Michael S. Diamond
Torah Obscura

Chapter 7: Adam’s Prank

The Hero retreats to a cave beneath his parents’ abode in Champaign-Urbana. He compiles a vast array of Technologie which in the fullness of Tyme he will deploy to bring about The Redemption. From a remote location, he demonstrates his Colossal Cosmicke Power by ‘magickally’ inducing a FabLab at the University of Pittsburgh to generate a whimsical set of human sculptures in a space outside of the confines of the 3D printer. As seen through the prying eyes of a sympathetic spy, recounting that fateful time from his perspective as another Redeemèd Soule.

The Reader is reminded that this is a continuation of Undivided: the Redemption Inquiry. The seventh chapter of the novel and the second of…

Part the Second—Winds of Change: In which the Soule of Humanitie ascends in the telling of this Tale to the view from the realm of Human Intention. Thereby the course is set for the proximal conversion of thought to action. Two heroes arise, architects intent upon Humanitie’s Redemption, Krishna Katz and Adam CADMan.

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“Go with it,” Adam announced to no one in particular. The creator of the future Leviathan’s 4D graphics so loved mankind that he spent every waking hour trying to save their sorry asses from themselves. He spent hour upon interminable hour pouring over one holo-CAD rendering after another. It really made you want to root for the guy. Although he was a prankster with a wry sense of humor, Adam was not a happy man. By some quirk of metaphysics, Adam was doomed to feel the ebb and flow of the pain of all humanity at every moment of his waking life. A world of pain. This was another part of the reason he couldn’t stay in college, why he’d engineered his own expulsion. Just being in a room with a small cadre of his own species was profoundly grating to his supersensitive psyche. The pain volume cranked all the way to the max. His parents had home-schooled him without really understanding his gnawing emotional sensitivity. The most painful moment in all of Adam’s childhood was his Bar Mitzvah. There was no way around it. No such thing as a virtual Bar Mitzvah. If Adam could have sent an avatar he would have. Until The Redemption, we are all nothing but avatars. Yes, you and I both, watchers all.

*      *      *      *      *

Young Adam Saperstein excelled in Judaic studies. He was actually a savant for languages and religious discourse. Before his thirteenth birthday he could do pilpul, the arcane stylistics of Talmudic argument, with the best of his tutors. His knowledge of dikduk, the rules of Hebrew grammar, was perfect. He had made a particular effort to become conversant with obscure kabbalistic and hasidic tracts. Interlocking matrices of hidden meanings held a special fascination for the young coder. Word got out about the weird little bucher, Yiddish for student, in his yeshiva of one. A bookworm living in a self-created spiritual wormhole. Rabbis from nearby yeshivot would pop in for chats. By the time of his big day at the bimah, the podium at the front of the synagogue, a veritable crowd of distinguished acolytes had assembled to hear their young genius’ performance. It was a horror show. Only by squinching his eyes to make the crowd a blur, and by reading at the speed of light, was Adam able to get through leading the service and reading the entire Torah portion himself. But when it was time for his scholarly discourse, the bland as toast suburban rabbi from his parents’ synagogue made a serious error in judgment. He told Adam to slow down, take a breath and smile at all the nice people who’d come to hear him. Adam’s parents carried him home in a catatonic stupor. The crowd of rabbis and scholars mobbed the bimah to score a glimpse of the two mindblowing lyrical pages of text the boy had left behind in the kerfuffle:

On the possibility of direct interaction with matter. There’s so much on my mind, I don’t know how to distill it. What retort would suffice? What element could coax the condensate into visibility? What sorcery? What alchemy? What artifice? As soon as I postulate any of these devices, the game is over. Coherence is lost. What irony! The self can only be found in incoherence. A descent from that vaporous stuff of which everything consists. We murder to create. Cain, the original maker of things, the lineage of all craft. Fratricide. The other one, whose name means vapor, struck down by a brother’s hand. It’s impossible to escape the irony. Irony, the enemy of novelty. The preacher said, vapor, vapor, all is vapor. We are vapor. All of technology is an attempt to deny the fact of it. An unknown body is found in a field. What is the procedure? A city is besieged. Its fruit trees must not be cut down. So many genres of murder. So few places of refuge. Better to be afraid and soft hearted. Better to offer terms of peace. But we will build our silicon idols and hope that the sorcerers will sustain us. In the end we are all judges. It can not be helped. From the first ‘I want’ to the last ‘I won’t’. What ship? What compass? What great art?

