What’s the end game of late-stage capitalism? What provisions are The Powers That Be making for the Coming Collapse; for Climate Chaos and other Catastrophes? This is the Plutocratic Exit Strategy. In this series we’ll see how they plan on making their getaway, and how we can work to steal the future back.
We start this series of posts by looking at the arrival of the Hyperloop; the latest piece of science fictional technology to be delivered to us – as if plucked from the future readymade – by that great prophet of the Myth of Progress: “the real world Tony Stark” himself, Elon Musk.
We’ll hop aboard the “fifth mode of transport” to examine the California Ideology so prevalent in Silicon Valley today and visit Tim Leary & Co’s idea of SMI2LE. Then we’ll head into the shadow realms, to penetrate the secret world of Classified Technology, and the mythology that surrounds it.
Our ultimate destination is to come to an understanding of how these two different aspects of the world we live in are being actively merged to a create an almost unimaginable life for the privileged few that will be admitted to it, and the price the rest of us will bear to achieve it.
Between a near-future of vast private infrastructure – of fusion power and off-world colonies – and a world full of hyperconnected refugees fleeing war & climate chaos.
Our mission is to build up a vocabulary for discussing these extraordinary conditions, as we teeter ever more precariously on the knife edge between Dystopia and Utopia. To do this we’ll have to undertake a wider than usual survey of pop culture; from the land of sci-fi and spy-fi into the murkier waters of conspiracy theory and ufology and back out again, into reality with our heads made bigger and eyes widened ready for the task ahead.
The opening parts of this series are framed largely through the fictional universes of two films: Tomorrowland and Kingsman: The Secret Service, with a little help from the comic books of Jonathan Hickman. SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL THREE.
A ride on the Hyperloop from the Shadow State to the Breakaway Civilisation.
Hyperloop Technologies, Inc., is the world’s next breakthrough in transportation, engineering unique transportation solutions worldwide for both cargo and passengers. The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, California. For more information, please visit http://hyperlooptech.com
Here’s some of the hyperbole they bust out in the launch video; a near complete transcript of sound bites:
- WHAT IF THE FUTURE IS NOW?
- HYPERLOOP IS REAL
- A chance to change the world. To change the future.
- From Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30mins.
- It’s going to bring the world closer together.
- Live anywhere. Work anywhere.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave – or boring tunnels for an unknown corporation – you’ll be well aware that Hyperloop is another of Elon Musk’s grand inventions for improving the planet. Unlike the Tesla electric car or powerwall, the SpaceX rocket or whatever else Musk has dreamt up since, this is one idea he is just giving away.
More than that, he’s actively encouraging other companies to develop the technology, sponsoring a competition in the same vein as the recent DARPA Robotics Challenge and the X-Prize (a non-profit that Elon sits on the board of) – reminding the world: “Neither SpaceX nor Elon Musk is affiliated with any Hyperloop companies.” But the founder of the X-Prize, Peter Diamandis, is one of the backers behind Hyperloop Technologies.
And so it has begun… HYPERLOOP IS HERE!
But where, exactly, has it come from? It can best be thought of as sharing aspects of two different places, two different dimensions of reality. The second, we can think of as Spook Country. The first, is – as our friend Red Pill Junkie described it elsewhere – a Disneyfied Breakaway Civilization (we’ll come back to that phrase shortly).
Tomorrowland: The Future That Got Away
As this trailer for the film shows, the pitch is that it’s all about recruiting people – dreamers, high achievers – who want to “fight for the future”:
So when the launch video above says of the Hyperloop that “THE FUTURE IS NOW” it’s as if a piece of technology developed in Tomorrowland – effectively serving as a permanent, living think tank and continuous prototyping (or iterative design, to use a software development term), bootstrapping, model world – has been brought back, ready-made to instantly improve life on Earth.
[It] does everything in its power to make you feel good about Hyperloop. Catchphrases like “actually make the world a better place” and “live anywhere, work anywhere, and be anywhere” are thrown around as if you were watching a clip about attaining peace on Earth.
