Sunday, April 29, 2012



or a series of notes and thoughts on 

a documentary by Lutz Dammbeck (2003) 
The following notes were taken by myself during two separate viewings of the film. The text presented includes all of the subtitles from the film (indicated by quotation marks), as well as a number of observations, side references and potential avenues for further inquiry that came to mind as I watched. The reasons for my engaging in this admittedly somewhat pedantic exercise are twofold. Firstly, I do it because I believe this film to be an important and insufficiently propagated document in the field of parapolitics, and anything I can do to help get it seen by more people - and, in particular, the RIGHT people - I see as worth doing. Secondly, I wanted to create an easy-to-use text and image based "concordance" that both documents and compliments the original film. I leave it for you readers to decide whether or not I have succeeded on that count. - YOPJ - 26/04/2012

"In 1930, Viennese mathematician Kurt Godel shakes the foundations of mathematics with his incompleteness theorems. He demonstrates that in every formal logical system there are problems that are not solvable or conclusively determinable. The truth is superior to provability."

Mathematician Kurt Godel


We begin on a commuter plane travelling from Frankfurt to New York. Director Lutz Dammbeck explains that he has some interviews lined up for a film he's been working on about the evolution of information technologies. But lately he's become distracted. He explains:

"Working on this film, I chanced upon something strange. One of the most spectacular criminal cases in the US. It started very harmlessly. I noticed while setting up my new computer that many terms were already familiar to me from other contexts: multimedia, virtuality. Boundary-crossings and revolutions of all kinds, which also belonged to the agenda of avant-garde artists in the 1960's who wanted to erase the boundaries between art and life: Change Now! ... a cocktail mixing revolt, rock and pop ... fascinating! The message was: 'Everything is possible. Reality can be altered at will. You are what you want to be.'"

I interrupt to note that there is more than a mere frisson of Thelema in the message Dammbeck quotes here. It is not so great a leap, after all, from "Everything is possible. Reality can be altered at will. You are what you want to be" to Aleister Crowley's edict: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." One also detects an echo of the infamous declaration of Hassan-i Sabbah, leader of the Nizari Ismaili Assassins: "Nothing is true, everything is permitted." 

I don't mean to suggest that Dammbeck intentionally implies any direct connections between the creation of the Internet, Crowley's system of Magick, and/or a Crusade-era Persian cult. I mention them only because I, myself, believe there are some interesting parallels and connections to be made in both cases, and I hope these will become more obvious as we continue exploring this film. 

Dammbeck continues: "Strange, the way these two worlds met: computer and art. Why did artists and scientists, in constructing their machines, use apparently similar patterns and concepts? Was there a secret basic pattern and system?"

'Secret basic patterns and systems...' This, in my opinion, is the red meat of parapolitical inquiry, in a nutshell. At this point, Dammbeck begins drawing a diagram, one to which he will frequently return throughout the film. 


"My research led me to a publisher in New York: John Brockman. In the 60's, he is part of the New York multimedia scene centered around John Cage, Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol. He becomes rich and famous in the 80's when multimedia art and new technologies turn into big business. Brockman becomes an agent for books by physicists, genetic researchers and computer scientists. He markets them like pop stars. In the 90's, his publishing company is the center of a global network of scientists, artists and media managers whom he refers to as the Digerati, a cyber-elite that successfully combines multimedia and business."

Brockman strikes an ominous pose, complete with black hat, for a puff piece from his heyday 

One of the newspaper headlines that flashes past the camera during a montage of press clippings about Brockman reads: "New Cyber-Elite?" The question mark hints at the possibility of room for skepticism and/or concern. In any case, elite seems to be the key word, here, as Brockman's coinage, Digerati, manages to conflate Glitterati - or the beautiful people - with everyone's favorite conspiracy theory bugaboo, the Illuminati, or enlightened ones. 

Dammbeck: "In 1993, John Brockman's network is hit by a bomb attack. The victim is computer scientists David Gelernter. The FBI arrests a former mathematics professor and graduate of Harvard University, Ted Kaczynski, as the perpetrator. Why would a mathematician become a terrorist? John Brockman is my first interview. He came to New York in 1963 and began his career as an investment banker."

John Brockman being interviewed for the film 

Brockman describes the day he met avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas while playing his banjo in Central Park. They struck up a conversation, and within a day Brockman had been named director of the Film-Makers' Cinematheque. Mekas gave Brockman his mandate: to create a festival devoted to combining cinema with other forms of art. In other words, to combine film with dance, film with poetry, film with music, etc. The only requirement was, according to Brockman, that the work produce "a total derangement of the senses", a concept and strategy first expressed thusly by poet Arthur Rimbaud, and familiar today to even the most novice of psychonauts. Eventually, the Film-Maker's Cinematheque evolved into the Expanded Cinema Festival.

According to Brockman, early members of this new group or movement included such luminaries as the painter Robert Rauschenberg, the sculptor Claes Oldenburg, pioneering video artist Nam June Paik and the USCO media arts collective, among others. At one point, Brockman declares: "Nobody was talking about cybernetics at the time, but they were all reading Marshall MacLuhan." Rauschenberg gave Brockman some of the famous Canadian philosopher’s books to read, and avant-garde musician John Cage gave him another book: Norbert Wiener's immensely influential “Cybernetics”, about which a great deal more will be said later.

Norbert Weiner, father of modern Cybernetics

After learning about the Expanded Cinema Festival, A.K. Solomon, then head of bio-physics at Harvard, contacted Brockman and invited him, along with a group of cutting-edge artists, to visit Harvard's science faculty and hold a symposium on their "mutual interests” – in other words, an exploration of the increasingly blurry divide between Art with a capital A and Science with a capital S. While at Harvard, the artists are given a tour of the facilities and shown "The Computer".

