Author Archive | Mark A. Rayner

Municipal Investment Strategies for the Technological Singularity

The Technological Singularity

An Open Letter to Town Council

Dear Councillors:

Your town may have an emergency plan, a development plan, a health plan — it may even have a plan for how to fix the potholes (though I doubt it).

But does it have a plan for how to respond to the technological singularity? Is it preparing for all the new economic opportunities? I suspect not.

Now, some have complained that that technological singularity is the “rapture for nerds”, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is the municipal investment opportunity of the ages! Forward-thinking municipal governments can start preparing now, and be ready to reap the rewards of the point in human history when human intelligence is not only exceeded by machine intelligence, but when human intelligence is merged with (or eradicated by) machine intelligence.

You’re thinking: “well, sure I’d love to help get ready for this, but realistically, how do we plan? We don’t even know if regular flesh-and-blood humans will be around to experience the singularity.”

Of course we will!

Ray Kurzweil believes that we’ll be able to model the human brain by 2029, and create algorithms based on those models to allow computers to gain human-like intelligence. But is anyone working on a way for computers to go to bars and get drunk and hook up with other drunken computers so that they can “make a mistake” and then squirt out new computers? I doubt it.

So there you go: invest in light manufacturing. There will definitely be a need for humans to help create our new overlords.

But there’s so many other possibilities! What if the technological singularity is based more on nanotechnology than it is on the gross, large-scale electronics of our current era? Here too, prescient town councils can make good investments for the future. It will certainly be easier for the new machine overlords to replicate themselves in mass quantities if our human immune systems do not fight them at every stage. This leads to so many possible avenues of fruitful research: immune-suppressing drugs, radiation, surgery, bio-engineering, even psychology might (finally) prove itself useful by producing a technique by which humans could allow supra-intelligent nanomachines to use their bodies to reproduce.

We’re only scratching the surface here, obviously.

Many municipalities invest much of their resources in policing and this is an area where they will find huge savings, but only if there is a good interface between humans and our new machine overlords. Apart from the aforementioned research opportunities, municipal governments should begin looking at some kind of cybertronic peace officer corps now, to acclimatize citizens early — after all, an easily controlled citizenry is a productive citizenry! This could be as simple as implanting some kind of control chip in police headgear (hats, caps, flak helmets) to something more radical, such as embedding a semi-live police officers in a mechanical exoskeleton armed with rapid-fire pistols and a loudspeaker-augmented voice.

Municipal leaders should prepare for the darker predictions of how a technological singularity plays out. What if the new machine overlords simply wish to rid themselves of the human population?

There is a simple solution for this problem, and it is summed up in two words: rotating knives.

We’re pretty sure that would never happen, but even if it does, what if you’re the first town to think of it, and sell the process?

Think of the revenue. You could cut taxes. Contact us for more details.

Yours Truly,

Genghis Toon,
Oberdyne Industries, “The Helping Corporation”

Alltop has an investment strategy for funny. Originally appeared on Grasping for the Wind, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Planetart via Flickr.

This short piece is included in my collection, Pirate Therapy and Other Cures. You should really get a copy before those knives start a-whiring.

The perils of evolution

One day you wake up and watch the sun rise, ripe and scarlet over the savanna, and you know it can never hold you back.

The next, you’re unable to hold a conversation with other humans in the flesh, and you have the attention span of an unhinged hummingbird. Inside your head there are noises that would have terrified you before, on the plains, but now they are the background radiation of your mind. You’re surrounded by voices. Within this clamour there is only the silent pulse of a thought that never comes, an impulse suffocated by plenty, a drive misdirected by old mythology.

You long for the reality of stone, the scrape of grass on your bare legs, and the silence of nature, tooth and claw. You wonder if you should Tweet this yearning, but — hey, new Facebook interface!

Alltop used to hunt Facebook in the old days. Originally published in 2011, and now a part of Pirate Therapy. I thought I’d post it again, in light of the new FB changes :)

9 old words for the modern age

Old manuscript page and the letter g


The use or choice of words.

This post is a meditation on vocabulation, particularly, old words that we may want to revivify for our current age of the Internet and excess.


The # symbol.

I learned this one from one of my journalism students who believes this is a much better term than “hashtag” and I agree. Do you? Then let’s get an octothorpe about this started on Twitter!


Throw through or out of the window.

This word is better-known than many of the others on this list, but I’m including it because it’s still pretty obscure. I learned it when I lived in Prague, and was shown by a helpful tour guide at the Castle where certain politicians were “defenestrated”, i.e., thrown out of a window, when their services were no longer required. Perhaps this is a term we should put back in practice?


A bad habit or custom; a vice [c. 900-1400]; unthewed, ill-mannered, unruly, wanton [1200- late 1300s], unthewful, unmannerly, unseemly [c. 1050-early 1300s].

This strikes me as a useful word that we could use a bit more while we’re looking at some of the crazy behavior we see, especially on the Internet. So the next time you spot a troll, you can call them “unthew” to put them in their place and confuse them at the same time.

Humbug, hoax, pretense; [from] nineteenth-century French.

This one is particularly useful, given how much of this we have to deal with on the net.


A glutton; one who over-indulges in and over-consumes food, drink, or intoxicants to the point of waste.


Food or drink that makes one idle and stupid; food with no nutritional value, junk food.

Both of these strike me as useful, given our consumerist society. Possible uses: “Dude, I was a total shumpgullion last night. Too much libberwort!”


A libertine (one who is unconstrained by convention or morality).

I like the word “libertine” but I’m always worried people think I mean the word “liberty” or “liberal” — they’re all from the same roots, of course. The use of holer is related to the previous two words, but it has the added benefit that most people will probably understand what you’re saying because of it sounds a little bit like “whore”. Of course, it’s better, because “holer” has lost its gender implications.


A low rumbling sound; hence, the motion of the bowels, produced by flatulence, attended by such a sound; borborygmus; Scotch.

Murmuring, grumbling; sometimes applied to that motion of the intestines which is produced by slight gripes. This is one of those rhythmical sort of terms for which our ancestors had a peculiar predilection. It is compounded of Suio-Gothic (the ancient language of Sweden) kurr-a, to murmur.

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily about our current age, but my theory is you can’t have enough funny ways to describe farts.

Some of these come from the excellent word-nerd blogs: Obsolete Words and A Lackadaisical Lexicon for Laggard Logophiles. If you have other favorites words and resources, please leave them in the comments!

Alltop is such a funny holer, I’m curmurring my pants.

The Disney Gang

They called themselves the Disney Gang, despite the fact that two-fifths of their members were clearly aficionados of the Popeye milieu.

In fact, Chester “Popeye” Doyle was their leader; he did a crack impression of the pugnacious cartoon sailor, and liked to bludgeon enemies with a pillow case filled with cans of spinach. Barry “The Duck” Trepanning did an excellent impression too, though this made him completely incomprehensible during the high stress moments of their many bank jobs and shootouts. During the Mud Lick Massacre he did a classic Donald Duck freak out that had the cops in stitches, even while Detective Sergeant Reynolds bled out. Both of the mice were menacingly quiet, and police were never able to identify the bodies, so we don’t even know who they were.

And of course Reggie “The Wimps” Testeron, like their hero Walt, thought arson was hilarious.

Alltop is a firebug of comedy. Awesome photo via Twisted Vintage. Originally published September 2010.