Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Just Around the Corner"

Everyone is a skeptic and a believer, when you get right down to it. Everyone has their own set of beliefs and their own set of hopes and dreams. Everyone has had disappointments and experiences that teach them to be wary and untrusting. 

Oftentimes, you can scratch a skeptic and find a closet believer, and vice versa. Sometimes the difference between a skeptic and a believer is just a few drinks.

I once was a believer in Progress, the inevitable linear march towards the future. Now I am--maybe not a skeptic so much as a (very) cautious believer. Or maybe just a wishful thinker. I see Progress not as a straight line but a scribbly one. Things get better for some people and get worse for others. 

In my lifetime Syria, Iraq and Ukraine were modern, industrialized countries with educated populations. Now they are disaster areas. But by the same token the opposite can be said of many other countries who were mired in war and poverty 30 years ago but now are forces to be reckoned with. 

Like I said, it's not a straight line.

Industrial Progress was once America's surrogate religion. Gordon recently wrote about the late Edward Condon, a hero to debunkers but a man who had the professional ethics of a schoolyard meth dealer. 

Condon's religion- the religion of the "March of Progress"- was so existentially threatened by UFOs that he rigged the report, fired whistleblowers when his deception was revealed and then burned all his notes so no one could review his work. Had this been any other topic, Condon may well have been put up on charges (Uncle Sam was footing the bill). He certainly would have been disgraced by his peers; but his peers shared his religious beliefs so he was rewarded for his acts.


The Western world once believed in Progress towards heavenly salvation. The entire world was revealing itself and unfolding in such a way as to glorify Jehovah and lead to a paradise on Earth. With the Age of Discovery and the Industrial Revolution, these same exact expectations were merely transposed onto Science.

We have more sophisticated technology than ever before, but it hasn't led to Paradise, and most certainly not the stars. Silicon Valley isn't the engine of  Utopia, it's the engine of the new Feudalism that dominates California, which went from being a middle class paradise to being one of the poorest and most economically stratified states in the country, a place of grotesque inequality and near absolute-zero social mobility.


I'm old enough to have heard how the next world-changing technology is "just around the corner" but all we really seem to get are faster and smaller versions of things we already had. I remember seeing articles claiming that bionic limbs were "just around the corner" when The Six Million Dollar Man was popular. Virtual Reality was "just around the corner" 20 years, it's still "just around the corner" today. Hovercraft as personal transportation was "just around the corner" around the same time. 

When's the last time you saw a hovercraft?

Transhumanism was all the rage a few years back, but now it's somehow landed on the attack list for online skeptics. Desperate Singularitarian and Transhumanist true believers increasingly look electronics companies who went all in on the Betamax format. We were hearing how uploading our minds into robot bodies was the way to achieve immortality, but now Silicon Valley is going all in on medical (read: pharmaceutical) solutions for longevity.

Androids are supposed to be "just around the corner" but I feel like I've been seeing the same creepy Japanese fembot press conference on a tape loop since the Reagan Era. Sure, computers can beat grand masters at chess, but can they build a birdhouse and take out the trash as well? Artificial Intelligence is supposed to be "just around the corner," but I've seen a lot of serious skepticism about that as well.

Of course, there's also the "Disclosure Movement", which forever keeps the illusion alive that the government is going to reverse 70 years of policy and admit that not only do UFOs actually exist, but that they are extraterrestrial spacecraft. That's always "just around the corner" too. The Edward Condons of the world may feel threatened by the possibility of someone possessing greater technology than themselves but the government does so for an entirely different reason, believe me.

But for guys my age, space is the biggest disappointment. Star Trek electrified a generation of kids who didn't have a lot else to look forward to, and then of course there was Star Wars. But it seems like they're both in a galaxy far, far away these days.

The two success stories of the space program, the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter and the Mars Opportunity Rover, are being unceremoniously defunded by the Obama Administration, who seem content to keep NASA alive as a mouthpiece for "global warming" propaganda (the New England area just received the most snow in recorded history, a headline we seem to be seeing a lot lately).  There's another probe being talked up for Mars but not much else. 

