Sample translation of a French philosopher: Alain Deneault

Alain_Deneault_La_Mediocratie

The Mediocracy

Exceptional candidates please refrain from applying.

by Alain Deneault

Put away your complicated books, since accounting books are now more useful. Don’t be so proud, neither too spiritual, or at ease, since that might put you at risk of seeming arrogant. Mitigate your passions, for they are scary. Above all, please do not present us with a “good idea”, since the paper shredder is full. Widen your pupils, since that piercing look in your eye worries some.  Relax your lips and jaw. One must have mushy and weak thought and show it. Talk about yourself while reducing your ego to something meaningless. We should be able to pigeonhole you. Times have changed. There has not been any storming of the Bastille, nothing comparable to the Reichstag fire, and the Russian Cruiser Aurora has not fired a shot against Japan. However, the assault has indeed been successfully launched: the ‘mediocrites’ have risen to power.

The core competency of a mediocre? Knowing how to recognize another mediocre. Together, they organize the back-scratching, curry the favour of a clan that is growing, since birds of feather flock together. The important thing is not so much to avoid the stupidity that counters our image of power. Mediocracy is not a matter of pure incompetence. We do not want unskillful people. One must be able to operate the copy machine, understand a standard form, fill it out without complaining and say Hello at the right time. Médiocrité, in French, is the noun denoting what is average, just as supériorité / superiority and infériorité / inferiority report, that which is upper and lower. There is no such term as moyenneté in French – mediocrity is the middle stage in action, just a bit more than the average. Mediocrity is the middle stage, risen to the rank of authority.

It’s insidious and pathetic, since the mediocre do not sit idle, they believes they are working hard. It takes effort to make a large-scale TV show, complete a research grant from a government agency, design small, attractive yogurt cups with an aerodynamic shape or draft the provisional agenda of a ministerial meeting for the heads of delegations. The average way in which they produce, is not their  own. Technical perfection becomes necessary to mask the unbelievable intellectual laziness that is at stake in many conformist faith professions.

We often portray the mediocre as being a minority. For Jean de la Bruyère, the mediocre are, more often than not, a stunned group of individuals that pull out of the game, thanks to their knowledge of gossip and intrigue being shared by those in power. “Celsus is part of the mediocre class, but people in the upper echelons tolerate him; he is not a scholar, but has connections with scholars; he is not so talented, but knows people who are; he is not so skillful, but has the language skills that can help him serve as an informal interpreter. He is also mobile and can move from one place to another”. Now part of the dominant group, the Celsus’ of the world have no one else to imitate but themselves. Their power has been conquered gradually, and more or less unconsciously. Employing the methods of emotional pirates, using favoritism, complacency and collusion, they have gained navigational control of the institutional boats, so to speak.

Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull were the first to show us this structure with the Peter Principle. The relentless sharpness of their thesis: all employees manage to rise to the level of their incompetence. In other words, everyone is promoted until their skills and strengths no longer align with their current position. A shining example: teachers who disregard schedules and know absolutely nothing of the school curriculum, are not given a sign of approval. We would neither tolerate the maverick educator who fundamentally changes the teaching protocol by giving outstanding grades to students in difficulty, and ranking them as the best students of the school.

Max Weber’s conclusion comes to the same conclusion when he discusses the university. Mediocrity is so significant that the institutional choices fall within the realm of random “chance” and “coincidence”. These days, contingency approaches to management and administration play a lead role. “It would be unfair to hold the personal inferiority of faculty members or educational ministries responsible for the fact that so many ‘mediocrites’ undoubtedly play an eminent role at the universities. The predominance of mediocrity is rather due to the laws of human co-operation, especially of the co-operation of several bodies[…]”, as he wrote in Science as a Vocation , published in 1919. To this day, his analysis is still spot-on. The contingency approach to management and administration still controls the institution. The researcher driven by overriding passions, a strong intuition, a sovereign imagination, an understanding of the meaning of work, will only succeed when given grants. Doing so enables him or her to maneuver within the institutional intricacies, where quantitative criteria and patronage issues prevail. These are some of “the external conditions of the academic man’s vocation.”

Mediocracy hence designates the mediocre order, which is held up as a model. The Russian logician, Alexander Zinoviev, describes general aspects in the Soviet regime that seem to share many qualities with liberal democracies. “The highly mediocre ones, end up doing quite well,” and “mediocrity has payoffs,” says Dauber, a character in The Yawning Heights, a satirical novel he secretly wrote in the 1960s. His general premise: “I speak of mediocrity, as a general average. And it is not about success at work, but social success. These are quite different things. […] An institution that begins to function better than the others, inevitably attracts attention. If it is officially confirmed of playing this role, it quickly becomes a trompe l’oeil or an trial test program. It then digresses in turn, into an average experimental trompe-l’oeil. […] Overall, this leads to a downward trend in the level of activity that is below the actual technical possibilities.” What then ensues is an imitation of work that produces an illusion of results. Feigned expertise is a real testimony to this. Mediocracy therefore leads one and all to subordinate all deliberation to arbitrary models as well as fantasized or imagined authorities. The symptoms: this kind of policy has some scratching their heads and playing around with their glasses, as they have seen in the movies; similar as to when a professor vainly asks his doctoral student to “move chapter three to chapter two” so as to justify his or her authority; such as when a film producer insists on how the headlines and captions should be stylized in a film, with which he or she has really nothing to do with, or when an expert is quacking on about economic growth, just to position himself or herself with the rational viewpoint. Some will be sincerely saddened to see these relentless processes, write off some of the best elements of the social, cultural and scientific life. This is done with a hangdog look that seems to say: I myself believe in what you do, unfortunately the comediocrity out there, who think of themselves according to what others might think, do not think like me.

The training of the body is not only using biopower to maintain mediocrity, but also a psychological power in the sense of a training of ideas. Zonoviev: “Faking to work is merely being content with pretending to see results, and more precisely an opportunity to justify the time spent; the verification and judging of the results are made by people involved in this faking, of which they are linked to, and are interested in seeing its perpetuation. ”

Those maintaining and holding onto this power, display the characteristic grin, and are satisfied with generic sayings such as: you have to play the game. In other words, to complacently play by the formal rules and work to communicate the multiple collusions that corrupt the integrity of the process, while masking appearances and deceiving oneself simultaneously. We must pretend to obey to a game that is greater than oneself, when in truth we actively extend the rules at all times, or invent them as needed.

