Archive for the ‘Rudy’s Blog’ Category


Blockchain in Miami Beach

I was at a conference on cryptocurrency & blockchain in Miami Beach last month. I was the guest of the company IOHK, which is developing blockchain technology. Don’t worry if you don’t know what blockchain is, I barely know myself.

One of the treats of going to the con was that my old friend Stephen Wolfram was there. I met him around soon after he published his epic and revolutionary article in Scientific American in 1984, with the seemingly innocuous title: “Computer Software in Science and Mathematics.” Bascially it was meeting Wolfram that got me to change my field of study from Mathematics to Computer Science, with a special focus on Cellular Automata.

Eventually, in 2002, Wolfram published his great tome, A New Kind of Science, and I followed up in 2005 with my own great tome, expressing some of the same ideas, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul.

“I always feel odd when I’m a guest at conference like this,” Stephen said to me. “Like I’m a hired dancing girl.” I had the same feeling. But it was fun to make the trip, and to force myself to talk about things I don’t really know about, and I had a chance to tape a good podcast with Stephen.

Listening to my tape of the podcast, I feel sorry for myself—how eager and relieved my voice is at the start. And, towards the end, I hear my undertone of sadness at how rare it is to talk to anyone as smart as Wolfram. He’s someone who continually gets what I’m talking about. Like it was during those golden hours when I met with Kurt Gödel in my twenties.

Mainly Wolfram and I were there because Charles Hoskinson, the head of IOHK, is fond of our work. He treated us well.

Although IOHK stands for “Input Output Hong Kong,” the base is in fact in Colorado, and some of their tech division is in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“We put Hong Kong in the name because we thought we’d have a lot of business in Asia,” Charles Hoskinson told me. They seem currently to be focused on business in third world countries, though.  There’s an idea that with blockchain you coule bring reliable banking and registration services to countries that never had that.  Like bringing wireless phone service into a country that never had landlines.  Hopscotching..

IOHK has several interlocking software platforms or code suites: Emrugo, Ada, Cardano, Daedalus, Ethereum, and, now, Atala. My guess is that they’re presently in “burn mode,” that is, spending money on developing their system and evangelizing for wide adoption, with hopes of an eventual IPO.

None of those techs seemed to have heard of Charles Stross, nor of his notion of a population of AI biz bots called “Business 2.0.” In Stross’s Accelerando, Business 2.0 destroys the global economies.

I was incredibly nervous. I gave a talk called “Cyberpunk Use Cases,” relating the history of cyberpunk writing and culture to the liberation of computer software and the escape from dominant silo-building behemoths in the internet. I taped my talk on my own recorder, and I turned on the recorder before the talk, walking around backstage, recording my pre-talk environment, which gave my reality a larger-than-life feel…like I was watching a documentary of my life.

The performance went over okay, although it seemed like the audience couldn’t necessarily tell when I was joking. Maybe because so many were foreign.

Later in the con, after my talk, a taciturn young Swedish hacker came up to me. His expression was one of wild surmise. “Is it true you are descended from Hegel?” he asked. “Yes,” I answer, “he’s my great great great grandfather.” Long pause. The boy is staring at me wide-eyed. “Satoshi was very interested in the ideas of Hegel.” Fever pitch of intense staring. It clicks. He thinks I’m Satoshi. “No, I’m not him,” I say, and walk off—before he can hit me up for a billion dollars. But who knows if he believed my denial.

Wait—what am I talking about? Who’s Satoshi Nakamoto? This is a great story. Satoshi Nakamoto invented the first big cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, which is based on a blockchain technology, which Satoshi also described. All this was in Satoshi’s nine-page article, also known as his white paper, or as “Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System.” It’s worth reading or at least looking at.

The kicker is that Satoshi probably made something like three billion dollars by having written this short paper. He or she owned some of the earliest Bitcoin, the value went up, voila. And if Satoshi is now dead, the money has gone to his or her heirs.

Note that “Satoshi Nakamoto” is a pseudonym, and nobody is quite sure who he or she or they is or are or was. Why the anonymity? Well…if you’ve invented an untraceable currency that earns you three billion, you’re not exactly going to announce yourself to the IRS!

No Bitcoin for me, sigh. But, yes, pass the liquid democracy.

After the talk I met a young programmer guy from Shanghai, Lei Hao. He told me that my science fiction is very popular in China. I’d never heard about this. “Your novel Postsingular,” said Lei . “The programmers took turns translating of it into Chinese, working on it in their spare time.” “Pirated?” I said. “You said it was Creative Commons for free use,” countered Lei. “And we’re all reading it.” So that’s good. He says maybe he can get some legit editions into print there.

After the talk some lively and beautiful women approached me for video interviews. Like I was cool. They didn’t seem to be computer scientists.

There’s a kind of louche buzz around the whole cryptocurrency thing, with nobody saying exactly what they want to use it for.