I can't help but wonder if all this Flat Earth and ISS hoax material out there is in some way a reaction to the broken promises of the space program and of the better-living-through-technology paradigm altogether. 

I have to say these videos are entertaining, and there are a lot of curious anomalies in the ISS footage, but the question you have to ask is why bother? Who really cared about the Shuttle, never mind the ISS? The Apollo hoaxes have a compelling motive; keeping a country together during a period of extreme crisis by creating a massive "feel-good" diversion. An ISS hoax? Who cares?

People my age grew up expecting there to be bases on Mars by now and certainly some kind of colony on the Moon. But what if the skeptics are right? What if outer space is an impassable hell of lethal radiation? (Radiation could certainly explain why we aren't picking up any coherent radio signals- they're being garbled as they travel through giant waves of radiation trillions of miles wide.) 

I'm not saying I necessarily agree, but certainly there are a lot of huge gaps in the orthodox position on space exploration.

Joe Rogan said, quite cannily I thought, that when the Apollo missions were done that no one could have foreseen the age of home video recording, to which I'd add they didn't foresee the age of image analysis being available to anyone with a decent computer either.

When challenged about whistleblowers, Rogan brought up Gus Grissom. He could have brought up several other astronauts and NASA employees who died violent deaths during that same time period. He could have also brought up the fact that there were whistleblowers, like Bill Kaysing.

It's not something I want to believe. want to believe in the March of Progress. The alternatives aren't very appealing.  I'd say most of the serious Apollo skeptics started out as serious space nerds. I'd also bet there are a lot of quote-unquote believers who are in fact skeptics, but are afraid to speak up. 

Technology has very often solved many of the existential problems of the human condition (see irrigation, agriculture, medicine, air flight, etc). But technology also has a tendency to empower the worst of us to do harm to the best of us. 

It's why as I wrote before we may see ever stranger expressions of dissent from the dominant consensus, which preaches Progress and the salvational force of Technology. What form they take and where they go will be something to watch, you can bet on that.  Social revolutions often spring from the most unlikely sources.


  1. "...when the Apollo missions were done [that] no one could have foreseen the age of home video recording..."

    I was always wondering how familiar you are with the work of british author J.G. Ballard, who - in the late 60s, early 70s- predicted exactly that: closing the blinders to the space age via a private retreat into suburban homes that have become virtual video-studios for our darkest obsessions.

    I have never read his name in your writings, but since Ballard was one of the biggest influences on the whole post punk scene, I can hardly believe that he escaped your attention.

    He is certainly famous for the amazing "Crash" and the Spielberg-adaption of his fantasy-biography "Kingdom of the Sun". But it´s his "inner space"-short stories from the 50s onwards which all made stunning predictions that have mostly come to pass, especially when you focus on social and psychological aspects.

    1. Oh, I'm familiar with Ballard's work and his influence on the synthpunks. I just don't know how prophetic it was. I think it was very much of its time, and maybe of its place as well.

  2. I have to digress with two instances in regards to linear history and Star Trek. There was the Eugenics Wars of the 1990's and the nuclear holocaust of the mid 21st century. What have we learned? For us to have more progress, we need at least two more world wars. Look at the before and after times of both WW1 and WW2. Goodbye city, hello moon, hands up, vote Dr. Doom You know it makes sense

  3. (Full disclosure: I'm an aerospace engineer by profession who's worked several NASA/private space contracts over the years).

    The ancient Romans had all the elements of technology required to build a fleet of steamships, set out West, and discover the (so called) New World 1500 years ahead of schedule.. yet they didn't.

    Why not? Culturally, it just never occurred to them. Those little steam turbines the clever Greeks had built were little more than curiosities. "Why build an engine when it's so much cheaper to just buy a slave? Why hire a Phoenician to build a deep-water fleet when the only real point of your triremes is to ferry soldiers from port to port along the Mediterranean sea? Why strike out West at all? Everybody 'knows' that Atlantis went under the waves centuries ago, and there's no risk of running out of new lands to conquer around Mare Nostra in any case. Plus... Gaul. Germania. Britannia. We're busy."