The “expert” is naturally set up as the central figure of the mediocracy. His thinking is never entirely his own, but rather that of reasoning, which is embodied by himself and of course driven by ideological considerations. The expert is working to transform the proposals into objects of knowledge, which are apparently pure – this characterizes his function. That is why we cannot expect him to offer a strong or original proposal. Above all, and this is what Edward Said reproaches him for, in the Reith Lectures produced by the BBC in 1993. This contemporary sophist, paid to think a certain way, is not guided by any form of amateur curiosity – in other words, he is not interested in what he speaks about, but acts in a strictly functionalist framework. “The heaviest threat that weighs in for today’s intellectual, in the West as in the rest of the world, is not the university, neither the development of the suburbs, or the terrible commercialization of journalism and publishing, but rather a whole attitude that I call professionalism.”

These days, the profession, has become so remote to the vocation as understood in the Weberian sense. It is presented socially as a tacit agreement between, on the one hand, the various repositories of knowledge and, secondly, hegemonic powers. Under this contract, the first ones involved, supply without much effort, and without spiritual commitment, the practical or theoretical data need to function and become legitimized. Edward Said consequently recognizes in the expert, the mediocre traits “to accordingly follow, ‘as needed’, the correct rules of conduct – without contention or scandal, all within the permitted limits, while becoming ‘viable’ and above all presentable, apolitical, unexposed and ‘objective'”. The mediocre then becomes an average being whose main purpose is power. His purpose is to transmit and firmly impose his orders.

This fact and situation prompts the public and group thinking to be without a clue. It is important to take a look at how, in the most important areas of power, such as in politics, law, business, public administration, journalism or research, idioms such as the balanced approach, the happy medium, the compromise or the average – once viewed as being pejorative – have now emerged and imposed themselves as a frame of moral reference. Imagining views and positions that bifurcate from the “center”, are shunned upon. The mind (spirit) is neutralized by a series of centrist words, including governance, one of the most insignificant terms used these days. Under the auspices of mediocrity, poets hang themselves, passionate scientists go crazy, and industrial engineers stray away in speculation, while the major political ideas are soliloquized in church basements. This extreme centerist regime is hard and deadly, but the extremism it now showcases, hides itself under the image of the middle way, making us forget that extremism has less to do with the limits of the left-right political spectrum, than with the intolerance towards anything that is not its own. They have no right to comment on the bland, gray, obvious thoughtless norm that is expected to be reproduced. We will dress all these faults with empty words and phrases. Worse, the regime will precisely use the terms that betray what it fears: innovation, participation, merit and commitment. The free-thinkers who do not participate in this deceit and duplicity, are then squeezed out, and this, of course, done in a mediocre manner that promotes denial, betrayal and resentment. This symbolic violence is put to the test. (affliced, suffers?)

The term mediocracy once signified the power of the middle class, but it has lost its original meaning. We cannot designate it as a condition where the mediocre dominate, more than it being the bonds of domination exercised by the mediocre conditions themselves. We can rank it as a form of currency of meaning (exchange of meaning) and sometimes as a key to survival, to the point where those who aspire to better their situation just comply.

Alain Deneault is author of critical essays. His latest book, Tax havens: The Canadian Connection was published by Écosociété in 2014.

Note: This column appeared in Freedom, No. 306 served as a test base The Mediocrity, published by Lux Editor.  Translated by Mich Imhoff Arsenault (Skybridge Translation)

Advertisements

English Version: The Era of the Levant

Here it is.  I got the permission from the author to put the English translation to her novel.

This novel has lots of potential.  It only includes the author’s notes, prologue and the first chapter.  Enjoy!

Here’s a link to the French book.  It’s worth purchasing.

http://www.babelio.com/livres/Fremaux-LEre-du-Levant/890455

 

 

L_ère du Levant_Anne_Fremaux_72-thickbox_default

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

In the year 90 of the New Era, Dimitri Atskov, the powerful governor of Urbio, the first province in the Confederation’s protocol order, sends the young Jana on a territorial mission to the East where, due to magnetic disturbances related to solar winds, neither cyborg nor human can expect to enter and survive. She is planning to meet up with the old Gild and his son, Github, and will experience the effects of holéum, a psychotropic sunflower that has the virtues of opening the mind to new realities. Apart from the love and revelations that await on the true meaning of her existence, as well as the secret of her birth, she will get the chance to experience a rudimentary way of life there, be confronted with new forms of thought and spiritual practices that oppose the rationality and the validity of her highly “technologized” worldview.

Meanwhile, in the proletarian suburbs of Ustis, capital of Urbio, resistance continues in and around Rostam and Ahün. The resistance is against the soon to be genocidal eugenic agenda of the urban society. Their agenda is to condemn to death what they deem and declare to be the unproductive, weak and “obsolete” human race. This is done in the name of the trans humanist, mechatronics revolution, conducted by the old lady, Mrs. Fräulein Kassner. Other protagonists, who play important roles are Clara, the wife of the Governor, who is opposed to the designs of her husband, the small Emna who dreams of marrying a robot, and Marius, a carefree young man who bucks the system, to attain his careerist ambition of a position at the confederacy level.

