Hypernormalisation

A fascinating new documentary created for the BBC iPlayer video platform features some great footage of a young John Perry Barlow. It traces the last 40 years of history through a counter-cultural lens.

“You were so much a part of the system that it was impossible to see beyond it…the fakeness was hypernormal”

Building the Revolutionary Community (Again)

“Take a moment to drop in, and imagine the world that you want to co-create.”

That’s the Burning Man 2.0 message, sent to me today by Social Alchemist Bear Kittay. He’s just given a talk – combined with escalating soothing live backing rhythms of digiridu and Ableton to emphasize his Esalen workshop-honed points – to the techno-hipster elite of Berlin at the 2016 Tech Open Air Inter-disciplinary Technology Festival

No offense to Bear, but the backing music reminds me of the Wayans Brothers movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

 

Bear says:

Creating physical spaces to prototype the design of our new civilization…That’s what we’re doing at these conferences and these festivals. We experience these immersive ways of life and we re-imagine who we are, what’s most important to us, how we should be reallocating our resources – through experience, through art, through participatory culture

Hmmm…so we’re not just tripping out and trying to find Dancetronauts?

BMOrg told us they’d bought Fly Ranch on June 10 2016.

6 weeks later, on July 21, they revealed some of the donor names:

The individuals that contributed funding for the purchase have one thing in common: they have been deeply moved and changed by their involvement in Burning Man, and they are invested in the future of this culture. One of our early supporters and driving forces behind this project is Burning Man Project Board Member Chip Conley (AirBnB), who has shared his motivations for contributing to this project on Fest300. Another is Ping Fu (3D Systems), who, like so many of you, is a dreamer and a maker. Her reasons for giving inspire all of us, and we have been working with Ping, Chip and others to share the reasons they felt called to contribute to this project.

Other donors you may hear from in the coming weeks and months include: Joe Gebbia (AirBnB Chief Product Officer), Bill Linton (ProMega – therapeutic magic mushrooms), Rob and Kristin Goldman (Facebook VP Product), Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil), Farhad Mohit (Flipagram) and Nushin Sabet, Alex Moradi (ICO Group – Real Estate), Graham Schneider (Real Estate)  and Jonathan Teo (Binary Capital: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat). A handful of donors have asked to remain anonymous, and we absolutely respect that choice. Just like in Black Rock City, we also celebrate and honor anonymous giving.

Thanks to everyone who donated. 12 names. Did they all give half a mil each, leaving 1 slot unaccounted for? Or did they all kick in $100k, and some Anonymous group wrote a check for the remaining $5.3 million?

Screenshot 2016-07-29 22.39.17

For all we know, El Chapo, Google or the Rothschilds are funding it.

Who pays the utilities and operating expenses? What’s the business model…or is it all just donation-supported, like public access television and radio? We’re coming up on two months since the big announcement – with Burning Man looming, and now opening earlier than ever – and this is the first we’ve heard of what they actually plan to do with the joint. We’ll probably have to wait til 2017 now for further details.

Bear described the vision:

bear canada

Image: Facebook

The overall valley is roughly the size of Manhattan – 20 square miles. Our property is 3800 acres, it includes beautiful hot springs, hot lakes that hundreds can swim in, and geysers, and a very very large Playa, this open tabula rasa, this context for re-imagining our civilization.

So now we own this property year round in the non profit organization. It’s really a gift for the community by the community. It’s been funded completely philanthropically by a group of Patrons who believe that the process of us coming together as a community and experimenting with what could happen there isn’t just something that’ll happen at this site at Fly Ranch, but ultimately that having these semi-permanent locations that are owned by community groups so that year round iterations in the same template much as we develop these technology tools that we can get one step closer, bringing more and more people into the experience of co-creating and manifesting what will work as we re-imagine and re-invent our civilization. Welcome to Fly Ranch. This is a new era for Burning Man. This is a gift from the Burning Man community as a social experiment for humankind in the 21st century.

I have to say I’m not really enlightened much further about what exactly will be going on out there in one of the most remote parts of the United States. OK, some rich people bought the pitch and ponied up the $6.5 million. Now what? Will there be art cars? DJs?

