Selected Quotes from Richard Thieme

The convergence of enabling technologies of intrusion, interception, and panoptic reach, combined with a sense of urgency about the counter terror imperative and a clear mandate from our leaders to do everything possible to defeat an amorphous non-state entity defined by behaviors rather than boundaries, borders, or even a clear ideological allegiance, has created an ominous but invisible set of conditions that undermine the previous cornerstones of law, ethics, and even religious traditions.

The weakest link in discussions of privacy is the definition of privacy, and the definition of privacy is not what we think.

Current technologies make speaking of interception obsolete. Our technologies constitute the physical framework, and software and informational contexts, of a pan-global society. Boundaries between elements of the network, between the networks that make up the network, that is, are arbitrary and porous. We live in a world literally without walls. Every attribute of a process or structure that broadcasts or transmits information about itself by any physical or electromagnetic means can be detected, often at the source. Often enough, those who built the system in the first place engineer information to come to them. “Here” and “there” are distinctions without a difference.

There’s plenty of laughter among hackers, laughter at the paradox of the mind watching itself build worlds in which–in spite of seeing the marks of the tools on the raw material and seeing the tools in our hands–we lack the freedom not to believe.

Cyberspace is like a multi-dimensional cubist construction in which we become ten-dimensional portraits by Picasso, our digital selves both artifact and artist.

Footnotes are conspicuous by their absence on the Web. Information is self-referential. Symbols and images point to themselves like a ten-dimensional dog chasing its own tails.

We create the online world out of nothing, then forget that we made it up so we can play in it.

Like speech, writing, and print, the computer is a tool that shapes our perceptions into forms the computer can use. If we are to bring our ideas to the computer, we must express them in language the computer understands.

Web sites work best that lead us by easy stages from accessible text or images into the complexity of information patterned beyond our comprehension.

To understand the world, we must first understand ourselves. Then, like the Hubble telescope when it first went up, we can compensate for distortion.

When we lose ourselves, we find ourselves, but when we try to hold on to what we find, we lose it again.

“Techno/spirituality” is the search for “human nature” transformed by interaction with information technologies. We are like apes seeing their faces in the river for the first time – a digital river flowing through our collective mind.

What is the particular gift this day has given me? Who have I loved, and have I dared to love them as well as I could? Have I contributed to the well-being of another, have I enhanced their sense of dignity or expanded the possibilities of their lives?  And of everything I have received, have I given anything back?

The meta-rule–“do the right thing”–requires sometimes that we break the rules. There is only one rule: if you don’t know when to break the rules, don’t break the rules.

We only feel a need to impose a rigid structure on the flow of life when we are afraid that life is chaotic.

We’re like people wearing glasses running around frantically looking for our glasses.

The Internet—like the world—is best ruled by letting things take their course.

The digital world is water, a rising tide, a tsunami impacting our consciousness with revolutionary force, leveling our villages, sweeping away our shrines and altars, sweeping everything, everything out to sea.

When we see our thinking from a point outside our thinking, we see that ideas and beliefs are mental artifacts, as solid and as empty as all the things in the physical world–things that are patterns of energy and information that fingertips or eyes or brains are structured to perceive as if objects external to ourselves. That is, of course, an illusion.

The universe is gregarious and welcoming. We are built to live in space that is gateless, unbounded, free.

If we are lucky, there occurs a “moment of clarity” in which we see ourselves with our own eyes and how narrowly we have lived in contrast with how we might live if we dare to fulfill our possibilities.

Nothing is harder to see than what we believe so deeply we don’t know we believe it.

Faith is getting out of bed in the morning and just showing up.

Something new is breaking out of the cracked egg of civilization.

Powerful ideas are rare, and those who see them in the first light endure ridicule and rejection until everyone finally agrees that they always believed them all along.

What we call “our species” will soon be a wistful memory in the molecular clusters of the progeny we design, an arbitrary distinction that served for a while before we morphed.

Our interaction with structures of information technology transforms how we hold ourselves as possibilities for action.

The best ideas are like good coaches who put the reins of our lives back into our hands.

The first lines of defense of consensus reality are laughter and ridicule. Only when the idea does not go away do we attack.

