Are We All Persons of Interest?

Person of Interest

You are being watched. The government has a secret system —a machine— that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything.

So begins the opening monologue on the CBS television show Person of Interest, spoken by the designer of 'The Machine', technology genius and billionaire, Harold Finch. The Machine is a mass surveillance computer system, monitoring data input from just about every electronic source in the world (phones, cameras, computers etc), which it analyzes in order to predict violent acts. But given its omnipotence, there are far too many predictions to act on, and so instead it is programmed to only pass on 'relevant' threats - ie. major terrorist events - to the government.

The procedural element of the show is that Finch has a software backdoor that sends him the 'irrelevant' predictions so that he can try to stop that violent act occurring as well: each episode, he and his small team of law enforcement officers and former government agents are given the social security number of an individual connected to the threat, though the team do not know if the individual is the victim or the perpetrator.

The larger story arc, however, is all about the Machine – how Harold came to build it and the effect of doing so on both him and those around him; the power that such surveillance hands to whomever controls it, and the lengths some would go to in order to have that control; and what might happen if such a powerful 'intelligence' became sentient. And of course, the question that hangs over the entire storyline, is the debate between how surveillance can be used to keep people safe, versus how it can be used in corrupt ways.

The show is science fiction, but given the news stories listed below, we might say only barely – the Person of Interest future doesn't seem that far off at all.

Surveillance via your own smartphone

We already know that smartphones can track everywhere you go via the built-in GPS, and the Person of Interest team certainly utilise that function to their advantage. But in the show, Finch's team also often take advantage of ... Read More »

News Briefs 22-09-2014

Whew!

Thanks, Percival.

Quote of the Day:

To all climate change deniers, before you start posting about how there have been periodic major droughts in California for thousands of years, please name the branch of science that provided you that information. I'll answer that for you - climate science. Now please provide an explanation for why you accept the conclusions of climate science regarding the distant past but reject its conclusions about today's climate. Please include examples of why conclusions about the Earth's past climates are more rigorous than conclusions about today's climate.

Timothy Doran, in a comment here.

Graham Hancock on the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE #551)

Geez Louise, two in a row! Once again, Powerful Joe Rogan regales us listeners with one kickass podcast episode; this time with none other than Graham Hancock, the explorer of deep mysteries and lost worlds, who came to the JRE studio for a wide-range discussion about altered states of consciousness, the benefits of psychedelics both for their healing qualities and as tools to expand one's concept of Reality, along with the kind of research into ancient civilizations he's most famous for ever since he published his seminal book Fingerprints of the Gods nearly 20 years ago.

A lot of things have happened in those 20 years, incidentally. Not only is archeoastronomy being taken a much more predominant role --thanks in part to the availability of computer software which can simulate the exact position of the constellations as they were in the night sky thousands of years ago-- but we keep digging up more amazing discoveries which have forced historians to push back the dawn of civilization ever further. For Graham, the discovery of Göbekli Tepe felt like a personal vindication to his theories which are still considered as 'pseudoscience' by orthodox archeologists --although with Göbekli Tepe we actually need to talk about a RE-discovery, for the existence of the Turkish megalithic site was known since the 1950s, but it was originally dismissed by American scholars because its columns were 'too finely carved'; it was only until the (recently deceased) German archeologist Klaus Schmidt decided to take a second look to those columns in 1994, that it was finally ascertained they predated the megaliths in Stonehenge by at least 6000 years.

Indeed, one of the main topics in Joe's chat with Hancock was the issue of being in either the right or the wrong side of history. Copernicus and Galileo, with their theories about the nature of our planet and our solar system, are now universally acknowledged to be in the right side of history, whereas the Holy Inquisition and the cardinals who put Galileo into house arrest --and condemned Giordano Bruno to a fiery execution-- are perceived in our age as reactionaries who stood in the way of progress. The same will no doubt be said of those who demanded TED to put down both Hancock's & Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx presentations a year ago, just as surely as future generations will also view the government agencies & international interests seeking to perpetuate the war on drugs, as the XXth century equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition: For standing in the way of every adult's sovereign right to explore its own consciousness through the tools that have been at our disposal for thousands of years --Entheogens.