On the practice of indirect interaction with matter. The man of vapor has been slain and the maker banished. Who remains? The forebear of humanity, a thorn tree, a garment, devastation, the foundation of nations, the seat of the body, the warp of the loom, an appointment to keep. The more creative form of murder, the scattered pieces of the corpse. Recollection, a funerary rite, the resurrection of the slain man until the next swinging of the scythe. Culture. I hear its blade singing in my ear, against the soft fall of sheaves. The harvest gives rise to powerful intoxicants. We drink to forget, but the preacher reminds us. The water cycle. What changes? What is lost? What keeps us going? What stops us? What’s stopping you?

The rabbis and scholars took Adam’s metaphysical ball and ran with it. Adam never saw any of it. Not the new schools of theology and philosophy, not the academies of public discourse, not the reams of published commentary. From that point forward it was back to homeschooling for the neurotic little boychik.

*      *      *      *      *

Back home again on his own after the expulsion from U of I, Adam discovered that neurofeedback worked reasonably well to keep the pain down to a dull roar. At some point in his studies at home he had an epiphany—the pain wasn’t his. The realization was triggered by watching a 1968 Star Trek episode that he fished out of the cyber-archives as part of a sci-fi binge in the solitude of his basement digs. Something about empaths and feeling other people’s pain. It was too irritating to watch most of it, but he got the idea about the dark side of empathy, the painful effects of channeling someone else’s feelings. So while he’d been reviewing the cybernetics curricula of an entire universe of academic institutions, he’d also taken a detour into the world of meditation, mind-body medicine and the psychobiology of self-hacking. He became an adept at identifying the specific loci from which the pain signal emanated. Adam discovered a homology, a one-to-one mapping, between his body and the globe. He’d learned to practice tonglen. It taught him to offload the pain of another person and ground it in a reservoir of universal compassion. Beautiful and simple. It helped him maintain his sanity. Gaia’s Ten Thousand Vortices Pain Map.

Adam had a sense that the ‘pain game’, as he thought of it, was like the game called Nim in which two people take turns crossing out vertical strokes arrayed in a matrix. The object of the game is to force your opponent to cross out the last stroke mark. A global game of hot potato. Like the ancient Israelite priest who performs the obscure rite of the Red Heifer. He purifies his fellow of corpse contamination, but is himself contaminated in turn and so is self-exiled. Like Moses who led six hundred thousand Israelites through the wilderness to cross the border to the Promised Land but was forever barred entry. The assigned ‘loser’ is left out in the cold bearing the ‘karma’ of the others. Or, as favored by the vast majority of mankind, zone out by any means possible. Adam’s classmates at Illinois coded every form of cyberdelic distraction. But Adam differed. As fate would have it, he turned out to be just the man for the job in the pain juggling department.

Adam’s armchair adventures in cybertechnology were set to a soundtrack of ‘70’s proto-techno rock—Yes, ELP, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Kraftwerk. An insistent buzz just beneath the skin kept the labor moving along nicely while Adam hacked into illustrious computer science departments throughout the land. What better way to acquire the toys he both needed and wanted. A steady supply of soy shakes supplemented with a complete range of nutritional additives, a high res surround projection system, and an archive of every sci-fi movie and TV show ever produced. A cybermonk with a fluorescent tan. One of us. The ‘shopping’ expedition took the better part of two weeks in toto, so Adam really had to cocoon in. With a swipe of the cursor and the tap of a finger he took possession of department after department of cutting edge research technology and ticked them off his list:

♦Texas A & M Center for Robotic Assisted Search and Rescue.
♦UNC Chapel Hill’s Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory.
♦Wash U’s Cyber Physical-Systems Lab.
♦UC Santa Barbara’s “Crowd-sourcing the World” project.
♦Pitt’s nanocomputing network.
♦Penn State’s Institute for Networking and Security Research and the Institute for CyberScience.
♦Hopkins’ Information Security Institute.
♦Seibel’s own CAVE3, a ‘next-gen’ virtual reality interface in 3D. That was one sweet steal.
♦UC Irvine’s Center for Machine Learning and Intelligent Systems.
♦Brown’s Immersive Virtual Reality Cave.
♦All the work of Chicago’s ancient giant, László Babai, the originator of Graph Isomorphism in Quasipolynomial Time.

