AF 1990 - Timothy Leary
UNLIMITED VIRTUAL REALITIES FOR EVERYONE!
HOW WE BECAME AMPHIBIANS
In 1990 surveys show that the average person in America, Spain, Catalunya, Italy, Andalusia, Japan, Indonesia, etc. is addicted to spending over four hours a day watching artificial, fake, plastic-fantastic, narco-technicolored realities on television screens.
This is more time than they are spending on most waking activities in the flesh-material reality like eating, drinking, exercizing, reading, love-making. Working?
Since 1980 I have spent around four hours a day looking at computer screens, not passively watching but actively creating my own personal, private, singular virtual realities. At first I used word-processing programs which allowed me to “screen-write” my ideas and to edit, cut-paste them. And to print them out or modem them to others at the speed of light.
Since 1983 I have been designing software programs which allow users to interact with my scripts and move around simulated environments of my own design.
Recently I have been working with graphic and sound wizards developing a software program called The Home Video Studio. The aim of this program is to give the individual human being the power which has, until now, been wielded by the leaders of large organizations.
These exercizes in translating thoughts to digital codes and screen images have helped me understand how my brain works, how the universe evolves in terms of information algorithms. And, in the most practical mode, to understand: 1) how we can avoid Television Dictatorships and 2) How we can personalize, humanize, democratize the Cyber-Screen Politics of the future.
AMPHIBIAN MEANS “TWO LIVES”
My experience, far from being original or unique, seem to be part of an enormous cultural metamorphosis. Like millions of others I have been mutating gradually, imperceptibly into an amphibian form.
(The word "amphibian" comes from the Greek "amphi"-double and "bios"-life).
Like millions of others I have come to feel as comfortable dealing with artificial realities over there in Cyberia, on the other side of my electronic reality window, as I do operating in the closed-in Terrarium of the material world. My brain, like yours, apparently craves, demands, needs to be bathed, inundated in oceans of electronic data.
Surely we mutants can be forgiven if we are confused by all this. Organisms in the process of metamorphosis are forced to use the metaphors of past stages to anticipate the future stages. An obviously risky business. “They’ll never get me up in one of those”, says the caterpillar to the butterfly.
So let me venture you some shaky allegories.
FROM AQUARIA TO TERRARIUM TO CYBERIA
In our early marine forms we lived under water. Trapped in Aquaria we could peer up through the sea ceiling and sense a wide-world up there.
In the Devonian period (400 million years ago) we started developing the technology needed to migrate to the shoreline. I am talking state-of-the-art terra-wear. Skin-tight dry-suits and lung respirators to maneuver around in the land-world.
Thus we became Amphibians, able to live both in Aquaria and in Terrarium.
During the Triassic Period we evolved to the mammalian stage and lost our ability to inhabit Aquaria.
For the last 225 million years mammals crawled and ran around the earth surface nervously improving their survival technologies.
Then, around 25,000 years ago human beings developed these enormous information-organs which they did not know how to operate. Those hairless primates, banded in social groups, living in caves, fashioning clubs to fight tigers, were actually equipped with the same brain-hardware that we are just now learning how to boot-up and program.
And for thousands of years the more poetic or neurologically advanced among us, have gazed upwards on starry nights sensing that another universe exists up there in space and that we are trapped in the Terrarium of earth’s gravity well.
The around 1900 quantum physicists explained to us the fact of life. Their equations demonstrated that the elements of all energy-matter in the universe, out-there or down here are charges of electronic information.
During the Roaring 20th century the equations of quantum physics lead to the development of cyber-appliances which allowed humans to receive, process and transmit electronic images. Suddenly humans were creating digital realities which were accessed on living-room screens. This universe of electronic signals accessed through the screen is called Cyberia.
The operators of fish-brains had to don dry-skin terra-suits to inhabit the Terrarium. Humans have to don space-suits to migrate into Outer Space. From 1950-1980 humans approach to the TV screen was passive. We sat with our noses against the glass compliantly watching artificial realities produced by those who controlled the screen. But now inexpensive Cyber-Wear, Cyber-Gloves, Data-Suits allows the individual to move through the screen of the home-computer and inhabit Cyber Space.
The point is that as our brain evolves it develops new vehicles and information processing devices.
THE BRAIN AS DIGITAL TRANSMITTER
Take me, for example. In the last eight years the metabolism of my information organ (brain) seems to have undergone a dramatic change. My eyes have become two hungry mouths pressed against the Terrarium window through which electronic pulses reach the receptive areas of my brain. My brain seems to require a daily input of several billion bytes of digital (light-speed) information. In this I am no different than the average televoid American sluggishly reclining in the botton of the Terrarium.
But my Personal Computer has transformed my brain into an out-put organ emitting, secreting, discharging digital information through the Terrarium window into the cyber-world.
