And now the Omega Institute is proud to introduce Terence McKenna! In the red tights…
…and Ralph Abraham in the faded denims! And the rules of the game are simple indeed. One of us will talk for a bit, then the other will talk for a bit—
It’s called getting a word in edgewise; that’s what my mother used to say.
—then we’ll both talk for a bit, and then you’ll be invited to ask questions for a bit. And the topic is: The World Wide Web and the Millennium.
Well, the millennium is simply a speed bump in our calendar, which is an artificial timekeeping construction that is the largest frame in which our culture operates. The Internet is a technological artifact; the literal exteriorization of the human nervous system brought into being by forces of big science and big capitalism and big military strategic thinking, and now in the service of a global information marketplace. And it, like all new technologies, is the focus of fantastic hopes and fantastic amounts of hypeola. The Internet seems particularly to draw this kind of extreme rhetoric to itself because it seems to many people—whether they consciously realize it or not—to be the fulfillment of an almost religious agenda. This is a platonic superspace. We can fling the defiled body away and become archons of a kind of new informational gnosticism and shed our connections to the material world and move off into a domain of platonic perfection under the rule of art and law. It’s a grand Faustian dream, a very deep strain in the Western psyche, that cyberspace appeals to and, indeed, seems to make manifest.
On the other hand, it raises all kinds of challenges to all the values that have been created in the past, because the past 500 years has been about the exploration of the print-created space that McLuhan called public space: the space of rational discourse and academic dialogue and democratic deliberation. That space is being collapsed, remolded, transformed by the Internet, which seems to be more anarchical and less hierarchical. The fringes are thrown into high relief by the political processes favored by the Internet. Rather than a molding of consensus through single-minded devotion to special cultural icons, the Internet empowers unbelievable diversity and abandonment of any effort at building consensus, or indeed polity or community at all.
So the chance met or synchronistic occurrence of the millennial turning and the rise of the Internet is a fertile area for discussion and speculation. The entirety of the twentieth century was—you know, it may be remembered as the informational century, or the pre-digital era. All the technologies that now go into the Internet were perfected under the umbrella of modernism, with its marriage of big science to market forces and that sort of thing. The simple search for entertainment and money seems to have ushered in a whole pantheon of strange genies that now beckon with pseudo-forms of immortality, gender-bending forms of sexuality, strange new dimensions of information and control that the Internet sets up. I mean, it’s a brand new world out there, folks. It’s as profound a shift in cultural values as the introduction of the phonetic alphabet or urbanization or something like that.
And because the turn of the millennium wants to insist itself around an agenda—the way an oyster insists itself around a piece of grit to make a pearl—inevitably the obsession of the new century is some combination of the Internet, nanotechnological engineering, biotechnological engineering. All of these new technologies united under the theme of information: transformation of information. And so what seems to be dawning is an entirely new set of social and cosmological values where information is primary; more primary than gravity or light or matter. Information somehow precedes all of that. Life cannot be life without the inherent information in DNA. Physics cannot be physics without the information-carrying capacity of the electromagnetic field. Information is recognized as primary. And language, then—both human languages and computer languages in a constant state of evolution—become the carriers of some kind of eschatological hope.
So I’ll just bring this to a close by saying: I think, try as we might to trivialize the Internet and its relationship to the millennium, that, really, one is the new archon that the other heralds and predicts; that the occult dreams of gnosticism and alchemy and hermetic thought—the idea that man, rather than being a fallen creature, could be some kind of co-partner in the enterprise of creation—that particular strain of fantasy gets an enormous shot in the arm from the rise of cyberspace, the informational technologies, and the power to manipulate them; the power to steer human history toward a world of ever greater art and artifice with all the contradictions and ambiguities that that necessarily would entail.
So that’s my take on where we are at the millennium with the Internet.
And now for a counterpoint of just plain talk: I—well, Terence and I have touched on these topics before, and we are in pretty much fundamental agreement not because of arguing with each other, but just as a process of, I would say, convergent evolution. Thinking about our discussions on mathematical topics 25 years ago or more, when we began, there was a larger difference between our positions. And maybe I didn’t listen perfectly, but let me paraphrase. What I got, Terence, was: the millennium is a speed bump on the highway of evolution, and the world wide web is a really big deal that I think you’ve described some of its potential features really well. So I might, if I got that right, address an imbalance by giving just a little bit more attention to the millennium.
Okay, the millennium, I think—I haven’t thought about it at all as the year 2000 any more than there was another one in the year 1000, but I think the millennium means, to me, a big change between two plateaus, more or less, in a style of evolution of culture or society which is similar to biological evolution and having quantum leaps of new species and stuff like that. And there is, of course, in historiography a continuity theory that goes back to Leibniz, if not before. We are under the influence (in our so-called modern age) of a continuous theory of history, whereas before Leibniz, a couple hundred years ago, there was more of a feeling of quantum leaps in evolution as far as world cultural history is concerned. If one of these quantum leaps coincided with the year 2000, that would be most coincidental. And I’m not against such coincidences. That would be okay. But thinking of the Renaissance as a model, the Renaissance is a smaller quantum leap of—I don’t want to use that word, “quantum;” I hate it, come to think of it—a big jump in the development of all that we consider ourselves now occurred in the Renaissance, and we think that the one we’re in now is bigger. But if the one in the Renaissance was smaller, keep in mind that it did not coincide with any particular year, the beginning or end of even a century, and no matter how tight you make the sudden jump, it still took at least a century. Nothing happened in a year or two or three.
Now, I believe, we’re in a really big one. And that’s arguable, but accepting that for the sake of discussion, we can say: well, what supports this, or what is part of it, or what is changing? Well, there’s the expected and long postponed meltdown of the world economy. There are the thousand and one catastrophes on the litany of the doomsday book. You know what I mean—the ozone hole, the population, the global climate warming, the growth of the melting of the icebergs, the rise… you know, all those. There’s a million things which are sudden transformations, and yet there always have been. So what have we got to offer here under the heading of bigger than a speed bump; the path of progress?
So, certainly, the world wide web has to be counted in evidence, especially if it’s as significant as we’ve described it. And it is—at least it’s evidence for it, so it’s under the heading of a millennial leap with or without the year 2000. We have evidence of a millennial leap because the world wide web is happening so rapidly. In fact, it’s part of the computer revolution which is happening so rapidly. In fact, all of this stuff—airplanes and the telegraph and trains and the steam engine—all of this is within the span of a century. My father rode on one of the first planes. So we could say that this whole period of a century, more or less, is a big jump. And in that sense it is larger than the world wide web—or is it? That’s the question.
The other evidence—well, okay. Terence, you described the world wide web a little, you even invoked his name, McLuhan, and I think that you gave a kind of McLuhanesque version of it. And certainly that is one aspect: that it is a new medium. It is a medium of communication, it connects human beings in different places with a high-speed network. And in that it is new in the same sense that the Gutenberg Bible was new as you suggested; this medium-transformation. We know the discovery of the alphabet and so on, this always heralded a gigantic leap in the evolution of culture. But we’re also thinking under the name information age that the world wide web is more than a medium. It is more than the connection of my information with yours. It is more than—is it, or what do you think? I think it is more than the completion of the telegraph/telephone revolution. The world wide web is to the Internet as answering machines are to the telephone network, and yet it is more if there is information in it which is more than connecting together in a web the information that already existed. Do you see what I mean? Is there or isn’t there cyberinformation which could only exist after the construction of this new technological piece?
