Three Pound Brain

No bells, just whistling in the dark…

Month: June, 2011

Future X

by rsbakker

Definition of the Day I – Human: A biological system connecting the dinner plate to the shitter. 

Definition of the Day II – Writer: A biological system convinced that it does more than simply connect the dinner plate to the shitter. See, Flatulance.

Quite the dialogue we’ve had going the past several days. For my part, I’ve pared back my commitment to Argument (1) from the previous post. I really don’t think anyone has seriously challenged Argument (2) regarding identity, which, I think anyway, is the core of the dilemma facing us.

Since all our rationales turn on our neurophysiology as it exists, I just don’t see how anyone can argue that it would be ‘better’ to leave our neurophysiology behind. If what we call ‘morality’ is a product of our neurophysiology, then abandoning that neurophysiology entails abandoning that morality. How can it be ‘better’ to leave BETTER behind?

This just underscores the real problem faced by the technological enthusiast: they really don’t know what they’re arguing for… Why should anyone embrace some Future X, especially when all we know for certain is that we will cease to exist? Because there’s a good chance the incomprehensible aliens that follow us will be ‘more intelligent’ (whatever that means, post UNNF (universal natural neurophysiological frame))?

Why should anyone give a damn about them?

Anyway, here are the links to a couple of more or less apropo pieces I wrote for a couple years back. (Thanks Bhaal!)

A Fact More Indigestible than Evolution I

A Fact More Indigestible than Evolution II

Encircled by Armageddon

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Holding a fool accountable is like blaming your last cigarette for giving you cancer. Behind every idiot stands a village.

This is a horse I’ve been flogging for several years now, the way that the picture(s) offered by the technological optimists seem to entail our doom as much as the pictures(s) offered by the pessimists. To crib a metaphor from Marx, we will be hanged by the very rope that is supposed to save us.

It seems to me that the two best ways to attack the argument from the two previous posts are to argue that the biological revolution I describe simply won’t happen, or that if it does happen, it doesn’t entail the ‘end of humanity.’

My argument for the first is simply: in the absence of any obvious and immediate deleterious effect, any technology that renders competitive advantages will be exploited. My argument for the second is simply: identity is not conserved across drastic changes in neurophysiology.

The inevitability of the former entails the ‘drastic changes’ of the latter. Even though ‘loss of identity’ counts as an ‘obvious deleterious effect,’ it does not count as an immediate one. Creeping normalcy will be our undoing, the slow accumulation of modifications as our neurophysiology falls ever deeper into our manipulative purview.

The question of whether we should fear this potential likelihood is the same as asking whether we should fear that other profound loss of identity, death.  Either way, whatever the paradise or pandamonium that awaits us on the other side, it ain’t human.

POST-SCRIPT: Here’s an interesting little tidbit from The Atlantic that a buddy just sent me. We’re standing at the wee beginning of Enlightenment 2.0, and we’re already talking about overturning the entire foundation of our whole legal system.

POST-POST-SCRIPT: Here’s another interesting tidbit I came across correlating personality types and the propensity to believe in free-will…

On the Varieties of Enlightenment

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: The fantasy fiction of the 22nd century will be living in a human body with a human brain.

This aphorism, by the way, is kind of what the Framers in Disciple of the Dog believe: that the world we live in is a massive fantasy role-playing game.

So the debate in the comments on “What is the Semantic Apocalype?” has got me thinking about ways to clarify the position I’m offering. So here’s a different comic strip:

Enlightenment 1.0, whose dream we happen to be living right now, turned on the wholesale critique of traditional knowledge. The authority of the ancient sources was thrown overboard, and we turned to reason and observation for our answers. In the early days, this revolution bubbled with intellectual promise: some thought reason alone was sufficient for knowledge, and various ‘systems’ were devised to provide knowledge of unobservables like truth, beauty, God, and so on. The plethora of competing systems, and the abject inability of any of their partisans to resolve their disagreements, quickly made this secondary Enlightenment project seem like a dead end. The consequences of this Enlightenment 1.1, however, were quite extreme. By dragging so many implicit norms into the light of explicit reflection and failing to make any positive, consensus commanding determinations whatsoever, E 1.1 managed to demolish all of our old ways of making sense of our life without providing anything new. Postmodernism attempted to make a virtue out of this failure: if received cultural norms can’t be trusted, then we must innovate our way into our normative future, make ourselves meaningful. Call this Enlightenment 1.2. (I see postmodernism as a radicalization of romanticism).