"The Computer"

It's obvious that this encounter with the near future had a lasting effect on Brockman, and not only because he was soon to leave the artistic world to become a manager of researchers and theoreticians at the cutting edge of a number of then-emerging fields of scientific study. Brockman seems inordinately comfortable with the concept of technological abstraction from mere biology.

"They were cold... and we were cold"

Brockman even cracks half a smile and gets a faraway look in his eye while paraphrasing Oxford biologist J.Z Young, saying: "We create tools, then mold ourselves to the use of them." Reading this simple statement caused Brockman to realize something: "Reality isn't some thing in front of us on a proscenium stage; it's a movable feast. We are creating technologies, then we are the technologies. Our heart isn't like a pump, it is a pump. Our brain isn't like a computer it is a computer. Until the next thing comes along. Now you're a neural net. Now you're an information system."

"It was so exciting, and I have no idea why"

After the Harvard symposium, Brockman's circle was no longer restricted to artists and so began to widen, allowing in the likes of World Cyberneticists Organization dean Heinz von Foerster, Ecology of Mind theoretician Gregory Bateson and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand.
Heinz von Foerster
As a brief aside, I would like to point out that von Foerster was co-creator in 1960 of the so-called Doomsday Equation, a group of formulae which mathematically prove that, based on all available historical data at that time, population growth would essentially become INFINITE by Friday, November 13, 2026. Thus does he represent this film's first tangential shiver in the direction of that other great parapolitical bugaboo, population control.

Bateson and Brand

At this point, Dammbeck brings up the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who apparently used journalist John Markoff's New York Times profiles of various Brockman circle insiders to find targets for his letter-bomb terror campaign. Brockman, perhaps understandably, becomes defensive and stand-offish, suggesting that Kaczynski had to kill people to get his manifesto published simply because it was so poorly written. With that, he ends the interview, and Dammbeck treats us to a montage of images representing modern urban life. We see streets lit up with neon and high-powered LEDs, a building-sized outdoor Wall Street stock ticker, and a library computer room where hundreds of webcams stare down at the users, unblinking, monitoring their every move.

New York City at night

Up to the minute information

The All Seeing Eye of the Surveillance State - Panopticon Lite?

Dammbeck: "John Brockman's reaction to my question about Ted Kaczynski surprises me. What is this 'Manifesto' that he mentions? Between 1978 and 1995, the USA is shaken by a series of bomb attacks. Three people are killed and 23 are injured, some of them seriously. The bombing targets are major airline executives and scientists at select universities. FBI investigators assume the attacks are the work of a single, intelligent person whom they code-name the Unabomber, a computer abbreviation of the words 'universities' and 'airlines'. In 1995, the New York Times and the Washington Post receive letters in which a previously unknown terror group, FC (Freedom Club), claims it will discontinue the attacks when its demand for the publication of a Manifesto are met. On August 2, 1995, the FBI sanctions the pre-printing of the 56-page Manifesto, which leads to the arrest of mathematician Ted Kaczynski. On reading the text, David Kaczynski recognizes quotes from his brother Ted, and at his wife's insistence contacts the FBI. In 1996, the FBI arrests Ted Kaczynski in the wilds of Montana where he has been living for 25 years in a self-built cabin."

Two things, here. First, I find it difficult to believe that Dammbeck wasn't aware of the Unabomber's Manifesto - also known as Industrial Society and its Future - before beginning work on his documentary. Second, we see him executing a Google search that pulls up a page with the headline: "How sane is Ted Kaczynski?" I feel that this is a not-so-subtle attempt by Dammbeck to get us, the viewer, to ponder that very question.

Dammbeck's diagram grows

Dammbeck: "My next interview is with Brockman's friend and client, Stewart Brand. We meet in Sausalito, a former fishing village close to San Francisco. During the 60's, Stewart Brand belongs to the scene of hippies and artists who live in houseboats at the edge of Sausalito."

Sausalito, California

"The author Ken Kesey is a central figure in this scene. In 1960, Kesey is one of the student 'guinea pigs' employed to test LSD in a project commissioned by the American government. Then he goes on tour with musicians and the Merry Pranksters theater group in order to conduct so-called 'acid tests' promoting LSD and other drugs that turn consciousness into an open system... an alternative form of cybernetics."

"Merry Prankster" Ken Kesey

"Stewart Brand was one of those 'alternative cyberneticists' and today he still maintains a small office and studio in Sausalito. Brand coined the term personal computer and during the 60's he published the Whole Earth Catalog, a mail-order catalog for the counter-cultural lifestyle. In the 80's, on a houseboat in Sausalito, he sets up the first ever alternative computer network: The Well. In the 90's, he works as a consultant for the California computer industry. What brings computers, LSD and hippies together?"

Stewart Brand in 2003

One of the first things we find out about Brand is that, like so many movers and shakers in the booming 60’s counterculture, he was military. While based at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Brand would spend his weekends in New York City’s East Village, hanging out with an artistic crowd that included painter Steve Durkee and the aforementioned John Brockman and USCO. 

After moving West, Brand encountered Ken Kesey through his work as a government photographer at an Indian reservation in Oregon. He read Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, with the character Chief Broom, who was portrayed as having come from the very reservation where Brand was working as a photographer. Brand contacted Kesey, who invited him to join the bus. 

Stewart Brand photographs of Native Americans

Brand discusses his time on the bus with Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, going "from acid test to acid test”. Part of their entourage was an improvisational rock group called The Warlocks, who would eventually become The Grateful Dead. Brand describes his participation with the early movement thusly: "Scientists do research. We were doing search. If you don't boil the rocks and drink the water, how do you know it won't make you drunk?" He describes some of the experiments they conducted, including one interesting bit of play with a chopped up garden hose. They would take a bunch of ten foot lengths of hose and talk into one end while listening into another, so they knew who they were listening to, but not to whom they were speaking.

