Can Burning Man and Transhumanism Change the World?

Science fiction and dick jokes at the Burning Man Global Technology Leadership Conference. Nano-tech brain drugs that connect brains together. Jacking the internet directly into the back of your skull. Dosing monkeys with cocaine. “We’re all in a giant machine MRI machine and the CIA is reading your thoughts. No. They’re just reading your emails and Facebook posts”.

We covered this earlier in

https://burners.me/2016/04/04/former-cult-leader-says-burners-responsible-for-innovation/

Now we have video of the full presentation from the 2016 GLC. It’s entertaining, but what is the real message here?

How can Burning Man change the world? That’s the topic of this 40 minute talk, supposedly. The answer? Art projects give you a sense of awe. He took everything he learned at Burning Man and channeled it into his art (writing science fiction) because he wanted to change the world in some way. There’s about 20 seconds of this around the 20 minute mark.

He came up with a formula to explain it.

The meaning of Burning Man is the change it causes in the world.

M )'( = Δ )'(

“We are the ones we have been waiting for. That is it” got him a standing ovation.

“Tom Clancy meets Burning Man”. For anyone who watched Shadow History of Burners – Part 2, I note that the Singularity University where this guy is a professor is located at Moffett Field.

This year’s Keynote is an interesting follow up to last year’s talk on Syntheism – creating artificial gods – at the European leadership conference

“it’s not a cult”, someone yells from the back as he is describing how Burning Man is like a religion. One we’re creating ourselves…right?

The creation of Artificial Gods vision was preceded over the course of many months by Caveat Magister’s series on the Death of God

http://journal.burningman.org/2014/05/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-preface-atheism-isnt-as-easy-as-it-looks/

http://journal.burningman.org/2014/06/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-chapter-1-turns-out-money-can-buy-enlightenment/

http://journal.burningman.org/2014/06/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-chapter-2-part-1-a-mythology-pro-tip-for-atheists/

http://journal.burningman.org/2014/06/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-chapter-2-part-2-group-think-and-aesthetics/

http://journal.burningman.org/2014/07/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-chapter-3-why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-burners-spoiler-alert/

http://journal.burningman.org/2014/07/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-chapter-3-part-2-money-and-revolutions/

http://journal.burningman.org/2015/01/opinion/serious-stuff/burning-book-club-chapter-4-sweeping-the-corpse-of-god-under-the-rug-and-pretending-it-never-happened/

This year the continuing saga at the BJ is Re-imagining the relationship between art and money.

Let’s not forget Burning Man Social Alchemist Bear Kittay’s Transhumanist song that accompanied Marian’s 2014 Tokyo TED Talk

“Surrender to the memes.”

If our minds are the workshop, then who is the Da Vinci? Larry? Stuart Mangrum? Who are the patrons? If we’re just making art, how come the Leadership Conference talks about jacking our brains into the Internet in a presentation titled “can Burning Man change the world?

What does any of this have to do with the Burning Man Project?

Maybe the ideas that they have been presenting over three years of conferences is their vision for the way Burning Man changes the world. The death of god, replacing it with a new artificially created occult digital god. Humans replaced with brains in jars, connected to the Matrix. “Be your own app”.

Sounds a lot like the Alphabet Agency business plan.

Transhumanist Former Cult Leader Says Burners Responsible for Innovation

ramez naam maxresdefault

Image: YouTube

The 650 people at the 2016 Global Leadership Conference this weekend were the recipients of a keynote briefing from a cult leader. At least, a former one: now Ramez Naam is just a Burner, and award-winning science fiction author.

Image: rameznaam.com

Image: rameznaam.com

Participants in the 2016 GLC were treated Saturday morning to a visit by Ramez Naam, celebrated science fiction author, former elected fake-cult leader from the Church of Mez, and longtime Burner.

Mez’s talk challenged Burners and Burner-like humans to take on their civic responsibility as explorers and engineers of inner and outer space. “We are the ones that we have been waiting for,” Mez said.

Mez began by setting the record straight: “I just want to say I am no longer a cult leader. The cult was declared ‘morally bankrupt’,” Mez reassured us. He’s concentrating on his other exploits these days: The author of the renowned Nexus trilogy was recently awarded a Philip K. Dick award for his novel, Apex, so people are constantly congratulating him on his Dick now.

Mez’s first Burn was in ’97, and after his friends gave him a cult for his birthday, he got in pretty deep. He shared that his experiences on playa opened him up to other people in big ways, helping him overcome interpersonal anxieties and reach out to strangers in that quintessentially Burner way. Burning Man breaks down those boundaries, and Mez says this — combined with an interest in the headiest science and technology — is what has motivated him to bridge the inner and outer worlds through writing sci-fi.

Most sci-fi is about outer space, but Mez prefers to write about inner space, somewhere we all boldly go. Just like everyone else in the room at the GLC, Mez has done a great deal of inner space exploration at Burning Man events, producing insights equally valuable in sci-fi and in reality… inner and outer space are intimately connected, and human inventions are constantly widening the bandwidth of that connection. It’s no surprise that, in Mez’s view, those who explore inner space most thoroughly are the ones who drive innovation. Yes, that’s us.

Ramez is a former Microsoft employee who helped create Internet Explorer and Outlook. As well as the Philip K Dick award, Ramez has won the H G Wells award for Contributions to Transhumanism. Yes, Burning Man’s Global Leaders are being briefed on transhumanism by a cult leader. Welcome to Da Vinci’s Workshop, let us tinker with your brain…

Read the full story at the Burning man Journal

Read the step-by-step BMOrg plan for cult indoctrination here.

ramez naam 71k9GfkBfmL._UX250_

His cult, the Church of Mez, was created after his first trip to Burning Man in 1997, and ignited the Transhumanist cult revolution.

