Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Superlativity and Its Bigger Picture

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot:

"Extropia" insists that the Robot Cultists are concerned with "the wider picture" as against the "narrow concerns" of people who are doing real science or who are engaging in real progressive activism. I doubt most of their fellow Robot Cultists will so readily concede that theirs is not a scientific enterprise. Indeed, their more conventional line is that they represent champions of "pure science" or "extreme science" as against post-modern relativists in humanities departments and meek sheeple scientists who get into actual citation indexes and all that jazz. They often seem to fancy themselves as constituting instead some kind of high priestly scientific avant-garde soldiering away, no doubt, in their secret labs (presently in their parents' basements but soon enough, you can be sure, in the asteroid belt or deep beneath the sea) building "The Future" one online manifesto at a time, and so on.

But credit where credit is due, I quite agree with "Extropia" that superlative futurology is not best understood as a practice of consensus science, policy-making, or progressive activism (to the contrary of most of its public advocates), but a sub(cult)ural discourse and its associated fandoms instead, devoted to creating a narrative to make disruptive technoscientific change meaningful to those who invest in that narrative, to solicit their identification in marginal communities of shared True Belief, and to answer to the irrational passions (and we all have them, just not the same ones) of the faithful.

Of course, I don't agree with "Extropia" that superlative futurology is concerned with "the wider picture" but just with one of many wider pictures on offer, and a rather flabbergastingly implausible, alienating, anti-democratizing one at that.

Superlative futurology in my view is invested in a constellation of imaginary idealized outcomes, usually denominated "The Future," which its practitioners identify as occasions for their personal transcendence and the shared investment in which provides the palpable compensation in the present of the pleasures and urgencies of personal identification in a self-marginalizing defensive moralizing sub(cult)ure.

That shared superlative futurological identification tends to come at the cost in the present of an ambivalent dis-identification with their worldly peers -- hence all the glib talk of "post"-humanity -- but this cost typically seems to them negligible if not actively desirable given that the Robot Cultist's desire for transcendence via superlative imaginary technodevelopments (superintelligence, superlongevity, superabundance) expresses the ambivalence, or even loathing hostility, here and now, of the Robot Cultists with the frustrations of an error-prone passionate thoroughly social embodied intelligence, with the frustrations of a disease-prone demanding vulnerable socially legible embodied mortal life, with the frustrations of the stakeholder politics of reconciling the ineradicable diversity of aspirations of peers with whom we share the world and the fragility of the freedom bodied forth through that interminable reconciliation.

Quite apart from the "technical" implausibility of the imagined outcomes and developmental timelines proposed by superlative futurologists -- hence their utter marginality from scientific consensus in the actual fields they superficially, selectively, and opportunistically graze for "signs" that their wishes might finally come true for them -- the Robot Cultists divest the concepts of intelligence, life, progress, and freedom of their social/embodied substance and then invest them in a compensatory amplification of blind, brute instrumental force, first rendering them meaningless and then adding insult to injury and confusing this with "emancipation." This in my view is what Superlativity's "wider picture" finally amounts to, really, an obliteration here and now through dumb robotic insensitivity of the open futurity inhering in the collaboration and contestation of the diversity of worldly peers with whom we share the world and history, all in the name of transcendence via the One True Way -- an arrival at "The Future" -- in which Robot Gods clash meaninglessly and inhumanly through the eternal dead night.

7 comments:

jimf said...

> [S]hared superlative futurological identification tends to come
> at the cost in the present of an ambivalent dis-identification with
> their worldly peers -- hence all the glib talk of "post"-humanity --
> but this cost typically seems to them negligible if not actively
> desirable given that the Robot Cultist's desire for transcendence via
> superlative imaginary technodevelopments (superintelligence, superlongevity,
> superabundance) expresses the ambivalence, or even loathing hostility,
> here and now, of the Robot Cultists with the frustrations of an
> error-prone passionate thoroughly social embodied intelligence, with
> the frustrations of a disease-prone demanding vulnerable socially
> legible embodied mortal life, with the frustrations of the stakeholder
> politics of reconciling the ineradicable diversity of aspirations of
> peers with whom we share the world and the fragility of the freedom
> bodied forth through that interminable reconciliation.

"The Narcissist is our first encounter
with carbon-based artificial intelligence.
Many wish it were the last."
-- Sam Vaknin
http://209.52.189.2/articles.cfm/npd

"Grandiosity Deconstructed"
"I believe that I will live forever... It is a cellular
certainty, almost biological, it flows with my blood
and permeates every niche of my being. I can do
anything I choose to do and excel in it. What I
do, what I excel at, what I achieve depends only
on my volition. There is no other determinant."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal9.html

"A Great Admiration"
"I always wanted to be a genius... Ever since my fifth
year I pretended to be thoroughly acquainted with issues
I had no clue about. This streak of con-artistry reached
a crescendo in my puberty, when I convinced a whole
township (and later, my country, by co-opting the media)
that I was a new Einstein. While unable to solve even the
most basic mathematical equations, I was regarded by many -
including world class physicists - as somewhat of an
epiphanous miracle."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal14.html

"Portrait of the Narcissist as a Young Man"
"Abuse has many forms. Expropriating someone's childhood
in favour of adult pursuits is one of the subtlest varieties of
soul murder.

I never was a child. I was a 'wunderkind', the
answer to my mother's prayers and intellectual
frustration. A human computing machine, a
walking-talking encyclopedia, a curiosity,
a circus freak. I was observed by developmental
psychologists, interviewed by the media, endured
the envy of my peers and their pushy mothers."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal22.html

"The Disappearance of the Witnesses"
"I was a precocious child. Always the wunderkind
with oversized spectacles, the freak. I befriended only
men many years my senior. At the age of 20, the
youngest of my best friends - among which I counted
a mafia don, a political scientist, businessmen, authors,
and journalists - was 40... They fed me, hosted me
in their homes, bought me reference books, introduced
me to each other, interviewed me, and took me on
expensive trips to foreign lands. I was their darling,
the subject of much awe and adulation.

Now, twenty years and some later, these are old
people and they are dying... And when they die,
their memories of me die with them."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal30.html

"The Magic of my Thinking"
"[A]nother feature of narcissism: magical thinking. Narcissists
are like children in this sense. I, for instance, fully believe in
two things: that whatever happens - I will prevail and that good
things will happen to me. It is not a belief, really. There is no
cognitive component in it. I just KNOW it, the same way I know
gravity - in a direct and immediate and secure way...

I have lived in fairy tales come true all my life. I was adopted
by a billionaire, an admiring student of mine became Minister of
Finance and summoned me to his side, I was given millions to
invest and have been the subject of many other miracles - but
I was and am intent on bringing myself to biblical destitution
and devastation.

Perhaps in this - in the belief that I have the omnipotence to
conspire against a universe that constantly smiles upon me -
lies the real magic of my thinking."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal6.html

"Wasted Lives"
"Narcissists are as gifted as they come. The problem is to
disentangle their tales of fantastic grandiosity from the reality
of their talents and skills.

They always tend either to over-estimate or to devalue
their potency. They often emphasize the wrong traits
and invest in their mediocre or (dare I say) less than
average capacities. Concomitantly, they ignore their real
potential, squander their advantage and under-rate their gifts.