The Whole Earth Catalog

The Whole Earth Catalog project “specifically came out of an LSD afternoon”. Brand had dropped 200 micro-grams and was meditating on a series of lectures given by Buckminster Fuller. The original audience for the publication was communes – people who were trying to re-invent civilization. That fell to the wayside – another dead-end, like drug culture, according to Brand – while some of the technologies really took off, such as alternative energy and personal computers.  The main legacy of the 60's, according to Brand, is the "open-system approach" to doing things.

Buckminster Fuller

Dammbeck brings up the fact that the early Whole Earth Catalogs presented a conflicted worldview, featuring books and products that were both anti-technology and pro-technology. Brand agrees, and admits that they eventually came down on the pro-technology side. He explains that there are benefits to the proliferation of and easy access to technology. "Grab it, run with it and do what you want with it. If the tech becomes democratized, then everything will work out OK. If you fail to do that, then they have complete freedom to as evil as they can be." Then again, who ended up in Thoreau's cabin? The Unabomber! Brand quotes computer scientist Bill Joy as saying Ted Kaczynski is correct about some things. For instance, what if Weapons of Mass Destruction were democratized? Brand says that these are fair questions, but believes the situation will eventually sort itself out.

Back to the Future? or Onward to the Past?
An Excerpt from "Industrial Society and Its Future" by FC
The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. Continuing scientific and technical progress will destroy the freedom of the individual. Soon, there will be no place left where an individual can hide from mind control and surveillance by super computers. It would be hopeless to attack the system without employing modern technology ourselves. We must use all forms of media in order to spread our message. Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to the technological system. The sooner this system collapses, the better it will be for mankind.
As Dammbeck heads to Boston to further investigate the philosophical roots of the cybernetics revolution, it is revealed that he has struck up a correspondence with Ted Kaczynski, who is being held in a Florence, Colorado maximum security penitentiary.

Kaczynski writes: "Dear Mr Dammbeck, thank you very much for your letter and your questions, which I shall endeavour to answer. I use this opportunity to improve my knowledge of the German language. I am not a scientist. Thirty years ago, I was a mathematician, but I have now forgotten most of what I knew about mathematics. I believe that utopias are crazy and dangerous, especially the utopia of a technological society. Technology is a totally willful and extremely dangerous force that will lead us where it must inevitably lead us. This will not be determined by chance, nor by the despotism of arrogant bureaucrats, politicians or scientists. The technological system need merely adapt human behaviour to its own demands. This is necessary in order that it can function and continue to expand itself. You asked me some things about the Manifesto. All the published versions of the Manifesto are incorrect. They contain serious errors. If you would like a correct version of the Manifesto, I could send you one. You may continue writing to me in German."


Dammbeck: "How does a utopia emerge? Does it come into being by chance, are there one or more inventors ... or is there a plan? It is at MIT that an American and international science and engineering elite are educated. MIT also leads the way in the close partnership between the military and the University system. This collaboration begins in WWI and continues during WWII, when technology becomes a deciding factor in warfare. On August 13, 1940, the German Luftwaffe begins the Battle of Britain."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Shortly after the start of the German bombings, mathematician and physicist Norbert Wiener, born in Chicago in 1886, offered his knowledge and expertise in the fight against fascism. Wiener is professor of maths at MIT and had already dealt with questions of ballistics and artillery during WWI. How do you build a machine that can calculate in advance the movement of fighter planes, so that you can shoot them down? Wiener must take into account the nature of technological warfare, in which people, ships and planes are just abstract blips on the radar screen. The pilot becomes one with his plane. The boundary between man and machine becomes blurred, and what emerges is a mechanized anonymous opponent whose actions can be modeled in war labs."

Norbert Wiener

“Although Wiener's machines are not operational until after the end of the war, he develops from this starting point the model for a new science, known as cybernetics. Cybernetics is concerned with how the transfer of information functions in machines and living beings. The basis of cybernetics is the assumption that the human nervous system does not reproduce reality, but calculates it. Man now appears to be no more than an information-processing system... thought is data processing, and the brain is a machine made of flesh."

The Soft Machine

"The brain is no longer the place where "ego" and "identity" are mysteriously created through memory and consciousness. It is a machine consisting of switching and controlling circuits, feedback loops and communication nodes. A black box where cause is effect and effect is cause within an infinite cycle... a closed feedback system with input and output that can be controlled and calculated, no longer, as previously, starting out from the contemplation of nature, but from indisputable mathematics and logic."

Recipes for Mass Control?

"Wiener's vision of a future cybernetic society now provides the scientific legitimacy for the new political-military status of the United States as a superpower. Cybernetics becomes the leading new science worldwide, and from that point on continues to develop under diverse labels. A theory becomes worldwide practice."

Monument to the Titans of Science

Another letter from Kaczynski: "As I now have a little more time, I'll continue with my answer to your letter. You ask: What will a post-technological society look like? Well, if all modern technology were abolished, we only know there'd be no more bio-technology, computers, atomic bombs, etc. Let's stick to the practical and the concrete: Would you like it if people lived in a virtual world? If machines were smarter than people? If, in the future, people, animals and plants were products of technology? If you don't like these ideas, then for you the computer and biological sciences clearly are dangerous. This is very simple, and bears no relation to morality or to Godel's incompleteness theorems or other abstract philosophical issues. You offered to send a gift that would please me. I would like to take you up on that offer. My German dictionary is small, not very good and falling apart. I'd really like to receive a good German-English dictionary. But you are not allowed to send one with a hard cover."
The Computer History Museum, Silicon Valley, CA

Dammbeck pays a visit to the curiously low-tech-seeming Computer History Museum and interviews one of the curators. While the camera roves across rack after rack of dusty, antiquated electronics, the curator tells us: "In the Cold War, with World War II over now, us turning our attentions to the Russians, we needed various ways to, one, literally protect our skies, and two, to give the people of the US a feeling of security. And that's where SAGE came in."

