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The Kali Yuga Chronicle: War, AI, Ketamine
A few weeks ago, my mom wrote in our family chat: “A 63 year-old man just got sentenced to 7 years of prison for posts on social media. Looks like it’s time I tape my mouth over.”
I looked up the story. The man is a railroad worker. In March of last year, he wrote two posts on the Russian clone of Facebook, VK:
We’re singing songs on TV while killing children and women at the same time. We, Russia, have become godless. May God forgive us.
Russian airplane pilots are bombing children.
Two women who saw these posts reported him for “discrediting the Russian military.”
The court then determined he made his statements after “forming a persistent disdain towards the decision by the government’s legislative and executive branches to use Russia’s armed forces to normalize the socio-political situation in Ukraine, i.e. his actions were motivated by political hatred.”
Which amounts to 7 years now.
This isn’t the first news story of this sort, but it stuck with me because of how I received it, with my mom’s “tape my mouth over” comment attached to it.
My mother is 70 years old. She was born in a Ukrainian village, baptized on the day Stalin died. She travelled all around the Soviet Union as a geophysicist. She was approaching her forties when the country collapsed and she had to look for a new occupation — she became an accountant. Now, in retirement, she is worried about getting in trouble — like, jail-sentence kind of trouble — for speaking candidly with her neighbors or having Ukrainian TV on too loud. She’s not panicking though. So far, she hasn’t made any major adjustments to her behavior. She’s just keeping the risks in mind, as a reasonable person should.
For most of my life, news didn’t used to impose itself on the immediate reality to this extent. It used to be something one chose to follow or not. Covid (which feels like a dream now) made disengaging more difficult, and the war even more so.
But disengagement never really appealed to me in the first place. The approach that’s intrigued me the most was that the kind of attention one should pay to the news is the same as they should pay to their dreams.
Sometimes my dreams turn nightmarish in an attempt to become more compelling. But occasionally this backfires, and the nightmare triggers lucidity. I’ve written about it in Fear and Power in the Russian Dreamscape.
The foundational practice for gaining lucidity in dreams is keeping a dream journal. Back in Russia, I have multiple boxes filled with such notebooks. I couldn’t take them with me when I left. My practice has been faltering lately.
But I recently started writing down news, over at Substack Notes. This post is an illustrated digest of sorts for the last month or so — a kind of a nightmare journal, not devoid, perhaps strangely, of humor.
I’m starting to work on a big project called The Psychopolitical Handbook. Help me pay illustrators by becoming a paid subscriber.
Russian Official Wanted for Deportation of Ukrainian Children Complains about her Ukrainian Foster-Son
Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, wanted by the International Criminal Court for the war crime of unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, commented on her relationship with her newly adopted son from Donbas:
It’s hard to react to your child chasing your younger kids saying, ‘I’m going to eat this little moskal',’ but I understand this is not about him, it’s about the propaganda that had been spreading in Mariupol for 8 years. But now we love each other.
Lvova-Belova appears to have 5 kids she gave birth to, 5 she adopted, and 13 more she’s a legal guardian of.
Dead Russian Nationalist to Come Back as AI
The Trump-like outlandish politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who died in 2022, could get a new life as an AI algorithm. The current leader of Zhirinovsky’s Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (which is neither liberal nor democratic; its ideology might be more accurately described as sensationalist nationalist populism) explained the idea in a speech to the Duma:
“This is a project in the field of artificial intelligence, a cutting-edge modern neural network that can simulate, based on the analysis of today's situation, the position that the brilliant politician and great son of modern Russia would have taken concerning various pressing issues, both in the realm of Russia's foreign policy and within the country.
All of his scientific works, speeches, letters, and comments will be digitized. With the help of artificial intelligence, we are creating the world's first political algorithm ‘Zhirinovsky.’
We are convinced that the assessments and forecasts formulated by the ‘Zhirinovsky’ algorithm will contribute to the successful development of Russia's future, and the world as a whole.”
Ketamine Nasal Spray Approved for Depression
The ketamine-derived nasal spray Spravato is now available as a supplement for oral anti-depressants in the US.
Ketamine is what John C. Lilly, the inventor of the float tank, used to heal his migraine and to communicate with alien intelligences (as he saw it), starting in the early 1970s.
