A newsletter about participation in multiple worlds, multiple visions, but one humanity ; a monitor of P2P developments


A newsletter by Michel Bauwens, [email protected] , an emanation of the FOUNDATION FOR PEER TO PEER ALTERNATIVES (for now that’s just me, but please do join!)


ISSUE 42: December 4, 2004: Why this newsletter? Why the title?

The title refers to the enduring tension between a multitude of worldviews, and their eventual integration. For a full explanation of the rationale behind the newsletter, see issues 1 and 2. An alternative name could be “P2P and Empire” because in practice I mostly focus on a analysis of the crisis of the current system on the one hand, and the emergence of a more participative worldview, which I call “peer to peer”.


Preferred themes: the networked society, cognitive capitalism, Empire and its discontents, the possible emergence of the peer to peer civilization, truth-building as a collective and ‘dialogical’ effort, the challenges posed to traditional religions and humanism by spiritual P2P experiencing and technological transhumanism.


If you like this project, please suggest any interesting links! We would be very happy to list our contributors. Thanks to John Dermaut, Christophe Lestavel, John L. Petersen, and the Multitudes mailing list for suggestions.


How to subscribe: Write to compiler Michel Bauwens at [email protected] or at [email protected].



ISSUE 42, Table of Contents


Counter-culture: Infinity Factory is back

Counter-culture (2): R.U Sirius’ new book.

Counter-culture (3): think for yourself, question authority.

Consciousness: Benjamin Lee Whorf is back in town.

Empire: is Bush new age ?

Empire: Bush and secrecy



Counter-culture: Infinity Factory is back


A long time ago, in a distant galaxy, the Internet was full of information and novelty about alternative cultures and lifestyles. Paradoxically, this wealth was highly dependant of the success of the so-called “new economy” corporate culture. The crash of 2001 saw the disappearing of many invaluable resources. Among them, Infinity Factory, the Disinformation video shows hosted by pseudo.com. Frequently for the first time on video, we had the opportunity to see people like Robert Anton Wilson, Douglas Rushkoff, Genesis P-Orridge, or even less known actors of modern counter culture, such as Benjamin Rowe, Philip Farber or Paul Laffoley.

Several years after, the website www.rinf.com is releasing again, on every Tuesday, the old disinfo shows, and archives some of the best streams. Will they release the whole set? Will everything be archived? These are questions that remain to be answered!


Counter-culture (2): R.U Sirius’ new book.


Recently Michel presented in this newsletter R.U Sirius’ new website, “neofiles”. The man also published recently a new book under his real name, Ken Goffman, “Counter-culture through the ages: from Abraham to acid house”. The book has its own website, 




offering a few excerpts, among them an foreword by Timothy Leary, one of his last writings:


« Counterculture blooms wherever and whenever a few members of a society choose lifestyles, artistic expressions, and ways of thinking and being that wholeheartedly embrace the ancient axiom that the only true constant is change itself. The mark of counterculture is not a particular social form or structure, but rather the evanescence of forms and structures, the dazzling rapidity and flexibility with which they appear, mutate, and morph into one another and disappear.

Counterculture is the moving crest of a wave, a zone of uncertainty where culture goes quantum. To borrow the language of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ilya Prigogine, counterculture is the cultural equivalent of the third thermodynamic state, the nonlinear region where equilibrium and symmetry have given way to a complexity so intense as to appear to the eye as chaos. ».



Counter-culture (3): think for yourself, question authority.

An interesting online book presenting Timothy Leary and his impact on the 90’s techno-cyberculture :

( http://www.geocities.com/arno_3/ )

« Many people know Timothy Leary as drug-guru of the psychedelic and cannabis edible counterculture of the 1960s. Not so many people know, however, that Leary reemerged in the eighties as energetic promoter of the Internet and spokesman of the Cyberpunks, an Information-Age counterculture whose members believe that technology can help us to free ourselves from all limits - physical as well as metaphysical. In this paper, I describe the development of Leary's theories - how his focus shifted from psychedelic drugs to computers -, and discuss Leary's impact on the cybernetic counterculture (the Cyberpunks) of the eighties and nineties. I compare Leary's earlier theories, in which he praises LSD as key to "cosmic consciousness" and sweeping societal changes, to his later theories, in which he describes the computer as tool of liberation and transcendence. In a critical analysis of the cybernetic counterculture I try to find out what role Leary played in this counterculture. My comparison of Leary's earlier and later theories shows that the psychedelic counterculture of the sixties and the cybernetic counterculture of the eighties and nineties have many things in common; most important of all, they share the same aim: Individual freedom and ecstasy. I argue that the cyber-movement of the eighties and nineties is a continuation of the freedom revolution of the sixties counterculture. For Leary, the emergence of a global electronic cybernetic communication network is a logical consequence (or further development) of psychedelic consciousness-expansion. In my analysis of the cybernetic counterculture I come to the conclusion that Leary was one of the founding fathers of the cyber-movement and therefore plays a central role in the cybernetic counterculture. »


Consciousness: Benjamin Lee Whorf is back in town.


