Weaponizable Technologies

250px-Panopticon

Weapon are devices

That can harm people

Can also harm property

But that’s less important

 

Weapons are technologies

Not necessarily physical

As in the Foucauldian sense

 

In that sense,

They can also

Harm society

And culture,

Civilizations

Humanity itself

 

And,

More importantly

The very idea of

What humanity is

 

In the Foucauldian sense, they

Can generate chain reactions

Just like nuclear technologies

And they can destroy humanity

Just like fission-fusion weapons

 

Weapons or technologies

Are not tied to a particular

Ideology or even a religion

 

In the Foucauldian sense,

Conventional technologies

 

Are clandestinely

Or benevolently

Developed, and

Are weaponized

 

They are proliferated

Then are exposed

Are opposed, and

Then, gradually

Are normalized

Are assimilated

Into our social fabric

 

The protests against the weapons

And weaponized technologies

As in the world we have made

Not necessarily in the world

That we could perhaps make

Are very predictable phonomena

 

They can start out very strong

Then they become a shadow of

Themselves, or even a parody

 

At best they can become, and

Exist for a longish time, even

Perhaps with ups and downs

 

With limited longish term achievements

Or with very impressive short term ones

Or with no effect on the status quo at all

 

A connoisseur’s delight

They often are reduced to

 

At worst they may become

Freak shows on the fringes

As Kipling showed in a story

Even if they are genuine

Not the fake ones: A part

Of Manufactured Dissent

 

They are morally

And ethically

And legally

Sanctioned finally

 

That means that

They are approved

By general society

 

And they become

An integral part

A necessary part

Of the civilization

 

They are never

Ever sufficient

 

They become fait accompli

Which is a terrifying phrase

 

After enough time

They are taken

For granted

Are not even

Noticed in our

Everyday life

 

Most of us forget what they mean

Or what they are, how they work

They become part of our natural

Reality, our very natural universe

 

Who can use weapons?

 

Anyone can use them

If they can get access

 

To them, somehow, anyhow

 

And they will be used

Later on, if not sooner

Over there, if not here

At least in the beginning

 

The good guys can use them

Or those who claim to be so

We all know what that means

 

The bad guys can use them

The ugly guys can use them

The evil guys can use them

 

Individually evil can use them

Collectively evil can use them

 

More likely the latter

 

Anyone anywhere anytime on

The whole political spectrum

Can use them, if less or more

Individually or collectively

 

More likely the latter

 

There is absolutely

No guarantee that

Any of the above

Or indeed all of them

Can’t use them at all

Ever and anywhere

 

But can the weak and the meek

Or the tired and the poor

Use them as much as the

Strong and the powerful

To the same extent, even

For the purpose of self-defense?

 

Can single individuals use them

As much as the collective

To the same extent, even

For the purpose of self-defense?

 

First they are used over there

On those we don’t care about

Then they are used over here

 

And when that happens

There are fresh protests

 

We all care about ourselves

Even if we don’t about them

 

Once again, they

Are exposed: For us

Are opposed, and

Then, gradually

Are normalized

Are assimilated

Into our social fabric

Our very own life

 

Excluding them over there

They are already included

We still don’t care about them

We still care only for ourselves

 

Like before, again

They are morally

And ethically

And legally

Sanctioned finally

 

This time, however

For us, not just them

 

Some weaponized technologies

Are so totally unthinkably evil

That their existence is not even

Acknowledged, for preserving

Collective sense of being good

 

Such technologies are only used

Clandestinely, outside all records

So they leave no evidence at all

 

Who do they mean to target?

The demonized are targeted

Mentally-ill may be targeted

Truly subversive freethinkers

May be targeted, selectively

Misfits and loners can also

Be targeted with these ones

 

And, above all

 

The uncontaminated

(Unalloyed, if you like

Or unallied, if you like)

The incorrigible

Truth seekers, As

They may be called

Justice seekers also

Unalloyed or unallied

Can be targeted with

These unacknowledged

Weaponized technologies

In the Foucauldian sense

 

For The Greater Good

Seems they are called

Coal Mine Canaries

Freelance Test Rats

They may not be paid

May not even consent

 

They don’t even know this

That have been made that

This is the most evil part

Of the scheme, in which

 

All “schematism” had to be avoided

 

So they can’t even share

Without anyone at all

Let alone lodge a protest

 

They become Dead Canaries

If they come uncomfortably

Close to the truths that matter

 

In fact, these technologies

Are, by their very nature

Made only for selective use

Personalization is their

Key feature, their identifier

 

One of them had even

Got put on the record

Perhaps due to naïveté

It was called Zersetzung

It specifically recorded

Naïvely, as it turned out

It specifically wrote down

 

All “schematism” had to be avoided

Because that would make opposition

And protest against it easily possible

 

It being: The collective using it?

