Robert Anton Wilson, Sci-Fi authour, legend, creator of the hilarious conspiracy cult novel The Illuminatus Trilogy and countless other novels, texts, treatises on future science, media, human psychology, esoterics, politics, conspiracies etc. presented in a breathtakingly amusing and absurdist format. This grand man, who has inspired a whole generation with his cross-referential and multilayered literary crusade now in an 2.5 hours mindblowing spoken word-performance!
Interview with RAW by Mr. Greg, August 1999
Associate Editor, The Kerouac Connection
What current trend in popular culture do you find most interesting?
The fact that Internet continues to grow faster and faster all the time. I read about 5 years ago that the number of users was doubling every eight months; it must be doubling even faster now. Friends in the computer business tell me there are now 80 million [80,000,000] websites, and that must be doubling faster, too. I think this represents something much, much bigger than the Industrial Revolution of the 18th-19th centuries. I incline to believe it’s the biggest evolutionary event since life migrated from the sea to the land.
Many reasons. One, Internet has what’s called redundancy of control” in Information Theory. That means radical decentralization of power and communication, and it also means average increase in “IQ” (the ability to decode signals.) Because of this, all attempts to censor or monopolize the Net or the Web will fail. This means we (all of us: the whole human race eventually) will finally have real freedom of speech, a free marketplace of ideas. This must eventually destroy all tyrannies and most major forms of economic corruption. Second, as an inter-active media of information and entertainment, Internet tends to raise the overall intelligence of its users, not just the “IQ.” In newspapers, even in TV – in all previous media – you made relatively few choices and have relatively few options. On Internet, your options grow wider all the time and you become aware of multitudes of choices every minute you are online. We are being forced to become more self-aware and self-responsible and that means we have to remedy any defects in our intelligence to enjoy and benefit from what the Net offers us. Thirdly, the ultimate result of world-wide Internet access must be what Buckminster Fuller called de-sovereignization, the end of traditional politics and traditional nationalisms. Since I regard politics and nationalisms as the causes of 99 percent of the misery on this planet, I eagerly look forward to their collapse, the sooner the better.
As an author, what new developments in physics or science do you find most exciting?
Well, I suppose genetic engineering and nanotechnology. I know all about the downside of both of them, and the hell they can cause while they “belong” to multinational criminals or corporations concerned only with profits. But molecular engineering has an upside, too. It can Iiteral1y make everything “cheap as dirt,” and give us (all of us: all Earthians) an abundance and a superabundance. All we have to do is take the control away nom the bandit/banker elite and use these technologies to “advantage all without disadvantaging any.” How can we get the control away nom the elite, you ask? I don’t know, but I’m working on it. I don’t have all the answers. I only have parts of some of the answers.
In regards to personal privacy, what do you perceive currently as the greatest threat to it? Its greatest defender?
The greatest threat is centralized power, which always wants to know more about us so it can control us better. Whether this power is wielded by the puppet governments set up to distract and amuse us, or by the corporations who really run the world, I always regard it as nefarious. [As Lord Acton said, “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That rule is as universal as gravity.] I regard the computer hackers as our greatest defenders: by turning the tables, and increasingly making the power elites as visible to us as we are to them, these hackers are accelerating our evolution out of the old reptile parts of the brain, the part that still governs the elites who govern the world, and into the forebrain and truly human mentatation.
What individuals – scientists, politicians, artists, authors, etc. do you find most intriguing and contributing most greatly to contemporary thought and culture? Please elaborate.
Buckminister Fuller, because he gave us the most comprehensive (omni-inclusive) scientific philosophy of the 20th Century, and showed us, with concrete inventions, how to use that philosophy “to advantage all without disadvantaging any.” All the philosophers of the quantum revolution – especially Bell, Schroedinger, Bohr, Bohm, Bridgman, Walker, and Wheeler – because they not only created a non-aristotelian epistemology useful for all the other sciences, too, our also, usually unconsciously, gave us in that non-aristotelian system, the keys to multi-culturalism, i.e. the doorway to understanding non-European systems, such as those of Aftica and the Orient. Joyce, Pound and Picasso because they introduced that kind of multi-culturalism or neurological relativism into our literature and art. Timothy Leary and Wilhelm Reich, because their ideas were so revolutionary that they actually got thrown in jail for them – the one sure sign that a scientist has discovered something new and important. The Dalai Lama, because he’s the only religious leader ahoof on this planet who doesn’t sound at least half cracked.
In Stockholm. what is your intended agenda?
As much plain blunt truth as I can get away with, until the police shut me up.
~~~Interview continued in February, 2000 ~~~
The recent riots in Seattle, Washington, during the WTO meeting renewed publicity and public awareness of anarchism. Do you see that happening as an historical event, working to coalesce a strong anti-corporate movement, or more of a minor explosion to release tension or . . .? Any opinions on the self-described “black-hooded messengers” are most welcome.