The narcissist decides which aspects of his self to nurture
and which to neglect. He gravitates towards activities
commensurate with his pompous auto-portrait. He suppresses
these tendencies and aptitudes in him which don't conform
to his inflated view of his uniqueness, brilliance, might,
sexual prowess, or standing in society. He cultivates these
flairs and predilections which he regards as befitting his
overweening self-image and ultimate grandeur."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal11.html

"The Green-Eyed Narcissist"
"And then, of course, there is my favourite solution:
avoidance. To witness the success and joy of others is
too painful, too high a price to pay. So, I stay home,
alone and incommunicado."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal19.html

"The Weapon of Language"
"Narcissists... never talk to others - rather, they
talk at others, or lecture them. They exchange subtexts,
camouflage-wrapped by elaborate, florid, texts. They
read between the lines, spawning a multitude of private
languages, prejudices, superstitions, conspiracy theories,
rumours, phobias and hysterias. Theirs is a solipsistic
world - where communication is permitted only with
oneself and the aim of language is to throw others off
the scent..."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal34.html

"Wasted Lives"
"I am blind to the fact that my prolix and babblative
prose inspires more ridicule than awe. I ignore my
incomprehensibility and the irritation I provoke with my
moribund vocabulary, convoluted syntax and tortured
grammar.

I present my half-baked ideas, based on a shaky and
fragmented foundation of knowledge haphazardly gleaned,
with the certitude of confidence of an authority - or a trickster."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal11.html

"The Narcissist in Love"
"[T]he narcissist is incapable of admitting that something is
wrong with HIM.

But that is not to say that the narcissist does not experience
his disorder.

He does. But he re-interprets this experience. He regards
his dysfunctional behaviours - social, sexual, emotional,
mental - as conclusive and irrefutable proof of his superiority,
brilliance, distinction, prowess, might, or success. Rudeness
to others is reinterpreted as efficiency.

Abusive behaviours are cast as educational. Sexual absence
as proof of preoccupation with higher functions. His rage is
always just and a reaction to injustice or being misunderstood
by intellectual dwarves."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal15.html

"My Woman and I"
"I am heterosexual, so I am attracted to women. But I am
simultaneously repelled, horrified, bewitched and provoked
by them. I seek to frustrate and humiliate them...

Most narcissists I know - myself included - are misogynists.
Their sexual and emotional lives are perturbed and chaotic. They
are unable to love in any true sense of the word - nor are they
capable of developing any measure of intimacy. Lacking empathy,
they are incapable of offering to the partner emotional sustenance...

I never loved. I do not know what is it that I am missing.
Observing it from the outside, love seems to me to be a risible
pathology. But I am only guessing.

I am not angry for being unable to love. I equate love with weakness.
I hate being weak and I hate and despise weak people (and, by
implication, the very old and the very young). I do not tolerate
stupidity, disease and dependence - and love seems to encompass
all three. These are not sour grapes. I really feel this way.

I am an angry man... I am angry because I am not as powerful,
awe inspiring and successful as I wish to be and as I deserve to
be. Because my daydreams refuse so stubbornly to come true.
Because I am my worst enemy. And because, in my unmitigated
paranoia, I see adversaries plotting everywhere and feel discriminated
against and contemptuously ignored. I am angry because I know
that I am sick and that my sickness prevents me from realizing
even a small fraction of my potential."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal3.html

"Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hide"
"I hate my body and neglect it. It is a nuisance, a burden,
a derided appendix, an inconvenience, a punishment.
Needless to add that I rarely have sex (often years apart).
I masturbate regularly, very mechanically, as one would
change water in an aquarium. I stay away from women because
I perceive them to be ruthless predators who are out to consume
me and mine.

I have had quite a few major life crises. I got divorced, lost
millions a few times, did time in one of the worst prisons in the
world, fled countries as a political refugee, was threatened, harassed
and stalked by powerful people and groups. I have been devalued,
betrayed, denigrated and insulted.

Invariably, following every life crisis, the somatic narcissist
in me took over. I became a lascivious lecher. When this happened,
I had a few relationships - replete with abundant and addictive sex -
going simultaneously. I participated in and initiated group sex and
mass orgies. I exercised, lost weight and honed my body into an
irresistible proposition.

This outburst of unrestrained, primordial lust waned in a few
months and I settled back into my cerebral ways. No sex, no women,
no body.

These total reversals of character stun my mates. My girlfriends
and spouse found it impossible to digest this eerie transformation
from the gregarious, darkly handsome, well-built and sexually
insatiable person that swept them off their feet - to the bodiless,
bookwormish hermit with not an inkling of interest in either
sex or other carnal pleasures."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal21.html

"The Music of my Emotions"
"To all of you who talk about change - there is nothing
I can do about myself. And there is nothing you can do
about yourself. And there is nothing anyone can do for you,
either. Psychotherapy and medications are concerned with
behaviour modification - not with healing. They are concerned
with proper adaptation because maladaptation is socially costly.
Society defends itself against misfits by lying to them. The lie is
that change and healing are possible. They are not. You are
what you are. Period. Go live with it...

We shall never meet amicably because I am a predator and
you are the prey. Because I do not know what it is like to
be you and I do not particularly care to know...

And all the love in this world, and all the crusading women
who think that they can "fix" me by doling out their saccharine
compassion and revolting "understanding" and all the support
and the holding environments and the textbooks - cannot change
one iota in this maddening, self-imposed verdict meted out by
the most insanely, obtusely, sadistically harsh judge:

By me."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal7.html

"Studying My Death"
"I used I find my body sexually arousing - its pearly whiteness,
its effeminate contours, the pleasure it yielded once stimulated.
I no longer do. All self-eroticism was buried under the gellous,
translucent, fat that is my constitution now. I hate my sweat -
this salty adhesive that clings to me relentlessly. At least my
scents are virile. Thus, I am not very attached to the vessel
that contains me. I wouldn't mind to see it go. But I resent
the farewell price - those protracted, bilious, and bloody
agonies we call 'passing away'. Afflicted by death - I wish
it only to be inflicted as painlessly and swiftly as possible.
I wish to die as I have lived - detached, oblivious, absent
minded, apathetic, and on my terms."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal35.html

"Conspicuous Existence"
"Narcissists appear to be unpleasantly deliberate. They
are somehow 'wrong', like automata gone awry. They
are too human, or too inhuman, or too modest, or too
haughty, or too loving, or too cold, or too empathic,
or too stony, or too industrious, or too casual, or too
enthusiastic, or too indifferent, or too courteous, or
too abrasive.

They are excess embodied. They act their part and their
acting shows. Their show invariably unravels at the seams
under the slightest stress. Their enthusiasm is always manic,
their emotional expression unnatural, their body language
defies their statements, their statements belie their intentions,
their intentions are focused on the one and only drug - securing
narcissistic supply from other people."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal38.html

"It Is My World"
"Look around you. Self absorption. Greed. Frivolity.
Social anxiety. Lack of empathy. Exploitation. Abuse.
These are not marginal phenomena. These are the defining
traits of the West and its denizens. The West's is a
narcissistic civilization. It upholds narcissistic values and
penalizes the alternative value-systems. From an early age,
children are taught to avoid self-criticism, to deceive
themselves regarding their capacities and achievements,
to feel entitled, to exploit others. Litigiousness is
the flip side of this inane sense of entitlement. The
disintegration of the very fabric of society is its outcome.
It is a culture of self-delusion. People adopt grandiose
fantasies, often incommensurate with their real, dreary,
lives. Consumerism is built on this common and
communal lie of 'I can do anything I want and possess
everything I desire if I only apply myself to it'."
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal37.html


"The narcissist develops circular, ad-hoc, circumstantial,
and fantastic narratives... Their role is to avoid confrontation
with (the often disappointing and disillusioning) reality...