As fun as Burning Man is, I am still waiting for them to explain how living in the desert with porta-potties but no showers or clean drinking water on tap, no money and no trashcans is the new model for humanity. There are already billions on the planet living in those conditions, and I think we would be better served directing our energies towards helping them rise out of it, instead of turning our civilization backwards so we can join them!

What are the gifts that the Burning Man Project will bestow upon humankind from their desert base? Neo-feudalism? Blowjob Workshops? Group masturbation to childrens cartoons? Black Lives Matter?

Some of the many events on offer in the 2016 Playa Events Guide

Some of the many events on offer in the 2016 Playa Events Guide

Screenshot 2016-07-29 21.56.37

2015 black lives matter

2015 black rock lives matter

thanks to Parker for this photo

Image: Parker; from a prior year. Is she doing the devil horns? What’s up with that extra hand?

childrens story time vibrator

I mean, I’m sure this is fun and all…but is this really the next evolutionary step for civilization? Humanity depends on this? The future of Burning Man is to have all this sort of thing going on year round?

Today I was also lucky enough today to attend – if only for a short time – WIlliam Binzen’s exhibition at the Smith Andersen gallery in San Anselmo.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 22.11.01

Marin County is old timers like me (43). The Mission and 666 Alabama is where the young hipsters like Bear and the BMOrg 2.0 coterie hang out network. Tonight’s crowd skewed more towards hip replacement than:

man bun fedora

 

…but having said that, we were among the last to arrive and first to leave. Anyway, I managed to catch an equivalent segment of the talks in length to Bear’s presentation. It felt like the guts of it, if anyone who was there has a better video or recording please share. [Aside: As always at these things, like with my shaky phone recording of Eric Schmidt at Further Future 2016, there are dozens of professional looking cameras filming it but nobody ever shares, even on commercial videos. So who are all these people? And why are they recording?]

chris radcliffI couldn’t see the stage but I believe this is William Binzen talking and then John Law. They mention Chris Radcliff “imposing fellow with an SKS”…a name that has been erased from the official Burning Man history. You will hear about Cris(tina) in a future Shadow History episode. Part 4 is being edited now, Part 5 is coming soon, here’s Parts One, Two, and Three and my debunking of the first challenge to my research.

It is interesting to hear the similar words and themes between the Burning Man 2016 future vision and what was going on at the Playa before Black Rock City LLC and The Burning Man Project ™ showed up. One of the many tributary streams that flowed into the city that was created for BMOrg to take over and steer toward the future. A future of ever increasing ticket prices, vehicle permits and monetizable transactions. It’s not just the future of Burning Man…it’s the future of civilization itself. That’s what these people are going to be designing at Flysalen. No votes. No transparency. No details. No plans. No vision. Anonymous donors giving untold millions. Unknown names making the list of items to check off. Details and vision not made up as we go, but “coming soon” once they’ve been cleared by the suits…

I wish I could have stayed longer tonight and mingled with what looked to be an amazing crowd. The real people who built Burning Man. I wish it was that crowd that was steering our culture towards the future, not a bunch of starry eyed Millenials with 3 Burns under their belt. Maybe I’m just getting old…

 

 

hero's journey

Silicon Valley’s Secret Weapon: The Shadow History of Burners Part 2

Part 1 is here and the presentation is here.

In part 2, we lay out some of the Where and When of this story. It’s free, amateur content, based on Open Source Intelligence. Please forgive some minor slips of the tongue; references for the claims are in the notes to each slide.

You can download the presentation as a PowerPoint with detailed notes and citations or as a PDF of the slides and a PDF of the notes.

Please download and share this video widely, they are trying to suppress it.

 

One error – although Jim Channon was involved in promoting the concept of Be All You Can Be, credit for coming up with the phrase should go to his Task Force Delta colleague Frank Burns.

The Truth About Da Vinci [Update]

Given how precious some members of BMOrg are about people sharing on social media, the choice of “Da Vinci’s Workshop” as next year’s theme is somewhat ironic. Why? Because Leonardo Da Vinci was probably the greatest plagiarist of all time.

