Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Ancient Battle Against the Undead

Imagine that everyone, everywhere, has not been quite as stupid as you suddenly became aware that they were some time during your primary schooling.

“In our days,” continued Véra--mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times--“in our days a girl has so much freedom that the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her.”
-(Count Lev Tolstoy, W&P, 1869)

Before the advent of exacting legal codes and widespread communication, it was difficult to protect one's intellectual property. If you told a joke, it could be repeated without citation, and quickly, your role as creator would be forgotten. So too with an invention. Your new technique for adjusting your hunting bow had zero resale value once someone else figured out what you'd done. No patents, no copyrights, no royalties, no whining. Does that mean there was never any intellectual property?

Not only before modern legal codes, but even before writing, humans came up with a clever way to sign their work (Ironically, we don't know who, exactly, came up with it, but that's a distracting jest. Move along). This method served not only to give one the pleasure of being known as the first person to have come up with something, but also to profit from it without legal enforcement.

Pre-historic Computer Science

The earliest method (commonly known to Earth 2015 humans) of obtaining an intellectual property patent over an invention was known as "magic." When an inventor came up with an idea, such as using a certain herb to poultice a wound to prevent infection, the inventor could make himself a wizard, rather than an herbalist. The act of preparing the poultice became ceremonial, involving perhaps chants, grunts, prayers, and a few minor pyrotechnics. Once the poultice had been properly prepared, blessed, sanctified, breathed upon by the breath of the gods, et cetera, the poultice could be applied. The plant's antibacterial properties, discovered by the cunning "inventor" (the lucky person who picked something up from his grandfather, or by chance, and wanted to capitalize personally on it) could be attributed to wizardry, potion-mixing, and divining skills known only to the inventor, and not obtainable by anyone who just happened to pick up the plant that made up the bulk of his magical poultices.

Putting aside the profit motive, and even the honor motive--which were surely a destructive portion of such acts, but not to the hundredth part of what we see from humans today--we can see a benefit in the use of magic. The pomp and circumstance of the poulticing ritual ensured the transmission of the healing art, or whatever art under which the technique was passed on, from master to pupil, in a way memorable and meaningful enough to survive the ages. "This plant is important" is vague, easy to abuse and forget and over-pick. For the aging shaman who at last confesses to his trusted pupils the secret of the "rain dance," the "magic potion," et cetera, the ritual of casting a spell allows a pre-literate society to maintain vital knowledge in an accessible way, protect it from misuse and greed, and leave it in the hands of licensed professionals--e.g., those magicians who have properly trained in the chanting, dancing, application, and monitoring that makes the spell work.

If you recoil at the idea of how "stupid" those ancient healers were, do you know how easy it is for any high school dropout nursing trainee to check deadly drug interactions? They can now use a smartphone app that scans labels at the pharmacy, and that's it. No one else checks up on the mixture. Neither the "pharmacy technician" (glorified cashier/stocker) nor the receptionist nor the physician need necessarily understand what the drug is, how it actually works, et cetera. Satisfying the "standard of care" (snort, snicker, cry) only means having the ability to punch the names of all current medications into the drug-interactivity database. That's what stands between you and instant heart failure. And the method of the ancient wise women who dispensed herbs managed to avoid this, ensuring that trained practitioners were the ones doing the work--people with a deep and intimate knowledge of every step of a process. The ritual didn't just provide a soothing aura to everyone involved, including the patient (thereby solving the "bedside manner" issue that has been largely lost by the bleeder-prozacs over the past few centuries), it also activated the so-called placebo effect (the "someone gives a damn; something is being done" effect), and (most importantly to the typical modern human) ensured that the practitioner had years of muscle memory coordinating the exacting process of preparing the mixture just right. If a cook forgets the yeast, it ruins the cake; if the shaman forgets to sprinkle the magical dust, the potion might have no antibacterial properties after all, and the bite-victim dies tomorrow morning.

Processes like these also let plenty of people profit, because if their "goddess' breast milk" cured some infant's ill, mothers who wanted the same service had to come back to Big Shibubu, rather than just use any old wetnurse, because any old wetnurse wouldn't have the "magical" milk. So Big Shibubu got to enjoy a few years of exclusivity on the trick she'd discovered (if she wanted to) before passing it on to others.