SEATTLE, Washington–February 2, 2003–Church of Mez Adjusts Earnings, Files Chapter 11. The Church of Mez today announces its intention to file an adjusted earning statement and that it has filed for protection from its debtors under chapter 11.

“Clearly, we have been morally bankrupt from the start,” said the former CEO Mez from atop a pile of chocolate covered thai hookers. “But we’ve been hiding the fact that the Church of Mez has actually been making money for years. I mean buying Oracle was just supposed to be a joke, one look at PL/SQL and we figured those jackasses would never be worth anything. We tried to hide it, but you can only burn cash in your back yard for so long before the neighbors start to talk … Larry, you bitch, find me more hookers, these ones are lazy.

“It was just one questionable investment after another,” admitted the Church CFO. “Amazon in the mid 90’s… who the hell would want to buy books on the internet? Then we started to make money on them, finally decided to sell them short in 2000, well that was a bad idea too and we had to hide another 7 billion in the back of the bus. Our fucking accountant even managed to earn us a tax credit for the hundred thousand pairs of blinky devil horns we used at burningman. And then we thought that being awarded the Playa Chicken as payment for outstanding debts was a bright spot, the disposal fees alone would be enormous, but when KFC bought him from us… well it is all just horrible.”

After a brief and drunken board meeting, all Church of Mez employees were laid off. All remaining cash assets are to be dumped into a desert porta-potty in the dead of night according to time honored Church tradition.

The Church of Mez, Inc. ignited the fringe transhumanist cult revolution in 1998 with the inception of the Church of Mez and is recommitted to its original mission–to bring big hair and loose morals to artists, scientists, computer professionals, and other miscreants in over 140 countries around the world.

For historical purposes, the original web site is still available.

This is a Church of Mez report from 1998, when Google launched at Burning Man and the theme was about a search engine sucking all the world’s data called “the Nebulous Entity”. They brought with them contracts for people to sell their souls; 150 did. Was this the same contract as the 1996 Helco one “Standard Short Form Contract for Purchase of One Soul” that Larry Harvey asked a lawyer to draft? Or are there multiple contracts for selling your soul floating around the Burner community?

If anyone has a copy of these contracts, I’d love to read them.

Dear Mommy, Daddy, all my friends and teachers, and especially little sis.

This year’s summer vacation was the best ever.  We went all the way to Venus.  Sev says we ran off and joined the circus, and one of my other friends claims we went to someplace called Nevada, but I’m dead positive that we visited another planet.  I’m sure ’cause the terrain was alien, the people were all different colors, there were huge and frightening creatures, and the name of the place – Black Rock City – doesn’t appear on any map at all.

We worked really hard on our vacation this year.  So hard I’m amazed we all stayed friends through the vacation!  We bought a rocket ship disguised as a bus and got it all gussied up for the trip.  We got ourselves a big old tent and a giant scaffolding to make a tower with and packed ’em up.  We nabbed lotsa couches and carpeting and loaded ’em on the roof rack to decorate with.  And of course, we brought lots of t-shirts and contracts to buy people’s souls with. 

Souls sure are cheap!  We brought back 150 of ’em, each one purchased for a t-shirt, condom, and fortune cookie.  Most of ’em we got pictures of in our book of souls, and all of ’em signed a contract as airtight as we could make it.  Heck, if it weren’t for the dust storm, pretty naked girls, and other distractions, I’m sure we would have filled out all of the 300 contracts we took with us.

Our camp was down on the southern (quiet) side of town, but pretty near in towards the giant MAN that ruled this strange planet.  We were right near our friend Bianca’s smut shack.  Bianca loves us, we loved her from last year, and now some of us who got carried away at Bianca’s are gonna be loved in the movies, or maybe on the web.  At least, we sure can’t think of any other uses for the kinds of pictures they got of us.

…That was okay though, ’cause we had less to carry back!  After they burned the MAN we got all excited and burned half of our furniture, along with our neighbors the giant Pez site.  Kirby and I picked up each 6 foot Pez in turn and charged out into the desert screaming “burning pez!  burning pez!” and threw it onto the massive fire.  Then we brought out Leo’s couch and Ethan’s futon and Nancy’s cage for the prodigal Fluffy and threw them all onto the fire screaming “burning mez!  burning mez!”  Now we have less stuff.

Gosh, timelines sure are hard to keep straight.  ‘Cause all the burning furniture was after the MAN burned, which was after the Temple of Rudra, which was after the Nebulous Entity, which was after the Dust Storm.

The MAN was absolutely the best.  Last year he shot fireworks out of his hands and feet as he burned.  But his year he just exploded in a giant shower of fireworks in every possible direction like a dozen fourth of july’s, shooting sparks and fire all over the people gathered below with their giant vertical flamethrowers and flare guns and flames on chains and even car engines carried on litters by slaves.  I was sure some of them were gonna be goners but I hear everyone lived.  And even after all the fireworks explosions were gone the man was burning bright.  So bright you couldn’t see his outstretched hands or widespread feet at all.  Yes siree, he was one 30-foot ball of glowing white fire for half a minute, maybe longer.  Brighter than the sun, I say.  And after all that there magnesium in his heart burnt out he was burning all aflame, redly and brilliantly, still clinging to life so dearly they had to tug on his lines to bring him crashing to earth.  “The MAN is gonna burn!” they were yelling on the megaphones beforehand, and burn he did!  And then we danced and danced and ran around his funeral pyre till our left sides were red and burnt from his heat and we were pouring sweat into our burns, then off to the Entity and home to burn what we dared of our camp!