The popular theory of history is that Da Vinci was an amazing genius. A painter most famous for the “is she smiling or not” Mona Lisa, he also created 3d perspective. He invented the helicopter; locks in canals; the siege tower; tanks; machine guns; and a broad range of other mechanical devices.

flash devilHow could one man, a bastard sodomite pauper whose only formal education was in painting, single-handedly come up with all of this innovation? Was he the greatest genius who ever lived? Or did he get some help? From his Demons, perhaps?

One theory seems the most plausible, certainly more believable than the official tale.

Gavin Menzies is a former British nuclear submarine commander. He grew up in China, and spent his life sailing the ocean’s currents, on and below the water. His breakthrough book 1421: The Year China Discovered The World, offers a meticulously detailed alternative to mainstream history. Cutting a long story short, maps existed of America, Australia and even Antarctica long before their discovery by the West.

Chinese Map of the World, 1418. Image: The Economist

 

https://i1.wp.com/www.gavinmenzies.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/jean_rotz.jpg

The 1542 Jean Rotz map depicts the coastlines of Africa, Asia, India and China with great accuracy, and shows the east, west and northernmost parts of Australia, some two centuries before Captain Cook. Image via gavinmenzies.net

 

 

Gavin Menzies’ next book was 1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance.

Ignited.

At the time of Da Vinci, the Chinese were at least 3000 years into their civilization. The Ming Dynasty had produced a kind of Encylopedia called the YongLe Dadian. Its books were essentially the sum total of all of their knowledge and inventions.

Emperor Yongle (born with the name of Zhu Di 朱棣) was the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty and he reigned from 1402 to 1424. He was a key figure of the development of the Chinese empire: he transferred the capital of the empire from Nanjing to Beijing and ordered the building of the Forbidden City. Under his reign Admiral Zheng He travelled to the Middle East and East Africa strengthening the trade and diplomatic links with foreign countries…

Emperor Yongle commissioned the Yongle Dadian in July 1403 and the project involved 2169 scholars and compilers from the Hanlin Academy and the National University. Completed in 1408, it was the world’s largest literary compilation, comprising 22,877 chapters bound in 11,095 volumes…The content of the encyclopaedia covers all aspects of traditional “Confucian” knowledge and contains the most representative literature available at that time, ranging from history and drama to farming techniques

[Source: British Library]

It added substantially to the body of knowledge that the Chinese had recorded in 1313 in the Nung Shu, created using movable type a couple of centuries before Gutenberg.

Zheng He was a 7-foot tall eunuch, and perhaps China’s greatest ever admiral and explorer.

The Xuande Emperor would have briefed Zheng He on the background and customs of all the countries the fleet would visit. They had the ideal tool with which to do so – the Yong Le Dadian. This massive encyclopaedia was completed in 1421 and housed in the newly built Forbidden City. 3000 scholars had worked for years compiling all knowledge known to China for the previous 2000 years. The discoveries made on the voyages of Zheng He’s fleet were also incorporated into the Yong Le Dadian. One can go further and say one of Zhu Di’s leading objectives was to acquire knowledge gained from the Barbarians. The best way to acquire knowledge is to share it – to show the Barbarians how immensely deep, wide and old was Chinese knowledge and Chinese civilisation. For this of course they needed to have copies of the Yong Le Dadian aboard their junks and they needed also to brief interpreters about the contents so the message could be propagated.

This vast encyclopaedia was a massive collective endeavour to bring together Chinese knowledge gained in every field over thousands of years under one roof. Zheng He had the immense good fortune to set sail with priceless intellectual knowledge in every sphere of human activity. He commanded a magnificent fleet – magnificent not only in military and naval capabilities but containing intellectual goods of great value and sophistication, a fleet which was the repository of half the world’s knowledge.

Of equal importance were the calendars carried by the fleets. Having been ordered to inform distant lands of the commencement of the new reign of Xuan De, an era when “everything should begin anew,” a calendar was essential to Zheng He’s mission.