The original E 1.0 insight, meanwhile, kept chugging along, producing what has been the greatest explosion in human knowledge in the history of the species. Reason and observation, a.k.a. science, became the institutional backbone of society, giving us the grip we needed to throttle the planet and extort any number of technological and organizational goodies. But since human meaning turned on unobservables, it had nothing to offer us save tools to pursue what ever purpose we cooked up for ourselves. E 1.0, in other words, provided us with an endless array of means, but absolutely no end or goal. Thus modern consumer society: the pointless accumulation of means. Biological imperatives become the new consensual foundation: all the norms and laws and rights that make up our new cage are (implicitly or explicitly) rationalized as means, as ways to maximize the satisfaction of these biological imperatives, while leaving the question of meaning to individuals. E 1.0 led us to a promised land where we were no longer the chosen people: small wonder we have such a hankering for pre-Enlightenment worlds! Fantasy reminds us of what it was like to live in a meaningful reality.

If Enlightenment 1.0 allowed us to escape our normative prison, only to strand us in a meaningless world, the question is one of how Enlightenment 2.0 – which is happening as we speak – will transform things.  E 2.0 is set to tear down our biological prison the way E 1.0 tore down our traditional one. We escaped tradition to find ourselves trapped by biology. If we escape biology does that mean we are finally free?

I chose the rhetoric of constraint and escape intentionally, because it seems to be the register that E 2.0 enthusiasts are most inclined to use. Nothing like ’emancipation’ to sell toothpaste. But the fact is, constraints enable. The English language is a system of constraints. All languages are. ‘Escape’ any of those systems, and you escape communication, which is to say, imprison yourself in unintelligility.

Humanity is also a system of biological constraints. Breaking out of the ‘human system’ is relatively easy to do, so much so, that many of us live in perpetual terror of being ‘freed.’ Suicide, as they say, is easy.

The question is, what prevents E 2.0 from being a form of mass collective suicide? Is it the incrementalism of the transformation? Do E 2.0 enthusiasts think that the gradualism of the change will allow them to somehow conserve their identities across profound systematic transformations. This strikes me as wishful thinking.

I hate to say it, but the pro E 2.0 arguments always strike me as out-and-out religious: “Who you are now will pass, but after, oh what joy! Paradise awaits, my friend! Imagine a world without tears!”

Hmmm… I think the only thing we can say with any certainty is that who we are now will no longer exist, and that this sounds suspiciously like death. Whether you shut your brain down, or rewire it to tangle the stars: either way you are gone.

And this is something we should welcome with open arms? Because we have faith in some vision of techno-paradise?

To be fair they think their argument has a rational basis. E 2.0 enthusiasts typically rely on a straightforward optimistic induction: by and large, technological innovation has improved our ‘quality of life’ in the past, therefore, radical technological innovation will radically improve our quality of life in the future.

I don’t think the argument is remotely convincing because of the disjunct between ‘technological innovation’ and ‘radical technological innovation.’  This inductive chasm deepens once you make a distinction between tweaking our environment, exo-technological innovation, and tweaking ourselves, endo-technological innovation. ‘By and large, exo-technological innovation has improved our quality of life, therefore endo-technological innovation will improve our quality of life in the future’ does not follow simply because ‘our quality of life’  turns on a humanity that ‘endo-technological innovation’ promises to render archaic and ultimately extinct.