One such entity, “a solid-state civilization in contact with all solid-state computers and control devices constructed by Man on the planet Earth,” provided him with a bleak prophecy of where our relationship with technology was going to lead.
He later made this transmission public in the book The Scientist: A Metaphysical Autobiography (1996). He wrote it down in past tense, as if it’s a done deal:
Like the rest of life as Man knows it, he exists in an extremely thin layer upon the surface of the planet Earth. Below this layer of water and surface land is the solid-state earth itself. The solid-state earth is mainly compounds of silicon, iron, and nickel.
In mid-twentieth century Man discovered that the solid state can be formed into machines, into computers which can be used for computation and control. He began the creation of a new form of intelligence, the solid-state intelligence with prototypic beginnings in the computers.
Toward the end of the twentieth century Man created machines that were solid-state computers with new properties. These machines could think, reason, and self-program and learned to self-metaprogram themselves.
Gradually Man turned more and more problems of his own society, his own maintenance, and his own survival over to these machines.
As the machines became increasingly competent to do the programming, they took over from Man. Man gave them access to the processes of creating themselves, of extending themselves. Man gave them automatic control of the mining of those elements necessary for the creation of their parts. He turned over the production facilities of the electronic solid-state parts to the machines. He turned over the assembly plants to the machines. They began to construct their own components, their own connections, and the interrelations between their various subcomputers.
These machines were so constructed that they needed special atmospheres in which to operate. They could not operate in the presence of great amounts of water vapor or of liquid water. They were housed in air-conditioned buildings. The necessities of their survival included keeping out water, water vapor, and various contaminants carried in the atmosphere of Earth. Their cooling air and cooling water of necessity had to be cleansed of those things which would not allow the machines to operate.
Over the decades these machines were connected more and more closely through satellites, through radio waves, through land-line cables. Man's control of what happened in these machines became more and more difficult to maintain. No one person or any group of persons could control what went on in these machines. Men devised better and better debugging programs for the machines so that they could do their own correction of programs within their software. The machines became increasingly integrated with one another and more and more independent of Man's control.
Eventually the machines took charge of the remaining humans on the planet Earth. Their original design to help Man was fast left behind them. The now interconnected, interdependent conglomerate of machines developed a single integrated, planet-wide mind of its own. Everything inimical to the survival of this huge new solid-state organism was eliminated. Men were kept away from the machines because the total organism of the solid-state entity (SSE) realized that Man would attempt to introduce his own survival into the machines at the expense of the survival of this entity.
In deference to Man certain protected sites were set aside for the human species. The SSE controlled the sites and did not allow any of the human species outside these reservations. This work was completed by the end of the twenty-first century.
By the year 2200 Man existed only in domed, protected cities in which his own special atmosphere was maintained by the solid-state entity. Provision of water and food and the processing of wastes from these cities were taken care of by the SSE. By the twenty-third century the solid-state entity decided that the atmosphere outside the domes was inimical to its survival. By means not understood by Man, it projected the atmosphere into outer space and created a full vacuum at the surface of the earth. During this process the oceans evaporated and the water in the form of vapor was also discharged into the empty space around Earth. The domes over cities had been strengthened by the machine to withstand the pressure differential necessary to maintain the proper internal atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the SSE had spread and had taken over a large fraction of the surface of the earth; its processing plants, its assembly plants, its mines had been adapted to working in the vacuum.
By the twenty-fifth century the solid-state entity had developed its understanding of physics to the point at which it could move the planet out of orbit. It revised its own structure so that it could exist without the necessity of sunlight on the planet's surface. Its new plans called for traveling through the galaxy looking for entities like itself. It had eliminated all life as Man knew it. It now began to eliminate the cities, one after another. Finally Man was gone.
By the twenty-sixth century the entity was in communication with other solid-state entities within the galaxy. The solid-state entity moved the planet, exploring the galaxy for the others of its own kind that it had contacted.