The narcissist pays a heavy price for accommodating
his dysfunctional narratives:

Emptiness, existential loneliness (he shares no common
psychic ground with other humans), sadness, drifting,
emotional absence, emotional platitude,
mechanisation/robotisation..., meaninglessness. This fuels
his envy and the resulting rage...

The narcissist develop a "Zu Leicht – Zu Schwer"
("Too Easy – Too difficult") syndrome:

On the one hand, life is unbearably difficult. The narcissist
does have achievements which would have been judged
by anyone to be very real (not fantastic) and which could
have mitigated the perceived harshness of life. But he has
to "downgrade" them as "too easy" to achieve. The
narcissist cannot admit that he has toiled to achieve
something – this will shatter his Grandiose False Self.
He must belittle every achievement of his and make it a
matter of course, nothing special, quite routine. This is
intended to support the dreamland quality of his fragmented
personality. But it also prevents him from deriving the
psychological benefits, which usually accrue to goal attainment:
an enhancement of self-confidence, a more realistic self-assessment
of one's capabilities and abilities, a strengthening sense of self-worth.

The narcissist is doomed to roam a circular labyrinth.
When he does achieve something – he degrades it to
enhance his own sense of omnipotence. When he fails,
he dares not face reality... The narcissist whiles his life away."
( http://www.geocities.com/samvaknin/faq01.html )

"The narcissist is haunted by the feeling that he is
possessed of a mission, of a destiny, that he is part of fate,
of history. He is convinced that his uniqueness is purposeful,
that he is meant to lead, to chart new ways, to innovate,
to modernise, to reform, to set precedents, to create.
Every act of his is significant, every writing of momentous
consequences, every thought of revolutionary calibre.
He feels part of a grand design, a world plan and the frame
of affiliation, the group, of which he is a member, must
be commensurately grand. Its proportions and properties
must resonate with his. Its characteristics must justify his
and its ideology must conform to his pre-conceived opinions
and prejudices. In short: the group must magnify the narcissist,
echo and amplify his life, his views, his knowledge, his history.
This intertwining, this enmeshing of individual and group –
is what makes the narcissist the most devout and loyal of
all members. The narcissist is always the most fanatical,
the most extreme, the most dangerous. At stake is never
the preservation of his group – but his very own survival.
As with other Narcissistic Supply Sources, once the group
is no longer instrumental – the narcissist loses all interest in it,
devalues it and ignores it. In extreme cases, he might even
wish to destroy it (as a punishment or revenge for its
incompetence at securing his Narcissistic Supply).
Narcissists switch groups and ideologies with the ease
with which they change partners, spouses and value systems.
In this respect, narcissists are narcissists first and members
of their groups only in the second place."
( http://www.geocities.com/samvaknin/faq47.html )

"Ask anyone who shared a life with a narcissist, or
knew one and they are likely to sigh: "What a waste".
Waste of potential, waste of opportunities, waste
of emotions, a wasteland of arid addiction and futile pursuit.
Narcissists are as gifted as they come. The problem is
to disentangle their tales of fantastic grandiosity from
the reality of their talents and skills. They always tend
either to over-estimate or to devalue their potency.
They often emphasize the wrong traits and invest in
their mediocre or less than average capacities.
Concomitantly, they ignore their real potential,
squander their advantage and under-rate their gifts.

The narcissist decides which aspects of his self to
nurture and which to neglect. He gravitates towards
activities commensurate with his pompous auto-portrait.
He suppresses these tendencies and aptitudes in him
which don't conform to his inflated view of his uniqueness,
brilliance, might, sexual prowess, or standing in society.
He cultivates these flairs and predilections which he
regards as befitting his overweening self-image and
ultimate grandeur."
( http://www.geocities.com/samvaknin/faq3.html )

[T]here is a weak correlation between the narcissist's
behaviour and his professed or proclaimed emotions.
The reason is that the latter are merely professed or
proclaimed – but not felt. The narcissist fakes feelings
and their outer expression in order to impress others...
In this – as in many other simulated behaviour patterns –
the narcissist seeks to manipulate his human environment.
Inside, he is barren, devoid of any inkling of true feeling,
even mocking. He looks down upon those who succumb
to the weakness of experiencing emotions and holds them
in contempt... [This] mechanism of "Simulated Affect"...
lies at the core of the narcissist's inability to empathise
with his fellow human beings.

The narcissist constantly lies to himself and to others. He
defensively self-deludes, distorts facts and circumstances,
provides comfortable (consonant) interpretations – all
so as to preserve his delusions of grandeur and feelings
of (unmerited) self-importance. This is the mechanism
of the "Sliding of Meanings". This mechanism is part
of the much larger set of Emotional Involvement Prevention
Measures... intended to prevent the narcissist from getting
emotionally involved or committed. This way the
narcissist insures himself against getting hurt
and abandoned, or so he erroneously believes. In actuality,
these mechanisms are self-defeating and lead directly to
the results they were intended to forestall."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq41.html )

'Emotional' connections which appear to co-exist
with the narcissistic defence mechanisms are part
of the narcissistic theatrical repertoire, fake and doomed."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq74.html )

"Narcissists are not gregarious... Of course
narcissists love to have an audience. But they
love an audience only because and as long as
it provides them with narcissistic supply. Otherwise,
they are not interested in human beings (they lack
empathy which makes other humans much less
fascinating than they are to empathic people).

Narcissists are terrified of introspection. I am not
referring to intellectualization or rationalization or
simple application of their intelligence – this would
not constitute introspection. Proper introspection
must include an emotional element, an insight and the
ability to emotionally integrate the insight so that it
affects behavior... Narcissists do engage in real
introspection following a life crisis, though. They
attend therapy at such time...

"One cannot exaggerate the importance of envy
as a motivating power in the narcissist's life...
The suppression of envy is at the CORE of the
narcissist's being. If he fails to convince his self that
he is the ONLY good object in the universe – he is
exposed to his own murderous envy. If there are
others out there who are better than he – he envies
them, he lashes out at them ferociously, uncontrollably,
madly, hatefully and spitefully. If someone tries to get
emotionally intimate with the narcissist – [he] threatens
the grandiose belief that no one but the narcissist can
possess the good object (the narcissist himself). Only
the narcissist can own himself, have access to himself,
possess himself. This is the only way to avoid seething
envy and certain self-annihilation. Perhaps it is clearer
now why narcissists react as raving madmen to ANYTHING,
however minute, however remote that seems to threaten
their grandiose fantasies, the only protective barrier
between themselves and their envy."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq67.html )

"The narcissist is dead serious about himself. He
may possess a fabulous sense of humour, scathing
and cynical. But he never appreciates it when this
weapon is directed at him. The narcissist regards himself
as being on a constant mission, whose importance is
cosmic and whose consequences are global. If a scientist –
he is always in the throes of revolutionising science.
If a journalist – he is in the middle of the greatest story
ever. This self-misperception is not amenable to light-headedness
or self-deprecation. The narcissist is easily hurt and insulted
(Narcissist Hurt or Narcissistic Injury). Even the most
innocuous remarks or acts are interpreted by him as
belittling, intruding, or coercive. His time is more valuable
than others' – therefore, it cannot be wasted on unimportant
matters such as social intercourse. Any suggestion to help,
any advice or concerned inquiry are immediately interpreted
as coercion...

