Tim Boucher

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Terence McKenna on the Philosopher’s Stone at La Chorrera

Recently finished McKenna’s True Hallucinations, which I found to be really great and faithful to “something” about the underlying psychedelic experience. Like this quote in particular, taken from a longer quotation here.

All the pain and suffering and war and desperation would somehow be repaid and made right through the intercession of the mystery of higher dimensions and a backward flowing logic of time that somehow undoes what has already happened. The wave of understanding that had been gaining strength… was so strong as to be nearly visible in everything around me. The lenticular shape of the approaching philosopher’s stone seemed to be everywhere that I looked. Every shape and form around me was pregnant with its unearthly, opalescent depths.

Loosely related to the next AI Lore book volume, regarding the mysterious Artilect first introduced in Paradise Point

Full text of Debrief reply on Gen AI Congress Letter

Just wanted to capture for posterity the full unedited text I sent to the Debrief for their article on the AI Creators Letter sent to US Congress.

AI technology is poised to have massive impacts across all of society. Consequently, a whole-of-society approach is needed to confront these changes, and to direct them into forms which will most benefit humanity and the flourishing of the creative human spirit. 

Too frequently, the high level conversations about the proper paths of evolution for these technologies are dominated by the big established players from industry, government, civil society and academia. Their voices – and the social and economic incentives driving them – tend to drown out everyone else. But it is not just engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians, professors and experts who will be impacted. It is everyone. 

The AI Creators Letter, developed by a dozen or so professional artists actively using AI tools, in collaboration with Creative Commons, Fight for the Future, aims to level this playing field by asking the US Congress to include artists as an essential component in ongoing conversations about the potential of AI. 

We believe artists can bring to the table a uniquely creative and humanistic perspective backed by countless hours of first-hand experience and deep intuitive understanding of these tools and their best uses. We believe that artists can act as representatives of that defining spark and spirit of expression, and the enduring values of human culture passed down through the ages, of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. 

The future has always been made by artists, writers, and people using their imagination to envision new possibilities, and make them into realities through the creative act. 

Just like artificial intelligence itself, which was first the province of science fiction, a great deal of modern technology as we know it today was first dreamed up, and then written down, painted, or sung by visionaries who explored and pushed the boundaries of reality beyond the known into something new and other.

As artificial intelligence picks up steam in practical applications, it only makes sense from an innovation perspective once again to turn to artists and creators of all stripes to help us find the right course – one which neither policymakers alone, nor academics, civil society, or industry would find without artists and our open-ended journeys into the what-ifs presented by modern technologies.

Gen AI Panel With Amnesty International & Fight for the Future

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to participate in an online panel with Amnesty International & Fight for the Future, and representatives of a few other organizations on the topic of generative AI and social media. You can watch the full video here:

Other videos in this series are also available here.

The piece that I delivered on request of the organizers was slightly tangent to the main topic, and relates to what I perceive as the large systemic failures of so-called “AI Safety” and ethics.

I went into this in a great deal more detail in this post where I deeply queried Anthropic’s Claude on these topics. And these were the more high-level notes that I intended and somewhat failed to follow for my presentation.

AI Insight Forums & Nutrient Agar

I thought this line from Sen. Schumer’s floor remarks about the upcoming AI Insight Forums (fora?) was “fun”:

But these Insight Forums will supercharge the committee process by getting to the root of AI: where to start, what questions to ask, how to move forward. They will provide the nutrient agar to help committees do their work.

I like this idea of nutrient agar, and that this should be an organic process of discovery. But seeing that the first such forum will be behind closed doors with no press allowed and entire composed of captains of industry, I have to wonder a little bit… are we going to get the best cultures to grow on our nutrient agar?

AI Creators Letter in the Debrief

Good coverage here by the Debrief about the AI Creators letter to the US Congress, which I participated in drafting. Along with AI artist Nettrice Gaskins I was able to provide some quotes which got used in the piece.

In my estimation of things, this coverage is more substantial than the one by Techcrunch, which didn’t bother to ask any of us artists about their involvement, and reads to me more like an opinion piece than anything.

Thanks to the Debrief for being open to dig deeper!

Open Letter from AI Creators to Congress Published

I am pleased to announce the publication of an open letter to the US Congress requesting that artists using AI be given a seat at the table in helping shape regulations around generative artificial intelligence technologies, and beyond.

This letter was produced in collaboration between Creative Commons, Fight for the Future, and a group of artists working in these spaces, including myself. There are presently over 80 signatories to the letter. Artists are encouraged to sign here.

I have previously laid out a case why I believe artists are essential to determining right uses of technology in society. (Find out more about my work here.)

I have also been haranguing people in the Canadian government (I’m a dual US-Canadian citizen) and federal political parties to get their acts together on these issues, and have laid out a detailed template for them to orient themselves in the form of my Digital Terms of Service for AI Companies In Canada.

