By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
The role of computers has radically transformed and expanded since Prometheus Rising’s publication in 1983. Coincidentally, I first heard Timothy Leary speak in 1983, and he talked a lot about the importance of computers that night. I first heard of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs when Tim talked about them that night. Of course, John Lilly had paved the way with his 1968 book Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. I remember attending the Visiting Nurses Book Sale in Phoenix, a huge annual used book sale, once in the mid-1980’s. The one book I wanted to find in those pre-internet days: Lilly’s Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. I did find a copy that day. I think it cost ten cents.
In Schroedinger’s Cat a character refers to T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets as “the gospel of my youth.” Books like Prometheus Rising, especially the sections dealing with the semantic dangers of the verb “to be” seem like the gospel of my youth. Of course, I don’t think Bob wanted his books to serve as anyone’s gospel. I have tread a Kinbote-like path too close to that of a disciple of Dr. Wilson’s for decades. Nonetheless, the discussion of the verb “to be” seems very useful in chapter two. Bob doesn’t mention E-Prime, but he outlines its importance.
Wilson’s idea that our brain software exists “anywhere and everywhere” (Prometheus Rising, pg. 17) parallels Proust’s notion that our memory exists outside of us in the world around us. Anything in the exterior world can act as a trigger to stimulate the release of non-voluntary memories, memories we could not consciously recall. The madeleine famously acts as such a trigger in Proust’s novel. The narrator dips a madeleine in tea where it partially dissolves. When he tastes a teaspoon of the mixture, it brings back a flood of memories.
On page 20 Bob says of the eight circuit model of the brain, “I assume it will be replaced by a better map within 10 or fifteen years.” The revised second edition of Prometheus Rising appeared in 1997. It seems time for a new model.
Exercise 1 for chapter two says, “If you don’t already have a computer, run out and buy one.” Well, in 2021 most of us have multiple computers. I did the chapter two exercises in March, and I didn’t intend to buy a new computer, but my cell phone died that month, and I got a new iPhone. As I write this in April, I once again didn’t intend to buy a new computer, but my wife decided to get a new computer last week. The rhythms of this book and its exercises seem to play a synchronistic role in my life.