Their argument really is: By and large, exo-technological innovation has improved our quality of life, therefore endo-technological innovation will… well, we can’t say ‘improve’ because that is an artifact of our standards, which will almost certainly be thrown out the window, and we can’t say ‘our the quality of life,’ because we will no longer exist as we exist now, and no one can say whether we’ll be able to conserve our personal identity in any meaningful sense, let alone what ‘quality of life’ might mean to whatever it is that supplants us.

So their claims of techno-paradise might as well be declarations of faith, the substance of things hoped for…

The rest of us should be shitting our drawers.

What is the Semantic Apocalypse?

by rsbakker

Here’s the comic book version (the only version, given the kinds of complexities these issues generalize over):

In social terms, you could suggest that the Semantic Apocalypse has already happened. Consumer society is a society where liberal democratic states have retreated from the ‘meaning game,’  leaving the intractable issue to its constituents. Given the interpretative ambiguity that permeates the Question of Meaning, there is no discursive or evidential way of commanding any kind of consensus: this is why states past and present had to resort to coercion to promote meaning solidarity. Absent coercion, people pretty much climb on whatever dogmatic bandwagon that appeals to them, typically the ones that most resonate with their childhood socialization, or as we like to call it, their ‘heart.’ 

The result of this heterogeniety is a society lacking any universal meaning-based imperatives: all the ‘shoulds’ of a meaningful life are either individual or subcultural. As a result, the only universal imperatives that remain are those arising out of our shared biology: our fears and hungers. Thus, consumer society, the efficient organization of humans around the facts of their shared animality.

In biological terms, my fear is that the Semantic Apocalypse is about  to happen. Despite the florid diversity of answers to the Question of Meaning, they tend to display a remarkable degree of structural convergence. This is what you would expect, given that we are neurologically wired for meaning, to look at the world in terms of intent, purpose, and propriety. Research in this last, the biology of morality, has found striking convergences in moral thought across what otherwise seem vast cultural chasms.

Even though we cannot agree on the answer, we all agree on the importance of the question, and the shapes that answers should take – even apparently radical departures from traditional thought, such as Buddhism. No matter how diverse the answers seem to be, they all remain anchored in the facts of our shared neurophysiology.

So what happens when we inevitably leave that shared neurophysiology behind?

The breakdown of traditional solidarity under the reflective scrutiny of the Enlightenment was recouped by the existence of what might be called a bigger box: the imperatives we share by virtue of our common neurophysiology. We could do without shared pictures of meaning (as traditionally defined) because we could manage quite nicely – flourish even – relying on our common instincts and desires.

The million dollar question is really one of what happens once that shared neurophysiology begins to fragment, and sharing imperatives becomes a matter of coincidence. It has to be madness, one that will creep upon us by technological degrees.

Why does it have to be madness? Because we define madness according what our brains normally do. Once we begin personalizing our brains, ‘normally do’ will become less and less meaningful. ‘Insanity’ will simply be what one tribe calls another, and from our antiquated perspective, it will all look like insanity.

It’s hard to imagine, I admit, but you have to look at all the biologically fixed aspects of your conscious experience like distinct paints on a palette. Once the human brain falls into our manipulative purview, anything becomes possible. Certain colours, like suffering and fear, will likely be wiped away. Other colours, like carnal pleasure or epiphany, will be smeared across everything. And this is just the easy stuff: willing might be mixed with hearing, so that everytime a dog barks, you have the senstation of willing all creation into existence. Love might be mutated, pressed in experiential directions we cannot fathom, until it becomes something indistinguishable from cruelty. Reason could be married to vision, so that everything you see resounds with Truth. The combinatorial possibilities are as infinite as are the possibilities for creating some genuinely new…

And where does the slow and static ‘human’ fit into all this? Nowhere I can see.

And why should any human want to embrace this, when they are the ladder that will be kicked away? How could reasons be offered, when rationality finds itself on the chopping block with everything else. How do you argue for madness?

Perhaps our only recourse will be some kind of return to State coercion, this time with a toybox filled with new tools for omnipresent surveillance and utter oppression. A world where a given neurophysiology is the State Religion, and super-intelligent tweakers are hunted like animals in the streets.