Now, I think there is. There’s no way to justify this. And again, Terence, you used the word gnostic… whatever you said. We feel and have discussed a couple years ago, I think, the idea that there is a spiritual side (believe it or not) to the world wide web, in spite of the fact that these engineers, these nerds, have put together these nuts and bolts and so on. And that is that the world wide web is an expression in peculiar form, in a kind of a mechanical form, of the spiritual aspirations of ancient times. Huston Smith is discussing the concepts from ancient wisdom which are applicable today, as if we would consciously learn them and apply them. And here is a similar idea inverted. It’s upside down. And it says that the spiritual wisdom of the ages is materializing itself through the recruitment unconsciously of otherwise innocent and unconscious nerds—computer engineers and hackers such as myself—recruiting them to a higher purpose and creating something of spiritual importance while everybody on the planet thinks it’s other than it is (which I shouldn’t even be telling you this) so that it wouldn’t be attacked and destroyed by the backlash reflex of our civilization, of our species, which always tends to destroy advancing things, like Wilhelm Reich said in his essay on the emotional plague. That’s another view on the millennium as the bigger thing in the world wide web.
But this is the question, then, that we’re posing: is the world wide web one of a long list of things which are evidence for the fact that a big leap is happening now? We have to know the answer to that question, or pretend that we do. Because in these special times when a big leap is happening, we have enormous power, we have leverage. As Archimedes said, “Give me a lever and I’ll move the world.” We have the leverage to really influence the creation of the future through small deeds: through meeting here tonight, through discussing in this way, through saying a certain magic word. Might be enough, according to the butterfly theory of catastrophe theory, of chaos theory. The butterfly effect. It might be enough to swing things. Whereas, if we were in a plateau, a thousand-year period between the quantum leaps, then it wouldn’t matter what we did, so we might as well go and get rich an invent pet rocks and stuff.
So it is, I think, an important question whether we’re at a leap or not. And I’ll call that “millennium,” although that’s between the thousand-year period. It could be any time, you know what I mean? If we were between 100-year periods, that’s a small way to jump. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about like a big one. Like, we’re in a big one, or are we not? And the world wide web is just part of the evidence along with the atomic bomb that José Argüelles says that was the beginning of the atomic age, and everybody has a different theory. Or is it that a millennium is a speed bump along a development curve where the main leap is the world wide web? This way or this way? Or are they, in fact, as I said in my joke in the beginning, the world wide web, or is it the millennium? Are they in fact the same?
Well, first of all, let me point out that the millennium is 18 months away. So we’re assuming that we already have in our sights the big event which defines what it will be. But, in fact, in the next 18 months something could jump out of the woodwork that would completely reshuffle the deck. I felt like, at one point in your talk, you came very close to implying that what this was all about was the production of a kind of AI of some sort. That the big story is not the world wide web, it’s that the world wide web is a spawning nest for artificial intelligences of some sort.
No, for a spiritual intelligence. It contains the wisdom of the a—the last thing that you expect to find in the heart of a machine is spiritual wisdom. Just suppose that’s what it’s there for.
Well, if you have a gnostic view of things then you can imagine that the spirit that would arise in the soul of a machine would actually be a messenger from the higher and hidden all-father beyond the pleroma of natural law, and that, in a sense, we had created our own ticket back out of the iron prison of the world, and that it was done by being self-swallowed through the gnostic imagination realized in virtual cyberspace. …or something like that! You know?
I do think that, without intending to, we make the web more and more friendly to the sudden emergence of organized artificial intelligence. And we don’t know what this will look like, we don’t know whether that’s a fantastic fantasy, like me riding on a map: “here there be dragons,” or whether in fact that’s a perfectly reasonable fear, that autonomous, non-equilibrium processes running in these enormously complex electronic systems will evolve self-sustaining strategies and other behaviors that will look weirdly like strategic intelligence to us. I don’t feel much paranoia about this. There are people who daily go to work in Silicon Valley, engaged in what they call “the great work.” And the great work they’re referring to is handing over the project of intelligence to organisms fast enough and efficient enough and deep enough in their logic to actually appreciate the enterprise.
So, in a way, are we designing our own prostheses or are we designing some kind of new Prometheus, as Mary Shelley subtitled her novel Frankenstein? You know, what is the nature of information—both genetic information and then this information which we code and hack with such facility in one dimension, two dimensions, three dimensions, four? I mean, after all, what is molecular engineering except three-dimensional code hacking when…
Well, you’re doing all too well at the destruction of my fantasy about the world wide web, implying with infinite subtleness that I’m essentially a UFO abductee in disguise! You remember those days when people were tuning the radio between two stations, and then you would hear another station coming in that was from another planet or a spacecraft or something? People were looking in their auto radio dials, while driving along, for these secret spots, and passing along the code numbers to find them on the underground.
So I admit that my positive fantasy about the world wide web is a little bit like either that or worse. The spacecraft suddenly appearing over all major cities and ordering us to change our ways. What I said is—I admit it, it’s an indefensible fantasy, and it’s just one of those wished things where… okay, if you build it, they will come. So we’ll build the world wide web, and then we will miraculously find—yes, it sounded like that—we’ll find some ancient spiritual wisdom that is somehow peeking out from behind a bush there in virtual reality. That’s not exactly what I meant. But I was thinking more along this line: that we are tired of reductionism. We give lip service to general systems, holism, and all that. We do believe that there’s more sense in the whole than in the sum of the parts. And if the parts are us, are the—what is it, 5.3 billion people on planet Earth or something; just say if—and if the sum of the parts is the world as we know it now, and then the whole thing, if it were interconnected, would achieve a higher intelligence, where the higher intelligence would be—whatever that was, which might not be so high, which might be the devil finally let loose. That’s how I read between the words.
I do not believe in artificial intelligence in the sense that you described to the great project. I’m expecting a higher intelligence there. I just used those words. And I’m not thinking of it having anything to do with AI or anything that engineers make. It is something which is inherent in the totality of the world wide web. As in the connectionist view of neurophysiology, the brain—with its various capabilities of doing idiot savant, doing large sum arithmetic—it has these capabilities that the parts can’t have, and the sum of parts. It’s only when you connect them up they can really achieve a higher purpose. And this is what Teilhard de Chardin was talking about, except his idea was there: okay, we prepare for this not by buying a Windows 95 computer, we prepare for this (according to Teilhard de Chardin) by doing spiritual exercises alone, by doing tai chi by the lake. And after a few years of this we have a kind of breakthrough and then we find ourselves automatically connected to other like people. And when enough people reach this breakthrough—if they ever do, because they keep dying before they’ve got there, because they’ve postponed it to have another chocolate bar!
And then, if we could, it’d be like—remember the Maharishi effect? Is this too long ago for people to remember? What he said: if a hundred people did it together. But then, you know, and they tried it, and it wasn’t enough for effect. So if a hundred groups of a hundred people. Okay, so 10,000 people. So they tried it. They got 10,000 meditators to go to Providence, Rhode Island, when it was the most crime-ridden city in the United States, and they actually decreased the crime rate for three days, and then they went home. So it’s this kind of thing. This “karass,” in that science fiction book Cat’s Cradle. You know what I mean? And that kind of thing was the expectation of salvation, a miracle that would save us. He died in 1962 or something. So as recently as 40 years ago that this was the expectation. We would do it with spiritual power alone. Do what? Connect up. Connect into what? A higher intelligence with a power of good, to solve at least a few problems so we could have a future. Now, we say: okay. Meditation didn’t do it, so let’s try a little fiber optics.