Through fate and providence, their life stories are twisted into a breathtaking journey that will decide and seal the future of humanity and the fate of the whole planet. Will humans still exist in the future? How can one define humanism in the age of genetic engineering and (Human enhancement technologies)? These are the central questions that this book attempts to foretell. Our primary purpose could be summarized as: avoiding the difficult truth that “humanity” has lost its way…

***

As captivating as it is alarming, as scary as it is touching, this story takes on a spiritualistic tone to important issues such as the ecological crisis, reproductive technologies, terrorism, post-humanism and the trans humanist revolution. Through the medium of the novel, we hope to offer you a fascinating foresight, coupled with a deep critical reflection on the issues of our times. A true philosophical vade-mecum for the present and the future, this work, which can also be seen as a generous and soulfully poetic description of our times, describes the stirred and touching aspects of human nature, emphasizing its innate fragility as well as its eternal ability to adapt and transform when faced with the trials and tribulations, met along the way. A story that will leave nobody indifferent…

Author’s Note

Since the birth of man, civilizations are born, flourish and perish. This is nothing out of the ordinary, or at least it does not seem so. Western civilization’s uniqueness, resides in how it has knowingly organized its own end, or rather that it is has precipitated itself knowing what would happen, without being able to stop it: knowledge has not translated into action; startled attempts have been hampered by profound inertia of the system and the overwhelming, regressive forces which operate it. From my perspective, the Western world has sunk and carried with it all mankind; it has destroyed civilizations bestowed with unprecedented wealth and led to the extinction of a vibrant and living people of the world, who yet, simply asked for nothing more than to be left in peace and quiet … A mere one fifth of the world’s population, struck by an incurable disease, called in ancient times hubris, which was once so severely punished, has taken upon itself the challenge of destroying in less than 200 years, the achievements that have taken hundreds of thousands of years to gain. This small segment of humanity, pushed by an unparalleled momentum of wild megalomania, has drawn the entire planet into its suicidal pillaging. The irony of it all is to showcase the first groups of people affected, as being the innocent ones, and the few remaining survivors as being pitted as culprits to the whole ordeal. What can be done? Some seek hope elsewhere. In my view, this immoral history has simply chosen this rudderless direction without anyone really knowing where or why it has chosen this juggernaut path … A nonsensical history that contains a spiritless sense of justice, except perhaps for those who still strive to alter its direction through collective efforts. This is the absurd world in which we live. Absurd in the sense of “deaf”: deaf to its own senses. Asking “how” this teleological path can be accessible to us today is important: history is driven by man’s passions and by all kinds of motives. This is hard to admit, when we strip civility to its lusterless form, but to which we attribute the successes of science and technology, the arrogant and unshakable faith in the omnipotence of human intelligence. My “feminist” tendencies lead me to think that testosterone might be the root cause of this havoc, however the reign of women has yet to be been given enough time to confirm this … Fortunately, collective wisdom breaks the trend at times. Perhaps, this can be seen in those individuals that we revere, given that these humans have exceptionally unique, uncommon and paradigmatic virtues. While positive feelings outweigh the negative ones, humanity is waltzing with the entire universe: love, spirituality, selflessness, compassion, moral fusion … These rare and exceptional moments, also mark our adventure to give it a less bitter taste and avoid falling into the cesspool of despair. Taking everything into account, would it be naive to say that the children of the Enlightenment have succumbed and are being submerged to darkness? “

This story is set in an undetermined future, but not so far from you; it is based on historical events that we have yet to know or any personally experienced, specific details. Any effort to obscure the reasons for the fall, are still premature and yet to be seen. Simply put, we only have general details of this story, but since they are an extension of your own existence and perhaps your own story, might you be able to imagine these details? We do not know whether an apocalypse or a sudden downfall, as predicted by millennial prophecies will happen, but rather a gradual, stage-by-stage, change that leads mankind, to another place, to another civilization. I will let you be the judge on degree of evolution and desirability that this represents. Are humans progressing or regressing when compared with previous time periods? However, I want to pay tribute here to all the men and women of good will, who throughout the existence of humankind, have not been engulfed by the wave seemed to have been approaching them. They still refused to give in to this obsession and temptation of nihilism, cynicism or lack of an ideal that seemed to confine them to conformity to their social environments. Some have relentlessly tried, during many periods of our history, to haul humanity out of the abyss into which it plunged or was going astray. These people represent conveyors of meaning, people who still cling to a true horizon of hope. This book describes the efforts of some of these people. We wholeheartedly entrust them to succeed once again. The saga of humankind must continue. Over the years, the revolt dwindled, and as we now like to consider the future in its bright and dark shapes, like a situation granted to us. We will even try to forget, just for a moment, these vulnerable and innocent victims ripped and torn apart, unfairly by these terrible events. How else can we continue living? Has this predetermined distance allowed us- to compensate this shielding pessimism? “Was it better before “or rather “would things have been better before?” It is painful to ask such questions at the moment, because the now and then have already been erased to become another time frame that we can only imagine the contours of. The proposed outcome is left upon you to decide on. No time to snivel about the past given that there is still time to build a common future. This is inspired by an odd sentence: “Perhaps humankind MIGHT continue to exist once we have disappeared”.

 

Prologue

 

Excerpts from “The Epic of Gilgamesh[i]

 

“The desert grows. Misfortune to he who sees the desert grow … The silence that ushers the unearthing brings about the revelation. The hardness of the stones, the dust, the silence, are but a surface. He who knows how to listen, patiently searching and digging, reaching the layer from which the stream bursts, oh! So easily … The men of the desert are free spirits, righteous beings: deep in their lonely soul, the transformation is accomplished that releases us from the false idols … The real superman is not an enemy of the earth …”

 

“… We must look to regain the spirit of flexibility and agility of the child … Become a child once again; to metamorphose ourselves to become a child. This is our only salvation: build a new world and new values. The child in us is our only promise of a future … “. 01.02.88, New Confederal Era.

 

“I beseech you brethren: Remain faithful to the earth. Do not believe those who speak of a supraterrestrial hope. They are despisers of life, dying men and poisoners … “13.11. 89 New Confederal Era.

 

“A new Era has arrived. With the wise ones, we saw it coming within smoke of the holéum. The Levant’s prophecy will be fulfilled. The great man will have to rise above himself, further in distance, further in time, to the point where he view’s below himself his own stars, to the point of dominating himself to looking below and understanding that his horizon is but a tightrope, stretched to dizzying heights … “03.05.90, New Confederal Era.

