels of the Transhumanist Smackdown in which Communitarian Transhumanist Nick Bostrom was pitted against Singulatarian Infant Terrible Max More.

The Reader is reminded that this is a continuation of Undivided: The Redemption Inquiry. The 12th chapter of the novel and the first of…

Part the Third—Zeitgeists: In which The Right Reverend Rav Krishna declaims to his followers, in the visitors suite of the maternity ward, the long and tortuous history of the descent of Humanity’s Soule and Its Darke Twin, The Other, through the four levels of the soul as defined in the Lurianic Kabbalah. It falls out that the turning points in said history coincide precisely with the years—1309, 1925 and 2009—in which The Blessing of the Sun doth intersect with The Festival of the Passover, each year illuminated by a barroom fracas. The Soule of Humanity hath ascended, in the telling, to the realm of Creation, the realm from which the seeds of the Future come forth.

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Rav Krishna inhaled deeply, let out a sigh and motioned to the hassid next to him to fill the small plastic shot glasses with l’chaim, a euphemism for alcoholic spirits. In this case, a bottle of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka. It was a gift from a grateful fracking oligarch whose thorny medical ethics dilemma the Rav had helped puzzle out. A case of the locally brewed white lightening arrived anonymously at Krishna and Sita’s house shortly after the gentleman was discharged from King Faisal Hospital to be allowed to die in dignity at home. Krishna, suspecting the man was their likely benefactor, had a bit of an ethical qualm about accepting the case of vodka. But to insult a dying man by refusing his well-meant gift seemed a greater evil than simply vowing to share this rare pleasure in good company at every communal simcha. A few dozen hands shot out to share the joy. The Rav lifted his glass. Chevre, does anyone here know what money is? A few puzzled glances bounced around the room. Some joked in response—“something I don’t have,” or “something they used to keep in banks.” Subthreshold mirth. It had been years since the world had converted to crypto-currencies, but the old tropes still hung on. Pecuniology is the study of money. Not the study of coins or of any actual currency. That’s numismatics. Uncle Yankel’s antique coin collection. Let me give you a Kabbalistic schematic of money. It’s the crystallization of intention, prior to action. It’s not real, not actual. It’s virtual. As soon as you act as if it’s real you’re worshipping an idol. It serves the same purpose as the angels who dwell in the World of Yetzirah, the World of Formation. James Madison had it wrong when he asserted, “If men were angels no government would be necessary.” A clear misunderstanding of the nature of angels. Angels are neither good nor evil, they simply do what they were designed to do. No more reliable to do good than Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’. Just cogs in a superordinate hierarchy, a fuzzy realm indeed.

 The dark angel, Money, funds the various businesses of making and doing in the lower realms, the World of Assiyah. That is the world whose takeover by its own creations has begun today, with the release of the self-generating artificial intelligence programs Leviathan, Behemoth and Ziz. Machines whose births coincide with my own son’s. What is the existential purpose of these virtual creatures, the reason for their being, from whence did that come? Look to the financial investments made in two thousand nine, the inflection point in the growth curve of artificial intelligence. That was the last occurrence of the cosmic calendrical intersection of Passover and the Blessing of the Sun. The year the first 4G networks were rolled out in Norway and Sweden, alternate realities at everyone’s fingertips for the first time. The year Marcus Hutter first published an outline of a coherent mathematical theory of Universal AI, evolutionary algorithmic learning. The Gates Center for Computer Science and Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies opens its doors at Carnegie Mellon University. IBM’s Watson preps to defeat its human opponents in Jeopardy! Demis Hassabis, the founder of DeepMind, receives his PhD in cognitive neuroscience from University College London. Buckley and Golly publish a third configuration for von Neumann 29-state cellular automata, which can perform either holistic self-replication, or self-replication by partial construction. You must examine the seedbed of the future as it was planted in the past. Then you will understand how we got here. Chevre, can you get that? The Rav glanced around at eyes glazing, mouths yawning. He looked to his beloved Sita, his soulmate and partner in crime. She nodded at him, closed her eyes and began to sway in that familiar way he recognized as she was about to let rip one of her lyrical riffs. A hush fell over the room as she began to hum a preamble to her prose poem. Then she ket fly her words:

