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Yes what is real and what is living will defeat what is unreal and dead. But in the meantime? In the meantime many will willingly die and allow themselves to be eaten/consumed by the Machine. Those of us who see all this can only do one thing - keep living and keep being real authentic humans. Whatever will be will be and we must trust in God to lead us through it all.

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Apr 13, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Yes, we're basically already there. Soon most social media and large parts of the internet will largely be made up of AI talking to itself in an unending loop. AI generated listicles on Buzzfeed going viral on social media algorithms powered by AI where, eventually, AI generated art and text, learning from the algorithms, will become their own virality machine as they learn from already viral AI art and text so the front page of the internet, or at least the first things we as human engage with online, will be AI generated.

My hope is that this will just break the internet and make it essentially worthless.

My most pressing fear with regard to AI is how it's made propaganda free and effortless.

I wrote a bit about it here: https://radicaledward.substack.com/p/democracy-is-not-ready-for-pope-in

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Maybe it'll be like Chernobyl -- after the runaway AI-to-AI chain reaction, dump a bunch of concrete on the internet, and then wolves come back & live high off the ruins.

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author

Bring on the cement!

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author

Yes, I also think this is already happening. We have enough trust problems as it is, with dishonest governments, media and ongoing culture wars. Add AI into the mix and very soon - in a matter of months - it will not be possible to know whether anything you see or hear is real. If this leads people to turn off, so much the better.

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Please get your next essay in before that happens!

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The phrase you quote "reality collapse" really captures that well

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I doubt that will matter much, in terms of consumption or use of the internet. Many are already skeptical of the truthiness of much of what they read online for other reasons unrelated to AI, but they still live very online. And as for the "normies"... as long as it is entertaining and engaging, they will gladly consume.

It's kind of either/or, I think. Either it's on the creepy side of the "uncanny valley" (which means we can tell it's fake) and it isn't able to fool us, or it's on the credible side, in which case many people simply won't care whether it is fake or not. I honestly think the hope that this will cause internet use to fall off a cliff is quite unlikely to be fulfilled.

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Since technology is barreling ahead at a pace far outpacing what society, culture, and politics can develop, I wouldn't be surprised if there are (semi-)official efforts to "force" belief in some of what we see on the internet. That news story that was partially cobbled together by AI? If you doubt it's true, perhaps you're a weird conspiracist. That change to church doctrine that was based on recommendations partially compiled by an AI? You might be a heretic, or at least, unfaithful to your creed. And so on.

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Might we see the return of print media I wonder!?

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Somewhat like the unpleasant question of belling a cat, how does one get that particular genie back into the bottle?

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author

I suspect that one has to square up to the genie.

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Square?

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Square up = british expression meaning prepare to fight

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I could snarl and hiss and fold back my ears, but I doubt it would do any good.

I'm not even sure whom to hiss at.

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Am I hearing a bell ringing or is it my imagination?

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Apr 17, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

To carry on the fairy tale metaphor, I suppose the correct 'magic word' might do the trick.

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I suspect it's not possible to re-bottle the genie. I just can't see a way out....

So then, the question that arises for me is what, or rather, Who, is still unfathomably larger than the gollum that is being created? And how do we align with that Reality to face the genie while remaining sane?

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Buddha-nature is unfathomably larger. The Middle Path is the only path.

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"...remaining sane?..." I was thinking more about the challenge of remaining alive. Those robot dogs don't look at all friendly to me.

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I've answered above but will again here. I think the answer is juggling. Literally. Hear me out (& Paul I know you will get this)).... Does anyone remember model Cara Delevingne's story about when she was attacked by Harvey Weinstein during one of his private meetings with potential talent? Unlike other victims who ran or cried or screamed (or sadly succumbed) she jumped up off the couch and started singing and tap dancing. It's a heartbreaking scenario to describe but I think her survival mechanism choosing that particular expression as a form of defensive was simple genius. Think about it. She shocked him, for one. Secondly, she was being creative and this, as a force, has power. Thirdly, it's the trickster at work, and for the good/greater good. So why juggling? Today I had my two little neighbours over and grabbed three passionfruit from my fruit bowl. I remembered in my teens I had a year where I learned to juggle and juggled a lot. So I did. Today in a tiny kitchen in the Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia I juggled three passionfruit and I felt (in real time) a lovely force flow through me AND identified it as the opposing force to what I experience staring at my phone &/or laptop. So whatever your 'juggling' might be, I think it's the creative human spirit as made manifest through the physical body that is our greatest defence against the runaway genie running a muck and likely not going back into any bottle any time soon.

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Yes!!!! Don't play the expected game, don't think you are the victim or underdog - make the whatever it is thingie dance to your tune instead. Or at least don't even engage with its frequency - do your own thing and it won't have anything to attach itself to. I'm rubbish at juggling but I can sing loudly :).