    Ok, back to the present. We could have had those Mars colonies, for the price of a few month's worth of the Iraq war (still an immense cost, granted). But it's just not a cultural priority for this particular civilization. We appear to have collectively "decided" that it's much better to just navel-gaze on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter until the sun boils off the oceans.

    That said, I interpret recent anti-space sentiment out there as just another attempt to crush Hope. Dreams of escape into space to try to build something new and better are currently just that -- dreams. But we seem to be reaching a point in the culture when even the dream of potential escape, itself, is seen as a troublesome spark that requires snuffing out.

    1. I love this comment. One of the best crystallizations of my own take on this problem. Most of it is entirely cultural and political, not technical. As St. Terence said, "culture is not your friend" - and he was a big believer in progress who also (seemingly contrarily, but as it turns out not so much) pointed out back in the 90s that we could look forward to 'more war, more fascism' in his 2012 Rave Era version of the future. So we surely got that part. Philip K. Dick was certainly onto something when he posited that Rome never ended. Since the wheels came off that enterprise in the 4th century, Europe has been trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together. And as an extension o that, the US was deliberately modeled after an Enlightenment version of the Roman Republic. The Roman elite were clever to inject their rotten system with Christianity. Nietzsche mistook that for suicide when it really was a sort of 're-animation' formula. When the celestial Caesar is central to your entire world view, you can't avoid replaying the same stupid scenario over and over.

  4. Did you post this article at midnight intentionally or is that another synchronicity? Myself, I was born at exactly 12PM on 6/12/72...6x12=72 72+72=144. This is fun stuff! I am now fully in the Synchroverse orbit.

  5. Wait there's more. 7+2=9 1+4+4=9 9+9=18 and 1+2=3 making 3/18. I was seeing 17's everywhere yesterday. I was in a locker room, thought to myself, why not? Quickly looked at the first locker at random. It was number 117. There's the 17 plus 1+1+7=9.

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  7. Scott: I was referring to Star Trek vis a vis space exploration not exactly linear progression as much. I don't know if Star Trek's vision of the future is something we want to repeat.

    Michael- The Romans may have had the basic concepts at hand but they didn't have the infrastructure that the Industrial Revolution created. It's impossible to imagine steamships without a whole society of steampower. After all, you don't just build a steamship, you have to develop one. As to Mars, I think the cost-benefit ratio is the real stickler at this point. But the Moon seems a gimme, especially given our need for minerals. That we're not doing it only seems to embolden the skeptics.

    Paul- Rome adopted Christianity not out of Constantine's spiritual inclinations but because it solved a lot of problems they were struggling with. If Constantine's heirs weren't so predictably evil who knows? Maybe it would have saved the Empire. Maybe it would have even humanized it. It certainly was a step above Diocletian's blood and honor, 'die for your Caesar' Jupiter cult.

  8. I think there's a misconception that our science fiction infused visions of the future paint for us. The point isn't really the technology, the point is the story, the technology is just the delivery mechanism. It's 2015, but is it the 2015 of Back To The Future? Well, sans flying cars and hoverboards, pretty much yes. The kids are still bullying each other, but with more advanced gadgets. TV screens are huge and there are more channels than we can possibly choose from. We eat as much junk food, there's still as much crime and pollution, and now we all disappear off into private little bubble worlds that only serve to confirm our existing prejudices. Or is that just me?

    I was confused as a kid, I thought the technology was the point of the story, I wanted the gadgets, and to be able to visit the future too. Then I learned that the point of the story wasn't the time machine at all, the point of the story was about how the kid got to see how his own parents acted when they were kids. How all the behaviours they criticised him for were behaviours they had engaged in themselves 30 years earlier. The original time machine was just going to be a refridgerator, until they worried about the liability of kids trying to emulate it, locking themselves in, and suffocating themselves.

    There was a point I was going to make, what was it? The point is it's the stories that really shape societies, far more than the technology. A lot more is already potentially possible than we are ready to accept, and a lot of it would probably be very dangerous to everyone if it fell into the wrong hands.