Move to the extreme of decay, the garden at the end of the road to no place. In particular, bring a friend, bring three friends. Breathe it in with your eyes, your palms, the pit of your stomach. Breathe it in through every pore till you and your three friends are glowing bodies of light. Monkey around, play with your food, use your outdoor voice full throated from the gut. A man in a black frock throws back his arms and embraces a grove of twisted trees. A face shines from the crowd, lofting the lulav. Four species exploding to the six directions. The voice of a dead man speaks through the eyes and the fingertips of a decrepit illuminator. Unexpected blessings, kindnesses, every portal to reality as you once conceived it, gone. A flood of sobs, a shuddering in the tree. Is it twelve blackbirds? Every finger on both hands plunged deep within the warm dark earth. Why won’t you dance? The power flickers, or is it my eyes?

Trails in the cloud chamber. There is a party in the cosmos. The invitation is in your pocket, take it out. Holes of every size beckon you in every shape, every possible vocalization. It looks like scribble, like nonsense, like animal droppings in a cage. You don’t understand. Don’t even try. Follow the spore, the leavings, the breadcrumbs, the poppy seeds. Can’t you see it’s all trail substance? We are a colony in space, helping each other find our way in a trackless wilderness. So much possibility, breathtaking, breath holding, breath giving. I find myself surrounded by party trinkets, messages from primitive cultures that have been here before me, celebrants of an ancient priesthood, the Bulgarian grandma, the voodoo priestess, the humpback flute player, and I, an ancient crone examining a flask of urine. Ah well, it’s all the same in the end. Bird feed. I hear the call. I see the writing on my coffee mug. I have the re-entry ticket in my pocket. I hear the scratching of time’s transcriber. Now you have done, now you have done, now you have done. I must return to the other end of the street. Breathe, learn what to do with this thing I call my body. Take steps, take notice. I will take my time and linger, one foot in the garden.

 Where are your three friends? One has died. One is writing a scientific manuscript. And one, poor soul, sits on the curb kissing his fingertips and laughing to himself. We are all suspended, time and space, a single unmoving matrix, all thrilled by the subtle vibration, the change within the field, a creche, a snow globe, a diorama, a miniature train set, a book, any microcosm used in contemplation, the nursery of ideas, to catch sight of it all in wonder, tenderness and delight. You see who we are? Care for the ones left behind, for the foundlings, the young, the ill at ease, the befuddled, the ones who don’t even know why they are here. It’s very sweet, don’t you think? Now that nobody smokes cigarettes anymore, I think, well, there’s that, there has been a loss. For why else would you turn to a complete stranger and ask, got a light? And even sweeter, need a light? The very act of decay.

 After all the exits, after all the departures, after all the levying of taxes, the transitions from one place to another or to another, it is hard to believe, and perhaps a ridiculous fantasy, that we all end up in the same place, possessing all that we have ever had. According to Sefer Yetziah, The Book of Exits, there are demons of every shape and size who live at the threshold of all our crossings, who take from us each their peculiar tax. Who would ever have thought that they were simply holding our cherished items for safekeeping in the Garden of Redemption? 

Rapturous electrified silence. She had done it. Reset the tone in that cosmic boogying way she had, all the while nursing Baby Boy Katz discreetly under her afghan. Krishna got up from nestling next to his beloved and took the floor with renewed deliberateness. As he slowly paced the perimeter of the waiting room he stroked his beard and spoke. Ah my dearest Rebbetsin Sita, the Redemption. Yes, let us aim ourselves at the resurrection of love while we cast our minds back to 2009, that fateful year. The point at which the deterioration of everything took another terminal twist to bring us to our current catastrophe. An evil plot was afoot. The replacement of humans by thinking machines. The dream of the perfected Other. Let me take you back to the headiness of those times, to the lives of a few of the characters who pounded the earth that year. A little kabuki theater, maestro! The Rav shook his head and stared absently into the bottom of his shot glass. The crowd anxiously fingered its glasses, shuffled its feet and cleared its throats. Rav Krishna raised his l’chaim once again. May the Messiah come speedily and in our time! A low rumble of “amen, amen” and the downing of many shots of Boyd & Blair. The Rav gazed at the sea of faces as he wove his tale-spinning spell…