 

“We must have chaos in oneself to give birth to stars. Chaos opens the great souls of the world of free spirits, but it isn’t upon the first bat of a wing that one can take off. You’ll need patience, my son …”07.21.90, New Confederal Era


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST PART

 

Chapter1 – JANA

After six hours of travel aboard the Maglev, Jana finally arrived to the Cape’s Reserve, in the territory of the Levant. At a speed of 1969mph, the Maglev monorail had not really given the young woman a chance to appreciate and to get used to the change of scenery. Born in Ustis, the capital of Urbio, she had almost never had the opportunity to leave the city, nor in fact, the limited boundaries that had been assigned to her during her childhood. This bounded area included all the daily commuting she did between the shared dormitory, the canteen, the State library, and the agricultural training center to which she was assigned. She smiled to herself, thinking back to the events that had brought her aboard this luxurious high-speed train. It moved along into space at breakneck speed, but in total silence and without causing any kind of swaying. She, who had never received any kind of privileged attention or distinctions, was left speechless by comfort and luxury she discovered at the headquarters of the central government where she was going to receive information of her mission. The Governor had to repeat twice his official ID before she replied:

-You are AG 458-65, aren’t you?

At this point, Jana was particularly fascinated by the giant light fixture-above his head. It looked like a crown glass hanging from golden branches. She also gazed intently on the beautifully crafted furniture made from a timber of a woody plant that had most probably disappeared from its natural forest habitat; what hung from the walls were of bright, vibrant and lively colors. Also most probably made from old plant fibers that are rarely used today. She curiously watched frames paintings hung on either side of the office walls, which showcased representations of life scenes and characters that meant nothing to her. To her the paintings depicted imperfection, since the colors and thickness aroused her curiosity, since they did not seem to be the replications produced by a digitally controlled machine. Could they have been produced “by hand”? The idea swayed in her mind, but did not have time to be reflected on too deeply, since the Governor drew her out of her daydream:

— You are AG 458-65, aren’t you? He repeated this, without showing impatience.

She mechanically answered to this request on her ID number:

– That’s me, Mr. Governor. State Department Agronomist biologically increased individual N°458, birth period New Era 65.

-We’ll have to get you used to luxury, my dear Jana. May I call you Jana?

Without waiting for an answer, he continued in a tone tinged with both authority and a form of kindness. Jana interpreted this as expressing the concern that higher beings sometimes have in regards to their inferiors. They used this so as not to appear arrogant.

-Your have certainly earned your promotion, which makes us, very honored. I, the representative of the province of Urbio, am responsible for your early age education. After all, despite your bad start, you still had a chance of being taken by one of our state departments. I feel lucky. We are all lucky.

He smiled contentedly, to which she replied with a shy smile.

– It must be said, he continued, that if I refer back to your file, the situation of breaking the post-contract ectogenesis[1] that made your adoption impossible, was, as we view it, easily settled. Finally, while consciously avoiding regressive juvenile wordplay… he began to read the file:

-“A contract repudiation occurs, once the child attains the age of 10 months, and still shows a predominance of EYCL3 and not EYCL2 genes” …

Still leaning on the file, he continued, self-absorbed, without looking at Jana:

-Well, basically, the customer had ordered green eyes, and you had blue eyes instead of green ones. This developmental biology growth process incident is not a real handicap for us, even if blue eyes show response latency to speed tests and fail to some of the precision tests. However, they are often better, when it comes to control tests and resistance.

-Yes, that’s correct, Mr. Governor, she retorted to fill the negative silence the Governor had left her with.

-Well, I was granted access to verify the information on your genetic lineage. The least one can say is that you have a very interesting background. He paused; seeming to make an effort to keep a thought that otherwise would have escaped him.

– If we hybridized you … uh … Please apologize for the jargon, if we were to technologically increase your intelligence, which, just between us and the fourth wall, is not always the case, you could quickly attain a higher level of consciousness and assume important functions in one of our State Departments.

Jana blushed.

– Let’s not go too fast, he continued. First things first.

The young lady, who had heard about and grown wise to his methods, was not particularly moved to hear this again. The students at the dormitory and the government school were all in the same situation. The other “normal” and, “successful” children, were the result of a comprehensive maturation process, and were often mocked and ridiculed as the “ecto-residue” or the “ectogenic residue”. Jana waited in silence, without replying.

-How old do you think I am? he asked her, not showing any apparent traces of selfishness. This surprised the young woman.

Jana was in fact, for the first time in her life, face-to-face with a supreme consciousness that she had always thought of as devoid of the human weaknesses commonly found amongst members of the lower strata.

-I like to throw this question to people I meet for the first time, he added without looking at her, as he scrolled through all kinds of map and graphical image information on the flexible graphene screens found upon his desk.

Jana thought he was keeping track of real-time information on the province, while he spoke to her. The importance of his position definitely required this kind of skill. She also suspected the seductive allure of his wide forehead, and the tinge of electronic-coloured pigment inlay, on his upper ear helix, fashionable among aristocrats, was actually much older than he appeared.   He also wore a metallic fiber uniform that adjusted smartly to expose his strong muscular physique.   His black hair carefully arranged in graph intersects which stood elegantly upon his head. His perfect teeth, the almost perfectly smooth skin of his face, which seemed to have no pigmentation, and visible pores, gave him a youthful, or rather almost ageless allure. It was well known, that people of the upper classes had access to the most famous rejuvenation methods, including of course surgery, although this was gradually being replace in favor of protein-rich, GDLF11 blood transfusions, found in abundance in young blood and that enabled the repair of aging tissues. The lucrative luxury trade of synthetic blood plasma had exploded because of this. There were also, of course, the genetically modified and electromagnetic implants done to replace or healed sick and aging organs. Subtly complying with her superior’s command and ego, she replied placidly:

-My first impression was 35 years old, Mr. Governor, although I see light wrinkles on your hands and neck, which appear to show a more mature age. Of course, I also understand that your position undoubtedly requires a lot of knowledge, experience and maturity. I also read books, dating back to the era of the forties, on the administrative functioning of the province, where your name was included amongst the important reformers. If I remember the date and time period correctly, you were an important committee reformer on the codification laws that dealt with the increase. This would therefore put you at the age 38. Given these facts, I would guess that you are seventy five-, Mr. Governor.

-That’s very well reasoned Jana. Very good indeed. Of course, my hand and neck wrinkles, still need to be taken care of. I will talk to my herbalist[2]. However, I have deliberately kept some wrinkles or etchings of experience at the temples, forehead and two naso-labial folds, which make me politically speaking, more accessible. You understand that with my duties, I deal not only with elites. The persuasions of the fallible people are sometimes difficult to sway…

-Yes, of course, Mr. Governor, nodded Jana, who knew, like everyone else of the eternal struggle that pitted the top parliament executive members regarding the access to information concerning wage increases. The first wanted to make them more transparent and altogether more faithful to the spirit of democracy, which had inspired the creation of the confederation, while the elite considered access to this wage increase information as an unshared privilege.