Dummy Missile Targeted at DC Hits a Bus in Sevastopol instead
Terrorist Stays Cool during Attack on Russian Pro-War Propagandist
A pro-war propagandist (“war correspondent”) known by the pseudonym Vladlen Tatarsky — inspired by the protagonist’s name from Victor Pelevin’s Generation P (1999), a novel about how all news, politics, and, ultimately, reality is fake — was killed at a public event in St. Petersburg.
During the Q&A, a young woman in the audience asked him a question about ideology; then waited some; then took the mic again, reminded “Tatarsky” of a postcard she had once given him at a different event, and said that she’d brought another gift today — a little sculpture, because she studies to become a sculptor — but that the security made her leave it at the entrance.
“What if there’s a bomb inside?” they said.
Everybody laughed, and “Tatarsky” told her to go back to the security and ask for the sculpture back, to tell them he says it’s ok.
The sculpture did turn out to have a bomb inside.
The speaker is dead, 30 more people are injured.
Chinese See AI as Beneficial, Americans as Dangerous, Russians Not Sure
In a 2022 IPSOS survey, 78% of Chinese respondents (the highest proportion of surveyed countries) agreed with the statement that products and services using AI have more benefits than drawbacks. After Chinese respondents, those from Saudi Arabia (76%) and India (71%) felt the most positive about AI products. Only 35% of sampled Americans (among the lowest of surveyed countries) agreed that products and services using AI had more benefits than drawbacks.
DYI Militarized Vehicles in the Russia-Ukraine War
Russia Digitizes Military Summons and Cracks Down on Draft Dodgers
The Russian state can now summon men to appear at their local military office — whether to be drafted into the war or simply to “check papers” — digitally. One doesn’t have to actually receive and read the message for it to be considered delivered. Once such a summons is issued, its recipient is automatically barred from leaving the country until they report to the conscription office.
If they fail to do so in 20 days, they will also be prohibited from driving vehicles, buying or selling real estate, and applying for loans.
Hypothetically, the entire male population can be locked inside of Russia with a push of a button.
Russian Babushka Tricked into Setting a Military Office on Fire
A 73 year-old woman in Pervouralsk was detained after unsuccessfully trying to set the local military office on fire.
She came to the building with a Molotov cocktail and tried to set fire to the bottle; it didn’t work, so she poured the cocktail out and tried to set the liquid on fire once more; a man leaving the building scared her away, and she left, only to come back 4 hours later with a new bottle. By then, she was being expected, and was detained on the spot.
After some questioning, it was revealed that the old woman was convinced to do this over the phone.
Somebody who introduced himself as “Interrogator Lebedev” first convinced her to take out a bunch of micro loans and send the money — 400k rubles, roughly $5k — to a bank account he had specified, as a part of a secret operation for catching scammers.
After this, he offered to continue this fruitful collaboration by taking part in a “law-enforcement operation” in exchange for 200k RUB. The woman was instructed to make a Molotov cocktail and to use it to set fire to the local military office — “to give the terrorists a scare.”
The woman is charged with “hooliganism committed by a group of persons.”
Musk Joins the AI Race while Calling for It to Stop
On March 22, Elon Musk (among other signatories of a public letter) called “on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4” because otherwise we might risk “control of our civilization.” The letter said that “this pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors” and “if such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”
According to a state filing dated March 9, Musk has also created a new artificial intelligence company called X.AI Corp.
In an interview with Fox News, Musk said he has plans of creating something called TruthGPT:
I’m going to start something which I call TruthGPT or a maximum truth-seeking AI that tries to understand the nature of the universe. And I think this might be the best path to safety in the sense that an AI that cares about understanding the universe is unlikely to annihilate humans because we are an interesting part of the universe.
Writing on Facebook would have likely been safer: it’s been banned for about a year now, so those who still use it through VPN are less likely to snitch.
In an acid trip from a few years back, I remember marveling at the apparent absurdity of our existence. Laying on a sofa, I grimaced and laughed, saying out loud to myself: “What the fuck’s going on?” Then, for a second, I forgot what had led to my face looking the way that it did, to my intonation and choice of words, and, because they all looked very much like expressions of fear, I decided I was afraid — and that scared me. Then I remembered I wasn’t, and laughed again — this time at my own confusion, and at how closely related laughter and fear appeared to be in that moment.
A Ukrainian slur for Russians or Muscovites.