Maybe that should be my next standalone: a novel called Semantica… I could set it up as a standard freedom-fighter tale, then let the sideways norms slowly trickle in, until the reader begins rooting for totalitarian oppression.

Of Grace and Savagery

by rsbakker

Definition of the Day – Leaf Fan: a convenient way for the rest of the world to feel better about themselves (as in, “It could be worse, you could be a Leaf Fan,” or, “You may have lost the Cup, but at least you’re not a Leaf Fan,” or, “Your penis fell off, rolled through spilled acid and broken glass before dropping into a storm sewer, but at least…” You get the picture).

Like so many others, I watch The Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night I can manage. I typically suffer through the first game–the Leaf game, the one that matters–and then relax for the second, which more often than not, features the Vancouver Canucks. I almost feel West Coast watching it. No calculating the standings. No fretting over the Kessel trade, or whether Reimer is truly the ‘real deal’ (as I think he is). And best of all, no Don Cherry peddling the obvious as hockey insight and wisdom. Just a cast of players that I’ve watched grow into the game over the years, playing hard and brilliant hockey in front of a goal-tending giant.

For as long as I can remember, the Vancouver Canucks have been my ‘number two team.’ The great thing about watching your number two team is–paradoxically enough–the absence of passion. It allows you to see the game through all your hopes and gripes and worries. These are the games where you can turn the volume down and actually communicate with your friends: ponder the fate of Phoenix, argue about the way risk-management mania is slowly locking down the world, and even, on rare, awkward occasions, ask how the wife and kids are doing…

Only to shout, “Did you see that? Did you see that play?” when the Sedins do something remarkable and unprecedented. “Ohmigod! How? How is that possible?”

Every once in awhile my wife heckles me for some of the harsher things I say about Ottawa and Montreal, and I have to remind her that the great thing about sports–the great gift–is the ability to love and hate without reasons. I hate them and they hate me–so be it. Game on, motherfucker. Sports are tribal. They predate history and civilization. They speak with an uncluttered voice. And in this country, at least, that voice is singular. With the NFL all the loyalties are imported, which makes it a happy coincidence when you and your buddies are rooting for the same team. Not so with the NHL, where the entire country can become a home ice arena.

Set aside all the hokey analysis, all the corporate banners and the brainwashing parade of commercials, and you will see that hockey is about finding community in simplicity. Consummate grace wedded to abject savagery. Sheer will pitted against shit luck–and at times even fate. Men on knives riding lines of impact and injury.

And in a special sport, the Vancouver Canucks are most definitely a special team, one unlike any the game has seen. Ryan Kesler is a beast. The Sedin twins are artistes. And Roberto Luongo is stone-cold obstruction. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited by a playoff run: I had such high hopes I even dared use the ‘destiny’ word on occasion!

But as the playoffs progressed, I became more and more worried (and mystified) that every single goal that Vancouver scored came off of their sticks: not one garbage goal scored the entire playoffs (at least that I could remember).  And precious few softies–gifts from the opposing goaltender. And in this final series, it seemed they couldn’t even buy a lucky bounce! Almost all their goals (with the exception of the San Jose series) came as the result Herculean, and at times Sisyphian, efforts. They would finally find a way to solve Rinne, only to have a puck break-dance into their own net.

At every turn they had to rely on skill and effort–and I think it’s a testament to the team that they made it as far as they did.

But you had the feeling that they were skating with their pockets turned inside out against Boston. Luck. Luck was the only way they were going to slip pucks by Tim Thomas, especially once Coach Claude Julian took their skill out of the equation. Boston ripped a page out of Chicago’s playbook, even going so far as to turn Marchand into a Boland clone. They made attitude–contempt and intimidation–the centerpiece of their game plan, and the Canucks made the mistake of obliging them. The series got nasty–it’s one of the ugliest Cup Finals I can remember in a long time.

In terms of the mechanics of the game on the ice, it was like watching replays from the old clutch-and-grab days–back when the Sedins never seemed anything special. The only exception was the San Jose series, where the referees decided to officiate according to the rulebook after the nastiness of the opening. It’s no coincidence the twins shined that series.

