Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zenyatta Mondatta

[This is the last of my April A-Z Challenge series of posts on Symbols, Glyphs, and Sigils. What a month!]

So sorry, but this post is a total bait and switch.  It's not about the Police's ground breaking third album.  It's about their even more successful fourth album and the enigmatic red LED type symbols on its cover...

I never knew until recently that these symbols are actually stylized pictures of the three band members.  On the left is guitarist Andy Summers, in the middle is Sting, with his spiky reggae hairdo, and on the right is drummer Stewart Copeland, who had cropped forehead bangs at the time.  An image this iconic was of course ripe for parodying (e.g., Batman and the Muppets) and it's also been targeted by religious extremists -- backwards, it's 666, right!?!

I also didn't know much until recently about the album's title, Ghost in the Machine.  That phrase was tossed out in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, but with so much else going on in that movie I never followed up on it.  Sting and friends were inspired by Koestler's 1967 book of philosophy, which explored the incompatibility between what we know about the multi-layered brain and the classical idea of a mind-body duality.  The more we learn about how our bodies and brains evolved, the harder it becomes to see how a disembodied spirit or soul could ever detach itself from all that hardwired wetware...

It's funny that, all this month, down in the comments of these A-Z posts there's been an intermittent meta-discussion, mainly between myself and Suze, that's come back again and again to the idea of Transhumanism.  People planning for the Singularity have been thinking a lot about how "embodied" a conscious intelligence really needs to be.  Can we truly thrive as ghosts in a digital machine?

Gotta be a Trekkie to get this one?
I'm sure transhumanists have debated whether there should be litmus tests to verify that we're ready, willing, and able to be uploaded.  Personally, I wouldn't attempt the crossover until I was 100% sure that the new "substrate" keeps not only the conscious mind, but also the murky depths of the unconscious.  I'm not going anywhere without my archetypal peeps!  :-)

I sometimes get excited about these quasi-apocalyptic possibilities, but I worry about becoming too focused on the potential awesomeness of the future.  It's kind of the flip side of nostalgia and Springsteen's "Glory Days."  If I fetishize either the past or the future, it keeps me at a distance from the Right Now.  Maybe that's the real Zen(yatta) connection here?


  1. Easily the best blog I discovered during the A - Z. I look forward to many more conversations, Cygnus.

    Doing a half brain-dead (ha) trek through the Z posts this morning but feeling like you've saved some of the best for last. Don't even know where to begin commenting so I'll start with this:

    'The more we learn about how our bodies and brains evolved, the harder it becomes to see how a disembodied spirit or soul could ever detach itself from all that hardwired wetware...'

    I think the redemption for which we're all headed and for which we all namelessly yearn (saudade) certainly includes the material.

    Also, with everything I've had going on, I've only made it about sixty pages into 'Diaspora.' I have to say, though, that what I felt was most brilliant about the introductory portion of the book was the account of a digital mindseed grappling with the sensory data of its environment -- however unlike ours -- in order to establish identity. It was genius, really. I kept putting the book down for a few seconds to deal with the strange emotive sensations that overtook me as I pored over the words.

    As for the unconscious, ever read this ?

    Imperfect, but I think you'd dig it.

    (Muppets parody of the Police cover = awesome.)

    To the here and now!

    DAH! Just missed it ...

  2. Just clicked on the 'Ghost in the Machine' link and went on to 'holon.' Bookmarked for near future use.

    Muchisimos thanks for the kick-ass linkage. Keep 'em comin', C!

  3. I've got to say that the conversations with you have been the highlight of A-Z for me this month, Suze! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Your posts were very well put together so it was a pleasure to sift through all the treasure and dialogue with the administrator.

    IONs, Amanda of Drama, Dice and Damsons and I are trying to get up an online RPG and invite your participation. If you're interested, email me at analog_girl at . Right now, we're at the stage where we're hashing out the setting. It'd be great if you let us know either way.

  5. Man, I was hyper commenting girl on this post.

    Let us continue with the venerable tradition. (It was a great post, C.)