I noticed a Bitcoin ATM machine in…a pot store in Miami Beach. Just sayin’

It was fun walking around Miami Beach. People wore extremely theatrical and revealing clothes.

Sylvia and I happened on a cool storefront video art museum on Collins St. near 3th in South Beach, it was called…well, I don’t remember. Art House? It’s great.

We were in these realtime computer sims.

The South Beach Art Deco houses are another big thing. Dig the rectangular bricks. Calm neighborhood, lots of trees, not super ritzy. “The Jews built these houses when they moved down here from New York after the War,” a foreign guy on the street told me. Everyone’s foreign in Florida, right.

We stayed in a hotel that used to be called the Tiffany, but is now (doh) called “The Hotel @800.” Our room was wonderfully deco. This object is a make-up mirror. Like from Captain Nemo’s submarine.

Florida thunderstorm in the night, so romantic.

Looking at rain on a windowpane always reminds me of Wolfram’s Principle of Universal Computation—which he discussed at his IOHK talk. His Principle says that any nontrivial natural process can be viewed as a universal computation that is, in theory, capable of emulating any other computation at all. Now consider the computations inherent in our vaunted smart brains. There may be equally rich computations inherent in the weather system, or the ecology of a forest, or the flow of a waterfall, or in the flames of a fire. So even our smartness doesn’t make us unique. Nothing about humanity is unique. And looking for extraterrestrial aliens is a quixotic endeavor. We’ve got zillions of “alien intelligences” inherent in the natural processes all around us here on Earth.

To really make his idea hit home, Wolfram said something like this. “Suppose that we find ways to encode human minds in software. These coded processes are like souls. And perhaps at the end of time, there will be a box with ten trillion human souls in it. Now suppose someone looks at the box from the outside. There’s really no objective difference between this box, and a box with turbulent water in it, or a box that’s simply a block of stone, with the atoms vibrating and endlessly interacting. Every time that humans have thought they were special, or at the center of things—they’ve been wrong. We thought consciousness was special, but it’s not.”

Yah, mon. Pass the Bitcoin bong.

The Hotel’s lobby. Love round Deco windows.

In my IOHK talk, I speculated how it would be if every smart phone had a superchip instead of Google. Or, go quantum computer. The device could be very small. Call it a crystal ball. I think of. Borges’ story, “The Alef.” Now, of course Google has giant banks of computers worldwide. But we do a Moore’s Law move. In ten years you can fit all of Google’s current info and processing into your phone. The power of a search engine like Google stems from the users’ need to employ search as an index or catalog of the web. A company like Google is doing massive updates daily or hourly. Suppose everyone has a crystal ball. We enrich our crystal ball’s history automatically as we surf the web. And we share our updates peer to peer. It’s like Wikipedia. A blockchain element akin to the Wikipedia edit tracker to prevent spam updates.

Yadda yadda.

And, there, at the curb, a canary yellow old Chevy. What more do you need?

Neon. Those strands of human soul.

Painting & Publishing

I’ve been busy with various things the last few months. I ran a Kickstarter campaign for Million Mile Road Trip, did some promo for the Night Shade edition, gave a talk at a cryptocurrency conference in Miami Beach, wrote a story, and did a couple of paintings. Let’s start with the latest painting.

“Mexico” oil on canvas, May, 2019, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

This Mexico painting could more accurately be called Guanajuato. As I’ve mentioned, Sylvia and I went there in March, and were blown away by the small mountain town’s beauty. My most recent blog post has photos, and there’s another post, too.

I collaged together some of my mental and photo images for the composition, also some fantasias. To start with, I did the one-point perspective thing, picking a vanishing point and drawing lines. I have a rushed tendency to think I don’t need to do perspective lines, but the result is better if I do. Perspective is oddly counterintuitive, but it works.

The colors are all-out, as they are in Guanajuato. In the yellow wall on the left, I wanted to put scenes in the windows. At one point I had the tall guy holding a knife, but that grabbed the eye to hard, and was too harsh. I ended up with a skull, a piñata, the old couple, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, who was in fact an occasional graffito on the walls of Guanajuato. On the street: a dog, a guy carrying a bread basket and an alluring woman. In the window on the pink wall, two white-haired tourists from the north—that’s me and Sylvia.

How to the characters all fit together? What’s the story? I don’t know. As I always say, I like the stories in my paintings to be obscure. Like illustrations of forgotten proverbs or unknown folk tales.

As always, you can get more info on my Paintings page.

And, speaking of stories about Guanajuato, I just read Lewis Shiner’s excellent, page-turning novel Outside the Gates of Eden, and it has a bunch of scenes in Guanajuato. That’s a picture of me in the Mission, vaping and reading Shiner’s ebook on my smart phone. Well, okay, that’s not me, but I did carry my Kindle around a lot while whizzing through the intricate narrative. Couldn’t stop. For some reason it reminded me of James Baldwin’s Another Country, I guess because of the tangled cast of characters, and the sense of reportage. But this time, the reportage was on an era that I myself lived. Witty and worldly wise, a massive read with epic sweep, a secret history of our times.