Such unabashed utopianism is an exemplary example of The California Ideology:
Proponents believed that in a post-industrial, post-capitalist, knowledge based economy, the exploitation of information and knowledge would drive growth and wealth creation while diminishing the older power structures of the state in favor of connected individuals…
That quote actually finishes with the words “in virtual communities”, but that essay was also written in 1995, when the migration to Virtual Reality was perceived to be inevitable. For the moment we’ll ignore that such a sentiment has been undergoing a revival, especially as championed by Marc Andreessen. Except, of course, to make note of it in passing, as we sketch out the various flavours of the Silicon Valley (SilVal) mindset further:
[Andreessen]’s an evangelist for the church of technology, afire to reorder life as we know it. He believes that tech products will soon erase such primitive behaviors as paying cash (Bitcoin), eating cooked food (Soylent), and enduring a world unimproved by virtual reality (Oculus VR). He believes that Silicon Valley is mission control for mankind, which is therefore on a steep trajectory toward perfection.
Look at the language in the video again: “It’s going to bring the world closer together. Live anywhere. Work anywhere.”
One of the criticisms of Tomorrowland was that what it was actually depicting was SilVal “Gone Galt” – following the example of John Galt, from Ayn Rand’s Objectivist novel, Atlas Shrugged – and it is quite true that for many the ultimate Exit Strategy in the startup/venture capitalist scene is to secede from the US.
This quote from one of Silicon Valley’s major venture capitalists, Balaji Srinivasan, who gave a now infamous lecture – entitled “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit” – could well be the pitch for Brad Bird’s movie:
We need to build [an] opt-in society, outside the US, run by technology”
However, there’s another element to SilVal culture that’s long been ignored. This is something that was recently pointed out by another writer here, Cat Vincent, in his lecture on the Occultism of Robert Anton Wilson (RAW): there are lot of adherents to the philosophy RAW developed with Tim Leary, known as SMI2LE. This is a different version of the Myth of Progress, as Patrick McCray explains:
Western culture has long had a secular belief, bordering on religious faith, in the emancipatory power of technology. Starting in the 19th century, technological utopians imagined ways in which tools and systems—some existing, some imagined—might perfect society and alter the speed at which it changed. This breed of optimism persisted, even expanded, as it basked in the white heat of new technologies during the Cold War. Computers, space flight, improved medical treatments, and “better living through chemistry” all held out a metal-gloved hand of hope.
Leary thought it was no coincidence that scientists had discovered the knowledge to build nuclear weapons and LSD’s psychedelic properties within the same decade. One path led to annihilation; the other opened doors to revelation, transcendence, and self-improvement. “I look around us,” he told an audience in 1966, “and I see metal—all living things and all my cells hate metal—and I see the pollution of the air and the poisoning of the rivers and the concrete over the earth, and I have to say ‘Baby, it’s time to mutate.’”
Ever adept at coining a catchy phrase, Leary cheerily christened his new plan SMI2LE: “Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension.”
Scientific and technological advances were “making space migration a practical alternative to our polluted and overcrowded planet,” said the introduction to Neuropolitics, “at a time when NASA is making Star Trek’s Enterprise science faction.”
Today, contemporary discourse about emerging technologies often is shaded by apocalyptic projections, secular in nature but eschatological nonetheless. It is a language of rupture and rapture where new technologies—synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, robotics, et al.—possess the potential to challenge the very nature of what it means to be human. Where he still here, Leary would be SMI2LE’ing.
We’ll come back again to the space travel aspect later on, but it’s sufficient to point out that while the Hyperloop won’t take us to the stars, it will effectively collapse distance. It functions as a crucial piece of infrastructure to improve the world, to move it towards perfection. And the Utopianism we see, long prevalent amongst the Google crowd, definitely ticks all the SMI2LE boxes.
And it’s spreading. One of the pitches for Life Extension – Cryonics – just got its first customer in China.
As Business Insider reports, the tech billionaires are aggressively funding the War on Death:
- Larry Ellison, Oracle founder, has “donated more than $US430 million to anti-ageing research” according to Cha, who says he told his biographer “Death has never made any sense to me… How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there?”
- In 2013, Larry Page founded Calico, a company that’s trying to prevent ageing — with $US750 million from Google.
- Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs exists to fund the “radical science” and “bold ideas,” including projects to grow bones from stem cells, research into ways to repair the cellular damage that occurs with age, and ways to quickly cool organs in order to preserve them.
- Biologist Pam Omidyar and her husband, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, have donated millions to research that tries to figure out why some people are able to bounce back from diseases.
- Sergey Brin of Google, who has a gene associated with Parkinson’s, has given $US150 million to efforts to use big data to understand DNA. He thinks these efforts could rapidly transform research into Parkinson’s (and other diseases), providing the keys to avoiding neurodegenerative diseases that cut life short.
- Some of the biggest science awards of the year are the six $US3 million Breakthrough Prizes, funded by Priscilla Chan and her husband Mark Zuckerberg along with Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki (who founded 23andMe, the genetic testing company). According to Cha, they created the prizes to support scientists whose discoveries extend life.
The twist to all this though, the reason Casey Newton has to fight for the future, is that Tomorrowland is a place where the dream has died. It’s been locked down. All the potential wonder and miracles that could’ve been be used to make the world a better, more technomagical place have been hidden away.
A scenario familiar to readers of the comic Planetary:
For a far fuller elaboration, we turn to this interview with the man who coined the phrase, Richard Dolan:
Or equally, to this short excerpt from The Secret Space Program: Who Is Responsible? Tesla? The Nazi? NASA? Or A Breakaway Civilization?:
THE BREAKAWAY CIVILIZATION
“One of the ideas I’ve been kicking around for the last few years,” Dolan said, “is that of a ‘breakaway civilization.’ I think that this is something that is real. Now, my theory of it is that it originated really in post-World War II society, but there’s nothing preventing such a thing from having happened earlier. The basic idea of the ‘breakaway civilization’ is simply that you have a secret group, a classified group of people, with access to radically advanced technology, radically advanced science, and they just don’t share it with the rest of the world. One scientific breakthrough leads to another, and that leads to another and so on. So the next thing you know, you’ve got a separate group of humanity that is vastly far beyond the rest of the world.”
Dolan said this isn’t necessarily a farfetched notion.
“In our own official world history,” he explained, “you go back 200 years and compare levels of technology from Europe to, say, Central Africa, and you’re talking about two vastly different ways of understanding the world. So really, what is the difficulty in understanding that a classified, secret scientific community would make radical breakthroughs that they wouldn’t share? I don’t think it’s outrageous, and I do think this has happened since World War II. Now, one of the breakthroughs they’ve made is in what we would call ‘antigravity technology.’ Could this have happened in the 19th century? I don’t think that it’s impossible in theory.
“I have speculated privately many times,” he said, “whether there has been a secret breakaway group going back to ancient times. When you look at some of the really puzzling mysteries of our ancient world, whether it’s the Great Pyramid of Giza or Machu Pichu, there are elements of those and other architectural sites that have been left behind that to me at least don’t make a whole lot of sense in the context of human society as it then was supposed to have existed. The Great Pyramid doesn’t make sense to me in terms of 2,500 years ago ancient Egyptian culture. I wonder if this was a human construct at the time, and what human civilization are we talking about here?
“So I leave open the possibility that some great secret would be understood by a very small, elect group of people. They would want to hide this from the rest of the world for obvious reasons – power, and just not wanting to share.“
In the mundane ‘real world’ existing in parallel to Tomorrowland, access to – even knowledge of – this secret place and its wonders is being guarded and defended by a shadowy group of people, pretending to be FBI Agents, who closely resemble the Men In Black of UFO Mythology, and conspiracy theory lore in general:
But this is not that essay. So we’ll just note in passing that there is a belief among some who ponder such things that UFOs aren’t even in fact alien spacecraft, merely the elaborate cover that the Military use to test out their latest prototype, Classified aeronautical vehicles – potentially including spacecraft. This is the realm of the Secret Space Program.
Which means then… by being an overt representation of a covert UFO program, Tomorrowland might actually be a far more subtle, complicated depiction of a Breakaway Civilisation and its activities, than merely being a ‘Disneyfied version.’ Existing apart from mainstream reality, full of advanced technology developed in secret, protected at all costs by its citizens – for reasons and rationales of their own, which mere mortal, regular people couldn’t possibly comprehend. No surprise then that many people still aren’t sure exactly what they saw when they experienced this… subtle piece of propaganda?