 

Individual simply can’t use it

Not to the same degree and reach

Not anywhere remotely close

 

Or the technology itself only?

 

Or why not both of them?

 

But we had better not forget

Technologies are the means

Religions and ideologies are

About the ends, not the means

For them, practically speaking

Ends always justify the means

 

Even if they are, unthinkably

Unredeemably, only pure evil

 

However, we are all endowed with

The extreme powers of self-deception

Individually yes, but also collectively

 

So we still manage to think that they

Are still for them, over there, not us

They are within our society, never us

They are still for them, not over here

Over there can be much nearer now

But it is still over there, and for them

 

Thus, once more magically

They become fait accompli

With a very different context

But actually the same context

 

They are always necessary

So it is claimed, benevolently

But they are never sufficient

 

This is a universal theorem

If you like to be very precise

Then it is at the very least

A pretty likely conjecture

 

And so we march on forward

Or even backward oftentimes

 

In search of new weapons

And ever new technologies

 

That can be weaponized

Easily and yes, inevitably

Even if you don’t believe

In Inevitabilism at all

 

What really is inevitable

However, is the fact that

Some weak, or the meek

Or an isolated individual

Perhaps crazy, perhaps not

Will use them occasionally

Usually after provocation

But sometimes without it

 

Or some collective

Rogue or not rogue

 

A matter of definition

 

Will also make use of them

Regularly or occasionally

 

That is a great opportunity

A motivation for finding

Implementing and using

Ever more lethal weapons

Weaponized technologies

And some non-lethal ones

In the Foucauldian sense

 

We find new evils

We define new evils

We create new evils

 

We get new weapons

To fight newest evils

Which creates even

More ever new evils

 

Thus the circle of evil

Closes in upon us all

Over there, over here

 

So what do you think about it?

***

Originally published on 14th August, 2019. Updated on 15th August, 2019.

Punishment Determines Crime

Crime and punishment

Are highly correlated

 

Humanity doesn’t need to live

In the chains of causality

The final frontier for humanity

 

Causality requires us to understand

The whole continuous bi-directional

Network of effects and their causes

 

Therefore,

 

To free humanity from the chains

Of complicated tangled causality

Punishment determines the crime

 

What was the crime

Based on which

And how much

Was the punishment

 

Therefore,

 

In order to reduce crimes, you can

Catch someone: anyone, anywhere

And make sure to punish them well

This can be done: is easily achievable

With near total, complete certainty

 

Therefore,

 

If you are someone being punished

You must have committed a crime

 

Even if you don’t remember it

Even if you think you know

That you haven’t committed it

 

You surely must have committed it

Why would you be punished

If you hadn’t committed the crime?

 

It is not logical in a world that has been

Liberated from the clutches of causality

 

Therefore, for example

 

All military aged males over there

Wasted in our Double Tap strikes

Are, by definition, *bleep, bleep*

A Great Lesson from History

One of my favourite lessons from History, now in the form of a three part documentary:

Of course, it is not just about alcohol (or any other intoxicant). It is about any moral, ethical or legal issue. It is about unintended consequences. It is also about politics and meta-politics and the influence of religion, race, money etc. over it. It is about racism and anti-immigration. It is about religious bigotry. It is about gender bias. It is about organization and mobilization. It is about rural versus urban life. It is about conservatism versus liberalism. It is about the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie. It is about solidarity. It is about crime and punishment. It is about Human Nature. It is about what is radical in a time and place and what is not. Finally, it is about economics.

All these are connected in real life. The Great Dilemma of real world politics is, however, that the lesson from it seems to be that single issue politics is most likely to succeed in the short term.

But an opposite lesson is that it is also guaranteed to fail in the medium or long term. That’s one of the reasons why real political change is so difficult to achieve.

There are many sub-lessons too, for example in the way the Women’s Suffrage movement thought about Prohibition before and after this great mistake.

Still, in spite of its relevance, we have to keep in mind that times have changed in some very fundamental ways. Just to give a small example, we have no H. L. Mencken now. Nor F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nor even an FDR.

The Mainstream Media has transformed, across the political spectrum, into something I can’t express without using some very very derogatory words. There is widespread TV now, which is far worse than even the Mainstream Media.

Not to mention the technological and economic changes.

And the core specific issue is going to be super-relevant because a whole new generation of intoxicants are on the way. And they are coming from the top, not from the immigrants, but the local heroes of the New Global Establishment. You won’t be able to stop them. You will only be able to regulate them, if you don’t want to repeat history catastrophically.

Have you started thinking about that?

***

It is not really now. It was aired in 2011. And it was aired on PBS, which is part of the Mainstream Media. Even so, PBS is somewhat special case. Sitting here in India, it seems very special.

