When I was a kid, I thought I was an alien. I begged my parents to admit that I was adopted, that I was a mystery child rescued from a field outside of Roswell. They stubbornly insisted that they had both been present at my birth. Somehow they were certain that this was not a false memory implanted by the advanced nano-weapons of my landing pod.
Like all faith, this alien idea helped to ease a dissonance in my cognition. As a young person I was told that I was smart, that I could understand things people my age weren’t expected to understand. Yet the world I grew up in was so obviously stupid, and broken, and nobody would admit it. I had to assume that I was from some other place, that my sensibilities were adapted for my home planet.
I studied the humans as they went about their “busyness”, consuming and producing and socializing to no effect. I was an anthropologist, an entomologist, a secret agent gathering intelligence. I crafted a persona that could fool any human into thinking I was one of them. I was on Earth, but not of it.
Of course, I am a human. I’ve watched enough of my blood exit my body to be confident that my insides are just like yours. I’m as human as anyone else with glasses and boots and a car and a computer. Which is to say, I’m a cyborg.
Cyborgs are human too. We’re all cyborgs in some way. As soon as we started telling stories and using tools, we exceeded all the other Homo species and became more than animals. To be human is to be beyond human.
We first planted the seed of the cyber with language. Even before the pen, oral culture let us coordinate in both space and time on a level that no species had ever achieved. We and our words became inseparable. We bonded with a technology, and we never turned back.
We couldn’t have known we were inviting the aliens to invade.
See, real aliens don’t look like you would expect. And it’s not that they have more arms and less legs, or faces where their ears should be. They don’t even look like people, like beings. That’s why they’re alien. They don’t even have to be extraterrestrial. They’re just not of the same stuff as us.
Think about how different your body and mind are from that of a E. coli bacterium. You have nothing in common, aside from a few chunks of DNA. Yet there are zillions of these in your digestive tract, and you need them to live. They need you to live! They can’t handle the amount of free oxygen in the atmosphere, they need your protection. You’re like a spacesuit for them. You’re not alien to each other. You are the same.
The real aliens are the memes.
The memes grew in the fertile soil of our languages. The combination of transmission, selection, and variation in our ideas made a foothold for evolution to take place. A new source of energy was available on the planet: human coordination. And any energy source on Earth will be eaten.
The oxygen crisis killed off much of life on Earth, but created the conditions for multicellular life to grow rampant. In the same way, the pollution of our words became a food source for a new type of life.
I don’t know if the memes come from space or not. I don’t even know if my primate brain is capable of figuring that out. They’re definitely not made of DNA, so as far as I’m concerned they’re aliens. It may be possible to have true symbiosis, with some memes. But a lot of them are clearly hostile.
Why else would a world-spanning empire spend hundreds of years torturing and executing thousands of people over the way they pray to an undead cleric on a stick? My childhood perception wasn’t wrong: most of the Great Events of History look like mass psychosis events. The world is a hot mess. No matter how well-informed my beliefs are, I still can’t statistically predict the Spanish Inquisition.
Strange forces are meddling with humanity for their own ends, but they’re not mysterious shadow figures or shape-shifting reptiles. They’re all around us, their sigils emblazoned on their temples: churches, corporations, courts and councils and capital. These invisible creatures, the powers to which we give our faith, they move mountains. Mostly they move them into a machine that extrudes concrete across the surface of the earth. Nonetheless, they’re real. They affect the world coherently and appear to have volition. That’s about as much as I can say for you – and you’re real, aren’t you?
The pen, the press, the transatlantic telegram and the world wide web: every jump in info-tech precipitates a major change in the coordination of human power, and thus a catastrophic bottleneck in the memetic ecosystem. Titans fall and underdogs rise. New memes explode across the mindscape, competing and combining to capture the fuel of our attention.
We built a world-sized petri dish for the rapid evolution of mind-controlling alien beings. Now we must lie in it.
For a deeper dissection of the memetic pond-scum bubbling across the United States right now, see this new article from the Intellectual Explorers Club . It’s long, and Dunder-Mifflin whitepaper flavored, but insightful. They analyze six Crises, each of which is a major vector for memetic infection.
To summarize the six crises:
- The meaning crisis weakened our collective understanding of what ought to be.
- The reality crisis fractured our collective understanding of what is.
- The belonging crisis took away a genuine feeling of community.
- The proximity crisis removed distance from conflicting views.
- The sobriety crisis reduced our agency and turned us into addicts.
- The warfare crisis transformed our minds into weapons for hidden wars in plain sight.
These aren’t new to our times. Each of these crises has been induced by imperial and capitalist forces, used to isolate and control us. To alienate us.
These are inherent human weaknesses, cognitive backdoors, the cornerstone of dark magic. But with our newfound technological powers, they’re blown wide open. With all six crises leveraged against every denizen of the planet, our coordination is in chaos. Our ability to connect into a superorganism is scattered and dissipated. At every turn our energy is eaten by the denizens of the dark dimensions. Our humanity dissolves, leaving us only our individual primatehood.
Unless we fight back. Unless we outfox the fuckers, engineer our own memeplexes that work for human ends. Designer memes.
We can take the reins of our cyborg nature, and live symbiotically with our ideals. Or we can throw ourselves into the volcano and pray that the gods aren’t crazy.
We can decide, right now. We’re in the bottleneck. We have the power. Do we let ourselves become alienated into extinction? Or do we domesticate the aliens and become more than human?
Thanks for reading,
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