At the controls of SAGE

He continues: "SAGE is the largest computer ever made. ... We have less than 10 percent of one SAGE machine. The first wide-scale use of modems was on this machine. And how it worked was, you'd actually see a blip on the screen that was moving, and you would access that blip with a light gun by actually clicking on it. And if there was any information on air traffic control, it would show up in one area. And if not, then the intercept technician would have to have it shot down. And you can see the large screen here. ... It was a decentralized network, so if a bomb was to take out one of them, you could still control the output and the inputs from another station. So it was very influential in the early days of the ARPANET with a lot of the whole concept of, you know, being able to keep the network running if you lose one of the nodes. ... A very, very advanced system. ... You also had a cigarette lighter and ashtray so that if you were smoking, you could keep from going insane."

Searching for a pattern 

We return to the diagram. Dammbeck adds the Vietnam War and Berkeley to it while a voice-over narrates: "To go back to Ted Kaczynski, in 1958, the 16 year old with an IQ of 170 begins his studies in mathematics at Harvard University. In 1967, he becomes a professor of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley. Why does Ted end up among those opposed to technology, rather than become a fervent computer-hippie like Brand or Brockman? Where does his later fear of computers and psychological control techniques, like those being developed at the time in secret US labs, actually derive from?"

We are treated to some disturbing archival footage of a lab technician nonchalantly tossing a little white mouse into a clear perspex box with a calico cat. The cat pounces on the mouse. Then the cat is injected with a heroic dose of LSD and the mouse game is repeated. Now, the cat is mortally terrified of the mouse. The scientists watch, cool and dispassionate, then carefully take note of the data for potential future application on all tomorrow's battlefields.

Cybernetics applied to soft "wet" subjects

Next we go to Woodside, Caliornia, where Dammbeck has lined up an interview with Robert Taylor.

Dammbeck: "How do individual computers develop into world-wide computer networks? This is the task that former NASA engineer Robert Taylor is working on at the end of the 60s. Taylor is one of the young engineers and scientists who are so enthusiastic about Wiener's cybernetics and the first computers. The rocket specialist from NASA soon transfers to the Pentagon where he becomes a scientific manager. There he makes decisions on Defense Department funding for research projects for University laboratories, companies or individual scientists. He decides who is going to get in on the action and who isn't. The ARPANET, which was developed under his direction during the 70s, is the original form of today's Internet and of all communication networks on today's fully electronic battlefield."

Evolution of an Idea

Taylor: "ARPA was founded in 1957 or 58 as a result of SPUTNIK, which occurred in October of 57 and it greatly surprised the USA. We had no idea. In 58, very soon after Sputnik, Eisenhower asked the Department of Defense to set up a special agency called ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, to look for research projects that had a longer-term expectation associated with it in the hopes that we would not get surprised again. So the initial ARPA programs were all space-related, not computer research, by and large. Then, in 1960, NASA was formed by Kennedy. And the ARPA space programs were all transferred to NASA. By 61, 62, that left ARPA the opportunity to do other things. And one of the things they decided to get into was computer research. For my office and some of the other offices, however, the policy was: 'Go find people with really big ideas that you think might work, and if they do work, the payoff will be very large.'"
Robert Taylor
Dammbeck asks Taylor to draw a diagram of the network, which he does. As he does so, Taylor debunks the idea that ARPANET was designed with the intent to create a network of computers without a central command node in case a nuclear bomb took out one important area, so that the network could keep running. Taylor says it was created simply to connect people from different areas to share common interests and work together on them. "The Internet is simply an evolution of the ARPANET, both in philosophy and in technology. ... The first Internet was up and running in 75/76 when we put the Ethernet and the ARPANET together. So those were good years. There was a lot to do and it was obvious what there was to do, and all these things had to work together. That was a lot of fun." 

As Taylor sketches out a network, a familiar image emerges...
Dammbeck replies: "For you it was a lot of fun, but other people saw it as a cancer, or a machine that could control. What do you think about such critics like Ted Kaczynski?"
Taylor provides another over-the-top reaction, mirroring that given earlier by John Brockman: "He's crazy. He's... we have people like that in our society."
Dammbeck continues: "But he was a mathematician, studied at Harvard."
Taylor responds: "Yep. Hitler was an artist. He studied in Vienna."
Dammbeck asks: "Have you read the Manifesto?"
Taylor responds: "You mean Mein Kampf? No. I didn't read it. I didn't read Mein Kampf, either."

Dammbeck then asks Taylor what he fears. Taylor says that he fears "Al Qaeda" and "cancer". When Dammbeck points out that cancer "is an illness of modern society, of civilization", Taylor responds: "But someday, I believe we will understand how to cure cancer or prohibit cancer. I believe that will happen long before we have an electronic battlefield or a machine that we can't control. ... It's a question of knowledge. Of eliminating ignorance: a state of no knowledge. Not stupidity. That's something else. Ignorance causes fear." 

With a decade's hindsight, I find that there is something almost touchingly naive about the techno-supremacist cyber-optimism Taylor displays. Today, cancer rates continue their meteoric rise, and the skies are filled with unmanned drones remote-controlled from bases half a world away. The electronic battlefield is already here. The cure for cancer? Perhaps it exists, but if so, the news certainly hasn't trickled down to us Useless Eaters. As for machines we can't control, we'll find out soon enough.