…If the temple was a bit staid and stable, the Nebulous Entity was anything but!  We visited the Entity many a time, but it was the special night of Saturday when we got to follow in its glorious wake!  We’d gotten ourselves abducted by the aliens that serve the Entity (and had abducted one ourselves for examination) and came out to find the Entity preparing to move!  Imagine that 20′ tower of fluorescent sea-life, industrial lighting, strange tentacles, and forbidding sounds propelled by all its slaves across the playa!  Well, needless to say we were frightened, but having just been abducted no choice was ours.  We were caught in its thrall and follow we must, and glad we are to this day!  The Entity is not malignant, merely alien.  It is friendly, joyous, mischievous, and totally oblivious to human life.  Those who remain well clear of the path of its might tentacles live to return to it again.  Only those foolish enough to stand in its path as it approaches are trod upon and become fertilizer for the desert biome.

Whew, what a break from the tedious Dust Storm!  We’d been holed up in the rocket ship all day with our friends Fat Man and Little Boy, seeking shelter from the punishing wind and dust that penetrates everything…Goodness, there’s so much more to tell you about but so little time!  We took so many pictures early on yet stopped by Thursday so we could join in the fun around us.  We learned so much about physics and even more about chemistry, from the Tesla Coil and Catapult and Funnelator (where we launched broken doll parts into the desert) and from building our camp and powering our lights and playing with our neurochemicals.

We met so many lovely people, like Brandon and Bonnie who sold us their souls and their son Bean’s soul and Bonnie’s unborn child’s soul.  And our nice neighbors on either side who slept on our futons.  And the pretty girl Sarah at the Fuzzy Dice camp.  And a girl named Angel I beat at a game of hangman and who owes us her soul but never signed a contract (though she did give us water)…

Wow.  Mom, Dad, I wanna go again next year!  Only this time our camp is gonna be bigger and better and closer to center camp.  We’re gonna have even more water (300 gallons was awesome – 3000 would be better!), giant art, personal radios, banners we actually hang up, a taller tower, candles we can keep lit in high wind, more strobe lights and blacklights, a higher-bandwidth process for buying souls, pamphlets on all kinds of topics, and so much more!

Love,
your son, student, friend, and brother,

mez

p.s. – please tell Santa: next year I want a FIRE ENGINE so I can take it to Burning Man!

 

Shaft, Unicorns, and Morning Gloryville

Shaft the Unicorn. Image: Vice

Shaft the Unicorn. Image: Vice

We keep hearing from BMOrg’s spokespeople how the dusty desert rave is making the world a better place and transforming lives around the planet. It’s good to see some evidence of this happening. First we had Jared Leto bringing Burning Man to SOHO:

Image: New York Magazine

Image: New York Magazine

Now VICE brings us a documentary about Shaft, who was inspired by going to Burning Man events to self-identify as a unicorn.

When a charismatic former alcoholic named Shaft had his life changed by Burning Man, he realized that he actually identifies as a unicorn. No longer able to face the monotony of work and life in the real world, he decided to form a polyamorous and hedonistic movement with other like-minded unicorns.

Donning glittery horns and galloping through London’s streets, Shaft’s unicorns set about trying to create a free-love utopia.

But as the unicorn revolution begins to clash with the realities of life and love, some of the “glampede” became disillusioned, and Shaft’s reasons for starting this whole thing came into question.

Is this the hedonistic, free love revolution we were promised in the 60s? Or is it as fake as the unicorn horns they wear, a desperate and clever ploy by Shaft to escape his own inner loneliness by starting a cult?

It’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while.

The girl’s art around 7:30 is priceless.

Shaft says “it’s the Burning world that I got all my ideas in life from”. He means his ideas about polyamory, partying, and magical transpecies identification. He also says “I’m a massive drug addict”, with Ketamine bed parties being his particular preferred indulgence.

So here’s one way to measure the impact of Burner culture on the world. Count unicorn horns, wherever you go.

Meanwhile, Laser Unicorns brings us this surprise hit:

What’s In A Name?

Burning Man. What is it? A rave in the desert? An arts festival? A Temporary Autonomous Zone? An experiment in new ways of living together as a community, relying on each other to survive, without the trappings and comforts of modern society? The world’s biggest occult ritual?

Or is it a giant drug- and sex- fuelled Bacchanalian orgy of debauchery?

If you ask me, it’s all of the above. But to most of the world, it’s the latter.

simpsons cup cakesRecently The Simpsons, one of the world’s most popular TV shows, went to Burning Man – or, as they called it, “Blazing Guy”. One of the show’s directors, Tubatron, is a long-time Burner. Many Burners were excited to see our favorite magical event portrayed in a TV show that has been running about as long as Burning Man itself has. I remember watching the Simpsons on the Tracey Ullman show when I was a teenager, before it became its own show on Fox and part of the fabric of mainstream society. Was this part of the Burning Man Project’s mission to spread Burner culture around the world? They’d held workshops on The Ten Principles in Education, and how businesses could learn from the Ten Principles in the sharing economy. Would we now see the Ten Principles go global, on one of the world’s most famous and successful TV shows?