By any means necessary! We have to communicate. And if it can be done by the occult method or the spiritual method, or by telegraphy, telephony, computers, whatever it is. What we’ve done is: we’ve built a world civilization on so flimsy a medium as small mouth noises.
Without even a telephone book! Without a global telephone book. And now we’ve got one. We’ve got Alta Vista.
Yeah. And now, to manage all of this, we must quickly clarify and refine our communications. And we are. The good news is: the primate response to pressure—again and again, like some kind of deus ex machina in a medieval miracle play, technology stumbles on stage to pluck our chestnuts out of the fire. And it won’t be different this time, apparently, even though the stakes are dramatically higher.
But the technology only has this positive potential because it’s been created on demand of a higher purpose: not a conductor of a spiritual orchestra, but some kind of patter above. You could put it like this. You know, I know that you’re not keen on so-called paranormal or parapsychological stuff. But I think Dean Radin, in his book The Conscious Universe, makes a very good case that a lot of these things are in fact real phenomenon, and they’re like part-time kind of phenomenon and hard to nail them down, but statistically significant on the level of a million million to one or something. Like, huge evidence in favor of telepathy, influencing random number generators. And so if we can influence the random number generator by thought power alone, maybe it can also influence us.
Now, if we give up the idea that the mind is in the brain—I’ll come back to the world wide web and the millennium in a minute—the mind isn’t in the brain, are neurophysiologists wasting their time now? I think that the structure of the brain, neurophysiology, and the structure of the mind, wherever it is, diffuse, out in a cloud somewhere, a nimbus cloud with an inner structure which is similar enough to the structure of a brain, so that they can resonate and more or less exchange ideas by a kind of communication—which is another way of connecting us all up: is by individual connections to the oversoul, a big pancake in the sky. And we don’t have any other theory for the scientific results of parapsychology. We might as well assume—like I myself throw a pancake in the sky, the oversoul. And then, that intelligence, whatever is there, can manifest through anybody who… remember when we found out that the creative people in the computer industry were all taking LSD? Or doing Buddhist meditation? It’s the fastest-growing religion in America. And these people… maybe they’re connected enough so that what they chose to do was in conformity—a little bit; roughly more than random—in conformity with a higher plan which is to connect us up more for good than for evil. Well, this is a long shot.
Well, connectivity seems to be the rule of nature. It’s always been about the business of building connectivity, but it just keeps raising the stakes higher and higher. And now the scales in time at which this progress in the connectivity project proceeds, it’s moving so rapidly that we can actually see it in our own lifetimes. At one point it was a geological process. Then a morphological process expressed through natural selection and mutation. Now it’s an epigenetic process, a cultural process. And the millennium is simply an excuse to notice that this ramping-up effect is happening, and the Internet seems to be just the further progress toward this inevitable coextensive domain of connectivity that’s going to link everything to everything and make ordinary reality somehow obsolete. And the whole process is epiphanous, you know? It’s a hierophany. It’s an unfolding of the intent of deity or of nature or something like that. It’s extremely—
A natural process of evolution, as it was. And I think explosive evolution, in the sense that, with changes, things are added, not subtracted. I do not think that cyberspace is going to replace ordinary reality, but only sit above it in a supplementary fashion, expanding the dimensions of ordinary existence. And the reason to have several parallel systems is this. Well, let’s say we don’t need—if the world wide web were a medium only in the sense of Marshall McLuhan, then it’s not too important, because we already have telepathy, but maybe it’s more. And one kind of information that it’s got is the index, the indices, the search engines. Whereas maybe telepathy is an ephemeral process. I got the message that my dog is hungry and I should go home, but I don’t remember the message from yesterday or the day before, you see? But the world wide web, like an answering machine, email, remembers all these things. And then it’s memory can be indexed with a robot indexer. And nobody—I don’t remember any spiritual teacher from the ancient world of India—who said that, in the Akashic Record, there was an AltaVista.com. No mention of indices for the Akashic Record. You had to go dig around there. Since everything that ever happened is remembered, it’s a hell of a dig.
So now I think that’s just the lowest level of information in the world wide web; is this index. And that is something that’s added on. So if we have spiritual purpose, morality, and ethics in the spiritual web based on telepathy, and we have indices and nothing more in this spiritual web that consists of the medium of the world wide web together with these 30 million repositories, then we’ve got more. We’ve gained, you see? And this is the lowest level of the utopian fantasy for the world wide web: a gain.
Well, yes. I mean, for example, returning to the theme of information: as you know—or should know—there’s a revolution taking place now in quantum physics where people are having to admit the existence of a kind of non-local domain of connectivity called Bell space, where all points in the universe seem to be somehow connected to each other. And it seems to me that this offers a physical explanation for the otherwise evolutionarily somewhat difficult to account for phenomenon of the human fantastic imagination. In other words, it doesn’t really fulfill any evolutionary agenda; why do we spend so much of our time in fantasies and dreams and reveries and altered states of consciousness. It may be that our minds are like antenna extending into a dimension that links all parts of the universe together coextensively. Well, the bad news from that scenario is: we can only know informationally about these other parts of the universe. We can never go there. But interestingly, we are growing toward accepting information alone as the coinage of reality.
So suppose that in the human imagination there are aliens whispering secrets that are the secrets of civilizations that evolved in other galaxies and distant star systems: we will never be able to touch the alien flesh. But if under the name of the undercries of art we attempt to build websites as alien as we possibly can, to build virtual realities for our own edification that are as alien as we can possibly make them, halfway through that process I would bet you would discover that you were essentially engaged in an automatic writing process with an alien intelligence at the other end. In other words, in a sense, the world wide web is a potential landing zone for a creature or an intelligence made purely of information. And I would bet to you, given our own present stage of evolution and our flirtation with digital existence, that all advanced forms of intelligence exist purely or optionally as nothing more than information. So in a way, the world wide web—the metaphor may be more apt than we imagined: it’s a web, and what you catch in it is an alien mind that cannot nest in the presence of the human family in any other environment other than that kind of a digital labyrinth. You understand what I’m sayin’?
Yeah, but it’s really hard to see how it’s going to get through there and be recognized. So I say, okay, he’s up there. He’s saying: okay, I just really can’t talk to you until you develop VRML—like, would you just… you know, get those guys busy. And when the thing reaches a sufficiently sophisticated level of density, of connection, of hardware, of software, and so on, then the landing will take place. Then it’ll be like—I know you’re not a great fan of crop circles, but say they appeared in cyberspace: sort of cyber crop circles. And they waved at me. I’d say, “Hey, you were waiting. You asked to speak with us. The alien mind has landed! And now lend me your ears.” And you say, “Oh god. This crop circle phenomenon again. You must be kidding!” I’d say, “Yeah, we tried once before and you couldn’t hear us. And you said that you really needed a lot of high-tech apparatus in order to take us seriously. So we built this landing craft you call the world wide web. And here we are again.” You say, “No, no, take it away.”
Yes, well, they’ll keep coming at us until we recognize them. The real issue with alien intelligence is knowing when you have it in front of you, because it is alien, you know? This is why the “pro bono proctologists from nearby star systems” scenario doesn’t work for me. Because anybody with that intimate an interest in the tenderer portions of my anatomy is not alien enough for my taste, thank you!
I think you’d be due for an abduction, Terence, but… probably you’ve already had one and you’re in denial!
I’m sure, given sufficient therapy under the right hands, we could confirm that!
I think we need some help here.
I think maybe we need some help.
I warned them.
Shall I sum up before we throw it over?