Partially a propos, I would like point out that the the creators of Ethernet chose that name specifically as an homage to the 19th century idea of a luminiferous aether, which was a kind of universal light-bearing medium posited to explain light's behavior. Check out this page for a fascinating look at how history's greatest minds struggled with this problem, cobbling together a patchwork of best-guesstimates and "whatever fits" theories in order to form some kind of workable pseudo-consensus on the subject, back in the days before relativity and quantum physics. It is a bracing tonic against the intoxicating effects of mechanism, scientism and logical positivism.

Systems, systems, everywhere
Manhattan, New York. Dammbeck pauses to take stock. "What do I have thus far? I have a former mathematician, but none of my interview partners want to talk about his criticism of the system. And I have engineers and artists who are obsessed with technology. All of this is obviously part of a 'system' whose outlines I am only just beginning to grasp. To all appearances, it's an ingenious feedback system that turns every attack and disruption into an energy source with which to protect itself. Who would need such a thing? Who would come up with something like this?"

I'll give you three guesses...
"Between 1946 and 1953, at the invitation of the Josiah Macy Jr Foundation, leading scientists from various fields meet in New York. They include Norbert Wiener, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Kurt Lewin and John von Neumann. The aim of these secret meetings, later known as the Macy Conferences, and sporadically attended by CIA representatives, is to develop a science that makes it possible to predict and control human behavior. This is a weapon that America desperately needs in the Cold War, on the new battlefield of the subconscious. The Macy Group therefore registers particular interest in the 1950 study 'The Authoritarian Personality', released by the International Institute of Social Research, a new foundation of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research, centered around Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno."

Horkheimer and Adorno
"This study, then the most comprehensive social profile of a society, the USA, aimed to give a scientific explanation for religious and racial prejudice. Thousands of interviews lead to a huge collection of data, which are analyzed by the most up-to-date computers with the aim of answering one particular question: How does authoritarian behavior as a mass phenomenon develop? The authors see the explanation in man's 'authoritarian matrix', which offers the key to the psychology of fascism and totalitarian systems. This matrix is shaped through education and tradition, and it is apparently indissolubly linked to the metaphysical notion of 'supra-naturally created nature'. How could a tendency towards fascism and racism, especially against Jews, be tracked and explained? To this end, sociologists create, among other things, a scale to measure the fascist potential, the so-called F-scale."

The F Scale
"In addition, previously concealed personality tendencies are to be tracked, using the latest psychological processes, for example, tests conceived by the American psychologist Henry A Murray, one of the fathers of today's assessment centers. In order to permanently obstruct fascism and anti-Semitism, it seems necessary to alter the nature of man and his underlying cultural patterns so that the authoritarian matrix would be eradicated forever."

Henry A Murray
"How is it possible, ruling out some bloody operation, to penetrate deep into a person's consciousness with the aim of changing it? First, according to Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin, a member of the Macy Group, the old values and balances must be destroyed, in order to make conditions 'fluid'. Then it is possible to establish new balances and values. These, then, must be permanently fixed by means of self-regulation ... re-education will then develop into self-re-education. This would transform the world into a post-national, multi-ethnic global society, with no fixed borders."

Kurt Lewin
"The Macy Group believes it can offer the tools and blueprints for this New World Order: New and faster computers, system theory and model cybernetic worlds with which it appears possible to control and direct all scientific, cultural and political spheres. This also promises the programming of new people, anti-authoritarian people, made to measure."

If you'd been wondering why so many military men and technocrats had taken a sudden interest in the arts and popular culture in the post-war years - even going so far as to spearhead the psychedelic drugs movement - the dark implications implicit in the above paragraphs represent a trembling finger pointing towards a direction that would be obvious if it weren't so utterly horrifying. I find it both strange and intriguing that Dammbeck never goes so far as to connect the panoply of dots that he presents, here, leaving most of the intellectual heavy lifting to the viewer. Perhaps he simply doesn't see what I'm seeing. Perhaps he felt the evidence he'd uncovered wasn't strong enough in and of itself to merit any kind of outright accusation.  Perhaps this is why I, too, will leave it at that for now as we move towards the next section of Dammbeck's doc.
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Another note from Ted Kaczynski: "In your last letter, you asked me so many questions that I cannot possibly answer them all at once. When I wrote that the concept of utopia is crazy and dangerous, I didn't mean that all utopias are crazy and dangerous, but rather the utopia which makes possible the creation of a society according to a specific, ideal design. You yourself, I am sure, will have your own idea of utopia. Someone else will have a different idea, which may diverge considerably from yours. How would you like it if he forced his utopia on you? Do you have the right to force your utopia on him? I would like to write more to you in answer to these and other questions, but some serious problems have cropped up which are causing me a great deal of worry. So I will close this letter here. I'll write more to you later."

I note with interest that Kaczynski's concern over the critical flaws in the very concept of utopia is mirrored, more of less, by two of the most influential conservative movement philosophers of the 20th century: Leo Strauss and, more particularly, Eric Vogelin. They, of course, come to much different conclusions about how to deal with this problem in society.

Dammbeck shows us images of a New Age retreat, complete with hippie headbands and high-heeled trophy wives picking up their power crystals, and narrates: “At places like this in Esalen, a conference and esotericism center on the coast of California, artists meet with members of the Macy Conferences during the 70s. They are interested in a new spirituality brought about with the help of cybernetics and drugs and in the popularization of the Macy visions. Besides Brand and Brockman, the participants include gurus of the avant-garde, such as John Cage and Buckminster Fuller. As a result, the concept of cybernetics and system theory reach the international networks of the bohemian world, and so acquire a different, non-military aura. At one of the meetings in Esalen, Heinz von Foerster, the physicist and philosopher, also takes part." 