*     *     *     *     *

The denizens of The Assembly House pub raised their pints in uproarious approval. It is annus two thousand and nine, the year of the Corporate Singularity, the year when corporations achieved peoplehood. The money men had their choice of all the best toys to secure global domination. Max More, the self-named enfant terrible of Extropianism, the technological self-improvement philosophy he founded, had just made a performance piece out of his Mephistophelian banshee cry, “A Letter to Mother Nature.” An hour before his drunken tirade, he and his entourage had wandered down the road from the O2 Forum where Max and Nick Bostrom had been pitted against each other in what was billed as a no-holds barred ‘Transhumanist Smackdown’. It was no contest. Rockstar versus Super Wonk. What would you expect? When the debacle ended, Bostrom reloaded his backpack, headed for the tube to get home and make himself a smoothie of lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, blueberries, turmeric, vanilla, oat milk, and whey powder. He had work to do. He slightly regretted letting himself get drawn into such a tasteless as well as pointless endeavor. But he thought he needed to tell the millennials that there was a saner side to Transhumanism.

 Transhumanism—a philosophy, an art form, a scientific program. Nerds conquering death. Virile nerds like Max More, or effete nerds like Nick Bostrom. Both shared the notion of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the Nazi’s Enigma Code, that machines would eventually supercede their human masters in intelligence, the Technological Singularity. They differed in that Max More was an unabashed enthusiast, a Singulatarian. His cry—bring it on! Nick Bostrom was an agnostic. An obsessive egghead, an unlikely hero on behalf of a benighted humanity that had no idea what was about to hit them. As Bostrom approached the tube station, a strange apparition in a long black coat and fedora stepped from the shadows. “Professor Bostrom.” The philosopher stood still, and blinked behind his spectacles, not sure if he was being accosted by a lunatic, or just some Anarcho-Extropian thug come to gloat. “Yes,” he replied warily. “Rabbi Levi Katz, futurist and founder of A Gathering of Strangers. I just wanted you to know that we’re behind you.” He stuck out his hand to Bostrom. Bostrom was antsy to get home, but still not sure that he was out of danger, so elected to be polite. “Ummm, and what is it that your people do?”

 Rabbi Katz donned a disarming Cheshire grin. “We predict trends based on an integration of hassidic philosophy with the most up-to-date database of all human knowledge.” Bostrom smiled wanly, as he thought this a bit absurd and highly unlikely to be true. “I really need to get home. Please don’t think me rude.” Rabbi Katz smiled again. “If you decide you’d like to chat, you’ll find my contact information in your ‘handshake’ chip. I’ve got one in my shoe as well. A little kitschy, but fun. My good friend Neil, when he ran the Media Lab, was kind enough to spot me a prototype during a collaboration on the Future of Making and Doing.” Bostrom raised an eyebrow. “Neil Gershenfeld?” The rabbi nodded. His geek-name-dropping hit its mark. Everyone knew Neil, now the Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. Several months earlier—February 9, 2009—his efforts had led to the formation of the Fab Foundation, an experiment in techno-anarchism, open source high tech manufacturing at the fingertips of practically every human on the planet.