The Prohibition itself (the 18th Amendment) started in 1917 and ended in 1933. Till recently, it was not that unusual to see such programs on Mainstream TV almost 80 years after the whole affair ended. To some extent, on some channels in some countries, it still happens. Could it have been made (and shown) before 1933?

In the coming years (or months, or days, who knows in these times) even this kind of History lesson may become hard to get because now History is being re-written like never before, at least since Enlightenment.

Where will future generations find the truth (as much as it can be found, even with best efforts). Some Select Few might still have access to it, but even that does not seem certain now.

How long will PBS last as it exists today?

Big Data and Big Information and Smaller Knowledge and Tiny (or Zero) Understanding. And what is Wisdom? Back to thousands of years ago, perhaps.

What will politics mean then? What does it already mean? Have we reached a point of no return?

***

But what about Prohibition of the original intoxicant: alcohol? Is it gone forever, or at least everywhere? Not at all. It still exists in many places. Just as it did in the US back then. And it is following almost the same trajectory. And in these places, it can cause even more problems, if not for any other reason than simply because of poverty and the stigma.

Even in the past, Prohibition has been used politically in many other countries. For example, it was used (the movement of it), perhaps not that rigidly, but still as a rallying cry for reform by someone as illustrious as Gandhi. And most Gandhian (or those who call themselves Gandhian: the gap is getting larger as with any other ideology), still argue for it in some or the other form.

In places where it is still used, the reasons given (often very valid ones) are almost the same as for Prohibition in the US. The biggest similarity has been, perhaps in all cases of Prohibition, the support of women, particularly rural women. That support is based on just as valid grounds as the one in the documentary. Another big similarity is that, for similar reasons, it can swing elections. Many politicians have once again realized the political utility of it. Most probably they have known all along, but they didn’t believe it could swing elections.

A party in existential crisis in 2015 won the state elections by promising Prohibition and kept that promise. Seeing the success, others also started talking about it.

Same valid reasons, justifications and grievances. The same disastrous results. The same long term positive effects. Or may be not the last part, may be not in all cases.

I personally have little to do with it. Strange as it may sound, as alcohol use is widespread in India even with the enormous stigma, I hadn’t actually even seen an alcoholic drink till the age of around 25 or more likely 27. It wasn’t till the age of 38 that I had tried out one spoonful out of a glass that someone in a celebration had ordered. Now I have been to many conferences where there are (usually paid) banquets where liquour is served and I have tasted a glass or two several kinds of alcoholic drinks.

However, it is almost embarrassing to admit that I still haven’t developed a taste for such drinks. Not that I have ever been against alcohol as such. Nor do I have anything against those who drink.

One reason for me is that they are so bitter (particularly beer) and we don’t like bitter in India! We like sweets, lots of sweets. Very sweet. Too much sweet. The kind a westerner might taste and say (perhaps silently, Ugh!).  I did too (liked sweet, that is). I still do, but not the ‘sweets’ themselves, just the taste sweet. Moderate sweet. Have I become Europeanized. That is, to some extent, a fact worth taking for granted for all those who are ‘well-educated’ and live in urban areas.

There is a very large number of Indians that drinks, so they must like it for some reasons, but I am not sure whether bitterness is one of them.

I am sure there are many many people in India who have actually never tasted alcohol in their whole life, as they consider it a sin, as did so many people the world over and throughout history.

But I can’t resist repeating again. The world is changing radically. In fact, the word radical isn’t even enough to describe that change.

For both who drink and those who don’t drink. Or those somewhere in between, like me.

Search Query as a Weapon

Sometime after I started this blog, I looked up the stats page to see how was the viewership. I didn’t expect large numbers, but I wanted to check if anyone was reading it at all. It turned out that, at least officially (in a way that would register in WordPress stats), not that many were (except for short periods), considering that even personal Facebook pages or single (personal) YouTube videos can often have very large viewership. At the same time, a lot of people seemed to be aware of what I was writing, because either the content of my posts or the blog itself were often referred to in my conversations with other people. That’s a different story, which I am not going into today.

I also noticed that on the stats page, there was a place where you could see the search queries that were put in the Search box of your blog (blog-specific queries, not web-wide queries), which is supposed to help people find content in a specific blog. It seems only I use this box for this purpose. Because, what I saw was that most of the searches were completely irrelevant to the blog. They were not attempts to find content in the blog at all.

Over the period of last 15 years, I have maintained several websites, one being my personal webpage (now defunct), one an activist website (Hindi version of ZNet, now defunct), a website for an Open Source toolkit that I had developed (also defunct) etc. I was maintaining these at my own expense and now I can’t afford to.

On all these, I noticed the same pattern. No queries to actually find content. They were all either insults hurled at me in this oblique and anonymous manner or sometimes they even sounded like threats. I even mentioned this to some of my colleagues.