Okay. Well, we ran the gauntlet from A to Z here. World wide web as extension of your checking account to landing zone for alien intelligence. Apocalyptic breakthrough or more trivial techno worship? Ralph and I pretty much come from the same school of theology on this, because we’re very netted in. I couldn’t live as I live in Hawai’i without the net. I mean, I have tried to live a kind of existence that I felt was a model for the future, and so what that meant was living in nature: up a four-wheel-drive road, no power lines coming in, nothing like that, but with the one-megabyte wireless connection. So no paradox or dichotomy or contradiction in that. That’s how we all should live: is off-grid and as deeply wired into the collectivity as we can be so that we can participate in building the collective consensus for a human and humane future. And the millennium and the web, I think, are factors which perhaps synchronistically are juxtaposed, but for whatever reason they synergize each other and push the process of novelty and advance to ever greater heights.
So what do you think? Anybody. Don’t be shy. Who’s going to be the caller on the phone?
Oh, I don’t know.
Why don’t you do it for one?
Okay. I’ll start in the front, but I will go back fast.
Yeah, hi. Come the millennium, all the clocks tick over: zero-zero. There’s a lot of talk about the millennium bug. Do you think this could scuttle the whole world wide web with various systems crashing? Will it survive that phenomenon? Is that going to happen? What’s the…
Oh, this is Terence’s specialty; Y2K.
Well, not really, but on the novelty list there’s been a lot of talk about it. It’s strange because I have Chicken Little-ism of several varieties, but my intuition on this one is to sit tight, and that we have plenty of—well, I don’t know. Maybe I’m so sanguine because I live in Hawai’i, but I wouldn’t want to be in central Manhattan when the electrical grid on the eastern seaboard hit the floor with no chance of ever coming up again. This sort of thing is predicted. What you need to do is, just like all the rest of us, read the lists, stay tuned to the Internet. There’s central pages coordinating the effort to fix this problem. If it does rip our world asunder it certainly will be ironic, you know? It wasn’t melting polar ice caps, it wasn’t asteroid impact, it wasn’t those pesky greys, it wasn’t ebola virus, it was none of that—it was bad FORTRAN written thirty years ago.
Anyway, you want to add to that?
No, I want to go on.
Yes. Let’s just take that as a suggestion that, in parallel with the gnostic inspiration and the world wide web, is the possibility of a Buddhist inspiration of the world wide web. Because, as a matter of fact, it seems to somehow embody basic principles in its very being. And I would say this is compatible with my fantasy that people who built the world wide web did so under not only an extraordinary impulse of altruism, but also some kind of spiritual connection which could have been the result of a spiritual exercise connection to a guru, or just something that happened without their participation. But it seems as if it came about with a purpose—especially the early web, beginning in 1991 or 1992, was just the epitome of altruism, where people (without pay) created, wrote software, gave it away for free, and so on, and made this possible for all of us.
Yeah, just in the interest of thoroughness—I read McLuhan’s letters a few years ago. And, you know, McLuhan had a very interesting intellectual history. He was a Joyce scholar and eventually a convert to Catholicism. And in one of his letters he talks about the four ages of Christianity as: the age of the Old Testament God, which ends with the birth of Christ. The second era of Christianity is the era of the son, the era of the Christos. And the third era of Christianity the age of the holy ghost. And he directly connected the idea of the holy ghost to the idea of electricity. And he thought of the sanctification of the holy ghost as the world wrapped in electric light, essentially, and communication technology. So it’s interesting that these Jesuits and those they educate have this deep strain of techno-mysticism as one intellectual option available to them.
And the other thing is that I feel that the Internet is also at the same time doing all the things that you say and predict that it’s doing, it’s also drawing more boundaries between the haves and the have nots, and creating additional political and economic tensions in our country and elsewhere, and possibly globally, I can’t read that. But I feel that there is a threat in that direction. That there is a lot of disenfranchisement because of what the people like us in this room and here in the United States at certain levels can do, and the rest of the world cannot do.
Yes. Quite right.
Well, au contraire. Quite wrong. If the curve of development of the modern automobile had followed the same curve of development as the modern computer, the modern automobile would now cost $50, and it would go 500,000 miles on a gallon of gas, and a gallon of gas would cost a nickel.
But still, half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity. We don’t have an instant cure for that.
Right. But the cost at which basic computational machinery has fallen from R&D to market saturation is faster than any product that’s ever been introduced. So we’re doing the very best we can. I don’t think you understand. The first computers in the early 1950s cost hundreds of millions of dollars and they couldn’t do what today’s desktop computer can do by far than the computer—
[???] I think there is a have/have-not dichotomy, but it’s not at all economic. I think that’s your point. Economics has nothing to do with it. It’s a more cultural or—
You could almost argue that it’s a tyranny of English. That the problem is not that the computers cost so much, but that so much of the world wide web is in English.
But Alta Vista translates into six languages—let’s have another one. That way—Dave.
Technical solutions, yes.
Two questions. Quick question. Terence, you said earlier the way to guarantee our existence is to make us indispensable to our fellow man, and therefore we can perpetuate. Boy, it seems like that’s what Microsoft has done with Windows 95: that it has become indispensable. Therefore, that said, that the market will win and become a guarantee our evolution. That’s one question.
Well, let me answer. It’s not indispensable to me, and my son tells me—because I use Macs—and my son tells me I should grow up—
And I use UNIX.
Well, that’s the good news. My son tells me I should grow up and learn UNIX and stop being a crybaby about it; that the future is UNIX.
And UNIX is free!
So there you have it. Next question.
If governments historically, or societies or nation states, have been built around real estate and property and physical things, and if in the case of the cyberspace there is no time, there’s no place, there’s no boundaries, then if governments do appropriating, then all of that’s gone. Who will be doing the appropriations in cyberspace?
Well, I don’t think it’s a problem we’ll ever have to face. I think that what’s happened is, one way of talking about this millennial shift or this cusp that we’re at is: this is very similar to what happened a few hundred years ago in the early seventeenth century with the Thirty Years’ War. In 1619‐1648 there was an enormous rearrangement of European society. At the beginning of that period Europe was ruled by popes and kings. At the end of that period it was ruled by parliaments and peoples. And what we’re really seeing—and the world wide web is part of it—is the end, the crackup, of the nation state, which is a spatially localized, property-based concept. The world wide web is not owned by the nation states. It was built by them in the Cold War, but it is now an entirely owned artifact of global capitalism. And global capitalism has essentially said to the nation states: keep your cotton-pickin’ hands off of this. We own it, and we need it to make money, and we’re not interested in negotiating it.
So, much in the same way that the church went from being all powerful at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War to being told: run hospitals, feed poor people, and stay out of our way; we, the nation states, will take over the profit-making enterprises. Now the nation states are being told: repair highways, run health programs, preserve wetlands, and stay out of our way, because this is our game and we created it. Is this good or is this bad? You can’t talk about that. There are good things about it and bad things about it. It’s an enormous change to a new kind of way that human beings are going do business. The virtual corporation is the organizational model for the future, I think. And the Internet makes that possible.
One quick point and one question. And the point is that, to me, the amazing thing about the web is not the fact that it’s possible to interconnect all of these different computers, and therefore people, because that’s a magnificent technological wonder, but it’s an understandable technological progression. The main thing that’s really astonishing is how much people want to do that, you know? That people actually want to put that information out there, and they want to connect up with one another. I’m not that surprised that someone who’s got a problem is interested in going and looking for a solution, but about the guy who’s got the solution, and he’s taking a lot of trouble to put his solution out there for everybody else. And I think that’s really the amazing part about it—,my echo to what you were saying about spirituality and technology connecting up to some extent, because the spiritual need to connect creates the technology to do it.