Just as the heart is programmed to pump blood, my sinewy brain is now programmed to fire, launch, transmit, beam cataboloized-thoughts through the electronic window into Cyberia. The screen is the revolving glass door through which my Cyber-Brain both receives and emits its signals.
As a result of personal-computers and video-arcades millions of us are no longer satisfied to peer passively through the Terrarium wall at the Screen-land filed with cyber-stars like Reagan and Pac-Man and Vanna White and Donkey Kong. We are learning how to enter and locomote in Cyberia. Our brains are learning how to exhale, as well as inhale in the data-sphere.
Of course not all humans will make this move. Many of our firmy ancestors preferred to remain marine forms. “You’ll never get me up in one of those”, said the tadpole to the frog.
Many humans will be trapped by gene-pool geography or compelled by repressive societies or seduced by earthly fame and fortune and will be content to reside in the material-flesh world of mammalian Bi-Peds. They will not don Cyber-suits and room into Screen-Land.
We Bi-Brains who learn to construct and inhabit auto-realities will spend some time in the cyber-world and some in the material organic world.
On the flesh plane, our left-brains are limited to mechanical-material forms. But in Screen-Land our right brains are free to fabricate digital dreams, visions, fictions, concoctions, adventures. All these screen-scenes are as real as a kick-in-the-pants as far as our brains are concerned. The brain has no sense organs and muscles, you recall. The brain commands the body and sends space-ships to Neptune by sending signals in only one linguistic: the quantum language of zeros and ones.
PLEASE DO NOT WORRY ABOUT US AMPHIBIANS NEGLECTING THE BODY
Those of us who choose the amphibian option will spend many waking hours suited-up and moving around in the cybernetic-psybernetic Screen-Land. But please don’t fret about our neglecting the beautiful body.
The first point to register is this: We Bi-Brains do not use our precious flesh-ware to work. Think about it. Is it not a sacrilligous, desecration to waste our precious sensory equipment on toil, chore, drudgery? We are not pack animals, or serfs, or executive robots garbed in uniforms rushing around lugging brief-cases to offices.
Why should we use our priceless, irreplaceable bodies to do work that can be done better by assembly-line machines? To use the body to work is like using the penis as a hammer or the mouth as a cleaning device.
But who will plough the fields and harvest the grapes? The mid-western farmer will don his cyber-suit and recline in his hammock in Acapulco operating the automated plough on his Nebraska farm. The Mexican migrant will recline in his hammock in Acapulco using his cyber-gear to direct the grape-harvest machines in California.
When we finish our work, we will take off our cyber-suits and don our play suits. To work-out. When we migrants sweat, it is in athletic or sensual pleasure. When we exert elbow grease it is in some form of painterly flourish or musical riff. When we operate oil-gulping machines, we joy-ride for pleasure. The only mechanical vehicles we actually climb into and operate by hand are sports cars. We “tran-sport” our bodies for aesthetic-artistic-recreational purposes only. Our bodily postures are thus graceful and proud. Our body-movements are delightful, slow, sensual, lush, erotic, fleshly, carnal vacations from the accelerated, jazzy cyber-realities of cyberspace. Where the brain-work is done.
HOW I LEARNED COMMON-SENSE QUANTUM PSYCHOLOGY
The principles of quantum physics always seemed, to my immature material-mind, to be incomprehensible, bizarre, abstract, and totally impractical. Now that my digital-brain-lobes have been activated, quantum physics seems to make common-sense and to define a practical psychology of every day life in the Bi-Brain mode.
Einstein’s theories of relativity, for example, suggest that realities depend upon points-of-view. Instead of the static absolutes of space/time defined by my material reality, quantum-brain realities are changing fields defined by quick feed-back interchanges with other information sources. The Hindu yogis have sensed this for some time. Now our computer brain-wear allows us to perform Einsteinian fast feedback transformations on our laptops.
Werner Heisenberg’s principle states that there can be no objective determinancy. This restates Einstein. If every one has a singular viewpoint, then every one creates a unique reality. This gives the responsibility for reality construction not to a bad-natured biblical god or to an impersonal, mechanical process of entropic devolution, or to an omniscient Marxist state, but to the individual brain. Subjective determinancy operates in Screen-land. Your brain creates your own spiritual worlds. Or, as they say along the Ganges, you get reality you deserve. And now our activated brains can project wonderland realities on our screens and hurl them around the globe at light-speed.
Notice the political implications, Quantum psychology, stressing singularity of view-point, defines the ultimatedemocracy. The screen is the window to the new world. Who controls the screen controls reality. Therefore, it behoves you to control your own reality screens.
These two notions of relativity and self-determination are street-smart-common-sense. But Albert and Werner and Max Planck and Neils Bohr lost the crowd when they said, around 1906, that the basic elements of the universe were bits of off/on (yin/yang) information. And that solid matter is temporary clusters of frozen infomation. And that when material structures are fissioned they release energy. E = mc2.