 Bostrom shook his head as he tramped into the Camden Town tube station. Damnedest thing. He really hadn’t a lot of patience with religious hocum, but this guy at least had some techno-cred. He had a handshake chip! Bostrom had gotten his as a party favor at the opening bash he and David Pearce had put on way back in 1998 when they launched the World Transhumanist Association. One of the attendees had cadged a bunch of them from the Media Lab at MIT. Kind of a joke, an ironic nod to the original transhumanist, Julian Huxley. A transhumanist rabbinic apparition! Bostrom had to admit the guy had a nice vibe about him, once you got past the weird get-up. Bostrum’s brow furrowed as a more somber thought intruded. He wished Anders hadn’t peeled off to crash Max’s self-congratulatory bash at The Assembly House. Bostrum was certain he’d get a drunken call from the big lunk at some inconvenient hour. Sandberg was the other Swede on FHI’s staff at Oxford. The Future of Humanity Institute. He’d coached Nick as best he could for the gig at the O2 Forum, but it was all over the minute Mad Max, as they dubbed him, began to sing the theme of Die Walküre. A cheap trick, but the crowd went wild. Bostrom couldn’t land a single punch after that. Anders could, and did. Right there at The Assembly House in full sight of the assembled multitude.

 Max More was completely taken by surprise, already drunk on his own verbiage and a few pints of wheat beer. Anders had walked in just as Max was finishing his reading of his Maximus Opus, a vow to surpass Mother Nature, deliberately ironic in soft-selling his own matricidal impulse by signing off “Your ambitious human offspring”. As Anders walked up to the self-besotted sophist, Max turned to him, raised an eyebrow and grinned, “Hey, it’s one of the Swedish Wimp Brothers come to offer fealty.” Anders’ right fist connected directly with Max’s left nostril. Anders had surprised himself as much as he had his unwitting opponent. The Emperor Gluteus Maximus, the Champion of the Technological Singularity, went down like a stone. After a moment of stunned silence, the pub broke into pandemonium. Singulatarians versus naive Extropians. Socialist transhumanists versus libertarian transhumanists. Materialists versus transvisiblists. Biopunks, cyberpunks, cryopunks, algoravers, anarcho-capitalists. Even a few Trotskyites came out of mothballs. By the time the bobbies arrived the place was a disaster zone. Someone had actually pitched a frozen mug through the gorgeous atrium roof, sprinkling glass shards on all the pugilists below. Altogether, thirty seven brawlers were hauled off in paddy wagons to spend the night in custody.

When Nick Bostrom’s phone rang at 3AM he was still up putting the finishing touches on his Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Nick,” a voice mumbled into the phone. He recognized the whisper of a Swedish accent. “Anders, is that you? What’s wrong with your voice?” Heavy breathing. “I think my jaw’s broken. I punched out Mad Max. I didn’t mean to. It just sort of happened. I need somebody to post bond for me and get me out of the police station. Sorry. I couldn’t think of anybody else who’d be awake.” Nick sighed. He was aware of his divided impulses, the primitive satisfaction that somebody at least had taken a good swing at that smarmy SOB, and the knowledge that this was definitely not the way to settle philosophical differences. Plato was right, the soul is multiplicitous. “Alright Anders, you big buffoon. I wish I could take an UberCab. Brilliant idea over in San Francisco just conceived, but it’ll be years before the London cabbies give ground. Not sure I can find one at 3AM. May have to walk. Have they had a doctor look at you?” More heavy breathing. “Nej, bror. I don’t want to bring it to their attention. I just need to get some sleep in a real bed.” As Nick closed his laptop, he had a fleeting thought about the cloaked rabbi outside the tube station. What would his moral system say about the soul’s dividedness? At that very moment, Reb Levi was up late having a few l’chaims with his chevrusa and host, Rabbi Mordecai David, minister of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St. John’s Wood.