Ritual chanting is also a great way to remember things. Before the printing press, westerners kept their Bibles locked up for the private use of the Vatican boy-rape war cult and its affiliates, but early Islamic tradition is rich with acolytes who would memorize the entire Qur'an as a show of devotion. Similarly to how Shakespearean actors used iambic pentameter to remember their lines, the Qur'an was written in such a way as to facilitate memorization among peoples who didn't have ready access to books, even handwritten ones.

Magic and ritual are akin to computer science, in that they rely on networks of multiple humans to maintain vital information, even among a small population of nomadic hunters that followed dangerous herds of prey through the seasons. The methodology of safely, reliably storing information inside a shaky social memory complex, such as that found among Earth's human denizens, was pretty effing clever, considering the technology then available.

Cue Billy, the buck-toothed arrogant asshole in the first row: "But if they's so smart, how come they didn't have iPads???!"

Word of advice: don't be like Billy. Sit down with a group of twelve people in a life or death situation, and see how long it takes you to come up with a way to collectively remember a fifty page, single-spaced instruction manual. Can you beat the ancients? Or would you rather reach for your keyboard? Ezzackly.

Pre-Printing Information Transfer

One of the memory tricks still used by people who play games of that sort is similar to the older magic rituals: if you want to remember something, you imagine a house, imagine yourself carrying a 3-ring binder into a certain room in that house, writing down what you have to remember on the first page of that three ring binder, shutting it, remembering what room you left it in, then leaving. Some of these motivational business guys will claim they can prove that people remember to complete tasks 80% better when they use that (or one of thousands of variations on it, adjusted as to place, time, culture, etc.). Maybe it'll mean something to you; if so, great.

What we're going to do here is to presume that thousands of generations of humans were not complete idiots until a few essays and paintings were completed in imperial France (the "Enlightenment"), or the computer was developed. We're going to look at the ways that our forebears stored useful, timeless scientific information inside ritual, narrative, and magic, so that it would be able to last longer than a hard drive or a book set down in the Sahara. More specifically, we'll examine the ways that "magic undead" narratives provide us with a vast utility when we're evaluating what we like to call modern science and revolutionary discoveries.

And most importantly of all, we're going to do it in a non-idiotic, non-academic way, completely skipping an unnecessary and pompous literary historiography that makes us sound both banal and intelligent by saying, "Mankind has long held a fascination with the concept of death, as evidenced by...filler...Bram Stoker, who drew upon these earlier historical myths in framing his...may have contributed to late eighteenth century perspectives on...teen sensation Twilight only goes to show that this trend has not..."

/shudder

Moving on.

The Modern Utility of Older Information Technology

The "undead," here, are merely an interesting stand-in; a "magical" memory technique that, because it sounds cool to some people, helps us remember things we've already learned before, and respond appropriately when presented with updated versions of older problems. Old ghost stories give us a literary antibody, if you will, to recurring challenges. It will seem stupid at first, but try thinking of it this way: human settlers on Jupiter return to Earth in the year 3300 with incredibly advanced holographic technologies, and find out that their species' origin planet had been wiped out by a plague hundreds of years ago. In the rubble, they find an incredibly archaic device--a physical tablet computer that is, like, sooooo heavy! And it has actual METAL in it! And a picture of an Apple on it!

The explorers begin falling ill. Their holographic projectors aren't working properly anymore. What's wrong with the computers? The virus starts to take over the mothership's systems. It adapts to our technology at an insane rate of speed! It's like nothing our purified society has ever faced before! In ten years, we could all be extinct!

One brave researcher finds notes on the ancient Earthling "iPad" about how Earthling researchers had designed this virus to disseminate a "flying car advertisement." She tries to get Jovian scientists to notice, but they scorn her, saying that the "metal Earthling adze is primitive and stupid." And since this is an example, they all die off because they didn't listen to her.