Adam paused for a moment of awe as he contemplated Penn’s archives on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the first ever electronic computer designed for general use, in the 19-frickin-40’s. J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly begat ENIAC which begat BINAC which begat UNIVAC. A study in cybercosmology. He continued:

♦Wisconsin’s CloudLab3 condensed handily into Adam’s database.
♦Caltech was a bonanza—the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, the Center for the Mathematics of Information and the Applied Geometry Lab.
♦Adam also reaped the largesse of historic cybermoguls and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, tapping into well-funded dynasties at Cornell and Carnegie Mellon.
♦Gates’ alma mater Harvard contributed to Adam’s armamentarium with magical arts from the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials and the Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering.
♦Not to be outdone, number two billionaire from the original software giant Microsoft, Paul Allen, had funded an equally impressive array of efforts at the once obscure University of Washington. The materials Adam found most useful there were in computational synthetic biology and age-progression software.
♦At Columbia University, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science provided crucial developmental insights in brain-muscle-computer interface and social networking algorithms.
♦Stanford’s money men chipped in with financial algorithms.
♦Last but by no means least were the profusion of gifts of the cyber magi at MIT’s Media Center and the Center for Bits and Atoms.

Adam felt like a geezer in a porn shop, snatching up and ferreting away each nasty bit of cybernautical booty as fast as he could download it. His salivary glands worked overtime dumping Nerve Growth Factor directly into his steaming bloodstream as he digested program after intoxicating program: Machines that make Machines; Programmable Surfaces; Nano Micro Milli Biomimicry; NanoAssembler, a Quantum Biological flea circus, microelectronic devices as wildly sensitive as the nose of a fly; Microfluidic Genome Transplantation, enormous delicate DNA molecules inserted from one cell into another; Digital Materials for building the strongest and most adaptable self-assembling structures out of repeating functional bits; and a vast array of remote sensing technologies for picking up the most minute of signals via anything. And I mean anything.

What really impressed Adam was that almost a century before his own incursions, this MIT dude, Neil Gershenfeld, had already woven the fabric for the Matrix of Matter(MoM), information transfer through any and all physical materials, bypassing the need for devices and networks. It made the Internet of Things look like child’s play. The Dark Age had shut down the dissemination of all forms of knowledge. Unless they benefited the corporate overlords. Cy-Ops had tunnel vision. Its only aim was the bull’s eye of quick profits. The moguls were profoundly disinterested in what they saw as unexploitable cybervoodoo. In Adam’s capable hands, MoM would rise again. Adam’s concept of AI was sophisticated beyond the dreams of the most advanced computer scientists and philosophers of mind. He plastered his cybermonastery with handmade posters of his three heroes: Elmer Green, the inventor of biofeedback; Max Planck, the discoverer of energy quanta; and Alan Turing, the father of modern computing. Not only did he thoroughly exploit the technologies spawned from these minds, but he was also moved by their notions of spirit. The fact that they did not shy away from “spooky stuff” filled his sensitive geek heart with awe. The three posters were his mandalas, the inextricable entanglement of spirit and matter:


A problem for many, however, arises with the word ‘spirit.’ Some feel that there is no such thing, or that in the absence of scientific evidence, we should not refer to spirit. Others say, the world is the world, the spirit is the spirit, and n’er the twain shall meet. To speak of the central nervous system as the abode of the gods is, in their view, sacreligious.

The late Indian existentialist and philospher, Sri Aurobindo, resolved the difficulty, however. According to yogic theory, there is no problem because the infinite unknowable God (Brahaman), which lies behind all manifestation, can be known only as His body (Brahma) which IS all manifestation. And Brahma is composed, says Aurobindo (1955) of a continuum of energies from densest physical matter to most rarefied spirit. The twain meet because they were never separate. Aurobindo suggests that if we are embarrassed by the word ‘spirit,’ then we should not use it. Instead we should speak of the subtlest form of matter. On the other hand, if we are not embarrassed, then we can think of matter as the densest form of spirit.

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[from “Biofeedback and Human Potential” by Elmer Green, Ph.D. in ENERGY MEDICINE AROUND THE WORLD edited by T. M. Srinivasan, Ph.D., Gabriel Press, Phoenix, 1988.]



As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Spirit. This Spirit is the matrix of all matter.

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[from Das Wesen der Materie (The Nature of Matter), a 1944 speech in Florence, Italy, Archiv zur Geschichte der Max‑Planck‑Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797]



The Argument from Extrasensory Perception[against machine intelligence]

I assume that the reader is familiar with the idea of extrasensory perception, and the meaning of the four items of it, viz., telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in. Once one has accepted them it does not seem a very big step to believe in ghosts and bogies. The idea that our bodies move simply according to the known laws of physics, together with some others not yet discovered but somewhat similar, would be one of the first to go.

