Podcast 283 – “Elves in the Machine”


Guest speakers: Tom Barbalet and Bruce Damer

Tom Barbarlet & Bruce DamerPROGRAM NOTES:

Today we are taking a slightly different tack and heading into the cyber world of Artificial Life, which may sound like a contradiction or may sound like life in the hectic Western world these days. While this field may be controversial to old-line scientists, of late it has gained more traction and is proving to be the source of much new understanding about the way life has come to be. Our hosts for this conversation are Tom Barbalet and Bruce Damer, two leaders in the field of AL and who are the cornerstones of Biota.org, the Web’s leading site for AL information. Surprisingly, their discussion quickly turns from things only true geeks can love to speculations about the work of Terence McKenna, psychedelics, and the possibility that all of us may be in the process of becoming machine elves.


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Posted in Bruce Damer, Consciousness, Creativity, Future, Imagination, Psychedelics, Terence McKenna (mp3), Tom Barbalet.


  1. Whist not wishing to be pedantic, I feel it should be pointed out that it wasn’t Alfred North Whitehead, but the evolutionary biologist J.B.S Haldane who observed, “I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: Thanks for adding that. I thought about mentioning it in the podcast, but my hope was that one of our fellow saloners would also pick up on it. … And YOU did! … good catch.]

  2. i heartily agree with DavidDC, finding Terence completely agreeable to me. -what comes immediately to mind was a notation i wrote a week ago on an earlier podcast:
    ‘http://matrixmasters.net/archive/Various/277-GormanDMcKennaPt2.mp3: where dennis dismisses terence’s certitude, and arguments of assertion, especially in the face of terence’s factual disregard -and has further quibbles with what terence has said, terence’s provocative flambouyancy, and terence’s personally idiosyncratic approach…’

  3. I think Bruce was far too harsh on Terence here. Terence was a very slippery fish intellectually and it feels wrong to sideswipe his legacy without him having an opportunity to defend himself.

    I think it is healthy to keep in mind that there are very many perspectives from which the world may be viewed – and the “straight” scientific standpoint is just one of them.

    The level of truth you personally find in Terence’s talks really depends on precisely where in the psychedelic spectrum of consciousness you currently dwell. To my mind, Bruce’s negative comments merely indicate that he and Terence typically reside(d) on very different points on the “topological manifold” (!) of consciousness.

    Terence may well have at times been both creative and playful in his delivery of ideas and “facts”, but this doesn’t diminish the quality of his overall contribution to our intellectual and philosophical lives.

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