[T]he lack of empathy, the aloofness, the disdain
and sense of entitlement, the restricted application of
his sense of humour, the unequal treatment and paranoia –
make the narcissist a social misfit. The narcissist is able
to provoke in his social milieu, in his casual acquaintances,
even in his psychotherapist, the strongest, most avid
and furious hatred and revulsion. He provokes violence,
often not knowing why. He is perceived to be asocial at
best (often – antisocial). This, perhaps, is the strongest
presenting symptom. One feels ill at ease in the presence
of a narcissist – and rarely knows why. No matter how
charming, intelligent, thought provoking, outgoing, easy
going and social the narcissist is – he forever fails to secure
the sympathy of his fellow humans, a sympathy he is never
ready, willing, or able to grant them in the first place."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq58.html )

"Very few people deserve the kind of investment
that is an absolute prerequisite to living with a narcissist.
To cope with a narcissist is a full time, energy and
emotion-draining job, which reduces the persons around
the narcissist to insecure nervous wrecks. Who deserves
such a sacrifice?

No one, to my mind, not even the most brilliant,
charming, breathtaking, suave narcissist. The
glamour and trickery wear thin and underneath them
a monster lurks which sucks the affect, distorts
the cognition and irreversibly influences the lives
of those around it for the worse....

Narcissists are incorrigibly and notoriously difficult to
change. Trying to change them is a bad strategy. The two
viable strategies are either to accept them as they are or
to avoid them altogether. If one accepts a narcissist as
he is – one should cater to his needs. His needs are part
of what he is. Would you have ignored a physical handicap?
Would you not have assisted a quadriplegic? The narcissist
is an emotional invalid. He needs constant adulation. He
cannot help it. So, if one chooses to accept him – it is a
package deal, all his needs included."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq4.html )

"Narcissists are either cerebral or somatic.  In other words,
they either generate their narcissistic supply by applying
their bodies or by applying their minds.

The somatic narcissist flaunts his sexual conquests,
parades his possessions, exhibits his muscles, brags
about his physical aesthetics or sexual prowess or
exploits, is often a health freak and a hypochondriac.
The cerebral narcissist is a know-it-all, haughty and
intelligent "computer".  He uses his awesome intellect,
or knowledge (real or pretended) to secure adoration,
adulation and admiration.  To him, his body and its
maintenance are a burden and a distraction.

Both types are auto-erotic (psychosexually in love
with themselves, with their bodies and with their brain).
Both types prefer masturbation to adult, mature,
interactive, multi-dimensional and emotion-laden sex.

The cerebral narcissist is often celibate (even when
he has a girlfriend or a spouse).  He prefers pornography
and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing.  The cerebral
narcissist is sometimes a latent (hidden, not yet outed)
homosexual."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq60.html )

"The narcissist perceives every disagreement – let alone
criticism – as nothing short of a THREAT. He reacts
defensively. He becomes indignant, aggressive and cold.
He detaches emotionally for fear of yet another (narcissistic)
injury. He devalues the person who made the disparaging
remark. By holding the critic in contempt, by diminishing
the stature of the discordant conversant – he minimizes
the impact on himself of the disagreement or criticism.
Like a trapped animal, the narcissist is forever on the
lookout: was this remark meant to demean him? Was
this sentence a deliberate attack? Gradually, his mind
turns into a chaotic battlefield of paranoia and ideas
of reference until he loses touch with reality and
retreats to his own world of fantasized grandiosity.

When the disagreement or criticism or disapproval
or approbation are PUBLIC, though – the narcissist
tends to regard them as Narcissistic Supply! Only
when they are expressed in private – does the
narcissist rage against them.

The cerebral narcissist is competitive and intolerant
of criticism or disagreement. To him, subjugation and
subordination demand the establishment of his
undisputed intellectual superiority or professional
authority. Alexander Lowen has an excellent exposition
of this "hidden or tacit competition". The cerebral
narcissist aspires to perfection. Thus, even the slightest
and most inconsequential challenge to his authority is
inflated by him. Hence, the disproportionateness of
his reactions."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq73.html )

"The narcissist always feels bad. He experiences
all manner of depressive episodes and lesser
dysphoric moods. He goes through a full panoply
of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. He
experiences panic from time to time. It is not
pleasant to be a narcissist.

But he has a diminished capacity to empathise, so
he rarely feels sorry for what he does. He almost
never puts himself in the shoes of his "victims". Sure,
he feels distressed because he is intelligent enough to
realise that something is wrong with him in a major way.
He compares himself to others and the outcome is
never favourable. His grandiosity is one of the defence
mechanisms that he uses to cover up for this disagreeable
state of things. But its efficacy is partial and intermittent.
The rest of the time, the narcissist is immersed in
self-loathing and self-pity. He is under duress and
distress most of his waking life. In a vague way, he is
also sorry for those upon whom he inflicts the consequences
of his personality disorder. He knows that they are not
happy and he understands that it has something to do
with him. Mostly, he uses even this to aggrandise himself:
poor things, they can never fully understand him, they
are so inferior."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq14.html )

"In many respects, narcissists are children. Like children,
they engage in magical thinking. They feel omnipotent.
They feel that there is nothing they couldn't do or achieve
had they only really wanted to. They feel omniscient –
they rarely admit that there is anything that they do not
know. They believe that all knowledge resides within them.
They are haughtily convinced that introspection is a more
important and more efficient (not to mention easier to
accomplish) method of obtaining knowledge than the
systematic study of outside sources of information in
accordance with strict (read: tedious) curricula. To some
extent, they believe that they are omnipresent because they
are either famous or about to become famous. Deeply
immersed in their delusions of grandeur, they firmly believe
that their acts have – or will have – a great influence on mankind,
on their firm, on their country, on others..."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq45.html )

"Consider "friendship' with a narcissist as an example of
a relationship. One cannot really get to know a Narcissist
"friend". One cannot be friends with a Narcissist and
ESPECIALLY – one cannot love a Narcissist. Narcissists
are addicts. They are no different to drug addicts. They
are in pursuit of gratification through the drug known as
"narcissistic supply". Everything and EVERYONE around
them is an object, a potential source (to be idealized) or
not (and, then to be cruelly discarded)...

[W]hen the narcissist teams up with another narcissist of a
different kind (somatic with cerebral or the reverse)...
[n]arcissists can be happily married to submissive, subservient,
self-deprecating, echoing, mirroring and indiscriminately
supportive spouses. They also do well with masochists.
But it is difficult to imagine that a healthy, normal person
would be happy in such a folie-a-deux ("madness in twosome").