“Out of the box thinking” is just a name for climbing out of one box into a little bit bigger box.

“The coin in the palm of my hand disappears while you’re watching. Get as close as you like.
You’ll never see where it goes.” – Mobius

“We have no friends; we have no allies. We only have targets.” Deputy Director of SIGINT, NSA

“The earth is a mass grave. Ninety-nine per cent of species that evolved are gone from the planet. We are among the one percent, but only for the moment. The ashes of our brief lives rise into the smoky air where they darken the skies and blow in all directions and at last drift down like black snow onto the landscape we inhabit in a trance, heading for the edge of night.” – Mobius

We can not unlearn what we have learned but we can choose not to remember it

The universe is bigger, life is shorter, and it’s later than we think.

Humility is better. It works better.

“Inside my all-too-human heart now is a deep well of serenity. Even if everything I have said is a lie, the lie contains the deeper truth.” – More Than a Dream

“To disappear, you have to be there in the first place.” – Silent Emergent, Doubly Dark

Software and hardware do not simply add tools or processes to our lives – they form habits, and once they become part of the infrastructure, part of the culture, those habits are stealthy. For information technology professionals, whether the ones who build or the ones who secure networks, to become aware that the structures they create shape the behaviors and thinking of people who interact with them is critical.

Identity at a fundamental level is being transformed. Digital identities can be appropriated, yes, but more than that, we can invent them on the fly and determine at the moment of action or execution to which matrix we are related as a node in the network. We choose the context that in turn creates the content we designate at the moment of execution. Our identities exist as potentialities made actual by our intention at the moment of action. They are the equivalent of quantum states, fixed only when expressed.

Humans are open systems of information and energy. Current work in biotech, nanotech, genetic engineering, artificial organisms, electromagnetic fields applied to surveillance, intrusion, and weapons to disarm, debilitate and kill, intersects with traditional “information security” models but is becoming a tail that wags the dog. 

We are like miners tunneling through an immense mountain, seeing only the earth in front of our faces. Our interests and intentions focus what we see like  lights on a miner’s hat. What we don’t know is so much bigger than ourselves.

We are real birds in digital cages.

Information is always relational. The power of information that is linked and mined is magnified by orders of magnitude. What matters are patterns and who can see them. The patterns result from relationships between events and processes, and seeing them is relational, too. Notice that I said, information is related to a process or event, not to an “object” which does not exist in the form our brains like to paint it.  Step back when you think you see a “thing” and feel the breeze as it evolves. Rocks may evolve more slowly, but they are as much in motion as a neutrino. And when you see them, you change the frame.

The Net is an imaginary garden with real toads in it.

A photo is no longer worth a thousand words. Or maybe it is, since digital words and images alike are subject to manipulation. Same with voices. Deep fakes are real.

The full evolution of the human/computer synthesis is likely to be a religious experience. It will happen as Hemingway said bankruptcy happens, gradually, then suddenly.

The Internet does not replace anything, it redefines how we use other media.

The fancy name for diverse styles of living is “spirituality.” Our challenge is not to find the one that’s right. Our challenge is to find one that works.

Our existence is a recursive call of the pattern of the pattern of the code.

We live on the edge of a digital blade and the blade cuts both ways.

When my life began to grow more mellow, I thought I was becoming disciplined, even virtuous. Now I know it was just lower testosterone levels.

Believing is seeing. Believing is the precondition of a possibility.

The structures of energy and information in the universe are the universe.

Money is dye in the arteries of our souls.

When chaos for breakfast and doubt for lunch make for indigestion at dinnertime, real power is wisdom, not winning. The wise person steers a course by the torchlight of doubt and chaos.

Between we humans and our souls there are no barriers but the ones we erect to protect ourselves from the terror of self-transcendence.

When prayer “happens ” during online exchanges, luminous sacred space ignites and glows, transforming our monitors into altars and sacred groves.

Now that we know that the uterus produces a marijuana-like compound called anadamide, we can understand why birth is a sobering experience.

Truth and lies are Siamese twins, joined at the lips.