That's the point from which you should be approaching this: accept the possibility that there might be something in a damaged old supercomputer somewhere, or a musty old book, or a discarded set of fables, that contains knowledge that might still be applicable to the amazingly new-fashioned, completely transcendent 21st century you. If you're here, you probably already get that, but when this one starts talking about liches and vampires, you'll need to keep your ego in check to get any value out of this. (Just imagine those Jovian scientists laughing at the idea that useful data could be stored behind Angry Birds, and therefore refusing to scan the Earthling virus shutdown code on the ancient metal-clad computing device.)

Properties of the Undead

What do the undead--as narrative encoding device for observational knowledge--tell us? First, we consider what we know about the "undead."

1) The undead are neither alive, nor dead. They have found an unnatural/unholy way of sustaining the appearance of life without being part of the birth/death/birth/death cycle. As a result, they are invariably evil. Something about their condition, no matter how nobly, or accidentally, or well-intentioned the cause, results in evil.

2) Unlife is a joyless state. The process of becoming undead, however it may seem to perpetuate youth or years or potence, sucks away the joy from life. The undead may rut, gorge, etc., without pangs of conscience, but they do not any longer take pleasure or satisfaction in these acts. The undead ultimately suffer in their immortality, and can only find twisted forms of pleasure by dragging others under their power.

3) The undead need to feed on the living in order to sustain their horrid condition. Zombies eat brains, vampires suck blood, ghosts eat souls.

4) The undead are idolized by idiots who crave to be like them, and who naively perceive only the pluses of not having to age or die.

5) The undead scorn and abuse the idiots who idolize them, tantalizing them with offers of becoming like their masters in order to use them as fodder or cattle. Wannabes end up as mindless slaves, or just end up killed for their trouble.

6) Material failures, and the inability to cope therewith, can cause people to become trapped in undeath. Those too weak or evil to separate from the physical realm are driven to haunt it, either spoiling their own future by fixation on an old injustice, or preventing others from living satisfying lives, and instead perpetually re-focusing others on the undead group's own problems.

7) In order to become undead, one has to do great harm to oneself, severing one's soul into fungible component parts, thereby necessarily destroying everything that one was, in theory, trying to preserve.

8) Necromancers--those who work with undeath--inevitably fall victim to mad quests for power, and eventually become undead themselves in their attempt to gain still more control over their creations. The nature of treating bodies as things to raise from the dead leads to an exponential growth of the necromancer's work, such that any one necromancer will destroy the world and make everything and everyone an undead slave, until said necromancer is destroyed.

Silliness, I know. All silliness. As we approach another historical epoch dominated by the open practice of necromancy, the old lessons will need to be relearned.

The Continued Applicability of Undead Coding

Anti-aging pills, artificial intelligence, brain transplants into clones, cryogenic storage and revitalization, android memory encoding--take your pick of cool new sci-fi scenarios. Like all science fiction tales, these cultural MacGuffins are nothing more than high fantasy dressed up for a new audience of potential investors. Switch "elves" for "aliens," "advanced holographic imaging" for "magic," and "gods" for "Type 4 civilizations," and the abject similarities between swords, sorcery, and spaceships become so pronounced it's not a question of negotiation, but rather, of whether or not you can even tell which was which in the first place. A starship is nothing more than the iconographic rendition of a long voyage by horseback--an extended bottle episode in which the need to travel, camp, and provision justifies culturally-relevant morals, reflections, and adventures.

The "high fantasy" of necromancy is one such comparison that remains eternally relevant in the material world. Every advancement in modern necromancy, despite its claims to be a first-ever technological marvel, is a thought experiment long resolved by the spirits of dead heroes. Whether or not anyone ever possessed actual magic (as opposed to shared ethnocultural memory of a failed earlier civilization whose works now seem like impossible magic to those potentially rediscovering such conjurations), the philosophical underpinnings of cultural aversions to necromancy remain equally relevant. Consider:

The anti-aging pill is the necromancer's fountain of youth: the forbidden waters for which countless people have wasted their lives in search. The anti-aging pill, like the necromancer's foulest alchemical creations, is constructed only by sacrificing the lives of countless young people, in order to gather the necessary raw materials to extend the necromancer's own tortured life a little longer. Reducing in potency with each use, the anti-aging pill will eventually require a thousand sacrifices a day, then a million, then everyone else in the universe, in order to artificially delay the necromancer's own brush with destiny.