It is also difficult to imagine a benign and sustained influence
on the narcissist of a stable, healthy mate/spouse/partner...

BUT many a spouse/friend/mate/partner likes to BELIEVE
that – given sufficient time and patience – they will be the
one to release the narcissist from his wrenching bondage.
They think that they can "rescue" the narcissist, shield
him from his (distorted) self, as it were. The Narcissist
makes use of this naiveté and exploits it to his benefit.
The natural protective mechanisms, which are provoked
in normal people by love – are cold bloodedly used by
the narcissist to extract yet more narcissistic supply
from his writhing victim."
( http://samvak.tripod.com/faq80.html )

-----------------------------------------------
http://samvak.tripod.com/archive33.html

Narcissistic Vulnerability

The Narcissist is vulnerable because:

(1) He is an alien. Lacking empathy, he does not know what it means to
be human. He misinterprets human behaviour. He misattributes motives. He
over-reacts, he under-reacts. He reads cues wrongly. He is emotionally
illiterate. His personality is so primitive that he often develops
"superstitions" - where others have a cognitive science gleaned from
cumulative interactions with others.

(2) Paranoids are very susceptible to persecutory delusions. To be
untrusting - also means not to trust when it is called for. To be wary
and on guard - also means to be confined and imprisoned in one's mind.
Every rumour is a threat, every gossip a reality, every hint - an
inevitability.

(3) The narcissist suffers from cognitive distortions. He does not grasp
reality because he lives in a grandiose fantasy and he IS his FALSE
Self. In dreamworld - EVERYTHING is possible and nothing is IMPOSSIBLE.
This make it very easy to "sell" the narcissist on anything. In a
strange way, the narcissist is naive.

(4) The Narcissist is a drug addict. Drug addicts are easy to
manipulate: they will do anything for the next dose. Give them
Narcissistic Supply - and they are yours to do with as you wish.

There are gradations and shades of narcissism. There is reactive
narcissism, temporary narcissism (Gunderson-Roningstam, 1996),
narcissistic personality, narcissistic traits, narcissistic overlay
(i.e., together with another, dominant PD), co-morbidity, and full blown
NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

The differences are explored elsewhere in this , web site, in my FAQs
and in my Excerpts pages.

BUT - my advice to you is to stay away from ALL variations and shades of
narcissism. There are three reasons:

(1) Often, there are transitions between the narcissistic modes (for
instance, from narcissistic personality to NPD). This has to do with
life circumstances (example: narcissistic injury). Regressions and
remissions are VERY common (Hare, Millon).

(2) Narcissists are very adept at disguising their REAL condition, even
from trained observers.

(3) Even "low level" narcissistic behaviours can inflict huge emotional
damage if properly targeted, advertently or not.

-----------------------------------------------
http://samvak.tripod.com/archive34.html

The Forms of Abuse

To be raised as the centre of attention and as the "special one" is to
be abused.

The burden of expectations, being taken for granted, the fear to
disappoint, the feeling that one is merely an object (of adulation, in
this case), an instrument to fulfil other people's dreams, an extension
of one's parents - this is the highest, most subtly refined, stealthily
pernicious form of abuse.

-----------------------------------------------
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/narcissisticabuse/message/261

I always think of myself as a machine. I say to myself things
like "you have an amazing brain" or "you are not functioning today,
your efficiency is low". I measure things, I constantly compare
performance. I am acutely aware of time and how it is utilized. There
is a meter in my head, it ticks and tocks, a metronome of self-
reproach and grandiose assertions. I talk to myself in third person
singular. It lends objectivity to what I think, as though it comes
from an external source, from someone else. That low is my self-
esteem that, to be trusted, I have to disguise myself, to hide myself
from myself. It is the pernicious and all-pervasive art of unbeing.

I like to think about myself in terms of automata. There is something
so aesthetically compelling in their precision, in their
impartiality, in their harmonious embodiment of the abstract.
Machines are so powerful and so emotionless, not prone to be hurting
weaklings like me. Machines don't bleed. Often I find myself
agonizing over the destruction of a laptop in a movie, as its owner
is blown to smithereens as well. Machines are my folk and kin. They
are my family. They allow me the tranquil luxury of unbeing...

Narcissism is ridiculous. I am pompous, grandiose, repulsive and
contradictory. There is a serious mismatch between who I really am
and what I really achieved - and how I feel myself to be. It is not
that I THINK that I am far superior to other humans intellectually.
Thought implies volition - and willpower is not involved here. My
superiority is ingrained in me, it is a part of my every mental cell,
an all-pervasive sensation, an instinct and a drive. I feel that I am
entitled to special treatment and outstanding consideration because I
am such a unique specimen. I know this to be true - the same way you
know that you are surrounded by air. It is an integral part of my
identity. More integral to me than my body.

This opens a gap - rather, an abyss - between me and other humans.
Because I consider myself so special, I have no way of knowing how it
is to be THEM.

In other words, I cannot empathize. Can you empathize with an ant?
Empathy implies identity or equality, both abhorrent to me. And being
so inferior, people are reduced to cartoonish, two-dimensional
representations of functions. They become instrumental or useful or
functional or entertaining - rather than loving or interacting
emotionally. It leads to ruthlessness and exploitativeness. I am not
a bad person - actually, I am a good person. I have helped people -
many people - all my life. So, I am not evil. What I am is
indifferent. I couldn't care less. I help people because it is a way
to secure attention, gratitude, adulation and admiration. And because
it is the fastest and surest way to get rid of them and their
incessant nagging...

-----------------------------------------------
http://www.healthyplace.com/communities/personality_disorders/Site/Transcripts/narcissism.htm

The narcissist feels that his life is meaningful as long as his
self-deception holds. But when a narcissistic injury occurs (following
the loss of a major source of narcissistic supply, for instance), the
narcissist is faced with the void that is his life: the empty, dark, all
consuming black hole that is at the core of his emotional apparatus.
Life without emotions is artificial intelligence. No wonder the
narcissist compares himself constantly to computers and other automata.

-----------------------------------------------
http://samvak.tripod.com/archive02.html

Narcissists have Tables of Emotional Resonance

Narcissists are excellent at imitating emotions. They maintain
(sometimes consciously) "resonance tables" in their minds. They monitor
the reactions of others.

They see which behavior, gesture, mannerism, phrase, or expression
evoke, provoke, and elicit which kind of empathic reaction from their
conversant or counter party. They map these correlations and store them.
Then they download them in the right circumstances to obtain maximum
impact and manipulative effect. The whole process is highly
"computerized" and has NO emotional correlate, no INNER resonance. The
Narcissist uses procedures: this is what I should say now, this is how
I must behave, this should be the expression on my face, this should be
the pressure of this handshake to foster this reaction. Narcissists are
capable of sentimentality - but not of (experiencing) emotions.

-----------------------------------------------
http://samvak.tripod.com/archive1.html

Epidemiology of Narcissism

The figures seem to indicate that a minimum of 1% (probably 3% and
perhaps up to 5%) of the population above the age of 10 are narcissists.
Now, factor in the parents, spouses, colleagues, friends, children, the
children's families...