I also found myself looking up various bands that Lew mentioned on my music service…got into Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen the other day, for instance. Such a great band. Ah, Texas.

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Hopping back to the theme of visual perspective kicks, here’s a cool drawing that Bruce Sterling found online. It combines two things: a Maurits Escher-style impossible figure, and a Waclaw Sierpinski fractal gasket.

Sylvia and I drove down to Big Sur on a recent sunny day. Big Sur never disappoints. We found this great, level path leading from Rt. 1 out to a promontory, which ended in a clutter of sheer cliffs, outcrops, and blue, blue water. This rock here looks kind of like a tomahawk. Marvelous how nature crafts such things. What’s the point? God is inside everything, like the light in a stained glass window.

Our path tunneled through a grove of Monterey pines and emerged into the sun.

I got some nice clip-on shades online. I love amber shades. As good as being high. Much cheaper than buying new prescription sunglasses. My vision gets worse all the time. Eventually I’ll *ugh* have to get my eye’s natural lenses replaced by plastic lenses. Not yet. Relax and enjoy Big Sur.

An awesome dick-like (can I say that?), century plant flower on a hill near our house. Bloom, my friend, spread your seed!

I’m really happy with the finished Night Shade editions of Million Mile Road Trip. And the book’s getting good early reviews. More info on my page for the book.

I published a companion volume Notes for Million Mile Road Trip as well. Why? It’s not like I’ll sell many of them. Well, as I said, somewhat jokingly, in an interview by Jeff Somers on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog,

“Long-term, the Notes will be fodder for the locust swarm of devoted Rucker scholars who are due to emerge any time now from their curiously long gestation in the soil.”

Curiously long, indeed!

Word from your sponsor again. I know I linked to this in my previous blog post…but oh well! This is my killer book trailer; I got it down to three minutes long. It took days, using a reasonably good and inexpensive commercial video editing program called Pinnacle Studio 21. I only use this program about once a year, like for a Kickstarter or a book launch, and I always forget how to use it, but each time it’s pretty easy to figure out. Equal time: Here’s a nice two minute book trailer for Lewis Shiner’s Outside the Gates of Eden.

I’m enjoying having ambient water in its liquid form. There’s this one pond I like to hike too. And, ah, the patterns on gently rippling water. I might paint this one.

The whole Night Shade series of my novels is looking good. They’re doing nine back-list novels as well as the new one, Million Mile Road Trip. It’s been a life-long dream of mine to have a uniform edition like this. Hard to believe it’s actually come true.

We got this bird-feeding-type object called a Treat Bell. Seeds stuck together with honey. We see nuthatches and chickadees. So cute. Lots of little fledglings around the house this spring. They scuttle across the carport floor when I’m in there, a bit unsettling, like mice or other vermin.

Dig this goal post. Like a really big tuning-fork. I wonder how it sounds in the wind.

The other day my glasses fell behind my bed, and I had to crawl on the floor to haul them out with a coat hanger. The non-stop excitement of a writer’s life.

This is me up by that pond I like; I was up there with my friend Emilio. The day before I got my spring haircut.

Prime Books has had my Ware Tetralogy in print as a paperback for years, but now I agreed with them that I’d be in charge of the ebook. With Prime’s permission I used their cover design, but I changed the art. It’s a crystallized image of me making my acceptance speech in Manhattan, when I got the first P. K. Dick Award ever for Software.

In 2010, intoxicated by the heady rhetoric of Cory Doctorow, I released a free Creative Commons edition of the Ware Tetralogy. It’s still out there, too. But at this point I’d rather you bought the ebook from me!

As it happened, getting my new commercial edition on Amazon was a little hard, as it turned out some scumbag pirate was selling my CC edition online. But I wheenked and wheenked till Amazon got the picture. Dog eat dog.

While I was doing my marketplace thing, I put a wide range of my ebook editions onto Kindle, B&N, Apple iBook, and Google Play. I post most of these by directly uploading my EPUB ebook files to the various online retailers, that way I get the best royalty. As it’s hard to put a title on Apple Books if you’re not Mac user, I use the excellent Draft2Digital site as a middle-man for that. If you’re just starting out with ebook publishing, you might want to keep it simple and use Draft2Digital to put your books online at all the sites (except for Google Play Books, whom you have to approach directly.)


“Moonrise” acrylic on canvas, March, 2019, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

This painting, “Moonrise,” is based on a photo that I took back in February, 2019, shown below.

The cloud made me think of an arm. And I liked the shapes of the palm leaves and the pine tree. I did a lot of layers on the painting, trying to get some of the luminous coloring that the photo had.