As a result, when I joined post-doc in 2012 in another country, I was already aware of weaponization of local (e.g. blog-specific) search queries.

Right from the day I arrived in that country, I had strange experiences. At the workplace, no one would even talk to me (except one Indian post-doc who joined roughly at the same time and occasionally one or two others who seemed to be sympathetic to me, all girls, or as we say in India, ladies), or when they rarely did, they were not really talking, there were doing something else. More about that later.

There was one person (younger than me, but relatively high in the hierarchy of the lab). When we passed by, he would make what sounded like unsavoury comments clearly directed at me, because there was no one else in sight except his friend(s). He would look at me so I knew he was commenting about me.

One day, while I was coming to the office, perhaps a day I was not feeling well or was somehow not in a good mood, he and one of his friends passed me by (no one nearby again). He looked at me and sort of shouted something like ‘le pouet a vendu’. I could guess the meaning, or at least the word ‘vendu’, but still when I reached the computer, I typed in the sentence into Google Translate, according to which the translation was ‘the squealer (or squeaker) has been sold’. This was soon after I had joined the job. Right now, today, I tried again after all these years and Google now says ‘squirrel’.  I positively remember the word ‘pouet’, not just because I heard it used near me many times again, but also because I was so fed up with it that I once put it in one of my passwords. It is probably an ambiguous colloquial word.

When I had joined, I was given a copy of the contract and I was asked to go through it, which I did quickly, as I can read fast. What caught my attention was that it clearly mentioned the fact (in 2012) that various ‘tracking devices’ were placed in various places and the activities of the employees will be monitored. This was not very surprising in itself to me, but the fact that it was clearly written was. This was a government research centre. I had already experienced online and other kinds of surveillance.

So, that day, that comment really got on my nerves and finally I thought I should respond in some way, but what could I do? I was in a foreign country. I needed the job and I had not even yet received my work permit (which is another story). I had no friends there. So I remembered the weaponized queries which were being used against me even then. I had also once been to a Google office and had seen Google search queries being displayed on a large board in the welcome room. I then opened a Google search page on my work terminal and typed the following (perhaps not exact words, but very close):

Why does X alway keep yapping at Singh? What has Singh ever done to X? Is there a secret history between them?

There is also a story behind why I used ‘Singh’ and not my first or second name, or both. There is even a story behind why I used the word ‘yapping’.

The office of the head of the lab was right in front of my room and from where I was asked to sit for work, I could clearly see him through glass walls. I could even see his computer, which was in a corner, though obviously I could not read what was on the screen from that distance. He could see me too and perhaps that was the point of making me sit there.

Barely a minute after my typing in the query, a person (also a post-doc, I think) whose responsibilities included working as kind of systems administrator for the lab, came to the head’s office and said something to him. I was expecting something like this to happen, because I already knew how things work in places with total surveillance. From where I was sitting, it seemed he was reporting to him something about which something should be done. He asked the head to go to the computer and have a look at something. The head did that, read something. He too seemed concerned, but he basically shrugged his shoulders.

From that moment on, person X never made any comments to me any more. He never even acknowledged my presence. Not that the people there started treating me any better. In some ways, it only got worse.

This was not all. When I was nearing the completion of my contract, I went to my supervisor and asked him if my contract will be renewed. He evaded the question first, but then he said he will tell me sometime later. Later, when I asked again, we had a long conversation (which is also worth going into later), where he gave various reasons, but clearly said that my work was not the problem. Finally, when I countered all his arguments, he said in any case he will not be associated with the lab soon and X will be in-charge of the lab.

He then said, I can’t see you working together with X. I had never mentioned  X to him or to anyone else.

I never even had a conversation with X. I had never said anything to him, nor even commented back at him, except that search query. There was no reason why anyone would say that my relations with him were bad (or good). In fact, there were no relations of any kind, as far as I was concerned and, if he had talked to me and wanted to work with me, I would most probably have agreed, even after that. After all, I did not really have relations (good or bad) even with my supervisor. We just discussed some research questions, mostly over email.

I did respect him (the supervisor), though. He is a seasoned and very good researcher and certainly not a bad person. The same goes for the head. X is also an accomplished researcher, although I hesitate to say that he is a good person.

Did that query cost me the extension?

***

A couple of days after I started keeping the Zersetzung 21C Journal on my blog, there was this local query in my blog Search box:

Screenshot_2019-08-03_13-39-20

Although I have no idea what it means, it (the first one) is clearly not a genuine query.

***

And this when I had gone to my home town where my parents reside:

Search Query Abuse

Is it (the first one), as it appears to be, just vile abuse? Or is supposed to be some kind of twisted sermon in vile abusive language (and with the same kind of sick thinking). Is it also a some kind of Skinnerian or Zersetzung device?

***

Updated on 13th August, 2019.