Thoughts turn then to the classic myth about Tesla’s files being spirited away after his death – which the FBI feels compelled to point is exactly that, a myth:
Despite longstanding reports and rumors, the FBI was not involved in searching Tesla’s effects, and it never had possession of his papers or any microfilm that may have been made of those papers.
The idea persists though that there exists vast warehouses full of secret knowledge and hidden wonders, as forever etched into the popular consciousness by the conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark
Once more, it is our fiction that functions as a lens to try to better see what has been hidden from us. And dramatise such the interplay of forces by depicting them as a meeting of minds across time.
In the comic book S.H.I.E.L.D, Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci authenticate each other’s identity by speaking in the secret alchemical language used to describe the true, hidden nature of reality:
Plus Ultra – the true name of the secret society that creates Tomorrowland – then is just a variation (or update? splinter group?) of the historical brotherhood of S.H.I.E.L.D, in some multiversal conception of reality and its workings. As this viral (promotional) website for the film proves – as contribution to the overall mythology of this fictional universe – under the guise of organising a resistance to this version of the Secret Order of a Breakaway Civilisation:
Due to technological advancements developed in the land they abandoned us for, it is said that many of the members successfully extended their lifespans beyond the deaths that history reports.
Evidence shows us that great minds previously assumed to be separated by generations met and conspired together.
As we’ll later see, there are even more dimensions to this fictional universe, and how it’s still interacting with its audience. A game being played at multiple levels.
Plus Ultra notably features Tesla amongst its founding members. As we elaborated them above, it ticks all the boxes as a depiction of the California Ideology, not in its more popular Randian definition, but as an example of SMI2LE – as conceived of by RAW & Leary – right down to the off-handed mention of starting each day with a breakfast of a Soylent-like substance with longevity increasing properties. Hugh Laurie’s Governor Nix character hasn’t visibly aged a day since the 1964 World’s Fair that saw George Clooney’s younger self be recruited.
Welcome to the complicated nature of life in the shadow places! Where nothing is as it seems, and identities have multiplicities. Where the future is created or the present preserved by any means necessary, according to the morals and motives of whoever proves, by chance or circumstance, the fittest actors in the Darwinian battlefield taking place in the brutal rawness of reality as it truly is. By those who won’t shy away from staring at the horror of the real, even if to do so requires their own sacrifice – all for the worship of the Greater Good.
What we’ll focus on next is just that – Spook Culture. We’ll return more fully to the serenity of space in Part 3. And so we depart, for now, the fallen myth of the California Ideology as it is embodied in Tomorrowland – failed utopia, corrupted dream, the opposite of what it was intended to be. And move onwards on our journey, towards another potential point of origin for the Hyperloop.
Spook Country: Home of the Shadow Warriors
It’s long been the rumour that something very much like the Hyperloop was deployed covertly decades ago, to connect the Underground Bases built to ensure Continuity of Government.
Such secret places were, of course, being built when the world was split between East and West, each side threatening the other with nuclear annihilation.
New York and DC are piles of ash, but at least your checks are clearing. That was the idea behind the Culpeper Switch, a sprawling bunker built by the Federal Reserve to keep the banks running after nuclear apocalypse.
The compound was built just outside the small town of Culpeper, Virginia, near Mount Pony, in 1969. The 135,000 square foot facility was officially called the Federal Reserve System’s Communications and Records Center, and it housed about $4 billion of American currency during the 1970s — currency sitting in what was reportedly the world’s largest single-floor vault at the time.
In many ways, the $6 million building (in 1969 dollars) was quite impressive. It had its own air filtration system, its own power generators, and about a month’s worth of freeze-dried food for 400 people. The facility had just 200 beds, but planners explained it would be a “hot bed” scenario, where the residents would take turns sleeping. The Culpeper Switch also had a gun range, a helicopter pad, and a cold storage area for any dead bodies that couldn’t be buried while the world was turning to shit outside.
That is how Matt Novak recently reported the story of Culpeper Switch on the Paleofuture blog. This is just a glimpse into the secret world of underground bunkers.