Considering the cost of the fantastical projects of today's dark alchemists, as compared to the cost of providing lentils to a rural population of five hundred million, the necromancer's burden on society is an obvious, and unacceptable one. The degeneration of crystallized light is mandatory, because breakdown and renewal forces continually-improving restructuring, and prevents stasis. For the necromancer, though, terrified of change, the concept of devoting the entire sum of the universe's power and potential to "just one more day" gives an easy answer: "yes, yes, always and ever, yes!"

Ancient narratives warned us that dark conjurers would always hate and fear nature: they would hate their own aging process, and be correspondingly envious of youth; they would try to subvert the life cycle by trading others' youth for their own persistent elderliness. The comparison in cost between a terminal, miserable 80-year-old's dialysis and a bright-eyed, starving-but-otherwise-healthy 8-year-old's twelve-month supply of organic lentils is a suitable modern example of this, as are the eerily matching sunken-eyed expressions on the faces of hopeful Somalian orphans and the hopelessly dreadful living corpses shuffling around America's memory-care wards.

Or, far more simply, compare the cost of five gallons of mixed organic produce, vs. five gallons of designer perfume or anti-wrinkle face cream. Historical aside: the Lauder family, owners of Estée Lauder and many other cosmetics brands, and with many family scions worth $1 billion or more--Leonard, the current patriarch, being usually around $9 billion--is a white family that self-identifies as "Jewish," which with amazingly lucky timing managed to leave Europe just ahead of the Great War. After consigning the swarthy theists and the Romani to the soon-to-be killing fields, Lauder and friends became staunch Zionists working toward the Arab genocide. Lately, Leonard is saving millions of dollars on taxes by funding an anti-Alzheimer's charity, to ensure that astonishing quantities of money will be spent helping wealthy white westerners continue to function late into their eighties and nineties. No one gives a damn about prenatal care, of course, but even within the MeMeMe Fads, Inc. echosphere of America, those plutocratic ghouls are, by continuing to watch CNN and golf well past their declining years, preventing their very own great grandchildren from surviving and thriving.

Necromancers are recognized as evil because they always behave like this. In order to generate the foul concoctions that imitate youth, necromancers have to extract disproportionate resources from their host societies. Dozens, then hundreds, then billions of young souls have to meet their suffering end in order for the charnel laboratories to continue grinding away; in order that the wizened old wizards can continue self-importantly enduring. Because of this always-validated economic pattern--and irrespective of whether anyone actually had "magic"--ancient prohibitions teach that necromancy must instantly be stamped out. Any mage who begins studying "the dark arts" must be steered away from that path, and anyone who begins trying to animate corpses must be eliminated by fire--for, once the first zombie shuffles out of the laboratory, the necromancer's course is set. More power. More bodies. More "advancement." Soon, the village cemetery has been emptied of available resources, and, to obtain fresh samples, the necromancer must begin luring maidens into the woods to mysteriously disappear.

Artificial intelligence is another old trope of necromancer fiction that proves itself applicable in the real world. Necromancers, having a hatred for real people, a jealousy for their own power, and an envy for the accomplishments of other mages, grow upset at their respective Igors. "Idiot! I told you, I needed three brains!" And so, necromancers--the penultimate hands-on managers--create monstrosities to carry out their whims. This is the old "golem" warned against by the actual Torah, because the monstrosities eventually turn on their creators.

And yet, necromancers keep building monstrosities. Instead of training real lab assistants, necromancers are obsessed with creating soulless slaves to carry out their whims. Cobbling together flesh and bone, with just a hint of a fractured soul, necromancers use artificial intelligence in place of real human relationships. Again, compare the cost of a lifetime's supply of organic lentils, bedding, and medical care, to the trillions of dollars so-far spent on producing "models" which imitate artificial intelligence, in order to make certain pre-existing applications more user-friendly. The necromancer always justifies his cobbled abominations as "more efficient," when in actuality, the process of extracting resources to graft onto an abomination exacts such a terrible toll on the world that it results in a net loss for everyone--including the necromancer's own sanity and soul.