Sadly, no. They chose to highlight the drugs. We saw infant Maggie playing with a MOOPed syringe that she’d picked up on the ground. The main storyline of the episode was Marge being dosed with a hallucinogen without her knowledge: one of the absolute WORST things you can do to someone anywhere, and the complete opposite of what Burner culture is about. She trips off her face, gets all horny with Homer, and overall seems to have a positive experience. Most Burners are portrayed as rude, shady, ego-driven characters.

This year also saw two famous political figures attending Burning Man for the first time. Former Presidential candidate, Democrat Denis Kucinich gave interviews on the Playa, and a political speech. Tax-reformer and Republican party puppetmaster Grover Norquist gave interviews before he went, tweeted from the Playa, and then went on a PR tour to promote his involvement in Burning Man.

What did the press want to talk about? The Ten Principles? The amazing art? How Burning Man is saving the world?

No. It was the drugs and the nudity.

We recently ran a poll asking Burners if they had ever done illegal drugs at Burning Man. I realized that if I just asked “Yes/No”, there would be many readers who had never been to the annual Nevada burn. As it turns out, about a quarter of respondents. Of those who had, 90% had done illegal drugs there.

Screenshot 2014-12-06 12.06.05

Is Burning Man about drugs? Undoubtedly. Can you go there without taking drugs? Sure, and about 1 in 10 do – around 6000 people. To put this in perspective, 10% of Burners visited the Orgy dome. There are about as many people having a sober burn than there are indulging in a public orgy. It’s worth noting with these statistics that there are at least 4000 children at Burning Man, hopefully not doing drugs, and hopefully not visiting the orgies.

San Francisco has always been pretty tolerant of drugs. BMOrg’s founders don’t seem to care. Larry Harvey has publicly acknowledged having hallucinogenic experiences before. John Perry Barlow, who was promoted by the Org in their “The Founders Speak” event in 2013, is a very public advocate of hallucinogenic drugs – it was a fundamental part of the whole “Deadhead” scene. Michael Mikel spoke publicly about his drug use at a community event in San Mateo earlier this year, saying “we had access to stuff direct from the Stanford Chemistry Lab”. The crowd laughed approvingly.

The spectrum of illegal drugs at Burning Man runs from medical marijuana, which even if prescribed by a doctor in Nevada is illegal on the Federal land underneath Burning Man; to exotic designer drugs, which get medical papers written about them. Sasha Shulgin, the regular Burner, Berkeley chemist and Bohemian Grove sax player who passed away this year, is considered the “father of Ecstasy”, and credited with popularizing that drug in the US. He isolated more than 200 different drugs in his career, wrote many books about them, and collaborated with the DEA.

For many Burners, whether or not they actually take drugs at the event doesn’t matter. By going to Burning Man, they get tainted with the stigma. A recent Black Rock City census poll asked:

bmtelldefault

 

The majority of Burners never mention that they’ve been to the event in the public space. Many don’t even tell their friends and family that they go.

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Their professional life is the largest category requiring secrecy.

 

playaname

Do people use their Playa name outside Burning Man, or do they keep it a secret?

playanametell

 

 

Only about a quarter have ever used their Playa name publicly:

playanamepublicspace

As you can see, the majority of Burners do not tell their Playa name to their non-burner colleagues, friends, or even family members. Why not? Because of the reputation of Burning Man: drugs, nudity, and extreme sex.

Most of the “unique” aspects of Burning Man are modelled on Bohemian Grove. Nicknames at the event, theme camps, a ban on commerce, an effigy burn, robed lamplighters, educational workshops, corporate networking opportunities. Burning Man is much closer in its nature to Bohemian Grove, than it is to any other EDM Festival. The use of nicknames at Bohemian Grove evolved because the event was started by a bunch of journalists working for Hearst newspapers, and theatrical performers from the predominantly male San Francisco of the late 19th century. The Captains of Industry who financed the thing, wanted to let loose “without Care” and without their antics being reported by the press when they got back home.

Even most of Burning Man’s 6 founders prefer to interact with the public primarily through different identities than their birth names. “Crimson Rose” is really “Nanci Peterson”. “Harley Dubois” was called “Harley Bierman” when the event began. ” Will Roger” is really “Will Peterson”. And “Danger Ranger” also goes by the unlikely moniker of “Michael Mikel”, often shortened to “M2”. This extends to their management team too: their Social Alchemist “Evan Kittay” goes by “Bear”, one guy calls himself “$teven Ra$pa”. Then we have names we recognize from the Burning Blog Voices of Burning Man, like Halcyon, Answer Girl, Caveat Magister.

“Burner Names” or “Playa Names” are a popular and accepted part of Burning Man’s culture, and have been for a long time. That’s cool, right?

Well in the early hours of yesterday morning, Burning Man founder “Danger Ranger” decided to publicly “out” me. If I wanted to keep my corporate identity separate from my Burning Man life, he would take that privilege away from me. And in the process, maliciously slur me with lies.

Before I even went to Burning Man, I had a nickname. Pretty much everyone in my family, and almost all of my friends, call me “Saus”. I named the first company I started after my nickname, “Sausage Software”. I owned the domain name sausage.com, and wrote software for making Web pages called HotDog. In 1997, Wired magazine named HotDog as the third most downloaded piece of software on the Internet – after Netscape, the only real browser of the time, and Eudora, the only real mail application of the time.

I started the company in my bedroom when I was 22, and down to my last $18. 16 months later I took it public, it was the first Internet company to list on the Australian Stock Exchange. I became the youngest ever CEO of a public company, taking a record Rupert Murdoch (who inherited his Dad’s business) had held since the 1950’s.