Remember me?
"Born in Vienna in 1911, Foerster, already as a student, comes into contact with the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the scientists of the Vienna Circle, the early prophets of cybernetics and system theory. In the US, in 1953, Foerster becomes the secretary of the Macy Conferences and so has access to the inner circles of America's scientific elite. Foerster is one of the pioneers of the theory of Constructivism, according to which we human beings construct our own reality. No objective reality exists independent of the observer. During the 60s, Heinz von Foerster is head of his own research laboratory, the Biological Computer Lab at the University of Illinois. Here, commissioned by research departments of the US Navy and Air Force, he works on, among other projects, the merging of digital and biological systems. He has never owned a computer of his own because he apparently believes himself to be a more sophisticated machine."
Look at me now!
Foerster cuts a very Strangelovian figure in his wheelchair, with his weird, gasping breathing as he sucks at his cup of coffee. He says: "When I read the (Wittgenstein's) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus for the first time, I was really thrilled. Immediately, I could recite the whole Tractatus by heart, but I never found anyone with whom I could discuss it. ... What I see, and what I believe lies beneath your questioning, is that science, or 'sciencia' in Latin, has been amazingly successful in the 2000 years since Aristotle. And what does 'sciencia' derive from? The Indo-European word for 'sciencia' is the word 'scy', and that is found in 'science' and in 'schizophrenia', and in 'schism', that is the word meaning 'to separate', and so systemics is a parallel development, only it's the exact opposite of science, for it integrates. When you think about it today, all this system theory and systems research which crops up in both art and science, I wouldn't call that science any more. I would call it systemics. Today's science has moved on to an approach that sees things together: systemics. So I would see the steps taken today as being from science to systemics."

Foerster then makes some startling assertions: "In the course of my life, the more I concerned myself with physics, I realized that I was actually a meta-physicist. And then I increasingly played with that idea. And if you asked me, my dear Heinz von Foerster, what is a meta-physicist? I would say the following: There are questions among those we ask about the world that it is possible to answer. How old are you? Well, you can look that up in a catalog. Born in 1911. That means he is 90. Or you can ask questions which cannot be answered, like for example, tell me what was the origin of the universe? Well, then I could give you one of the 35 different theories. Ask an astronomer and he says there was this Big Bang about 20 million years ago. Or ask a good Catholic and he says everyone knows that God created the world and after 7 days he was weary and took a break, and that was Sunday. So there are different, very interesting hypotheses about the origins of the universe. That is, there are so many different hypotheses because the question cannot be answered. So all that is relevant is how interesting the story is that someone invents to explain it."

Dammbeck replies: "Of course, we are very close to art there. If it's a matter of inventing a good story, a poetic story..."
Foerster agrees: "Exactly, exactly. That's what it is. There is a struggle between two or three or even ten different poets. Who can invent a funny, amusing or interesting story so that everyone immediately thinks that's what must have happened!"
Dammbeck: "But science, and your own research, those are not just inventions or good stories? Surely they're based on mathematics, on numbers, on provability, on indisputable scientific data?"
Foerster: "Well, yes, but these days there is already so much data that it is no longer possible to include all the different data in your story. And then artificial data is invented, for example, particles... Then particles are invented that do whatever it is we don't understand. So in my opinion, particles are always the solutions to problems that we can't solve any other way. That is, they are inventions that help to explain certain problems. Those are particles. ... I maintain that each particle we read about in today's physics is the answer to a question that we can't answer."
Dammbeck: "But that's terrible! How can we let a worldwide networked system of machines grow more or less into infinity if it is based on theories that apparently have holes or are only good stories, I mean on such shaky foundations? Isn't that dangerous?"
Foerster: "Well, in this worldwide functioning system of machines, all theories are correct. And of course that's what people want. And why are they correct? Because they can all be deduced from other theories and stories. ... It goes on deducing indefinitely. ... That's the good thing about it. You can go on forever."
Dammbeck asks: "In logic?"
Foerster answers: "Yes, precisely."
Dammbeck probes further: "But in reality?"
To which Foerster replies: "Where is reality? Can you show it to me?"

Reality, apparently
After finishing up his interview with Foerster, Dammbeck returns to the subjects of the Unabomber, LSD and the CIA: "In 1971, Professor of Mathematics Ted Kaczynski resigns from his position at the University of Califorina, Berkeley and builds a cabin in the wilderness of Montana. Has he taken the vague offer in Stewart Brand's catalog too seriously, of a different, a simple life in harmony with nature? Is he seeking, in a strict, self-experiment, true experience and a reality that, within the infinite sphere of mathematics and logic, has dissolved into abstract mathematical structures and formulae? When does this experiment reach its limits and demand to be stepped up? When does it click, when does his flight from math and logic become a flight into paranoia, as the media later assume? Into paranoia like that of his fellow mathematician Kurt Godel, who, with his incompleteness theorem, posed one of the questions that cannot be answered, and also reached a limit beyond which there was only paranoia, or truth? On the Internet I find references of secret drug tests carried out by the CIA at Harvard University during the early 60s. One of the test participants was Ted Kaczynski. The director of the experiments was the psychologist Henry A Murray, co-founder of the Department for Social Relations at Harvard."

Kaczynski's ironic code name: "Lawful"
A new note from Ted Kaczynski: "Your idea that the foundations of science and mathematics have been shaken by Godel's theorem is incorrect. All that Godel's theorem says is that certain problems in mathematics will never be solved. When I was young and naive, I was afraid that technology would create a completely ordered, regulated and totally perfect world. Today, I think that such an outcome is unlikely. But the reason for my change of mind was certainly not Godel's theorem. Rather, the incalculability of the behavior of complex and open systems. Do you want to live in a world where scientists and superhuman machines know and understand everything, and therefore can order and regulate everything? If you don't like the sound of that, why do you complain that science doesn't know everything, and that there are holes in theory? Instead, you should be worrying that science knows too much. I must stop here. Thank you very much for the dictionary."