The Canucks almost did it, came close enough to break a million hearts. But I can’t help but feel that Vancouver is still a team built to win regular seasons, and to wilt when the whistles hang dry. And it’s a crying shame–truly. All the commentators go on and on about ‘letting them play,’ and I can’t help but wonder whether we’re watching the same brawl. The Canucks are capable of producing wonders when the rules are enforced (and I mean this seriously: they have done things I’ve never before seen on the ice), playing with a level of skill and speed that I’m starting to think Lord Stanley will never have a chance to see.

The Grinders won this one. Good for Recchi. Good for Kaberle. Otherwise, man, I hate the Bruins!

All the Easy Roads

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Aspiration is what makes the world spin in greedy circles.

This is just a stab at clarifying some points that have come up in your comments.

What’s literary is any competent text-induced semantic effect that is counter-cultural, which is to say, artfully cuts against the received assumptions of real readers. My argument is that the rules of resemblance that we presently use to define ‘literature,’ are producing fewer and fewer of these effects because of rapidly changing social, economic, and technological conditions: our transformation into an ‘e-Harmony World.’ The reason I continually fret about the commercial utility of this blog is simply because I’ve never left my old working class ears behind: I am keenly aware how pompous this must sound, especially to many readers of genre. “Just fuckin write, will you? Get. Over. Yourself. I mean, really? Who gives a shit about all this?”

Well, anyone who wants to be part of the solution. Cultural transformation requires a horde of ‘pompous geeks’ like me pulling the rope in a different direction. And this is just to say that it requires a great amount of faith. A cause.

A guess worth taking risks for.

Nothing is ideologically inert. All communication encodes assumptions. And everybody possesses a hardwired tendency to prefer confirmation. These aren’t controversial claims: they’re simply fact.

If the ideology you read is invisible to you, it usually means that it’s your ideology, by and large. Entertainment reinforces implicit values and assumptions. It will always be the status quo preference, for both writers and readers (but this simply means the pompous geeks have that much more work to do).

I happen to think that much entertainment is relatively innocuous simply because I don’t think all our values are problematic. Some of it may even be ‘helpful’ in a personal (as opposed to) a social sense. But I also think that our culture is caught in a kind of paradoxical positive feedback trap: the technologies that were supposed to universalize access to dissenting points of view have actually had a contrary effect, facilitating the pairing of values and consumers instead. Fox News was just the beginning. In the old, geo-semantically constrained world, if you wanted to debate you had to talk to your neighbour, who could believe any old thing. You had to take what you could get, and you found yourself dragged over the rough rocks of dissent as a result. Nowadays, you tell your neighbour to go fuck himself, or ‘politely refrain’ from discussing anything divisive, and go online to haggle cultural minutae with people who generally share your values and interests.

Information technology has rendered the cultural industry far more responsive consumer desire–which sounds like a good thing until you realize how often that desire is the product of our innate cognitive shortcomings. Information technology is allowing the markets to exploit our weaknesses–and at a time when we need to be as clearheaded as can be.

And remember, markets, as the primary organizing principle of our society, are the keel of culture. A definition of fantasy could be, the satisfaction of desire absent the constraint of reality. In this sense, you can say that information technology is facilitating the growth of a new, even more extreme fantasy culture (I say ‘more extreme’ simply because I think our psychology inevitably renders all cultures more or less fantastic).

Knowledge. If everything is information, as many physicists are now wont to claim, then all human action becomes hacking. And this is what I fear we are doing: using our knowledge to hack ourselves, to sidestep our defenses, to embed fragments of malicious code, to steal cooperation. We are evolving a culture bent on indirect manipulation, on pushing all the buttons that cannot be seen, the opposite of what it pretends to be: a culture bent on emancipation. And literary culture, I think, is the greatest pretender of all.