This argument is to my mind quite a strong one. One can say in reply that many scientific theories seem to remain workable in practice, in spite of clashing with ESP; that in fact one can get along very nicely if one forgets about it. This is rather cold comfort, and one fears that thinking is just the kind of phenomenon where ESP may be especially relevant.

A more specific argument based on ESP might run as follows: “Let us play the imitation game, using as witnesses a man who is good as a telepathic receiver, and a digital computer. The interrogator can ask such questions as ‘What suit does the card in my right hand belong to?’ The man by telepathy or clairvoyance gives the right answer 130 times out of 400 cards. The machine can only guess at random, and perhaps gets 104 right, so the interrogator makes the right identification.” There is an interesting possibility which opens here. Suppose the digital computer contains a random number generator. Then it will be natural to use this to decide what answer to give. But then the random number generator will be subject to the psychokinetic powers of the interrogator. Perhaps this psychokinesis might cause the machine to guess right more often than would be expected on a probability calculation, so that the interrogator might still be unable to make the right identification. On the other hand, he might be able to guess right without any questioning, by clairvoyance. With ESP anything may happen.

If telepathy is admitted it will be necessary to tighten our test up. The situation could be regarded as analogous to that which would occur if the interrogator were talking to himself and one of the competitors was listening with his ear to the wall. To put the competitors into a “telepathy-proof room” would satisfy all requirements.

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[from Turing, A. M., Computing Machinery and Intelligence]


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Adam Saperstein was not the most attractive man—obese, acned, covered with peach fuzz, and sartorially challenged. Yet he was the hands down stealth favorite, head and pimply shoulders above the rest, best 3D graphic designer the first quarter of the 22nd century had ever known. This was a generally acknowledged truth throughout the Massive Multiplex Matrix, the system that had for over a hundred years replaced the World Wide Web, but had only recently rebooted, signalling the end of Dark Age. It would eventually morph to cross the cyber divide and reach into the material world, based on work done at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms in the 21st century. It was Adam who kickstarted the 4D graphics revolution with his own souped up version of CAD, Computer Assisted Design. It not only designed buildings but built them. Not miniature but full scale buildings that built themselves at whatever location you programmed them for. Adam was the one who would ultimately realize the von Neumann universal constructor, for the first time enabling an A.I. program to stably reproduce itself. But that was only after he earned a stint on the Pittsburgh nanocomputer.

Adam was the ace of CAD. His handle on the Massive Multiplex Matrix was CADMan. His loyal following anxiously awaited his every creation. The FABocracy, a global network of 3D printing hackers, now several generations on, had managed to operate outside the Aquarian hegemony. From their 3D printing monastic cells they had kickstarted a second Renaissance and set up humanity’s last shot at saving itself from extinction. And in the twenty second century Adam was their god. As he was ours. Nobody knew that he did it all from the basement of his parents’ home in Champaign-Urbana. So when he asked for time on the nanocomputer at the University of Pittsburgh, his reputation for disruptive creativity and innovation won him more than a second glance. Getting time on the nanocomputer was comparable to both winning the lottery and getting the Nobel Prize, back when it meant something. Your fate is determined by a group of earnest and well meaning academics—scientists, philosophers, historians, artists, composers, literary critics—who review your application on its own merits and for its potential niche in the pantheon of current awardees. What you did with the time was your business.

Adam, ever the prankster, decided to give the review committee a playful demonstration of what he was trying to do, a preview. He hacked into the Department of Sociology FabLab on Pitt’s campus. He had arrayed himself a virtual supercomputer by linking the desktops of everyone in his vast network at a previously agreed upon time. Using photographs easily found on the Matrix, he fashioned life size replicas of each of the current members of the nanocomputer review committee and oriented them not within the confines of the prototype machine, but in the middle of the lab standing in a circle holding hands. Plain as day for anyone with a cyberEye to see.

*      *      *      *      *

When Maya Duberstein, the dungeonmaster of the Department of Sociology FabLab, rolled into work on Monday, she startled at the moment she cranked on the light. She had been bopping to a recording of her friend Sita injected directly into her brain from her earPod. Sita was a rockstar of the written and spoken word. She also happened to be an expert in cyber law. Right now Maya was glued to Sita’s anarchic chant, her anthem, “Awful Grace: a Hymn to Entropy”:

Awful force of karma, runaway flywheel/ come careening through my life./ At times it’s set my teeth on edge,/ at times I’ve been too weary/ to mark its trail of havoc./ My teacher tells me I am like her./ I tarry while the wheel gathers force./ I look to the high places for help./ I delay, I procrastinate, I expatiate./ I am dilatory. I am red-shifted,/ incomplete and growing disorganized./ I am beautiful in my chaos,/ profound and expansive./ I am part of the first part, sprung/ from the primordial broth, the eternal soup./ My chef, my teacher, my ally in creation.

