Friday, December 1, 2023

The Etherverse

Arthur Schopenhauer author of The World As Will and Idea

AI is our current future. The recent struggle for control of the OpenAI board dramatized the enormous issues presented by this new medium—in particular the potential independence of data from its source. Memes are a simple illustration since they are, like phosphorus an unstable or promiscuous  atom, characterized by the ability to easily shack up with other elements. Beyond the question of intelligence--where it resides and how it’s regulated--is that of materialization. One segues easily into the other. Bytes of information have no mass; they don’t possess the weight of a subatomic particle, they are not comparable to neurons, axons or dendrites. Eventually mankind will become a dream without a residence. A byte is no more than a miniature idea. However, on a simplistic level, what would you prefer a real French meal or perhaps the virtual reality Daniel? What’s more satisfying virtual or real sex and love? The Etherverse, is a world of notions rather than matter, where all of reality is of one mind and all the old pleasures, collective acts.

listen to "Kafka in Everyday Life" Francis Levy at The Brotherhood Synagogue

and watch the trailer for Erotomania selected for the Nihilist Film Festival, Santa Monica December 15

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Is Artificial Intelligence a Part of Intelligent Life?


What if your AI starts to think about it and decides it believes in free will? Naturally there are practical consequences. The former board of Open AI might have believed in regulation the way day Keynesian economists do "effective demand." In a socialist or welfare state the government has control over the individual, the way proponents of regulated intelligence wish to keep a  watchful eye over their "neural nets." In this kind of non-free market, artificial intelligence will mirror the party line. The benefits will be maintenance and easy access. No cyber mind will ever elect a candidate. This last is probably a lucky thing. Imagine the damage QAnon could do if it's hard drive became a central nervous system that took on a life of its own? Imagine 10 to the 20th power Pizzagates. Imagine a world populated by mini-Steve Bannons eradicating resistance through duplication. Remember "The Mind and the Matter," The Twilight Zone where Shelley Berman played the part of the harried bureaucrat, Archibald Beechcroft, who wishes the whole world were like him? Imagine what would happen if a free-floating computer-generated consciousness had ideas of its own.

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Stories Department in Booklife

listen to Francis Levy's playlist for The Kafka Studies Department

Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Do you remember being a kid and protesting “quit it” when some clown gave you a noogie! There are folks who 
give a noogie back (though it has to be harder than the one given to have an effect)--while "injustice collectors" seek out the domestic form of the International Criminal Court for relief. Do you get the drift? And these are only two in a legion of responses for those who prefer eyes (for an) or cheeks (turn the other). In this latter you may proclaim loudly for all bystanders to hear “I am going to pray for you.” This is a manifestly spiritual maneuver with an underlyingly defensive thrust. The deus ex machina in the form of a crowd of onlookers materializes out of nowhere. Or you may employ some form of “passive” resistance to block the bully’s way while you call for help.

and listen to "Boogaloo Down Broadway" by The Fantastic Johnny C

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Madness and Civilization

Madness and confinement are synonymous. Madness is s form of confinement, in which one lives in a psychotic delusion. Imagine feeling impotent in the face of your worst nightmare. Perhaps that’s what madness is like. If you’ve ever tried to disabuse a paranoid of their ideas you know—R.D. Laing notwithstanding. The next worst thing is Locked-in Syndrome in which the sufferer literally has to depend on the fluttering of an eyelash to make themselves heard. Confinement on the other hand is like being on a bad “trip.” People who drop acid can end up in a loony bin—simply because they can’t buck the current. And panicking is tantamount to being caught in a rip tide. The harder you try to free yourself, the more the knot tightens. 

read Hallie Cohen interview on collaboration

and listen to Hitch Hike by Marvin Gaye

Monday, November 27, 2023


Is your trauma worse than mine? Did I get over it faster? How to judge levels of insult to the human spirit? In terms of resilience, there are concentration camp survivors who went on to lead productive and happy lives while it’s obvious that those who are unscathed often are the ones who end up scathed--precisely because they lack survival skills. Rich people are for the most part the clientele of psychoanalysts. Not to diminish the effectiveness for what Janet Malcolm o
nce termed “the impossible profession,” but it caters to the wealthy demographic that can afford it. However, consider the trauma of the starving Yemeni child with the distended stomach whose mother has been repeatedly raped, compared to the Park Avenue hausfrau whose industrialist father discounted her talents. These kinds of comparisins are often used to belittle the interior sufferings of the privileged whose madeleines may have left a bad taste in their mouths.The one thing you can say about your problems is that they're yours.The time the ice cream scoop fell to the pavement, when you were a child, evinces a pathos which doesn't even register on the scale of universal pain. Yet it was enough to make you bawl.

read the review of Francis Levy's The Kafka Studies Department in Booklife

and watch the trailer for Erotomania, selected for the Nihilist Film Festival, December 15 in Santa Monica

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Waning of the Middle Ages

At a time of violent schisms like the one occurring now, the world of the Scholastics is appealing. Wouldn’t you rather argue over the number of angels on the head of a pin than the January 6 Insurrection?
 Trump supporters’ opinions are set in stone and will not be changed by presenting them with DOJ legal briefs spelling out the former president's involvement a conspiracy to invalidate the election. Besides angels, medieval philosophers took sides in the realism/ nominalism issue--noumena vs. phenomena in Kantian terms. There were, of course, The Crusades and the attendant search for the Holy Grail. The conflicts between Christianity  Judaism and Islam were as rampant as they are today. But there was not the same social media or high tech weaponry that allows smoke signals  to spread like the wildfires that destroyed Lahaina.

Listen to Joan Baum's review of The Kafka Studies Department on WHSU

and watch the trailer for Erotomania--selected for the Nihilist Film Festival, in Santa Monica, December 15


Thursday, November 23, 2023



There’s a scene in Irvine Welsh’s Crime where therapist and patient briefly cross the line. An unauthorized crossing of the  38th parallel marking the separation between North and South Korea is comparable. In both cases there’s no turning back  Once you’ve entered North Korea you’re done, as many unfortunates have discovered too late.Remember the fate of the American student who tried to export a North Korean flag? Consider the transgressive urge that result in any therapeutic situation. Conjure
a highly charged Consummated Oedipal wishes lead to a black hole. Of course traveling to Korea and therapy are not the only places where fatal attraction can devolve. Professors notoriously take advantage of students. On an equal playing field a young Yale lit student might not find her ruffled mentor exciting but just add the transferential halo and you've got a deadly cocktail. But imagine you’re in the Mattrix. The visible world with its illusion of propriety gives way to a derangement des senses. In the underworld patients choose their analyst on the basis of whether they would be good bedfellows and professors in graduate programs select those students who are able to satisfy their sexual desires. One crime in Crime also happens to be the same one that Oedipus commits when he kills his father, Laius and marries his mother, the appropriately named Jocasta (rhymes with canasta).

read Hallie Cohen interview on collaboration

and listen to "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" by Marvin Gaye