33 - Jon Lebkowsky (Pluralist Utopias & The World Wide Web's Wild West)

Ep. 33

This week's episode is brought to you by Visionary Magnets, the refrigerator poetry magnets that turn your boring old kitchen appliances into the substrate for woke invocations, tantric pillow talk, and other occult goofery. Support their Kickstarter and "enlighten your fridge" today! Or tomorrow.  Subscribe to Future Fossils on iTunes Subscribe to Future Fossils on Stitcher Join the Future Fossils Facebook Group This week is part one of a special double-length episode with Jon Lebkowsky, founder of EFF-Austin – one of the unsung heroes of Internet culture, whose tale stretches through the earliest web communities and reads like a list of landmark moments in the history of digital rights and culture.  http://weblogsky.com/ https://twitter.com/jonl https://www.facebook.com/polycot/ https://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/495/Bruce-Sterling-and-Jon-Lebkowsky-page01.html We talk about the early days of hacking in the Wild West of the 1990s, how the World Wide Web has changed since then, and the promises and perils of the Internet in the 21st Century. It’s a winding tale of pseudonymous keyboard-slingers and federal raids, roleplaying game empires and sci-fi visionaries, centered on the unsuspecting hippie cowboy outpost of Austin, Texas, Once Upon A Time. Enjoy this special conversation on the history of the Internet we know today, and a snapshot of the hopes and fears of life online in the dawn of our digital era… TOPICS: - The threat of Internet-empowered fascism and “participation mystique” (or maybe worse, a corporate plutocracy) eroding rational civil discourse and the dignity of the individual - The problems with “Net Neutrality” and how it makes more sense to focus on “The Freedom to Connect” - Connectivity vs. Interdependence (OR) Networks vs. Buddhism - Does the Noosphere already exist, and we’re just excavating it? - The History of Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin and how it was connected to the secret service’s raid of legendary role-playing game designer Steve Jackson (GURPS) - The hilarious, troubled Dawn Age of e-commerce before secure web browsing - Jon’s work with a Gurdjieff group and his encounters with esoterica as an editor of the Consciousness subdomain for the last issue of the Whole Earth Review - Cybergrace, TechGnosis, and Millennial concerns about the mind/body split in the first Internet and our need to humanize technology with whole-body interfaces and MOVEMENT - Embodied Virtual Reality & Other Full-Sensory Immersive Media - Cory Doctorow’s new novel Walkaway as a banner book for the maker movement and a new form of cyber-social-liberation. - The movement of political agency back into city-states in a digital era - “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” - Shaping the future of wireless infrastructure in the early 00s of Austin - Getting our values right before we imprint the wrong ones into superhuman AI - Putting together diverse conversation groups to solve “wicked problems” - New forms of participatory open-source politics suited for an internet age SOME OF THE PEOPLE & STUFF WE MENTIONED: Whole Earth Provisions, Whole Earth Review, The WELL, Whole Foods, William Gibson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hakim Bey, William Irwin Thompson, Alien Covenant, Terminator, John Perry Barlow, Mitch Kapor, Mike Godwin, Bruce Sterling, Clay Shirkey, WIRED Magazine, Fringeware, RoboFest, Heather Barfield, Neal Stephenson, Terence McKenna, Church of the Subgenius, Mondo 2000, Erik Davis, GI Gurdjieff, The National Science Fiction Convention, Rudy Rucker, Greg Bear, Jon Shirley, Jennifer Cobb, Robert Scoville, Greg Egan, Ernest Cline, Octopus Project, The Tingler, Honey I Shrunk The Kids (Ride), Charles Stross, Glass House, Rapture of the Nerds, Cory Doctorow, Alan Moore, Project Hieroglyph, Arizona State University, Jake Dunagan, Plutopia Productions, The Digital Convergence Initiative, Chris Boyd, South By Southwest, Boing Boing, Make Magazine, Dave Demaris, Maggie Duval, Bon Davis, DJ Spooky, Forest Mars, OS Con, RU Sirius, Shin Gojira, Open-Source Party, JON LEBKOWSKY QUOTES: “The Noosphere can certainly have pathologies…” “The Internet was originally a peer-to-peer system, and so you had a network of networks, and they were all cooperating and carrying each other’s traffic, and so forth. And that was a fairly powerful idea, but the Internet is not that anymore. The Internet has, because of the way it’s evolved, because it’s become so powerful and so important and so critical, there are systems that are more dominant – backbone systems – and those are operated by large companies that understand how to operate big networks. That’s really a different system than the system that was originally built.” “SO FAR we’ve managed to keep the Internet fairly open…the absolute idea of net neutrality might not be completely practical.” “Science fiction is a literature of ideas, but a lot of those ideas do not manifest in exactly the way that they did in the book.” “I don’t have a real high level of confidence that anybody understands exactly what the fuck is going on.” “You couldn’t get a consumer account to get access to the Internet at that time. And in fact I think the first companies to do that were here in Austin.” “At the time, we were the only game in town for internet stuff…” “One thing I learned was, if you’re at the very cutting edge, it’s hard to make money.” “There are a lot of people who aren’t in touch with themselves internally. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to do that.” “I know that that’s sort of the goal in VR development: to give you a fully immersive experience where you’re really in a completely other reality, like in the Holodeck. But, you know. I’m still dealing with THIS reality. I don’t want another one.” “In an online community, people are always itching for ways to get into real human proximity with one another. They’re always looking for ways to meet.” “That’s my idea of what works now: is to have events that are experiences, you know, versus people just like, going to movies, or watching television, or going to a concert and watching a band play.” “I keep thinking that we won’t be able to solve our problems with bureaucracy or the kind of governance structures that we’ve been living with, but I look around me and see people who are doing just fine, and doing great work, and living their lives…and I’m sort of feeling hopeful and a little bit confident that those people will step up and do what they need to do to make things work, even if our so-called elected officials aren’t doing it.”

