Friday, January 12, 2024

Memoranda of the Boulder Ogregore Observatory

When the University of Colorado Boulder’s quantum computer came online recently, a diagnostic core dump revealed unexpected data. It seems to be fragments from the 2028 annual report of the so-called Boulder Ogregore Observatory (BOO), an institution that does not (yet?) exist.

Parts of the corpus are unintelligible and reconstruction is ongoing. Physicists speculate that the Observatory stored its data on a successor to the recently inaugurated Boulder quantum computer. Time-entangled qubits allowed the archives to worm their way back to the present. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Text and design distortion

The recent Tune Tech episode on Twenty Thousand Hertz covered the history of distortion in popular music. That got me thinking about the use of distortion in other media like UI design and film.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Ogregores & Morality

To many people, moral considerations apply to any sentient being, e.g., to animals. Ogregores probably aren’t sentient, but do they have moral status as moral agents or moral patients?[1] I’m skeptical that they’re moral agents but intrigued by the possibility that they might be moral patients. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Animism & Ogregores

A recent conversation about whether there are AI gods prompted thoughts of animism, defined by Britannica as “belief in innumerable spiritual beings concerned with human affairs and capable of helping or harming human interests.” Perhaps, I thought, it’s better to think of ogregores as nature sprits than gods.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Uncanny Silicon Valley

A recent conversation got me thinking again about whether uncanny UIs could help us to “see the face” of the divine technologies (powerful, pervasive, mysterious) that usually invisible conduits for other things like social media posts and shopping. The paradigm example is the Déjà vu scene of a glitch in The Matrix (which inspired r/Glitch_in_the_Matrix).

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Boats, Bands, and Businesses: Sources of ogregore behavior

The movie trailer for “The Boys in the Boat” brings to light a unique aspect of some Olympic sports in countries like the US. In sports such as curling and certain rowing classes, the national bodies select teams as cohesive units rather than assembling national teams from individual top athletes (source: StackExchange). Although these are special instances, they underscore that ogregore behavior emerges from both individual and collective agency.

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Generative Plato Transformers

OpenAI now offers a speech interface to GPT. I’m told it feels like normal conversation. One is talking to a text corpus, bluring the line between “dead” texts and “live” conversation. It prompts me to wonder about Plato’s objections to writing and preference for dialogue in works like the Phaedrus, particularly in the story of Thamus & Theuth and subsequent discussion. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Any sufficiently adopted technology loses its magic

Arthur C. Clarke’s famous third law states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (Wikipedia). There's a corollary: any sufficiently adopted technology loses its magic.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Dueling ogregores: Ford, GM, and Chinese battery technology

Ford and GM are arguing about the conditions of a $7,500 EV tax credit. It’s an argument between ogregores. The positions reflect corporate decisions rather than the opinions of the CEOs. Changing office holders wouldn’t change the outcome.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Fear Orgs not Bots

 Tom Gauld's delightful cartoon "Department of Machine Poetry Research" shows a room full of robots at rows of desks. Two people are looking in from a door at the back, with one saying to the other, "The poetry is absolutely dreadful, but anything that distracts them from rising up and enslaving us has to be a good thing." It beautifully captures both our fear of automation and our inclination to over-attribute agency to machines rather than the organizations in which they're embedded.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Philosophical origin myths

I’ve begun to notice origin myths embedded in philosophical and political theories, thanks to re-reading Dreyfus & Spinosa’s “Further Reflections on Heidegger, Technology, and the Everyday” (2003) alongside Segal’s “The Modern Study of Myth and Its Relation to Science” (2015). Adopting a mythical perspective has tempered my skepticism about the historical accuracy of such accounts. I now view them more as moral exhortations than accurate narratives.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Enoch’s Egregores as Bringers of Tech

Rereading Mark Stavish’s Egregores prompted me to read the Book of Enoch (aka 1 Enoch) where the term Watcher (egregoros in Greek) is used to describe angels. I was struck that one of the terrible sins of the fallen angels described in Enoch was to teach humans technology. (The other was to have intercourse with women; angels are supposed to be spiritual beings and not be subject to lust.)

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Do ogregores give a damn?

Philosopher John Haugeland says that one of the most fundamental differences between human beings and machines is that machines, and AIs in particular, don't give a damn. Things matter to us but not to machines. It’s quite plausible that AIs don’t give a damn, at least not yet. But is that just something that humans can do?

Monday, August 07, 2023


Meg Wright alerted me to the way brands are trying to build parasocial relationships with customers using anthropomorphism. The way RyanAir's TikTok is putting googly eyes on photos of its planes is the most explicit corporate anthropomorphism I’ve seen.