Then the question, though, is that, other than the web, whether there’s any other reason to look at the year 2000 as being anything in particular; any epical change. And one suggestion for it may be that we might be coming to an asymptote when it comes to rates of change. I mean, things are changing so much faster. And the rate of change of change is going so fast that perhaps we’re reaching some sort of asymptote where we, as a species, are simply incapable of changing any faster and keeping our sort of collective sanity. And maybe that’s really the point that we’re approaching.
Well, there’s a loophole in all of that, though, because one of the things that our technology holds out as a promise is the possibility of downloading ourselves into circuitry. Well, in practical terms—because we operate, as we sit here, at about 100 hertz—when you’re downloaded into a 200-megahertz machine, you’re going to discover that five minutes is an eternity of experience. [Aside: in this calculation, 5 minutes of real time would inflate to 19 years of subjective time] And so, in a way, what digitalization of consciousness (if it’s possible) means is a kind of pseudo-immortality or an ability to prolong the experience of being experientially to infinity—though natural lifespans would be unaffected by that.
But somehow it seems to me that we’ve suddenly ascended to a world of science fiction and fantasy. I mean, I never took this downloading idea seriously. That’s a bunch of fuzzy-thinking nanotech people or something. You don’t believe that, do you?
Well, I’m not sure. In other words, isn’t a—
I mean, this is weirder than spacecraft.
—isn’t a human organism essentially the download of DNA into a kind of virtual existence made out of proteins?
Well, whatever it is, it is. But I don’t see it being reproduced in silicon anytime soon. No.
Well, this is just a question of our differing opinion of the rates of change in a field about which neither of us know anything.
That is true! That never stopped us before. But I think that there is something essentially interesting in this question, and that is about the altruism of putting information there. See, it’s like a free exchange. It’s like the flea marked without any exchange of money, without any expectation of reward other than the trade. You see, this is the very definition of altruism. Somehow, against all indications, we actually see altruism on a massive scale breaking out on the entire planet. I mean, this is amazing. All these hobbyists have got the same hobby, and that’s giving stuff away. We’ve arrived at—what do they call it, the Kwakiutlinians? The potlatch! We have an informational potlatch. And more than anything else, that makes me think there’s a paradigm shift. This is really something we haven’t seen for a generation or two or three. All this giving away with the hope of getting back like—actually getting back like only mores, wanting it to do more—is like an explosion of giving. It’s altruism; unsuspected, amazing, save-the-world. Better than promise-keepers—it’s here now. It’s altruism in cyberspace. And it makes it so much fun. Give, get—it’s all the same. It’s fantastic. That’s actually happening. This is quite apart from everything.com. This is everything other than everything.com is: I know how to feed this fish, and I’m putting it out there. And when I want to look and get some answers out there, too.
The plethora of information, the speed of putting it, the asymptote—I don’t know. There seems to be… it’s possible that the acceleration is actually slowing down. I mean, I don’t know about the asymptote. But I think the altruism is one of the newest things to come down in a long time, very much like a new religion like early Christianity or something. And what is the goal of that? Where is the Christ? It is decentralized altruism, but it’s the resonance of all the same thing, all these people. I don’t know how many. 50 million web pages now indexed by hotbot.com. 50 million web pages being given away of, essentially, new information published freely. Free publication. And no time delay. This is the acceleration which has been a quantum leap in speed of exchange of information. But I don’t think we’ll be accelerating further all that much. I mean, there’ll be a lot more pages. But the timeline between thinking about and putting it out there, it actually is a lot of work to make an entire website.
[???] the idea of technology. You’ll excuse me if I use the “Q” word here. As a result of transportation and communication, we’ve made a huge quantum leap in the last forty, fifty years. I grew up, the telephone was there, it was always there, it would always be there. And I pick it up, it’s just like… an extension of my hand. And the TV. When I grew up, the people who used computers had glasses three feet thick and a plastic pen pouch. You know, as we’re talking about being right on the threshold of the year 2000. And the end of the Chicken Little-ism of, you know, this summer it’s: the asteroid’s going to hit us. Or whatever is in vogue. I can’t help but have a feeling like being aware of what we’ve seen in the last fifty years, and knowing that I’m going to be alive for the next fifty years, and being aware of what the curve looks like—to an extent; I mean, I don’t spend 100% of my wake-up time thinking about disaster—but I can’t help but think: whatever’s going to happen, whatever the fate is of us as humans, that I’ll see it in my lifetime. So I guess what I’d like to ask you is: could you paint a picture of what the year 2000 looks like, what the year 2010, 2020… is it possible to…
Well, 2000 is pretty easy, because it’s only 18 months away—unless there’s some enormous breakthrough. You know, it will not be greatly—some of us are there already. More of us will catch up in the next 18 months. But when you start talking about—you know, Ralph thought the idea of downloading people into circuitry was out there a long way. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. A few months ago you may have followed this stuff out of Vienna where this guy Anton Zeilinger and his research team achieved a quantum teleportation of a photon. Well, this is a technology that I would’ve thought was a thousand years away. In other words: I try to be the most radical and permissive thinker on the block, and I can’t stay up with nature and science news. The people who did the quantum teleportation of this photon said that their analysis of the mathematics which permitted it made no distinction between a photon and an electron, and that it was simply a matter of ramping up the input energy.
Well, imagine if we’re five years, ten years away from a technology where you flicker in and out of existence as you routinely move from your job in Amherst to your apartment in Shinjuku and back and forth on a daily basis. And there’s a significant portion of the physics community that is now talking about time travel, something that you were just laughed off the block fifteen years ago if you talked about this. Now there are numerous approaches, schemes, possibilities. Well, what if one of these things kicked in and arrived? Artificial programs for evolving software through Darwinian mechanisms could produce software with capacities that none of us would’ve ever designed toward or anticipated. In other words, there are many ways in which the process could surprise us. And something could jump out.
So I think that, in a way, the millennium is holding the process back, because the millennium is being squat on by Christian fundamentalism to some degree. It’s their holiday. It’s some kind of… it’s the millennary celebration of… what? Of western European values and Christian civilization. And once we get past it, a year or two, three, and it sinks in that there isn’t going to be any trump of judgment, and that there is no return of the second person of the Trinity and so forth, and that we’re staring another thousand years in the face, the enthusiasm for the Christian right-wing agenda and some of its more repressive and homophobic and racist tendencies will seem old hat. It will seem twentieth century, and no one will want to be associated with something like that.
And, you know, Max Planck said of the history of physics: it proceeds funeral by funeral. And so will human progress. But I think once we get past the millennium there’ll be a sense of speed, connectivity. We’ve got to give everybody T1 connections. We’ve got to get everybody wired in. Basic problems have to be addressed: build down our nuclear arsenals, clean up—you know, the obvious agenda. I don’t have to tell you what it is. This all will come. We have no choice. We can delay these tasks, but we can’t avoid them entirely. It’s our bed we’ve fouled. It’s our nest that we’re called upon to clean up.
So that’s what I see a little bit past the turn of the century. But when you start talking 2010, 2012, the technological acceleration and the unexpected factor makes it impossible to predict. I mean, there could be an alien artifact. There could be a quasar ignition of the galactic core. There could be all kinds of things.