    So right now the story is Google and Facebook, Apple and Twitter, a bunch of fairly useless Apps, and a lot of the rest is just business as usual. I don't know if there is an organised secret cabal that is dedicated to making it so, or if humanity is basically just stupid and lazy and taking the easy route. It seems like we are all just sitting in front of the most powerful, creative tool that the some of brightest minds of half a dozen generations could concieve, and so many have not the faintest idea what it is truely capable of, let alone how to utilise the full capabilities.

    Instead we get a lot of stuff like this,
    people spending actual hard-earned money to be able to play at doing on a computer what we would consider to be minimum-wage jobs in real life. That's just got to be wrong hasn't it? Babbage and Turing, Von Neuman et al must be spinning in their graves.

    We shouldn't just be waiting around for someone else to deliver the techno-future we think we've been promised, but which they seem to be forever witholding. We pretty much already have the theory and the tools we need to build it ourselves, if we did but understand how to make proper use of them.

    1. It's always been about the story - the words we use to shape our reality -

  9. Very interesting points, Edward. And it really speaks to the distorting effect of Hollywood and television on our expectations. What you are referring is so depressing and I was so plugged into Mondo 2000 and all that back in the 90s. Back when we were fooled into thinking technology would emancipate us.

  10. I agree with what you said about progress not being a straight line, sometimes it can end up as a u-turn, and with it generally being military or science lead I seriously worry about where it's heading. Multi media as it was originally described was never going to work anyway people are always on the move and it was all based on being stationary but it's come on leaps and bounds and then some. Communication methods have certainly progressed at a speedy rate though.

  11. Here's Rob Ager's (possibly) best video, all about the future as Kubrick sold it to investors and technical advisors in order to get them to back 2001- (It's in multiple parts)

  12. I don't know if others have seen the SyFy miniseries Ascension. I'd have thought it was right up your alley. I don't want to spoil the plot if you haven't, but let's just say it's Truman Showesque.
    It struck me that if there is a secret cabal that is retarding human scientific progress they may have similar intentions on a planetary scale, they may well be holding us in a kind of scientific stasis while they wait for humanity itself to evolve. Maybe all we need is a critical mass of minds online, all feeding each other memes, till someone hits on just the right mental developmental stage to bring everyone else forward.
    What's up with all those Indigo, Crystal and Rainbow children nowadays? Is it just ADHD, or ASD by another name, or is something deeper and more significant going on? "The star child must be born!" anyone?

    Also that Helix series seemed like some very timely 'predictive programming' for the real-world Ebola outbreak. But that's surely just a cooincidence isn't it?

  13. Cindy- That gets back to what Thiel said about making great progress with electrons but not so much with atoms. But what's it all being used for now- selfies and wolfpack attacks? Is that progress?

    Tyrone- Can you find me those Ager videos that got him in trouble with the tabloids, the stuff with the torture or whatever? I saw mention of it but can't seem to find what they are actually talking about and he won't show them to prove or disprove the whole kerfuffle. What was that all about?

    Edward- Haven't heard of Ascension- will check it out. The Indigo thing was sort of tied into abduction lore but you really don't hear much about it these days. It's actually been several years since I've seen anything new on it.

  14. Here's Ager's rebuttal to a smear attack he got from the tabs in Britain while involved in politics- His fiction films I believe are behind a pay wall-

  15. I saw that but he didn't excerpt anything or refer to anything so the viewer could make a judgement about the films. I found that a bit odd.

  16. Chris,

    Your "right around the corner" observations immediately reminded me of this little curio, one of many such shows of its day:

    (RIP, Leonard!)

    Its interesting to watch this and other shows and see they have a prediction success rate on par with Criswell, though some are occasionally prescient. Note also that names occasionally pop up that are still familiar today, of persons who were not exactly on-target. Ah, well. I admit, they generally did better than I.

    Also, I find the timing (sync?) of this meditation perfect, as Disney is about to release a movie starring Kris Kelvin himself, George Clooney, called "Tomorrowland". A re-imagining of yesterday's promises? More? Guess we will see.