Harvard, Cambridge Massachusetts. Dammbeck explains: "In 1953, Kaczynski, along with 20 other Harvard students, is selected as a test subject for studies on the personality structure of highly gifted male college students. All students are given a code name. Kaczynski's is LAWFUL. The experiments are directed by psychologist Henry A Murray, a highly decorated major of the US Army during World War II."

Major Murray adds a decoration
"Murray developed a system of tests to study the leadership qualities of officers for the Department of Psychological Warfare of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Service, a precursor to the CIA.
Picky, picky, picky
The tests take place in the secret Station S, a villa near Washington DC, and are intended to show how elite groups behave under psychological pressure.

The Stress Situation
But Murray envisages more important tasks for psychology. Like the authors of the study on The Authoritarian Personality, who employ his testing methods, Murray sees psychology and the new social sciences as destined to make a contribution to a world that can live in peace and harmony. In a New World Order, with world laws, a world police force and world government, the USA, according to Murray, 'is the abstraction of ONE WORLD which we are on the verge of creating. The lot has fallen to the US to take over the direction of carrying out this last and difficult experiment: a global campaign of good against evil. By completely dedicating ourselves to the idea of a one world government, we will stir the hearts of all people on earth with the hope of a security that can counter any form of totalitarianism. The national citizen is obsolete, and must be transformed into a world citizen.'"

Conspiracy Theory or Conspiracy Fact?
"To effect this transformation, scientists commissioned by the CIA also employ LSD 25, a new synthetic drug that has been developed by Sandoz, a Swiss company. How can a drug be used to break through a person's subconscious, in order to program it in a new way? Murray, at his institute at Harvard, is himself obsessed with the idea of developing a superego, that will immunize the proposed World Citizen against all forms of totalitarianism. He develops a system of tests that are designed to expose students to extreme psychological stress. The goal of these tests is a complete investigation into personality, so that desirable character patterns may then be created and controlled. At the same time, LSD shows up on the Harvard campus, distributed in the form of sugar cubes. With Murray's approval, Timothy Leary, a young psychology professor, has established an LSD research project at Harvard, co-directed by the CIA."

Turn on, tune in, drop dead
"Together with Leary, Murray participates in drug trips himself. Is he continuing, as reported on the Internet, his earlier OSS experiments, though now for the CIA? These experiments, carried out between 1953 and 1964, under code names such as MK-Ultra and Artichoke, reputedly developed special psychological control techniques and involved scientists from most of America's elite universities. To what end does Murray plan to use the 'sacred Mexican mushroom', an hallucinogenic mushroom native to Mexico and the model for synthetic LSD? All of Murray's experiments are filmed. Those films, like all the test results on Ted Kaczynski, have disappeared." In context, it strikes one as doubly and sadly ironic when Dammbeck presents a montage of news clips attempting to portray Ted Kaczynski as being a schizophrenic with paranoid delusions and "unreasonable" fears that government agents and psychologists might be trying to control his mind in some fashion. The fact is... they were.

Smithsonian bound?
Another letter from Ted Kaczynski: "In your last letter you asked me about the mathematician's imagination. You probably assume that mathematicians always imagine something mathematical. But that's not true. Experienced mathematicians seldom think of mathematics. Usually, they imagine flowers, sunshine and birds singing in spring. Perhaps now and then they think about women, but they don't do that very often, for they are pure in heart. How is it, you will ask, that mathematicians don't think of mathematics constantly? I must tell you that mathematicians are not scientists. They are artists. Do you remember that I wrote to you at the beginning that I was not a scientist? Apart from the most elementary mathematics, like arithmetic or high school algebra, the symbols, formulae and words of math have no meaning at all. The entire structure of pure math is a monstrous swindle, simply a game, a reckless prank. You may well ask: Are there no renegades to reveal the truth? Yes, of course. But the facts are so incredible, that no one takes them seriously. So the secret is in no danger."

Dammbeck: "In 1971, Ted Kaczynski becomes a resident of Lincoln, Montana. His neighbors are a sawmill owner, Butch Gehring, and Lincoln's piano teacher, Chris Waits. Butch and his friend Chris help FBI agents during the surveillance and arrest of their neighbor, Ted. On orders of the FBI, Chris searches for and finds a second cabin belonging to Ted: allegedly the secret workshop where he makes bombs. This is important evidence for the FBI's theory: Ted Kaczynski is the Unabomber."

Butch and Chris
Seventy FBI agents hunker down at the 7-Up Ranch, working on computers, helping the dozens of agents disguised as truckers, geologists, etc. How did they get Ted? The locals told the FBI to go out on the road by his cabin and yell "Hey Ted!" until he came out, and he would walk right up to them. And that's exactly what they did, and that's exactly what Ted did.

Another note from Ted: "You asked me: How can a person defend himself against the pressure to contribute to the realization of any old utopia? Who gives him the right to use violence against them? In my opinion, the use of violence, e.g. against the realization of the utopia of a technological society, is mere self-defense. One can argue with that, of course. If you believe it unseemly or immoral, then you yourself must avoid the use of violence. But I have one question for you in that context: What kind of violence has caused more harm in the history of mankind: the violence that was sanctioned by the state, or the violence that was used, without sanction, by individuals? I'll go into the other questions you asked later. Until then I have other work to do."

Dammbeck: "In 1993, the computer scientist David Gelernter receives a letter bomb. He loses an eye and his right hand in the explosion. Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale University and leading scientist at Mirror Worlds, a company that produces software for e-commerce and for the new information technologies. Mirror Worlds is also the title of the book that made Gelernter famous, depicting the vision of a future virtual society based only on software. Gelernter is a sharp critic of the American media, which he accuses of destroying the country's moral value system with their lust for sex, blood and violence."