When I went to Burning Man for the first time in 1998, I had already built my own community of more than 1 million people. By the time I left the business in 2000, retiring at age 26, this had grown to 3 million. We had more than 800,000 active users, who were using the product at least once a month. This community went on to become Sitepoint, which is still the largest webmaster community in the world, and regularly in the Top 1000 websites. We competed with some of the biggest and most powerful companies in the industry: IBM, Adobe, Symantec, Microsoft. HotDog was the #2 product in its category, beaten only by Microsoft’s FrontPage – which was given away for free with Office, the world’s most widely used business application.

In 2000, I sold the company just after the famous “dot com crash” for $700 million. Our peak market cap was $1.7 billion, so one way to look at that is we lost a billion dollars. But I think most people would say to go from nothing to a $700 million exit in 5 years was a pretty good run for a kid in his twenties with no experience, money or family connections. At the time of the sale, I had created 1200 jobs and enabled hundreds of thousands of people around the world to earn a living building web sites – a profession that didn’t even exist in February 1995 when I started. Back then, there was no Amazon, no e-commerce, the browser (Netscape/Mozilla) was free software from a college not a company, and Yahoo was a list of web sites, not a search engine. We played a major role in making the web easy and accessible to people in more than 200 countries. We gave our software away for free to schools and sold site licenses incredibly cheaply to colleges. In fact, I gave it away for free to anyone – for the first 30 days. After that, you had to pay. I called it “the heroin model” – we get you hooked for free, then you love it so much you’ll gladly give us your money. The basic version of our product cost $29 and the professional one was $99. 75% of our sales were for the more expensive product, which had more features.

Some of the “Black Rock City Communist Party” at burningman.com have said anyone with money didn’t make it, they stole it. It’s hard to see where my theft was. I made a dozen people working for me millionaires – a common practice these days in the tech industry, where Twitter’s IPO was estimated to create 1600 millionaires from its staff, but practically unheard of in Australia at the time. Many of my founding team have gone on to great success since, with Sitepoint/99 Designs, Hitwise, Reactive, and Urbanise – another company I founded, which went public 3 months ago.

I’ve heard countless stories since my first IPO from ordinary people who saw me on TV and believed in my vision, bought stock, and were able to pay off their mortgage. The stock was $0.08 at its lowest, and $8.20 at its highest. After Sausage’s IPO, we raised $130 million from corporate investors Intel, Telstra, and St George Bank, and turned that into more than $500 million for those guys in less than 2 years. The company that bought us, SMS Management and Technology, paid a fair price and got an amazing amount of value – the most elite technical team in the Southern Hemisphere.

How is any of that theft? And how does any of that make me a “bad Burner”?

It’s almost 3 years since I started Burners.Me, and I’ve never told this story before. I’ve never made a big deal about who I am, what I’ve accomplished in my career, or what I do in my “day job”. I haven’t exactly gone out of my way to hide it, either – my photo appears with every comment I make, and I’ve talked about some of the charities and companies I’m involved with before. I wrote under the pseudonym “burnersxxx” – why xxx? Because I’m only interested in talking to adults, and I believe the drugs, nudity, and sex of Burning Man are not suitable for children (not to mention Playa lung, Playa foot, and the other harsh physical realities of the environment). Political correctness might have its place in the world, but not on my blog. I want to speak frankly, coarsely sometimes, and about adult themes.

Why try to keep my professional life separate from my time at Burning Man? It’s because of the reputation of the event – one which, according to the information I’ve published above, is well deserved. I am an investor in many different businesses, that employ thousands of people. I have a number of investments in the security space, an area that is notoriously conservative. Some of the technologies my teams have developed over the years required a Munitions Export license (for military grade cryptography), which means vetting by the Department of Defense. I travel extensively around the world, and for certain countries have to go through complicated processes to get visas. I have a lot of business activity in the Middle East, specifically all the Emirates of the UAE, Bahrain, and Oman. Some of these places are governed by strict Islamic sharia law, where not even alcohol is permitted – and drugs are a death sentence. In Dubai, “bringing drugs into the country” includes drugs that are in your system because, for example, you smoked prescription marijuana a week before. Holding hands with your wife in public can get you thrown in jail. I have always felt that a public association between my corporate identity and Burning Man could make it harder for me to do deals in these places. Not only that – it would make life harder for the many people who work for me, who have nothing to do with Burning Man and no desire to go. “Guilt by association”, people who are completely innocent being affected by my personal life.

Well, now Danger Ranger, a man living under a pseudonym, with a 14-year “black hole” in his LinkedIn resumé, has decided to take that away from me. Why? Apparently, to take some of the Burner community’s quite legitimate heat off the founders and their Board of Directors.

If you believed the trolls, you’d think I’m somehow embarrassed about who I am and what I’ve accomplished in my life, but this is hardly the end of the world for me. After re-engaging with business life again more than a decade ago to build up facilities management software company Urbanise (formerly Majitek), I stepped down from their board in February, and it went public without me in September. I own a bunch of stock, but no longer have anything to do with the company. At 41, I’ve pretty much retired for the second time. For the last 18 months, I have been writing a book about the “Dark Side of Utopia”, which I always intended to publish under my own name, rather than a pseudonym. The choice of where and when to link this blog with my research has now been taken away from me, but I’m going to do my best to turn that into a positive. I’m starting to get sick of only writing about Burning Man, anyway. I used to believe in them, used to drink the Kool Aid, but the more research I’ve done, and the more of the actions of this group that I’ve chronicled, the more the cult-like indoctrination has worn off. I see things now as they really are, and it’s disheartening.

