Journal: Is There an Ecological Unconscious?

Cultural Intelligence, Earth Intelligence
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“There’s a scholar who talks about ‘heart’s ease,’ ” Albrecht told me as we sat in his car on a cliff above the Newcastle shore, overlooking the Pacific. In the distance, just before the earth curved out of sight, 40 coal tankers were lined up single file. “People have heart’s ease when they’re on their own country. If you force them off that country, if you take them away from their land, they feel the loss of heart’s ease as a kind of vertigo, a disintegration of their whole life.” Australian aborigines, Navajos and any number of indigenous peoples have reported this sense of mournful disorientation after being displaced from their land. What Albrecht realized during his trip to the Upper Valley was that this “place pathology,” as one philosopher has called it, wasn’t limited to natives. Albrecht’s petitioners were anxious, unsettled, despairing, depressed — just as if they had been forcibly removed from the valley. Only they hadn’t; the valley changed around them.

In Albrecht’s view, the residents of the Upper Hunter were suffering not just from the strain of living in difficult conditions but also from something more fundamental: a hitherto unrecognized psychological condition. In a 2004 essay, he coined a term to describe it: “solastalgia,” a combination of the Latin word solacium (comfort) and the Greek root –algia (pain), which he defined as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault . . . a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at ‘home.’ ” A neologism wasn’t destined to stop the mines; they continued to spread. But so did Albrecht’s idea. In the past five years, the word “solastalgia” has appeared in media outlets as disparate as Wired, The Daily News in Sri Lanka and Andrew Sullivan’s popular political blog, The Daily Dish. In September, the British trip-hop duo Zero 7 released an instrumental track titled “Solastalgia,” and in 2008 Jukeen, a Slovenian recording artist, used the word as an album title. “Solastalgia” has been used to describe the experiences of Canadian Inuit communities coping with the effects of rising temperatures; Ghanaian subsistence farmers faced with changes in rainfall patterns; and refugees returning to New Orleans after Katrina.

Phi Beta Iota: Seriously good stuff that comes at the same time that human feelings and emotions are being recognizes as co-intelligence to the science and humanities and (more or less moribund) social sciences.  It's about the Whole.

Review: Spychips–How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID (Hardcover)

4 Star, Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Privacy

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Review, Somewhat Hyped, Tries to Scare,

October 30, 2005
Katherine Albrecht
This is a tremendous, absolutely superb example of what “citizen intelligence” can mean in the world today. Two individuals have come together to thoroughly investigate the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) marketplace, and they have published a book that is nothing short of brilliant in its detail, its notes, its photos, and its objectives.

They have even embedded in the book the fundamentals of mass psychology, and found two “hooks” for spreading fear of RFID among Jews (calling it the modern equivalent of the Yellow Star, which makes light of the Holocaust in this context) and fundamentalist Christians (calling it the Mark of the Beast that preceeds the apocalypse, also a step too far, in my view). My goodness-a two-woman CIA/Special Operations PSYOP unit!

On balance, the book is a superb technical review of what is possible and what is planned, and it is also seriously oversold and out of context. There is no question but that many companies, aided by the US Government, are planning for very intrusive tracking of individuals and their purchases. At the same time, the book ignores what is called a “path loss” obstacle (need for short-range transmitter to plugged in receiver), they ignore the ready availability of counter-measures (including aluminum foil, which they do mention in passing), and they fail to understand the severe challenges to massive data mining.

The book is somewhat out of context. While it enjoyes a superb Foreword from one of my five hacker/snowcrash heros, author Bruce Sterling, and it is full of unquestionably serious information, it is also oblivious to books like “The Long Emergency,” or “PowerDown,” and hence it fails to see that while RFID may be a pervert's dream and a Hitler-esque opportunity, the coming Great Depression is likely to bury most RFID applications as unaffordable.

There is much that is good about RFID that the authors leave unsaid. As companies like advance reality games, RFID could allow citizens to understand how many child labor hours went into a product, or how much cheap oil was wasted on a product, or–as WIRED Magazine noted a few issues ago–actually tell a potential buyer “If you eat me I will kill you.”

The authors have performed a brilliant public service–I am absolutely totally admiring of what they have done–but the book must be understood to be somewhat unbalanced. Apart from not discussing the good of RFID as a logistics and cost of goods/return on investment capability, the authors also do not discuss the greatest danger within RFID data, that of ignorant programmers and stupid assumptions.

They do a very fine job of discussing how RFID can lead to a depersonification of services–a “smart” medical cabinet replacing a nurse, for example.

Throughout the book they offer quotes from great works or great speakers that are very good contributions to their work, and they also do a superb job of summarizing the RFID industry's spin and slur defenses against the kind of fact-finding and public disclosure that this excellent work embodies.

They conclude that the US Senate and the US Executive have “sold out” to the RFID industry, but that the consumer taxpayer can indeed stop RFID in its tracks by boycotting. They offer a thoughtful list of possible actions by any individual at the end of the book, and if they have one lament, it is that the RFID industry may be right about anticipating the “apathy” of the citizen taxpayer, and being able to implement it vision of persistent surveillance of all individuals and all things.

As an intelligence professional, long critical of the excessive investments in satellite collection (for example, the moronic current new system that will cost $9 billion and not add any substantive new capability), I have a note to myself that RFID is the private sector's tarpit–RFID is to industry what secret satellites were to government: a sucking chest wound into unreal amounts of cash will go, with little to show for it beyond the the logistics routing function.

The authors accept financial contributions but are not a 501c3. I believe that the best way we can honor them and help them is by buying their book. I have done so. Very worthwhile.

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