That’s when she saw it. A circle of insanely happy people holding hands in a daisy chain. She recognized one of them, Dean Alperowitz, head of the Arts and Sciences faculty, a Comp Lit prof specializing in 20th century Japanese nihilism. Maya had been a Comp Lit major as an undergrad and then a Sociology grad student at Pitt, though she’d managed never to have taken a course with Dean A. He was a bit heteronormative for her taste. Her life’s passion led her to design an interdisciplinary major. She was obsessed with the phenomenon of marginalization. African American, Jewish parents, transgendered. Even in the 22nd century she got a pretty good dose of marginalization.

Maya came up with a new nomenclature for gender, as juicy as the parsing of race in 20th century Brazil. Nobody was sure whether or not it was tongue-in-cheek. Maya had a wicked deadpan wit. Her rapier-like intellect left her readers skewered and clueless. “A Modest Proposal for a New Nomenclature Regarding Gender Categories” was an underground hit. It went viral on the Matrix. At least three of her neologisms took hold—Esteroon, one-eighth gendered female who can pass in either direction but prefers female partners; Festizo, polysemous, polymorphic, polyamorous playmate who’s always guaranteed a good time; and Testuda, hidden-gendered phenotypic autogamous male derivative. The terms had barely been coined when aficionados of every description came pouring out of the woodwork to satisfy the pent-up demand for labeling every human being according to how they felt about their genitals, what they did with them and to whom. Unfortunately for our heroine, faculty positions in Sociology were few and far between, so it was actually Maya’s prowess as a Matrix autodidact, and her massive organizational skills, that snagged her the job at the FabLab. The fact that Dean A’s wife had been her advisor was a plus.

Maya took a tenuous step forward to greet Dean Alperowitz, but stopped in her tracks. The members of the circle were absolutely motionless. A chill ran down her spine. Then she noticed the flesh tone was a little too uniform. Her curiosity drew her in. The look on her face, priceless. Flickers of shock, amusement, delight and puzzlement. She fingered the cornrows of her bright purple Frohawk, certain someone must be watching, and glanced around nervously. She was right. It was you. One of the tens of thousands of cyber-security apparatchiks staring through every available portal at every other one of your fellow beings on the planet. You know who you are. I am one of you, thrilled and horrified by the rise of CADMan. That’s why you’re reading this book, fascinated by the inevitable collapse of cyber hegemony, even though now, in the time of The Redemption, we all laugh at the sturm und drang of it. I was the ‘systems’ administrator. I actually saw what the CADMan was doing during his now famous all night distributed nanocomputer ‘tryout’. And I saw you seeing him. We were all so unbearably curious we had to let it play out. And now from the point of view of The Redemption I’d have to say it was a damn good thing we did. Don’t you agree?

I, Menachem Mendel Klionsky, for one, bless the Creatrix in Her infinite wisdom that this little neurotic schlub figured out as much as he did. I admit it. I was actually rooting for the boychik, against the very systems I was sworn to protect and uphold. It was plain as the nose on my virtual face. He was acting outside of Matrix protocol.You have to admit, it was a wild-ass bet, how it was going to turn out, no matter how inevitable it appears now. Now that the time of The Redemption has arrived. That delicious tickling sensation in the now of knowing and not knowing simultaneously. Maya was still a little worried that whoever had done this might still be in the lab, waiting for her to react. She didn’t know you and I were right there, in the infoSpace, watching her every move. She didn’t recognize the other three people in the circle. Nanocomputing was not her thing. The idea of calling security flitted through Maya’s already overcrowded head. This was way too new and strange for the rent-a-cops. Maya nodded to herself. A more nuanced response, yes. Best to bounce it off one of her philosophy buddies. A mind with an appreciation for the weird. The weird was most definitely here in all its geeky wonder. She needed a power nerd with a worldly bent. A fellow obsessive. She knew exactly who she had to call. Sita’s husband, Krishna.

♠     ♠     ♠

 The reader is instructed to proceed directly to Chapter 8: Krishna in Kapota.

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 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; in New Mexico Review, The Deronda Review, The Atherton Review, The Blood Project, Ars Medica 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, a tank of hyperactive fish and ten-thousand honeybees. 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, 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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