Got a lot of paint on my corduroys.  Sometimes people want to buy authentic art-paint-spotted clothes. A step up from jeans with holes…

And right now I’m busy mailing out the rewards for the Million Mile Road Trip Kickstarter campaign.

Many thanks to my supporters and, what the heck, I might as well list their illustrious names here, as well as listing them on the Million Mile Road Trip book page.

AgentKaz, Alan Robson, Albert Henry Tyson, Alex Baxter, Andrew Baker, Andrew Ward, Andy Agnew, Aris Alissandrakis, Arthur Murphy, Beat Suter, Benet Devereux, Benjamin H Henry, Bob Hearn, Bob Vernon, Brian Dysart, Bruce Evans, Carl Z, Chad Bowden, chris cavanagh, Chris Day, Chris Lindsay, Chris McLaren, Chris van Gorder, Cliff Winnig, Colin Alevras, Daniel Monson, Dannen Harris, Darwin Engwer, Dave Holets, David A Bouvier, David Good, David H. Adler, David Kirkpatrick, David Rains, David Schutt, Derek Bosch, Don Tardiff, Doug Bissell, Doug Churchman, Dr. Ralph J. Garono, Eddie Churchill, Edward Winston Bear, Edwin Metselaar, Emilio Rojas, Erik Biever, Erik Sowa, ewelina feinberg, Fraser Lovatt, Gabriel McCann, Gary Dean Bunker, George & Hedvig in Budapest, Greg Deocampo, Greg Goddard, Gregory J Scheckler, Ian Chung, Jaap van Poelgeest, James Ramsay, Jeff Aldrich, Jeffrey T. Palmer, Jim Anderson, Jim Cavera, Joe Sislow, John Monroe, John Paul Spain, John W. Fenner, John Winkelman, Jonas Karlsson, Jonathan Hamlow, Jonathan Korman, K. Clark, Karen Marcelo, Karl Reinsch, Karl-Arthur Arlamovsky, Ken Nickerson, Kevin Maroney, Larry Roberts, Leah A. Fenner, Lee Fisher, Lorenzo Cipparrone, M. Cox, Madeleine Shepherd, Mark Anderson, Mark Martinez, Massimiliano Maffini, Michael Becker, Michael Weiss, M-Jo Baker, None, Patricia Miller, Patrick Edmondson, pete23, Peter Yeates, Petri Kanerva, Philip Rubin, Rafael Laguna de la Vera, Raja, Julie, and Jason, Ramon Cahenzli, Ray Cornwall, Raymond MacCauley, Richard Ohnemus, Rick Floyd, Robert Messick, Roderick Bartlett, Ronald Pottol, Scott G Lewis, Scott Jon Siegel, Simon Travis, Space Captain Hellers, The Hackers Conference, Thomas Lockney, Tim Conkling, Timothy M. Maroney, Timothy Wyitt Carlile, Todd Fincannon, Vasyl, Walter Croft, Wayne Sumter, WhatBear, William Harris, and Yoshio Kobayashi.

Thanks, all, and may ye hang ten forevermore.

Guanajuato, Part 2

Today I’ll post the rest of my photos from my March trip to Guanajuato in Mexico with Sylvia. I did the initial post on March 29, 2019.

But first a word from our sponsor, that is, me. I made a fairly cool book trailer for my novel Million Mile Road Trip, which went into print last week.

So dig that, and now…back to Guanajuato! Be warned that my commentary isn’t going to be fully in synch with the images.

I took Sylvia to the Museo los Momias, that is, the museum of the mummies. I’d visited it with my artist/writer friend Bef a few years ago.

[In an art gallery.]

Guanajuato is very dry, at an altitude of six thousand feet, and of course hot in the summers. Bodies were buried either in the hardpan, white, alkaline soil, or sealed in crypts. If the descendents didn’t keep paying the annual plot-rental fee for someone, the cemetery owners would dig up the body and put it on display in their Mummy Museum, which remains to this day.

The bodies still have their skin, flesh, teeth, and even wisps of hair. Leathery, dried-out, twisted from the contraction of the tendons, the distorted mouths open as if in the hideous screams of the damned—in every respect like undead, eyeless, zombies. Truly horrible—although from time to time a viewer’s terror flips over into anxious mirth.

There was one guy in particular, with a big jaw and his mouth wide open and quite a few teeth missing, but with a kind of Hell’s Angel biker energy to him, an undead hick out for a good time, and the curators had, for whatever reason, left a grayed-out pair of pants on him, the waistline very low, Pachuco style, or like he might even be on the point of dropping-trou exposing himself to you.

And near him was a woman with her mouth an open O, turned a bit to one side, as if wailing in woe, some teeth in there, her nose dried down to little more than skully nostrils, and somehow I saw her as the date of the Hell’s Angel.

Sylvia was groping for the mot juste to describe how she felt about the displays. Discomfited, dismayed, discombobulated. “I could have lived without seeing this,” she said. But, having heard about it from me, she did want to see it, at least to some extent and, charming though Guanajuato is, there are not a surfeit of cultural venues to explore.