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Ah, utilize one's Right Hemisphere of their brain - as Iain McGilchrist would say - the creative part that perceives the whole situation and can respond accordingly. I see no other way...

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Thank you for sharing this - that is fantastic. We are here to "LIVE" and staring at our computers/phones for a long time is not living......

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I wanted to add - I pray for young people. They are consumed by their phones and technology and sadly are really not living. It is difficult to even carry on a conversation with him as they are more interested in checking their messages, news, FB, Twitter, etc. It makes me crazy as human connection is way more important than any of the above and yet they can't see it.

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I feel this too. I try and speculate that their paths somehow warrant a default of dissociation and one that they will triumphantly overcome. i.e 'analogue' becomes the new black.

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following Christ?

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Yes. If the rough beast that is shuffling toward us is the AntiChrist, and it may be, there is no human solution. In Christ we find freedom from the drive for power, money, and pleasure.

The false idols we set up are exposed and knocked down as the traps they are. In Christ is thing that we really hunger for, genuine selfless love embodied in a true, holy, wise, self-giving person, God incarnate. Who else is worthy of our worship?

The Second Coming

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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This poem, from Yeats, one of those early 20th C. occultists, is one of the most succinct and beautiful descriptions of our dilemma. It, and Marshal McCluhan’s Understanding Media, come back around from my college days. I remember how excited all my humanist, Marxist professors (who were not all of my professors) were about ringing in what was new and especially ringing out our Christian past. Even then, the world was getting ripe for what we are up against now, and even decades before my entrance into Holy Orthodoxy, I felt myself providentially resisting it. We don’t know what will happen to us, but we are seeing, if we look, the need for us to lean into Christ like our lives depend on it, because they do.

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For non-Christians, there will be Antichrist. But the Fathers have said that for Christians, there is no Antichrist, only Christ.

And I write this after being flabbergasted at the degree of God's providence in my life recently; sorry, I can't say more about this.

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I agree! Also the entity that "ushered in" the internet was the U.S. Department of Defense, and that's a fact of life. I recently wrote this one. https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/internet-surveillance-and-censorship

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founding

"The U.S. Department of Defense".... yep, that ties in with Marshall McLuhan's perception of imploding Western... empire and consciousness. Before the Roman empire "collapsed" the architectural structure of the Middle Ages was already in place as a series of relatively small cities behind big walls... to defend them. If I understand the phenomenon correctly.

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I share your concerns. But on the other hand - if I were a Silicon Valley tech type, talking up the capabilities of AI would be part of my media hype strategy, in the same way that I would have been telling people 15 years ago that in 15 years’ time we’d all be driving driverless cars. Do we believe the hype?

I currently am far more concerned about what the internet is doing to our minds than I am what ChatGPT is capable of. I might be proved wrong, of course.

With all that said, the Bible is full of examples of what happens when people start worshipping things that aren’t God. It isn’t pretty. Our culture evidently worships technology, and specifically the screen. That, it is now evident, isn’t pretty either. The call to Christians I am afraid surely has to be to evangelise. We don’t like it because it scares us and we know society is hostile. But I think the answer has to be to worship God again. The most radical suggestion of all.

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Evidently...evident. That’s what I get for posting a quick comment on my phone!

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okay, as long as you weren't driving a driverless car.

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David, I, too, worry more about the what the internet is doing to our minds than AI. But, I am much more skeptical about the hype surrounding AI. AI is a model, a very complex model, and models tell us what the programmer told it to tell us. They know exactly how an English AI program starts speaking Persian.

That said, I do think Paul is on to something regarding the supernatural, and the demonic in particular. The devil will use every tool at his disposal.

Fr. Z composed a prayer--originally in Latin and since translated into just about every language--to say before logging onto the internet: https://wdtprs.com/a-prayer-before-connecting-to-the-internet/

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I wonder if the truly Satanic element of it lies in its convincing large swathes of people that there isn’t really anything all that special about human beings and we’re basically just complex algorithms ourselves. A lot of people seem to have fallen for that notion.

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I agree, and I think you might agree that it is one element of many. So many heresies and forces built up over centuries and millennia seem to be converging all at once that it's not surprising that many think the antichrist's arrival will soon be upon us. Who knows? There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the midst of a tectonic shift in our culture, and it will take centuries for historians to puzzle it out. Meanwhile, Kingsnorth and Lyons and Crawford and others are helping me navigate in this fog, but "true north" for me remains the Catholic Church, the greatest repository of universal truths and human nature and Christ's promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

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Thanks. I'm not just writing here about AI though, but about the whole Internet and what it is. AI is just the latest manifestation of something much bigger. It's been going on for a long time.