These guys were explaining these electronic ideas by using their muscles to scrawl with paleolithic chalk on a slab of black slate. Almost no one knew what they were talking about.
During the next 50 years quantum appliances became household items. The application of Quantum Physics to engineering produced radio, film, teletype, telephone, television, FAX.
Now recall, these gadgets do not move “matter-energy” around. They move information. Data-buzzes. Electronic means “informational”. Sticks and stones may break you bones, but electrons can never hurt you. Although they can, alas, totally control your mind.
So it becomes clear that basic elements (the quanta) making up matter are bits of “information”. Matter is still-frame information. Energy is just the dumb smoke and sweat that matter releases in its lumbering transformations. The famous formula changes to I = MC2.
Where “I” am information.
At the quantum level the Newtonian “laws” are seen as local ordinances. It turns out that the smaller the linguistic element, the greater the I.Q. (information quotient). The larger is the lumbering vehicle for the miniturized Platonic info-units it carries around. The universe is an intelligence system and the elements of intelligence are quanta. And suddenly we understand that the brain is an organ designed to “metabolize” digital information.
VIRTUAL REALITY APPLIANCE
In 1989 the nature of Quantum Politics of thought-processing and the human-computer interface was dramatically changed by the introduction and marketing computer clothing. The Data Suit. Cyber-Wear. The basic idea is that you create realities on the other side of the screen not with a keyboard or joystick or a mouse. You wear the interface. You don a cyber-glove, cyber-lens, cyber-cap, cyber-vest. Cyber-shorts! Your bodily movements create the images on the screen. You walk, talk, dance, swim, float around in the digital world. And you interact, on screen, with others who are linked in your net.
Cyber-wear is mutational technology which allows the individual brain to indulge in O.O.B. (Out-of-Body) experiences just as land-ware like legs and lungs permitted the individual fish to escape the ocean and indulge in O.O.W. experiences.
THE PIONEERS OF CYBERSPACE
The basic notion of O.O.B. artificial reality was introduced by Myron Kreuger and Ted Nelson in the 1970’s. The nitty-gritty realities of creating and inhabiting digital universes were described in 1985 by William Gibson in “Neuromancer”. Gibson described the Matrix, the data-world created by human digital communication. By 1989 Cybernauts like Jaron Lanier and Eric Gullichsen were developing “cyberspace” realities built for two.
THE POLITICS OF ARTIFICIAL REALITY
The election of Ronald Reagan, an actor, to the post of Commander in Chief of the world’s most potent Nuclear Military Force established “artificial reality fabrication” as the access tool for political power. Government becomes a prime-time television show the aim of which is, of course, to maintain the power of the regime. Power in the consumer democracy no longer comes from the barrel of a gun. Power is Hooper rating and market share percentages. Popularity depends upon television “news” which entertains the voters. If the ratings for the Oval Office Show drop, a replacement show will be voted into office.
The semiotic truth is that who controls the screen controls the minds of the people.
The bad news is that 250 million Americans spend 4 hours a day docilely hunkered down to be narco-neuroticized by fake-news dramas featuring violence-Heisenberg scenarios scripted by politicians to cover up their corruption and mismanagement.
The good news is that inexpensive cyber-wear now beginning to come on the market will make it possible for individuals to control their own screens in the future.
World War I was a land war, pitting some feudal monarchies against the industrial democracies.
World War II was a land-sea-air war in which enormous industrial empires contended for global power.
World War III has just begun. It is a Cyber-War, pitting the power of the state, the network, the multi-national company against the singular individual. The symbol of this contest is Wang Weilin, the 19 years old Chinese student who single-handed held off 18 tanks. How? Why? Because at that glorious Andy Warhol moment, he was he Global Screen star. He had managed to have his digitized image beamed into living rooms around the world.
And that is where World War III will be fought. Not on land, not at sea, not in the air -but in your living room. In the virtual realities which you bring into existence on your electronic screens.
This ART FUTURA conference in Barcelona could well be seen as a liberating moment in human history. Virtual reality devices allow the individual to become reality-architect, cyber-artist, screen-writer, screen-star, screen-director. This empowering and ennobling of the individual may mark the end of 4000 years of partisan politics.
My modest and cheerful mission at this moment is to popularize, personalize, humanize Quantum Psychology and to advertize the interactive Cyber-Wear devices being created by people like William Gibson, Ted Nelson, Jaron Lanier, Myron Kreuger, Edward Fredkin, Scott Fisher, Todd Rundgren, Professor Mel Seesholtz, Professor Linda Nolan, Bumbar.
Suited in these electronic star-suits the individual human being is enabled to cross the Merlin Wall and realize our most noble dreams of joy, freedom and fairplay.
Text originally published in ArtFutura's 1990 catalog.