Mirror Worlds
Gelernter: "The idea of Mirror Worlds, the book, was that the institutions and the organizations that we deal with every day, that are becoming more complicated all the time, would be mirrored in software, so that if I wanted to know what was happening at the university, I could look at the software image of the university and find out what was being taught and who was saying what and what was happening today and so forth, if I wanted to, and if I needed to deal with a government agency, or with a company, or with a hospital, or with any organization, the organization would be reflected in software like a building reflected in water. And the software version of the organization would be easier for me to understand and to deal with. It seemed to me that with the rise of global computer networks, and more and more powerful desktop computers, that this would inevitably emerge."
David Gelertner
Gelertner, again: "Nobody can control it, that's true. But it's not necessarily bad. It's an organic system, it's a distributed system. It's a system made of many tens of hundreds of millions of human beings, each one making his own decisions. And the uncontrolability is not necessarily bad. It makes things interesting. Certainly there are conflicting trends. For a long time, the quality of American journalism declined because we at Yale University and American universities were not training students. ... But on the other hand, we're now seeing new... it's easier to have a new TV station. It's easier to have a new newspaper. ... So technology helps to correct the errors that technology helped create in the first place."

Gelertner is not amused
Dammbeck asks: "But, David, what's the outcome of more and more TV stations? When you got a letter bomb, that wasn't virtual. That was reality. And you the victim. And it was of course perpetrated, it was a real feast for the media. There were even portrayed together in a fictional dialogue. Why did you criticize the media for that?"

Gelernter: "It strikes me as always dangerous to approach human life as if there were no moral component. As if a murderer and a normal human being are comparable and interchangeable. That's a point of view with catastrophic implications: moral relativism, which I am implacably against and always will be."

Dammbeck: "As I prepared the film I had a talk also with Stewart Brand, you know him as a fellow digeratti, and he said to me this is a genuine counter-culture phenomenon that the Unabomber was doing. He was just saying culture is going in the wrong direction, I will fight it."

Gelernter: "I think that's a contemptible, that's a despicable thing to say. It's a despicable thing to say. We're talking about somebody who murdered human beings. If he'd met the widow and the children as I have, of men this criminal has murdered, he would be less eager to describe him as a mere counter-cultural phenomenon. That's the sort of thing that makes me angry. Once a man is a murderer, I don't give a damn what his opinions are. His opinions are of no interest to me. What I know about him is that he's a murderer, a creator of pain and suffering, and his opinions are disqualified from being of interest to any civilized human being."

One might excuse Gelernter his grandiose wallowing in a romanticized idealization of his status as a Unabomber Survivor. He is, after all, both a movement conservative and a public intellectual, and victimhood is their stock in trade. However, what is less forgivable is Gelernter's own willful moral relativism, implicit in his petulant refusal to be honest about the fact that most of the funding for the projects envisioned by he and his "digerati" cohort has historically come from the military/industrial/intelligence complex - a combine that has been the cause of suffering many orders of magnitude greater than that which Gelernter has had to endure - and that these projects, themselves, have more often than not been a source of suffering by wreaking economic havoc in the name of progress, helping to destroy the middle class and widening the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots in both the "developed" and "developing" worlds.

Florence, Colorado
Last letter from Ted Kaczynski: "Dear Mr Dammbeck, I shall now continue my answer to your letters. You asked, who is entitled to establish the law? I maintain that no one is entitled to do so. In civilized societies, we usually say that the state establishes the laws. In non-civilized societies, customs and habits establish the laws. If people reject the standards of law laid down by the state and/or customs, and actively fight against it that is known as revolution. Of course, no one gives us the right to that. If you believe it is immoral, you must avoid participating in any revolution. But revolution is the only means by which people can resist the technological system. You asked me why I haven't sent you a copy of the authentic version of the Manifesto yet. But I don't have an authentic version. I have two photocopies of the original manuscript, but they are illegible in part. I have two very legible transcripts of the Manifesto, but both contain mistakes. I am in the process of producing an authentic version of the Manifesto by comparing the four versions I mentioned. But I don't have time to finish the job... because I have to answer so many letters! So I'd rather you didn't ask me so many questions. My biography is unimportant, and I don't want to talk about it. Let us talk about matters that are important. Respectfully yours, Ted Kaczynski." 

Dammbeck sums up his film thusly: "The mathematician Kurt Godel died in 1978 as a consequence of his paranoia. The mathematician Ted Kaczynski is sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998. Against his wishes, an agreement is made among the defense, the state prosecutor and the court before the trial even begins: no regular trial, no being committed to a psychiatric unit, no death sentence and no possibility of parole. Ted Kaczynski continues to this day to deny that he was the Unabomber."



There exists a great deal of media to which one might refer to add further dimensions of contextual understanding as regards the many topics examined, broached and brushed against in Dammbeck's extraordinary film. For instance, it would make an excellent companion piece to two other documentaries: Fog of War, Errol Morris' documentary about Robert Macnamara, and the 3-part BBC documentary series by Adam Curtis entitled The Trap, which is also about cybernetics, the Frankfurt School, and covers many of the same concerns raised in The Net, only much more directly and with less of an air of mystery. All three episodes of The Trap are available to watch on Youtube.

Well, that's about all I've got. I understand that I leave a great many contextual gaps unfilled and a great many references unmade, but I've been working on this revision of a previous set of notes for almost a week now, and it's time to get off the pot, so to speak. I hope this concordance was helpful in maximizing your understanding of the information contained in Lutz Dammbeck's The Net

Until next time, I remain,