-I will not lie to you. It is true that the position I assume requires many years of experience with government service. I saw the crumbling of the previous civilization and the growth of our biotech industry, built on the ruins of the previous one. It is even I who had the privilege to suggest and nominate Urbio as our province’s name, based on “Urbis biotechnology”. I am, so to speak, but I prefer that this expression stays between us, “a living relic of the past,” he said with a smile that uncovered perfectly white and beautifully arranged teeth. I am 107 years old and have many great grand children that come from, I presume, my personal gene bank. They must be the same age as you.

-I commend you on this, Mr. Governor! Jana replied in a burst of admiration she could not repress, as the response of the Governor had greatly went beyond the scope of topics she was excepted to discuss with him. This showed, she thought, while returning to the state of emotional detachment that was the norm, that the official communication on the very sensitive issue of augmentation and repair technologies was largely fragmented. Could it be that new methods have been created with the general public not being made aware of them? But again, the governor had pulled her out of the heteronomous thinking[3] she had started using.

-I’m not being vain nor am I expecting compliments on this Jana, he said, with a lukewarm and partially frozen half-smile, the best his artificially elastic face could produce.

She dove, for the first time, into the Governor’s eyes, which she had avoided out of respect for his hierarchy and authority. She noticed the constant movement, constriction and dilation of his pupils, typical with individuals who had had electronic retinal electronic prosthesis[4] done.

-I tell you this because you see, eternal youth, like so many other things in this world, if not all, can be bought. Personally, I like my natural biological body but if having an organic silicone tissue with sensations allowed me to live 200 more years, I would not say no. Immortality will one day be bought, dear Jana, you’ll see. I hope in my lifetime to enjoy it … eternally, he finished in a burst of forced laugher, apparently proud of his wit.

-Of course, dear Governor, mechanically replied Jana who still did not understand what brought her here, in the central office of the executive where all the purposes of all these secrets were conceived.

She was suddenly filled with a sense of malaise.

– As you know, it is already possible to push the fundamental limits of our mental and physical abilities, to eliminate aging and even psychological death, thanks to holographic avatars and new synthetic materials that have recently been discovered. Soon we will go further…

He stopped and looked at her thoughtfully before continuing:

-I should not tell you this, he commented, choosing his tone of voice, because many of our citizens consider the immortality of consciousness as more than enough, and anyway as far more superior to all forms of biological life. But I think the issue of sensations is still unresolved. I still cannot bring myself to get rid of the pleasure of living, breathing, to experience emotions. I’m probably a bit old-fashioned. I still love my earthly destiny and cannot bring myself to leave our old planet. But as you may know, the path chosen for the departure has already been planned with the research funds.

-Yes, Mr. Governor. I heard about the council vote in favor of project Andromeda, which disregarded your proposals.

– Unfortunately yes. Don’t you also think that one cannot always win? “Feeling is also suffering. The future belongs to the spiritual machines, to mechatronics”, as Fiodorov said. Living forever on artificial supports that allow the exploration of new worlds, settling in places unfit for human life, this is the current market demand that is to be responded to, isn’t it, dear Jana?

-I do not know, Mr. Governor. I admit not being able to discuss the issue, replied the young woman who was afraid of committing a blunder.

-Yes, Yes, of course, he answered to himself as noting the impossibility for a lower consciousness to understand these issues…

-In short, all these ideas are burgeoning. Obviously, given of the latest colonization of space; people want to see for themselves what is going in these hostile territories, especially young people who are always seeking adventures. Some even download their consciousness onto non-biological materials, before their natural death, all in order be the first to benefit from this privileged exploration. You understand, as I do, the contempt for the biology of our upper classes.

His pupils were moving intensely. He was probably trying to reply to messages, to read reports or even to dictate a speech at his hologram, all while he was chatting with her. The increased cognition, through the consumption of holéum and brain implants, which merged one’s consciousness and the computer, through an interface, allowed such feats. She feared that her confidential and intimate tone, the apparent heterodoxy of her statements, and even their adequacy only seemed to have the sole purpose of making him closer to its own biologically degraded humanity… of his own imperfection. But she immediately tried to regain control of her consciousness to avoid the heteronomous thoughts from taking over again in her mind, which was – she knew only too – his main weakness.

– In short, all this, I mean eternal youth, life on the stars, or what have you, will also, without a doubt, dear Jana. You don’t want to become old, or become ill or even die miserably like the men and women of the lower layers, do you?

His face, as he spoke weak ones, had a slight emotional deformation of disgust that was clearly seen by Jana, though he had regained his composure so quickly that an average mind would probably not have had the time to notice.

-Ectogenous individuals, he continued, that have not been released on the market, are not all as lucky as you are, you know this. Some end up in the slums to perform menial tasks. Such a waste! But we want to give you a new chance because in spite of your … um … bad start, you are quite exceptional. All exit examinations and those that have marked your educational path have produced excellent results. Even the responsiveness and precision test that I mentioned earlier were also excellent.

Jana smiled in response to the Governor’s compliments, while attempting to hide, thanks to psycho-control techniques of emotional self-control she had been taught in school. Tension and unease had still won the best of her.