The film Kingsman: The Secret Service neatly encapsulates the spy-fi world, as it’s presumed to be. It serves as an almost exact counterpoint to the world of Tomorrowland. It is hyperviolent, where the other is, well, a Disney movie. The struggle isn’t to “fight for the future” but to “protect the present.” The goal isn’t to improve the world, but to maintain the status quo. The victory condition isn’t the release of wonder into the world, it’s the preservation of the mundane.
What both films share is a hero’s journey to embody the ideals of their chosen elders. To become initiated – or indoctrinated – into the ways and mythology of their secret societies.
As the trailer shows, where Tomorrowland has the requisite set pieces of science-fictional sensawunda, a Kingsman has the equally science-fictional pieces of spy-fi gear.
Unlike the tales of James Bond and Jason Bourne though – as dramatically exaggerated characterisations of the covert agents of the real world spy agencies of the UK, MI6 and the US, CIA, respectively – the fictional Kingsman exist outside the framework of the nation state, with their own independent source of financing.
What Rumsfeld forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the “unknown knowns” – things we don’t know that we know, all the unconscious beliefs and prejudices that determine how we perceive reality and intervene in it.
And so we speculate, based on whatever facts are at hand, filtered through our models of reality. This video is how most people who try to see the hidden world of Deep Underground Military Bases (D.U.M.B) from the outside conceive it to be:
This full scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service is a perfect representation of how the Hyperloop transport system will (does?) function:
In the 1960s, Paul Baran of the RAND Corporation produced a study of survivable networks for the U.S. military in the event of nuclear war.”
What we now simply call ‘the internet’ (or “net”) is the descendant of a piece of Cold War infrastructure, now being put to public use, for the benefit of all who have access to it.
This is how we can begin to have a better idea of the true Nature of Progress. To begin to build a richer, more complex mythology. To understand it’s not that uncommon for things to emerge suddenly, fully formed.
Whilst we can’t know what a map of secret government bunkers looks like, this map of “FedWire” might give us a hint:
Aside from holding an insane amount of cash, the Culpeper Switch was also the nerve center for a state-of-the art national computer network. This network, sometimes called the FedWire, would let the country’s banks talk to each other and exchange money just as they had before all-out nuclear war had reared its radioactive head.
The internet is another utopian dream – optimism for which probably peaked as we crested into a new millennium – now considered fallen by many – at the very least, corrupted by the invasion of corporations and advertising into what was once thought to be a pure playground. It is here where a conspiracy website can provide a vital function acting as an archive for interesting pieces of history that might otherwise be lost. Like potentially preserving the secret origins of the Hyperloop:
[LA TIMES, JUNE 11, 1972.] A Rand corporation physicist has devised a rapid transit system to get you from Los Angeles to NY in half an hour for a $50 fare. He said existing technology made such a system feasible and so does a cost analysis. The essence of the idea is to dig a tunnel more or less along the present routes of U.S. highways 66 and 30. The tunnel would contain several large tubes for East West travel of trains that float on magnetic fields, moving at top speeds of 10,000 mph. Passengers would faced forward during acceleration, backward during deceleration. According to R. M. Salter Jr. head of the physical sciences department at Rand, the idea of high-speed train travel using electromagnetic suspension was first put forward in 1905 and actually patented in 1912. The trains he suggested now would be single cars rather than actual trains, and would be big enough to carry both passengers and freight, including large containers and automobiles.
The cars, or gondolas, would leave the New York and Los Angeles terminals at one minute or even 30 second intervals. On the main line there would be intermediate stops at Amarillo and Chicago. Feeder lines would meet the main lines at both locations. Their would also be subsidiary lines coming into the two main terminals from such cities as San Francisco, Boston and Washington. “The main idea of VHST, or Very High Speed Transit, developed originally in thinking about the satellite program and hyper sonic aircraft speeds.” Salter said in an interview at Rand. “The underground tubes were first suggested as alternatives, perhaps not quite seriously, but it was soon apparent that the idea of a tunnel containing such tubes had a lot of real advantages.” he said.