There is ultimately only ourselves to know. Consciousness is the sea, and the sea is all around us.

The Universe is full of gestures and our minds interpret its shrugs or smiles through the narrow aperture of ourselves, opening like a lens to let in just a little light.

Science fiction is how a left-brain technological society dreams of the future.

Human beings are slow learners. Insights occur to us thousands of years before we act on them.

The center is constantly shifting. People who are comfortable at the center keep finding themselves on the edge and must partner with “outsiders” who can show them how to live on the edge.

Our paradigms determine the questions we can ask and therefore the answers we can hear.

When entertainment is the fuel of a global digital economy, it is unpatriotic not to buy a ticket.

Early adopters and late adopters have different seats on the same bus–a LONG bus, a very long bus.

“Fiction is the only way I can tell the truth. ” – Mobius

“Illusion, distraction … and above all, ridicule … these are the legs of the stool of deception. But the greatest of these is ridicule. ” – Mobius

The unwritten rules, not the manual, determine how well we fit into a culture.

We think of ourselves in 20th century frameworks that no longer exist.

Critical thinking is an acquired skill.

Enterprises and individuals alike must build in an openness to heresy.

Identity is a function of boundaries. “Here” and “there” are now distinctions without a difference. Like “natural” and “artificial.” Identity is a matter of observation, not assertion.

“If fiction is the only place I can tell the truth, then fiction it is.” – More Than a Dream

“The future came earlier than expected. They kicked it around for years but never knew what they had. By the time they realized what it was, it was already broken. Broken open, I should say. Even then, looking at the pieces of the egg and wondering where the bird had flown, they didn’t know how to say what it was. The words they might have used had broken too. Now it’s too late. The future is past.” – The Geometry of Near

We need new language to articulate what we experience, to grasp the nature of the context in which we live. We need new language to discuss ethics, spirituality and religion, and … identity and privacy.

The mind of society–how it is shaped, how it is governed, how it is aimed–is both target and weapon in the new battlespace.

These are the real questions:
how do you live vibrantly?
how do you free the mind?
How do you live in a world without walls? – Kenneth Olthoff

Hundreds of years ago in France, it was mandated that you had to carry a light. Why? So you could be seen, not so you could see. The world of darkness was a world of sudden attack and constant threat. Then public lighting was mandated for public spaces and private citizens were compelled to light public spaces abutting property. Fast forward: what is equivalent in cyberspace? Persistent identity so you can be seen, tracking devices like smart phones so you can be tracked.

Nothing is what it seems.

Because “elements of the National Security State were committed to the production of strategic fictions, simulations, and deceptions” as Timothy Melley put it, the mind of society becomes confused about what is real and must rely on postmodern deconstruction in a futile attempt to discern what is happening.

The digital world, with all its circus animals and mythical beasts, is simply a new way for the human brain to deceive itself into thinking it knows.

Neither hackers nor spies live inside consensus reality. They live at the terminator on the moon where everything is thrown into relief, where intentionality creates consensus.

A browser is a knowledge engine that organizes information in flux so it seems momentarily frozen. Portals are like gravitational lens that boost distant clusters into the foreground.

Computers aren’t about technology, they’re about people. The power of the Net derives from the deepest intentions of the people who use it.

We think, therefore the cursor moves. The universe is a point-and-click multi-dimensional interface in which we are immersed, multi-dimensional point-and-click beings.

You can’t write a 32-bit application for an IBM XT. It just can’t handle the code.

The first two weeks in a new culture are so impactful, Margaret Mead said, that you have to stay another year to learn more. That’s how fast a culture assimilates an “observer.” Our first two weeks in the digital world are almost up.

When we explore the Net, we are exploring ourselves. We learn to surf swells of meaning that surge back and forth like the sea. We learn to follow currents of information, feeling swells interact in complex ways. We become voyagers in a sea of information, we make tangled star maps that remember for us how to find our way home.

Descriptions of reality are true at different degrees of precision.

The moment we see ourselves as we are perceived by another, we become someone else, neither who we were nor who they think we are. Spies live in a dynamic loop of meanings and projections.

Once I had answers. Now all I have is questions.

