“Drawing Hands” by M.C. Escher.

These miraculous machines!
Do we shape them
Or do they shape us?
Or reshape us from our decent, far designs?

But we are learning.
We are learning to build for the future
From the ground up.

Robert Flaherty, 1948

This was written for a forthcoming essay collection by Bennington College, but will be so heavily rewritten that my editor has granted me permission to publish what I have as-is. (Seems appropriate given the theme of iterative open-ended evolution...I welcome your feedback.)

Take 1

Evolution is improvisation. Innovation is the same appropriation of existing parts and recognition of affordances. Design…


Taking deep time into the music studio, a robotics engineer and midtempo producer uses modern tools to commune with rocks and send notes to the distant future.

Evan “Skytree” Snyder in his studio. Source: Facebook.

Evan “Skytree” Snyder straddles two worlds: by day, he is a robotics engineer. By night, he produces electronic music that drops listeners into lush atmospheres evocative of both the ancient world and distant future.

We had a chance to speak with Snyder about his 02020 album Infraplanetary and his recent experiments with piezoelectric musical synthesis. Both projects ratchet up themes of deep time, inviting listeners to meditate on singing rocks and post-historic correspondences.

Our discussion has been edited for clarity and length.

Let’s talk about the lyrics to “Atomic Priest” off Infraplanetary.

An excerpt:

“This is for the humans living ten thousand years from now
With radioactive capsules, thousands of feet underground
Grabbin’ the mic to warn you of these hazardous sites
For those who lack in the sight in the black of the night
The least good that we could do is form an Atomic Priesthood
To keep the future species from going where no one should
We’ve buried the mistakes of past nuclear waste
Hidden underground for future races to face
It’s our task to leave signs for civilization to trace
But who’s to say what language these generations will embrace?
Basic symbols up for vast interpretation
Disasters resulting from grave mistranslation
This is not a place of honor and glory
This is a deep geological nuclear repository
Reaching through millennia to give some education
And preserve the evolution of beings and vegetation.”

These are hip-hop artist Jackson Whalan’s words, but you prompted him to write a fairly specific piece about communicating to the distant future. What motivated you to make this, and how does it fit into the way you consider and communicate deep time concerns in the rest of your work?

Skytree: I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you. “Atomic Priest” is definitely inspired by my…


It might be time to ease off on that flux capacitor…

Abstract: Modernity was largely built upon the “epistemic backstop” of recordings we can trust. What happens when we lose this privilege? As of 02020, most widely-subscribed visions of the future seem like presentist projections of a brief moment in which the West was capable of large-scale consensus on reality. …


Beta-testing Google Glass was only the beginning. Uninstalling AR dinosaurs taught me no man’s an island…and that we must be far more careful about who gets administrative access to our minds.

About:

This continues my now-ancient essay series on my experience as a Google Glass Explorer and the lens it offered me on the evolution of intelligence and cognitive/sensory arms races going back half a billion years. Before you dive in you may want to read Parts 1, 2, and 3, but this one was written to stand on its own. …


Integral Theory and Post-metaphysical Entelechy

The geologic time spiral. Source: USGS.

Originally written in 2007 for JFKU’s Integral Theory graduate program. Previously published at KenWilber.com and IntegralWorld.net. I’ve come a long way since then but feel like this still holds—I’ve made an extensive mind map and bibliography of follow-up research into complex systems science available for free on Patreon. Feel free to email me if you would like to offer feedback.

“As the individual, moment to moment, recreates his illusory boundaries, so reality, moment to moment, conspires to tear them down.”
— Ken Wilber (1986, p. 123)

For its entire existence, evolutionary biology has wrestled with…


Resurrection comes in many forms…

Changmiania liaoningensis, buried while sleeping by a prehistoric volcano. Image Source.

Although the sensitive can feel it in all seasons, Autumn seems to thin the veil between the living and the dead. Writing from the dying cusp of summer and the longer bardo marking humankind’s uneasy passage into a new world age (a transit paradoxically defined by floating signifiers and eroded, fluid categories), the time seems right to survey five new discoveries from paleontology, zoology, and neuroscience that offer up an opportunity to contemplate the difference between the dead, and merely dormant.

We start 125 million years ago in the unbelievably fossiliferous Liaoning Province of China, one of the world’s finest…


Artist: Kumi Yashamita. Source: Flickr.

In Times of Rapid Change, Turn and Face The Strange.

Two short riffs on the same key point:

“This is the epistemological crisis of the moment: There’s a lot of expertise around, but fewer tools than ever to distinguish it from everything else. Pure credentialism doesn’t always work. People have self-published a lot of terrible pieces on Medium, but some of the best early ones that explained stuff to laypeople were from tech guys.”
Zeynep Tufekci, University of North Carolina sociologist

“In a pandemic, the strongest attractor of trust shouldn’t be confidence, but the recognition of one’s limits, the…


If it weren’t for The Great Plague of London, Isaac Newton may never have “unwoven the rainbow.”

The best possible outcome I can imagine from this is to witness all of the creative and intelligent people who have been shackled to pointless, stupid, undignified work for our entire lives rise up and create something new and beautiful together. Emergencies often elicit the best of our humanity, a concern for the true priorities of our existence. These are moments when we are called to act on what really matters, and to contribute to our communities and to the legacy that we pass on, at a time when good ideas are unusually quick to spread.

This is a lightly…


Cover Image © Giacomo Carmagnola and reused with permission.
Check out his work and help him support his aging mother: Facebook | Instagram

“I’ve just read your novelette with my hair blasting back in frightful (and utterly convincing) revelation the whole time. I’m not surprised that you’ve been not just thinking about but scouting deep down the wormhole of where we may be headed as reality and fiction duke it out (as they, too, fall down the wormhole without a parachute). I know I’ll be pondering your far-ranging conclusions for a while to come. Thanks so much for writing it.”
Alex Shakar, LA Times Book Prize-winning author of Luminarium

“[An] exceptional piece, which I heartily recommend. There are hints of Boris Vian…


Collider’s #DeepFake roundtable features comedians wrapped in the AI-generated faces of Jeff Goldblum, Tom Cruise, Ewan McGregor, Robert Downey, Jr., and George Lucas.

“No sense in clinging to the rocks that are falling with you.”
- Alan Watts

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesnʼt go away.”
- Philip K. Dick

According to a 2018 article in the New York Magazine, we have already crossed the point at which most YouTube traffic is from bots designed to emulate real human users. YouTubeʼs spam-screening algorithm might now be learning to identify these bots as human, and dismiss real human users as just bots. They call this “The Inversion,” a fair name given how, amidst the turbulence of our accelerating age…

Michael Garfield

Here to help you navigate the accelerating weirdness. Biologist turned philosopher. Host of #FutureFossils & #ComplexityPodcast. Social Media for @sfiscience.

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