But perhaps with this & other needless wars there have been other forces at play, which has in fact been the subject of Graham's fictional novel War God, the 1st in a trilogy of books dealing with a subject near & dear to my heart: The Spanish conquest of Mexico. If you read the novel already --for which I wrote a review for The Grail last July-- you'd already know Graham explored the potential influence of 'supernatural' entities in the unfolding of that crucial moment in history; this year War God's sequel Return of the Plumed Serpent will be released, and Hancock's readers will find out how the demon/demiurge revered by the Aztecs as their god Huitzilopochtli played with both emperor Moctezuma and the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés to prompt the fall of the Aztec reign, and the enslavement of millions of natives. Could it be that the same demon filling Cortés' head with dreams of glory and riches in the XVIth century, has been also whispering in the ear of modern leaders, in order to maintain an endless river of blood to sate its thirst?

And yet, if there are dark entities seeking the suffering of men, couldn't there also be forces of light seeking to guide us and show us a way out of the darkness? Graham's personal experiences with the Ayahuasca brew have convinced him that this is the case; who knows? maybe those guides are also responsible for the modern resurgence of psychedelics in our present times, as well as how contemporary technologies like the world wide web, are empowering the masses into seeing beyond the web of lies that our governments have spun around our eyes for far too many years.

So be sure to listen to this latest episode of the Joe Rogan's Experience with one of TDG's favorite authors, and pre-order War God: Return of the Plumed Serpent to learn more about Graham Hancock's gnostic vision of the world. BTW if you send him an e-mail to wargoddedications@gmail.com with confirmation of the pre-ordering before October 9th, he will send you a special bookplate with his signature to your designated postal address which you'll be able to stick in your copy. This he'll do after he returns from his trip around the United States with American catastrophist Randall Carlson --the last leg of his research for the upcoming book Magicians of the Gods-- which will culminate at the Paradigm Symposium in Minneapolis, where he'll meet with his friends & colleagues Robert Bauval & John Anthony West.

I will be there in Minnesota this October, where I'll have the tremendous pleasure to extend my personal gratitude to one of the most illustrious explorers of our time.

News Briefs 19-09-2014

"...The world is a million possible things."

Quote of the Day:

“I don't do drugs… I've got enough bizarre chemicals floating around in my head. I'm just naturally like this.”

Terry Gilliam

Rupert Sheldrake on the Joe Rogan Experience

Good googly moogly! Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, TED's favorite heretic scientist, was on the JRE podcast last Tuesday. He discussed with Joe everything from morphic resonance --which might be responsible for the passing of fears and talents from parents to their children-- experiments showing telepathic abilities in humans and animals, to the possibility of perceiving future events a few seconds beforehand.

Of course this being the Joe Rogan Experience, psychedelic substances and the visionary experiences they elicit were one of the main subjects, and Sheldrake was certainly up for the task --nothing less should be expected from someone whose first DMT experience was shared with Terence McKenna ;)

But also Sheldrake shared his life journey from being an atheist & a hardcore materialist in his early years --the sort of profile you were supposed to have if you cared about Science-- to realizing there had to be something more than genes in order to explain the complexity exhibited by all life forms; how he later started to practice transcendental meditation & yoga, dabbled with acid for a while, and later traveled to India where he joined an ashram run by a Catholic priest, where he re-embraced the Anglican faith in which he was raised by his family; it was Anglicanism which suited better his ideas of a spiritual life on a collective level, and trying to improve the lives of your community, instead of "seeking out your own personal enlightenment" the way his Hindu colleagues kept advising him. One gets the sense it is out of this yearning that he decided to become a public figure and write books in order to start a much-needed discussion about seeking a way out of the Materialism adopted by Science in the last 2 centuries --even when his books being considered suitable for a bonfire in the eyes of his most strident critics.