And the person best qualified to foresee the year 2012 actually says he can’t see it. So that’s that. Meanwhile—well, you hesitated, Terence—Time and Newsweek magazines had no inhibition in laying down exactly what was coming in 2010, 2020, and 2030—particularly 2030, their favorite year.
Paper clothes and hovercraft?
I think their predictions, as I read them, seemed quite plausible. And they live in the world of the information they represent in their pages. And I think that, okay, well, while your eye’s on Monica’s dress somebody’s turning the switch on Y2K under the table or something. That all of their current news and the ball that they’re watching and the predictions they’re making for the next ten or twenty or thirty years is all correct and all equally irrelevant. Because it has nothing to do with what’s really going on that we’re talking about, and it’s quite possible that the Chicken Little scenarios or something equivalent are actually coming along; that there will be an increase in the rate of catastrophes. And that’s what all the indications are.
And you say: well, we have no choice but to look after this. Unfortunately there is a choice, and the function of denial is such that a lot of people may just sit out the moment when you’re supposed to choose your chair. And the result will be irreversible damage to the environment; that there will be no fixing. Not all of them. The collapse of the world economy and so on. But some bad things are going to happen faster than before. That’s my only prediction.
And I am opposed to any predictions about the future due to the fact that my belief (and this is our whole subject here, I want to repeat this) is that we are at a millennium, a special hinge of history, which is more than a speed bump. And therefore, what we do and say matters. And more than other times, the future is up to grabs. And when you say you have a vision of it, if that means that you’re going to sit down and not work to create that vision, then you’re in big trouble. Because things are very much in a meltdown. We are between the caterpillar and the butterfly, and the butterfly could be an angel or a devil. Suppose that it actually mattered what we thought, what we did, what we created, the stocks that we bought, the detergent that we bought, and every single thing that we did mattered a thousandfold more than any other times. Then it’s important that we do not predict the future, we work to create the future. That is our responsibility in a millennial moment more than other moments; that’s what has to happen. So don’t ask about 2010—build it. That’s what we say. Right?
So, more. Ah, I see one way back there. Yes?
[???] Terence’s idea on the AI and the emergence of that through the world wide web as a possible function of reaching a higher intelligence, I think it was Alan Turing who created the concept of the Turing test, and when you can no longer tell the difference between a person sitting on a keyboard somewhere else writing to you or a computer program, then you truly achieve artificial intelligence. And if that’s the case, it seems as though once that initial step has been made that the pace of change that we see now is going to seem like a snail’s pace. Because, as you mentioned, the speed with which we function and our attention span to focus on any given problem is so brief compared to that which an artificial intelligence could apply and be creating new solutions and new applications for itself, and replicating, and creating new programs that…. Once that occurs, it seems as though we’ll shed all the problems and things that are seeming to be pressing immediately on us very, very rapidly. Is that sort of mirroring what you’re seeing, or…?
Yeah. I mean, Hans Moravec, who’s written a lot about this and who runs the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Artificial Intelligence, he says we may not ever know what hit us. That if the net were to become sentient, even as sentient as a flatworm, in a matter of hours it could cover the distance from flatworm to primate that it took us several hundred million years to cover, because it evolves so rapidly and it can call down so much connectivity upon itself. You know, talk about millennial change: what’s gone on in the past ten years while we’ve been quietly debating the Internet and whether we should or shouldn’t get email—if you’re standing off from another planet looking at what’s gone on, the machines have become telepathic! Ten years ago the machines were as connected to each other as paperweights and silverware around the world is connected to each other. But we turned on the juice during the 1990s, and now vast amounts of information moves undetected by human minds, never seen by human minds. Decisions like: how much oil should be pumped out of the pumping stations at Abu Dhabi into the waiting freighters so that the arrival of petroleum byproducts in the Los Angeles market is such that there is neither too much or too little, the setting of the world price of gold, the world rate at which we extract bauxite and potassium and these things. These are decisions all made now by computers. When engineers want to design new computer chips they give—the performance specifications that the contract calls for is explained to a computer, and the computer architects the circuit. No human input into the actual geometry of the circuit is now necessary. So, you know, in a way, this process is happening very slowly. McLuhan, clear back in the 1960s, said we have become the genitals of our machines: we exist only to improve next year’s model. And when you think about that, there is a lot of that going on. Every year we improve the machines; more evolutionarily efficient machines appear on the market. And you gotta wonder what’s going on here.
You’ve been waiting since the beginning.
For me, the connection with the Internet and the whole computer scene has satisfied a strong human need for community, and that’s the aspect of it that’s made a difference in my life. And I think more important for all of us than the information to which we have access and the way we can satisfy our curiosity and the tools that we can bring to bear on something, I wondered if you wanted to talk anything about the human connection that’s fostered by this whole thing.
Well, I like the story of the two twelve-year-olds who connected across continents. And this is, I’m guessing, that the community aspect of building new social worlds on the Internet is a particular interest to people who are sort of fringe-y in the communities they live in. And then they seek company of fringe people elsewhere. For them it’s more value than somebody who really fits in and gets on very well with all the neighbors. This might be everyone I know, but I think that special categories of senior citizens, of twelve-year-olds, people with a special interest (like a special kind of fish), and all this—that suddenly, these communities spawn on a very large scale of people that would otherwise never even meet. And that’s because there is where we find those people who are a better fit. And again, there’s a—I’m not a very social person, so I’m not going to answer this question, but it could be (and I think many people have) suggested people who are more socialized than I am that the primary function of the Internet was a social one. So that’s a possibility. And maybe we have been very cold-hearted here in looking primarily at the information storage on the disk as opposed to the human content.
On the other hand, this aspect of the world wide web—let’s say a communication between two friends is maintained by email, for example. That’s what I do. I’ve heard from, just in the past year, old friends that I hadn’t seen for thirty years because they just got email and were able to find me. And I really like this aspect. But it’s only slightly different from the telephone. I’ve made contact with old friends by email that I could’ve called but didn’t. But basically it’s similar. And this aspect, the social aspect of the world wide web, I would compare with the telephone network and the telegraph network and the ordinary postal network. That you can send a postcard from the top of the mountain in Nepal and two weeks later it’s delivered in Los Angeles—to me, this is amazing. And yet it goes back. The beginning of the postal service, I think, was around 4,000 years ago. So while it is very important, it’s heartwarming. It may be for such reasons, human reasons, that it’s preserved when threatened to be killed by commerce or child pornography or something. And that’s good. But somehow the real revolutionary aspect is connecting people in a wider web than one that depends on two-person interaction, that kind of conversation. That’s just a guess.
But, see, the Internet, the world wide web, have all these aspects. A lot of people have told me that the world wide web is of secondary importance, it’s email that really matters. You see, the Internet is the Internet. It’s a matrix of computer networks and it has these totally orthogonal functions, complementary functions, like email, listserv, news groups. The world wide web is just one among many. So you could make an argument that email is vastly more important, or news groups are more important than the world wide web. And for me it’s the world wide web. I don’t know, I just see that as the most futuristic difference characterized by this altruism. It’s a new… it’s really the harbinger of a completely new society, a society based on different principles. And that’s what’s really exciting, because the society we’ve got based on the present principles is really too competitive, selfish, ignorant, destructive, and it’s going downhill fast. So we want a miracle, we want a millennium—whether one is really happening or not—we’re dreaming, we’re engaging here in utopian fantasies, we’re painting pictures of what could be, and so on, in the hopes that it is. And we’re hoping for something just a step beyond the telephone revolution. Because we’ve had the telephone, while it’s not all that long, 140 years—
—creation of cyberspace, it’s at least practicing what it would be like without gender, and I think that it’s very likely that, as a feedback, as a side effect of even a temporary experiment with the world wide web, would be an enormous increase further in support of the partnership transformation—or gaialanic resurgence, as Riane Eisler calls it—that we have been hoping for. I mean, that’s just one of the things we want from a major social transformation, is: equality of the genders. And there’s other things about competition, and then commercial. A million things. And they’re all still possible. And one thing that might be the case in the year 2002 or 2003 is that some of them are no longer possible because at the crucial instant we were watching Monica’s trance.