Issuing calendars was the prerogative of the emperor alone. Accuracy was necessary to enable astronomers to predict eclipses and comets — a sign that the emperor enjoyed heaven’s mandate. The Shou Shi calendar produced by Guo Shou Jing was officially adopted by the Ming Bureau of Astronomy in 1384. This is the calendar that both Zhu Di and the Xuan De emperor would have ordered Zheng He to present to foreign heads of state. The calendar contained a mass of astronomical data running to thousands of observations. It enabled comets and eclipses to be predicted for years ahead as well as times of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset. The positions of the sun and moon relative to the stars and to each other were included, as were the positions of the planets relative to the stars, sun and moon. Adjustments enabled sunrise and sunset, and moonrise and moonset, to be calculated for different places on earth for every day of the year.

[Source]

Could Leonardo da Vinci have drawn inspiration for his inventions from the drawings in the Chinese encyclopedia? Or is it just hundreds of coincidences that his inventions already existed in China, and he was living in a place bustling with Chinese trade?

Menzies is a fan of Da Vinci. He writes:

In my youth, Leonardo da Vinci seemed the greatest genius of all time: an extraordinary inventor of every sort of machine, a magnificent sculptor, one of the world’s greatest painters and the finest illustrator and draughtsman who ever lived. Then, as my knowledge of Chinese inventions slowly expanded, more and more of Leonardo’s inventions appear to have been invented previously by the Chinese. I began to question whether there might be a connection – did Leonardo learn from the Chinese?

Leonardo drew all the essential components of machines with extraordinary clarity – showing how toothed wheels, gear wheels and pinions were used in mills, lifting machines and machine tools. All these devices had been used in China for a very long time. In the Tso Chuan are illustrations of bronze ratchets and gear wheels from as early as 200 BC which have been discovered in China.

Leonardo is renowned for his drawings of different forms of manned flight, notably his helicopter and parachutes and his attempts at wings. The earliest Chinese description of the possibility of manned flight occurred in the accounts of the short-lived and obscure Northern Ch’I dynasty (ninth century BC). The Chinese had made use of the essential principle of the helicopter rotor from the fourth century AD and by then, helicopter toys were popular in China, a common name being “bamboo dragonfly”. Parachutes were in use in China fifteen hundred years before Leonardo, hot air balloons were known in the second century AD in China and by Leonardo’s day, the kite had been in use for hundreds of years.

Leonardo drew an array of gunpowder weapons, including three variations of the machine gun, which can be seen in the fire lances used in China since 950 AD. Leonardo also drew different types of cannon, mortar and bombard. The Chinese use of bombard is well catalogued throughout the ages.

Comparisons of the machines of Leonard with earlier machines from China reveal close similarities in toothed wheels and gear wheels, ratchets, pins and axles, cams and cam-shaped rocking levers, flywheels, crankshaft systems, balls and chains, spoke wheels, well pulleys, chain devices, suspension bridges, segmented arch bridges, contour maps, parachutes, hot air balloons, “helicopters,” multi-barrelled machine guns, demountable cannons, armoured cars, catapults, barrage cannon and bombards, paddle wheel boats, swing bridges, printing presses, odometers, compasses and dividers, canals and locks.

Even the most devoted supporter of Leonardo (like my family and I!) must surely wonder whether his work’s amazing similarity to Chinese engineering could be the product of coincidence.

The parallels between Da Vinci’s creations and the drawings in the Chinese encyclopedia are striking.

Screenshot 2015-10-28 11.32.48

A blast furnace depicted in the Nong Shu, 1313

A blast furnace depicted in the Nung Shu, 1313

 

Chinese Clock Tower, 1092. Image: Wikiwand

1434 coverYou’ll need to buy the book to see more.
Menzies draws a multi-generational link between Leonardo and the Chinese:

My research revealed that Leonardo had owned a copy of di Giorgio’s treatise on civil and military machines. In the treatise, di Giorgio had illustrated and described a range of astonishing machines, many of which Leonardo subsequently reproduced in three-dimensional drawings. The illustrations were not limited to canals, locks and pumps; they included parachutes, submersibles tanks and machine guns as well as hundreds of other machines with civil and military applications.