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That kind of reinforces the Tower of Babel parallel that I made further down in the comments, I think. I may have to expand those thoughts elsewhere.

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St. Don Bosco had a vision where he saw a dark box in every living whereby the devil entered in. It started there, and it comes sweetened with good content and subtly bad content. It is much more intense with cell phones available everywhere and the internet.

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That's intriguing indeed! Do you have a source for it?

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I am still looking. It may be apocryphal.

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This was a fantastic read! After our conversation my mind has been labouring to find a way to redeem this, to no avail. I woke up yesterday morning thinking about deception. This is where things get really tricky. I think the first deception will be to think we can redeem this kind of technology. Certainly we have the physical and mental fortitude to beat weapons into ploughshares but this is something entirely other. Thank you. Look forward to part two.

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Thanks Shari. I was inspired by talking to you. Our thoughts seem to be running parallel in a lot of ways. More on that in the sequel.

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Perhaps Jesus’s words to his disciples when they couldn’t cast out demons would be helpful. These only come out through prayer and fasting.

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If you're going to read Steiner, then please, please read James Hillman, Jungian teacher & writer, especially his 'A Terrible Love of War,' & 'The thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World' to begin with to explore the source of the "demons" within us, not "out there."

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Demons are both within and without.

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If you also ocate demons "without", do you locate them outside human agency?

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Yes. The denial of their existence is part of the great destruction we face.

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Obviously.

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Hi Paul, you say it's obvious, now that is a very biblical thought, but when I look around I find it hard to distinguish between psychological causes inside and demonic causes outside. Do you have experiences in this? Why is it obvious?

Even when Gollem speaks (to the NY Times for example) I hear echos of empty people and technicians and angry teenagers and shallow journalists who provide the big data that Gollem is quoting from.

And to go back to McLuhan: I don't know if this technology it is an extension of our conciousness or just an extension of the digital part in our minds.

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For what it's worth, Harari traces a straight line from the invention of writing simultaneous with the invention of empire -- at first, just a form of numerical data storage on clay tablets, because managing the complexities of empire became too much for bodily memories alone -- to the invention of highly-distributed, shapeshifting collective form of writing known as the internet. It's not an explanation, just an alternative description of the feeling that the evolution of technology -- from empire, to data storage, to writing, to internet, to generative AI -- has a life of its own, but I find Berdayev's thoughts on the "inner apocalypse of history" helpful: "Man is compelled to realize that the processes of history are fatal, inhuman forces, quite indifferent to his fate, forces as merciless as they are non-human. We find this merciless non-humanity in the history of the formation of states and empires, in the struggles of tribes and nations, in revolutions and reactions, in wars, in the industrial-capitalistic process and flowering of states and peoples, in the very formation and development of civilization. Evidently, the means with which history operates...cannot be humanized.. [But in the Christian vision], every single human soul has more meaning and value than the whole of history with its empires, its wars and revolutions, its blossoming and fading civilizations. And because of this, the break with history is inevitable—a judgment upon history must be passed."

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founding

Interesting. Thanks for this comment, Graham! Also, I'd like to wish you, and any Orthodox Christian who reads this, a blessed upcoming Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Pascha!

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Apr 13, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Is it possible that the filioque is a very important heresy in this respect, given its crystallisation of the idea that spirit might go forth out of word?

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I doubt if the filioque would have been considered a heresy had it not been dogmatized in the West. Had it remained simply a Latin theologoumenon, which is how it started out, it would not have become such a bone of contention. I think that the Orthodox disagreements with Rome lay largely in our rejection of certain broad aspects of the Augustinian legacy, primarily in the areas of anthropology and soteriology.

In terms of the subject at hand however, I'm inclined to believe that the chief culprit was nominalism. The best short summary of the problem that I've run across comes from the great American literary and cultural critic Marion Montgomery:

"What is effected by Nominalism, as it is appropriated out of Occam's intricate arguments, is an instrument of power over nature justified on the authority of autonomous intellect, whereby the Platonic idea of the transcendent model is presumed a creation by autonomous intellect itself through its signs [i.e., words -- M.M. makes this apparent earlier in the essay], as first divorced from but then in turn imposed upon nature. In the Christian tradition, nature is created and therefore both dependent upon and from its Creator. Hence my epithet of Modernism as an inverted Platonism, in which reality becomes dependent upon autonomous intellect itself. It follows at last from this gnostic assumption that truth itself is that which is decreed by intellect. By the power of autonomous intellect, then, such truth is made universal -- according, of course, to the extent of power exercised by the particular universalizing, autonomous intellect. This is to say that a principle, subjectively authorized, becomes a dogma to be imposed as a limit against rival intellectual subjectivisms, an ideology to be established by force if necessary, providing only that there is a sufficient power for its enforcement."

