Language is very old, thinking is very old, communicating is very old—by glance, by gesture, by dance, by meme, by intuition—but speech is very recent. It’s a technological innovation as fresh as the Pentium chip or the spinning wheel. It’s something someone invented somewhere. It’s the most successful technological leap forward ever made. It’s the discovery of symbolic signification. That a noise—meaning nothing—can by convention be given a meaning, and that that meaning will then attend that utterance wherever it occurs in the presence of those who have joined in the agreement that attaches the symbol to the meaningless utterance. It’s a coding breakthrough. Somebody hacked this about 35,000 years ago.
What writing allows is expansion of the database, because things are not dependent on the wetware of human memory to survive from generation to generation. Suddenly the mush of brain is replaced by the durability of wood and stone and clay, and these things then become the medium upon which the primary database of the culture is being carried forward.
Culture is an operating system—that’s all it is—and the operating system can be wiped out and replaced by something else.
What’s wrong with the operating system that we have—Consumer Capitalism 5.0, or whatever it is? Well, it’s dumb! It’s retro. It’s very non-competitive. It’s messy. It wastes the environment. It wastes human resources. It’s inefficient. It runs on stereotypes. It runs on a low sampling rate—which is what creates stereotypes: low sample rates make everybody appear alike, when in fact the glory is in everyone’s differences. And the current operating system is flawed. It actually has bugs in it that generate contradictions—contradictions such as: we’re cutting the Earth from beneath our own feet, we’re poisoning the atmosphere that we breathe. This is not intelligent behavior. This is a culture with a bug in its operating system that’s making it produce erratic, dysfunctional, malfunctional behavior. Time to call a tech!
Find the others. Make common cause. Realize that it’s the deals you cut and the friends you make that determine where you’re going to be standing when the flash hits.
What we need to celebrate is the individual. Have you not noticed (I certainly have) that every historical change you can think of—in fact, any change you can think of; forget about human beings—any change in any system that you can think of is always ultimately traceable to one unit in the system undergoing a phase state change of some sort. No group—there are no group decisions. Those things come later. The genius of creativity and of initiation of activity always lies with the individual.
As I see it, the most visible facts on the surface of things, on the surface of being, I see the law of increasing complexity. Things have gotten more complicated through time. I have never met anyone who could successfully argue against this.
As you approach the present moment in the only area of the universe which we have accurate data about (which is this planet), things become more complicated. A million years ago there were no human civilizations. A thousand years ago there were no machines to speak of. A hundred years ago there was no communication infrastructure to speak of. Ten years ago there was no Internet. Eighteen months ago there was no Java. Things are complexifying, intensifying, moving together. This is the universal drama that is reaching culmination in our lifetimes.
The Internet is the beginning of a nervous system that is knitting not only all human beings, but all life together, all information together.
Something has happened to this planet. It has become infected with an informational—call it virus, call it force, call it being—that is using matter (and yes, using our flesh and our thoughts) to bootsrap itself to higher and higher levels. And now the prosthesis of machinery and the possibility of an artificial intelligence raises the real option of producing… of actually midwifing the birth of an entirely new, not species, but order of biology and intelligence in existence. The human–machine symbiot is upon us.
What does “inform yourself” mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience. What do you think when you face the waterfall? What do you think when you have sex? What do you think when you take psilocybin? Everything else is unconfirmable rumor, useless, probably lies. So liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility for what you think and what you do.
I believe primates are at their best when cornered, and we aren’t cornered yet. I mean, we talk about how we’re cornered, and people say this is the end of the world—this ain’t the end of the world, this is the long garden party before the end of the world, with strolling musicians and superbly catered food and women in diaphanous gowns and high-toned conversation. Wait until you see the end of the world! It isn’t about deciding to come up to Austin to attend the Whole Life Expo, let me tell you!