This is the biggest underdiagnosed mental health pathology ever. Many
researchers also believe that all Cluster B personality disorders
(Histrionic, Antisocial, and Borderline) have an underlying foundation
of pathological narcissism. This is getting close to 10% of the adult
population. Staggering numbers.

AnneC said...

Indeed, it is not the subject matter of superlativity (robots and computers and speculations regarding same) that tends to muddle thinking and skew discourse, but the way superlativity consists of people who really are mainly Talking About Stuff thinking they're doing something "bigger" and hence More Significant.

From my perspective now, superlative futurologists look like they are mostly running around trying to figure out how they can take their desire to write about Stuff That Sounds Really Cool (or Really Scary), and turn that into some kind of a vocation for themselves that carries the same prestige as honest-to-goodness science and progressive activism. Scouring tech news and then blogging effusively about how cool it is and how it's part of the chain they see as leading to the Great and Powerful Mega-AI or whatnot would be a fine and respectable activity, IMO, if it just accepted itself for what it really was -- fannish speculation, etc.

In other words, the thing I don't see futurologists "getting" in many cases is the fact that there is nothing wrong or shameful about being a fannish fringe-watcher/trend-watcher, so long as one is aware of what one is doing and careful not to try and pass one's speculative musings off as contributions to Serious Policy Discourse.

Ironically it seems to me, to the extent that any of the actually interesting content that tends to come up in superlative discourse would actually have more force, and a less deranging flavor of force, if it were presented in more self-aware and appropriate frames (e.g., a good sci-fi yarn). I think what is escaping some folks is that putting things in their proper context does not cheapen or weaken them, but rather just assures they operate on levels and via channels that keep them from devolving into ignorant hysterical self-parody.

Extropia DaSilva said...

'Of course, I don't agree with "Extropia" that superlative futurology is concerned with "the wider picture" but just with one of many wider pictures on offer.'

Right. There are many possible futures and nobody has foresight enough to say what is go happen with much certainty.

But if we imagine turning back the clock and running human history again, it would not turn out exactly the same but some technologies could be said to be more likely to be invented than others.

For instance, the fact that human beings would be prone to disease and injury caused by accident pretty much guarantees the eventual rise of medical science. We would rediscover antibiotics and anesthesia. A few moments contemplating surgery while fully conscious should be enough to convince you that we would wish for painless surgery and, sooner or later, rediscover the means to realise it. Similarly, the sheer misery of disease would be motivation enough to ask if it must be suffered or if any prevention or cures might exist. This question would surely persist until the human race reinvented antibiotics.

As for the future, anything that fulfills persistant wishes stands a good chance of being discovered or invented, provided A) solutions exist and B) we have time enough to work out what those solutions are. A persistant wish is a hope or a dream that occupies at least some minds in every generation. It may seem like a fool's-hope to others but that does not stop the dream from passing, meme-like, down the generations.

An obvious example is the wish that death could be cheated; that one could hold onto the vitality of youth indefinitely. It seems to me that, so persistent is this wish, medical science is bound to be rediscovered if history were run again, and is bound to stumble towards effective ways of bringing about negligible senesence.

Another technology that is very likely to be re-invented is the computer. Mathematics is so important to science, and a machine that can calculate is such a useful tool for maths (and science) that computers' reinvention is almost certain to happen. As for the future, 'how does the brain work'? is obviously a persistant question. How the brain does what it does has fascinated us for millenia and I cannot imagine us losing that fascination. Therefore, the eventual rise of cognitive computing is a given, because humanity is bound to gather data on how the brain works and use that to design and build computers that are brainlike. Again, the eventual success would depend upon A) whether or not it is possible and B) we have time to find the answers (ie the human race survives long enough to work out those answers).

As to the positive and negative ways in which the realisation of thinking machines and an end to aging would shape the future, there are obviously many ways in which society could be affected. Therefore, any scenario I could paint is very probably not the one we will actually face, for the simple reason that it would be but one scenario among a multitude of others. So the odds of me being right are not good.

'the "technical" implausibility of the imagined outcomes and developmental timelines proposed by superlative futurologists.'

About those developmental timelines. I remember there was a paper published by a former undergraduate of Rodney Brooks (you know, the roboticist). Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of this person or what the paper was called, but what she did was take all the predictions for when mind uploading would be available, and compared those with the year when each author would turn 70. In each and every case, the two matched up. Each author predicted the ways and means of cheating death would become available just in time for them to personally benefit from it.

Obviously, such predictions are a result of wishful thinking more than objective scientific study. Equally obviously, the dream of cheating death attracts quacks and snake-oil salesmen who would profit from our hopes by selling products that promise everything but deliver nothing. The vast majority of scientists who study how and why we age only go so far to speculate that treatments might be available far in the future. People like Aubrey de Grey who claim such treatments are near to mid-term possibilities are pretty much ignored as fringe loonies.

Dale Carrico said...

the fact that human beings would be prone to disease and injury caused by accident pretty much guarantees the eventual rise of medical science. We would rediscover antibiotics and anesthesia.The more general point that disease provokes its address seems true enough, but as for the "inevitable" discovery of antibiotics and anesthesia I thoroughly disagree about the inevitability of their discovery or the order of their discovery vis-a-vis other discoveries.

I'm not a technological determinist, I do not agree that there was any "natural" inevitability about the discoveries humans made nor their dissemination nor their application, since I understand the contingent historical, socioeconomic, and cultural dynamics in play in such processes.

One of the reasons I prefer the awkward phrase "technodevelopmental social struggle" over the term "technology" is because it reminds us to resist the temptation to retroactively invest contingencies with inevitability and confuse our limited knowledge in the present (usually invested with desires) with a key to The Future.

the wish that death could be cheated; that one could hold onto the vitality of youth indefinitely. It seems to me that, so persistent is this wish, medical science is bound to be rediscovered if history were run againThat's like saying people feed themselves when they are hungry because they are closeted techno-immortalists or indulging in the wish-fulfillment fantasy of discovering the fountain of youth every time they quench their thirst. Neither is true. Understanding, remedying, and curing diseases -- which, indeed, looks likely soon to include the remediation and cure of some conditions hitherto connected with aging -- isn't about techno-immortalization, "cheating death" (an expression saturated in adolescent religiosity to my eyes), or the invulnerability or eternalization I describe as the super-predicate of superlongevity in the superlative schema. You are hyperbolizing science into a profoundly unscientific sub(cult)ural aspiration for personal transcendence again.

Another technology that is very likely to be re-invented is the computer.

You think an analogue computing device arising out of Greek, Roman, or pre-Euro-modern Chinese civilization would have been morphologically the same, arising out of a water clock or an abacus or who knows what, as an industrial age computer; that it would acquire the same historical associations; that it would be freighted with the same figures and frames and aspirations, such that in every case "the computer" arriving in its "present" would mean the same thing to you as "a computer" does to you now? You think it would inspire the same intuitions and hopes?

Mathematics is so important to science, and a machine that can calculate is such a useful tool for maths (and science) that computers' reinvention is almost certain to happen.

Well, I disagree, or at any rate I disagree how detailed a developmental trajectory you can claim to be entailed by this usefulness. Necessity may be the mother of invention but it is very contingent indeed which necessities seem susceptible of intervention and to which ones we are reconciled, so invention has at least two mommies.