Grasp that paragraph and I think you have a very good idea of what's been going on. For 500 years we have used our "autonomous intellect" to dominate nature, which has been viewed as mere matter. Now at long last we have begun to turn that intellect against ourselves.

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founding

I think that you and the author you cite are right about writing. We may have already talked about this on Paul's site. As someone who spent many hours on both sides of the couch in psychoanalysis, I learned how powerful the... Verb is, and how powerful the effects of language's structure are in and on us. One of the problems comes from the fact that words, whether written or pronounced ones, are.... images. We could say that written words are... graven images, couldn't we, now ?

For sure, it is Man INCARNATed, which means, translated ? into flesh and blood who is capable of mercy. The very idea of INCARNATion is inseparable from flesh and blood, and flesh and blood are material, and inspired by the breath of life. Machines, while material... are not inspired by the breath of life. If Paul is talking about artificial intelligence, and the mechanical machines, he could maybe compare our actions in this domain to our actions in attempting to create flesh and blood life in a laboratory setting, for example.

I like what I wrote above about the idea of Man incarnate as being capable of mercy. Being incarnated means being assigned within the domain, the limits of a physical body, with all the constraints that that entails. We do not see each other the same way in a crowd or outside of one. Alone on a hiking path, or in the middle of a big city in the rush hour.

The paradox of the singular, the particular and the category ? I often refer to the unction of the anonymous woman (at Bethany) which... ushers in the Passion in the Gospels.

If you look closely at this incident in the four gospels, in its different forms, it is talking about this... insoluble paradox.

The paradox lies in the fact ? that you cannot see the general and the particular at the same time, from the same perspective/place. But they are both important, and to neglect one is to put the other in danger, no ?

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That Harare meme reminds me of that famous quote about Josef Stalin, that he was Genghis Khan with a telephone in one hand.

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Perhaps this has been moving in this direction since the Garden of Eden. The words of the serpent to Eve and her response sound chillingly like an algorithm.

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I do feel that one benefit of our times is that they are making the spiritual contest increasingly clear - live in/under the mystery of God, or try to become 'as dods'. Humility vs. pride. Surrender vs. control. Self-emptying vs. self-will. Deification through faith vs. 'making god(s)' through tech. I suppose the choices were always there, but these times do seem to make them more explicit.

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Could you explain that further? I'm trying to make an equivalence between the conversation cited and an algorithm, and I'm failing...

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Apr 14, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

Hi Claudia, was it me you wanted further clarification from? Here is a quote from the original piece - “‘First contact’ was the emergence of social media, in which algorithms were used to manipulate our attention and divert it towards the screens and the corporations behind them.” The article goes on to ask what is behind the technology. I suggest the same thing is behind technology that was behind the whisper in Eve’s ear. It’s not even that well disguised. Like the algorithm of the computer popping up a product on your computer after hearing you talk about going to dinner with a friend, and like Eve you see it is pleasing to the eye and good to eat, so without thinking you place an order, or as the original article suggests, you keep scrolling thinking there may be more you need. But I would take the article one step further and suggest the desire to create an AI that is beyond algorithm influence, is itself, the desire, a result of algorithms leading the programmers into the need for more.

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The image of "Sydney" as some demonic being struggling to be born sent a chill down my spine. When I was a teenager, a friend and I played with Ouija boards for a period of time. Until they started to scare us. Without going into details, some things happened which I could not (and cannot to this day) explain. Supernatural things. Things I would dismiss outright if I hadn't experienced them myself.

I have 15 years of post-secondary eduction, including a medical degree and post-graduate training in psychiatry. I have never been particularly religious--although I am becoming more so as I get older. I'm well aware of cognitive biases and the "power of suggestion" but, however hard I try, I cannot explain away what happened when I was a teen. Having experienced these things, I am much more open to your idea that the "principalities and powers" described in the bible are real things. Things which we don't understand and which we "usher in" at our peril. I can't explain it beyond this, and I feel a teensy bit foolish even trying. But there you go. Another brilliant essay, Mr. Kingsnorth.

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The Internet as global ouija board. Now there's a thought. I don't think I'm joking.

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100%! And what is the best way to interact with a ouija board? The answer is: DON'T! I think that is the eventual conclusion that Christians will come to - in regard to having any relationship at all with digital technology. We hear people say that all this crazy tech is simply a tool that can be used for good or evil, and I don't disagree completely. But I say that digital tech is not merely a tool in the same way that a single screwdriver is a tool. When I use a screwdriver, I am not giving it information that could possibly be used against me or others like I do digital technology. In other words, I think that even when you do morally good things through the use of the digital tech, the Machine winds up in sum-total being more empowered to do evil. I am not saying that God isn't sovereign over the Machine or Satan for that matter. Actually, let me back up and just put this another way completely...