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189 - Planet-scale Musical Chairs: 21st Century Human Geography with Parag Khanna

Ep. 189
This week on Future Fossils, we sync up with globe-trotting (Singapore-based) futurist Parag Khanna, author of several internationally best-selling books on the shifting landscape of human geography and technological evolution. My acquaintance with Parag dates back all the way to 2011 when I found his Hybrid Reality Institute, and started writing for his BigThink blog, thanks to the writing of Jason Silva — I knew this was a party I couldn’t miss, even though I was then, as now, deeply ambivalent about the contours of the futures he and his colleagues were making visible with their rigorous research. This spirit has defined my entire adult life: if you want to help steer something in a better direction, you might just have to get your hands down into the murk and engage with it deeply enough to be in the position to make a difference. So when his agent contacted me about interviewing him about his latest book, 2021’s Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, I knew it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. But let me be clear that Parag sees things very differently than I do, and I appreciate that about him: he has a keen sense of the risks and dangers of our times but emphasizes the opportunities because the facts are there to support it. If you move around as much as he does, and always has, you get a kind of synoptic view of the planet and the tension between individual destiny and collective momentum comes into a new tuning. This is a beast of a conversation. It was hell to edit. I’m glad it happened. Here you go!Complete, extensive show notes at Patreon.✨ Housekeeping:• Intro music is "You're In My Self-Portrait" from my 2012 album Golden Hour. Outro music is "City of Jewels" from my 2013 EP of the same name. For something completely different, check out my latest live album, recorded at Meow Wolf Santa Fe while opening for DeVotchKa.✨ Other Ways To Support The Work & Community:• My roughly-monthly newsletter at Substack• Venmo: @futurefossils• PayPal.me/michaelgarfield• ETH: FutureFossils.eth• BTC: 1At2LQbkQmgDugkchkP6QkDJCvJ5rv3Jm• NFTs: Rarible | Foundation | Voice | Hic Et Nunc | Mint Songs

188 - LARPing as a Nation-State with Jon Hillis & 0xZakk of CABIN DAO and Christian Lemp of Diamond DAO

Ep. 188
Complete, EXTENSIVE show notes at Patreon.com/michaelgarfield!As guest 0xZakk says at the very end of this conversation, most of the construction projects throughout the history of civilization have been coercive. What does it look like when we actually build things in a really cooperative way? This episode was recorded in November 2021 when the cryptocurrency markets were insanely bullish and the world relatively stable…but releasing it now, in July 2022, seems more aptly-timed than I could have anticipated.The United States Supreme Court has failed the great majority of American citizens not just once but several shocking and historic times in one week, hacking away at women’s reproductive rights, the EPA, and gun safety all at once. The Supreme Court majority was largely appointed by presidents that lost the popular vote, our nation is embroiled in hearings about a violent coup attempt spearheaded by the former President, and people on both sides of the constructed political divide seem more desperate than ever before in living memory. At the same time, both stocks and digital currencies, and the economic possibilities they support, are suffering through what seems like it will be a protracted winter. So it’s a PERFECT moment to talk about the visions we commit to building through the hardship, and the new responsibilities we must assume as citizens — not just of nation-states, but of the digital communities and cultures that we voluntarily participate in, the neighborhoods and cities that we live in. When a big tree dies in the forest, its falling lets in light that stimulates a contest between saplings — and we’re seeing something similar now in this rapid blooming of experiments in governance and finance, legal regulations and privately-organized society. Suddenly projects like the CABIN DAO seem prescient and urgent, so I’m glad to share this potent conversation with Jon Hillis and @0xZakk of CABIN DAO and Christian Lemp of Diamond DAO — three of the many people working hard at the frontiers of blockchain-based social innovation. In this episode we talk about what it means to live-action roleplay as a city-state, how physical geography and online culture overlap in their experiments, and what should stay illegible and wild amidst this wave of techy change…If you enjoy this show, please take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review wherever you prefer to listen. I’ve been extremely busy backstage working on a suite of Future Fossils projects that extend beyond the podcast, some of which you can glimpse on my Instagram and Twitter feeds…big changes coming soon, and inspiration’s flowing. If you want the inner track on all the music, art, and writing I am cooking up — or if you simply see the value in these conversations and my work at large, I hope you’ll join the other awesome people chipping in with listener support at Patreon.com/michaelgarfield — where I’m sharing an enormous folder of new A.I. artwork, updated every day.Lastly, I just re-launched my now thirteen-year-old blog on Substack — for roughly monthly digests of new work, join 7,500 other readers at michaelgarfield.substack.com. More soon.