Exploitation of desire arises out of the very structure of markets. When it comes to the desire to eat, this is undoubtably a good thing. When it comes to the desire to fuck, this is a controversial, problematic thing. When it comes to the desire to be ideologically pampered, it is disastrous, plain and simple.

There has to be some kind of push back. The technological roller coaster ride is just beginning, folks: there’s a good chance that we will all be screwed before the century is through. We live in Pandora’s World. All of our institutions, from democracy to marriage, are the products of past social conditions: animals adapted to what was. Only the tendency of the social future to resemble the social past allows them to function the way they do. That tendency has almost run its course.

There has to be some kind of push back, some kind of understanding of how we are fast becoming our own worst enemy. In today’s world there is no challenge, no literature, short of work, a self-conscious reaching for dissenting audiences. And the best way to accomplish that, I’m saying, is to write genre. The path of least resistence–writing for your peers–pretty much guarantees you are simply reinforcing the status quo.

In today’s world, all the easy roads lead to entertainment.

Revelation at the County Fair

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Philosophy is a swamp where no boots get wet, and everyone thinks they’ve found the one yellow-brick road.

Just a note: I’ve put two more papers up in the Essay Archive. And thanks for the WordPress tips: I’ll be acting on them shortly.

Rereading my prospectus has sparked some old circuits to life, flushed blood into vestigial habits of thinking. Make no mistake: the reason I carve philosophers so much is simply because I am one.

My dissertation project was my demon for a long, long time: I kept thinking that I had caught glimpses of ways to innovate around feuds both ancient and contemporary. All I had to do was wrestle the beast to the mat. Given what I’ve learned about human cognition (the stuff they should be falling over themselves to teach in philosophy, of all places), I no longer think that’s possible. All I was doing was gaming ambiguities this way and that, asking original questions, sure, maybe, but never really coming close to any knockdown answer – just another way to pose the problematic.

Conceptual gestalt shifts intitially strike some as promising, even compelling, simply because they deliver thought to uncharted terrain. The paths you lay are bound to smack of inevitability, given your ignorance of the alternatives. But as time passes and others wander this way and that, striking off in competing directions, the terrain becomes as trammelled as a fair ground meadow, and the necessity that seemed to warrant any step this way or that begins to evaporate. Cynicism sets in, and skepticism is not long to follow, and before you know it, someone decides to raise the ferris wheel across different ground, maybe this time on the posh side of town.

Where the process can begin again.

So maybe this is why I traded it all in for a cause. There’s nothing quite like good old fashioned fear (and a healthy dollop of status anxiety) to anchor your interpretations.

A strange sensation, bumping into former fanatical versions of yourself. I see all the slo-mo smuggling, all the minor and drastic mutations, all the conceptual babies abandoned, and the new one’s born, and I think, “Ah, the Great Circus!”

So much better than the County Fair.

A Sunday Afternoon in June

by rsbakker

Definition of the Day – Hemorrhoids: A pain occurring in your head that you ironically attribute to your ass.

I have to admit, ‘the Hemorrhoi’ is a name I’ve always wanted to add to the fantasy world… Give them some nasty teeth.

Just a post to say that I’ve added a couple of more things to the Essay Archive section, including a prospectus for one of my bungled dissertation attempts (actually, the one I almost completed before the book deals came knocking). Talk about religious conversions. Take an Advil before bothering…

Also, I can’t figure out how to bury this part of the blog behind something more consumer friendly. I’m a techno-knob, I know. Christ, I can’t even fix the book links below! Suggestions would be appreciated.

The Smith Myth

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Art is slow to clean out its ears. Most of the time, you’re better off talking to rocks. At least they don’t pretend to listen.

Aphorism of the Day II: Paint only dries when you’re not watching.

I came across another central literary misconception while reading The Globe and Mail this morning, what I’ve been calling the Myth of Compositional Autonomy.

“This [the importance of a writer’s relationship with their readers] may well be true but it’s problematic. I’m concerned about the slow and subtle shift in attitude that constant marketing may effect in writers. Once you are in charge of your own promotion and sales, you cannot help think of your audience as a market, and a market must be pleased. Writers should never think about their audience – they should never worry that their ideal demographic (say, women over 45 living outside large cities) won’t get the learned reference or will be nauseated by the torture scene. Art is not a product like any other.”