  17. Just saw this today after the excellent threads of hoaxing skeptics and believers and found it a rewarding batch of detective work regarding nasas (lack of) transparency on its missions. Thanks for the nudges Chris!

  18. I think Ager was more interested in explaining how he got the retractions from the tabloids, which would imply the vids were pretty tame- And it was five years ago- I think he was just using his own experience as an example of how the MSM is not worth appealing to for anything- Neither is the political system IMO-

  19. Moses- It's like they say- nothing ages faster than yesterday's futurism. Things never go according to prophecy, especially pop science prophecy. It's interesting how the futurists seem to have given up the ghost- we got to the 21st Century and unless you're a millionaire it's pretty awful.

    Orgone- Funny, I was working on a Mars piece today. I'll see what this is all about…

    Tyrone- I don't think anyone who reads this blog needs to be convinced about the uselessness of the MSM, that's for sure.

  20. Chris,

    Have you ever seen the Apollo/NASA videos on this channel?

  21. Um, I think that guy is hallucinating. I watched a lot of those videos and he's hearing and seeing stuff that, I don't know, I can't see or hear at all.

  22. Jarrah Whites Moonfaker series is on this channel:

    I do not know why mention his name and then link to a guy called Steve Blakey talking about the ISS. Jarrah White has made a well researched series about all the moon landing anomalies, nothing to do with the ISS.

  23. I looked at the videos again. You are right. The claims made in the videos are misinterpretations. Can my previous post be deleted since it links to clear bs.

    Anon 9:45

  24. Christopher, as usual I'm on board with about 99% of your wonderful post, I think it sums up how many of 'a certain age' feel about a future that never arrived.
    But I have to ask - global warming a 'hoax'? I'm surprised to hear you say this and I'd be interested if you fleshed out your thoughts more fully. It HAS to be more than a snowy winter in New England.


    1. "Global Warming" is a misnomer. "Global climate change" is more accurate. In some locales, it can manifest as cooling, and in most locales the manifestation will be towards greater extremes.

      Nobody seriously disputes global climate change (except maybe elected officials in Florida). The interesting question, for me, is whether the climate change is truly anthropogenic or "merely" a natural consequence of planetary cycles. I tend to think that it would be impossible to dump so much carbon into the environment *without* it having some influence on global climate. However, I am also wary of how global climate change can be used by elites as an excuse to enact all kinds of totalitarian measures on the common populace.

    2. Did the Global Warming treaty get signed?
      There were rumours it would involve signing away you constitution, your sovereignty and your rights.

    3. If climate changes are down to the earths frequencies rising I guess it's not an easy one.

  25. "I'm so sorry, but these austerity measures are necessary, it's for the good of the humanity and the good of the planet. Now, excuse me, I have to go fly my private jet to my climate-controlled mansion in Buenos Aires".

  26. It's not that there isn't a lot of new science being developed, it's just that a lot of it goes towards perpetuating the existing paradigm rather than offering us a new way of thinking.

  27. You are absolutely right. It's freaking 2015. I should be sitting on a starship, making peace with other beings, sharing ideas, learning from eachother. Yet, somehow I am stuck on this rock surrounded by perpetual chaos and destruction. We now have a gentleman spending a year in space, could it be for the future or are we holding ourselves back? And another user mentioned radiation and signals from other star systems. What a shame and waste that would be for both parties.

  28. This seems to be humanity's number one problem. The neoliberal utopia is at hand and they're working hard to freeze any progress that doesn't contribute to rent-seeking. I overheard a conversation recently asking why all the hit films are remakes of 70s films, or adaptations of 1960s comics or 1930s novels. (LOTR). All respect to Kirby, Tolkien and the Max Max guy but ...they're the last guys to have original ideas?
    Part of it can be put down to an ossification of elites. Not only political, but scientific. The last time people were encouraged to go wild with basic theory was the Nazi regime and it would be sad to think that's what it takes for science people to be allowed to follow their muse.