Man did I feel relaxed there. And I know I posted this photo before, but I want to see it again. We liked hanging out in our hotel room with the comfortable chairs and the balcony looking out on the fabulously colorful town. The light and air streaming in.

The evening after the mummy museum, after regrouping in our room, we had dinner downtown at a fancy Italian restaurant on the triangular square, and on the walk home we passed the big yellow basilica or cathedral of Guanajuato. We’d wanted to check it out before, but that day there’d been a funeral with an adult-sized white coffin, and a hundred mourners on the steps, and some mariachis playing away, and he mourners heading off down the cobblestone street behind the hearse.

[Photo of the lounge in the old opera Teatro.]

The day of the mummies, as if in counterposition to the theme of death and decay, the cathedral doors was wide open, with the place lit up like no church I’ve ever seen. Intensely bright white-light bulbs festooned in over twenty elaborate chandeliers, and bright pale-blue LED bulbs arrayed in vertical strings along the edges of the columns.

Sylvia and I went in, some kind of service taking place, we slipped into a rear pew. The space was filled with resonant chanting, wonderful music, and the increasingly fevered ringing of bells. The priest’s voice up there, very soothing, a couple of hundred worshippers closer to the altar. Was it okay for us to be here?

Well, too late for that, here comes the priest, in his white cassock, and four or five assistants, also robed, some of them are women, a couple of thurifers are swinging these billowing incense burners, the priest is moving in a cloud, he’s holding something up, shaped like a hand-mirror, a disk with a handle, the flat disk has glass on front and back, with a wide silver band around the disk’s edge, like a frame, the disk might be a couple of feet across. The music and chanting continue, and the bells, the ringing, the sound is rising to a crescendo, rattling, frenetic, unsystematic, getting into my head. The smell of the incense is mild and pleasant.

[Sylvia gave me this glass heart for my birthday.]

The priest has come all the way down to the end of the aisle, people are reaching out toward him, at first, I don’t get what the people are doing, but now the priest is right by us, and I see they’re touching the priest’s raised disk with their two open hands. I can see through the glass, a big white circle is inside, maybe four inches across, it’s a communion wafer, what they call the Host, it’s sealed between the two layers of glass with the silver frame around the rim. The glass and silver holder is what I think they call a pyx, I recall, and, yes, that big round white flat shape inside the pyx—it’s God! Of course God is a white disk. Like the Sun. The priest is bringing God down to us, and even a poor mean wretch like I can touch God, or at least touch the pyx that God’s riding in. [By the way, when I got back home, a priest friend of mine said that thing is called a “monstrance” and not a “pyx,” but I’ll just keep calling it a pyx here, as that’s such a cool word.]

[The fabulous coffee roasting machine at El Conquistador coffee shop beside our hotel.]

Sylvia reaches out first, and touches the silver band of the pyx with the fingers of her two open hands, and now I do it too, with the smoke all around, and the frenetic rattle of the bells inside my head. I glimpse the priest’s face—humble, good, calm, he’s not looking at me, he’s absorbed in his work. I feel vast, unknown forces moving within my body and my soul—I’m filled with joy in the bright white church. A religious experience, wow. Sylvia and I are quite overwhelmed, nearly in tears.

[On my birthday I spend an hour or two walking the back streets of the hill above our hotel, totally digging the insane colors in the alleyways, and the sudden views across the valley the chocked pastel houses on the other side.]

The beautiful music is playing on, the heavenly glow of the lights continues, the congregation is chanting. People are drifting up the aisle, following the priest, massing in the church’s apse. Will they be taking communion? Not wanting the exulted moment to end, Sylvia and I go along.

The white-robed priest fits God and his pyx into a cabinet on the wall above the altar. God’s house. Rather than offering communion, the priest extends a simpler blessing. He has a ewer of holy water. Over and over he dips in a religious instrument, a little like a ladle or a pestle, then makes a flinging gesture which sends drops flying down onto us. Sylvia and I feel a few on our faces and hands. All right!

“Those Catholics,” Sylvia says to me when we’re back out in the square.. “You’ve got to hand it to them. They really know how to do religion. The theatre of it.”

I like how they’ll just throw a Virgin of Guadalupe up on the wall like a graffiti.

The dogs, their brains tiny spots of lights, little pals, trotting around, and every day is new, and every day is the same.

This pink, or magenta, I’m crazy about it. And the tonal/hue difference between the lit and shaded parts. And don’t forget the wire with the knot in it.

Walking around alone with my good Fujifilm 100XT camera on my birthday, alone in the back streets, the few people that I meet being reasonably friendly, intoxicated by the textures and shades. And, oh, the lovely little meter. “It’s all blue.”

These bread-carrying dudes are cool.