Logically, the problem here is one of crude equivocation: you blur ‘audience’ with ‘market,’ and suddenly ‘writing for your audience’ becomes ‘writing for money,’ and conversely, ‘writing for nobody’ becomes ‘writing for something other than money’–which is to say (deep, reverential breath), Art.

Writing, as communication, is about audiences, period. To write is to write to, and no amount of pretending will make it otherwise. So the question becomes one of who is Smith telling us we need to write to? Nobody is simply incoherent, simply because the writer is always in the room.

What Smith is saying is that the writer must only think of themselves, what moves them, provokes them, and so on. Since every writer, no matter how hard they pretend otherwise, belongs to a demographic, what Smith is saying is that every writer must write for people like themselves. As indeed they do.

Now this may have been well an fine in the 20th Century, when something like a ‘general audience’ still existed in the developed world. In the course of writing for the likeminded you could be relatively certain that your fiction would reach dissenting audiences–people who could actually be challenged as opposed to confirmed. Your work could do double duty as high-end entertainment for some, and assumption stressing literature for others.

In other words, you could use resemblance as your primary criterion for what was literary, and still reliably produce literary effects. The ‘Smith myth’ was a relatively benign way for literary writers and readers to congratulate themselves for their moral, intellectual, and aesthetic superiority–and actually get some literary work done.

Not so much nowadays. More and more we find ourselves living in an e-Harmony world, where market segmentation and preference algorithms are balkanizing audiences according to their interests and values.

This is why I argue that the form of the literary has been disconnected from the real world consequences, why you see so many writers referring to Ideal Philistines, people who wouldn’t be caught dead reading their works, but would be challenged, were they to.

And as always I remain mystified: everyone knows that we’re living through the greatest communications revolution in the history of the human species, and here we have this set of nested institutions–the ones most prone to tout their critical credentials, no less–simply assuming that, despite the drastic technological transformation of their social context, simply repeating the old forms will produce the same results.

What could be more obvious than the fact that literary fiction has become ‘just another genre,’ a marketing category primarily distinguished by its hypocritical pomposity?

The Age of Accidental Literature is over. Writing for your audience can mean any number of things, some positive, others negative. The bottom line is that you need to know who you’re writing to if you’re going to have any hope of challenging their assumptions. Writing for yourself assures apologia and cultural irrelevance. You need to game audiences. Which means you need to abandon the milky world of literary fiction, and dive face first into the world of commercial genre.

The Square Peg is Dead: Long Live the Square Peg!

by rsbakker

Definition of the Day – Experiment: A bullshit guess that we fear others might remember.

They say the definition of insanity is expecting different results from repeating the same actions. Given the law of unintended consequences, I actually think this works better as a definition of sanity. Crazy only comes in when you assume the results are going to be happy.

I’ve checked out several other author blogs and have come to no conclusion whatsoever. Most seem to be gestures and nothing more,  a handful of updates scattered across the years. Others were as extensive as they were tedious. Many were flat out funny. Not one was quite so intellectually maudlin as this.

All in all, I found the company rather embarrassing.

So I’ve decided that I would try to experiment, to show more of the preacher in me, while concealing him at the same time. I’ve created an ‘Essay Archive’ page, where I hope to slowly add sundry writings of mine from years gone by. In the meantime, I’m wondering if their isn’t a way to tuck these posts behind some kind of promotional shell.

I might even gussy things up with some pictures of my asshole. Make it really appealing.

I’ve been able to have it both ways with my books, so far. Maybe I can do the same with this blog. 

Speaking of which, I stumbled across several recent ‘reviews’ of Neuropath here and here and here. It appears that my books and this blog have something in common! I wonder if I shouldn’t try a reverse psychology sort of thing and pull together a splash page with blurbs from everyone freaked out by NP. The list is getting quite juicy.