Change causes fear, rigidity, and isolation. The antidotes are mutuality, feedback, and accountability.

An idea that ripens at the right time can not be stopped by all the NOs in the world.

Wisdom, like insanity, is contextual.

Thinking about the unthinkable ripens the mind toward new possibilities.

Prophets are people who get wet before everybody else and start sneezing. We can quarantine them, but reality is a cold it is impossible not to catch.

There comes a point as we think at which the framework of our thinking itself wrinkles and slides into the dark. We see the edge of our thinking mind, our mind thinking, beyond which we see … something else … luminosity that constitutes the context of our thinking and our thinking selves.

The symbols with which we manipulate our constructions of reality point increasingly to other symbols. It is no longer a case of remembering that the finger pointing toward the moon is not the moon, but that the finger is pointing toward another finger that is pointing toward another finger … and we call that recursive experience … the moon.

Keep your seat belt buckled and your virtual lamp lit.

Nothing is harder to see than what we believe so deeply we don’t know we believe it.

How we intend to live our lives is how we wind up living them.

When we share a myth with others, it feels like reality. That’s why the challenge to our myths – political myths, religious myths – feels like an assault on ourselves and we’re willing to kill those who don’t share them.

I am not a “futurist.” I describe the present to people who haven’t arrived at the present, so to them, it sounds like the future.

Where is the vision that will animate our outward expansion, our migration into the universe from the deep cave of the earth?

The basis of capitalism is a handshake.

In a knowledge economy, information is capital, but wisdom is gold. And gold is currently devalued.

In a global free market economy, intelligence and counterintelligence, information and disinformation, are axiomatic to remaining viable.

We can only predict the predictable.

“The rule is, if you can steal an election fair and square, you get to keep it.” – Mobius.

“In situations in which people want answers to reasonable questions, tailor your statements to the consensus reality in which they live, what they believe. That way, a false statement is never noticed–you can’t see deer in the woods unless they move. So make sure nothing moves.” – Mobius

“What if you sold your soul and didn’t know it until after you had signed?”

We continue to speak of ethical norms in relationship to the cultural past as if it is still the context of our beliefs and actions. We speak of individuals as primary moral agents. We speak of nation states as primary determinants of our collective identities. We speak of the intelligence mission as if “we” who live inside one nation are intercepting or penetrating or subverting the technical processes and social dynamics of others who are also “inside” the boundary of a nation state that defines them. These distinctions no longer hold.

When Schools of Journalism turned into Schools of Journalism and Public Relations, we knew the jig was up.

A historian at the National Security Agency said, when I asked what historical points of reference we shared because we knew the same things about them: “Anything up until 1945.”

“When something happens that does not connect to anything else, usually you don’t even see it. You don’t allow yourself to see it. Seeing it is too disturbing. You can live in a marriage, a neighborhood, a community, even on a planet for years and if everyone is committed to not seeing the same things, then no one sees them.” – Incident at Wolf Cove

“Whoever they were, politicians, the mob, businessmen, bigwigs in the Church, it didn’t matter. They worked together. They were everybody and nobody. And no one cared.” – My Summer Vacation (on growing up in Chicago)

“He closed his eyes and held his face in his hands. The world inside his apartment disappeared, the snow globe world in his head appeared. He was player and field, figure and ground, and all of the advertisements or stories were torn pages in a magazine or comic book blowing down an alley in a black wind, an empty black wind defining glimpses of pictures on flapping pages changing from moment to moment in the wind and the shadow-and-glare of the minimal light, the form of the lost stories framed by whatever, whatever had been, whatever names or labels had once been pasted onto the torn pages disappearing now in the sudden calm windless still of a disappearing planet.” – The Man Who Hadn’t Disappeared

The interpenetration of all of our meaningful systems of information have transformed human beings from “individuals” to nodes in networks. We knew we were cells in a body but we emphasized the cell-ness. Now we have no choice but to emphasize the body-ness. … The loss of privacy is irreversible for information is never unrevealed. Meta-data means we are known better than we know ourselves because patterns radiate purposeful behavior, values, meaning. The level of abstraction at which you can see determines what you think is a real identity.

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