One of the highlights in the conversation was when Rupert discussed his experiments involving the sense of being stared at, which was something nobody had bother to look into until he was started to run tests in the eighties. He soon discovered most people register results slightly above chance, but what surprised him was when he tried the same experiment with his young son Merlin, who was then 4 years old: Merlin got an astounding 100% accuracy. At his insistence he switched places with his dad, and when he realized you could actually get it wrong sometimes, that's when the possibility of failure crept in his awareness; afterwards Merlin would only get a 75% accuracy when tested --which is still pretty 'magical' if you ask me!

All in all, a very enjoyable conversation. Rogan has become one of the most influential persons in the Internet --he's not called 'the podfather' by his friends for nothing-- and I'm sure this was the 1st time that thousands of listeners got the chance to be introduced to the work of Sheldrake, a scientist who I believe will be remembered as a sort of modern Copernicus by later generations --though probably the skeptic community would rather he became the next Giordano Bruno...

News Briefs 18-09-2014

Happy birthday to my favorite museum!

Thanks to Rick & Kat

Quote of the Day:

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

~Martin Luther King

PGA Golfer Billy Horschel, 2014 Fed-Ex Cup Champion, Believes in Bigfoot and UFOs

Billy Horschel, Pro Golfer and Believer in Bigfoot and UFOs

How's September working out for you? It's been a pretty good month for professional golfer Billy Horschel: at the start of the month, he finished second in the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank Championship, followed it up a week later with a win in the BMW Championship, and the following week (this weekend just past), he won the Tour Championship, pocketing a bonus $10 million on top of his other multi-million dollar prize winnings. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, two days later he became a dad for the first time! Not a bad 16 day stretch by anyone's standards...

But why is this getting posted on the Grail, I hear you ask? Well, though I'm a keen golfer, the main reason is that, in perusing Billy's PGA Tour profile page, I was surprised to see that he lists being "a believer in Bigfoot and UFOs". We're a bit more partial here to an interested agnosticism rather than belief (and let's not mention the Twilight book series part of the profile), but I think we can safely claim PGA Tour champion Billy Horschel as a member of the tribe of the weird. Hell, the guy even has precognitive dreams:

When Billy Horschel was 10 years old he had a dream that he was going to get hit in the eye playing baseball. It came true. When he was in college, he dreamt that he would marry his then-girlfriend Brittany and later did. Sunday at East Lake, he lived out another premonition. After dreaming earlier this year that he would hoist the FedExCup trophy, Horschel shot a 2-under 68 to win the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola by three strokes over Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk and claim the FedExCup and its $10 million bonus.

...“There's certain things throughout my life that have come true, and I've sort of seen it beforehand,” Horschel said. “I woke up and I wasn't sure if it was real or not because it was very faint, but I remember holding up the FedExCup trophy, and as the season went along, I never thought about it, but I just said, 'Well, maybe it was just a dream that wasn't real.'”

Billy, consider this an honorary Grail membership (because it felt like your month so far was lacking something, right?!).

Jane Goodall & the Lack of Empathy in Science

Pioneer primatologist Jane Goodall was highlighted in Nova's web series 'The Secret Lives of Scientists & Engineers', and in the clip above she talks about some of the ways in which Science has gone wrong: namely, its lack of empathy and its confusing of coldness for 'objectivity.'

At the beginning of her career, she was heavily criticized for naming the chimpanzees she was observing. "I was told you have to give them numbers because you have to be objective as a scientist," Goodall says in the video, "and you mustn’t empathize with your subject. And I feel this is where science has gone wrong. To have this coldness, this lack of empathy, has enabled some scientists to do unethical behavior." It was precisely her ability to connect & empathize with her observation subjects, what enabled her to do the groundbreaking work she's famous for, which eventually help revolutionize our understanding of social groups in primates & other animals.

"I think empathy is really important, and I think only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our full potential."

(h/t Cryptomundo)

News Briefs 17-09-2014

A vortex of news flying right at you...

Quote of the Day:

At the end of a day, life should ask us, ‘do you want to save the changes?’

~ Bill Murray