This was quite a shock. It seemed Leonardo was more illustrator than inventor and that the greater genius may have resided in di Giorgio. Was di Giorgio the original inventor of these fantastic machines? Or did he, in turn, copy them from another?

I learned that di Giorgio had inherited notebooks and treatises from another Italian, Mario di Jacopo ditto Taccola (called Taccola “the jackdaw”). Taccola was a clerk of public works living in Siena. Having never seen the sea or fought a battle, he nevertheless managed to draw a wide variety of nautical machines – paddle wheeled boats, frogmen and machines for lifting wrecks together with a range of gunpowder weapons, even an advanced method of making gunpowder. It seems Taccola was responsible for nearly every technical illustration that di Giorgio and Leonardo had later improved upon…

How did a clerk in a remote Italian hill town, a man who had never travelled abroad nor obtained a university education, come to produce technical illustrations of such amazing machines?

[Source]

The answer, explained with a great deal more depth and evidence in the book, lies to the East:

Well it’s certainly plagiarism…Everything which Leonardo drew were improvements on an earlier Italian, called Francesco Di Giorgio, whose notebooks Leonardo possessed and copied and improved on. And Di Giorgio was not original either. He copied everything from an earlier Italian called [Mariano] Taccola…The source of Taccola and di Giorgio’s inventions was, of course, the Nung Shu passed on by Zheng He’s fleets in 1434.

In the book, the first drawing was of two horses pulling a mill to grind corn, just as Taccola and Di Giorgio had done. Every variation of shafts, wheels and cranks ‘invented’ and drawn by Taccola and di Giorgio are illustrated in the drawings of the Nung Shu. This is epitomised in the horizontal water powered turbine used in the blast furnace. Every type of powered transmission described by Taccola and di Giorgio is shown in the Nung Shu. By comparing Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings with the Nung Shu, each element of a machine superbly illustrated by Leonardo had previously been illustrated by the Chinese in a much simpler manual.

In summary, Leonardo’s body of work rested on a vast foundation of work previously done by others. His mechanical drawings of flour and roller mills, water and saw mills, pile drivers, weight transporting machines, all kinds of winders and cranes, mechanised cars, all manner of pumps, water lifting devices and dredgers were developments and improvements upon di Giorgio’s Trattato di Architettura Civil e militare and his rules for perspective for painting and sculpture were derived from Alberti’s De Pictura and De Statua. His parachute was based on di Giorgio’s and his helicopter modelled on a Chinese toy imported to Italy circa 1440. Leonardo’s work on canals, locks, aqueducts and fountains originated from his meeting in Pavia with di Giorgio in 1490. His military machines were copies of Taccola and di Giorgio’s – but brilliantly drawn.

Leonardo’s three-dimensional illustrations of the components of man and machines are a unique and brilliant contribution to civilization — as are his sublime sculpture and paintings…it is time to recognise the Chinese contributions to his work. Without these contributions, the history of the Renaissance would have been very different.

[Source]

Like most Shadow History that tells a more nuanced story than the mainstream interpretation, Menzies has his detractors – both for his 1421 and 1434 theories. Most do not directly address the massive amount of evidence he presents, choosing instead to pick apart minor details such as “a canal could not have been dug for boats that wide and heavy”. Aside from the fact that if you can dig a ditch, you can dig a bigger ditch, we are talking about books and scrolls. By ship, camel, horse, or even on foot, in the 15th century it was possible to get books from China to the richest part of the world – which at the time was Venice, and had been for almost 1000 years. Cosimo de Medici was hiding out there in exile from Florence at the time Menzies says the Chinese arrived.

Florence was about the size of Burning Man, before the Black Death plague hit in 1348. The Medici banksters used patronage of the arts as a way to control the city from behind the scenes. Like the Borgias, they were famous for poison, torture, and incest. They funded Machiavelli to re-write history for them, then tortured and exiled him when he started to hint at the truth of what they were really up to.