Sounds good to me.
I think maybe we should quit soon. I have a feeling of no. Well, okay. You, then! You!
Vegging out—you know, the idea of vegging out over M.A.S.H.? At two o’clock in the morning I can turn on M.A.S.H. and kind of [snore], and that’s almost a psychological pacifier, say. All of a sudden, going into the warehouse of ten years of M.A.S.H., at three o’clock in the morning I come home, I click on my digital device, and now I’m confronted with an index: “What year do you want?” “What segment do you want?” And I’ve got to go through all of these choices, you know? I don’t want those choices. I want to veg out. I don’t want to look at ten years, I just want to sit there and do that. That seems to represent what I look at as a backlash. And Stephan and I was talking about how wonderful maybe things like Omega will be, because they are a physical reality. But I see kind of a backlash coming. And I don’t know how it’ll shape itself, but things like M.A.S.H. is an example to me of a frustration that a lot of people represent. What’s your thoughts on how that might unfold?
You mean how to deal with those who want to veg out? If there’s going to be a war between intelligence and stupidity, I know where I’ll put my money! I mean, it doesn’t seem like a fair contest. The couch potatoes of the world will surge forward to vanquish creativity? Not!
It could be that all that’s required for the couch potatoes is a different index than the date or the number. You could search for “the one where he drops the scalpel in the wound,” or something.
The woman with the black shirt. And the next one is you, yes!
I had a question, but I wasn’t going to ask it because I thought I was the only one in here wondering it. And then I asked my sister, and she said no, she was wondering it, too.
So: who really gives a shit about the year 2000? I mean, I feel like the main effect of the year 2000 is that people get very, very tense, or very excited, or something, you know? They write their checks and it says 1998—oh, those numbers are getting so big! Oh my god, it’s going to turn too soon! But that’s only half the world to begin with. And a lot of people aren’t hooked into the web and aren’t going to be. And I’ve just come back—or, I’m going to be for 40 years, 50 years. Maybe the main effect of the millennium will happen not within 18 months, but in 2078. And by the time 4372 of the Christian era rolls around, they’ll say: “Yes, the third millennium actually kind of took off around the second century” or something. I’m just not convinced that the year makes a difference.
Well, I think we never made a case for the year, and we defined the millennium or the subject we’re talking about as a big change that’s happening around now that might’ve been going on for a hundred years, and it’s got nothing to do with the year 2000. Except the idea is not happening in the year 2078. Something is happening now. It has nothing to do with the year 2000. We are in the midst—are we or aren’t we?—in the midst of a big change? I say we are. I cannot prove it. This premise, that’s what we’re talking about. And the world wide web is either part of the evidence, or has to do with, or it doesn’t.
[???] part of [???] isn’t always a big change [???] also a big change [???]. And this is [???] talk about. It’s not a bigger change than other changes.
I think you put your finger on it when you said it’s fun and exciting, and fun to talk about. Notice that if your view were to triumph, there would be no raison d’être for having this meeting tonight. This is a form of entertainment not to be taken overly seriously—and like all entertainment, you know, it’s hung on a thin peg indeed. So yes, arguably, the millennium is no more important than any other date. But it’s sort of like, I’ve heard people say of the L.A. earthquake some years ago: “I didn’t care. I live in Paris.” Well, I think you misunderstand. The reason that earthquake was more important than an earthquake happening in Turkmenistan was because so many important people were thrown out of bed, and that experience was very enriching for them. So a lot of important people may be thrown out of bed by going over this entirely artificial and synthetic speed bump called the year 2000, but the fact that it’s artificial and synthetic won’t make the bruises they get by being thrown out of bed any less real. So it’ll shake up the right people—that’s what’s good about the year 2000. And the people who are innocent won’t even know it’s happening.
You see, we have both devoted a book, at least, to the idea that the amount of novelty in a given year varies from year to year enormously, and we’ve tried to make maps of these. And our maps are completely different, but nevertheless there are these maps which claim the opposite of what you suggest. That there are—yes, there are catastrophes and big changes every year, but considering the number or the magnitude in trying to add them up on the basis of any casual look through the Columbia encyclopedia of medieval history or whatever, you come up with your own view of the variation of the amount of novelty per year or per century. And it seems to me that there’s really a lot of it now. And Terence, I think, is the only one who’s published a graph of novelty as a function of time on his website, and it’s the least flat graph I’ve ever seen in life. There’s not a flat spot to be found, and we’re in the midst of a gigantic tumble, according to him, into the valley of novelty—which is what he’s talking about here. So we’re not going to agree with you about that. But we can’t agree on the map of novelty and world cultural history as a function of time, and we can’t prove to each other, we can’t prove to you, we can’t prove that we’re right and you’re wrong or anything like that. It’s more or less a personal impression.
And it seems, perhaps, that there is a kind of a minor consensus emerging. I mean, how many books have been devoted to the idea that this is a time of big change at least comparable to the Renaissance or the time of early Christianity or something like that? There’s a lot of books. The World Future Society, the Futurists of America, the Urban [???] age. I mean, there are a lot of books. There’s a flood of books. And none of them—except one I can think of, by that Stephen Jay Gould—none has anything to do with the year 2000. It’s just: this is a time of big change with technology, with world population, with the environmental problem, with nuclear, with pesticides, with ozone. You know, they just count them out. There’s such an enormous number. And the world wide web among them, the computer revolution, the Eurodollar. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going on; an extraordinary amount [???] time.
One explanation or interpretation of this is a subjective reason for this. It was suggested in one question that time is somehow speeding up. None of us can resist this impression. And why do you think? I don’t remember my father talking about this. For him, time was not speeding up. My grandfather, I don’t think time was speeding up for him in spite of the fact that there was technology on a roll, definitely, in terms of airplanes, steam engines, trains, electricity, telegraph, telephone. There was all that—still, there was not anywhere near the feeling of revolution that we have now. We could be wrong. And if we are wrong, then I would say that’s real bad news for young folks, because you’re going to have a really bad time. What we need is to get the train off the death track by some kind of major change. And if it’s not happening by itself, we have to make it. And one way or another it will be a millennium, or it will go down from stupidity which is inherent, implicit, and unavoidable in the human species—just too dumb to survive.
This train is bound for glory!
Well, a couple more.
Okay, a couple more.
It’s you. A black dress. Where’s the microphone, Dave?
When I first started coming to Omega about twenty years ago, I felt that I was at the dawning of a new age. I was excited, I felt filled with spirit. I don’t feel that now. As I hear you people talking about all these technological marvels and its effects, I feel it’s arid, somehow, and I’m not excited by it. I feel that we’ve somehow passed the millennium that didn’t happen twenty years ago.
It’s possible that it’s already over; that we missed it. But we should keep trying, just in case it’s not dead.
Are you cyber literate, or are you looking at it from the outside or the inside?
Pretty much the [???].
Let’s talk next summer.
That’s what I would say. The train hasn’t left the station yet—that same train.
