Links: Hybrid Monsters make excellent Memes, Kenneth Goldsmiths liquid Language and a Tale of -trons

Alan Moore is a hero 👏 Watchmen writer Alan Moore goes to war with council over library closures: Moore, 63, was born in Northampton into a working class family who had lived there for generations. He claims that it was access to the town's libraries that inspired him to become a writer.

🤖 Life After Empathy: On Philip K. Dick and Blade Runner 2049: „No substantive difference now exists between human and replicant life. If they are equally sacred by virtue of birth, how can one be summarily enslaved or destroyed? The wall that divides human from replicant seems about to fall, and civilization along with it. Deckard fathers a new race, and Blade Runner 2049 ends on the brink of a race war. Kill the killers was an easy fix. The Blade Runner movies rehabilitate the replicant, turning it into an image of life subordinated, denied its sacredness. Replicant lives matter. Convincing humans to accept it, however, will take some doing. As an allegory of contemporary race relations, Blade Runner 2049 anticipates difficult times ahead. If you were a replicant, how would you know?“

☝️ A tale of ‘trons’: the suffix that tells the story of modern science: „As a teenager, I was witness to the last gasps of a 20th-century lexical leitmotif. The suffix ‘-tron’, along with ‘-matic’ and ‘-stat’, are what the historian Robert Proctor at Stanford University calls embodied symbols. Like the heraldic shields of ancient knights, these morphemes were painted onto the names of scientific technologies to proclaim one’s history and achievements to friends and enemies alike. ‘Stat’ signalled something measurable, while ‘matic’ advertised free labour; but ‘tron’, above all, indicated control. To gain the suffix was to acquire a proud and optimistic emblem of the electronic and atomic age. It was a totem of high modernism, the intellectual and cultural mode that decreed no process or phenomenon was too complex to be grasped, managed and optimised. The suffix emblazoned the banners of nuclear physics’ Cosmotron, modern biology’s Climatron, and early AI’s Perceptron – displaying to all our mastery over matter, life and information.“

🌲 When Climate Change Comes for the Fairy Tale Forest: „In Europe’s coming climate-change created droughts, certain types of trees don’t stand a chance. One such tree, the Norway spruce, currently makes up the bulk of Germany’s Black Forest.“

„Hybrid monsters make excellent memes“ 👹 Why Are So Many Monsters Hybrids?:

Category violations strongly arouse the human mind. When our expectations about the world—“humans have two arms,” “snakes don’t fly”—are disrupted by Vishnu, with dozens of arms, or flying snakes in the form of dragons, the images grab our attention and become cognitively “sticky.” They stick in our memories, recall very easily, and spread throughout the social group. Hybrid monsters, in other words, make excellent memes. Richard Dawkins first argued that while memes were cultural fragments or cognitive units, they were analogical to genes in the sense that they spread through populations without conscious design or purpose. Unnatural ideas or images survive and spread well because they surprise us, making them harder to forget or ignore.

Anthropologist David Wengrow argues that hybrid monsters proliferated during the Bronze Age, because new trade routes and cultural mixing elicited psychological anxiety. Creating monsters is a way of channeling our cultural and political fears into tangible forms, into objects of loathing and dread.

Monsters might not seem like helpful memes because they frighten us and increase stress, but they are almost always part of a larger cultural cautionary tale. The monster plays an important role in norm enforcement. If you don’t follow the rules, the bogeyman will get you. If you don’t walk the path of virtue, the devil will take you. If you succumb to gluttony, you’ll become a “hungry ghost” in the next life (according to Buddhist traditions). Most monsters function as disgusting threats that heroes and gods vanquish, repudiate, and cleanse from the community. They offer surrogate rehearsals for how the real community (“us”) will resist actual enemies (“them”). Monsters are sticky memes that draw groups together into moral communities.

👁 Ubu Yorker: Berfrois Interviews Kenneth Goldsmith: „A Microsoft Word document is haunted by ghosts who are constantly writing and reading at the same time.“

Berfrois: What is the point of an artist – such as yourself – reproducing documents or reading documents as if they are poetry? How can one call this art?

Kenneth Goldsmith: The point is that in our era the acquisition and accumulation of cultural artifacts far outweighs the content of the artifacts themselves. It’s an inversion of content. Suddenly, it’s the apparatus and everything surrounding the artifact which is its content. It flicks back-and-forth, obviously. My artworks still have some content, but I spend much more time shuffling them around and acquiring them and then sending them back out onto the web than I do actually engaging in them. The way I engage with them is indexical. Everything is indexed in the database and if I need a quote from Sigmund Freud, I’ll go into my database and type in Freud and another keyword and then suddenly that’s how I’m using my notes. I’m not sitting down and reading them. It’s an economy of citation rather than engagement.

It’s still engagement, but it’s a citational engagement.