Florence, 1493. Image: Wikipedia

Florence, 1493. Image: Wikipedia

Of a population estimated at 80,000 before the Black Death of 1348, about 25,000 are estimated to have been engaged in the city’s wool industry: in 1345 Florence was the scene of an attempted strike by wool carders (ciompi), who in 1378 rose up in a brief revolt against oligarchic rule in the Revolt of the Ciompi. After their suppression, the city came under the sway (1382–1434) of the Albizzi family, bitter rivals of the Medici. Cosimo de’ Medici was the first Medici family member to essentially control the city from behind the scenes. Although the city was technically a democracy of sorts, his power came from a vast patronage network along with his alliance to the new immigrants, the gente nuova. The fact that the Medici were bankers to the pope also contributed to their rise. Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, who was shortly thereafter succeeded by Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo in 1469. Lorenzo was a great patron of the arts, commissioning works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.

A second individual of highly unusual insight was Niccolò Machiavelli, whose prescriptions for Florence’s regeneration under strong leadership have often been seen as a legitimization of political expediency and even malpractice. Commissioned by the Medici, Machiavelli wrote the Florentine Histories, the history of the city. However, Machiavelli was actually tortured and exiled from Florence by the Medici family and the Pope under the pretense of sedition due to his ties to the previous democratic government of Florence and the fact that his work threatened to expose the true nature of their power base and they wished to discredit him. The Florentines drove out the Medici for a second time and re-established a republic on May 16, 1527.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Menzies now has several books as well as globally crowd-sourced research adding to his proof pile on a daily basis.

He has this to say about Florence, where a revolution was going on not just in the arts, but also in math, science and engineering:

Between the acquisition of the port of Pisa in 1406 and that of Livorno in 1421, Florence had enjoyed a continuous economic boom. Florence’s access to Venice enabled her to reap some of the benefits of Venice’s trade with the East. It also exposed the city to an influx of Chinese and other Asians, as we can see from period paintings and sculpture. Ambrogio Lorenzetti, who never left Tuscany, painted The Martyrdom of Francescan Friars in the church of San Francesco Siena, depicting Chinese merchants with conical hats. Previously, oriental eyes had appeared in faces painted by Giotto and Duccio. There was a very substantial Chinese and Mongolian population in Florence in the decades after 1434.

For the next hundred and fifty years, Medici power and money fired the Renaissance.
The Renaissance produced an enormous appetite for talent — engineers, astronomers, mathematicians and artists whose individual works were so widely acclaimed that others were inspired to follow with confidence. The Chinese delegation, with their new ideas, fabulous inventions and depth of culture would have made a very forceful impression on Florentine intellectuals, including Paolo del Pozzo Toscanelli. Florence was the ideal loam for Chinese intellectual seeds.

Cosimo de Medici took a dramatic turn after 1434, embarking on an orgy of patronage. He financed exotic palaces and chapels – San Lorenzo, San Marco and the Medici Palace. Cosimo and his brother Lorenzo’s embellishment of the sacristy at San Lorenzo was a notable insertion of science into the very heart of the church: in the little dome above the altar, an astronomical fresco depicted the position of the sun, moon and stars for 6 July 1439, the official day of union between the Eastern and Western Churches signed at the Council of Florence. This scientifically accurate depiction of a particular day’s sky was unfamiliar. The position of the sun, moon and stars for 6 July 1439 were all remarkably accurate. The puzzling question is how did Cosimo’s artist — without the benefit of computer based astronomical tables — know the position of the sun, moon and stars for 6 July 1439?

Someone knew the precise positions of the stars relative to each other, as well as the positions of the sun and moon relative to each other and to the stars. Whoever painted that fresco understood the solar system. This complex painting required years to execute, during which the position of the stars relative to the earth would have changed according to the 1,461-day cycle. It could not have resulted from piecemeal observations over the course of the job – my conclusion is that the artist had access to accurate astronomical tables.