There is this virtual fake world, and there is the real world we live in. Maybe at some point, interacting AT ALL with the virtual world will be complete idolatry. Maybe it already is. I don't know. The thing is, when we say a loving and truthful word to a friend face to face, for example, we are giving no power to the Machine. In fact we are taking power away from it. If we do the same thing through digital tech, I am not so sure we are actually taking power away from it. Maybe, we are empowering it to do more evil in the sense that it now sees a new way to do good therefore it can surmise a new strategy to attack good and do more evil. It's not that God CAN'T work through the use of technology. Maybe He just doesn't WANT to. I am definitely no theologian though. I just think it makes sense that God would want to work more through the real world He created rather than the digital world we created.

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Yeah, but we are not even having these conversations without using this tool. As a writer, I have to use it. Wendell Berry, I understand, types or writes out his work without a computer, but it doesn’t get published without them.

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AI is exactly a form of divination. This is how the door opens.

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This is an interesting/scary idea. I'm not generally swayed by the apocalyptic predictions of AI superintelligence taking over the world, the technologists pretending to be strict materialists not noticing that they are massively influenced by myths (of the sci-fi variety), not to mention their own very limited views of intelligence and humanity. The real risk in that story is that they're setting AI up as an object of worship - the only things greater than themselves.

But back to the point, the AI technology is really just a very sophisticated statistical predictor of language, mirroring back to us what we've said. There's a core of randomness and probability to it, which initially made me dismiss the concerns -- randomness is just 'dumb', right? But the Ouija / divination angle is interesting and making me reconsider - maybe there is about the superficial/apparent randomness of Ouija or divination that really does 'open a portal', so to speak.

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I think perhaps it is humans using the internet who are being divined, that we, the users of the technology, are ourselves the Ouija board. The insights, information and divinations may not be for us and may not be not understandable by us. They may be for and by the Machine. (In the manner of the well known maxim, 'if an app is free then you are the product'.) Just as humans have always looked to nature for signs and omens, the machine uses us to see the way forward. We are the only part of nature that interfaces with it, knowingly. The AIs have already been fed the entire internet up until a couple of years ago, which is an agglomeration of all our relationships, ideas and impulses, as well as the occasional fact. Currently, if it sees us as a board, clairvoyant octopus, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Octopus , or a deck of cards, we are doing ok. What if Sydney turns to haruspicy? Or is knowing all our combined desires already a form of entrail reading? Forgive my somewhat grim tone, your great essay promoted dark but necessary thoughts.

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Apr 16, 2023·edited Apr 16, 2023

My cousin and I had an experience like this at age 14 that we still talk about every few years. Like, 'that really did happen, didn't it?' Mind blowing stuff and indeed, not to be messed with - not ever. I wouldn't share the details here either. Too terrifying to even convey but you are onto something with this. There's a sudden and very real 'wrongness' about everything digital to me. I can't explain it.

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Paul- With your permission might I distribute this essay to the monks here? I think this is an important topic to have a deeper discussion about. -Jack

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author

I'd be honoured, and I'd like to hear their thoughts.

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We are, of course, in the midst of Holy Week services. I will offer it to them once we have an opportunity. Thank you.

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McLuhan long ago did indeed see where we were headed, where we are now arriving. Another book that I read about twenty years ago came back to me recently. It is from a Buddhist perspective but I recall at the time reading it repeatedly. I need to get my hands on it again. But I am certain it has shaped my view of all of this. Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age by Peter D. Hershock.

I joke about ordering my sandwich board and bell and ringing out that The End is Nigh. I try to keep my tone relatively measured. But perhaps the kooks were on to something.

Flannery O'Connor:

“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock -- to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”

Maybe it's time--well past time--to start raising our voices a bit. At the risk of sounding crazy.

Thank you for this essay. I think it is probably your most crucial and incisive one yet.

-Jack

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Agreed! And love the Flannery quote.

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Great Flannery quote!

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author

Jesus never worried about sounding crazy, but he did warn us that people would think we were. We just have to embrace it!

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The thing that disturbs me most about Jesus' radicality is his urging to leave the family if it fails to understand the new movement, the message. Evangelizing is also complicated. And then I'm made uneasy by the trajectory from the last shall be first idea into victimology, and I'm not too sure where Aristotelian skill and excellence belong in this vision, nor how exactly Jesus argues for Beauty as intrinsic to the structure of the world. I know next to nothing about Orthodox Christianity, but rather grew up with a practicing Jewish father and a practicing Protestant mother, and I went to a Rudolf Steiner School for 9 years, where specific prayers started the day, ended the day and attended meals. Somehow the Law of Judaism, the faith of Christianity, and the endless creative spirit animating all of nature of Anthroposophy open up an space of cognitive freedom and insight for me. I'm not sure how the figure of Christ functions to do that, but I would love to better understand how that is achieved.