When humanity develops the first-ever artificial intelligence, what advantages will it have over an above-average person neuro-linked to Wikipedia and a scientific calculator? Presumably, once it's been extensively socialized, it might then be better at developing other artificial intelligence. Progress for the sake of progress, as cancer says. Even at that point, were the dozens of billions of lives sacrificed on the altar of the century prior "worth it" to justify so many redirected resources? For the price of artificial intelligence, the last five hundred million people left alive by the Gates Foundation could all have their own domestic servants, neuro-linked Wikipedia calculators, and harems.

So even for the necromancer, putting up with Igor is better. But the whole point of necromancy isn't efficiency, whatever the necromancer claims--it's a strike against life itself, which can only be culminated in its destruction of the necromancer himself. The destruction of the support structure isn't performed out of an expression of malevolent will, but of Bill Gates' genuine desire to save people from the curse of living. Recall antilife's creed:
Suffering comes from being alive. Life is the cause of suffering. Without life, there would be no pain; no fear; no hurting of any kind. Because I am a good person, I have decided to help everyone by saving them from having to suffer. When my work is done, none shall suffer.

The necromancer, like the emperor, has no friends, for he can afford to have none. Instead of spending X effort being friendly and giving, meeting a partner, having sex, and raising children, the necromancer spends X + 1 million effort refurbishing an abandoned castle, digging up graves, and raising zombies to assault the townfolk to obtain fresher brains for his next stage of creations.

The junior necromancer's insane calculations tell him that necromancy is more efficient, because one necromancer can produce a thousand zombies, which trumps one decent woman and one decent man producing a mere three children. What the necromancer fails to take into account in his math is the fact that each zombie, freed from necromantic control, could have been half of a decent couple. So, one necromancer plus one thousand zombies is 1,001, while 1,001 divided by two is 500 decent couples, one unlucky leftover, and 1,500 children. The more the necromancer expands, the larger grows the opportunity cost. And, of course, the false lives of the zombies are worth zero, so the math is insane to begin with--but even inside the mangled calculations of the undead, allowing for their autonomic non-lives to be considered of equal value for the purposes of discussion, the raw numbers are against them.

The genocidal madmen who advocate for modern necromancy are making this same "mistake" (really, a ruse, but grant them the dignity of considering it a mere mistake). Presume that, as Gates and Buffett and their ilk desire, around six billion people are murdered to allow for a sustainable population of a million elites and four hundred ninety-nine million cruise directors. The only way to effect this harvest is to "raid the graveyard and raze the village," e.g., fund the creation of zombies by cobbling together what remains of the village's legacy. The nameless billions of people who invented small things that culminated in today's registered patents will be eaten up, and with them, their intellectual progeny. So, advancement will slow to the level of the modern patentholder, e.g., zero.

More importantly, in order to maintain the million elites and four hundred ninety-nine million cruise directors in the sustainable paradise they're pretending they want to create (in reality, a stepping stone toward population zero), at least six billion monstrosities will have to be crafted to serve the functions of the limb- and torso-donors. The vacuum cleaner saves human-hours; to save the number of human-hours formerly filled by the productive section of the murdered six billion (those who appeared as valuable on even the harshest economists' ledger) would require single- and multi-function contraptions numbering far greater than merely "one functioning vacuum per housewife." The five hundred million would require abominations who can sow, harvest, rotate, and plan; who can conceive, enact, act, and entertain; who can suggest, flatter, design, investigate, cure, et cetera. Like the necromancer left alone with a thousand rotting bodies who serve his every will, the dark mages of tomorrow will be left trying to desperately build the perfect mate from scratch. The prospect of putting up with Igor's inane banter will start to seem like a fond memory.