*     *     *     *     *

“Zo Reb Levi, dites moi qu’est-ce que c’est que vous avez apprendu ce soir-là?” Reb Mordecai poured another dram of Laphroaig for the both of them. An unexpectedly balmy Saturday evening mid November. Levy Katz had cadged a ticket to the event before the Sabbath, keeping within the rules. But this was, after all, about saving lives. French, their shared secret language, each had picked it up in their separate sojourns at Yeshiva Brunoy. The younger man had, however, felt the need to expel himself from its cloistered confines when he realized he was not like all the other boys. An unlikely pairing, one of the first openly gay Orthodox-trained rabbis in the U.K. and an American hassid. They had met five years earlier at a symposium on religion and ecology, “Bio-Divinity and Biodiversity.” The two of them were part of a panel of Jewish clergy and scholars exploring what the Torah had to say about diversity. They both turned to the story of creation as told in the Book of Genesis as a blueprint for the role of biodiversity in completing creation’s ‘work’, whatever that might be. However, the newly ‘out’ gay rabbi took the matter a step further into the realm of gender and sexual diversity. After all, in the second creation of humans, how was a woman created from the body of a man? Is the one inherent in the other?

 To his credit, Reb Levi rose to the challenge. The discussion continued over several rounds of l’chaims and the discovery of mutual friends in the Johannesburg Chabad community in which Reb Mordecai had been reared. Now, in his last year as minister at St. John’s Wood, Reb Mordecai invited Reb Levi the futurist to speak to his community on ”The Future of Humanity: The Role of Judaism in Changing the World.” A mouthful, but Reb Levi was the man for the job. The “Transhumanist Smackdown” was an unexpected bonus, right up Reb Levi’s alley. “It was new and strange, Reb Mordecai. Let’s say l’chaim, my friend. To whatever HaShem sees fit in the evolution of the human form.” Clink go the glasses, down go the shots. Mordy smiled mischievously at his friend, “So did you hear, the International Gay Agenda has even reached The People’s Republic of China?” Levi Katz raised a single eyebrow, “Nu?” Mordy continued, “Middle of June, Shanghai Pride. The commissars never knew what hit them.” Both rabbis smiled at the image. “Trouble brewing in the People’s Republic, no doubt,” opined Levi Katz. “They’ve had quite the cornucopia of rebellions and public malfeasance on their hands this year. I was there helping out the Chabad shaliach in Peking, one of our classmates from Brunoy. I’ve actually made a list of everything that’s gone down this year in Old Cathay.” Mordy rolled his eyes, “A list! Why am I not surprised.” Mordy well knew his futurist friend’s proclivity for obsession. “Go ahead. Lay it on me.” Levi smiled a slightly abashed though secretly pleased smile and proceeded to tick off the red letter events of the past year of Chinese public history. He unofficially called it ‘The Year of Governing Dangerously’:

    1. China surpassed Germany to become the third largest economy on the globe. 
    2. While instituting the most draconian internet censorship in the online world, the Chinese government also promulgated a fake Serf’s Emancipation holiday in Tibet. 
    3. The central China Shaanxi Province, cradle to thirteen feudal dynasties over the course of a millennium, experienced one of the world’s worst mining disasters that year, as well as a massive outbreak of rabies. 
    4. Hubei Province, also in Central China, was rocked by the Shishou street riots in which 70,000 citizens confronted 10,000 police officers over cronyism, drug trafficking, and lack of transparency from the city’s top officials. 
    5. The Urumqui riots in the Autonomous Uyghur Region of Northwest China result in a news blackout while the Muslim protesters were sentenced to jail time or death.
    6. The Chongqing gang case unfolded, a series of triad-busting trials. Communist Party chief Bo Xilai and police chief Wang Lijun arrested almost 5000 suspects, a bunch of suspected crime bosses, hundreds of triad members, and a number of allegedly corrupt police, government and Communist party officials, including some district police chiefs and the city’s former deputy police commissioner. Trial of the century! 
    7. The Tonghua Iron and Steel Group riot. A mob of 30,000 kills a corrupt boss who threatened to fire all the workers. 
    8. The Tang Fu-zhen self-immolation incident, in Chengdu, Sichuan, a citizen’s frustrated response to the standard bureaucratic practice of demolishing homes before any compensation agreement is reached. Again, a news blackout in China, guards in the hospital room, but the event was captured on a mobile phone and went viral. 
    9. As of October, all Chinese border guards in Yunnan were equipped with BeiDou-1 satellite tracking devices. No stone unturned.