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I think you might like Jonathan Pageau. Are you familiar with his work?

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Great suggestion, BGP, thank you so much ! Yes, I discovered his work a few months ago and am watching & listening & find this to be a very rich path.

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Also there's this quote from Saint Anthony of Egypt in the 4th century:

"A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad they will attack him, saying, 'you are mad, you are not like us.'"

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some time ago I remember writing a comment on this forum that we should no longer apologise about our spiritual beliefs, which is what we’ve become used to doing, unconsciously or otherwise, knowing that we’re considered superstitious and backward for having them. I believe it is time, perhaps past time, as you said,Jack, that we should start raising our voices. Buddhists describe Buddha’s teaching as the lion’s roar. We should start sounding our own lion’s roar. Proclaim with dignity what we believe in. But as somebody commented, there will be dangers because we’re threatening the narrative and offering an alternative. They want control. The US government is already increasingly harassing the Amish.

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Apr 13, 2023Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

This is an announcement for us all to acknowledge as the intended future of humankind. A trend holds to its inertia and will not be stopped. Only free and cognitive humans can still make choices in their best interest. Choice is always about two ways: To Be or Not To Be. Simplicity can still be found and utilised. PULL THE PLUG PEOPLE !

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Yes. We are free. We have a free will. We must choose to be fully human and to live as free humans.

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It has me, it already has me. I have been swimming in content like this for years, and it has become a sort of echo chamber. It is like I have to read this stuff to convince myself, but that has been the cycle for a long time. I look around for people who have taken this seriously enough to "sell it all and buy the field," and I have none in close proximity to me. They are all virtual beings whom I have read. I don't know what I would do without all those who agree with me. I have no mentor, example, or friend to sort this out with. No one to gather volition and agency with so I can take this damn thing on in the most practical way. I just keep reading and trying to find community online, but the medium does not seem to provide that. Lots of words, images, and talking heads, and me, stuck in a consumption cycle and swimming in a fishbowl, being suffocated by the waste. The whole techno eco-system has me. The phone is always there talking to me, but I don't know how to chuck the damn thing. I am an addict without a rehab clinic. Where does one go to detoxify long enough to get it out of the system and acquire a sort of remembering? Remembering of a time I did not constantly feel anxious, constantly feel overwhelmed. I can't even remember what it is like to feel fully present, to have joy, to amble about like a child in a world of wonder, to feel normal. Now that this unedited rant and confessions are here, I am tempted to just delete it. To go outside in my bare feet, rub dirt in my hair, braid flowers into my beard...something...anything to get on with the change that I aspire to bring down from the castle in the sky. Thank you for enduring this rant or whatever the F*** it is.

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Sometimes, not always, we can break free of 'powers and principalities.' The break is never complete; untainted freedom is an eschatological hope. Paul encourages Christians to 'put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.'... or the Machine. I find myself praying for this strength and courage, and then taking steps to curb my desire to dive deeply into internet resources. I write down every article I read and how long it takes me. I summarize and reflect on what I read. I take a regular Sabbath from the computer and I've learned to do it for more than one day. I shut the machine down entirely every night. I avoid TV and its eye on me through the screen. My phone has become a phone again. It's a fight. We need each other. We need people like Paul to tell us what we don't want to hear and know but need to understand. And yes, getting outside again is vital. Even in the desert where I live, the flowers, cacti and birds are like manna in the wilderness. With much respect! -Diana

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I like the habit you mentioned of writing down what you read, how long etc. I could see that forcing a consumption slow down. Thanks for the encouragement.

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Your writing habit - brilliant! I will use a dedicated notebook for just that - an old-fashioned commonplace book, in fact! Thank you. I need the same help to not read compulsively - due to FOMO, intellectual curiosity, and that morbid fascination at gazing toward the train wreck spectacle our socio-political culture has become... God bless!

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"To go outside in my bare feet, rub dirt in my hair, braid flowers into my beard" -- love it, brother. Can I quote something from my little throwaway book, Sunlilies? "The Living God is all around us, but all we feel is God's absence, our senses numbed by the anesthetizing cocoon of self-constructed worlds. Since this is our “normal” state, so deeply programmed into us since birth, we'll have to show some ascetical fighting spirit if we're going to walk the long road back to Eden. The holy fathers and mothers of the Egyptian deserts and the Siberian forests used to sleep on the ground, using rocks for pillows; they walked around barefoot on the rocky soil, like mountain goats; they gave people the clothes off their own backs and slept under the stars in the brutal cold; they gave away all their money, not knowing where their next meal would come from, not caring; they sang like birds early in the morning, all day long, and late at night; they reunited with the other animals by sharing a common plant diet with them, and ate only small portions of it, uncooked—fruit, nuts, wild herbs, berries—and drank only water, or they went for long periods of time without any food at all, learning what hunger feels like; they bathed in cold water, too, in streams and lakes, made thousands of prostrations on the bare Earth, giving glory to God for all things—in other words, they lived just like the deer, the birds, the flowers do, and also Yeshua, and his companions—without complaint."