Brain Transplants into Clones/Android Memory Encoding

The most powerful necromancer is usually a lich--a necromancer who has so thoroughly lost himself in his work that he has become it. Not content with an army of unthinking slaves--zombies that mock the idea of life--or the even-less-human monstrosities who batter his enemies and drool reassuringly in the laboratory--the necromancer realizes that his power can only continue its cancerous expansion through growth. Obviously like cancer (and less obviously like concepts of property, profit, inheritance, and corporation) the necromancer realizes that the life cycle itself is his enemy. The seasons, beginning in spring and working toward a winter that births spring? Morons! Life on Earth, beginning with parent and working toward death that births reproduction? Nincompoopery! Life in the universe, beginning with coalescing matter and working toward supernovae that birth coalescing matter? Inconceivable!

The necromancer even finds that he has a non-dischargeable responsibility, for his own demise will break down the system of centralized control necessary to keep the zombies in line. Those necromancers who return to their humanity at this point then commit suicide or allow their creations to tear them apart, leaving their zombies to wreak havoc on the countryside beyond--but at least closing a dark chapter. This is, in a sense, the old Jewish golem story, The Matrix or Terminator, where the madmen who obsessed over narcissistic, non-mutual life-production ended up consumed by their creations.

Ergo the successful necromancer turns to undeath to preserve his own life. His is now the path of Dracula, rejecting God for making him suffer, and choosing to become, himself, an abomination like those he once controlled. Necromancers also realize that, by severing the link between themselves and their mortal forms, they will gain far greater power. No more will the infirmities of age, or the occasional need for his body to rest, prevent him from searching out more power.

How do we create a lich? Silly old stories tell us that the lich, to preserve himself outside of his own body, must break his soul's connection to his shell, and store the soul externally. The popular old term for the storage spot was a phylactery, which was modernized in Tolkein's One Ring (which Rowling renamed "horcrux"). The cowards who fear death may be driven, by that fear, into acts of madness such as thinking lustfully of phylacteries. We see a great deal of this, now, as pitiful little acolytes, and billionaire necromancers, fantasize about uploading themselves into virtual paradises, or super-strong and super-sexy bodies, in which they will be able to continue draining the resources of the planet without ever having to pass through the life cycle.

If any ancient parables hold true here, such uploads would have a corresponding effect to that of a lich's phylactery. (Oh--let's take a moment for those who haven't read enough fantasy, to note that a "lich" is just an "undead." A lich can be a skeleton, a rotting body, a body of pure sorcery, or an immaculately-preserved corpse that doesn't, at first, appear to be undead.) Firstly, unlike the relationship between a living human body and a living soul, the phylactery does not allow for sleep: the broken remnants of soul cannot ever give that rest. Ergo the lich, for all its power, is constantly suffering.

Secondly--and this is going beyond a lot of what Earth fantasy typically remembers--the phylactery/lich relationship is not very conducive to sensation. The lich always feels just a little bit cold, and the lich does not obtain true sensory satisfaction anymore. So the lich is always sort of hungry, horny, cold, cramped, and unsatisfied--the bad aspects of those sensations, in which the prospect of satiation is known to be impossible. Food doesn't taste as good as once it did, fires don't warm the body, and you can never, never rest. The lich itself begins to suspect that, despite all the finery and reassurance of immortality, there is something no longer quite right about the pickled soul in its coveted jar.

Ironically, the more secure the lich gets in its immortality, the less secure it feels. The phylactery, locked up in a steel vault stories below the surface, and guarded by a perpetually-vigilant undead sorceror of tremendous power, still makes the lich feel less secure than it felt when it was a mere fleshy human, vulnerable to mere axe or disease. The lich's fear grows, rather than recedes, as the theoretical justification for that fear grows smaller.

So too the use of the time that once seemed so precious. The lich no longer cares about anything. Air and water are tasteless and unnecessary; food is hollow; love is absent. Everything is an unnatural illusion. The immortal once-human robotic memory complex, stuffed with the collected literary works of the world, blessed with incredibly keen senses, and given on-demand access to the most orgasmic pleasure drugs possible, finds that it is terrified at the thought of an eternity trapped within itself. The only thing to do is to search out more power--to find even greater ways of harming the self, until the self is gone forever. The desire for immortal life--for preserving the state of consciousness and the memory combinations that exist in someone while they're here--is a silken veil drawn across the real desire, which is for full stasis; for the irrevocability of everdeath. By exempting oneself from the cycle of memory gathering and transfer, the necromancer/undead is actually trying to discover The End: a full stop; a freeze; a state of unchangeable timeless constant.