– “The emotional reactions block the logical reasoning of non-hybridized beings” She recited to herself to gain back a better control of herself. And she remembered the lessons given to her by the instructor of emotional self-control:

-“Emotion is a primary expression of our personality, brings us closer to our animal origins rather than moving us further away from it, he had told them in the introduction. Removing the emotion is to suppress anger, fear, sadness, disappointment and attachment in its irrational form, which means removing the causes of conflict and incompleteness. Remember the wisdom Fiodorov presents in his book: “We have been made men to become gods and we can become gods by becoming machines.” Have you ever seen advanced non-biological materials manifest boredom, despair, sadness or confusion? Have you ever seen computers commit crimes of passion? No, and that is also why they surpass us. They are not afflicted by the loss of a loved one; they have no pride, keep quiet or never tire of the repetitive tasks they need to accomplish every day. Perhaps, one day, you will get the chance to be downloaded to an artificial support. Who knows? Do you think it would mean the end of happiness? You consider yourself lucky or fortunate to be born and to live in these protein bags that are your biological bodies, with their pain, their needs and their incessant consubstantial imperfection? On the contrary, it would be for you the beginning of a life without suffering, of a consciousness that lacks nothing, that no longer suffers, nor of the absence nor of the presence and which would no longer be afflicted by external events. Emotional self-control that I am teaching you here is only a small step on the path to perfection and liberation. This is only the beginning, unfortunately, a very modest step on the path to the ascension of consciousness. “

What made it particularly difficult to control emotions was the inherent variety of the central nervous systems involved, the variety in individual brain maps and the crucial aspect that it is always in movement, with the dynamics and plasticity of emotions, which involves frequent updates and customized measurement and control instruments. Of course, the usage of inhibitors, mandatory for all non-augmented reality individuals within the departments of State, paled to some extent to the lack of artificial control. But Jana had shown some weakness in the control of its postural feedback, which had always constituted in-group exercises, a significant handicap. The Governor could not ignore it. Just as he could not ignore that Jana had failed the fitness tests and that some of its trainers had considered her stubborn and headstrong though agreeing on all her total dedication to the welfare of the confederation:

“Too many critical and heteronomous thoughts AG 458. You are not expected to know everything to make a good official. We just ask you to apply methods. It that clear?! “, her molecular biology instructor threw at her, when she asked about the whereabouts of this millennium seed bank, where were stored genetic profiles of extinct plant species, long disappeared and whose existence were mentioned in old agronomy books.

– But does this bank still exist? She insisted.

The glares of the instructor were then coldly countered:

“All that you are asked, AG 458 is to optimize the production of the synthetic plants we have selected. No more, no less. We do not ask you to lead the confederation, nor do philosophy… Go back and stay at your place, and the ectogenic embryos will be well guarded. “

Comments made on her graduate record were marred by a few remarks describing her curiosity and critical thinking as “being potential obstacles to the enforcement and the monitoring of procedures”; therefore expected to have to accept a routine production checkpoint position in the algae food production industry. While these musing thoughts crossed her mind at the speed of lightening, the Governor brought her back to reality:

– I therefore propose you reach the central government headquarters, since you have just finished your training and soon need to be assigned a task with specific public functions. It is there that we are proposing to you a mission that will make a full and optimal usage of your skills in biology.

The conversation took a long period of time, during which Jana had had time to ask many questions. Why was the Governor showing such kindness to offer her a position that no one, especially not her, was in the position to refuse? Why was he pretending to ignore some of her failures? Why try to convince her so, in person, rather than just simply send her a mission order? Despite his precautions and doubts she preserved as neutral a face as possible, avoiding the frowning of her eyebrows, mouth deformations or eye movements that might have unconsciously betray her “swirling thoughts”, so-called by higher cognitive control instructor. She knew well, that the host computer was analyzing her face, while she was communicating with the Governor and he delivered, in real time, the results of its morphological and bio-psychological data.

-Dear Jana, you wonder, of course, the reason why my choice fell on you and your precautions are entirely legitimate, replied the Governor to the questions she was asking herself, as if he were reading her thoughts. So let me go into detail on what brings you here …You are aware that holéum plantations are of strategic importance to us. You know the famous phrase from the book of Wisdom, “we drank the holéum, we became immortal, and have dethroned the G*ds.” And you probably know too that the Agronomics research centers are still not able to synthetically reproduce a species as pure and effective as that provided by the Cape Reserve in the area of the Levant. Do not ask me why. I still do not understand how a technological civilization as advanced as ours can still be tested by old and rather crude natural mechanisms. I have a few ideas on this subject matter, but of course no conclusive evidence. At first glance, it appears as totally absurd…

Jana perceived a change in the Governor’s facial expression when she said the word “natural”. It betrayed, at this point in time, his hidden contempt. “Those with a supreme conscience are not perfect”, she repeated to herself, while quickly removing this negative thought from her mind.

– Either way, the synthetic products that we have obtained so far, are just good enough to increase the memory of the seniors or activate some of the pleasure zones, used to distract our young aristocrats. We might as well distribute them to the masses for their free amusement without taking any big risks … That’s why we need competent officials, able to control the holéum production in these territories. Not only to decipher this enigma, but also to understand why the goods supplied in the last shipments has led to some anomalies in the process of augmented reality, even though the nootropine concentrations were proven to be unchanged. I do not know what the people of the Cape are doing but I would like to find out.

-But can we not do without this plant, Mr. Governor? It is indeed surprising to have to still depend on natural mechanisms.

-Of course, theoretically we could, but the result of the augmented reality brain is beyond measure when combined with the taking of holéum. This plant has an impressive stimulation effect on neuroplasticity and enables dramatic augmentation. And of course, the current situation, which disturbs the ongoing processes, worries investors and greatly and irritates the urban elite, who are our customers are, as you may well know. Waiting lists are growing because people prefer to postpone their projects. I’m afraid that if this situation continues, it will put into question the State monopoly. There are many private corporations that would favorably push to deregulate the augmented reality market and put an end to public monopolies. But we cannot let such a thing happen without risking political chaos. You know our history, dear Jana: We have not yet avoided the near total collapse of an almost totally centralized price system that is headquartered in Ustis. We cannot give private companies the task of regulating trade or production areas and even less can we let them define, by their reckless innovations, what will become of our future civilization. It’s up to us to plan and make strategic choices put more impetus on how the confederation organizes itself. And on this point, the area of augmented reality is particularly sensitive since it concerns the hierarchy of the society (company? enterprise?). Allowing the augmented reality market trade back to the private, would simply be exposing new conflicts and would be a dramatically regressive. Elites leave us alone so long as it works and those genetically inferior put up with their fate to the extent that they know nothing else. As you can see, the stakes are rather high and…

– But Mr. Governor, if I may, interrupted Jana, I wonder and I’m not alone in this case, why leave the production of holéum in the hands of the people of the Reserve? Why did Urbio never consider regaining control of these territories? Things would be simpler; we will need to do an analysis. Our measuring instruments will without a doubt, help easily decipher, and give answers to our questions. We will then not need to depend on the goodwill of these foreign people to our civilization.