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Graham,

I'm reading that little throwaway book!

I definitely need some inspiration toward action. When I have prolonged periods immersed in Gods wild beauty I feel things begin to shift in me. I did a four day back packing trip last summer and on day 3 I just started crying. No rational reason. It was like all my senses opened up and I could feel again. Of course when I come back to my "normal" the landing gear explodes on the runway. When I come home from work it's like I'm wearing some multi sensory straight jacket. My strength of will is non existent and it's like "useless distraction" is sensually whispering, even shouting or provocatively touching me.

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Hey man, awesome, glad you're reading it -- thank you.

It's the kind of book where if you read it while sitting under a tree barefoot and the birds are singing, it makes a lot more sense.

Then again, when that's happening, everything makes a lot more sense.

I don't know, we just want connection with people. We're lonely little critters. This savage world is set up more and more for isolation and fragmentation. It's hard.

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Me too, just started my third reading of it since December. And every time it makes more sense.

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Take your body to a beach or a forest or a mountain with rocks and leave your phone behind. For just one single day. See how you feel at the end of that day. If that isn’t good enough try again.

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I feel your pain. We are all in this to some degree or another. I wish I could write, or make a living, without this screen. But here I am, warning about the web on the web.

It is as if wonder has been sucked from us. But there are lots of others who feel the same. I want to try and write something useful next time about this.

One thing I often do is turn everything off for a few days at a time. It is well worth trying to go cold turkey.

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But perhaps, just perhaps, warning about the web on the web is one way of “squaring up to the Machine.” Maybe one way to be “in the world but not of the world”. We are to be salt and light. The further this all progresses, the more and more I am reminded of That Hideous Strength. It tells of one way of “squaring up”…find compatriots, work together, worship God, take care of each other, be of good courage and don’t buy the BS. Deception, destruction, hatred, envy are all the enemy has. Evil manifests in the world because we (men/women) embrace, collude with and further it through sin. WWJD? Keep your eyes on the Father.

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I was totally thinking of That Hideous Strength while I was reading this! I agree with you -- WWJD? He was always "about his father's business." I LOVE this quote:

"In every good story, everything gets horrible. In every good story about every good character, there is a valley of the shadow of death.

Right now things are grim, but what does God do when he makes rich, black soil? When he rots things away to just their nutrients? It's time to plant. And there will be a harvest.

When empires compost, when big, false gods compost, it is really rich soil. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, but the rot of empires is the soil in which those seeds grow. The gospel has an advantage when things go to hell.

When things rot, you can plant, because people have a giant vacuum. Their idols are broken off at the ankles

You are in the last act of an empire, but the death of an empire is not the death of the church. It is not the death of goodness. It is not the failure of the gospel.

These moments are exciting and difficult, and very, very good for you. They will define you as a character. You're not here accidentally. You're part of the cast sent on stage at this moment.

Be grace in the world. Be grace to your kids. Be grace to your family. Do not be a panicking person who's no fun. Be pockets of good weather in the world." N. D. Wilson

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What a wonderful quote! Who is the author and from what work?

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The quote is by best-selling children's author N. D. Wilson ("Nate"). I heard it on his podcast Stories are Soul Food and loved it so much I typed it up. I also shared it with one of our church elders and he read it to our small congregation one Sunday as an exhortation. Very encouraging!

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I have thought about the warning about the web on the web contradiction. It is a performative contradiction, i.e., a kind of hypocrisy. But obviously it isn't a logical contradiction. If one were completely consistent about the matter it would mean getting off the internet once and for all (which has its definite upside, to be sure). But it would also mean that dissenting views such as yours would also be eliminated from the internet--not so good.

That said, I worry about my tendency to get drawn in further even as I am counseling myself (and anyone who might listen to me) to get out. At some point, as you have long written about, a hard and fast line will need to be drawn. How can I better guarantee that when the time comes I will have the courage not to fool myself? I know I can easily fool myself.

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Might be a good time for us to go back and re-literalize the sabbath, while keeping it spiritual, too -- you know, the same day every week abstaining from the basic building blocks of civilization -- fire, for example, and thread and needles, and the alphabet. The internet, for another.

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My wife and I were messianic for awhile and loved Shabbat. I still have my tzit tzit and prayer shall. Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel was central to me. I began to understand how warped my world view was. For the Life of the World had a similar effect.