Sexy Vampires and Hungry Ghosts

Like cheap beer and pickup trucks, necromancy has always sold itself as a sexy alternative to life. This hasn't changed in Earth 2015, as the "noble undead" idea continues to regurgitate images of sultry vampires. It's easy to point to Dracula (and/or his vixenish concubine ghouls) as the western inspiration for this, but the trend goes back as far as there are recoverable human stories. Indian, Chinese, Greek, and eventually, derivative Anglo myths are dotted with the underworldly sex fantasies of beautiful maidens confronting the possibility of becoming souls locked into an ever-virginal stasis, removed from the cycle of birth-death and somehow made more erotic thereby. The wiser tales have always taught the themes that lurk behind necromancy, which were outlined at the beginning: namely, that the attempt to detach oneself from birth-death, and to become unnaturally immortal, doesn't result in the stress-free paradise of gratification that might have once caused the necromancer to begin his quest. When movie-vampires and zombies are portrayed as negative, their parasitism--their ability to survive only by slaughtering the living--speaks for itself.

Life extension technology is only necromancy by another name. Don't try to reconcile any of the similarities between such inventions as an argument that there were, in the past, actual wizards wielding supernatural powers to raise zombies. Those are the strawmen that are employed to dismiss the total sum of human learning prior to writing. Remember how, at the beginning of this post, we discussed how narrative structure allowed people to remember complex concepts through face-to-face spoken interaction alone, without the use of books or computers? That's where we find the utility in some fairy tales: in the way that the narrative structure, without being literally true, encodes predictive correlations in human behavior. The dark wizard in a black robe makes the message more dramatic, but even without actual magic spells, we can use the story to remember that people who try to become immortal are inherently destructive, both of themselves and others.

To My Dear Friend, Amos, I leave Skeletons Forever

The hell awaiting the technologically immortal Terran bourgeois of the next few centuries is, for them, perhaps unavoidable. It is a decision made, and they will commit any number of cheap murders in order to fund their virtual sexbot self-esteem learning and exploring and personal growth pods. Billions of people have already been killed in order to concentrate impossibly unusable quantities of resources in the hands of orthodox necromancers, who have, in the current absence of the ability to actually clone themselves, practiced imitation cloning in the form of inheritance. The concepts of property, nobility, succession, inheritance, last will, trust, and charitable foundation are themselves zombies, sucking resources from living human beings in order to express the mandates of the departed. They are as unnatural and wrong as holding a seance to ask the spirits whether we should feed our crops to the new batch of infants, or burn them before an altar erected in the glory of bodies which have turned to dust (while the infants starve, natch).

The Gates Foundation's rampage through Terra looks bad now, but when its original creator is no longer there, and it answers only to the whispers of the long-dead, this monstrosity will seek new heights of horror. As with zombie-foundations that have come before, entire generations of people will live and die in thrall to the enshrined billions of dollars of some scattered cremains' ancient mandates. Entire families will be fed, and starved, depending on how well they serve, or do not serve, the speech of wraiths. The political and cultural landscape of the world hundreds of years from now will be shaped, in large part, by the ideas of some dead dweeb from the twentieth century.

The refusal of malignant old cancers to share life with the new is a profound subterfuge, when society redesigns itself to allow dead pharaohs greater wealth than living ones. Western civilization has been essentially necromantic for centuries, as the vast majority of wealth, positions of current social power, and established legal codes have all been based upon the un-departed dead. The trusts established by old eugenicists still fund a colossal share of corporate America, including particularly corporate R&D and advertising budgets, political campaigns, universities, and non-governmental organizations. Each year, as billions more dollars are donated by the helpful departing, more of the planet's wealth becomes entrapped to the commandments of those who no longer dwell here.