This story should be a lesson to anyone else in the 55% of Burners who don’t tell the public they go to the festival. Your privacy means nothing. Your career means nothing. The truth means nothing. Speak out against the “Almighty Borg”, and they will have no hesitation about doing whatever they think they can to hurt you. This year has seen a spate of suicides in the wake of the event – 3 from DPW, I believe. This is nothing new, it has been happening for a while, and like so many other things with this cult, gets hushed up and swept under the rug. They are the only organization since Adolf Hitler’s Nazis to employ a full-time “Minister of Propaganda” – yes, that is really Will Chase’s title. And look at the spin that comes out of them. “Oh we listened to your concerns! Now Commodification Camps have to go through the placement team!” This was already their policy. “We’ve discontinued our Donation Tickets program” – which only happened because we caught them red-handed. They tried to deny it, and Burners sent us more evidence. Then they tried to ignore it. Eventually, when they realized this wasn’t working, they came clean and admitted it – but tried to hide it in a bunch of verbiage saying “we’ve always had a Holiday pre-sale program”. No matter that they don’t even try to pretend this is so Burners can buy tickets to Gift at Christmas any more.

And what of the rich? We waited 3 months to get some kind of statement from BMOrg about Commodification Camp concerns, and what did Larry Harvey say?

Wealth is a straw man issue.

And then what did Danger Ranger do, that very night? Talk about attacking the Straw Man.

Look! The Goodyear blimp!

Look! The Goodyear blimp!

He posted on Facebook at 1 in the morning. It seemed like he was doing what the community was asking for – calling out their Director Jim Tananbaum for running a for-profit Commodification Camp, despite the strict wording in the Burning Man Project’s Bylaws about volunteer directors profiting from the activities of the group, and the requirement that all Directors uphold the Ten Principles. But reading the fine print, as we are forced to do with these propagandists, showed that really he wasn’t throwing Tananbaum under the bus at all. He was giving him a pass “oh, he lost tens of thousands” – which implies that his goal from the beginning was profit, because otherwise it would be “he gifted tens of thousands” – something many of us have done at Burning Man, without charging $17,000/head, bussing in Mistresses of Merriment to entertain our high rollers, and creating elaborate wristband-only cocktail lounges complete with paid sherpas and drinks menus. Instead, Danger Ranger blamed all the problems of Caravancicle on the camp’s producer, who he then accused of embezzlement.

No, in a classic case of misdirection, it was actually ME that Michael Mikel (if indeed that is his real name) chose to throw under the bus. Not just by “outing” me with my real name, which I have never used publicly in relation to Burning Man; but by spreading outright lies about me. Because this is a Burning Man founder, owner, and director, his words are more than just some cranky Burner on the Internet. They are taken as gospel by many in the community.

He said:

 

Screenshot 2014-12-06 11.32.09

I immediately addressed his concerns, saying:

Screenshot 2014-12-06 11.34.50

But it seems it was too late. The nearly 70-year old former Navy seaman, infiltrator of cults and neo-nazi groups, defacer of billboards, builder of robots, underground explorer, had gone to bed. That didn’t stop many other Internet trolls from piling on the hate.

I stayed there until the early hours of the morning, addressing the issues raised. Hoping that Danger Ranger would respond. I messaged him privately. The trolling escalated. People started posting personal photos from my Facebook page. I told them they didn’t have permission, and asked them to take them down. Some did, others went and made dedicated web sites just to post my personal photos.

Finally, about 9 am, Danger Ranger appeared again commenting on his post. “Great!”, I thought. “Surely this person, who is posting under a pseudonym, with a legal responsibility as a Director to uphold the Ten Principles and act ethically, will at least respect my request to keep my corporate identity out of his rant! Maybe he will even realize that he was misinformed, and remove the lies!” But no, Danger ignored me and just responded to other commenters. Then, I was locked out. I couldn’t get into his post any more. Some loyal readers have since told me that he then went through the comments on his post and simply deleted mine. Suddenly, his account was suspended.

I was instantly blamed for doing it. For the record: NO, I didn’t report Danger Ranger for using a fake name on Facebook. This happened to me about a month ago, and has been happening to many users on the Burning Man Facebook group – which now has no admins, thanks to people reporting pseudonyms there. Most of the admins there used pseudonyms. Facebook has a “real names” policy, and like it or not, rules are rules. Since I joined Facebook in 2007, I’ve met about a thousand people all around the world who only know me as “Zos”. No matter, I was forced to change my name. This really sucks, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone a founder of Burning Man, an event that I love so much I’ve spent three years of my life writing about it for free. As a gift, because I’m shit at art but I know a thing or two about the Internet.

I was on Danger Ranger’s facebook group for hours, trying to clear up his false statements about me. It makes no sense that I would do that, if I wanted to report his account.

But the blame continued. And Danger Ranger, rather than correcting his lies, used his official power as a Burning Man director to up the attacks on me. He commented on blog.burningman.com at 9:12am, and his comment got picked up by known troll Simon of the Playa at 9:14am on ePlaya (to his credit, Simon removed my corporate name from the post, which is required by ePlaya’s terms of service). I’ve also heard that Danger Ranger’s post was then sent out to thousands of people via their Regionals mailing list.

BMOrg changed their blog to allow replies to comments. Propaganda Minister Will Chase, and Communications Director Megan Miller, were all over the blog responding to comments. I replied to Danger Ranger, once again correcting the false statements.

