Year of the Enigma - Aftermath
Happy Noö Year to all intrepid travelers of the psychedelically pixelated electronic realm! In last year's new years post, we identified 2023 as the year of the enigma. As we had indicated, the 23 enigma represents all that is sacred, profane and possible, within our discordian-informed understanding of universe, and our place within it. As many of us know, the 23 enigma also acts as a cosmic trigger for all things high and strange. Here at the onset of 2024, it is fitting that we reflect upon, round out, and put to rest our examination of the Year of the Enigma.
In previous installments, we examined the comical, if dangerous ineptitude of the GOP… the Uber-Right exploits of the Supreme Court, and the continuing saga of the Great Robber Baron/Trickster King. Clownish tomfoolery aside, the Year of the Enigma made clear that the political realm can more accurately be thought of within a parapolitical context.
We also reported that 2023 had proven to be a massively impactful year in the crypto-verse, with the cryptocurrency exchange company FTX, once the darling of the crypto market, collapsing. The CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested and charged by the US attorney's office for the southern district of New York with fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the US and violate campaign finance laws.
Not to be outdone, Binance CEO and initial investor in FTX, Changpeng Chao pled guilty to money laundering. As part of a guilty plea, Zhao agreed to pay a $50 million fine and would be barred from any involvement in the business. Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, also agreed to plead guilty, accept the appointment of a monitor and pay a criminal fine of nearly $1.81 billion as well as a $2.51 billion order of forfeiture to settle three criminal charges.
This story segued quite nicely into the most horrific event of the Year of the Enigma... the Israeli/Hamas War. Allegedly, Hamas parleyed its crypto investments to finance the October 7th sneak-attack on Israel. Such was the parapolitical nature of 2023, the Year of the Enigma.
So with regulation time having run out on the clock for the 2023, with the final referee whistle having been blown, let us take an end-game look at other impactful moments of fortean import, not covered thus far...
Anomalous activity was through the roof in many of our favorite fortean categories in the Year of the Enigma. Sightings of UFOs, recently rebranded as UAPs (unidentified anomalous phenomenon)... were on the rise, with more than 2000 reports being received by the beginning of August, 2023, according to NUFORC. Yet the biggest UAP news came, not from sightings or anomalous reporting, but from the hallowed (hollowed) halls of congress.
According to space dot com, the big UFO year began on Jan. 12, when the Pentagon's Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its long-awaited 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. The report, produced by the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) that was established in July 2022, included over 500 reports of unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAP, a new term that describes unidentified objects or phenomena in the air, under water, in space or that appear to travel between them.
The most significant UAP event of 2023 occurred when, on July 26, three former U.S. military personnel testified to the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on National Security at the Border and Foreign Affairs. In that meeting, David Grusch... a decorated U.S. military combat veteran and former Pentagon intelligence officer, told the subcommittee that the U.S. government had recovered non-human biological matter, and had operated a "multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse-engineering program," along with a disinformation campaign to keep the public in the dark.
Closer to home, 2023 was a banner year for Bigfoot sightings, with a huge spike in sighting reports coming in at the end of the year. Having been raised in the forests of the great pacific northwest, the hairy humanoid has always been a favorite on my list of cryptids. Bigfoot's persistent presence in the news, as well as in hearts and minds of peoples across the planet, indicates the deep archetypical significance that this potential proto-human plays in our psyche. As indicated in a previous post, in the final analysis… within my worldview… if Bigfoot doesn’t exist… he ought to...
However, the biggest, most impactful story of 2023 is undoubtedly the pervasive rise of Artificial Intelligence. As reported in NewScientist, 2023 was the year that artificial intelligence went mainstream. In May, 2023 the Godfather of Artificial Intelligence, Geoffrey Hinton began to warn all who would listen that AI had the most definite potential to out-perform humans in the very near future. In an interview for NPR, Hinton is quoted as saying... "These things could get more intelligent than us and could decide to take over, and we need to worry now about how we prevent that happening." "This isn't just a science fiction problem. This is a serious problem that's probably going to arrive fairly soon, and politicians need to be thinking about what to do about it now."
One of the most debated and reported upon facets of AI in 2023 was the branch of computer science known as Generative Artificial Intelligence. Generative AI algorithms take existing data... ie: video, images or sounds, or even computer code... and uses it to create entirely new content that’s never existed in the non-digital world. One of the most talked about generative AI models is GPT-3, developed by OpenAI and capable of creating text and prose close to being indistinguishable from that created by humans. A variant of GPT-3 known as DALL-E is used to create images.
Closely intertwined to the above, the rise of ChatGPT took mass media by storm. ChatGPT (chat generative pre-trained transformer) is a chatbot, also developed by OpenAI which launched at the end of 2022. Based on a large language model, it enables users to refine and steer a chat bot's conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail. ChatGPT has captured the world’s attention, showing millions of users around the globe the extraordinary potential of artificial intelligence as it churns out human-sounding answers to requests ranging from the practical to the surreal.
Many fear that the product churned out by ChatGPT and the other Generative AI applications looks and sounds... too real. This understandably raises the specter of a "Rise of the Machines" scenario actually coming to pass in our near future. As we articulated in a past post on a closely related subject... Technological Singularity has been popularly and eschatologically billed as the point when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence. It has been portrayed as the end of the human era. Has the current scientific rush toward AI brought us to a tipping point of singularity? Disbelief aside… these latest coincidental developments in AI… the merging of AI with a monetized blockchain network… are exceedingly interesting.
*(Bonus year-end Sync) - In an interesting and synchro-mystically pertinent aside, the science fictional ground-breaking 1927 French silent film Metropolis, directed by Marcel L'Herbier, features an artificially intelligent robot character called "Q." The intrepid readers of this weblog know all about the most recent manifestation of the Q phenomenon... so your host will leave any speculation as to the nefarious connotations and synchronistic connections between the impending AI coup d'état, and the seemingly Q Anon manufactured coup... to you... dear readers.
We also touched upon one particular aspect of the ramifications of AI, in our Blows Against the Algorithmic Empire post. In that post, we reported that the facet of AI intrusiveness that is worth keeping an eye on is the rise of autonomous vehicles. Everything from pizza delivering drones to unmanned military assault vehicles continues to develop at an alarming, exponential rate. Self driving cars of course have been the fodder of science fiction for decades. Now they are hitting the streets.
In a recent article in Forbes Magazine, titled: The 15 Biggest Risks Of Artificial Intelligence, contributor Bernard Marr indicated... "The rise of AI-driven autonomous weaponry also raises concerns about the dangers of rogue states or non-state actors using this technology... especially when we consider the potential loss of human control in critical decision-making processes."
In retrospect, all of the speculating on Artificial Intelligence that converged in the Year of the Enigma, developing over the course of 2023, has re-framed our understanding of how we interface with our technology. Everything from autonomous vehicles, to the crypto-shenanigans of Binance and FTX, to our algorithmic interactions on social media (more on this in an upcoming post), now realign to a very real potential of machine sentience, as hinted at in the 2023 developments of Generative AI.
As we have said before... just when we thought this old world could not get any stranger, it does. As we close the chapter on the Year of the Enigma, we also recognize that 2024 is shaping up to be even crazier... parapolitically, technologically, and enigmatically. Stay tuned intrepid psychonauts… stay tuned!
* the above bonus sync, in keeping with how all good syncs behave, was revealed to me in the course of researching this post. I dutifully passed it along for your consideration. - JH