In practical effect, dealing with a zombie foundation's bylaws is little different than dealing with an uploaded Bill Gates who survives forever inside a muscular android body. The young woman who, in 2415, has to apply to the studly Bill Gates clone for a job, shares her eerie burden with a 2015 man who has to convince the MacArthur Foundation to let him spend his life in exchange for food. (How hilarious is it, by the way, that Johnny's old foundation has a new, improved "automated" application process? lol! The corpse's corpses have corpses working for them!)

In a very real, tangible, dollars-and-cents sense, nearly everyone alive now is engaged in carrying out the wishes of the dead. You can metaphorize that condition to the casting of a spell by long-ago necromancers, if you like...or you can simply call it a sociological trick whereby some very sick, cruel people, afraid of dying and ceding Terra to their children as their parents had done for them, decided to so thoroughly abuse, terrorize, and befuddle their children, that when they died, their children felt bound to ensure that all future generations respected the wishes of the abusers. It's an intergenerational Stockholm, if you will. No longer do we care for the living, but for the dead.

Nor does the "charitable foundation," as the newest megatombs are called, confer any real benefit to the undead tyrant. Everyone else only hovers so carefully around old Count Bezukhov because they want his money--they don't actually give a shit about his ideas, even though they ferociously pretend to, and deep down, he knows no one cares. As the hoarder becomes owned by his hoard, the necromancer, then lich, becomes owned by his stolen time. Everybody hates you, so the only way out is more power. Kill all the redundant billions, flog the remaining cruise directors, and pour every planetary resource into designing newer and better immersive entertainment programs to help you dull the pain. It's all worth it, if the true geniuses can squeeze out just a few more years.

8 comments:

  1. 8) Necromancers--those who work with undeath--inevitably fall victim to mad quests for power, and eventually become undead themselves in their attempt to gain still more control over their creations.

    My brain hurts. This is psychiatrists? Or this is the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world?

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    1. Think more along the lines of, "Those who try to create living things via methods other than sexual reproduction." The divorcing of life from life, by producing offspring without parents, is sister to the divorcing of life from death, by preventing the atomized organism from recycling.

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    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_that_have_been_cloned

      This much is obvious, but what about the mandarins who dodge, duck, weave, split, feint, parry using such Oh-Isn't-That-Clever pettifoggery like the opening sentence you'll find if you follow that slick-o-pedia link?

      Professor Turbidity, chair of the Dept of Genetic Engineering at l'Academie Francaise, is certain that cloned animals do not lack anywhere when compared to the average randomly chosen exemplar of the species. "All of our tests confirm that Porky the Clone is indistinguishable from his genetic father Phineas. They both look like pigs, they both have piggy innards, they both make tasty bacon, and they both love to wallow in the mud."

      When asked for comment on his lineage, Porky was equivocal: "A-ba-dee-ah-ba-dee-ah-ba-dee-ah-That's-All-Folks!"

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    3. What about them? They're the same as they always were--arch dark mages dabbling in death, starving and slaughtering millions of children in order to gather resources to construct cobbled-together abominations. Like any other hosts of dark towers, they'll spread shadow across the land until someone takes the ring to Mount Doom.

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    4. I'm not disagreeing here, Tolkien!

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  2. You will proably like this guy:
    http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2009/01/condensed-critique-of-transhumanism.html

    Also, please post links to some of the "classic" necromancer / golem stories. I am drawing a blank

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    1. That was a good link to a good read and sublinks there to other good reading, so thanks from me at least.

      I'm clearly not HA nor am I HA's proxy, but I can say classic necromancers are everywhere in video gameland, as are golems. I'm not sure what anyone else thinks about video games and what they tell us, but their writers seem to find necromancy, golems, and other similar devices sufficiently classic to keep using them in story lines and game action design, and typically when portrayed in video games they are shown negatively -- even if subtly so.

      Aside from that you can always research the words necromancy and golem, including their historical origins.

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    2. 9:00 Anonymous, this one will put together a successor post that discusses some of the classics and moderns. Good request, because it brings out some of the OP's themes in more detail.

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