-Of course, of course … Jana replied the Governor, who took a short break, accompanied by particularly intense pupil activity.

– You see, the living conditions on the Reserve are particularly difficult: the climate, droughts, but more importantly, is the fact that we do not like to communicate to avoid providing sensational grist to our enemies… You probably know that we are already experiencing terrorist attacks made by the non-assimilated people found in the mining territories. Well, we do not want a new and especially useless war- but this must remains between us, Jana, I make trust you on this matter – this place is a real electromagnetic quagmire. Found there are volcanic soils that are afflicted by constant geomagnetic storms: more specifically, we find there a phenomenon of reversals that emerge spontaneously or the Earth’s magnetic shield that weakens the magnetosphere and gives rise to solar winds. Rest assured, the risk to humans, is not really biological. It is rather technological all our measurement and communication tools are derailed as soon as we enter the territory. The storage of our instruments is brutally suppressed or irreparably damaged. When the sun “unleashes” itself, so to speak, this can trigger geomagnetic storms that penetrate the leather casings of our instruments and causes irreparable damage. Augmented reality individuals undergo considerable malfunctions, to say the least. As for the drone soldiers, it’s not even worth thinking about: they are disabled as they attempt to penetrate the border of the Reserve. This problem has led us to abandon this colony. Only the reactionary traditionalists opposed to progress have decided to settle there. We are not forcing anyone to live there; they deliberately chose to deny the march of civilization and establish themselves in these desert areas. What is in their interest, and in many ways in our interest … for the production of’ holéum, of course, but also symbolically: the territory of the Levant is ideal for our company. You cannot imagine, dear Jana, how the illusion of freedom often determines more things than it actually helping maintain it. In reality, no truly right-minded person would live there because of the health risks and rather primitive modes of existence prevailing there, but the simple idea of it being possible to go there is enough to ensure social peace.

Jana then flashed a pout of surprise, never having imagined ulterior political motives that presided on the governance Urbio. She felt embarrassed by the cynicism of these statements. The Governor, accustomed to political maneuverings, which he considered necessary for the maintenance of civilization and determined to rush the innocence of the young woman, pretended to be deceived about by her doubtful manners. Pretending to reassure her, he continued:

-But do not worry: Living conditions are not as bad as what you’ve heard in our newsletters. We must really push the point, don’t you think? We cannot encourage our people to emigrate to these rare earths, which are for us of great strategic importance. Either way, ultimately, the crossing of the magnetic border, in one way or another, cannot take place without a restricted area pass and without interrupting the electromagnetic vortex bar that blocks the incoming solar winds. Regarding the people of the Levant, the market has always been predictable: we let them lead their rudimentary way of life and provide some of the materials they need to satisfy their crude engineering, in exchange for the triennial delivery of five hundred Teralans of holéum. So far, we have not had to complain about the situation.

-I understand, Mr. Governor.

He smiled kindly.

– Regarding the poor quality of the synthetic holéum, Jana continued, you most probably have already considered this, but I read that these plants were extremely sensitive to radiation and all forms of pollution in general. The low emission of electromagnetic waves and watering of solar particles most probably have a positive effect on their development.

-Yes, absolutely, Jana. Of course, I’ve already considered this: it would explain the advantages of the natural versus artificial holéum. We are conducting research on it. But what we need to imperatively clarify is the cause of qualitative degradation to which seems to be exposed.

After a short pause, during which the tempo and speed of the Governor’s pupils moved excitedly, he reiterated by saying:

– Dear Jana, I’m sure you understand the goal of your mission. You leave tomorrow. My holographic secretary who will give them to you upon your exit has prepared your roadmap. It contains various information, including data that is imperative to collect. The holographic secretary will also provide you the e-learning software you’ll need for your stay. You will need to assimilate some pretty unique survival strategies, you’ll see. It should be enough to satisfy your curiosity … Don’t be surprised: The lifestyle of these people is … strange… You’ll see. Their modes of accommodation, heating, travel and community management systems are rudimentary … This will give you a taste of the exotic rustic life. Consider this trip as time passed in a dream incubator that will take you into the distant past. I have not been there for a long time but nothing has changed there. Things move slowly there given that they do not have the aptitude to change. You will also discover fun things: they live together with other mammals and very different life forms natural species we have preserved at Urbio. This will be a change from your typical archival books. You will have time to prepare and download the necessary knowledge tonight, and while you travel there. Uh, I should restate this. In your case, “memorize” the knowledge. Is that clear?

– Very clear, Mr. Governor. Thank you for the trust you have placed on me. I leave it to you, she said, preparing to get up.

– Wait a moment Jana, one last thing. Do you understand why we have chosen you?

Jana thought for a moment before answering.

Honestly, no, Mr. Governor.

– Uh, well that’s exactly why: we have chosen you due to your honesty. You are, you know, to some extent … “fresh”, “spontaneous”. This is a characterization which probably does not evoke anything to you, but that is exactly what we need.

-I thought on the contrary, Mr. Governor, that spontaneity had no positive value, to the extent other than that it displayed the superiority of machines. Although machines gave us the illusion, through its speedy calculations, which, non-augmented humans can only calculate slowly, spontaneity has always irreducibly led to errors or all kind.

– Yes, this is true, dear Jana. It’s from the urban catechism. But let’s just say that this is just part of the imperfection that fully suits your mission. A “perfect imperfection”, if I can say, that will be much more useful than the imperfect perfection of our machines. Perfection is sometimes a handicap, dear Jana. These people are not like us. They operate on instinct rather than logic. They do not understand us. Expect to not be readily accepted. They do not like us, but they will have to answer your questions and assist you in your research because their peace depends on it. Your curiosity might please them and will help us to get the information we need. When you return, your memory will be scanned so we can judge for ourselves what you found there. I know your dedication to the confederation and I know you will not disappoint me. I’ll walk you back.

Before getting up, he took out one of the many drawers of his desk, a kind of soft, white cylinder that did not look like a sheet of graphene. He took it and stood up, heading toward the exit with Jana.

-You know Jana, that taking holéum is strictly forbidden to the lower classes. You will be tested on your way out of the territory of the Reserve. I am sorry to remind you. These are the usual procedures.