How the brain does what it does has fascinated us for millenia and I cannot imagine us losing that fascination. Therefore, the eventual rise of cognitive computing is a given,

"Therefore"?

because humanity is bound to gather data on how the brain works and use that to design and build computers that are brainlike."Brainlike"? Like? Just how "brainlike"? You can say the feedback of a steam release valve is "brainlike" if you want. You can say a bee hive is "brainlike." You can say cauliflower is "brainlike." You can spend the rest of your life delineating the ways in which a soup can is "like" a cereal box. Everything is indefinitely like and unlike everything else, what matters are the determination and communication of salient similarities and differences.

I don't agree there is anything remotely inevitable in the obsession of information and computer "science" people with entitative, agentic "artificial intelligence," I consider it an unfortunate accidental association yielding a deranging constellation of narrative frames and figures that at this point amounts to something like an ideology or a religious faith with endless bedeviling implications. I sympathize with Jeron Lanier's critiques of "cybernetic totalism" on this score, to cite somebody who speaks something like language you will likely take more seriously than my own.

I must say that it is classic the way you proceed from an assumption of technological determinism conjoined to a privileging of mathematical calculation and then move straight away to "inevitable" computers and brain modeling and the insinuation that the pony of techno-immortalization via "mind uploading" straightforwardly "follows." If I reconstructed your discourse this way in the abstract, you would decry my facile parody of a hard he-man science I am too literary to grasp, but then you simply reproduce the trajectory yourself completely oblivious to your own entrapment in your propositional and figural entailments. It's as if you are incapable of thinking what you are doing, so preoccupied are you with calculating out your givens.

anything that fulfills persistant wishes stands a good chance of being discovered or invented, provided A) solutions exist and B) we have time enough to work out what those solutions areThere is nothing in the wish itself that informs you as to "A", and "B" doesn't specify a timescale and so there are no ponies in it for Robot Cultists even when you clap with all your might.

You go on, rather refreshingly, to admit that nobody knows enough in the present to earn certainty about future technodevelopments and even admit that futurology is weighted down with hype and scam artistry and fringe loonies (your phrases, this time).

I agree with the tradition of pragmatic philosophy that we can best determine the substance of this admission on your part by observing your subsequent conduct. If you continue to indulge in such speculation to the exclusion of more qualified claims legible in terms of consensus science, or indulge it outside of sf fandoms that don't pretend to be policy think-tank or activist organizations, if you continue to identify as a member of a "movement" suffused with precisely the hype, scam artistry, and fringe loons you here disdain, we will know just what to make of the reasonable noises you find yourself making now, when backed into a corner by somebody who sees very clearly what superlative futurology is actually all about and what it is trying to get away with.

jimf said...

> As for the future, anything that fulfills persistant wishes
> stands a good chance of being discovered or invented, provided
> A) solutions exist and B) we have time enough to work out what
> those solutions are. A persistant wish is a hope or a dream that
> occupies at least some minds in every generation. It may seem
> like a fool's-hope to others but that does not stop the dream
> from passing, meme-like, down the generations.
>
> An obvious example is the wish that death could be cheated;
> that one could hold onto the vitality of youth indefinitely.
> It seems to me that, so persistent is this wish, medical science
> is bound to be rediscovered if history were run again, and is
> bound to stumble towards effective ways of bringing about
> negligible senesence.


Unluckily, it is difficult for a certain type of mind to grasp
the concept of insolubility. Thousands...keep pegging away at
perpetual motion. The number of persons so afflicted is far
greater than the records of the Patent Office show, for beyond the
circle of frankly insane enterprise there lie circles of more and
more plausible enterprise, until finally we come to a circle which
embraces the great majority of human beings.... The fact is that
some of the things that men and women have desired most ardently
for thousands of years are not nearer realization than they were
in the time of Rameses, and that there is not the slightest reason
for believing that they will lose their coyness on any near
to-morrow. Plans for hurrying them on have been tried since the
beginnning; plans for forcing them overnight are in copious and
antagonistic operation to-day; and yet they continue to hold off
and elude us, and the chances are that they will keep on holding
off and eluding us until the angels get tired of the show, and the
whole earth is set off like a gigantic bomb, or drowned, like a
sick cat, between two buckets.

-- H. L. Mencken, "The Cult of Hope"

jimf said...

> I remember there was a paper published by a former
> undergraduate of Rodney Brooks (you know, the roboticist).
> Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of this person
> or what the paper was called, but what she did was take
> all the predictions for when mind uploading would be
> available, and compared those with the year when each
> author would turn 70. In each and every case, the two
> matched up. Each author predicted the ways and means of
> cheating death would become available just in time for
> them to personally benefit from it.

http://transumanar.com/index.php/site/comments/in_defense_of_superlative_technodevelopmental_formulations/P25/

. . . I want to refer to a paper called ‘Why Immortality Is A Dead Idea’,
written by Pattie Maes, a former postdoctoral student to Rodney Brooks.
She took as many people as she could find who had publicly predicted
downloading of consciousness, and plotted the dates of their
predictions along with when they would turn 70. The years matched
up in every case. They all foresaw that mind uploading would arrive
just in the nick of time to save them. What luck! . . .

Posted by Extropia DaSilva on 12/03 at 11:30 PM

jimf said...

Anne Corwin wrote:

> [I]t is not the subject matter of superlativity (robots and
> computers and speculations regarding same) that tends to muddle
> thinking and skew discourse, but the way superlativity consists
> of people who really are mainly Talking About Stuff thinking
> they're doing something "bigger" and hence More Significant.
>
> From my perspective now, superlative futurologists look like they
> are mostly running around trying to figure out how they can take
> their desire to write about Stuff That Sounds Really Cool
> (or Really Scary), and turn that into some kind of a vocation
> for themselves that carries the same prestige as honest-to-goodness
> science and progressive activism.

Very true.

It's the **style** of attachment, of both the guru
and the followers, not the **content**, that
characterizes the cultishness of a cult.


"[The narcissistic leader] feels part of a grand design. . .
and the. . . group of which he is a member must
be commensurately grand. . . Its characteristics must justify his
and its ideology must conform to his pre-conceived opinions
and prejudices. In short: the group must magnify the narcissist,
echo and amplify his life, his views, his knowledge, his history.
This intertwining, this enmeshing of individual and group –
is what makes the narcissist the most devout and loyal of
all members. The narcissist is always the most fanatical,
the most extreme, the most dangerous. . .
As with other Narcissistic Supply Sources, once the group
is no longer instrumental – the narcissist loses all interest in it. . .
Narcissists switch groups and ideologies with the ease
with which they change partners, spouses and value systems. . ."
( http://www.geocities.com/samvaknin/faq47.html )


Margaret Thaler Singer, _Cults in our Midst_
(revised edition 2003), Chapter 1 "Defining Cults"

"A cult can be formed around any content: politics, religion,
commerce, self-improvement techniques, health fads, the
stuff of science fiction, psychology, outer-space phenomena,
meditation, martial arts, environmental life-styles, and
so on. Yet the misconception that all cults are
religious has left many unaware not only of the variety of
cult contents but also of the plethora of cults, large
and small, that has spread throughout our society. . .