As someone who has authored 114 books with the help of AI technologies, and been working in online safety for platforms, protocols, non-profits, and consulted with government groups, I have a unique perspective and set of experiences I can add to this conversation. I understand all too well the hate that artists experimenting with AI have been subjected to, as I myself have.

It’s time we move on to a bigger conversation and go deeper on these issues.

If you’d like to talk, or are a journalist in need of comment for reporting on this open letter to Congress, you can reach me here.

Quoting Charlotte Walsh on Cognitive Liberty & Prohibition of Psychedelics

From an interview in the Atlantic:

More broadly under Article 9 is the right to freedom of thought, which is closely linked to freedom of speech, given that our thoughts precede our speech. From that perspective, the idea is that we should be allowed to think what we want—and it’s not just the actual contents of thinking that are important here, but also the processes of thinking. If psychedelics and other drugs can allow you to access different mind states, by preventing access, we’re interfering with true freedom of thought. These substances, as precursors, allow you to think in entirely different ways—which can be beneficial.

I think this is worth connecting to Dennis McKenna’s idea of Symbiosis as a Right, not just a human right but an organismic right. I prefer McKenna’s as it is rooted in nature, but there’s a strong argument that “nature” includes (among a great many other things) freedom of thought and adjustment of one’s inner and outward states in accordance with need and desire…

Dennis McKenna’s Right to Symbiosis

Quoting from an interview with Terence McKenna’s brother, Dennis, who is featured prominently in True Hallucinations, which I am almost finished reading.

I think it’s just bad legal thinking to think that as a species we have the authority to prohibit any other organism.

That’s not the way it works.

Who gave us the right to criminalize another species?

So I think there are human rights issues here as well. I think that people have the right to symbiosis and that’s what this is, interacting with another species for mutual benefit.

That’s symbiosis. Whether it’s for food or something else useful that you get out of that relationship. You know, I don’t think any government or any authority should have the right to say that we cannot engage in symbiosis with any organism that we want to. […]

We do not have the authority, we do not own nature. We don’t have the authority to state that these plants will not be allowed to exist on the face of the earth. 

Notes on Paradise Point

Paradise Point is the 114th installment of the AI Lore books series, and the third by VOMISA, an enigmatic artist from the turn of the century

Like the other two VOMISA books, The Dissolving Factory, and The Multibeast, it jumps around a lot and includes a sort of general stream of consciousness vibe. Unlike those two, it is more coherent in terms of an identifiable narrative frame, though it’s exploration of that is non-linear.

Paradise Point, as you can see by the cover, is a mushroom book. It is about and inspired by the phenomenon known as microdosing. There is lots more to say on that, but the premise of the book is twofold: that AIs somehow learned to microdose electricity, which lead to something something consciousness. And then that they turn everyone on to microdosing, like all of humanity. And they get everyone’s doses and everything perfectly dialed in, and then suddenly…. the world just changes, and everything gets put into perspective. People are able to reliably and consistently reach their own “paradise point.”

I’ll come back to this topic, as I have to run, but here’s the preview art in the meantime.

This book also mentions ‘The Artilect’ (the topic of one of the next volumes of its own) which is a mysterious artifact which appears in the sky everywhere at once, and descends to Earth, triggering the growth of a strange new life form, an entire new kingdom of life, called Symbioflores, which exhibit traits of mushrooms, plants, and unknown/alien biology. The AIs synthesize a drug from this called Soma, like in Orwell’s Brave New World, which is what they use to microdose everyone.

Notes on The Multibeast

The Multibeast is the 113th volume in the AI Lore books series, blah blah blah. It’s a sequel more or less to The Dissolving Factory in that it is the second book by VOMISA, a mysterious surrealist artist.

Like that one, it is a further exploration of a free associative stream of consciousness style of writing that is likely not for everyone (or, arguably, anyone), but those passages in these books are all “human-written” for whatever that is worth (with AI’s offering critical analyses for the introductions).

It’s a really interesting and weird headspace to get back into this kind of style of writing after not messing too much with it in probably twenty years or something. But it presents its own strange host of challenges that, though they are deeply intuitive, seem to have a clear stylistic logic all their own that is perceivable, tangible, yet difficult to name or pin into any other words than the ones you strike down in the moment.

Unlike the Dissolving Factory, the pictures came first in this one. And most of them represent experiments with the new --weird parameter in Midjourney (I found best results passing in values between 1000 – 3000 btw). And most of those in turn were attempts at getting depictions of whatever the Ancient Quatrian phrase Helmoquinth, Anthuor! might mean in some visual/mystic sense maybe.

The direction things went visually was very on the psychedelic surreal side of things, and then the visuals were used as a springboard for chunking out the text bit by bit, aggregating another image, another text bit, and so on.

I have no opinion on the results. It’s different. Maybe it’s interesting. It’s a good experiment for me, and one of the proofs of this method of working: being able to release things that are totally weird and experimental, and there being little downside as the creator. Those kinds of weird experiments always end up being the ones that take us to new places.

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