Entropy Gradient Reversals
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Total New York asked a bunch of people a bunch of questions.
Here's how we answered...

Christopher Locke    
For a long time, Christopher Locke believed it was important to project a solid and predictable persona. He attempted this on several continents and in many corporations. It never worked. Then he began writing Entropy Gradient Reversals -- and everything's much better now, thanks.
clocke Has anyone suggested Internet-as-sacrament? Interesting idea. But first you'd need to get past all the humorless baggage surrounding spirituality. Maybe it's less fucked up to just get laid via IRC. More grounded.

1. Censorship - Privacy
Is the Net dangerous? At what cost should/do we seek to control it?

Please allow me to introduce myself...

I certainly hope it's dangerous, but the jury is still out on that one. Right now it looks as if it's in serious danger of being coopted by the forces of sunshine and normalcy, and yes, I think we should do everything in our power to control that. I think we should all lobby our congresspersons to make it punishable by hanging to express ideas whose sole intent is to make it appear that any two people are more than accidentally in agreement on any given subject. The Net has always been interesting to me because it was so different from the mass media. It offered something that wasn't happening anywhere else. Now it's beginning to have that deadly look of squeaky-clean sameness. This makes me crazy. I'm doing what little I can in Entropy Gradient Reversals to counter the rising tide of "site sponsorability," but I mean, we only have like 350 subscribers, so it isn't looking real good... [between November 1996, when this was first published, and June 1997, when it appeared here on EGR, there were 900 more. -ed.]

As to privacy, I pissed off Phil Zimmerman on a panel once when I said that whatever I have to say I'll say in public, not behind some cryptic smoke screen. I want them to know what I'm saying. I want them to understand and be afraid. Freedom is not something someone can give you or take away. It's the result of acting freely, unconditionally and without permission. It usually involves some degree of courage. I think we should en-courage each other to be dangerous in this way.

2. Different people - Different worlds
Can communications technology eliminate old barriers without erecting new ones?

This is somehow reminiscent of the old line from Social Studies class about how Modern Communications would inevitably lead to a world that was One Big Happy Family. I can also remember when people actually believed that if everybody smoked pot there would be world peace. This was before we understood that, unlike college kids jamming low-grade stems and seeds into bongs and getting Big Insights out the business end, most of the people toting guns in the military theaters of the world were messed up on some of the best shit around. So much for that theory.

We talk about diversity with a Big D, but it's usually just another way of suggesting -- or rather, brow-beating people into the pretense of believing -- that we're all intrinsically the same. Because, after all, when you get right down to it, doesn't everybody really love Wonderbread?

The real barriers begin at cell membrane, blood-brain interface, corpus callosum, mind-body. And that's before you get outside your own skin. I don't think we're ready to solve the world's problems until we've crossed that chasm ourselves. Perhaps that chasm is ourselves. (...sit in the back with your head in the clouds and you're gone...) Respect and compassion come out of wrestling with that strangeness. Maybe even awe. It has nothing to do with technology.

3. Politics - Culture
Does Cyberspace have its own intrinsic laws and rules? Or is it simply a reflection of society as a whole as it exists in real space?

Things are different online, of course. More immediate in some ways, more insulated in others. I think we're all still just getting the hang of it. Is there an equivalent to the Laws of Physics for online cause-and-effect? Maybe -- though most physicists today wouldn't know what this phrase meant in reference to the supposedly Real World. Basically, I think that, like any expertise, whatever we are learning here is largely tacit knowledge -- meaning we couldn't describe it to save our own ass. That's why we have the ubiquitous invocation about "getting it" -- as in, "They just don't GET it!" If someone hasn't done serious time online, you can't explain what's going down. It's like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll.

On the other hand, I don't think there is an ultimately definable "it" to get. We are not all having the same experience -- online or anywhere else. We are not as definite as we might like to think, as individuals or as a society. We are far more fluid and permeable, and perhaps this is what the Net brings out. I'm almost sure it's what makes some people so afraid of the phenomenon. It's what made them afraid of acid too, but that's a whole long conversation in itself. I don't do drugs anymore, but I'm not afraid of them. I'm not afraid of much since I began to understand how little is real, actual, fixed, given. LSD and Buddhism were a great help in feeling less crazy about being crazy. And I guess I see something similar about the net. Has anyone suggested Internet-as-sacrament? Interesting idea. But first you'd need to get past all the humorless baggage surrounding spirituality. Maybe it's less fucked up to just get laid via IRC. More grounded.

A reflection of society in real space... This reminds me of seeing my face drift away, like ripples in water, mirrored in telescoping layers of smoky glass as the lumbering trains pulled past each other into Tokyo station ten years ago, and deeply wondering where I was and how I'd gotten there. Is society like a couple billion people doing that all at once? Cool!

4. When you're at home - When you're at work
Are you the same person on-line?

The same as what?

5. Open doors - Knowledge - Information - Awareness
Does access imply responsibility?

No. Responsibility is something adults invent to keep children from exploring, and thus destroy them. For their own good, of course.

I think knowledge is not something you can either get or keep for yourself. It comes from testing ideas against other minds. Bouncing things off people from multiple perspectives, acting as a sounding board yourself. If you learn something but don't share it, you don't really know it, even though you may think you do. So we need each other for this process. It is play without reason, which is inherently inclusive. Where there is genuine play, the concept of responsibility is superfluous. It also seems to be inextricable from the curious notion of unearned guilt. My inner child is inclined to grievous bodily harm upon persons who invoke such backdoor references to Original Sin.

...or were you asking about bandwidth?

6. Fact - Fiction - Possibilities - Probabilities
Will communications technology penetrate our lives in unexpected or unnoticed ways?

Yes. So will wind, fire, water and personal hygiene products. I think what is happening on the Internet is wonderful. I like it. I'm a little concerned that I like it quite so much, but what I really do here is write. Discovering that I could do that was a major big deal for me -- that I could say anything and it didn't need to make sense. Only sometimes it did. So that was certainly unexpected.

I think the Net is helping a lot of us to personally re-discover and collectively re-possess our own language. We have put the Empire on notice in this regard, and it is not amused. World War Three might just be fought in the imagination, of which the bad guys have very little. Imagine that we win...

7. Present - Future - Speculation
How do you envision the world in five years?

A million years ago or so there were no human beings. The wind still moved in the trees. The sun rose. Five years is either an eternity, or nothing. Remember the final scene in Childhood's End where the kids were telepathically linked all over the planet and, slowly at first, but with increasing confidence, began to turn the moon?

That'd be something to shoot for.

Entropy Gradient Reversals
All Noise - All the Time

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