Screenshot 2014-12-06 11.42.14

They could have edited the message so it was less of a personal attack on me, but still critical of Burners.Me. Instead they said:

Screenshot 2014-12-05 19.38.09

 

So there you have it, folks. Straight from the horse’s mouth. Truth doesn’t matter to BMOrg. The founders can openly lie, just to smear someone’s reputation, and they feel no need to correct it. Things BMOrg write on the “Voices of Burning Man” don’t have to be 100% factually accurate, no matter who it’s coming from.

The troll attacks against me have continued – funny, given that I am the one accused of trolling. This post is long enough as it is, so I’m going to write about that in more detail later for those who are interested.

If other wealthy, successful people out there are reading this, be warned. “What happens on the Playa, stays on the Playa” is a myth. This cult has thousands of volunteers at its disposal, tattooing their logo on their bodies, ready to go to extreme lengths to do their bidding and cultivate “borg points”. This NPD-driven CULTure provides a convenient “plausible deniabillity” to the instigators, who can operate through unseen proxies. The founders have shown that they have no qualms about slandering their customers, and will not show respect for truth or privacy. This comes straight from the top. Associate with this group at your peril, and donate your money to their tax-exempt structure if you must – but if you think you’re making the world a better place by taking drugs at a rave, well I have a rainbow bridge in the desert I can sell you.

One thing I always loved about Burning Man is people didn’t ask “what do you do?” or “where do you live?” or “what car do you drive?” For a brief while, 20 years ago, I was kinda famous in Australia and New Zealand. There’s almost nothing good that comes with fame, it’s pretty much all downside. At Burning Man, I could relax and party without having to deal with muckraking journalists trying to “expose me” and drive my company’s share price down, making life harder for all my employees. The Burner I was talking to could be one of the long-term unemployed, but rather than sitting on their ass smoking dope, had worked for months scraping together used materials to create an amazing piece of art. Or they could be growing the dope, and using some of the funds to build some incredible fire-breathing apparatus with their engineering skills. They could be the founder of a tech company, or a famous actor, or a politician, or a trust-fund kid who spends their life working on charitable projects. I didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. We were all the same. We were all Burners, using the same port-a-potties and choking on the same dust storm. Having fun together at a party that we’d all traveled miles into the middle of nowhere to enjoy.

Some have tried to paint the Commodification Camp issue as a “class war”, advocating everything from vandalism and arson to violence as the appropriate response – in the process, deflecting protests away from First Camp, and towards anyone in a nice RV. Certainly, there is an “anti-tech” element in San Francisco today, driven by escalating real estate prices and the loss of housing that has been subsidized through rent control (a concept alien to most of the world). Some are making fortunes in real estate and tech, while others are being forced to move from neighborhoods that have gentrified to places they can still afford. They wait in line for public transport, and see happy, successful young people getting onto buses to take them to booming tech companies – and decide that is someone else’s fault. This really should have nothing to do with Burning Man. Up until now,  I thought that those saying “eat the rich” and “Burning Man is the front lines of the revolution” were just a few kooks. I didn’t think it was a deep part of the ethos of the event, at which I’ve met some of the richest people in the world.

But Larry Harvey saying “wealth is a straw man”, followed by Danger Ranger trying to single me out as some sort of hypocrite for having default world success, shows that this goes all the way to the top. Perhaps because they’re a “non-profit”, they think they can cash out of the event with millions while pretending to still be “part of the people”. Perhaps they have to cultivate this charade to encourage thousands of volunteers to build their $30 million event for free. Maybe there’s a split on the board, with Danger and his cronies wanting to go back to their anarchist punk cacophony “Satanists with guns” roots, while Larry and Marian and Bear court the world’s billionaires and venture capitalists and Presidential candidates.

From my perspective, I still don’t think it matters. I’ve burned sleeping in a car, I’ve burned in the most extreme luxury you can imagine (a post for another day). For the last 4 Burns, it’s been my year 2000 Fleetwood RV that went to Burning Man – the only RV I’ve ever owned. I’ve gifted tickets to friends, and I’ve traded tickets to people who drove so that I could drink. I’ve bought flights from overseas for friends and family to join me at Burning Man, and paid camp dues for them. So what? How does this make me a bad Burner?

For three years, I have contributed my art – such as it is – to this community. Not just for a week, but pretty much every day. I’ve given my time for free, on top of what I’d done previously: helping to fund art cars and art projects and logistics, and gifting the experience to virgins. For that, I get called a “troll” and all kinds of other names. And I get the Directors of Burning Man bringing their drug orgy into contact with my corporate career, which will have no real affect on me in my retirement, but could potentially hurt many people around the world who’ve never been to Burning Man and never would.

I go out of my way to provide links and references to all the claims I make on this site. It takes a long time to do this. I have always invited anyone to come here and comment, whether they agree or disagree. If they update me with new information, I change my stories. I take the time to respond to almost every single comment – even the trolls.

Meanwhile, Burning Man’s founders simply LIE about someone in their community, and have no concern whatsoever to correct it, or provide any evidence of their claims. They barely speak to the riff-raff, preferring to trot out their volunteers to cop the flak and their media team to dispense the spin. It takes months to get anything that even remotely looks like a straight answer from them. Many of their people are made to sign non-disclosure agreements and prevented from commenting on social media.