*     *     *     *     *

PARTITION.

Baidu Ten Mythical Creatures

    1. Cao Ni Ma: Grass Mud Horse
    2. Fa Ke You: French-Croatian Squid
    3. Ya Mie Die: Small Elegant Butterfly
    4. Ju Hua Can: Chrysanthemum Silkworms
    5. Chun Ge: Quail Pigeon
    6. Ji Ba Mao: Lucky Journey Cat
    7. Wei Shen Jing: Stretch-Tailed Whale
    8. Yin Dao Yan: Singing Field Goose
    9. Da Fei Ji: Intelligent Fragrant Chicken
    10. Qian Lie Xie: Hidden Fiery Crab

[disguised obscene internet memes circulated to taunt the Chinese government for censorship of profanity in 2009, originally derived from hoax entries in interactive encyclopedia Baidu Baike, the Chinese version of Wikipedia]

*     *     *     *     *

Mordy leaned back in his chair and slapped a knee as he guffawed. “You are most assuredly the Oracle of Obsession! That is an impressive ‘analysis’. Surely the Chinese government would want to consult you, nu?” Levi grinned, “Oh, knowing their security network, they’ve probably already got my list. Good news is they’ve got bigger shrimp to deep fry. Glad you appreciate my work!” Another clink of glasses and the downing of shots. “So tell me,” Mordy went on, “What’s this Transhumanism stuff? Sounds like some kind of racy, sexual fringe thing.” Levi smirked and cocked an eyebrow, “Well, maybe there’s something in there for the LGBT crowd, but as far as I can tell that’s not Transhumanism’s most pressing issue. There’s a lot of macho nerd posturing. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good nerd smackdown as well as the next bucher. Better than that anti-intellectual stuff going on across the Chunnel. Did you follow the Sarkosy higher education debacle? Back in January, he dissed L’Académie Française, right before announcing his phoney corporate scheme, the so-called Law for the Freedom and Responsibility of Universities. A baloney process, basically taking away the academic departments’ control of their intellectual agendas and turning it over to private corporate funders. He takes particular pains to mock the liberal arts and the required reading of the novel, The Princess of Cleves. As far as I know the universities are still on strike. And everybody’s reading The Princess of Cleves. Vive l’intelligence!

 On the other hand,” said Reb Levi making a slow and deliberate imitation of the yeshiva bucher’s debating thumb-turning motions, “I think this guy Bostrum is quite cogent about the dangers inherent in the development of super-intelligence. His partner at The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, James Hughes, writes about the steaming cauldron that boiled over in the Transhumanist movement  just this year. He and Bostrum see the movement as having been essentially socialist in its earliest inception, a kind of utopian raise-all-boats paradigm. Then along comes the spawn of Satan, the likes of Max More. Their attitude toward technology is basically let it rip and devil take the hindmost. Hughes calls them the libertarian anarcho-capitalist transhumanists. Says there was actually a political purge of the board of The World Transhumanist Association earlier this year, engineered in part by folks like Peter Thiel, the PayPal billionaire, and his cronies. It’s pretty interesting that Thiel’s former partner, Elon Musk, has ended up on the other side, funding Bostrum’s institute at Oxford. It’s a real dogfight.

So these lunatics are pushing for the Singularity, the takeover by the machines, and in fact call themselves Singulatarians. Talk about avodah zara, the worshippers of Baal have nothing on these jokers. It’s a new religion. And that’s not just my opinion. Legal scholars are weighing in. Listen. I’ve got it somewhere here on my transhuman auxiliary brain.” Levi Katz dug into his pocket and pulled out his Motorola Droid, slid out the keyboard and tapped in his search. “Eureka, get a load of this. This law professor at Georgetown, a yid by the name of Steve Goldberg. Interestingly, his precedent setting citation was the one in which the Maharishi’s TM gig was adjudicated to be a religion.” He jabbed at the phone as he read, 