Author James Beck, in Leon Battista Alberti and the Night Sky at San Lorenzo, has shown that the painter was Leon Battista Alberti, perhaps assisted by his friend Paolo Toscanelli. These two were Florence’s leading astronomers and mathematicians in 1439. Alberti in 1434 had accompanied Eugenius IV to Florence, where he met Toscanelli. The most likely explanation of the fresco mystery is that Alberti, who served as the Pope’s notary, met the Chinese delegates and obtained a copy of the astronomical calendar presented by the Chinese to Eugenius IV. The calendar provided the necessary information of right ascensions and declinations of stars to draw the night sky for a particular day and hour.

[Source]

Suddenly, in the space of decades, the Italians invented all the things the Chinese had over thousands of years! And it was Da Vinci who did it all. Sounds like spin to me.

Naturally, there’s a Snopes on it. It fails to explain why Native Americans look like Chinese Mongolians, ride horses like them and share their DNA. It doesn’t explain multiple maps that have been found pre-dating Columbus’ voyage. Snopes also does nothing yet to address a newly emerging theory that the first Americans were Australians.

Like always, do your own research. The book 1434 is a great place to start. The truth is out there, and thanks to the (still mostly uncensored) Internet it’s not even that hard to find. Think for yourself and question convention.

I’m hoping for lots of Chinese food being handed out at Burning Man 2016.


 

[Update 11/3/15 12:14pm]

An art historian has found many problems with BMOrg’s version of history.

Stewart Brand And The New Communalists

The Conversation has an interesting piece by Simon Willmetts, a professor of American Studies at the University of Hull. He traces Burning Man’s origins to Stewart Brand, who thought up the idea of the Whole Earth Catalog on an acid trip. The catalog inspired many hippies to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out”, dodging the Vietnam war draft and the violent protests of the Free Speech Movement, to instead do drugs, get naked, and express free love in intentional communities far from civilization.


 

re-blogged from The Conversation:

Why Burning Man is Silicon Valley

by Simon Willmetts
September 1, 2015 12.10pm EDT
.

“Burning Man is Silicon Valley”, tech magnate Elon Musk declared last year. But the annual festival in the middle of the Nevadan Black Rock desert may seem an unlikely place to encounter the dotcom aristocracy. Its lunar-barren landscape is a world away from the plush campus greens of the Googleplex. Thousands gather together in tribes every year to stage musical and theatrical performances, exhibit art, run workshops, “gift” free booze and food (money is outlawed) and construct fantastical welded artworks mounted by dancers and DJs who blare out whomping dubstep into the cacophonous night.

The spectacle is all the more awe-inspiring given how inhospitable the terrain it inhabits is. The cracked dry earth is so alkaline that it can cause chemical burns on the soles of naïve barefooted burners – “playa foot” as it is known. Temperatures range dramatically from searing desert heat in the day to almost freezing at night. And dust storms are common enough to make facemasks and goggles an essential accessory.

But the festival has long been a magnet for the West Coast’s digerati. The first ever Google doodle, in 1998, doubled up as both a tribute to Burning Man and an out-of-office reply for founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as they made their way out to the desert.

Technocratic heaven? donotlick/flickr, CC BY

The list of other tech luminaries who have attended is long. It includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Dropbox’s Drew Houston. Up until recently they have blended in harmoniously. But lately reports of VIP-enclaves charging upwards of $25,000-per-head for five-star catered service have jarred uncomfortably with the festival’s core values of decommodification, radical self-reliance and radical inclusion. Focusing on these extravagances of a select few, however, overlooks the broader affinity between the festival and the West Coast’s technocracy.

Building utopia

The key to this relationship is their shared lineage in the counterculture of the 1960s, and more specifically, the New Communalist movement, that saw thousands of young Californians go back to the land to build utopian communities. In 1968 Stewart Brand created the Whole Earth Catalogue, a book in which he knitted together these disparate communities into a single forum. In doing so, it is widely recognised that he laid the ideological blueprint for the internet and, as it happens, Burning Man too.

Growing up in Cold War America, Brand feared both the rigid bureaucracy of the Soviet Union abroad and the creeping corporatisation of American life at home. For Brand the key to both individual and social salvation from these twin evils was to do away with rigid hierarchies, whether governmental or corporate, and replace them with distributed networks of technologically empowered individuals who would voluntarily come together in common cause.