In the issue 40 of Pluralities/Integration, Michel presented the work of Benjamin Lee Whorf who postulated that our mental categories were strongly influenced by the language we use. This theory, known as the Sapir-Whorf theory was strongly dismissed by the Chomskian orthodoxy, which postulates a unique « universal grammar » hardwired in the human brain, making therefore impossible to imagine strongly diverging languages (and therefore different, language influenced, worldviews).

But Chosmky is far from satisfying everybody, and many criticizes its theories as being purely formal constructions, completely divorced from the practice of language. To see what are the current objections against Chomsky, one may go to this site :


and especially read this paper:



But here is perhaps the first nail in the coffin of chomskian theory. This is an artificial life approach, which tries to demonstrate, through digital experiments, the possibility of  the spontaneous emergence of vocabulary and grammar through the communication of  two agents. This hypothesis, if confirmed, should infirm the necessity for language to be hardwired in the brain structure, Chosmky’s central argument.

Luc Steele pursues this kind of research at Sony’s Computer Science Laboratory.

His “talking heads” experiment involved to robots communicating about their environment by inventing new words and expressions.

The “talking heads experiment” is now closed but the website remains open, and one may consult various pages and the “guided tour”:


These experiments lead to a “constructivist” theory of language acquisition.


(From :http://www.csl.sony.fr/downloads/papers/2004/steels-04c.pdf)


« The constructivist approach to language learning proposes that children acquire linguistic competence (...) only gradually, beginning with more concrete linguistic structures based on particular words and morphemes, and then building up to more abstract and productive structures based on various types of linguistic categories, schemas, and constructions.  (TomaselloBrooks, 1999), p. 161.

The approach furthermore assumes that language development is (i) grounded in cognition because prior to (or in a co-development with language) there is an understanding and conceptualisation of scenes in terms of events, objects, roles that objects play in events, and perspectives on the event, and (ii) grounded in communication because language learning is intimately embedded in interactions with specific communicative goals. In contrast to the nativist position, defended, for example, by Pinker (Pinker, 1998), the constructivist approach does not assume that the semantic and syntactic categories as well as the linking rules (specifying for example that the agent of an action is linked to the subject of a sentence) are universal and innate. Rather, semantic and syntactic categories as well as the way they are linked is built up in a gradual developmental process, starting from quite specific ‘verb-island constructions’. »


Now you may ask, why is an entertainment company like Sony so interested in deep scientific and philosophical research like the origin of language? Such theories may help robots (like Aibo) to communicate with each other. There are also some researches trying to adapt these principles of evolutionary linguistics to file sharing systems, helping digital agents to communicate more efficiently about the musical tastes of their human “masters”.


Empire: is Bush new age ?

A lot has been said about Bush’s evangelism and fundamentalism. I found the perspective offered in this paper amusing and refreshing:



« Believing, it seems, is more important to the President than the substance of his belief. Jesus Christ’s particular teachings -- well, those are good, too. But what really matters is that if you believe you can do something, you can. »
« ... what Bush’s more orthodox Christian supporters seem to dodge, is that this is not Christian doctrine by any definition. It is, in fact, a key element of the broad, heterodox movement known as New Age religion. »


Empire: Bush and secrecy


To continue on the same topic, the excellent online magazine Esoterica is currently publishing a special issue about politics.




Among interesting articles a very long and interesting paper about the role played by Religion and secrecy in the Bush administration.



After analyzing the White House’s politics, the author concludes:


“To close, I would like to offer a few comments regarding the political role of the scholar of religion in the world today. There was a time when I, like most scholars of religion, believed that the best I could do was to remain as neutral as possible about the political implications of my research while at the same remaining as self-conscious as possible about the ways in which my work might be affected by my own political opinions. Well, I must say that I no longer believe in this sort of comfortable pretense of neutrality. When one's government is committing acts as disturbing as those of the Bush administration, and concealing them under layers of obsessive secrecy, no thinking citizen, can pretend to remain comfortably neutral. As Bruce Lincoln observes, “there is a political dimension to all religious discourse,” including scholarship... Our study of religion is no more neutral or disinterested than the religious objects that we study. The key difference, however, is that as scholars of religion we cannot appeal to divine "authority," a gift from the Almighty or a calling from God; rather, we can rely only on our own human and fallible methods of “persuasion,” by which we marshal evidence and argue our case, while at the same time remaining open to the critical objections of others ».


One can only agree with these observations, but one may remember that the scholars of religions have seldom been neutral ! It is sufficient to remember Mircea Eliade and his role in Romanian Fascism, or the mysterious death of Ioan Couliano, shot in the head in the public lavatories of Chicago University, perhaps killed by the same far right that Eliade had supported many years ago.