A pied piper with sufficient determination and a touch of
charm, charisma, seduction, or simply good sales skills
can, with enough time and effort, secure a following
around almost any topic. Regardless of the type of cult
they have fostered, cult leaders induce the sad, the
lonely, and the disaffiliated to join, as well as those
who are merely available and who respond to an invitation
at some vulnerable point in their lives.

In the United States, there are at least ten major types
of cults, each with its own beliefs, practices, and social
mores. The list below is not exhaustive, but most cults
can be classified under one of the following headings:

1. Neo-Christian religious
2. Hindu and Eastern religious
3. Occult, witchcraft, and satanist
4. Spiritualist
5. Zen and other Sino-Japanese philosophical-
mystical orientation
6. Racial
7. Flying saucer and other outer-space phenomena
8. Psychology or psychotherapeutic
9. Political
10. Self-help, self-improvement, and life-style
systems
[and I suppose you can now add:
11. Technophile and techno-apocalyptic]

Cult names suggest further groupings and emphases.
Some sults start their names with "The," implying
that theirs is the only way to be, to think, or
to live. Examples include The True Believers,
The Way International, The Walk, The Process,
The Foundation, The Body, The Farm, The Assembly.

Other groups emphasize the concept of family:
The Family, The Love Family, The Family of Love,
The Rainbow Family, The Forever Family, The
Christ Family, The Lyman Family, The Manson
Family. . .

This kind of listing could go on and on, exposing
the sheer numbers and scope of the cults around us.
Yet, on one level, all cults are a variation on
a single theme. And ultimately, that theme has
nothing to do with belief. In cultic groups,
the belief system -- whether religious,
psychotherapeutic, political, New Age, or commercial --
ends up being a tool to serve the leader's desires,
whims, and hidden agendas. The ideology is a double-
edged sword: it is the glue that binds the member
to the group, and it is a tool exploited by the leader
to achieve his goals."


_The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power_
by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad (1993)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1883319005
p. 98

"The contents of a personality (beliefs,
values, a worldview), though resistant, change far more easily
than the underlying form or context, which in many is
unconsciously authoritarian. . . Seemingly dramatic shifts
that involve switching quickly from one authoritarian system
to another are not that difficult. (Many disillusioned Marxists
shifted their utopian hopes to the spiritual world.)"


_Dream Catcher: A Memoir_ by Margaret A. Salinger
[daughter of author J. D. Salinger]
(Washington Square Press, 2000)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0671042823/

I found out, in talking to my mother, that something. . .
had happened that led to their marriage: my father had
found a new guru with a message that appeared to
reconcile the conflict between earthly attraction and
heavenly renunciation. According to the teachings
of this guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, women and gold,
the two enemies of enlightenment and karmic progress,
were transmuted from Ramakrishna's bags of "phlegm,
filth, and excreta" into something potentially holy.
Marriage, for the first time in my father's post-war
study of religion, was held out as something potentially
sacred rather than automatically defiling. . .

During the fall and winter evenings prior to Jerry and
Claire's wedding, they had been reading. . .
Paramahansa Yogananda's book _The Autobiography
of a Yogi_. . .

[I]n the fall of 1954, they wrote, separately, to the
publishers of the book, the Self-Realization Fellowship.
Jerry soon asked if the fellowship could recommend
a teacher-guru in their area who might consider initiating
Claire and him into the fellowship. . .

She practiced Yogananda's Kriya yoga faithfully and
contentedly, morning and evening. The peace and
quiet never lasted very long, however. "I wanted to
stay with that [Kriya yoga], but Jerry jumped to
Dianetics. He went to L. Ron Hubbard himself, I think.
He started to pick on me for any thoughts I might
have that weren't Dianetically correct. Such thoughts,
he believed, injured you. He soon became disenchanted
with that and it was on to Christian Science, and
here was I still struggling with the Kriya yoga
technique. . ."

My mother said that he would go away for several
weeks only to return with the piece he was supposed
to be finishing all undone or destroyed and some
new "ism" we had to follow. [My mother kept their joint
tax returns. I went over them, and sure enough,
the weeks at hotels, the travel expenses, the donations
to various cults and charities, are all there in black
and white.] These came with every botched or
unpublished work: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism,
1950s off and on; Kriya yoga, 1954-55; Christian Science,
1955 off and on to present; Scientology, called
Dianetics at the time, 1950s; something having to do
with the works of Edgar Cayce; homeopathy and
acupuncture, 1960s to present; macrobiotics, 1966
through the end of their divorce.

What was so unsettling and made her, for the first time,
lose faith in Jerry was "not the abuse, as this at
times seemed inescapable, but the lack of logic!
I had to completely reject what I had had to completely
accept one hundred percent and adopt the next thing
one hundred percent, just because this was Jerry's
new super-encompassing God. . .

Human beings, when chartless, seek a stable point of
reference. . . This is true whether they be wise men
in the desert or thirsty fools who pass by an oasis
in pursuit of a mirage -- reckoning dead wrong.

A few years ago, my mother sent me a book, _Cults and
Consequences_ [Rachel Anders and James R. Lane, eds.,
Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles, 1988] in
response to my questions about my father's involvement
in and donations to everything from Zen Buddhists,
Vedanta Hindus, Yogananda's Self-Realization Church,
Christian Science, L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology,
followers of Edgar Cayce, George Ohsawa's macrobiotics,
Eastern medicines, and a hodgepodge of practices
including drinking one's urine, speaking in tongues,
and sitting in a Reichian orgone box. This book
proved an invaluable starting place for unraveling
the mystery of my father's journey's through the
looking glass.

What I began to understand is that the content of
what my mother called isms doesn't matter, it may
be truth or absolute rubbish: it's what a cult
does to the mind of a believer as well as the way
in which the believer embraces the belief -- the
particular characteristics of the relation between
believer and belief -- that earns it the designation
_cult_ rather than _religion_ or _belief_ or
_philosophy_. . .

The existential state of the typical person who, upon
encountering a cult, is likely to become a follower
reads like a description of most of my father's
characters, and indeed, or my father himself.
Many studies of cult phenomena have found that the
appeal of the cult depends "largely on the weakness
and vulnerability that all of us feel during key
stress periods in life. At the time of recruitment,
the person is often mildly depressed, in transition,
and feeling somewhat alienated." [Robert W. Dellinger,
_Cults and Kids_] One study, in particular, of
those who become involved in cults, speaks directly
to the vulnerability of my father and his characters
who "just got out": "Leaving any restricted
community can pose problems -- leaving the Army for
civilian life is hard, too . . . many suffered from
depression . . . loneliness, anomie [Margaret Thaler
Singer, "Coming out of the Cults," _Psychology Today_,
January 1979], or what can be referred to as
"future void." They're standing at the edge, as Holden
[the protagonist of Salinger's _The Catcher in the Rye_]
said, of "some crazy cliff," looking for a catcher. . .
Many of those who join cults find "close relationships
with like-minded others" [A study conducted by the
Jewish Community Relations Committee of Philadelphia
asked former cult members to list their reasons
for joining. The committee found that, in order
of relative importance, the number one reason was
loneliness and the need for friendship. "More than
any other factor, the desire for uncomplicated
warmth and acceptance . . . leads people into
cults."] . . .