Likewise, Burning Man is best understood not as one community or centrally-directed event (such as more traditional music festivals) but as a network of lots of little communities that hive together once a year to build their utopia in the desert.

The effigy they burn on the penultimate night of the festivities provides a focus, but each group also brings their own contribution: a music venue, a bar, a food tent, a workshop, a theatrical performance, an art car welded into an enormous motorised fire-breathing dragon.

Everything is voluntarily produced, funded via altruism and offered as a “gift”, free of charge, to “the playa” (as the festival site is termed). Distributed and alone these groups can only hope to produce one small piece of the puzzle, but networked together they create a spectacle in the desert far greater than the sum of its parts. It is a form of socio-economic organisation that is analogous to the internet – we all produce the content free of charge, which when linked together creates the socially transformative online community of the world wide web.

California dreaming

The problem with utopias, however, is that they can only ever be imagined. The New Communalists never quite eradicated hierarchy and inequality. They reproduced traditional gender roles and they tended to be sustained by the wealth of their mostly white, mostly college-educated membership. The same demographic trends in Silicon Valley are widely reported.

An installation in 2006. dberry/flickr, CC BY

As for Burning Man, last year 87% of attendees were white, 58% male, 95.4% had some form of higher education and the majority of participants spent in excess of $1,000 to attend. The gifting economy may be noble in its intent, and Burners would say that the economic value of a gift is not the point, but a system based on altruism tends to appeal to the self-satisfying generosity of those with the deepest pockets.

In 2013 Google CEO Larry Page responded to a question about how the tech giant could help make the world a better place: “There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation.” What was needed, he proscribed, were safe spaces (like Burning Man) of free experimentation.

Burning Man is Silicon Valley because it is premised upon the same libertarian idea that social progress can be achieved through the free collaboration of a network of empowered individuals. It is a microcosm of what Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron famously defined as the “Californian Ideology” – that unlikely amalgamation of “the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies” that has catapulted Google, Facebook, Apple and others to global dominance.

It remains to be seen whether the common good they have created is to the good of all.


Burners.Me:

It does remain to be seen. “Coming soon…”

In 2014, Larry Harvey gave a talk on Burning Man at Stewart Brand’s Long Now Foundation.

Brand, a Stanford graduate who worked for the Pentagon before organizing the CIA’s MKULTRA Acid Tests, once said of Burning Man:

brand_905Burning Man, they have surpassed in every way the various things we were attempting with the Acid Tests and the Trips Festival, Burning Man has realized with such depth and thoroughness and ongoing originality and ability to scale and minimalist rules, but enough rules that you can function, and all the things we were farting around with, Larry Harvey has really pulled off. I don’t think that would have come to pass without going through whatever that spectrum of the ’60s was, the prism of the ’60s, the spectrum of bright colors that we espoused for a while. It all got exacerbated by the Internet and sequence of computer-related booms, but I think it flavored a whole lot of the basic nature of Burning Man.

[Source: SF Gate]

He is credited with inventing the term “personal computer”, although he graciously ascribes it to Alan Kay. He also created the WELL with the Grateful Dead‘s doctor, which evolved into the World Wide Web.

The essay mentioned above, The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster, is very interesting. It was written in 1995, just as Burning Man was shifting its propaganda-based marketing away from a Cacophony freak show to being the physical manifestation of cyberspace.

At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age: the Californian Ideology.
wired 1996This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, tv programmes, Web sites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian ‘free market’ model for building the ‘information superhighway’, cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the ‘post-human’ philosophers of the West Coast’s Extropian cult. With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete.

…As pioneers of the new, the hi-tech artisans need to reconnect themselves with the theory and practice of productive art. They are not just employees of others – or even would-be cybernetic entrepreneurs. They are also artist-engineers – designers of the next stage of modernity. Drawing on the experience of the Saint-Simonists and Constructivists, the hi-tech artisans can create a new machine aesthetic for the information age

Read the full article here.

The California Ideology makes me think of Tupac and Dre’s take on California,  which came out around the same time. Dr Dre, of course, is part of Apple now – a hi-tech artisan indeed.