Tricolor, right? And the deep, subtle quality of the texture superseding or underlying the coats of paint.

Insane wrought iron. This dude truckin’ along. He’s about to glance over at me with a bit of a glare…why am I taking his picture? Waning to capture the stride, man, wanting to animate the geometry.

We went down to the big indoor market, the Mercado, huge hall with booths for fabrics, toys, gizmos, and lots of food, like butchers and bakers. Balcony outside with an eatery. On the “segundo piso.” Wish I knew more Spanish. And, ah, the patches of peeling paint, so perfecto.

View off our balcony near the end of the day. God’s acres of cloud cabbages, airy, eternal, perpetually renewed.

Poster in the entrance hall of a student coop near the University of Guanajuato, a big place. In the evenings, groups of student singers in black robes roam the streets, leading (mostly Mexican) tourists, and chorusing classic songs like “Cielito Lindo,” which is an affectionate term literally meaning “Little Sky.” Has the classic first line, “Ay, ay, ay, ay / Canta y no llores,” meaning “Sing and don’t cry.”

A piece of the church where we saw God in a pyx. Or no, wait, this is the church where we saw Jesus inside a glass box, crawling with his cross.

The 3D mosaic of the buildings on the hills.

Those crazy gas meters and the jury-rigged electric lines!

Advanced seminar in projective geometry and the planar sections of space curves.

In a speeding, lurching taxi, early in the morn, driving through the crazy dripping tunnels that lead through the Guanajuato hills toward the airport. I love you, Guanajuato!

And, as I mentioned above, I did an initial post of Guanajuato (and San Miguel Allende) photos on March 29, 2019.

Talk on “Cyberpunk Use Cases”

I gave two presentations at the IOHK Summit in Miami Beach, Florida, April 18, 2019. IOHK is a crypto/blockchain company with the full name Input Output Hong Kong, although in fact they’re not currently based in Hong Kong.

I gave a large audience a twnty minute talk, described in this post, and small audience a forty minute talk,  “Lifebox for Telepathy and Immortality“.

This “Cyberpunk Use Cases” post contains the slides for the talk, the draft text for the talk, and audio of the talk.  So you can listen and scroll through the images and words at the same time.

Click the player icon below to play the audio right now. Or click the talk title to download the mp3 audio file and listen to it on your own player. Or listen to the talk via Rudy Rucker Podcasts.

Cyberpunk Use Cases. By Rudy Rucker.

Where I’m From

I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky during the 1950s and 60s. I read a lot of science fiction. And I was fascinated by the Beat writers Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

In 1963, I left Louisville, and went to Swarthmore College near Philadelphia. I wanted to be a writer, but I majored in Mathematics. I didn’t like the English Lit classes. I figured I’d learn to write on my own.

After Swarthmore, I married my college girlfriend, Sylvia. We went to grad school at Rutgers in New Jersey, and I got a Ph. D. in mathematical logic. I went on to have a fairly good career as a writer. I’ve published about forty books. I’ve written popular science books about infinity, about the fourth dimension, and and about the nature of computation. Many of my books are science fiction novels. We’re talking high-class literary science fiction.

My best-known novel is Software, written in 1980. It was one of the earliest cyberpunk novels. The idea behind Software seems simple now.

  • It should be possible to extract the patterns stored in a person’s brain, and transfer these onto a computer or a robot.

You’ve seen this scenario in a hundred movies and TV shows, right? But I was the first one to write about it. In 1980, “soul as software” was an unheard of thought. Hardly anyone even knew the word “software.”

To make my Software especially punk, I made the brain-to-software transfer very gnarly. A gang of scary-funny hillbillies extracted people’s mental software by slicing off the tops of their skulls and eating their brains with cheap steel spoons. One of the hillbillies was a robot in disguise, and his stomach analyzed the brain tissue. Did I mention that I grew up in Kentucky?

I went on to write three sequels: Software, Wetware, Freeware, and Realware. They’re collected in my Ware Tetralogy. And you can read my Complete Stories for free online. Read one of my stories before you go to sleep tonight. You’ll have interesting dreams.

In grad school I was a hippie, in the Eighties I was a punk, and after that I settled down to being a cyberpunk. Even so, I’m a reliable family man, with three children, and five grandchildren.

A photo of my cyberpunk children!

Being a respected writer doesn’t necessarily pay very well, so for most of my life I had a day job. I was a math professor until I was forty, and then we  moved to California, and I became a computer science professor at San Jose State, in Silicon Valley.

I let the chip into my heart. At first I was faking it as a CS prof, but eventually I knew what I was doing, and I did some work as a software engineer at Autodesk. I published a book on software engineering for videogames. And I published several programs involving cellular automata, chaos, videogames, and artificial life.

And now here I am speaking at conference on blockchain. What am I going to say? Well, I’ll spin out some fantasies about things we might see in future. Weird, insane, cyberpunk use cases.