I share my opinions here, sure. That’s the whole point of a blog. I discuss what people are saying on the Internet about Burning Man, I chime in on the conversation with what I think about it all. I know that not everyone agrees with my opinions: I never asked them to, or expected them to. Does that mean I don’t have a right to express them, just because some don’t agree? Of course not. Freedom of speech still means something in the USA – a country I have a visa to live and work in because of investing in startups and creating jobs. This site is coming up on 1400 posts, and I stand by pretty much all of them. About 10% were written by others, so I can’t include those – but I am still proud of them, and glad to have shared them.  Many of our detractors say that we publish misinformation, to which I reply “please provide an example”. So far, none of them have been able to produce any examples. Seriously – out of 1400 posts, you can’t provide ONE? So is it really misinformation, or is that just an unfounded slur? Sure, I publish rumors and speculation: but I tell you when it’s that. I treat my readers as smart enough to make up their own minds. Over 90% of our articles are positive, but they’re not the ones that get the most shares – leading to a situation where people who don’t even read this blog, complain about how negative it all is because that’s what’s showing up from Burners.Me in their Facebook news feed. The ratio of positive and entertaining posts is even higher than 90% on our Facebook page.

As for “trolling” and “sock puppets” – it’s something I deal with a lot, but have never employed myself. Why would I? What would the possible motivation be? I already have my own, massive audience. Why would I go to the trouble of researching and fact-checking everything I write, if I was just going to make unfounded attacks under multiple false identities on other peoples’ sites? How does that benefit me in any way? On the other hand, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see what the motivation would be for BMOrg and their cadre of loyal volunteers to cast aspersions about me under fake names, and try to address facts and figures with lies and smears.

This site has more truth about Burning Man than any other on the Internet. Don’t believe the smear campaign: we do our homework, we publish references to our claims, we deal in FACTS. Even if the truth is sometimes not what the sparkle ponies want to hear.

Would Burning Man have stopped their Donation Tickets program, if we – thanks to leaks from our own loyal readers – hadn’t exposed it? I highly doubt it. Hopefully there will be more positive changes to come in the future. Maybe they will up the efficiency of their charity, and do more good with it. Maybe they will consider making ethics, integrity, and honesty part of their corporate culture.

Like many of my endeavors, Burners.Me has been successful. Across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress, we have nearly 120,000 followers. Our audience is spiking again over the last couple of days thanks to all the publicity, which I doubt was Danger Ranger’s intention in attacking me. I don’t profit from this site in any way, it is totally free, and totally brought to you at my expense.

This year we set new traffic records. A single post I did on Facebook went to nearly 1.2 million people; the same story on the web was viewed by more than a million people over 2 days. In August, 1,512,864 people visited this site. We had the #1 most read story and #1 most seen blog on WordPress, out of 42 million. We’re regularly in the Top 100 of both categories. We’ve been quoted as a credible source by the New York Times, among many others. We’re usually reaching more than 1 million people per week on Facebook. They can smear me, but they can’t shut me up – and a lot of people are doing their own research, looking into the facts for themselves instead of blindly accepting the corporate spin, and waking up.

1 million on facebook

Where do we go from here? I still plan to write about Burning Man, and Burner culture. The more they attack me, the more I get motivated to expose. I’ve heard they have an “Access Control List” of people banned from the event, and some online critics are on it. If it includes anyone, I’d think it would be me – punished without trial or recourse, guilty of nothing but loving the event, and wanting its management group to be accountable for their words and actions.

BMOrg to me is looking increasingly desperate, a formerly great lion thrashing around in its death throes. Maybe they can pull a rabbit out of a hat, salvage their crumbling credibility, and preserve the awesomeness of this culture through their transition. Or maybe, like many startups, the money comes in, the Founders become less relevant, and the soul goes away. Maybe the long awaited transparency will come, and Larry & Co will look like saints. Or perhaps the skeletons will pile up in the closet until the “fetid ossuary” (thanks Reb!) can no longer be contained. Perhaps there will be amusing, Cacophonist pranks on the Playa against First Camp; or perhaps there will be anarchist attacks and criminal assault and destruction of property against anyone with a flash RV. Maybe they can grow and improve the culture, through Regionals and acculturation of virgins. Maybe veteran Burners were never meant to continue being part of Burning Man anyway, and it will be no great loss to the culture without them – bringing the Principles to virgins will make the world better, than letting the people who’ve made the party what it is keep coming back for more. Maybe enough veterans will be interested in preserving what we’ve all made together, to start something fresh and new, fair and open.

Elon Musk said “Burning Man IS Silicon Valley”, and that to me is the more interesting story. What’s the real history of Silicon Valley, and how does Burning Man fit into that? How do drugs and cults fit into that? Where is technology going, now that Google is becoming SkyNet, and the government is intruding into our private lives in ways we’ve never before imagined? What hope is there for humanity, in the Age of Artilects, cyborgs, and transhumanism?

Pile onto the Burners.Me hate parade if you want. If you want to be that guy, then slander my professional identity, steal my private photos to paste all over the Interwebz, dredge up whatever dirt others have published and post links to it. It’s nothing I haven’t encountered before, I’ve dealt with plenty of lawyers and been in plenty of lawsuits. Heard plenty of fat jokes. Unfortunately, it’s something that goes with the territory, as I think most successful people can tell you. The world is full of jealous and petty people, who if they can’t achieve anything themselves, want to point the finger of blame outwards towards others. If someone drives past them in a shiny Ferrari, these people say “look at that asshole”. I still believe Burners are different. While I’m no longer drinking the Kool Aid BMOrg are pissing into our mouths, I do believe in Burners. Burners are some of the smartest, coolest, funniest, most talented people in the world. If anyone can make the world a better place, it’s Burners. Thanks for all your support, and I hope together we can make this site more interesting and positive in the future.

– Zos


 

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Reallocate

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Sea Shepherd Society

Wildlife Warriors

 

2010 zos head shot burning man