The Court also explained that “the question of the definition of religion for first amendment purposes is one for the courts, and is not controlled by the subjective perceptions of believers. In Malnak the “Appellants … d[id]not consider SCI/TM to be a religion…. But Supporters of new belief systems may not ‘choose’ to be non-religious, particularly in the establishment clause context. There is some indication that SCI/TM has attempted a transformation from a religion to a secular science in order to gain access to the public schools.” Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F. 2d 197 (1979)) and other sources suggest that the answer might be yes. From the perspective of a non-transhumanist, it seems that it would be honest and sensible for transhumanists to embrace the idea that they offer an alternative to traditional religions…

“A sticky wicket, as you Brits like to say. For what it’s worth, I think Goldberg is probably right. That’s where this whole freight train is headed. Just this year they started Singularity University, based on Kurzweil’s ideas of cyborg learning. Serious money behind them—Google, Nokia, Autodesk, IDEO, LinkedIn, ePlanet Capital, the X Prize Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation and Genentech. No ‘angel’ investors these. They’re in it for the lucre. All the disparate flavors of Transhumanism share the belief that whatever it is that can get the job done here on planet Earth has got to be Other. Other than human. It’s just a matter of how desperate one is to cede control of the dial. It’s really all about fear and pain, you know. Fear of death and the pain of decay. Old Tim Leary figured out cyberdelia was the newest most powerful drug on the block. Best quote: Leary proclaimed that the “PC is the LSD of the 1990s” and admonished bohemians to “turn on, boot up, jack in“. Only thing, in his cyber-addled enthusiasm, he didn’t foresee the corporate takeover of the whole cyber kit and kaboodle. But he certainly wasn’t feeling any pain. The right-wingers have taken to the streets this year in the US. The so-called ‘Tea Party’, spurred on by some malcontent Wall Street traders and secretly funded by the conservative Koch brothers oligarchy. They’re providing cover for the real culprits for the financial meltdown. The next phase may have to be the revolt of the machines themselves.”

 Levi took a sip of whiskey and rocked back on the rear legs of his chair. “Oh, and come to think of it, it was a gay man, Alan Turing, who first warned us of the possibility of being overtaken by machines. It was broadcast on the BBC. You should take a look at the transcripts. The man was amazing.” It was Mordy’s turn to suppress an ironic smile. “Yeah. The P.M., Gordon Brown, just this year issued a rather nice though tragically belated apology to the man, in the name of our beloved Crown, for having legally compelled him to suicide, via chemical castration/lobotomy, for the crime of being gay. On behalf of a nation whose arses he saved from Adolf Hitler’s implacable machine, let’s hoist another l’chaim. It is not at all surprising to me, Reb Levi, that a closeted gay cryptologist would conceive of the possibility of a machine successfully pretending to be human. Likely a touch of Asperger’s as well, faking it as human the best he could. Astounding really. The man was a triple or quadruple agent! But his most dangerous mission by far was being a gay man living under the Union Jack in the 20th century. And a grand mission it still is.” Mordy paused and looked directly into his friend’s eyes. “Just like Pinocchio—we all want to be accepted as real boys.” Levi saw the hint of a tear in the corner of his friend’s eye, as well as a lifetime of pain and anger. His heart broke for Mordy. Tout les deux, they saw their future redeemed selves, who in turn looked back and saw them, on the steps of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, sitting together. A portal in spacetime held open for a moment by the resonance of two memories 233 years apart. Absolute rachmunas, the compassionate infrastructure of the universe. Reb Levi gazed into his friend’s heart and offered a toast, “May Moshiach come speedily and in our time, that each of us may experience our fundamental unity.” They downed their l’chaims in companionable silence.

About the Author
Michael Diamond is a writer based in the Washington, DC area. He practices psychiatry there and is a doctor of medical qigong. He has published occasional verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, two cats, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, as in camera obscura, from Latin, meaning "dark room", also referred to as a pinhole camera, exploiting the optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene outside of a chamber projects itself through a small hole and can be seen on the inner surface of the chamber. A glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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