It appears to be a logical next step, and much more practical than its alternatives of filling the highways and Airways with more and more individually guided vehicles. “This alone is a compelling reason for the high-speed system.” Salter said. There are others, according to him. “We can’t afford any longer to continue indefinitely to pollute the skies with heat, chemicals, not to mention noise, or to carve up the land with pavement.”
But really, upon further investigation, it’s not actually that surprising that an article from 1972 sounds almost identical to what Elon Musk has been pitching to the world today.
The Hyperloop has essentially no relationship with the old pneumatic tube transports beyond a certain similarity of appearance. There is, however, quite a bit of overlap with earlier proposals for reduced pressure or vacuum-tube transports. In particular, the early theoretical and experimental work of Robert Goddard, the inventor of the liquid fuel rocket, appears to have the greatest overlap with the Hyperloop.
Goddard’s notes about reduced pressure transports sat in storage for over 30 years, only surfacing after his death in 1945. In US patent 2,511,979, he describes nearly every major feature of the Hyperloop save for the use of linear electric motors for propulsion (he preferred using reaction motors for propulsion), and using special apparatus to minimize the detrimental effects of choked airflow around the capsules. Goddard also described the use of air bearings, but of a very different sort than proposed for the Hyperloop.
And so we enter into the territory of unknown knowns once more. And those who guard the borders of such territories.
In another of Jonathan Hickman’s comics, The Manhattan Projects, he creates an entire alternate, secret history of the world. A tale of accelerated technological progress and wonders hidden from mainstream reality.
Just like the other tales we’ve considered, it also begins with the recruitment of people to its cause:
The thing about conspiracy theory lore is that the overlap of boundaries with science fiction becomes so blurred that they may as well be considered part of some superset of genre.
Which makes one wonder to what extent we can apply the rules of the world of Science Fiction to the realm of Conspiracy Theory.
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
It might be a useful activity then to keep Clarke’s First Law (above) in mind when viewing a video like the following:
To attempt the difficult task of gazing into the territory of the Known Unknowns is a challenge, one which we can attempt by carefully considering the testimony of those who come forward claiming secret knowledge:
The ‘Black Budget’ currently consumes $1.25 trillion per year. At least this amount is used in black programs, like those concerned with deep underground military bases. Presently, there are 129 deep underground military bases in the United States. They have been building these 129 bases day and night, unceasingly, since the early 1940’s. Some of them were built even earlier than that. These bases are basically large cities underground connected by high-speed magneto-leviton trains that have speeds up to Mach 2. Several books have been written about this activity.
The average depth of these bases is over a mile, and they again are basically whole cities underground. They all are between 2.66 and 4.25 cubic miles in size. They have laser-drilling machines that can drill a tunnel seven miles long in one day. I was involved in building an addition to the deep underground military base at Dulce, which is probably the deepest base. It goes down seven levels and over 2.5 miles deep. I helped hollow out more than 13 deep underground military bases in the United States.”
Why are they rushing to do this? Because they know that catastrophe is coming.
As we’ll see more fully shortly, shared visions of catastrophe, and debates over the question of how to best protect and improve the world are, in the end, what unites the utopian idealism of Tomorrowland and the covert attitude of Kingsman: The Secret Service.
As we’ll come to see as this series progresses, their function in depicting different fictional aspects of a Breakaway Civilisation more than mirrors a merger currently underway in our society at this very moment.
As we cast our eyes in these directions we can begin to appreciate not just the forces at work shaping the world, but the pieces we might have access to build a better one for all of us. The Hyperloop might just be the first piece of Declassified infrastructure that could be used to save not only the elite, but to ensure the prosperity of everyone as we face truly trying times.
The key concept we have sketched out through discussing the universe occupied by the Kingsman is that of the Shadow State. Its prevailing features: access to Classified technology, independent sources of financing, and acting outside the traditional power structures, according to its own ideology, to preserve the status quo. In this case, harkening back to the myth of the Court of King Arthur.
But to the minds of myself and my fellow travellers in spirit and reality, this is the only conversation worth having right now. These are the important questions we can’t afford not to be asking:
What do you do once you begin to wake up and to see the world as it really is? Once you start to understand what’s happening to it? How can you craft a cunning plan to steal the future back?
A conversation we will attempt to progress in Part 2, as we continue to explore The Plutocratic Exit Strategy…