It seemed to me that the Seattle protests did represent a real historical marker– the first time since the 1930s [70 years ago, more or less!] that the labor unions and the radical youth worked together for a common goal. I hope this represents a real change. More got accomplished in the ’30s than in the ’60s because we had that kind of unity during the Depression and we haven’t had it since then.
What protest group or alliance of concerned citizens do you believe has the greatest potential to effectively direct political and social concerns over the next ten years?
All things considered, I have more faith in the World Game than in any traditional politics. Check them out at https://bfi.org/about-fuller/big-ideas/world-game
Given the fact that the US government continually runs operations like COINTELPRO against activists and its own citizens, whom do you believe they will be focusing their attention on over the next ten years?
The people who use computers. We have much more power than we realize, and the governing elite has started to worry about that. They may have to give up the War Against Some Drugs, not for any sane or moral or Constitutional reason, but to use the money for a War Against Some Information. Freedom of communication represents the greatest threat our Power Elite has ever confronted. Janet [“Burn, Waco, Burn”] Reno comes out with a new plan to abolish the first amendment twice a week and one of them just might pass Congress. On one hand, I don’t think such schemes can “work” — Internet has too much “redundance of control” to allow effective censorship. On the other hand, the War Against Some Drugs can’t work either — never has worked, never will work– but trying to make it work has given us the biggest prison population in world history. Trying to censor internet may fill the prisons even more, but information will still travel faster and further than the governing class wishes. The genie is out of the bottle. The gap between what legislators can understand and what technologists can do is wider and deeper than any abyss you can imagine.
In an ideal world, what form of government would you choose to live under?
None. I would prefer a contractual association [as presented by the individualist-anarchist model] or at least some form of anarcho-syndicalism. Nobody’s life or liberty are safe as long as a government exists.
In the Sixties Timothy Leary, like many activists, was sure that marijuana would be legalized in a couple of years. It is now thirty years later and the weed is still illegal. Why do you think this is the case?
We have about 1,500, 000 people in prison for marijuna offenses and an estimated 65,000,000 pot-heads who ain’t been caught yet. Calculate how many people’s yearly earnings depend on maintaining this system — the cops, the sheriffs, the DEA, the defense attorneys, the prosecutors, the social workers, the prison guards, the contractors who build new prisons, the architects etc. plus the labs who do the urine tests, the nurses who administer, the chemists etc etc. If you add to this the amount of graft in this system, as shown by the recent Los Angeles and other investigations, you’ll probably agree with the estimate that this black market is worth billions, not millions, per month. That’s a mighty big vested interest opposed to a free market.
You have written several dozen books. You have made numerous speaking engagements. You have cavorted with some of the most interesting cultural revolutionaries around. What words of wisdom or advice can you offer to aspiring cultural hipsters?
Oh, hell, you expect wisdom from me? I’ll give you wisdom. “Think for yourself, shmuck!”
Given your long life, lengthy exposure to presidential politics, and healthy wit, would you care to offer any commentary on current US Presidential candidates Al Gore, George W. Bush, and John McCain?
I find it all an amusing clown show, since the same people will continue owning and running the country no matter who holds the nominal position of “president.” Frankly, I hope the voters’ alleged “choice” will fall to Gore and Bush, since everybody knows they are both Lying Bastards. You see, every election in my lifetime has seemed to me a choice between two Lying Bastards, but this year I think the whole country will share that view for the first time. Gore and Bush have changed their stories about the extent of their illegal drug use so often that I don’t think anybody with more than a half inch of forhead can believe anything they say. How will the public at large react to a choice between two known and proven Lying Bastards? Will they ignore the voting booths, like me and everybody I know, or will they get pissed off enough to burn down the voting booths? I don’t know, but it should prove more entertaining than most elections.
What is your opinion of the WTO’s recent decision to admit China?
Kipling said it for me:
At the end of the fight
Is a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased
And an epitaph drear:
“A fool lies here
Who tried to hustle the East.”
Learn Chinese. Translators will earn a bundle.
Almost everyone I know who is on-line or uses computers complains about Microsoft’s monopoly. Even the US government has slapped them silly. What strategy would you recommend in terms of helping to break their stranglehold on information and computer technologies?
I think it will happen organically. Several million bright young lads and lasses will [a] break every stranglehold and [b] unleash new software and hardware that Gates can’t compete with. One of those several million will get rich enough to become for a while the new Bill Gates that everybody hates and fears, but only for a little while, and then they’ll be replaced by a newer revolution in technology.
Throughout your career you have consistently challenged rigid thinking and missionary morality. What advice can you offer to people in their teens and twenties who want to “fight the system” in an effective and efficient manner?
I regard the counter-culture as a pretty sad spectacle. I would urge them to learn to think before they act, and to think long and hard, and to think in concrete specifics. Specifically, I recommend intense training in general semantics and neurolinguistic programming.
Who do you think is the greatest American political or cultural agitator of the Twentieth century?
It would appear immodest to reply.