Cyber

Cyberpunk is about computers merging into our reality And it’s about maintaining our individuality in the face of that. As a writer, it was it was a lucky break that I ended up working in Silicon Valley. It’s like—what if William Blake had gone to work amid the “dark satanic looms” of a textile mill?

Cyberpunk explores the boundaries between humans, daily life, and computers.

Cyberpunk = Cyber + Punk.

Cyber is about the real world blending with the computer world.
Punk is about maintaining our independence and our attitude.

Cyber encompasses three trends.

  • Software → People. Programs imitate us.
  • People → Software. We behave like robots.
  • Software ↔ Reality. The cloud merges with daily life.

Software → People.

  • Bots, that is, intelligent programs, emulate people, taking over some of our jobs.
  • AI used to seem unattainable. But for many tasks we can beat the problem to death by training neural nets on big data sets.
  • We don’t program high-level AI. Logicians have proved we can never understand AI at our level. But we can evolve human-level AI. It’s an odd win.
  • That is, we can emulate our minds without ever knowing how the minds work. All it takes is big data, big crunch, and time.

People → Software.

  • As a way of keeping pace, people enhance or augment themselves with the smart agents in their devices.
  • The ultimate move will be digital immortality, that is, making a lasting software model of yourself. I call this kind of model a lifebox, and I wrote about it in my tome, The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul. I’ll discuss lifeboxes in my workshop presentation.

Software ↔ Reality.

  • Our daily world is saturated with the internet. Like damp sand at the edge of the sea. Both solid and liquid.
  • Face to face conversations are increasingly replaced by messaging, video, and social.
  • Stores close and move into the cloud. We shop online.
  • We use VR to emulate the world, for entertainment, for training, and for predictions.

Cryptocurrency, blockchain, and smart contracts are definitely cyber. Physical money tokens become patterns in the cloud. Signed agreements are in a database. In a smart contract, it may be that some of the participants are bots. A lawyer bot, an agent bot, and a collection bot. I think of the bots as remoras attached to a shark. The contract is the shark.

Punk

Computers aren’t everything. Behaving like a robot is unpleasant. It’s more fun to be human.

The VR worlds of videogames are too clean. Even their scuff marks are clean. As Bruce Sterling once said, “We cyberpunks need to get in there with our spray cans.”

The physical world is grungy and gnarly. Wherever I am, I always look for the chaos, the natural gnarl, and when I find it I feel safer.

Punk is about turning your back on conventional top-down rules. Cyberpunk film and literature breaks free of the boring old plastic, white-bread visions of the future. And folding in more of our actual, daily world.

Punk is for countercultural, decentralized politics. Like, “You’re not my boss. I’m not listening. I’m doing it my way.” In a nutshell?

Punk means give the finger and walk away.

Cryptocurrency, blockchain, and distributed information systems have a definite quality of punk. Many in these areas have a libertarian bent, a wish to be invisible to the government, to maintain privacy, and to evade central control. A good fit for punk. Don’t get permission, just do it.

Internet Goodies

The internet turned out much better than anyone could have hoped. It grew and spread before business or the government could shackle it. The people who designed and released the internet—they were cyberpunks. I’m not saying they were hipsters, no, they were geeks. But they were cyberpunk geeks.

They released the internet into the wild. Hoping for these goodies.

  • Deal. Buy and sell online.
  • Publish. Post what you like. Others can find your content.
  • Search. World library in your pocket. Search it all. Nobody watches.
  • Talk. Unsupervised messaging, talk, video.
  • Archive. Stash your data in the cloud.

But…

Warning to internet users: “Beware the beak!”

The browser makers, the social networks, the online merchants, and national security—they want to co-opt your goodies. They want to maintain silos of data about you, mostly so they can pelt you with ads.

Even in a democracy, you don’t automatically keep your rights to freedom and privacy. You have to win back these rights, over and over and over again. If you stop being a rebel, they make you a slave.

We need a recalcitrant cyberpunk attitude. Give the finger and walk away? Well, sure. But how?

Three Cyberpunk Use Cases

I’m going to hit you with three out-there cyberpunk SF scenarios. I’ll relate them to Search, Talk, and Archive.

Enhanced Goodies Drawback Old Fix New Fix
(Search)
Crystal Ball
Ads, Data Mining Ad-blockers, VPN Everyone has a Search Engine
(Talk)
Telepathy
Spam,
Eavesdropping
Crypto, Filters Recognition
(Archive)
Immortality
Impersonation, Spies Crypto, ID Memory thread

Crystal Ball

A commercial search engine tracks you and serves up ads. Conceivably the search engine tells some authority about nasty searches. Yes, you can use ad-blockers and use a VPN to be somewhat anonymous. But even without knowing anything about you, the search engine can skew the hits it offers you. Typically skewing the hits in favor of whatever advertisers or political factions have gotten to the search engine company.