[???] I wanted to say something based on from a business point of view. Maybe not so philosophical. I work in this industry for a living, and it’s purely by chance that I fell upon this. And I find this very fascinating. I’ve produced websites for very high-profile clients. And what’s most fascinating from my point of view is, in business, it’s fascinating how companies like Procter and Gamble and Ford and GM and Continental Airlines and MetLife Insurance are… the CEOs and executives are all of a sudden looking to pre-30-year-olds for guidance. And the gap has gone from the stodgy Wall Street “you have to be 60 to make this amount of money to be respected” to “me, who’s 28, got in this business three, four years ago” being incredibly respected. And these companies don’t really know why they’re doing it. Procter and Gamble—visionary company since 1837, possibly—doesn’t know why they’re making a website, and is spending of millions and millions of dollars. And now life insurance, Continental Airlines—same thing. They don’t know why they’re doing it. And it’s not based on any sort of historical data. It’s not based on the advertising model. None of it makes sense to them, so they’re just kind of going with the flow, which is amazing. So…
Well, we’re all going with the flow. Hardly anybody is resisting. Who can resist it? I think there is really a flow into this thing, and for a lot of businesses it might be for no reason. I think it’s great they’re spending money like that. Terence [???] business.
Yes. But could it be—and let me ask you. You talked to these people. Do you think that possibly, when they look into the screen, and they ask you your price, and they need a website, and they’re looking in to see what you did, that there is actually a backflow of altruism and spirituality which is coming into them which is unexpected?
Well, I have never heard that’s how…. No, I had never heard before of the Internet and spirituality in the same sentence until I came here. And this has been—it’ll be great for me to go back to the office on Monday and say, “Hey, I met these great guys, and I saw this great thing!” It’s going to be wild for me to even say one thing that came out of your mouth in a meeting. But I don’t—like I said before—I think I’m very naïve in this industry, and maybe everyone in this room is naïve to what the Internet can and will be, but it’s just… it’s going to be amazing. And I can’t really answer your question, unfortunately, because—
Well, we’ll be on the lookout, and we’re going to talk next summer. Because it’s a possibility. I’m glad—just by suggesting it, as a matter of fact, might make it true, even though it wasn’t going to be true. But now that we’ve discussed it, that’s it! They’re done for. Yeah!
Because we’ve discussed it?
It’s a placebo.
It could be, yeah. I mean, why do placebos work so well? Just think that over. Is this paranormal or what? I mean, placebos are—get me the placebo! It seems—
Cures more disease than any other drug in history.
Placebo dot com. Have you got that yet? You try that out.
Okay. And now I’m scanning around. There, in the back row, in a red shirt.
Thank you. Just about the fact that we are going through a major, major, major change that is not one that happens every day, or any century, or any millennium. No, we are going through a major, major shift that is like a major cycle of 26,000 years, and so it’s the night. So yes, time is precipitating, and we’re going through the photon, and through darkness, and through cleansing, and it is a major, major cleansing for planetary, for the Earth, and ourselves, the consciousness, the awareness. And the self-destruction that patriarchy has accountable for, and the shakiness still about it, the lack of project and vision. And we are—you know, Omega—we are Pluto in Leo. We are the ones that wanted self growth and self development for everybody. And now we have Pluto in Sag, and we have to visualize, you know? We have to build the vision. That’s the opportunity of the major cleansing for the planet that it’s going through. And we are killing everything. I mean, it can’t be more absurd. So the vision has to be world wide web based. You know, it has to be updated to this technology. But with all the knowledge of the 26,000 years, all the wide perspective, all the recovering of history and power, self-empowerment, you know? Just… I think that’s what’s going on.
Well… that’s great. I forgot about it, but that should have come up at some point: that, besides everything else, the stars are very much in favor of this interpretation of this moment as special. And many people I know in the scientific religion don’t believe in astrology and consider it a humbug, but according to the magazines, when they take polls, something like 80% of people who do take their natal chart seriously.
So if you can give any credence to astrology—just for example, among the indicators, then, is a huge argument in favor of time having structure, of a world cultural evolution being more or less in resonance with an overarching spacetime pattern, and so on. And if there is such a thing as a spacetime pattern to events, then it’s greatly in our interest to know what it is, or to have at least a vague idea what it is, in order to choose our best strategy in dealing with the Chicken Little demons which are real.
So if—I mean, harmonic convergence was another thing of this sort where people were very skeptical. On the other hand, an amazing number of people did turn out. There was, I think, quite recently, a call via email to meditate at a certain time on a certain day that was maybe astrologically chosen. Do you remember? It was just a month or two ago. What?
But how long ago was that? It was pretty recently.
A month or two.
Just a month or two ago. So could it be that a lot of people thinking the same thing at the same time—let us say a responsible vision for the future—then the fact that they were, like, sort of in tune, that there was convergence of the dream, gave more power for the realization—as the Maharishi Mahesh yogi says in the so-called Maharishi effect—that 10,000 people say, “well, if 10,000 people can reduce the crime rate in Providence, Rhode Island, I guess 30 million web-browsing individuals worldwide, sharing the same vision, could probably pacify the whole Middle East.” So it is important what fantasies for the future you have, and in what way and how much you communicate with other people about them. And that’s, I think, kind of what we’re doing here. And I think that what we’ve seen here is larger consensus, as it were, than I had expected. I’m feeling as I do an alien in a strange land coming from California to New York state, and not knowing exactly what world view to expect. I think that we have an amazing consensus here about the specialty of the moment, and the challenge to us, and the necessity to dream up a good future and do something at least to communicate with people in the hopes of materializing such a thing.
Sounds good to me.
So that’s what we’ve evolved toward in an hour and a half or so of discussion all together in this town meeting, The World Wide Web and the Millennium. We have more—I think, is this right?—that we have kind of more consensus about the millennium than we do about the world wide web.
[???] one thing [???] in person. And how do we keep it going when everybody’s off doing their own thing at their own computers in isolation? How do we keep that community in the flesh going at the same time?
I’ve found that email conversations work much better after you’ve met once, or maybe more than once. It just works better. And it never works as well as talking together, but there’s so many people who we’re going to talk to that we can never meet. And the challenge is: how well can you get into a relationship with someone that you have met through the Internet alone? So email is very text-oriented—not of necessity, but just that’s the habit that’s built around email. Whereas world wide web sites have a tendency to go multimedia right away at the start. And my hope is that the video telephone, video conferencing, or just video telephone for two friends to have contact over long distance, maintain a relationship over a long time—that the video telephone is much better than the telephone, the telephone is much better than email. But the video telephone is much better than the telephone. And making some kind of a compromise between video telephone and a world wide web site is a possibility. I mean, there’s a convergence of all these communications means. And I think that this is something that we very much want from the Internet in the future: is improvement in the quality of the actual communication, which is sort of the bandwidth of the channel, with colors, with smells, with video and so on, so that the contact is more effective. We’ll never replace meeting in person, but meeting in person’s become less and less frequent as you grow older and you don’t want to fly or your budget is restricted, or something. And I think we have to improve the telephone, essentially. We have to improve one-to-one contact on the Internet until it gets as close as it can be, within like 10% or whatever, of face-to-face contact, or a hot tub immersion, or something.
We should knock off.
I think personally I’m fading fast to the point that I’m not sure there’s a consensus on this or not.
You show no sign of fading fast!
So personally I think we should close on basis of lack of energy, and with respect to tomorrow’s complicated agenda. And I want to thank you so much for your excellent time.
Thank you! Lots of fun!