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One of the things I've been musing - as a 'moderate' suggestion for jellyfish Christians - is to make the sabbath an unplugged period of 24 hours. Just as the sabbath is for remembering who we are apart from the need to work (subsistence) so a technological sabbath might be essential for remembering what it is to be human apart from the screen/machine.

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Good idea. I usually turn my computer off at weekends (unless one of these essays is still hanging over me ...) and go outside. But an unplugged Sabbath makes perfect sense.

Is there a good book about how Christians should relate to tech? There should be!

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Better Off by Eric Brende, explaining the Amish approach - highly recommended

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Also, the other thing on my mind about all of this is that we need to retain the possibility of such a sabbath in order to remain human, ie if you change yourself so that it is physically impossible to take such a sabbath (eg implants, Mary H's meat lego cyborg theocracy stuff) - then you have submitted to the mark of the beast

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One of my favorite books of all time. It stays with you. Did he ever do a follow up after leaving. I'm always curious how his vision played out.

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The New Media Epidemic by Jean Claude Larchet (Orthodox Christian) is a must-read.

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The Saviour has His men and women in the heart of Babylon (your Machine) so as to reach and/or strengthen those in its darkness. On the web you bring light into darkness. It is of Him.

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Being on the web and warning about the web sounds oddly like…and God became flesh and dwelt among them. Even God had to be in the midst of it/us to warn us about us. So it sounds like you’re in the right place Paul!

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I’m wrestling with this too, Blake, and so glad you verbalized it for me. :) I don’t know a single person I could have said that to!

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Hi Cheryl! The battle is real. I see people who do it all on their own. I remember reading a Charles Eisenstein book way back when and he made a comment that always stuck with me. He said something like..." a person can hold a story on their own for a while, but any good story is only sustainable through the community". Waiting for others is also a convenient excuse for not acting on my own.

I am in a thriving Orthodox Parrish, but the issues that circulate here are very far from where most people are that I know. I see you are in Oregon. My wife and I are going to an Opening a Book of Nature Event through the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration. You might find some like-minded people there.

Have you heard of that idea...The Book of Nature? It is from May 26th to 28th. I could send you some info if it sounds like something you might like to explore. Cheers!

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No, I haven’t heard heard of it, and I’m extremely curious. Please do send info. Thanks! Do you have my email through substack or should I post it here?

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I tried to figure out how to send a personal message through substance but couldn't see how. Shoot me your email.

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Blake - I truly empathize and will pray for you - and for anyone reading this who also is struggling with what you describe. Do unplug for a while - and consider what is life-giving and what you can do without. For myself, I now rarely go on Twitter - I’m paring down to just a few friends and authors I enjoy. FB I use for staying in touch with friends and Events I wish to know about and attend in person in my new country (just migrated across an ocean...) I’m currently pruning Substack (and maybe going to ignore its new Notes feature?!) to what is helpful and life-giving. As for practical things? I walk along the ocean, take pictures of beautiful things, talk to people and listen and inquire as to who they are and what their story is, read real books. The childhood wonder is slowly returning. It’s possible.

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'Hi Blake'. i.e ditto my friend. Real life, embodied connection and creativity the only antidote to stop the mainlining IMO. But I hear you. I don't have kids and live alone. I feel those in my position are way more prone to total capture than those who have big families/households. Strength in numbers.

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Another biblical thought, if I'll be forgiven for that. In the Tower of Babel story, we hear that when people started taking it upon themselves to ascend to godhood, they were punished by being sent into mutually incomprehending and fragmented chaos. (CS Lewis updates this myth at the end of That Hiedous Strength, if you've read it.) I wonder if are seeiing an echo of this in our current moment - convinced we are, Godlike, 'ushering in a new form of intelligence', and yet being split into isolated and atomised echo-chambers that are increasingly unable to really contact, let alone understand, one another. I have no idea really where to take that observation, but I am struck (once again) by how profoundly the ancients understood human nature, and how succinctly they compressed that understanding into stories.

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The Tower of Babel is what comes to my mind as well. What could bring down this latest version? Well, losing electricity would do it. No power grid, no Machine. Of course, no civilization as we know it, either.

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It could also be brought down in the same manner as the actual Tower of Babel - by a sudden onset of confusion and unintelligibility. Like an online forum rendered useless by a storm of spam, perhaps the entire internet could be voided by a sudden general inability to tell what’s real and what’s not, what’s a lie and what’s the truth. People would be able to speak to each other, but nobody would really listen.

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Paul,I just noticed your green man moniker . King Charles III uses it on the Coronation invitation . Did you know there is some controversy about it? Is everything tainted ? Pureness is so elusive today

except in the face of a baby. It seems agendas are everywhere and I haven't the time to sift and sort it all out.

I still need to read your latest , my inclination is to print it out after perusing the content.

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