And conversely, your publishing efforts will be unsuccessful if the owners of the global search engines choose not to serve links to your content.

The solution is radical, but simple. Run your own search engine. But, wait, a search engine company is constantly crawling the web, storing data in banks of computers worldwide, and curating their data with massive AI.

Ever heard of Moore’s Law? It’s not unreasonable to suppose that in ten or twenty years you’ll have a decent global search machine running on its own in your pocket. Maybe it won’t even be a chip. Maybe we’ll have gone to quantum computing by then and your search machine will be…a tiny “crystal ball.” A little supercomputer, either way.

You’ll automatically enrich your crystal ball’s history as you surf the web. It’ll run off down the branches coming off the places you go. It’ll be an expert on things you interested in.

And—the indie DIY punk aspect—you’ll share your crystal ball’s data peer to peer. But only with trusted parties. In a way it’ll be like Wikipedia. Trusted users building an encyclopedia. There could be a blockchain element akin to the Wikipedia edit tracker.

Telepathy

People are not going to be pecking at tiny smart phone keyboards in ten or twenty years. Already voice typing is close to being usable. But it’s a little embarrassing to be talking out loud to your phone, especially when the person next to you yells, “What?” and that goes into your message. And in the other direction, it’s slow to have to listen to a computer voice. And half the time screen fonts are too small to read.

We want to go beyond kludgy. haptic interfaces like keys, screen. touch, and voice. What you need what I call an “uvvy” patch to put on the back of your neck. A soft piezoplastic slug. It communicates directly with the net. It’s like a cell phone that’s glued onto your body. And—big add-on to the specs—an uvvy can read your brainwaves. Transform your thoughts into images and text. and of course we want the uvvy to be removable.

A visitor from the past might take our smart phones for a type of telepathy. But the phone, or the uvvy, just sends pictures and words. For true telepathy we want more than a silent videophone conversation.

  • Telepathy involves sharing access to thought patterns in your neurons. Instead of sending information to someone else, you send them a link to the location where that information is stored in your brain. And they can access it there.
  • It’s like, you send someone a link to an image on your webpage. Instead of emailing them a JPG image as an attachment.
  • It’s like, you send send them a link to a thought pattern in your brain. Instead of sending them a bunch of words about your idea and expecting them to convert your words into a model of your thought. Like I’m trying to do with you right now.
  • In two-way telepathy, people might let your brain patterns merge. Super thoughts!

So then comes porno, scams, and spam. Telepathic hucksters will want to overlay your sensations, push into your thoughts, and infect y0ur dreams—should you be foolish enough to fall asleep while wearing your uvvy.

How do we prevent this? Using a central authority is totally out of the question. It’s got to be peer to peer. We might start with a shared key protocol. But the key would have to be unhackable. Something very convoluted.

What if the key is related to the process of recognizing someone. Recognize them in that deep, reliable way that you recognize a life-long friend from their face, voice, conversational style, and overall personality..

Having a given personality is, one might say, a proof of work, in the cryptocurrency sense. A mature personality is, in a sense, a blockchain, with each new state of consciousness containing pointers to previous states.

But what about telepathy with people you don’t know? Unsafe telepathy could be worse than unsafe sex! Maybe we’d want to go for something like letters of introduction. Like, “Rudy sent me.”

Digital Immorality

So how about making a software model of a person? So that, like, you can get a beloved partner back? In the near term, we already have a simple way for mimicking this process, something that I call lifebox software. I’ve been writing about it for years. It hasn’t caught on in a big way, but I think it will. I’m going to talk about it in my workshop session later today.

But maybe being perserved as something like a website isn’t enough?

But, wait! How about actual immortality? Let’s suppose that a more futuristic lifebox is supported by a funky and extremely powerful device. Perhaps the support platform is bio-computational, or perhaps it’s a quantum computer. And let’s say that the lifebox has that elusive sense of “watching itself watch itself” that seems to characterize conscious thought.

Here we’d have an impersonation issue. It seems like I’d prefer to have just one posthumous lifebox ghost—and not a slew of Elvis-imitator-type poseurs mixing in with my estate, my work, and my surviving family.

But what about copies that are reasonably close. As with telepathy, there’s the “recognition” factor. Your thread of consciousness is a kind of blockchain. The richness of memories are, in their own way, a proof of work. It’s a block chain thing as the references are subtle. The thread of consciousness is a block chain. A non-hacked, non-forged. authentic record of my thoughts.

Preserve your software, the rest is meat?

That’s true, up to a point, but don’t forget—where there’s filth, there’s life!

In the long run, natural computations are where it’s at.  And by natural computation I mean a whole range of possiblities, including the functioning of an organism, the mass movements of a society, the thoughts in your mind, and even the quantum tingling inside a rock.

Links

For more info about these topics, check out my workshop talk, “Lifebox for Telepathy and Immortality.”

And visit the links on my home page, www.rudyrucker.com


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