– Yes, of course, Mr. Governor, replied Jana, who had assimilated since her childhood, the concepts of class and privilege.

As they were saying goodbye, he handed her the cylinder, which was also wrapped by a flexible filament:

-This is paper, dear Jana, is a material produced from plant fibers. It is a message to be hand-delivered to a man that goes by the name of Gildamesh. You’ll find him on the Reserve. Not so easy, but tell-him in advance that Dimitri Atskov would like to “F” him.

 

[1]He performs a sexual intercourse motion in an artificial womb

[2]A bio mechatronic rejuvenation techniques specialist.

[3] A thought that has no reason to be in the system.

[4] Brain computer interface (BCI).

[i]Inspired by Nietzsche, Thus spoke Zarathustra. A book for everyone and anyone (1883-1885) whose excerpts have appeared through personalized interpretations of Gilgamesh.

Translation Projects for 2017

10026_commonsense

The New Year is coming in soon. Have been informed by some friends that the month of January will be a good time to cement things. Not sure if the cementing should be done on the personal level with relationships or with my business. I do know, that the New Year will mean a different approach to my business endeavors.

First thing to consider is to actively look for new clients, and not attempt working with LSP’s. 2016 has proved to me that LSP’s can be a total waste of time. CSoft, Pactera Trans, for example, has been trying to get me on board, but I realize that the countless emails I’ve received from them, coming from so many different email accounts, means that some LSP’s look to waste their competition’s precious time. Tests, more tests, and arbitrarily assigned scores saying you didn’t match their qualifications, for an impeccably done translation sample, simply means they see you as competition and want to dissuade you from competing against them.

Must keep reading and applying the principles of Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup (2011). There’s an abundance of common sense in that book. It’s a good read!

Demonyms of Fictitious Place Names

I still think Wikipedia is a great reference website, even though most of my teachers kept strongly dissuaded me on making us of it.  It can always be used as a starting point to find things.  For example, my latest translation work deals with fictitious place names. How should I translate the French version of a place name like Urbia? What to call their residents? Urbians? That seems simple enough. Other place names might not be so easy.

maxresdefault

Anyhow, looking up “Demonyms” on Wikipedia has given me a better idea on how to choose a proper sounding words.   The term, obviously has nothing to do with “demons”, although some of the residents of these fictitious place names in the book I was working on, seem to have the typical traits of  evil spirits.  Demo- comes from the Greek word that means populace, and -nym simply means name.

The wiki page gives good examples, and I simply follow the pattern that’s nicely presented on their page. Examples of tricky place names are: Lilliput, Narnia and Oz. They even provide the example used in the Star Trek place name Qo’noS, where those war-loving Klingons apprently live, but that was simply up to the writer(s) to decide on.

Biking Taiwan’s East Coast

Finally got a chance to visit another place off Tainan’s east coast.  First place was Hualian and my second trip was a bike trip from Taidong to DuLan.  Very scenic ride that is mostly uphill to go and downhill coming back. The ride itself is done along a safe bike path that can get you from the Taitung train station to DuLan.

 

Have been in Tainan for almost a year now and although Tainan is known to be a bit more laid back than let’s say Taipei, a year of running around in the traffic of this ancient city has played its toll on my nerves.  It’s nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the calm of the pacific coast.  No pollution hazy coming from the mainland and the air feels bright and crisp in my lungs.

My trip started in Taitung (aka Taidong 台東).  Took the 3 pm train and arrived at around 8 pm.  Had to take the slower train (name) since the medium speed train (name) doesn’t allow bikes as a carry on. Found a B&B even though everyone in town including the 7 Eleven was telling me that it would practically be impossible to find a room since it was Chinese New Year.  Was lucky and found a place that was willing to bargain even though it was New Year.
Woke up quite early and had a quick breakfast.  Asked a few people to confirm the directions and off I was on a nice bike path, that follows the coastline. The path itself is a mix of small roads next to villages and some broader highways. Biked for a while and was suddenly passed by a team of cyclists riding some amazing looking bikes.   They also sounded like high-end road bikes. I could tell by the sound of their gears. The guy heading the crew was quite tall and big.  The whizzed by me and I tried to keep up, but my old bike seemed to be riding so slow and couldn’t maintain their speed even though we seemed to be riding downhill.  Turns out that the ride from Taidong to Dulan does seem like it has downhill spots, but somewhat of an optical illusion.  Validated this upon passing by a small town called 都蘭水上屋 (DuLan Shui Shang Wu) which means DuLan UpWater Room.  Had also noticed websites talking about this optical water illusion.  A bit like Magnetic Hill in New Brunswick.  Was quite taken aback by the wonderful scenery.  Felt like home, back in the Maritimes in New Brunswick and in Gaspé, Québec.
dulan_shuishang
Stopped by a few wharfs to relax and chat with a local fisherman.  Found out that most were actually from Taidong, but ride their cars or scooters out near DuLan to hang out with their buddies and drink Whispy, a really strong local booze.  Talked about the fish and recipes.  People seem quite fond of using MiJiu (local rice wine) to balance out flavors or mask what they consider to be the bad taste of let’s say some fish or lamb and the barking deer meat.  There are quite a few Aboriginal restaurants and communities when you go ride towards the mountains.  The foreigners and local Han Taiwanese seem to be more by the coast and on the main road next to the coast.  Overall, this ended up being a nice change of pace from the routine I’ve established in Tainan.  Highly suggest people visit the East Coast of Taiwan.  The West Coast is quite busy and industrial.  Good for shopping and trying out foods at the local markets, but the East Coast has some much more charm.

Perl Script to convert Chinese Simplified to Traditional or Traditional to Simplified

maxresdefault

Just finished watching a movie with Chinese subtitles. I’m more interested in practicing reading of traditional characters, so I found a Perl script that converts a file containing simplified Chinese characters and converts them to traditional. Works like a charm. Works from command line on my Darwin Linux. You’re probably thinking this can be done with a copy paste option, but command line is much more convenient, since it won’t affect the text layout, which sometimes happens with copy and paste commands. This command worked on a .srt subtitle file used for films. Give it a try if you want. Found this script on Sourceforge. Thanks VBenito!

http://sourceforge.net/projects/unihanconver/